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Title: Boys of the Light Brigade - A Story of Spain and the Peninsular War
Author: Strang, Herbert
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Boys of the Light Brigade - A Story of Spain and the Peninsular War" ***

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[Illustration: Cover art]



[Illustration: The 95th Charge Home]



                       Boys of the Light Brigade

                               A Story of
                      Spain and the Peninsular War


                                   BY

                             HERBERT STRANG

                        AUTHOR OF "TOM BURNABY"



              With a Preface by Colonel WILLOUGHBY VERNER
                           late Rifle Brigade



                  Illustrated by William Rainey, R.I.



                        BLACKIE AND SON LIMITED
                       LONDON GLASGOW AND BOMBAY
                                  1905



To Spain they sent The Rifle Corps
To teach the French the Art of War!
  —_Old Rifleman’s Song_.



                               DEDICATED
                             BY PERMISSION
                                   TO
                    FIELD-MARSHAL HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS

                  THE DUKE OF CONNAUGHT AND STRATHEARN
         K.G., K.T., K.P., G.C.B., G.C.S.I., G.C.I.E, G.C.V.O.,

                            COLONEL-IN-CHIEF

                         AND TO THE OFFICERS OF

                           THE RIFLE BRIGADE
                         (Formerly 95th Rifles)



                               *Preface*


Mr. Herbert Strang has asked me to write a few words explanatory of the
title he has chosen for this book.

"The Light Brigade" was the name given to the first British Brigade of
Light Infantry, consisting of the 43rd Light Infantry, 52nd Light
Infantry, and the 95th Rifles, which were trained together as a
war-brigade at Shorncliffe Camp in the years 1803-1805, just a century
ago, by General Sir John Moore, the Hero of Corunna.

These regiments subsequently saw much service together in various
quarters of the globe; they were engaged in the Expedition to Denmark in
1807, the Campaign in Portugal in 1808 under Sir Arthur Wellesley,
including the Battle of Vimeiro, and the famous Corunna Campaign under
Sir John Moore.

In July, 1809, The Light Brigade, consisting of the same three corps,
was re-formed under the gallant Brigadier-General Robert Craufurd
(afterwards slain at their head at the storming of Ciudad Rodrigo in
1812), at Vallada, in Portugal, and it was in the same month that it
made the forced march, famous in all history as "the March of the Light
Division", of some fifty miles in twenty-four hours to the battle-field
of Talavera.  In June, 1810, when at Almeida, in Spain, "The Light
Brigade" was expanded into "The Light Division" by the addition of
Ross’s "Chestnut Troop" of Horse Artillery,[#] the 14th Light
Dragoons,[#] the 1st King’s German Hussars, and two regiments of
Portuguese Caçadores.


[#] The present "A" Battery, R.H.A., which bears its proud title of "The
Chestnut Troop" in the army lists to this day.

[#] The present 14th (King’s) Hussars. Charles Lever, the novelist,
recounts some of their gallant deeds in _Charles O’Malley, the Irish
Dragoon_.


It was as "_The_ Light Division", throughout the long and bloody
struggle in the Peninsula, and up to the Battle of Toulouse, fought in
April, 1814, that the regiments of the old "Light Brigade" maintained
their proud position, so well described by Sir John Kincaid (who was
adjutant of the 1st Battalion at the Battle of Waterloo) in his
delightful book, _Adventures in the Rifle Brigade_.  He writes of the
95th Rifles in the Peninsula as follows:—


"We were the Light Regiment of the Light Division, and fired the first
and last shot in almost every battle, siege, and skirmish in which the
army was engaged during the war.

"In stating the foregoing, however, with regard to regiments, I beg to
be understood as identifying our old and gallant associates, the
Forty-third and Fifty-second, as a part of ourselves, for they bore
their share in everything, and I love them as I hope to do my better
half (when I come to be divided); wherever we were, _they_ were; and
although the nature of our arm[#] generally gave us more employment in
the way of skirmishing, yet, whenever it came to a pinch, independent of
a suitable mixture of them among us, we had only to look behind to see a
line, in which we might place a _degree of confidence almost equal to
our hopes in heaven_; nor were we ever disappointed.  There never was a
corps of Riflemen in the hands of such supporters!"


[#] The Baker rifle, a short weapon with a flat-bladed sword-bayonet
known as a "sword", very like the present so-called "bayonet", only
longer.  Hence the Rifleman’s command, "Fix swords!"  The three
battalions of the 95th were (with the exception of the 5th battalion of
the 60th Regiment) the only corps in the British army armed with rifles
at the period of the Peninsular War, all others carrying long
smooth-bore muskets, known as "Brown Bess", with long three-sided
bayonets. The Baker rifle fired with precision up to 300 yards, whereas
"Brown Bess" could not be depended upon to hit a mark at one-third that
range.


Such was the "Light Brigade" which gives its title to this book.

The story deals with a period full of interest to Englishmen. Napoleon,
having overrun Spain with some 250,000 men, swept away and defeated all
the Spanish armies, and occupied Madrid, had set his hosts in motion to
re-occupy Portugal and complete the subjugation of Andalusia.  At this
critical moment in the history of Spain, Sir John Moore, who had landed
in the Peninsula with a small British army only about 30,000 strong,
conceived the bold project of marching on Salamanca, and thus
threatening Napoleon’s "line of communications" with France—whence he
drew all his supplies and ammunition. The effect was almost magical.
Napoleon was compelled instantly to stay the march of his immense
armies, whilst at the head of over 80,000 of his finest troops he hurled
himself on the intrepid Moore.  The latter, thus assailed by
overwhelming numbers, was forced to order a retreat on his base at
Corunna, a movement which he conducted successfully, despite the
terrible privations of a rapid march in mid-winter through a desolate
and mountainous country, with insufficient transport and inadequate
staff arrangements. Thrice he turned to bay and thrice did he severely
handle his pursuers.  Finally, at Corunna, after embarking his sick and
wounded, he fought the memorable battle of that name, and inflicted on
the French such heavy losses that his army was enabled to re-embark and
sail for England with but little further molestation.  The gallant Moore
himself was mortally wounded, and died the same night.  The effects of
the Corunna campaign were to paralyse all the Emperor’s plans for nigh
three months, during which time the Spaniards rallied and regained
confidence, and the war took a wholly different turn, although it was
only after five years’ constant fighting that the French invaders were
finally driven out of the country.

The Spaniards, on the other hand, animated by the presence of their
English allies, once again took up arms in all directions and made a
desperate resistance.  No struggle was of more appalling or sustained a
nature than was their second defence of Saragossa, which, in the words
of the French soldiers engaged in the siege, was defended not by
soldiers but by "an army of madmen".

The following story has thus a double interest.  In its account of
Moore’s great Retreat it illustrates what we did for Spain in her dark
days of 1808-1809; while in the pages dealing with the heroic Defence of
Saragossa it illustrates what Spain did for herself.



                               *Contents*

_Chapter_ I
       CORPORAL WILKES WANTS TO KNOW

_Chapter_ II
       SOME INTRODUCTIONS

_Chapter_ III
       PALAFOX THE MAN, PALAFOX THE NAME

_Chapter_ IV
       A DELICATE MISSION

_Chapter_ V
       A ROADSIDE ADVENTURE

_Chapter_ VI
       MONSIEUR TABERNE

_Chapter_ VII
       PEPITO INTERVENES

_Chapter_ VIII
       DON MIGUEL PRIEGO

_Chapter_ IX
       SOME SURPRISES

_Chapter_ X
       THE EMPEROR’S DESPATCH

_Chapter_ XI
       NAPOLEON IN PURSUIT

_Chapter_ XII
       CORPORAL WILKES ON GUARD

_Chapter_ XIII
       DON MIGUEL’S MAN

_Chapter_ XIV
       AN INCIDENT AT CACABELLOS

_Chapter_ XV
       THE GREAT RETREAT

_Chapter_ XVI
       THE BATTLE OF CORUNNA

_Chapter_ XVII
       IN THE GUADALQUIVIR

_Chapter_ XVIII
       A SQUIRE OF DAMES

_Chapter_ XIX
       PALAFOX THE MAN

_Chapter_ XX
       A DAY WITH TIO JORGE

_Chapter_ XXI
       NIGHT ON THE RAMPARTS

_Chapter_ XXII
       JUANITA

_Chapter_ XXIII
       THE FIGHT IN THE RUINS

_Chapter_ XXIV
       "A BON CHAT, BON RAT"

_Chapter_ XXV
       PEPITO FINDS A CLUE

_Chapter_ XXVI
       WANTED: DON MIGUEL PRIEGO

_Chapter_ XXVII
       THE ELEVENTH HOUR

_Chapter_ XXVIII
       THE LAST FIGHT IN SARAGOSSA

_Chapter_ XXIX
       FRENCH LEAVE

_Chapter_ XXX
       THE WHIP HAND

_Chapter_ XXXI
       DOCTOR GRAMPUS AND A FRENCH COOK

_Chapter_ XXXII
       THE PRISONER AT BAYONNE

_Chapter_ XXXIII
       PALAFOX THE NAME

_Chapter_ XXXIV
       DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES

_Chapter_ XXXV
       DOOM

_Chapter_ XXXVI
       SERGEANT WILKES WANTS TO KNOW

*Glossary of Spanish Words*



                        *List of Illustrations*


Plate I
       THE 95TH CHARGE HOME . . . . . . . . . Frontispiece

Plate II
       A QUESTION OF SUPPLY

Plate III
       JACK CAPTURES A DRAGOON

Plate IV
       JACK MAKES AN OPPORTUNE APPEARANCE

Plate V
       FRANCISCO FALLS FROM THE PLANK

Plate VI
       JACK HAS A NARROW ESCAPE

Plate VII
       JACK LEADS A FORLORN HOPE

Plate VIII
       MIGUEL ESCAPES FROM THE GARDEN


                            *Maps and Plans*

1. Map of Spain and Portugal, showing the positions of the French,
Spanish, and British forces at the commencement of Moore’s retreat from
Sahagun

2. Plan of the Battle of Corunna

3. Plan of the City of Saragossa

4. Plan of the Plaza Alvarez District


The plans of Corunna and Saragossa are copied, by kind permission of
Professor Oman and the Delegates of the Clarendon Press, from the
former’s "History of the Peninsular War", Vols. I and II.



                              *CHAPTER I*

                    *Corporal Wilkes wants to know*


An International Question—Discipline—An Onlooker—Lumsden of the
95th—Dogged—A Six Days’ Ride—Puzzlement


"What I want to know," said Corporal Wilkes, banging his fist on the
table in front of him—"what I want to know is, what you Dons are doing
for all the coin we’ve spent on you."

He was seated with a few other stalwarts of the 95th under the eastern
colonnade of the Plaza Mayor, in Salamanca; a nondescript group of
Spaniards, stolidly curious, blocked up the footway, and stood lounging
against the balustrade.  Getting no answer to his question, and probably
expecting none, the corporal jerked his chin-strap under his nose,
glared comprehensively around, and continued:

"I asked before, and I ask again, what has become of the ship-loads of
honest British guineas you Dons have been pocketing for I don’t know how
long?  Tell me that! What have you got to show for ’em, eh?—that’s what
I want to know.  Here are we, without a stiver to our name, no pay for
weeks, and no chance of seeing any. And look at this: here’s a boot for
you; that’s what your Spanish mud makes o’ good Bermondsey leather; and
rain—well, of all the rain I ever see, blest if it ain’t the wettest!"

He paused; the knot of Riflemen grunted approval. The Spaniards, who had
by this time become aware that his remarks were aimed directly at them,
turned enquiringly to one of their number, who shrugged, and gave them
in Spanish the heads of the speaker’s argument. Perceiving that he had
made some impression, the corporal proceeded to follow up his advantage.

"What I want to know is, what ’ave we come here for? They did say as we
were sent for to help you Dons fight the French.  That’s what they said.
Well, the French are all right; but what are you doing?  We showed you
the way at Vimeiro; that’s a long time ago now—what have you done since?
Where are all the armies and the generals you talked so much about?
What’s become of them?  Tell me that!  Here we’ve been in Salamanky a
matter of fourteen days, but we ain’t seen none of them.  There’s plenty
of you Dons about, sure enough, but you don’t look to me like
fighting-men.  Where are you hiding ’em?—that’s what I want to know."

There was no mistaking the glance of withering contempt with which the
speaker pointed his questions; a movement of resentment was already
visible among his mixed audience.  The interpreter, whose dress
proclaimed him a seaman from one of the Biscayan ports, was now volubly
rendering the gist of the Englishman’s taunts, to an accompaniment of
strange oaths and ominous murmurs from the crowd.  Warming with their
sympathy, he became more and more excited, passed from explanation to
denunciation, and then, turning suddenly from his compatriots, clenched
his fist and poured out a torrent of abuse in a lurid mixture of Basque
and Billingsgate.  The corporal, recognizing phrases that could only
have been picked up at Deptford or Wapping, smiled appreciatively, and,
with a wink at his companions, said:

"Ain’t it like home?  He ought to be a drill-sergeant—eh, boys?"

A shout of laughter greeted this sally.  The Spaniard, his complexion
changing from olive to purple, strode forward and shook his fist within
an inch of the corporal’s nose.  Wilkes, greatly tolerant of foreign
eccentricity, preserved an unwinking front; but his bland smile was too
much for the Spaniard’s fast-ebbing self-control. With a snarl of rage
he plucked a knife from his sash and aimed a blow at the Rifleman,
which, had it taken effect, would assuredly have put an end to his
interrogative career.  But the corporal’s left-hand neighbour, who had
been lolling against a post, flung out his arm and arrested the stroke;
almost at the same instant Wilkes himself got home a deft right-hander
beneath his assailant’s chin that hurled him senseless across the table.
In a moment a score of Spaniards with drawn knives were surging around
the little group.  Being without arms the Riflemen had slipped off their
belts and closed up to meet the attack.  The colonnade now rang with
fierce shouts, and from all quarters of the large square there was a
hurry-scurry of idlers attracted by the noise of the fray.  Cheerfully
confident, the half-dozen British soldiers, their backs against the
wall, kept the throng at arm’s-length with the practised swing of their
long belts.  But the odds against them were heavy.  It could only be a
few moments before the Spaniards must get in with their knives, and then
the 95th would be six men short on parade.  One or two of the Spaniards
had been hard hit; but the rest were drawing together for a rush, when
suddenly, above the din of the mêlée, rang out the clear authoritative
word of command:

"Attention!"

The habit of discipline was so strong that the British soldiers on the
instant dropped their belts and stood rigid as statues.  On the
Spaniards the effect of the interruption was equally remarkable.
Surprised at the sudden change of attitude, they looked round with a
startled air to seek the cause of the Englishmen’s strange quiescence.
A horseman had reined up opposite the scene of the scuffle—a tall
youthful figure, wearing the headgear of the 95th and a heavy cavalry
cloak.

"Stand easy!" he cried to the Riflemen, over the heads of the crowd,
"and don’t move an eyelash."

With a dozen Spanish knives flashing before their eyes, the command was
a severe test of discipline; but in the British army a hundred years ago
rigid training had made instant unquestioning obedience an instinct.
While the Spaniards were still fingering their weapons, and hesitating
whether to finish off their work, the officer began to address them in
pure Castilian.

"Pardon me, Señores," he said, "for interrupting what I am sure was a
pastime.  I am an English officer, as you see, and I fear that my men,
ignorant of your customs and traditions, might have taken seriously what
was no doubt begun in sport.  There is no need for me to say a word,
Señores about your valour; is not that known to all the world? and I am
sure you would be the last to do anything to endanger the friendly
alliance between your country and mine.  The French are your enemies,
Señores; they are ours too.  We are fighting shoulder to shoulder in a
noble cause.  Confusion to the invader, say I!  Hurrah for the
independence of Spain!  Cry Viva la España with me!"

Then turning suddenly to the Riflemen, he cried:

"Now, men, give three rousing cheers."

Wilkes and his friends cheered half-heartedly and with an air of
endurance; but the Spaniards were not discriminating, and responded with
shrill vivas.

"Thank you, my friends!" said the officer, when the tumult had subsided.
"And now, as I have a few words to say to my men before I ride off, I
will bid you good-day."

In a few moments the pacified crowd dispersed in small knots, discussing
with interested curiosity the young officer whose courteous firmness and
fluent Spanish had produced so remarkable an effect.  When, last of all,
the interpreter, having recovered from the blow, had made his way across
the square, the horseman called up Corporal Wilkes, who advanced with a
somewhat guilty air and saluted.

"Now, Corporal Wilkes, what do you mean by this? Have you forgotten the
general’s orders about brawling with the Spaniards?"

The corporal shifted his feet uneasily, and began to mumble an
explanation in his slow ponderous way.

"That’ll do," said the officer, cutting him short. "You’re always in hot
water.  Get off to your quarters, and report yourself to me in the
morning."

"Very good, sir."

With a look of injured innocence he saluted and slouched off with his
companions, while the officer, touching his horse’s flanks with the
spur, cantered away.  At the angle of the colonnade the crestfallen
Riflemen were confronted by a tall stately figure in cocked hat and long
military cloak, who had for some time been quietly watching the scene
from an inconspicuous post of observation.

"Who’s your officer, my man?"

The Riflemen halted in a line, struck their heels together, and brought
their hands to the salute like automata.

"Mr. Lumsden, your honour," replied Wilkes, looking as though he would
have liked to be elsewhere.

"Oh indeed!  Thank you!"

The commander-in-chief acknowledged their salute and turned on his heel.
The men stared after him for a few moments in silence; then Wilkes
turned to his comrades, and said with a rueful look:

"By gum!  How much of that ’ere rumpus did Johnny see?—that’s what I’d
like to know."

Meanwhile Lumsden of the 95th had trotted off, across the great square,
past the church of San Martin, towards the University and the Tormes
bridge.  He was bound for a farmhouse some five miles south-east of the
city, where it had been reported that a considerable quantity of flour
could be purchased for the troops.  Since the arrival of his regiment in
Salamanca a fortnight before, he had been employed continuously on
commissariat business, and was the object of envy to his
fellow-subalterns, who would gladly have found some special work of the
kind to vary the monotony of life.

It was the 28th November in the year 1808.  Salamanca was full of
British soldiers, who had marched in on the 13th amid a drenching
rain-storm and the cheers of the inhabitants.  They comprised six
infantry brigades and one battery of artillery, among the former being
the famous 95th Rifles under Colonel Beckwith, in which Jack Lumsden was
a second lieutenant.  The main artillery force, with its escort, was
near the Escurial, a few miles from Madrid, under Sir John Hope, who was
intending to march northwards to join his chief; while Sir David Baird
lay at Astorga, with three batteries, four infantry brigades, and a
force of cavalry under Lord Paget.  The infantry had marched from Lisbon
under Sir John Moore, who had succeeded to the chief command of the
British forces in the Peninsula recently vacated by Sir Hew Dalrymple.
At Salamanca Sir John expected to receive news of the approach of a
Spanish force under the Marquis of La Romana, to co-operate with him in
offensive movements against the French.  The march had been particularly
arduous and uncomfortable; rain had fallen in torrents for the greater
part of the way, and owing to lack of supplies the men were in a sorry
state as regards clothes and equipment.  But they nourished high hopes
of soon inflicting a heavy blow on the French invaders; and though the
delay, due to want of definite information about the movements of the
Spaniards and the position of the French, was telling somewhat on the
spirits of the force, Sir John Moore was so popular with all ranks, and
enjoyed their confidence so thoroughly, that discontent had only shown
itself in half-humorous protests like that of Corporal Wilkes.

Jack Lumsden rode easily through the darkening streets, passed the
sentry at the bridge head, and cantered along the sodden road leading to
Alba de Tormes.  Three miles out of Salamanca he struck off to the left,
and, carefully picking his way among the ruts and depressions, reached
his destination just as the black darkness of a November evening fell.
His errand with the farmer occupied some little time.  He then accepted
the refreshments pressed upon him with true Castilian hospitality; and
at length, towards seven o’clock, set off on the return journey.

The moon was rising behind him, throwing a dim misty radiance over the
bare fields to right and left.  As he reached the cross-roads, and
wheeled round into the highway towards Salamanca, he saw, some hundred
yards ahead, several dark forms on both sides of the road, creeping
along with stealthy movements in the same direction. Carrying his gaze
beyond them, he descried a man leading a horse, who, he instantly
concluded, was being followed by a gang of foot-pads, or of the brigands
who notoriously infested every part of Spain.  Almost involuntarily Jack
pricked his horse forward; he saw that the furtive band were rapidly
lessening the distance between them and the walking horseman, who every
now and then half-turned to look at them, and then resumed his slow
progress.

The road was so soft, and the men were so intent upon their expected
prey, that they did not hear the sound of Jack’s approach until he was
within a few yards of them. Then a sudden splash in a large puddle
caused them to stop and look round; Jack galloped up, and as he passed
them, ostentatiously held his pistol so that a glint of moonlight fell
on the barrel.  At the same moment the dismounted rider heard the pad of
his horse’s hoofs; he paused, still holding the bridle, and turned
towards Jack, who pulled his horse across the road and glanced back at
the brigands.  They had now formed a group, and stood in the middle of
the road.  Jack clicked the lock of his pistol.  After an instant’s
hesitation the men turned in a body and vanished into the darkness.

"Many thanks!" said the pedestrian.  "I was never more glad to see a
British officer.  Those bandits have been following me up for some
minutes.  My horse is lame, as you see, and though I’ve a couple of
pistols handy I’m afraid I’d be no match for eight big fellows with
their knives.  And I’ve a particular reason for avoiding risks."

"They’ve had the discretion to sheer off," said Jack, turning again
towards Salamanca.  "It’s unlucky your horse is lamed.  Have you been
riding far, sir?"

"About five hundred miles," was the reply.

Jack stared.

"No wonder your horse is lame—though you didn’t ride the whole distance
on the same beast, I suppose."

"No indeed; but I’ve scarcely been out of the saddle for six days—"

"Six days!  Hard riding that, sir."

"True.  The fact is, I’ve most important despatches for Sir John Moore,
and haven’t wasted a minute more than I could help."

Jack was off his horse in a moment.

"In that case, sir, pray take my horse and finish your ride with equal
speed.  If you bring news for the general, no one will be more delighted
to see you.  It’s only about three miles, and the road’s straight ahead;
I’ll follow with your horse."

"That’s very good of you.  I didn’t like the idea of trudging in in this
lame fashion.  You’re sure you don’t mind?  Those brigands, eh?"

"Not a bit.  They won’t show their noses again."

By this time the stranger had mounted Jack’s horse, and was preparing to
ride off.

"By the way," he said, "to what address shall I return the horse?—a
pretty animal, begad!"

"I’m quartered at a worthy alderman’s in the Calle de Moros—El Regidor
Don Perez Gerrion; my name’s Lumsden."

"Lumsden!" repeated the stranger with a start, letting the reins fall on
the horse’s neck.

"Yes," said Jack, looking up in surprise.  "Why?"

"Oh!  Excuse me now.  I have my despatches to deliver, and then I will
call on you at the regidor’s.  I have a communication, probably, to make
to you.  Au revoir!"

With a wave of the hand he galloped off, leaving Jack to tramp along
behind him, in some wonderment as to what communication a despatch-rider
could have to make to a subaltern of the 95th.



                              *CHAPTER II*

                          *Some Introductions*


The Grampus—A Turn with the Foils—An Interruption—Enter a Regidor—Flour
and Water—A Soft Answer—Pepito—Biographical—Captain O’Hare—Mr. Vaughan
is announced


It began to rain when Jack was still two miles out of Salamanca, and he
was wet and chilled when, having put up the stranger’s horse, he entered
the regidor’s house and sought the general room, where, as he knew from
the sounds of laughter proceeding from it, his friends and comrades were
assembled.  There was a universal shout as Jack pushed open the door.

"Here’s the commissary-general!" cried a tall, fair-headed subaltern of
seventeen years.  "Look here, Jack, if this corn-chandler business of
yours gets you promotion before me, I’ll—I’ll punch your head."

"Thanks!  Pommy, my dear, unless you’re careful, respectful, you know,
you’ll find your next billet will be a stable or a pig-stye; you can
take your choice.  A pig-stye would be the easier got, perhaps—this
country teems with porkers; but there are plenty of mules too, and one
more won’t matter."

"All the same, Lumsden," said Harry Smith, a lieutenant of twenty-one,
"I don’t wonder Pomeroy’s jealous. We didn’t all have the luck to be
babies in Spain!  But let me introduce a friend of mine—an old
school-chum. Lumsden—Dugdale, Percy Dugdale, otherwise the Grampus."

Jack found his right hand engulfed in a huge fist, and shaken almost to
a jelly.  It belonged to a tall young man in civilian dress, stout,
massive, broad-shouldered, with a rubicund, open, ingenuous face, and a
smile that bespoke friendliness at once.

"Heard of you," said Dugdale cordially.  "Heard of your little bet.
Reminds me of my wager with Blinks of Merton when I was a freshman.  Bet
me a pound to a polony I wouldn’t screw up a proctor; loser to eat the
polony.  I won—and bought a champion polony in St. Aldate’s. Blinks
stood us a supper to be let off.  Ha! ha!"

The Honourable Percy Dugdale’s chuckle had a quality of its own.  While
it seldom resulted from what others would have regarded as wit or
humour, it never failed to breed sympathetic laughter, and the room rang
with appreciative merriment.

"What’s this bet of yours, Lumsden?" asked Bob Shirley, lieutenant in
Jack’s company.

"Oh, a little affair with Pomeroy!  He’s so desperately cocksure of
everything, and what is worse, he will talk, you know.  Said he’d hold
me at boxing, at wrestling, at swimming, at every mortal thing,
including fencing, so I bet him before we left Alcantara that I’d give
him points at them all, and we’re going to begin with the foils."

"What are the stakes?" asked Shirley.  "Why didn’t I hear of this?"

"It’s a guinea to a Bath bun.  Pomeroy’s amazing fond of Bath buns; and
as at present I haven’t a guinea, at least to spare, and he hasn’t a
bun, we’re going to settle up when we get back to London, and you
fellows can come to Gunter’s and see Pommy shell out twopence, if you
like."

"No time like the present," said Smith.  "We’ve half an hour before
supper, and nothing to do.  If you fellows are game we’ll make a ring
now."

"I’m ready," said Pomeroy, pulling off his jacket, "if the corn-dealer
is."

"By all means," retorted Jack, laughing; "but I hope, for the sake of
the company, your riposte is better than your repartee."

"No more cackle!" cried Smith.  "Let’s get to business. Where are the
foils?"

At a word from Jack, a tall, strapping Rifleman, who had followed him
into the room, disappeared for half a minute, and returned with a couple
of foils in his hands.  He handed one to his master, who had meanwhile
peeled, and the other to Reginald Pomeroy.  The two faced one another;
they were of equal height, but otherwise presented a strong contrast.
Both were tall, but Jack was slight and lissom, with dark hair, brown
eyes, and clear-cut features, while Reginald Pomeroy was heavier in
build, fresh-complexioned, with blue eyes and light curly hair. In
brief, if Jack was Norman, Pomeroy was as clearly Saxon, and as they
stood there, they were worthy representatives of the two fine strains of
our present English race.  They were always sparring, always girding at
each other, but at bottom they were the best of friends, and had indeed
been inseparable chums ever since they entered the Charterhouse
together.

"Gad, reminds me of the mill between Jones of Jesus and De Crespigny of
the House, in Merton meadow," said Dugdale with his capacious chuckle.

    "’His eyebrow dark, and eye of fire,
    Shows spirit proud, and prompt to ire,’"

quoted Shirley, amid a chorus of groans.

"Shut up, Shirley!" cried Jack; "if you begin spouting poetry you’ll
shatter my nerve."

"Yes, by George," said Smith, "we had enough of _Marmion_ on the way
out.  Shirley’s a long way too fond of poetry.  Now, you two, are you
ready?  Buttons on the foils?  That’s right.  Now then!"

    "Charge, Chester, charge; on, Stanley, on!’"

shouted Shirley, who was irrepressible, and who, indeed, was said to
have got _Marmion_ by heart a week after it was issued, in February of
this year.

The duel began.  The combatants were pretty evenly matched, and as the
spectators watched thrust and parry, lunge and riposte, now cheering
one, now the other, the air became charged with electric excitement.
Right foot well forward, left arm well behind his head, Jack watched his
opponent with the keenness of a hawk, and for a time seemed to content
himself with standing on the defensive. He knew his man, and held
himself in with the confident expectation that Pomeroy would by and by
become reckless.

"Two to one on Pomeroy!" shouted Dugdale, who was growing excited.

"Done!" said Smith.  "Name your stakes."

"Anything you like; I’m not particular.  I want a new pair of breeches.
Yours won’t fit me, but mine’ll fit you with a little trimming’.  Gad,
Lumsden was nearly pinked that time.  Make it two pairs!"

"D’you mind moving aside?" said Shirley, who, being head and shoulders
shorter than Dugdale, found his view obstructed by six feet two and a
back broad in proportion.

"Sorry; get on my back if you like," said Dugdale. "Won a bet by running
a race with young Jukes of Pembroke on my back.  I don’t mind."

But Shirley contented himself with edging in to a place beside the big
sportsman.

The foils clashed; Pomeroy made a rapid lunge at Jack, who instantly
straightened himself, and before his opponent could recover his guard,
Jack’s foil was out, and slid along the other, and with a dexterous turn
of the wrist he sent the weapon flying out of Pomeroy’s hand, over the
ring of onlookers, to the other end of the room, where it clattered
against the wall and fell with a clash to the floor.

"Oh, come now!  I never lose my wagers.  I make a point of it," said
Dugdale with a rueful look.

"End of the first round; that’s Lumsden’s," said Smith quietly.  "Five
minutes’ rest, then to it again.  Give you six to one next round."

"No, thanks!  I’ll wait a bit.  Can’t afford to part with all my pants.
What’s that?"

Above the voices of the officers discussing the details of the match
rose the clamour of a repeated battering on the door.

"Oh, I say!" cried Dugdale, "we can’t have this interrupted.  Is the
door locked?"

"Fast," replied Shirley, adding:

    "’And neither bolt nor bar shall keep
    My own true—love—from—’"


The quotation remained unfinished, for Jack laid Shirley on his back and
sat on him.  The knock was repeated again and again, with increasing
loudness; the door was rattled with ever-growing vehemence.

"Set your back against the door, Giles," said Jack. "It’ll take some
force to move your fourteen stone of muscle."

The big Rifleman set his straight back against the door, planted his
feet firmly on the floor so that his body formed an obtuse angle, and
crossed his arms on his breast.  The knocking continued.

"Can’t come in," shouted a shrill-voiced ensign. "We’re busy."

From outside an angry voice bawled in reply.

"Be quiet, you fellows," cried Smith.  "Let us hear who it is."

The noise inside the room was hushed, and through the door came muffled
tones of angry and excited remonstrance.

"It’s very bad language, but I can’t understand it," said Smith, who now
had his ear against the oak.  "Here, Jack, you’re the only fellow who
knows the lingo; leave that drain-pipe and see if you can make anything
of it."

Jack rose from his wriggling seat, and, going to the door, shouted "Who
are you?" in Spanish.  A moment later he turned to the company and said:
"By George! it’s the regidor himself.  We’d better let him in."

"Not till I’ve licked you," said Pomeroy.  "Let the old boy wait."

"That’s Pommy all over," said Smith; "I’m Reginald Pomeroy, and hang
civility!  The regidor’s our host, and we owe him a little
consideration."

"Exactly," put in Jack.  "Heave over, Giles, and let me open the door."

He turned the key, threw the door open, and gave admittance to the
oddest figure imaginable.

"Pommy’s Bath bun—underbaked!" said Shirley under his breath.  The rest
of the company were too much surprised for speech or laughter.  The
intruder was presumably a man, but he was so completely covered with an
envelope of paste that form and feature were undiscoverable.  Two
unmistakable arms, however, were wildly gesticulating; an equally
obvious fist was being shaken towards the group; and a human voice was
certainly pouring out a stream of violent language, of which no one
there, not even Jack, could make out a word.

"Come, Señor Regidor," said Jack in Spanish, "what is the matter?
Really, you talk so fast that I cannot understand you."

He laid his hand on the regidor’s arm, but drew it back hastily; it was
covered with wet flour.

"Shut the door, Giles," he said, wiping his hand; "this needs an
explanation.  In fact" (he gave a quizzical glance from the floor to the
company) "it needs clearing up!"

Taking the fuming regidor gingerly by the hand, he led him to the middle
of the room, where, with Pomeroy’s assistance, he set to work to scrape
away the clinging paste that swathed the poor man from head to foot.
The first shock of surprise being over, the rest of the officers were
now fairly bubbling with merriment, for the regidor was too angry to
keep still, and never ceased from objurgating some person unknown.
Dugdale had stuffed a handkerchief into his mouth to stifle his
laughter, and Smith was thumping Shirley vigorously on the back. After
some minutes’ scraping with the foils, the new-comer was revealed
standing in a circle of clammy flour—a little, round, pompous
individual, with a very red and wrathful face, made ludicrous by the
stiff moustache, to which a coating of flour obstinately adhered.

"Now, Señor Regidor," said Jack soothingly, "tell us all about it.  I
hope the mischief has gone no deeper than your clothes."

And then the little alderman unfolded his pitiful story. It appeared
that he had gone round his premises in the rain, to see that all was
safely locked up for the night, when he found that his barn at the back
of the house had been left open—not only the lower door, but also the
upper door, through which sacks of flour entered the loft. It was very
dark, and he had been unable in the rain and wind to obtain a light.
Feeling his way into the barn, he had crept up the ladder leading to the
loft, stumbling as he did so over an empty sack that covered the last
two or three steps.  Then, arrived at the top, he had lifted the
trap-door, and raised head and shoulders above the opening, when without
warning he was smothered by an avalanche of flour, which took him so
entirely by surprise that he had fallen backward, and only saved himself
from a headlong descent to the foot of the ladder by clutching at a rope
that dangled a few inches in front of him.  It was no accident, he
declared, for he had heard the scurry of some living creature moving in
the loft.  On recovering from his shock he had mounted again and
searched the place as thoroughly as he could in the darkness, but
without success.  He had then locked up the barn securely, and being
convinced that he was the victim of a practical joke on the part of one
of the subalterns billeted upon him, he had come to demand satisfaction
for the insult, and compensation for the irreparable damage done to his
clothes.

Such was his story, told at much greater length, and punctuated with
many violent gestures and still more violent expletives.  Jack listened
to him patiently, while the rest of the company stood in a ring about
them, striving with ill success to hide their merriment.  When lack of
breath at length brought the little man to a stop, Jack spoke to him
consolingly, assuring him that he was mistaken, and that no British
officer would so far have forgotten the courtesy due to their obliging
host.  The regidor was not appeased; he was on the point of recommencing
his denunciation of the culprit, when Jack stopped him, and said that he
would question his brother officers and convince the regidor that he was
mistaken.  He then briefly told his companions the outlines of the story
he had heard.  Just as he came to the point where the shower of flour
had descended on the unfortunate regidor, he was annoyed at hearing a
loud chuckle.

"Pomeroy, that’s too bad," he exclaimed.  "How can I persuade our host
that we have had nothing to do with his plight if you disgrace yourself
like that?"

"Look here, Lumsden," said Pomeroy, "I’m not going to be lectured.  As a
matter of fact, I didn’t make a cheep."

"Sorry, Pommy," said Jack, with a glance at Dugdale. "Well now, I can
assure the regidor, on your honour, that none of you had a hand in
this?"

Every officer present gave his word.  Then Jack put on his coat, and,
slipping his arm within the regidor’s, led him off with a promise to
investigate the matter, and see whether any of the officers’ servants
had been in fault. The moment their backs were turned, the same loud
chuckle was heard, followed by an unmistakable guffaw. Giles Ogbourne,
Jack’s big servant, while maintaining a rigid position against the wall,
was putting his broad face through the oddest contortions of amusement.

"What are you grinning at?" cried Pomeroy angrily. "Was it you who gave
that oily chuckle just now?"

"Beg pardon, sir," said Ogbourne, endeavouring to look grave.  "I really
couldn’t help it.  ’Tis a trick of that young varmint Pepito; I be sure
’tis."

"That imp of a gipsy!  I told Lumsden he’d be sorry he ever set eyes on
the creature.  Why do you think he is at the bottom of it?"

"Why, sir, I seed the boy bummelled out of the kitchen, and prowling
around by the barn, and, sakes alive, ’tis he and no one else."

"Who’s Pepito?" asked Dugdale.

"A young sprat of a gipsy Jack picked up outside Queluz soon after we
left Lisbon.  Here, Ogbourne, you know more about him than I do.  Speak
up."

"’Tis just as you say, sir.  Mr. Lumsden found the critter on the
roadside, a’most dead, and took’m up and fed him, sir.  A thoroughbred
gipsy, sir.  His band had been cut up by the French after the fight by
Vimeiro; every man of ’em was killed dead except this mortal boy, and a’
got a cut in th’ arm from a sabre.  Mr. Lumsden gave him a good square
meal, sir, and next day a’ hitched hisself on to us, followed us all
along, went a-fetching and a-carrying for Mr. Lumsden, for all the world
like a little dog.  Mr. Lumsden says to me: ’Giles,’ says he, ’there’s
enough women and childer along of us without this young shaver; what’ll
we do with him?’  I couldn’t think of anything, so Mr. Lumsden he takes
him to a Portuguese barber and hands him over some money for the boy’s
keep, and tells him to make a barber of him.  Bless you, next day the
varmint turns up again, and we can’t shake him off nohow.  If a’ goes
away for a day, back a’ comes the next, as perky as a Jack-in-the-box."

"A sort of millstone round Lumsden’s neck," said Shirley.

"Not but what he’s useful," added Ogbourne.  "He’s first-rate at shining
buttons and cleaning swords, and all sorts of little odd jobs.  Only
he’s so full of monkey tricks, you can’t believe.  One night a’ put two
live toads in my bed, a’ did; another night a’ mixed some dubbin wi’ my
soup.  I tanned him, I did, but though a’ blubbered hard enough, next
minute his wicked little black eyes were as mischievous as ever.  Mr.
Lumsden’s got a handful, sir, and that’s gospel truth."

"If that’s his character, depend upon it he’s responsible for the
regidor’s whitening," said Smith.  "We’ll have to abolish the boy; don’t
you think so?"

"Oh, I say!" struck in Dugdale, "never mind about a scrubby gipsy.  I
wish Lumsden would hurry up.  I want to see Pomeroy lick him."

"You’ll lose this time," said Smith.

Dugdale made a wry face.  "Didn’t know he was such a paragon.  Speaks
Spanish as well as the Don.  Learnt it for a bet, I suppose."

"No," said Pomeroy, laughing.  "He lived at Barcelona till he was
eleven."

"Where on earth’s Barcelona?  Is it where the nuts grow?"

"Yes—in the big square!" said Smith with a smile.

Dugdale grunted.  "But what was Lumsden doing there?" he asked.

"Eating, and growing, and learning the lingo, of course," said Pomeroy.
"His father’s a partner in some Spanish firm whose head-quarters are at
Barcelona, and lived there, as I say, until Jack was eleven.  Then, as
the kid was more or less running wild, I suppose, Mr. Lumsden returned
to London as head of the branch there, and sent Jack to the
Charterhouse, and that’s where I licked him first—"

"Now, Pommy, at it again!" said Jack’s voice.

Dugdale chuckled, and Pomeroy looked aggressive; but immediately behind
Jack, as he re-entered the room, came a figure at the sight of which the
whole group broke out in exclamations of welcome.

"Peter!" said Smith to Dugdale in a stage whisper.

The new-comer was a tall man of some thirty-six years, wearing a big
greatcoat and a peaked cap drawn over his brow.  His face was
particularly ugly, but redeemed by a pair of bright
good-tempered-looking eyes.  He stood for a moment quizzing the company,
while the water streamed from his coat and made a pool on the floor.

"Bedad," he said, observing the pasty mixture there, "sure if it’s roast
beef that it is, it’s myself that’s thankful; but the flure’s a queer
place to mix the Yorkshire."

"No such luck," said Pomeroy.  "No chance of that this side of
Portsmouth; it’s only a toad-in-the-hole this time."

Captain Peter O’Hare laughed when they told him of the regidor’s plight.

"And who was the blackguard that did it?" he asked, suddenly looking
serious.  "Such conduct is terribly unbecoming an officer and a
gentleman."

"It was Pepito," exclaimed Jack; "that little scamp of a gipsy who’s
been shadowing me since we left Lisbon. I found him crouching in the
regidor’s stable, smothered in flour from head to foot.  It appears he
had made for the loft as the only dry place, and emptied a bag of flour
on the regidor in sheer self-defence, being afraid of a walloping if he
was caught.  He jumped out of the upper door and slid down a
gutter-pipe.  I’m afraid that young man will prove a thorn in my side."

Captain O’Hare having by this time removed his dripping garments, Smith
took the opportunity to introduce his friend Dugdale.

"He’s just escaped from Oxford, O’Hare; heard the bugles sounding and
couldn’t sit still."

"What regiment, sir?" said the captain, shaking hands. "I knew a Dugdale
in the 85th."

Dugdale chuckled.

"My brother Tom, no doubt.  Laid him a poodle to a pork-pie that I’d be
at the front first, and here I am."

"Ah! an amachure, I preshume," said Captain O’Hare, glancing at his
civilian costume.  "Sure, an’ I hope you’ll like it, for ’tis not all
beer and skittles.  And that reminds me; ’tis time we cleared the decks
for supper.  You’ll stay and take pot-luck, Mr. Dugdale?"

"Thank you, sir! but, you see—well, we had a little wager—in short,
thank you, sir!"

O’Hare looked puzzled, and still more as he noticed a smile on the faces
of the rest of the company.

"Never mind, Grampus," said Smith with a nudge, "they can fight it out
another time, and meanwhile you’ve saved your breeches."

At this moment Rifleman Giles Ogbourne entered the room.

"Please, sir," he said to Jack, "there’s a Mr. Vaughan at the door as
would like to see you.  I was to say ’twas he that borrowed your horse a
while ago."

"Show him in," said Jack.

"Beg pardon, sir, but he says as he would like to see you alone."

"Oh, very well!" said Jack, rising, and he followed Giles from the room.



                             *CHAPTER III*

                  *Palafox the Man, Palafox the Name*


A Letter from Saragossa—An Invitation—Bad News—Spanish
Apathy—Bonaparte—Jockeying a Nation—A Message from Head-quarters—More
Puzzlement


The visitor was awaiting Jack beneath a dim lamp in the vestibule.

"You won’t mind coming into my bedroom?" said Jack, after an interchange
of greetings.  "It’s the only place where we can be alone."

He led the way, struck a light, and noticed that the stranger was
bespattered with mud from head to foot.

"I’m scarcely fit to come into a house at all," said the latter
apologetically; "but as things are, no doubt you’ll excuse me.  I had
better introduce myself.  My name is Vaughan, and I am acting as private
secretary to Mr. Stuart, our minister at Madrid.  As I told you, I have
ridden in with important despatches for Sir John Moore; I happened to be
with Castaños’ army, and as I came through Saragossa on my way to Madrid
I was entrusted by General Palafox with a letter to you, which I
promised to deliver to you in person if I should come across your
regiment.  Here is the letter."

He handed the paper to Jack, who looked at it in surprise.

"General Palafox!" he said.  "I don’t know him.  He is the Spanish
general who defended Saragossa recently, isn’t he?"

"Yes.  I assure you it was he who gave me the letter."

"Will you sit down while I look at it?"

Jack hastily broke the seal.

"I should add," said Vaughan, who had thrown himself wearily into a
chair, "that if I failed to find you, I was to carry the letter to your
father in London, whither I am proceeding at once."

Meanwhile, Jack had opened the letter, which was written in a crabbed
and shaky handwriting.  "My dear friend Jack," it began; and then Jack
turned to the signature, and read "Fernan Alvarez".  A light dawned upon
him; his look of bewilderment vanished, and he turned back to the
beginning with eager curiosity.  The letter ran as follows:—


MY DEAR FRIEND JACK,

My brave friend Captain-General Palafox tells me that Mr. Carlos Vawn,
who has of late arrived at this city, is on the point of leaving for
Madrid, and will then, it is possible, return to England by way of
Portugal, in which case he will, without doubt, visit the camp of the
great general, Sir Moore.  By his courtesy I trust that this letter may
come to your hands all safe, and then I beg you will advise my agents in
Madrid, Señores Caldos and Gonzalez, inasmuch as I may be quite
altogether beyond the touch of your reply.  The last letter I received
from my dear friend your father tells me that you sail instantly with
Sir Moore’s army, and I already hear that your general landed soon after
the blessed victory at Vimeiro.

You will have heard of our glorious defence against the usurper.  We
shall not grudge our sufferings if the example of Saragossa do give
heart to the other great cities of my poor country so distracted.  For
she will need indeed all her strength, all her courage, all her heroism,
in the storm which is now to burst upon her.  Alas!  I can no longer
hope to be of any service; my strength fails fast; I am old; I die.  For
myself, I do not repine, but I am full of fear and trouble for the
safety of my poor Juanita, the little playmate whom I am sure you will
not have forgotten quite.  I have done my all to provide for her, but
who can see through the clouds of war?  We know not what may come in a
day.  And the danger is not to be feared only from the outside.  In a
letter to your father I have told him of what I have done.  One thing is
needed to finish the things I tell him, and that is in the six
words—mark you—Palafox the Man, Palafox the Name.  I beg you commit
these words to memory, and burn this letter the moment after you have
read it.

I hope I may yet see you again before I die, but if it is not so be, I
say God bless you, and write myself for the last time

Your old friend,
       FERNAN ALVAREZ.

_P.S._—Remember always: Palafox the Man, Palafox the Name.


"Palafox the man, Palafox the name!" said Jack half aloud.  "What does
he mean?  Did General Palafox send a message with this, sir?"

"No.  I understood that the writer was a friend of his and yours."

"He is a friend of mine.  He is my father’s partner. But I don’t
understand the letter.  It appears to hint at something which he does
not care to express clearly. And he speaks of a letter to my father.
Have you that too?"

"No; I know nothing about that."

"Then it is probably with Don Fernan’s agents in Madrid.  But I am
forgetting to thank you.  Really, sir, it was very good of you to
undertake this private errand when you must have been engrossed in
public affairs. We were just going to have supper; will you honour us by
joining our mess?"

"I am very tired, and not at all in company trim; in fact, I had just
declined a similar invitation from Sir John; but—"

"You will, then?  I am very glad.  We will not keep you late."

"I must first go and give a coin to the boy who showed me the way here—a
little gipsy fellow who said he knew you."

"Pepito!  Let me deal with him, Mr. Vaughan; he has an extraordinary
knack of turning up just when he can make himself useful.  You’ll find a
towel there; I’ll go and settle with Pepito, and you will follow me,
won’t you? Our fellows will be delighted to meet you."

And Jack left his visitor to his ablutions.

There was much curiosity among the subalterns as to the identity of
Jack’s visitor and the subject of their private interview; but Jack
volunteered no information, merely telling them, as he passed through
the room on his way to find Pepito, that Mr. Vaughan would join them at
supper.

"So you boys will have to mind your p’s and q’s," said Captain O’Hare.
"No antics now.  Some of these politicals are very starchy."

Consequently it was a quiet group to whom, in a few minutes, Mr. Vaughan
was introduced.  They were all hungry, and Jack apologized for the
plainness of the fare.

"You see, sir," he said, "Sataro, our Portuguese contractor, has failed,
and we all have to get what food we can."

"You won’t find me fastidious," replied Vaughan.  "I could almost eat my
boots, I think."

"Mr. Vaughan has just ridden five hundred miles on end," explained Jack.

"By George!" exclaimed Dugdale.

"Five hundred, bedad!" said Captain O’Hare.  "If they were like the
miles round Salamanca, sure you must have come through a power of mud!"

"How long did it take you, sir?" asked Shirley.

"Six days."

There was a cry of astonishment.

"Gad, that beats Bagster of Trinity!" said Dugdale. "Backed himself to
ride sixty miles and eat sixty oysters in a hundred and sixty minutes;
lost by six oysters, and always vowed he could ha’ done that if the
vinegar hadn’t run short!"

There was a general laugh.

"I could have done with the oysters—even the six," said Vaughan, who was
tickled by Dugdale’s whole-hearted enjoyment of his recollection.

"And why did you pelt along so terrible hard, may I ask, Mr. Vaughan?"
said the captain.

"It’ll be common property to-morrow, so I may as well tell you.  I have
been for some time with the staff of General Palafox in Aragon.  Six
days ago General Castaños was totally defeated at Tudela."

"Good heavens!" cried Pomeroy; "another defeat! It was quite time we
turned up to help the Dons."

"What a cowardly crew!" added Smith.  "They run at the sound of their
own guns.  Bang! whizz! and Vamos, they cry, which Lumsden will tell you
means: ’Let us skedaddle’."

"We mustn’t be too hard on them," said Mr. Vaughan quietly.  "They used
to fight well, by all accounts.  There were good men in Alva’s time—not
to go back any further. All they want is proper leading.  Their generals
happen to be no match for the French marshals, and unlucky to boot. A
little British discipline would work wonders.  Well, as I happened to be
with the Spanish army, I rode off to Madrid at once with the news, and
our minister there sent me off with despatches to Sir John."

"Lucky you were on the spot, sir," said Smith, "or we might have waited
till doomsday.  The villainous way we are served with intelligence is
the common talk of the army."

"I judged as much.  The fact is, the Spaniards think they can do the
whole thing unaided; you gentlemen are mere interlopers.  They’d like to
have the French all to themselves."

"Well, they’ve had a lesson at Tudela," said Pomeroy. "Who had the
presumption to beat them there?  Was it Marshal Ney?"

"No, a Marshal Lannes.  It’s rather curious how he managed to take the
command, seeing that as he rode across the mountains a fortnight ago his
horse fell with him over a precipice, and every bone in his body
appeared to be broken.  But a clever surgeon named Larrey mended him in
some ten days—how do you think?  He stitched him up in the skin of a
newly-flayed sheep!"

"A wolf," said Shirley, "a wolf in sheep’s clothing; and the British
dogs of war’ll soon be at him."

"How does this defeat affect us, sir?" asked Jack.

"That depends on how the French follow it up.  Bonaparte may—"

"Oh, I say, sir," cried Dugdale excitedly, "is old Boney himself in
Spain?"

"Didn’t you know?  He crossed the border three weeks ago.  He may swoop
down on Madrid, for, except Heredia and San Juan, there seems to be
nobody to bar his way."

"Bedad, sir, but there’s a certain General Sir John Moore, to say
nothing of the 95th," said Captain O’Hare with a laugh; "though, to be
sure, ’twas Soult we were to tackle first."

"Won’t this defeat bring the French on our flank?" asked Smith, already
showing the strategical perception that distinguished the victor of
Aliwal.

"It certainly seems likely.  I found Sir John terribly distressed at his
imperfect knowledge of the French position, and at the sluggishness of
the Spaniards.  The proud Dons seem to have no plans, and to be
perfectly content to drift along.  But that won’t do against soldiers
like Bonaparte and his marshals."

"Do you know how many the French number, all told?" asked Jack.

"I don’t, and I’m sure no Spaniard does.  I heard 80,000 given as one
estimate, but I shall be much surprised if the total is not much larger
than that."

"Whew!" exclaimed Dugdale.  "And we’ve only a few thousand here at any
rate.  What’s the odds! an Englishman was always worth ten Frenchmen,
and I don’t care if Boney comes with a million."

"I admire your confidence and spirit, Mr. Dugdale," said Vaughan dryly.

"Though I’m hanged if I know what we’re fighting Boney in Spain for,"
added Dugdale.  "Not that that matters."

"Indeed, but it matters a terrible deal," said Captain O’Hare earnestly.
"We’ve crossed the mighty ocean—and mighty unpleasant it was, bedad!—to
help a disthressed and downtrodden people; and sure ’tis we Irishmen can
feel for the like o’ them."

Dugdale, feeling out of his depth, was silent for a time while the
conversation took a more serious tone, and turned on the chain of events
which had led to the presence of the British army in Spain.

It was fifteen years since a little Corsican officer of artillery, named
Napoleon Bonaparte, had first drawn attention to himself by his clever
work at the siege of Toulon.  In that time he had made himself Emperor
of the French and dictator of Europe, and become one of the greatest
figures in universal history.  His ambition was insatiable and hitherto
his success had been stupendous. Within a few years he had subdued
Austria, humbled Prussia, hoaxed Russia, and plundered Italy.  Alone of
the nations, England had checked his series of triumphs by her victories
at the Nile and Trafalgar; but even in England his name was held by the
more timorous in awe, and caricatures represented him as a voracious
ogre who made his meals of little children.  He longed to have England
also at his feet—a longing only intensified by the success with which
she had hitherto defied his efforts cripple her trade.

Before he could subdue England, however, Bonaparte saw the necessity of
adding Spain and Portugal to his tale of victims.  Portugal was our
ally, and he gave her the choice between breaking with us and fighting
France.  She held to her alliance, and was promptly overrun with French
troops.  Having crippled Portugal, he turned his attention to Spain.  In
that country the old King Charles had allowed the government to fall
into the hands of his unscrupulous minister Godoy, who was universally
detested. The greater part of the nation wished the king to abdicate in
favour of his son Ferdinand, with whom he was constantly quarrelling.
Taking advantage of these dissensions, Napoleon sent a French force to
Madrid, with the intention, as the Spaniards believed, of supporting
Ferdinand.  But both Charles and Ferdinand were summoned to meet
Napoleon at Bayonne; there they were in turn tricked into resigning the
sovereignty, which the emperor at once bestowed on his brother Joseph.
This was the signal for a great national rising, the first which
Napoleon had yet encountered.  The Spaniards were proud, high-spirited,
and independent, and refused tamely to submit to this arbitrary
interference with their affairs. In all parts of the country they
proclaimed Ferdinand king, and when Napoleon poured his troops in an
endless stream across the Pyrenees, their eyes turned to England as
their only stand-by, and to England they sent for help.  A British army
under Sir Arthur Wellesley landed in Portugal, and defeated Marshal
Junot at the battle of Vimeiro; but, ere the victory could be completed
and followed up, the chief command was assumed in succession by Sir
Harry Burrard and Sir Hew Dalrymple, who came out within a few days of
one another.  To Wellesley’s disgust, they allowed the French, by the
Convention of Cintra, to withdraw from Portugal with the honours of war.
But their action aroused intense indignation at home; they were
recalled, with Wellesley, to appear before a court of enquiry, and Sir
John Moore was unexpectedly placed in command.

Meanwhile the French forces in the Peninsula had been continually
increasing; the regular armies of Spain had been beaten on all sides;
and instead of meeting, as he had expected, large forces, well equipped
at English expense, ready to co-operate with him, Sir John found that he
had to defend the Portuguese frontier and undertake offensive operations
almost single-handed against a victorious enemy many times outnumbering
his own army. Immense sums of money and stores of all kinds had been
given to Spain by the British Government, but owing to the corruption of
the Spanish officials, and the want of any real governing authority, the
gift was virtually wasted. The Juntas, or committees, which had
undertaken the government of the various provinces, were all acting, or
rather talking of acting, independently, and were strangely blind to
their deadly peril.  They appeared to regard England as an unfailing
source of money and arms, and in some cases actually resented the
arrival of British troops, in a sort of blind confidence that they were
able unaided to withstand the invader.

Mr. Vaughan had seen something of this during his stay with General
Castaños, and his account of what had come under his own eyes kept his
hosts interested to a late hour. At length he rose.

"I am very tired," he said, "and as I expect to have to ride again
to-morrow, I know you gentlemen will excuse me for leaving you.  Many
thanks for your hospitality, and may we meet again!"

"I will see you to your quarters," said Jack.  "Where are you staying?"

"At an inn in the Plaza Santo Tomé.  I shall be glad of your company, if
the hour is not too late."

When Jack returned, half an hour afterwards, his man Giles handed him a
note which had been left at the house by an orderly during his absence.

"The commander-in-chief", it ran, "presents his compliments to Mr.
Lumsden, and will be glad to see him at his quarters at nine o’clock
to-morrow morning."


"Another letter," said Jack to himself; "and almost as mysterious as the
first.  I wonder what it can mean!"

He read the note again, but finding himself unable to make any inference
from the few simple words, he wisely resolved to allow the morning to
bring its own solution. In the few moments that elapsed between his
laying his head on the pillow and falling asleep, his mind see-sawed
between the two letters.  Now it was Sir John Moore’s that was
uppermost, now Don Fernan’s; breaking the darkness of his room he seemed
to see the phrases, one above the other, in letters of fire: "At nine
o’clock to-morrow morning"—"Palafox the Man, Palafox the Name".



                              *CHAPTER IV*

                          *A Delicate Mission*


Sir John Moore—In the Dark—A Roving Commission—Maps and Plans—Camp
Critics—An Hidalgo—Mystification—Exasperation—Pepito again—A
Bargain—Force majeure


At nine o’clock next day Jack made his way through a crowd of officers
congregated about the door of the archbishop’s palace, where Sir John
Moore was quartered. It seemed to be nobody’s business to show him up,
so he discovered for himself the room in which the commander-in-chief
was, as he supposed, awaiting him.  Entering at the door, and lifting a
heavy velvet curtain that hung within, he found himself in a large
chamber, at the other end of which stood a group of officers engaged in
what was evidently a very animated discussion.  He noticed the tall,
handsome figure of General Sir Edward Paget, the commander of the
reserve; near him was General Anstruther, a rugged, untiring Scot; in
the centre of the group was Sydney Beckwith, Jack’s own colonel, rough
of tongue and unsparing in his demands on his men, but withal kind of
heart and true as steel.  He was at this moment eagerly pointing to a
map which lay outspread on a table, over which bent several other
officers, among them the commander-in-chief himself.  Fine men as were
all the soldiers gathered there, Sir John Moore was easily first among
them.  At this time forty-seven years of age, his tall graceful figure,
crowned by a head nobly fashioned, with classic features, large lustrous
eyes, and bright close-clustering hair, would have marked him out in any
crowd as one above the generality of men.  He was listening intently to
what Colonel Beckwith said.  His lips were firmly compressed; every now
and then the fingers of his right hand restlessly tattooed upon the
table. Suddenly he straightened himself and moved backward a pace; the
hubbub of conversation ceased, and in the silence Jack heard, in Moore’s
clear and measured tones, the following words:

"Excuse me, gentlemen, I take the whole responsibility of my decision;
and I only expect my officers to prepare to carry it into effect."

There was sternness, even a touch of irritation, in his accent.
"There’s something wrong," thought Jack; "I’ve no business here; I’d
better make myself scarce."

He withdrew into the corridor, and began to walk up and down, with that
curious feeling of excitement which takes hold of a boy when waiting for
an interview on some unknown matter with his head-master.  In a few
minutes the officers left the room in a body, still talking with
animation, and passed down the corridor, away from Jack, towards the
street.  Judging that Sir John was now alone, Jack returned to the room.
The general was pacing the floor with long steps, his hands clasped
behind him, his head bent forward in anxious thought.  Jack hesitated a
moment; then stepped forward.  Sir John looked up, and stood with legs
apart, evidently not for the moment recognizing his visitor.  Then his
brow cleared; his features softened in the kindly smile for which he was
celebrated.

"Ah!  Mr. Lumsden, I think," he said; "I am glad to see you.  I fear I
have kept you waiting.  Yes, I see it is twenty minutes past the hour.
Let me waste no time, then.  Sit down at the table there."

Sir John seated himself at the opposite side of the table, gave the lad
one quick glance, and said:

"Without beating about the bush, are you willing, Mr. Lumsden, to
undertake an important and possibly dangerous mission?"

"Certainly, sir."

The answer came without a moment’s hesitation, and the general seemed
pleased.  Then, observing a look of surprise on Jack’s face, he went on:

"You wonder at my selecting you?  I happened to overhear yesterday an
eloquent address in Spanish by an officer of the 95th, and when I came
to enquire of Colonel Beckwith, he told me that Mr. Lumsden’s knowledge
of Spanish had already proved useful.  That is how it happened, Mr.
Lumsden."

He gave the young officer a friendly smile, and Jack’s cheeks flushed
with pleasure as the general continued:

"You are the man I’ve been looking for.  What I want you to do is out of
your regular duty, but then a knowledge of Spanish is out of the usual
officer’s acquirements, more’s the pity.  Do you know French also?"

"A little, sir; just well enough to understand what is said and to make
a shift to reply."

"That’s well.  Now I suppose you have some sort of notion of what my
intentions were in marching from Lisbon, eh?"

"We’ve talked it over at mess, sir," said Jack with a smile.

"Naturally.  Well, if you’re to be of use to me, and I think you will
be, I must take you into my confidence. What I want, Mr. Lumsden, is
information—information that I can rely on."  At this point he rose from
his chair and resumed his restless pacing to and fro.  "I started to
join forces with the Spaniards, but they haven’t put themselves into
communication with me.  I don’t know their plans; I don’t know what
their Government is aiming at.  I am in entire ignorance of the numbers
or the situation of the enemy.  The Spaniards seem to be living in a
fools’ paradise; talk very big about their own armies, and very small
about the enemy; keep us short of supplies, and shorter still of news.
I do know that a fortnight ago General Blake’s Spanish army in the north
was beaten, and now a Mr. Vaughan has brought me news that General
Castaños has been routed at Tudela; which means that his co-operation
with me is out of the question.  Do you see what I am driving at?"

"You mean, I think, sir, that as the Spaniards are beaten, the French
are free to attack you."

"Precisely.  Now follow the positions on the map here and you will see
more clearly what I want of you.  Here am I at Salamanca; Sir John Hope,
with the cavalry and guns, is marching to join me by Talavera and the
Escurial—a roundabout route, you see, and a long march that might have
been avoided if I could have been sure the mountain roads were passable
for wheeled transport.  All the guns might have come by Guarda and saved
a hundred miles; but the Portuguese engineers assured me the road was
too difficult.  Farther north there is another division under Sir David
Baird, who landed recently at Corunna, and is now at Astorga.  You see
the positions?"

"Yes, sir; of course your idea was to join."

"Exactly.  But now you see that I dare not attempt a junction with Sir
David.  As long as General Castaños’ army remained, there was a hope,
but now that all the Spanish armies are beaten, the French are free to
march against us.  Their numbers, I believe, very much exceed my own, so
that if they get between me and Sir David we shall be in an awkward
hole.  And therefore I have determined to retreat."

Jack opened his eyes.  A retreat had never entered into his imagination.
He understood now what had been the subject of discussion at nine
o’clock, and suspected from the general attitude of the officers, and
from the few words he had heard, that the decision to withdraw without
firing a shot did not meet with the approval of the staff.

"I have already sent orders to Sir John Hope," Moore went on, "to retire
by way of Peñaranda and Ciudad Rodrigo, and Mr. Vaughan has been good
enough to offer to carry a letter to Sir David Baird ordering him to
re-embark at Corunna, and land his division at Lisbon.  God knows I
would have run great risks to help the Spanish cause, but the Spaniards
have shown so little ability to do anything for themselves that I should
only sacrifice my army, and do no good to Spain, if I attempted the
impossible."

The look of anxiety and worry had returned to Sir John’s face.  It
cleared, however, in a moment, and he continued brightly: "Now, Mr.
Lumsden, you see the position.  The questions are: Where is the enemy?
and What is he going to do?  The French were, a fortnight ago, at
Valladolid; if they go north-west in force they will come across Sir
David’s division; if they come south, and are reinforced by the French
from Tudela, they will threaten Sir John Hope’s flank, and I must then
do something to relieve the pressure.  But any movement on my part would
disclose my position and strength to the enemy, who, I hope and believe,
at present know nothing about me. What I want then, Mr. Lumsden, is
exact information of the enemy’s whereabouts and numbers, and I think
that you, with your mastery of Spanish, are the most likely officer to
obtain it."

"I am ready to start at once, sir," said Jack.

"That’s right.  If you’re the fellow I take you for, you won’t want any
further instructions from me.  What means you use I must leave to your
own discretion.  I’ll supply you with anything you require; money in
moderation.  I am terribly hard up; our Government showers gold on the
Spaniards, but can’t afford to pay my army.  Now, before we settle the
matter, it is only fair to warn you of the danger you run.  If you are
caught by the French within what they claim to be their lines, you’ll be
shot, as sure as eggs is eggs.  Think of it then; you have free choice.
Will you go?"

"I’ll take the risk, sir," replied Jack instantly.

"It is confidential, of course," added the general. "You will report
direct to me what information you obtain, or, in my absence, to one of
my aides-de-camp or to General Paget."

"I am at liberty to employ messengers?"

"Certainly, but you will satisfy yourself that they are trustworthy."

"And may I have a map?"

"Of course.  We haven’t too many, and they are not particularly good,
but send your man, and I will have one looked out within an hour.  How
long will it take you to make your preparations?"

"Not a minute longer than is necessary to get a Spanish dress and
requisition a mule," answered Jack with a smile.

"You’ll make a presentable Spaniard," said Moore, smiling back.  "But
wouldn’t a horse serve you better than a mule?  You were riding a good
mount yesterday."

"A horse would attract too much attention, I think, sir.  And I was used
to riding mules when I was young."

Sir John laughed.

"You’re not a very ancient Pistol even now, Mr. Lumsden," he said.  "But
that’s the right spirit; regard yourself as a man and you’ll do a man’s
work.  Well, that is settled, then.  I’ll send you some money, and I
hope you will do me valuable service and come back with a whole skin.
Stay; you want a Spanish outfit.  I know the very man who can be useful
to you—a Spanish gentleman, one of the old school.  I will write you a
line of introduction.  Let me see."  Sir John hastily rummaged among a
heap of papers.  "I mustn’t forget one of the names; that would be an
unpardonable slight.  Here it is."

He scribbled a note, copying the address with some care.  Jack read: "El
Señor Don Pedro Benito Aguilar Quadrato Garrapinillos de Sarrion de
Gracioso," and caught a twinkle in Sir John’s eye.

"I am sure he will do all he can for you," added the commander-in-chief.
"He is a good patriot, not a painted one.  Now good-bye, and good luck
to you!"

He shook hands with Jack, who, feeling as though he trod on air, so much
elated was he at the confidence placed in him, went back to his
quarters.  At the door he found a small group of his fellow-officers,
evidently in a high state of excitement.

"Hi, Jack," cried Smith, as he came up to them, "what do you think of
this?  The army’s going to retreat."

"You don’t say so?" said Jack with well-feigned surprise.

"I do, though.  Did you ever hear of such an order from a British
commander-in-chief!  We haven’t even had a glimpse of the enemy, and by
all we can hear their cavalry vedettes are at least four marches away.
I can’t for the life of me make out what Johnny Moore can be thinking
of.  How did he get his reputation, I wonder?"

"Depend upon it, he’s good reason if he has ordered a retreat."

"’He that fights and runs away,’" began Shirley; but Jack had already
gone into the house, where he found his man Giles Ogbourne in the
kitchen, polishing his boots and hissing like a kettle with the
exertion.

"Giles," said Jack, "cut off and find me a strong, steady mule
somewhere.  Then go to Sir John Moore’s quarters; say you have come from
me; you’ll get some money and a paper packet; take them, with the mule,
out of the town as quickly as you can, and wait for me some two miles
along the Valladolid road.  Don’t say a word to anyone about me, mind."

"Very good, sir!"

Giles dropped the boots and departed on his errand. Then Jack found his
way to the palace of the much-baptized hidalgo.  After the usual
salutations, made on both sides with more than ordinary regard to
punctilio, Jack presented his note.  Don Pedro, an old and stately
cavalier, with thin pointed features and wearing a crimson skull-cap,
looked up after reading it, and said:

"General Sir Moore’s wishes are to a good Spaniard commands.  If you
will acquaint me, Señor, with the manner in which I may serve you, I
shall feel myself indeed honoured."

Jack, bowing his acknowledgments of the hidalgo’s courtesy, went
straight to the point.

"My general, Señor, has entrusted me with a somewhat delicate mission
towards Olmedo.  As you may imagine, it would not be politic for me to
make such a journey as a British officer.  Relying on a certain
familiarity with your noble language"—here the courtly hidalgo waved his
hand in graceful acknowledgment—"I propose to pass for the time as one
of your countrymen.  I shall need in the first place a dress, and
secondly one or two willing helpers."

"Ah! as to the dress," said the hidalgo musingly. "Let me see.  You will
do best to wear a quiet costume, such as might become a well-to-do
tradesman—say a snuff-coloured cloak, a pointed hat, velvet breeches,
and high gaiters.  Well, give me half an hour, and I will have the
costume ready for you.  As to the helpers, that is a little more
difficult.  I have no intimate acquaintance in the neighbourhood of
Olmedo.  If you had asked me but a few short months ago, I should have
said that any of my countrymen might have been trusted, but, alas! too
many now have betrayed their country to the usurper. But now I bethink
me, an old servant of mine keeps a small inn, the Posada de Oriente, at
Medina del Campo, some twelve miles on this side of Olmedo.  He is an
excellent worthy fellow, and staunch, and if you so please, Señor, I
will write a note to him, asking him to serve you as he would serve me."

Jack eagerly accepted the hidalgo’s offer.  Don Pedro opened a
heavily-chased escritoire, selected a sheet of paper, then cut a new
quill, and proceeded with as much formal deliberation as though he were
penning a document of state.  The letter finished, he carefully
sprinkled it with sand from a silver pounce-box, delicately shook the
paper clean when the ink was dry, and after folding it, impressed upon
it a seal some two inches in diameter.  The whole operation had occupied
nearly half an hour, which Jack had utilized in thinking out his plans.

"I much regret to hear, Señor," said the hidalgo, as he handed him the
note, "that my dear friend General Castaños has suffered a check, and
that this may cause some change in General Sir Moore’s plans.  But I
hope your excellent countrymen will not be discouraged by this temporary
mischance.  ’Tis but the fortune of war, or perhaps a warning, a summons
to us to cast off our lethargy; and Spain will hear, and when she
awakes, let her foes beware."

Jack took his leave, thanking the hidalgo in flowing Castilian, and
requesting him to send the promised costume to his quarters.  Half an
hour afterwards the clothes arrived.  Meanwhile Jack had procured a
little saffron, by whose aid he had given his complexion a sallow tinge,
and this, with the large-brimmed pointed hat, the cloak, and other
details of the costume, effected a complete transformation in his
appearance.  Armed with the note to Don Pedro’s old servant, he walked
boldly out by the front door into the street.  As luck would have it,
the first person he met was Captain O’Hare himself.

"Vaya usted con Dios!" said Jack, with a slight bow, giving the usual
Spanish salutation.

"Buenos dias, Señor!" returned the captain, with so vile a pronunciation
that Jack could scarcely repress a smile.  He passed on unrecognized,
and chuckled at having so completely deceived the worthy captain.

Rather more than half an hour later he came to a spot on the road to
Medina del Campo where Giles was patiently waiting with the mule.  The
big private was sitting on a heap of stones, holding the reins with one
hand while with the other he flung pebbles across the road in idle
preoccupation.  Jack went up to him.

"You Inglese soldier?" he said, in a foreign accent.

"Yes, mister."

"Inglaterra a fine region," said Jack.  "You go a viaje?"

"See then, what’s a viaje?"

"A voyage, a march, on the mule back."

"No, I’m not goin’ a march on the mule back."

"The mule is to you?"

"The mule bean’t nowt to me."

"Where you go then?"

"What’s that to you, mister?"

"What for you—?"

"Now look here, mister, doan’t ye be too inquisitive. Axing me forty
questions indeed.  See then, I’ll punch your head, iss a wull, if ye—"

Jack burst out laughing.

"Well, Giles," he said, "that’s a compliment to my disguise at any rate.
Have you got the packet for me?"

"Yes, sir," said Ogbourne, springing to his feet with a sheepish grin.
"Beg pardon, sir, but I took you for a Don."

"I know you did.  Well now, get back to quarters, and don’t say a word
to anybody about where I have gone.  If you are asked about me—and no
doubt you will be—just say that I have been sent on an errand by the
general."

"Very good, sir.  Mumchanced as a scarecrow, sir."

"That’s right.  Good-day!"

He sprang on to the mule, took a switch and the packet containing the
map from his man’s hands, and rode off in the direction of Medina del
Campo.  It was fortunate that he had previous experience of such steeds
when a young boy in Barcelona, for the animal began at once to play
pranks.  It got up first of all on its hind-legs, and then gave a lurch
forward, a movement for which Jack was prepared, and which he defeated
by a sudden violent strain upon the reins that brought the animal to
reason.  The mule requires wholly different treatment from a horse.
Prick him with the spur, he stops dead; strike him with a whip, he lies
down; draw rein, and he begins to gallop. Sometimes he will halt in the
middle of the road, lift his head, stretch his neck, draw back his chops
till he shows his gums and long teeth, and then give vent to sobs,
sighs, gurgles, squeals like a pig’s; and thrash him as you please, he
will not budge a step until his vocal exercises are finished.  Jack knew
all this of old, and after trying a few experiments the mule appeared to
recognize that he had no raw hand to deal with, and settled down into a
steady trot, making the bells upon his neck tinkle merrily.

Jack had not ridden more than a quarter of a mile when, as he was
passing by a small clump of trees, the mule stopped short, and not all
his rider’s coaxing sufficed to make him move.  Springing off his back,
Jack went to his head, to see if leading would prove more effectual than
driving.  As he stood there a pebble fell at his feet, then another, and
another, coming, apparently, from the sky.  He looked up, and there,
ensconced in a fork of one of the trees, crouched a small human figure.

"Well I’m hanged!" exclaimed Jack.  "Come down, Pepito."

The figure swung itself over the bough, clambered down the trunk with
the nimbleness of a squirrel, dropped lightly from the lowest branch,
and stood before Jack, looking up into his face with a broad smile.  It
was a curious figure indeed: a boy about four feet six in height, with
tanned skin some shades darker than the Spaniard’s olive hue, thick red
lips now open and showing strong white teeth, narrow brow, arched nose,
and long raven-black hair that hung in a tangled mass over his eyes.  He
was not pretty, but there was something strangely attractive in his
smile, and his brilliant black eyes, with their indescribable touch of
mystery, were dancing with fun as they met the surprised gaze of the
young Englishman.

"And what does this mean, Pepito?" said Jack in Spanish.

"Go with Señor," replied the boy briefly.  He shivered; it was a cold
day, and the raw air cut through the tatters which left his flesh here
and there exposed.

"No, that’s impossible," said Jack decisively.  "I couldn’t be bothered
with you."

"Want to go with Señor," persisted the boy.  "Know the roads—Medina,
Valladolid, Segovia, all the places; the Gitanos know everything."

"That’s all very well, but I don’t want you.  You’d be in the way.
Besides, I’m riding.  You couldn’t keep up with me."

"Can run fast.  No mule can beat me."

"Nonsense!  I shall be riding all day, and you’d be dead before night."

"I can get a mule, then."

"Where, may I ask?"

"From the Busne."

Jack knew that Busne was the gipsies’ name for the Spaniards.

"That means that you would steal it, eh?  Didn’t I tell you that if you
were caught stealing you’d be hanged, or at any rate soundly flogged?"

"Yes.  Hanged!"  He shrugged his shoulders. "Flogged!"  He pulled aside
his rags and showed the marks left by old thrashings on his skin.

"Incorrigible little imp!" muttered Jack in English. "Look here," he
went on in Spanish, "you can’t go with me; that’s settled.  You must go
back to Salamanca. I’ll give you a note to Ogbourne—"

"He’ll flog me."

"No.  I’ll tell him to get you some clothes and see that you are fed,
and to keep his eye on you till I get back. Now, will you promise me to
keep out of mischief?"

"No."

"Impudent little beggar!  I suppose you know no better.  You know at any
rate that my man will lay on pretty heavily if you plague him.  Look,
here’s a silver peseta.  I’ll give you this if you promise to go back to
Salamanca."

He held up the coin between finger and thumb.

"Give it me," said Pepito.

"Promise."

"I’ll go with you, Señor," said the boy obstinately.

"Don’t you understand?  It’s impossible.  I can’t be clogged with you.
Come now, here’s the money.  Cut away, and when I see you next take care
that you’ve decent clothes on your back."

Jack rapidly scribbled a note, and gave it with the coin into the brown
lean little paw, eagerly outstretched to receive it.  Pepito stowed them
both into a pocket he discovered somewhere among his rags, then grinned,
and said:

"Now I run with Señor’s mule."

"Confound you!" cried Jack, losing patience at last. "I won’t have you
with me."

He raised the switch which he had laid across the saddle and made to
strike at the gipsy.  Pepito looked in his face with an inscrutable
expression in his dark eyes, shrank back from the expected blow, then
slowly turned on his heel and slunk away in the direction of Salamanca.

"The obstinate little mule!" said Jack to himself as he watched him go.
"I don’t wonder that Giles has given him many a tanning.  I’d sooner be
haunted by a ghost."

As soon as Pepito was out of sight Jack remounted, and set the mule at a
canter to make up for lost time.



                              *CHAPTER V*

                         *A Roadside Adventure*


A Spanish By-Road—Negotiations—A Rupture—A Village Inn—Family
History—Antonio the Brave—A Near Thing—The Other
Cheek—Explanations—Recruits—Quits


For a few miles Jack followed the highroad, meeting no one but an old
wizened woman staggering along under a basket-load of onions.  Then,
thinking it well, as he approached the district in which there was a
possibility of encountering the enemy’s vedettes, to avoid the main
thoroughfare, he struck off to the right along what was little better
than a cart track, discovering from his map that this would lead him to
his destination by way of Pedroso, Cantalapiedra, and Carpio, villages
which were scarcely likely to be selected as billeting-places by any
considerable force.  It was a dreary ride.  The road was heavy with the
recent rains.  It passed through a country consisting partly of bare
heath, partly of grain-fields, now black and desolate.  He had started
from Salamanca shortly after eleven o’clock, and, owing to interruptions
and the state of the roads, it was nearly three in the afternoon before
he arrived at Cantalapiedra, little more than half-way to Medina.  By
that time he was hungry, and his steed was both hungry and tired.
Dismounting before a posada at the entrance to the town, he sent the
mule to be fed and rubbed down, and went into the house to seek
refreshment himself.

There was no other guest in the place, and the landlord, slow and stolid
like a genuine Spaniard, showed neither pleasure nor displeasure at the
appearance of a traveller. In reply to Jack’s request for food, he
brought, after some delay, a basin of very greasy soup of a reddish
tinge, due to the saffron with which it had been liberally sprinkled,
and a dirty carafe of violet-coloured wine, which Jack found, when he
poured it out, almost thick enough to cut with a knife.  The bread,
however, was eatable, if a trifle salt, and Jack munched away with an
appetite that evoked a gleam of interest in the landlord’s solemn eyes.
He began to ask questions, and indeed to show himself inquisitive,
remarking on the strange fact of a young man travelling alone through
disturbed country at such a time. Jack good-humouredly parried enquiries
that seemed too direct, merely explaining that he had been on a visit to
Salamanca, and was riding across country because, having heard rumours
that the French were in possession of Valladolid, he had no wish to fall
into their hands.  The landlord dryly told him that travelling anywhere
in Spain was rather dangerous for a man with good clothes on his back
and money in his pocket, for if he escaped the French he might fall in
with bandits, and there was little to choose between them when plunder
was in question. In answer to this Jack opened his coat and showed the
man the butt of a big Spanish pistol.

"Even a peaceful merchant," he said with a laugh, "may prove an awkward
customer to tackle."

The landlord shrugged.

"One against a troop of French cavalry, or a gang of bandits, would fare
rather badly," he said.  "I suppose you will want a bed to-night,
Señor?"

"Not I.  I’m going to push on to Medina."

"The saints help you to find your way in the dark, then!"

"Oh!  I shall find it.  The road is direct, you know, and my mule will
not wander."

He set off after an hour’s rest and rode on in increasing darkness.
What the landlord had said about brigands gave him little concern.  For
one thing, the mule trod almost silently on the sodden road, and he had
removed the bell from its neck; for another, he had avoided the highway,
and did not suppose that much booty was ever to be obtained on the
by-roads; and lastly, he trusted to his wits, his mule, and his pistol.
As he rode on, the air grew colder and the sky darker; there was no
moon, and a thickening haze lay over the fields to right and left of the
road.  It was impossible to proceed at more than a walking pace, except
at risk of breaking the mule’s knees in a rut or ditch.  To divert his
thoughts from the cold and the unpleasantness of his journey, he ran
over in his mind the events of the last few days.  He dwelt particularly
on the strange message he had received from Don Fernan Alvarez.
"Palafox the man, Palafox the name!"—what could it mean?  How did it
concern his old playmate Juanita, whom he remembered, a little
black-eyed child, clambering on his father’s knee, and listening with
her finger in her mouth to the stories told her by Mr. Lumsden, so merry
and frank compared with her stiff, stately, solemn father.  Palafox!—he
was a young general, with a brilliant reputation; Jack had heard Colonel
Beckwith give high praise to his strenuous defence of Saragossa against
Verdier; but what likelihood was there that the chances of the campaign
would give Jack an opportunity of meeting him!  Suppose he did meet him,
what—

"Buenas noches, caballero!" said a thick guttural voice at his mule’s
head, breaking into his meditation, and giving him a momentary shock.

"Buenas noches, hombre!" he replied.

The mule had stopped short.  Jack saw dimly, right in front of him, a
thick-set figure clad in a heavy cloak, his head covered with a pointed
large-brimmed hat, reminding the rider of pictures he had seen of
Italian brigands.

"O Señor caballero," said the man, "will you have the charity to tell a
poor wayfarer the time?"

Jack was on the point of pulling out his big hunting-watch, but it
struck him suddenly that it was advisable to be on his guard until he
was sure of his man.

"Somewhere about seven o’clock, I fancy," he said courteously.  "You are
right in my way, my friend."

"Sí, caballero, but it is my way as well as yours."

"It is wide enough for both of us," rejoined Jack with a smile; "and as
I have some miles to ride, I shall be obliged to you if you’ll stand
away and let me get on."

The man did not budge, but brought his left hand from beneath his cloak
and seized the off rein.

"Come, my friend, don’t delay me.  ’Tis a cold night, and the sooner I
reach my journey’s end the better I shall be pleased."

Jack spoke quietly and politely as before, but he was watching the
fellow with the wariness of a hawk.

"’Tis cold for me also, caballero; a fire and warm drink await me
yonder.  I am going to fight the accursed French, and it strikes me a
mule like yours will serve me well.  I will trouble you, therefore, to
dismount, caballero. I perceive you are a tradesman from the town, and
you will admit the fighter is more useful to Spain than the shopkeeper.
If you will do me the honour to descend, I will mount in your place."

"Not so fast, my man," said Jack.  "I don’t want to hurt you, but if you
continue to stand there you may come to grief when I whip up my mule."

Realizing from Jack’s firm tone that his object was not to be gained
without a struggle, the man suddenly threw off the fold of the cloak
enveloping his right arm, and with a guttural oath lifted a huge mallet
he carried in his hand, springing slightly aside to give his arm free
play.  The movement was fatal to him.  With a sharp dig in the groin
Jack swung the mule round in the same direction, and launched him full
at his assailant.  Before the ponderous mallet had time to complete its
swing, the mule had struck the man square in the chest, and as he reeled
and fell under the blow Jack brought down his switch smartly across his
brow.

"That’s well saved, anyhow," said Jack grimly to himself as he cantered
on, and smiled as he heard the man’s curses pursuing him.  The mule
seemed to share in his rider’s feelings, for as he trotted steadily on
he lifted his head high in the air, curled up his lip, and showed his
long yellow teeth, as though laughing at the man’s ignominious
overthrow.  Jack let him have his way, and the animal kept up the same
pace unfalteringly, with never a slip or stumble, until he reached the
squalid streets of Medina del Campo.  The curfew had just ceased
ringing, and the great market-square was quite deserted; but Jack
knocked at a house in which he saw a light, enquired the way to the
Posada de Oriente, and in a few minutes was standing within the doorway
of that hostelry.  To judge by the various voices issuing from its
interior, it was entertaining a numerous company.

He presented to the landlord the letter he had brought from the man’s
former master, Don Pedro, and was led with some hesitation into the inn,
while his mule was handed over to an ostler.  The inn consisted of one
large apartment with a fireplace at each end, a timber roof blackened
and varnished by smoke, stalls at each side for horses and mules, and
for travellers a few small lateral chambers each containing a bed made
of planks laid across trestles, and covered with sheets of coarse
sacking. "Rough lying," thought Jack, as he looked in at the open door
of one of these.  The floor was of brick, strewn with rushes.  A large
fire burnt in one of the grates, strings of onions hung from nails on
the walls, and the place was pervaded by an odour of scalded oil and
grilled tomatos. Jack gave a comprehensive greeting to the company as he
entered.  A deep silence had fallen upon the room, and he was conscious
of the curious scrutiny of several pairs of eyes; but knowing that the
Spaniard is always reserved with a stranger until assured that he is
not, let us say, a pedlar, or a rope-dancer, or a dealer in hair-oil, he
paid the company for the moment no further attention, but sat down on a
back seat pointed out by the patron, and ordered food.  The landlord
regretted that at short notice he could supply him with nothing but a
simple gaspacho.  Jack laughed inwardly at the thought of how his friend
Pomeroy would turn up his fastidious nose at such fare, but assured his
host that in his present state of hunger he could eat anything, and the
gaspacho was accordingly prepared.  Some water was poured into a
soup-tureen, to this was added a little vinegar, a few pods of garlic,
some onions cut into four, a slice or two of cucumber, a little spice, a
pinch of salt, and a few slices of bread; with this the detestable
mixture was complete.  As Jack began his meagre meal the landlord opened
the hidalgo’s note, and Jack threw a glance round the company.

Nearest the fire sat a lean, cadaverous old gentleman closely wrapped in
a chestnut-coloured cloak, and sipping at a glass of dry Malaga.  Next
him reclined the village priest, a rotund figure clad in a black
cassock, with cloak of the same colour; he nursed on his knee an immense
hat, at least three feet long, with a turned-in brim, which when upon
his head must have formed a sort of horizontal roof.  Then came a couple
of arrieros, or carriers, in rough fustian, with big leather gaiters and
broad sashes of red silk; and a loutish Maragato with shaven head, clad
in a long tight jacket secured at the waist by a broad girdle, loose
trousers terminating at the knees, and long boots and gaiters.  A few
young villagers completed the circle. By this time the landlord had
spread out his old master’s note, and was scrutinizing it with a puzzled
expression, his head screwed aside and his lips pursed up.  After a few
moments he appeared to come to the conclusion that he would never
decipher the crabbed handwriting unaided, and handed it to the priest, a
broad grease mark showing where his thumb had pressed it.

"Here, Señor cura," he said, "be so good as to read it to me; Don
Pedro’s hand is growing paralysed, surely."

The priest took it, giving Jack a humorous smile.

"Don Pedro merely introduces the caballero as a friend of his," he said,
"and asks you, for his sake and the sake of Spain, to serve him in every
possible way."

"To be sure," returned the landlord; "I have done it without asking.  I
have given the caballero a gaspacho, and if he will wait till Antonio
arrives he shall have a puchero in addition, and a grilled tomato."

"Thanks, landlord!  I shall do very well," said Jack. "But I fear I am a
kill-joy, Señores.  Pray don’t let me interrupt your conversation."

"The caballero, being a friend of Don Pedro, may be trusted," said the
lean gentleman by the fire, taking a sip. "He is welcome, particularly
if he joins us in giving God-speed to Antonio as he goes on his way to
join the brave guerrilleros."

"I shall be happy," said Jack.  "Antonio, I presume, is a soldier of
this neighbourhood?"

"Nay, Señor, all our soldiers are already with General Castaños or the
Marquis of La Romana or brave San Juan, doing deeds of valour against
the accursed French, every man of them worth three of the enemy.  Were I
not old and worn, I myself would have led them, and drawn the sword of
my ancestors in defence of my country.  I am a hidalgo of noble line,
Señor, tracing my descent back to a paladin who slew ten Englishmen with
his own sword, when, in the days of Great Philip, we landed in England
and held London to ransom."  (Jack opened his eyes at this new light on
English history!)  "His blood still flows in my withered veins, and my
neighbours here know well that only my great age keeps me from driving
the French back across the mountains at the head of my troop."

Most of the company applauded this patriotic speech, but Jack observed a
whimsical look on the priest’s face.

"I rejoice to know," continued the hidalgo, "that the old valour is
still alive in the breasts of my countrymen; they are flocking in their
thousands to join the bands of guerrilleros who dog the French at every
step, and our friend Antonio, whom we expect to-night, and who leaves
to-morrow for Saragossa, is one in whom the Spanish valour most brightly
shines."

"Antonio is a journeyman cooper, Señor," said the priest confidentially,
"a dare-devil by report, a contrabandista too at times, and a great
favourite in these parts.  He is expected from Cantalapiedra to-night."

"And here he is," cried one of the younger men, who had gone to the
door.  "Late, but welcome.  Viva Antonio!"

All the company but Jack rose to their feet to greet the hero.  He came
hastily into the room, flung the door to behind him, bolted it, and
heaved a sigh.  Jack saw at a glance that he was no other than the man
who had sought to borrow his mule, and had found the apparently
inoffensive rider tougher than he expected.

"Señores, Señores," cried the man, "only by a miracle and by my own
courage have I escaped this night! Blessed be the saints that I have a
stout heart and a strong arm, or I should have been but a dead man
to-night!"

He spread himself with an air of bravado upon a low bench, and as he
removed his hat, disclosed a deep-red wale across his brow.  His friends
gathered about him in consternation, and the old hidalgo rose painfully
from his chair, and, tottering across the room, handed a bumper of
Malaga to the panting new-comer, who quaffed it gratefully.

"Yes, Señores," he continued, "but for the merciful protection of
Santiago and Santa Maria, and the fact that I know no fear, I should
have been lost to Spain, a cold corpse even now.  Four miles back, as I
trudged wearily along the miry road, thinking of the kind friends and
the warm food awaiting me here—"

"Manuel," cried the landlord to a strapping youth who stood with sleeves
tucked up near the fireplace, "grill a tomato for our brave Antonio."

"As I trudged along," Antonio resumed, "all at once I heard a great
splashing and clanking behind me, and before I could stand aside, three
horsemen were upon me. They reined up when they saw me, and one of them
called me dog, and asked the way to Valladolid.  I knew by his tongue
that he was one of the thrice-cursed French, and, commending myself to
Santiago in a breath, I raised my mallet and struck him upon the head,
and he fell. His comrades drew their swords and made at me over their
horses’ necks.  I defended myself as best I could with my good mallet,
but it was an unequal fight, Señores, and I was at my wits’ end, when I
bethought me that all the French are craven curs, and I shouted aloud,
as though summoning a hidden band to the rescue.  The Frenchmen started
back, looked fearfully around, and then, unmindful of their dead comrade
on the ground, set spurs to their horses and galloped away, one of them,
as he passed, striking me—with the flat of his sword, praised be
Santiago!—across the brow, and—"

"What was he like, hombre?" asked Jack quietly, bending forward on his
chair and looking the man full in the face.

Antonio’s jaw dropped.  He gave a scared look at the speaker, and spilt
the remainder of his wine upon his boots.

"The brave fellow is overcome," said the hidalgo. "Fill his glass,
Manuel."

Antonio gulped down a second glass, and looked with apprehension at
Jack, who was now sitting back again in his chair, keeping his eyes
fixed on the abashed Spaniard.

"A lucky escape, Antonio," said the cura with a twinkling eye.  "In the
morning, no doubt, some passing arriero will see the dead Frenchman on
the road, and bring him here for dog’s burial."

"No doubt, no doubt, Padre," said Antonio hurriedly. "But I am faint,
Señores, and as my nose tells me the tomato is now well grilled, I would
fain stay the pangs of hunger."

As he devoted himself to the succulent fruit, the hidalgo entered upon a
long oration on the iniquities of the French and the heroism of the
Spaniards, with particular reference to the guerrilla band in the Virgen
mountains, whom Antonio was on his way to join.  He concluded by calling
upon the company to drink the health of the brave Antonio, and confusion
to the French.  When the ringing vivas had ceased, Jack rose from his
chair.  Approaching the hero, who looked far from comfortable, he held
out his right hand, and, laying his left on Antonio’s shoulder, said:

"I am glad that, as a chance traveller, I am here in time to add my good
wishes to so staunch a patriot. With a spirit like yours, we shall soon
succeed in driving the enemy headlong through the passes of the
Pyrenees. I myself hope to do something in my small way for Spain, but
nothing I can do will match the valiant deeds of the brave guerrilleros,
who face the rigours of winter cold on the barren mountains, and leave
all the comforts of home in their noble enthusiasm.  I call upon the
sons of Spain here present to drink once more a health to Antonio the
guerrillero, and confusion to the French!  Viva Antonio! Viva la
España!"

He grasped the hand of the astonished Antonio, and shook it heartily,
amid the applause of the company. Antonio’s look of amazement gave way
gradually to one of smug content, and when, after another flowery speech
from the hidalgo, the guests rose to take leave, the cooper had quite
recovered his wonted air of assurance.

After the departure of his guests, the landlord was proceeding to bolt
the door for the night, when Jack stopped him.

"Don’t fasten up yet, landlord," he said.  "I am going farther
presently."

"To-night, Señor?"

"Yes; the moon is rising, and I shall ride as far as Olmedo."

"But, Señor, you may be set upon by French horsemen, like Antonio here."

"I don’t think so," replied Jack with a smile.  "Remember, Don Pedro
sent me here to claim your assistance. He assured me you are a good
patriot, and I don’t suppose you love the French any better than the
Señor hidalgo, or than Antonio, eh?"

"The French, Señor!  I hate them.  Every good Spaniard hates them.  We
are all caballeros, Señor, and we’re not going to have any masters over
us but our own hidalgos and the king—our own king."

"Have you seen anything of the French yourself?"

"The saints forbid!  They spare neither man nor beast. If they came this
way I’d have never a pig in my stye nor a copa of wine in my cellar.
Antonio has seen some of them to-night, and my son Manuel told me that a
squadron of dragoons passed through Olmedo and went south yesterday, and
all last week parties of French horse were scouring the district north
of Olmedo, playing the very devil with the people."

"They came from Valladolid, I suppose?"

"No doubt, Señor; Valladolid has been occupied by them for at least a
fortnight past.  We’re hoping every day that the Marquis of La Romana or
General Palafox will swoop down on them and slit their weasands.  Or
maybe the English general Sir Moore, now at Salamanca, will come and
trounce them."

"You know the English are at Salamanca, then?  Do the French know it?"

"Not from us, Señor.  Not a man of us will give them any information."

"Well, landlord, I’m an Englishman—"

The man threw up his hands in amazement, and Antonio gasped.  Jack
watched the effect of his announcement; he had come rapidly to the
conclusion that as Antonio was clearly regarded by his friends as a
staunch patriot, there would be no danger in disclosing his own
nationality.

"And I’ve come this way to find out all I can about the French.  I want
two active young fellows to help me, and I’ve been looking at these two
fine lads—sons of yours, I take it?"

"Yes, Señor, they are my sons.  Manuel is nineteen, and his brother Juan
a year younger, and ’tis ten years yesterday since their poor mother
went to heaven."

The two young men, with square-set faces and ragged shocks of black
hair, stood listening with interest.  Jack had watched them narrowly
during the evening.  They had something less than the usual stolidity of
expression, looked fairly intelligent, and appeared likely to serve him
well as special messengers.

"They would have to be prepared for hard work," he said, "at any hour of
the day or night.  They would be well paid, of course—"

"Señor," interrupted the landlord, "a good patriot doesn’t require pay
for working against the French."

Jack thought he had heard a different account about some of his host’s
countrymen, but he went on:

"Well then, you will not object to your sons entering my service as
messengers between me and my general?"

"But, Señor, I shall then be single-handed.  Who will there be then to
attend to my guests—to mix the puchero, and stir the gaspacho, and rub
down the mules?  The lads could not leave their poor old father alone."

"Caramba!" struck in Antonio, who was now devoting himself to a fried
onion, "what is that?  Here am I leaving my wife and three children, to
fight the French."

"You’ve left them before," said the landlord dryly.

"And there’s Don Pedro’s letter, you know," suggested Jack.

The landlord glanced at the letter, which lay on the table, and shrugged
his shoulders.

"Well," he said, "I would do much for Don Pedro. He was a good master to
me; he gave me the money to buy this inn; and since he asks me to serve
you and my country at the same time, I can’t refuse, Señor—if the lads
are willing to go."

They at once professed their readiness to serve the Señor in any way,
and assured him that they were well acquainted with the country for
miles around.

"That’s settled, then," said Jack.  "Now, Manuel, you won’t mind being
employed at once?  Have you any mules on the premises?"

"Two, Señor."

"Just the number required.  You will saddle up and ride off at once to
Salamanca.  I will give you a note to take to Sir John Moore, the
English general there.  If you can’t find him, ask for General Paget.
You can say Paget?"

After two or three attempts, Manuel succeeded in pronouncing a passable
imitation of the sound.

"When you have delivered the note, you will return to Carpio, and wait
there for further orders.  Both in going and coming you will take care
to attract as little attention as possible, and of course you will not
say a word to anyone, not even to your dearest friend, about your
business. You understand?"

"Yes, Señor.  And I have a friend near Carpio, a farmer, who lives about
a league out of the town, so that I can stay with him if need be."

"Very well.  Go and get your mule saddled, and return here for the
note."

Jack wrote a few lines to Sir John, giving him the news of the passing
squadron of French horse he had just learnt from the landlord, and ten
minutes later Manuel left the inn with the note and a little money to
serve for his immediate needs.

"Now, Juan," said Jack, when the elder brother had gone, "go to bed and
get what sleep you can till three o’clock.  At that hour I shall want
you to start with me for Olmedo.  I’m pretty tired, so I shall turn in
myself, landlord, for a brief rest, and I shall take care that your
assistance is brought to the notice of my general and also of your own
juntas.  Good-night!"

At three o’clock, beneath a pale half-moon, Jack stood at the door of
the inn, waiting as Juan brought up his mule.  He was about to mount,
when he was surprised to see Antonio issue from the door and approach
him.

"I’m a rough common man, Señor," he said; "you’re a caballero.  My big
tongue will not say what I have in my heart, but I know what I owe you
for your kindness to-night.  Yes, Señor, it was like a true caballero
not to remember what had happened on the road; and I say, Señor, that if
ever there comes a chance to do you a good turn, por Dios!  Antonio will
not forget."

"Thanks, Antonio!" replied Jack, holding out his hand. "We’ll cry quits
and part friends."

"Vaya usted con Dios!" returned the man; and then Jack, followed by
Juan, cantered up the quiet street.



                              *CHAPTER VI*

                           *Monsieur Taberne*


Westphalian Light Horse—Mine Host—Two Menus—Feeding a
Commissary—Practice in French—Another Bottle—A Sum in
Arithmetic—Inferences—A Cold Prospect


Daylight was just breaking as the riders came to the dreary outskirts of
Olmedo, passing by one or two desolate-looking vineyards, untidy
brick-fields, gloomy convents, and neglected kitchen-gardens, the walled
town itself rising before them on an eminence in the midst of a wide
sandy plain.

Jack had already learnt from Juan on the way that, nearly a mile from
the town, a small clump of pine-trees grew, the only trees to be seen on
all the barren heath. This, Jack thought, would be a convenient spot at
which to leave the youth with the mules while he himself went into the
town and reconnoitred.  Accordingly, he sent Juan into the wood with the
animals and sufficient food to last them the day, telling him to wrap
his cloak well about him to keep off the cold, and on no account to
allow himself to be seen from the road.  Then he proceeded alone into
the town, the narrow dirty streets of which he found in a great bustle.
There appeared to be a horse at the door of every one of the six hundred
houses of which the place consisted, and at the side of every horse
there was a French trooper, who was either brushing his mount, or
fastening its saddle-straps, or feeding it, or watching his comrades
engaged in one or other of those operations.  In short, three squadrons
of French dragoons, which had been quartered on the town, were saddling
up in preparation for marching, and the streets resounded with the clank
of metal, the pawing of horses’ hoofs, and the cries of the soldiers.

Jack made his way to the first inn, where he found the landlord
endeavouring to reconcile his Castilian dignity with the obsequiousness
demanded by the troopers he was serving.  Ordering some chocolate, Jack
sat down quietly on a bench, prepared to pick up any scraps of
information he could gather from the half-dozen troopers who were loudly
conversing over their drink.  But a few moments later a sergeant
entered, in a rage at finding the men away from their horses.  They left
in a body, and Jack seized the occasion to make a few discreet enquiries
of the aggrieved and perspiring innkeeper.  The troopers, he learnt,
were the Westphalian light horse, belonging to General Maupetit’s
brigade, which formed the cavalry division of the fourth army corps
under Marshal Lefebvre, Duke of Dantzig.  They had arrived in the town
on the previous afternoon, and the landlord, like all the inhabitants,
was anxious to see the last of them; for the town had been visited by
numerous smaller parties of horse during the previous week, and the
French always took what they wanted, and were not very scrupulous about
paying for it.

While Jack was condoling with the landlord, he heard the bugle ring out
the "boot and saddle".  A few minutes later the whole force moved out
along the main road to the south, leading to Villacastin and Madrid.
Jack stood just within the door, watching them defile past, and he could
not but admire the excellent condition of the horses and the soldierly
smartness of the men.

"I wonder where they are bound for?" he said to himself.  He knew, from
a careful examination he had already made of his map, that if the
cavalry kept to the main road it would bring them, within about thirty
miles, in contact with Hope’s outposts, with the result that their
general, Lefebvre, would not remain much longer in ignorance of the
proximity of the British forces.

"I must see what they are after," thought Jack. Hastening to the
plantation outside the town, where he had left Juan and the mules, he
mounted and rode alone after the dragoons, being careful to maintain a
discreet distance between himself and their rear.  After riding for some
three miles, he observed that they were leaving the main road and
bearing to the left.  Taking out his map, he found that they were
evidently making for Segovia by the shortest cut, and the obvious
inference was that they were as yet quite unsuspicious of the proximity
of the British army, and had no intention of marching towards the
Portuguese frontier.  Riding another mile, to make sure that this
supposition was correct, Jack then returned to the plantation, scribbled
a note to Moore giving this important news, and ordered Juan to set off
with it, going round Medina to Carpio, where he would meet his brother,
whom he was to instruct to carry the message to Salamanca.

Having thus despatched his second messenger, Jack made his way back to
Olmedo, with the intention of obtaining a more substantial meal than he
had yet had time for.  He sought, this time, the principal inn of the
place, and found that with the departure of the dragoons the inhabitants
of the town, previously invisible, had now formed little knots at the
street corners, and were condoling with one another on the indignities
they had suffered at the hands of the enemy.  The landlord was at first
too much occupied with the gossips at the door of his posada to attend
to a stranger, but Jack at last boldly took him by the arm and declared
that he must have food of some sort.

"Food!  All very well for a stranger to ask for food," he replied
bitterly, "but these cursed Frenchmen have stripped us bare, and are
verily capable of eating our children."

"Come, landlord," said Jack, "I heard an old cock crowing lustily as I
came up the street.  At least you have an egg or two.  I don’t love the
French any more than you; and I’ll pay, which is more than they do, by
all accounts."

"Well, Señor, perhaps I can find you an egg, but you must wait till I
can send for it and borrow a frying-pan, for a Frenchman knocked a hole
in mine last night."

Jack sat down on a bench within the bar-room, and listened to the
conversation, or rather the declamation, of the men at the door.  While
he sat there waiting with scant patience, for he was very hungry, the
sound of horses’ hoofs was heard approaching, mingled with the clank of
steel.  The knot at the door melted away as by magic, and a few moments
later a small party of horsemen clattered into the courtyard, and loud
voices were heard calling to the inn servants.  In a minute or two a
portly French officer clanked into the room, now empty save for Jack.
He was clad in a uniform of some brilliance, with a heavy shako and an
embroidered white cloak, and the stone floor resounded to the tread of
his heavy spurred riding-boots.  Giving a casual glance at Jack, who was
staying his hunger with a crust of dry bread until the egg should
appear, the officer strode up to the low counter, smote it heavily with
his riding-whip, and bellowed for the landlord, in execrable Spanish,
freely interlarded with French expletives.

"Ohé, landlord!" he shouted.  "Palsambleu!  Where has the hog hidden
himself?  Ohé!  Come out of your pig-stye, canaille that you are, and
bring me some food."

He continued shouting and belabouring the counter, setting the crockery
rattling on the big dresser behind.

"Nice manners!" said Jack to himself, closely watching the new-comer.
"I wonder who he is!"

At this moment the landlord entered with a fried egg, which he brought
to Jack without giving more than one sullen glance to the boisterous
officer.  This neglect wounded the gentleman’s dignity; he strode across
the room and, lifting his whip, spluttered:

"Insolent dog!  Don’t you hear?  I order you to bring me food, and,
palsambleu! you had better hurry.  What do you mean by keeping an
officer of the emperor waiting while you serve a beggarly tradesman?"

"In a moment, Señor," said the landlord, setting the dish before Jack.

"Would the noble marquis like my egg?" said Jack meekly in bad French.

"Egg!"  The officer snorted his contempt for such frugal fare.  "Look
you, landlord, I want soup to begin with, and then a mayonnaise—sweet
olive-oil, mind you—and a capon well basted to follow, and—"

"Señor, Señor," interrupted the landlord, "I’ve not any such things on
the premises.  Your dragoons have eaten me up already.  I can give you
an omelet—"

"An omelet!  Morbleu, landlord!  If you don’t hurry with something more
substantial than an omelet I’ll slice your fat cheeks into collops."

[Illustration: A Question of Supply]

He glared at the Spaniard and laid his hand on his sword; and the
landlord, giving up all attempt to preserve his dignity further,
scuttled through the door leading to his kitchen.

"Holà!" cried the officer, calling him back; "before you go give me a
stoup of wine; none of your tarred vinegar of Toro, pardi, but good wine
of Valdepenas, something with a tang.  Ventrebleu! it’s a poor thing if
an officer of the emperor, who has to feed an army, can’t get good food
for himself."

("Ah!" thought Jack, "we have a commissary here. He ought to be worth
something.")

The trembling landlord set a goat-skin and a cup before the blusterous
commissary, and hurried off to ransack his larder for something
wherewith to appease his Gargantuan appetite.

After two or three draughts of wine the big man appeared to be somewhat
mollified.  He threw more than one glance at Jack, as he strode up and
down the room, objurgating the landlord’s sluggishness.  To Jack’s
amusement and surprise, the Spaniard returned in a very few minutes,
bearing a steaming tureen of soup.

"Would the Señor like his meal served in a private room?" he asked.
"There is only my own sitting-room, with no fire at present, but if his
excellency pleases a fire shall be lit, and—"

"Tenez, tenez!" said the officer; "let me fill my stomach, in the public
room here by the fire.  I may want the private room by and by," he added
pompously; "but meanwhile I have no objection to your guest being
present."

He glanced at Jack, who at once said, in his politest tones:

"I shall be happy to retire if I am in the noble marquis’s way.
Personal convenience must, of course, give way to the public service,
and anyone can see that the noble marquis is a very high functionary."

The deferential tone and the barefaced flattery conciliated the big man.
Puffing himself out he said:

"Not marquis yet, young man, not yet, though it may come—yes, it may
come in time.  Lefebvre is Duke of Dantzig: he rose from the ranks, and
there’s no reason in the world why I, Gustave Taberne, shouldn’t be a
marquis before long.  Personal business, you say?  Well, my business is
wholly personal at present, since it consists in lining my not
inconsiderable person, hein!  But I don’t regard your company as an
intrusion, monsieur; far from it; I welcome you heartily."

Jack bowed his acknowledgments.  Meanwhile the officer had begun to gulp
his soup with no little noise, gobbling like a turkey-cock, as Jack
described him afterwards.  As his meal progressed he unbent still
further.

"You are almost the first of your cursed countrymen I’ve met who can
speak tolerable French," he said. "Where did you learn it, young man?"

"I picked up a little in Barcelona, your excellency," replied Jack, "but
not till now have I had the opportunity of improving myself by
conversation with an officer used to high society."

"Ah! you know a galant homme when you see him. You have some sense,
young man.  Yes, I’m commissary-general to the Duke of Dantzig’s forces,
and, parbleu! in the emperor’s service I spare no one, neither myself
nor others.  Ohé, landlord, bring the next course."

The landlord brought in a number of dishes.

"Señor likes the puchero?" he said.

"Puchero, you call it?  Well, if this is puchero, I do like it.  Now,
par le sambleu, you wanted to put me off with an omelet!  He! he!"

He lay back in his chair and roared.  Jack himself was not a little
amused, for he saw on the table a quarter of veal, a neck of mutton, a
chicken, the end of a sausage called _chorizo_, slices of bacon and ham,
a jug of sauce made of tomatos and saffron and strong spices, a dish of
cabbage soaking in oil, and a platter filled with a vegetable rather
like haricot beans, called _garbanzo_.  All these the landlord mixed in
one big vessel so as to make a mayonnaise, which Jack hoped did not
taste as strong as it smelt.  The commissary fell to with avidity, but
he was evidently fond of hearing his own voice, and his tongue being
loosened by the unexpected good cheer, and by Jack’s respectful
admiration, he condescended to converse between the mouthfuls.

"Pity your countrymen are not all as civil and sensible as yourself," he
said.  "If they’d only put a good face on it, and pay willing obedience
to King Joseph—though, to tell the truth, he’s only a proxy for the
emperor,—they’d live a quieter life and make the duties of the
commissary less of a torture.  I tell you, young man—moi qui vous
parle—there isn’t a more harassed man in the army than the
commissary-general.  Hang me if he is not every way as important as the
commander-in-chief!"

Jack looked at him sympathetically.

"A general gets all the credit of a victory, but, parbleu! ’tis the
commissary that deserves it.  Who won the battle of Austerlitz three
years ago?  Folks say it was the emperor, but between you and me, mon
ami, it was I myself, Gustave Taberne.  Soult, Masséna, Lannes, the
emperor himself—all very well, but could the men fight if they weren’t
well fed?—tell me that.  And I feed the army.  Skill, that is good;
courage, that is better; devotion, that is excellent; but a good meal
has won more victories than the cleverest tactics."

"The world knows nothing of its greatest men," said Jack.

The commissary gleamed approval, but at this point the conversation was
interrupted by the entrance of a corporal.

"Well, Antoine," said the officer, "where is the alcalde?"

"He cannot be found, mon colonel," replied the man.

"Cannot be found!  Cannot!  Who dares use such words to the emperor’s
commissary-general?  The alcalde must be found, or, parbleu!  I’ll burn
every house and pig-stye in the place.  Let him be here in half an
hour—not a moment sooner, for I must finish my dejeuner; not a moment
later, for he will fare ill if he keeps me waiting. Away with you,
Antoine."

The corporal vanished.

"Ohé, landlord!" shouted the commissary.  "Another bottle of wine.  No,
don’t take out the stopper.  Set it on the table there in front of me."

The commissary gloated at the rotund wine-skin, but made no sign of
opening it.  Catching an enquiring glance from Jack, he said loftily:

"I drink no more till my work is done, young man. If I drank more now, I
should get drunk; and if I got drunk the emperor would call me a pig,
and I should deserve it.  Duty first, young man, always remember that."

"It astonishes me," said Jack, "—forgive my ignorance, Colonel,—how you
officers can make the calculations necessary for feeding an immense
army.  In our little villages, for instance, if we keep the festival of
a saint or a guild, when there are only some hundreds of mouths to feed,
we either run short or have so much left that bushels of good stuff have
to be thrown to the pigs."

Jack spoke from recollections of the autumn bean-feast in his little
Surrey village at home.  The commissary rose to the bait, and spoke,
always with a thirsty eye fixed on the wine-skin.

"Oh! as to that," he said, "we do everything by system.  Nothing is
easier when you have a system. We allow a pound of biscuit a day to each
man, and half a pound of meat, and as much wine as is good for him and
can be got.  For myself, as you see, I can drink a gallon without
staggering, and hold a fresh bottle always at arm’s-length without
touching it."

"Matchless strength of will!" exclaimed Jack.  "But even so, the
responsibility of obtaining just the right quantity for so many
thousands of men would make a weaker man quaver.  The biscuit, for
instance—what a huge quantity you must consume!"

"Huge indeed!" said the commissary.  "Why, in Valladolid, where I have
come from, we use nine tons a day."  (Jack made a rapid mental
calculation: one pound of biscuit to each man; nine tons a day.  "So
there are about twenty thousand men in Valladolid!" he concluded.)  "And
in the present temper of your confounded countrymen," continued the
commissary, "such a man as I is not to be envied.  I have had great
difficulty in procuring supplies in some places.  Like your landlord
here, they offer an egg, and we have to curse them before they bring out
the chicken.  But we stand no nonsense, I can tell you.  Your alcaldes
have bad memories, but ’tis amazing how refreshing is a yard or two of
hempen rope or the touch of a cold pistol-barrel.  We had trouble in
Valladolid, and ’tis rumoured we are to have trouble in Segovia; but let
’em beware, let ’em beware."

"Ah!  I’m afraid our poor people have small chance against the hosts of
your emperor—the finest soldier the world has seen since Alexander the
Great."

"You say true, monsieur; you are a sensible fellow—for a Spaniard.  The
Little Corporal is indeed a new Alexander, destined to conquer the whole
world, and, parbleu! those upstart meddling shopkeepers of English into
the bargain.  Why, the emperor is at this moment marching south, and my
bag here is stuffed with bulletins of his victories."

He pulled out a handful of papers, and spread them on the table.  At
this moment the corporal re-entered, followed by the trembling alcalde
of the village, whose bemired dress showed that he had been hiding in no
very sanitary spot.

"Ohé, Don Long-chops," said the commissary, "you thought to escape me,
did you?  Now you and I will have a reckoning."

As the alcalde was brought round the table until he faced the
commissary, Jack rose.

"I will bid you good-day, monsieur," he said politely. "I have a long
way to go, and be sure that in whatever village I pass through I shall
warn them that so capable an officer is not to be trifled with."

"That is sound sense, pardi," said the commissary. "You will do well to
prepare them for my coming, and, look you, if we meet again, you and I
will drink as much Valdepenas as our skins will hold—provided my duty is
done.  Au revoir!"

Jack bowed and took his leave.  The information he had obtained from the
self-sufficient commissary was clearly of the highest importance.  There
were twenty thousand men in Valladolid: they were about to march for
Segovia; and the emperor himself was coming southward at the head of an
army.  It was evident that the French were as yet in ignorance of the
proximity of Moore’s army.  They were probably intending a blow at
Madrid; and Jack saw in a flash that this might have a direct bearing on
the movements contemplated by Sir John.

"Why shouldn’t we march eastward and cut their communications?" he
thought.

The question was, how was this information to be conveyed to
head-quarters?  At the earliest Juan could not be back before dark, even
if he met his brother the instant he arrived at Carpio.

"There’s nothing for it but to go myself," said Jack to himself, "and
that’s a pity.  I should have liked to get a little more out of my
budding marquis when he is in one of his expansive moods.  Well, I’ve a
cold ride before me."



                             *CHAPTER VII*

                          *Pepito intervenes*


Precautions—Gone to Earth—Foundered—In the Nick of Time—The Allied
Army—At the Marchesa’s Palace—Social Salamanca—Light
Refreshments—Messengers—A Recognition


The stable-yard lay to the rear of the inn.  Snow had been falling
lightly during Jack’s conversation with the commissary, and one of the
servants was busily sweeping the slush into a corner.  The stable doors
were open, and several lads and men were attending to the horses of the
commissary’s escort, the universal hiss of men employed in that
occupation being mingled with curses which it was lucky the Frenchmen
could not hear or understand.  Jack went up to one of the men and asked
him to bring out his mule.  The ostler turned from the horse he was
grooming and looked at Jack with an air of incivility, if not downright
insolence.  He made no movement to carry out the order, and, glancing
round, Jack became aware that all the other stable-helps had left their
work and were gazing at him with the same distrustful, lowering scowl.

"What’s the matter?" he thought.

The men had been all civility when he gave his mule into their hands on
his arrival.  What could be the cause of this unpleasant change of
attitude?  Jack was puzzled. Meanwhile he wanted his mule unhaltered and
saddled, and though he was tempted to do it himself, and not trouble the
reluctant servants, he saw that such a course would not improve his
position with them.  He knew the Spanish character too well to bluster
or dictate.  After a pause of only a few moments he addressed the same
man quietly and politely, but with a firmness that admitted no refusal;
and the servant, dropping his eyes, turned sullenly to do his bidding.

A few minutes later, as he rode out of the courtyard, he met the
alcalde, looking very angry and much perturbed.  He was coming,
evidently, from his interview with the commissary.  He looked up at Jack
as he passed, and half-stopped, as though hesitating whether to address
him.  Jack was surprised to note the same quick glance of suspicion in
the alcalde’s eyes as he had seen in those of the stablemen.  The
official seemed to be on the point of speaking, but he gave a hurried
and anxious glance towards the window of the commissary’s room, flushed
hotly, and with a final dark look at Jack turned away. Jack rode on,
feeling that the eyes of the whole inn were upon him, and possessed by
an unaccountable sense of insecurity.

The meaning of it all flashed upon him quite suddenly. The alcalde had
seen him in close and apparently friendly conversation with the
commissary.  Their interview had lasted for a considerable time, and
must have been talked about among the people of the inn.  Every Spaniard
must feel that no true patriot would hold amicable intercourse with a
Frenchman, an enemy of his country, except under compulsion, and it was
now evident to Jack that he was regarded as a traitor, perhaps a spy,
selling the interests of his compatriots to the invader.  The thought
made him smile.

"Shall I go back and tell them?" he said to himself. "They’d be
surprised to find how the boot is on the other leg."

But a moment’s reflection convinced him that to reveal his secret would
not be politic, even if he were believed. There were too many Frenchmen
about the inn to make it safe for him to enter into long explanations.
Then another thought came which promised a spice of adventure.

"I shouldn’t wonder if they follow me, and perhaps try to do for me.
They will if they think I’m a French spy.  I’ll take the Valladolid road
first, and cut off to the left when I’m well out of sight from the
town."

Careful not to look behind, he rode slowly on until a bend in the road
concealed him from the inn; then he jogged the sides of his mule and
quickened its pace from a walk to a trot.

The snow had ceased to fall, and the afternoon sun promised to thaw the
light glistening mantle that covered the bare country.  There was enough
snow yet on the ground to show clear tracks of his course to any
pursuers. Being anxious to get a good start, he soon urged his mule to a
gallop, hoping that, if he was indeed followed, the hoof-marks might
have been thawed away from the high-road before he turned off to Medina
del Campo.

After riding hard for some three miles he came to a river.  On either
side of the bridge the bank sloped down to the water’s edge, and Jack,
feeling that his mule needed a rest, saw here an excellent opportunity
of learning, without risk to himself, whether a pursuit had been
commenced. Dismounting, he led the animal carefully down the shelving
miry bank, and found that underneath the first arch of the bridge there
was ample room to conceal both himself and the mule from the eyes of any
but careful searchers. The snow had by this time been converted to a
washy sludge, and the ground having been trampled by many animals before
his own, he had no fear of his tracks being sufficiently marked to
attract special attention.

He had remained in his place of concealment but a few minutes when he
heard in the distance, in the direction from which he had come, the dull
thud of hoofs.  As they approached, the sounds were mingled with the
subdued hum of voices.  Jack waited with no little curiosity, keeping a
hand on his mule’s reins to prevent the animal from emerging into view.
The sounds grew louder. Several riders galloped their steeds up to the
end of the bridge, and halted them for a moment as though in indecision.
Then they resumed their progress and rode on to the bridge, the clatter
of hoofs awaking an echo from the arches below.  When they had gained
the other side Jack crept carefully up the bank until he could safely
peep over the parapet, and saw four riders pelting rapidly towards
Valladolid.  He gave a chuckle as he recognized the men who had behaved
so churlishly in the stable-yard.

"A lucky miss!" he thought.  "They’re after me."

They were riding horses, and it was clear that but for his little
stratagem he must soon have been overtaken. What should be his course
now?  He could not reckon on their riding much farther along the main
road, for they would naturally enquire of anyone they might meet if a
tradesman had been seen riding a mule that way, and in the course of a
few miles, allowing for their greater speed, they must suspect that
their quarry had turned to one side or the other.  Obviously he must
lose no time.  Retracing his steps, he led the mule from the muddy
river-bed, remounted, and rode along the tow-path in the hope of soon
discovering a road that would lead in the direction of Medina.  In a few
minutes he came to a rough and narrow cart-track between two fields on
his left hand.  It must lead somewhere, and, being anxious at any rate
to put as much ground as possible between himself and his pursuers, Jack
wheeled his mule to the left and rode along the rough track at a canter.

He found that it led into a somewhat wider road, crossing it at an
obtuse angle.  The ground was much cut up by cart-wheels, and the mule
laboured heavily on the soft swampy ground.  Jack eased the pace, hoping
that the start he had obtained would enable him to keep well ahead of
his pursuers, even if they soon discovered their mistake and had the
luck to track him.  By and by he came to a considerable ascent, up which
he was fain to allow the animal to walk, and on reaching the summit he
found the poor beast so breathless that he dismounted and walked slowly
on, leading the mule.  Turning after a while in the direction from which
he had come, he caught a glimpse, in the far distance, of a group of
riders coming towards him. It was impossible to distinguish their
figures, much less their features.  Delay was dangerous; so without
hesitation Jack sprang again on the mule’s back and set off once more
towards Medina.  For a time he was hidden from the riders by rows of
stunted trees that lined the road. Then the road took a sharp curve to
the right, and before him he saw a long hill, sloping gradually down for
nearly a mile towards what appeared to be a plantation.  He urged the
mule now to its top speed, noting with some anxiety that the animal was
breathing with difficulty, and showing other only too manifest signs of
fatigue.  Before he had reached the foot of the hill it was patently
flagging, and when, having passed that point, another upward ascent
began, the mule staggered once or twice, recovered itself, staggered
again, and, finally, just as Jack came abreast of a low farmhouse that
lay back some sixty yards from the road, it dropped on its knees, its
rider barely escaping being thrown on his head upon the road.

"Whew!  This is awkward," he said to himself.  He looked up the hill he
had just descended.  "By George! there they are," he exclaimed under his
breath.  Four riders had just topped the crest, and were coming towards
him, at no great speed, for their horses were evidently tired; but
clearly they must overtake him in less than five minutes.  Jack looked
around for some means of escape.  He might stand his ground and fight
them, but the odds were against him, and a single crack in the head
would prevent him from reaching Salamanca, and render useless the
information he had obtained for his general.  "I must run for it, but
how and where?" he thought.

At this moment he heard a sound behind him.  Turning hastily, he was
amazed to see a little dark figure clad in a zamarra of sheepskin, a
high-peaked, narrow-brimmed hat, a red plush waistcoat with many buttons
and clasps, and a brilliant crimson-silk girdle about the waist.  In one
hand the dwarfish creature carried a large pair of shears, in the other
the reins of a half-clipped mule, which walked meekly behind him.

"Pepito!" Jack gasped in amazement.

Pepito grinned.

"No time to waste, Señor," he said.  "I saw you come down the hill, and
the Busne behind you.  Your mule has foundered.  Here is a fresh mule I
was clipping; mount him and ride on."

Clearly there was no time for explanations.  In a moment Jack was on the
mule’s back.

"Thanks, Pepito!" he said.  "But what will you do? Those fellows will
kill you."

Pepito smiled.

"Never fear, Señor.  The Gitano is more than a match for the Busne.
Ride, Señor, ride.  They have not seen you yet.  Quick!"

He led the mule a few yards beyond the spot at which Jack had halted,
and pointed to a road that went off the main-road to right and left.

"The left road leads to Medina," he said.  Then he struck the mule
sharply on the flank, and waved his hand gaily to Jack, who set off at
full speed, rounded a curve, and was soon lost to sight.  As he
disappeared, he heard behind him the shrill notes of a song that was
ever and anon on Pepito’s lips:

    "The Romany chal to his horse did cry,
    As he placed the bit in his horse’s jaw,
    Kosko gry!  Romany gry!
    Muk man kistur tuté knaw."

He smiled as he heard the uncouth words, and rode on, wondering by what
cunning device the little gipsy would throw the pursuers off the scent,
as he evidently intended to do.

Jack had intended to make his way back to the Posada de Oriente at
Medina, and there obtain a rest and a change of mules.  But having got a
fresh steed by Pepito’s fortunate intervention, he changed his plan, and
decided to make straight for Salamanca by Carpio and Cantalapiedra. He
had still fifty miles to ride, and after his experience with the
foundered mule he doubted whether one animal would carry him the whole
way.  But there was an off chance that another mount might be procurable
in case of need, and his mission was urgent.  He therefore pushed on,
avoiding Medina, and taking a short cut for Carpio.  It was four o’clock
when he reached that town.  He halted for half an hour to bait his mule
and snatch a meal, then he resumed his journey, and an hour and a half
after dark he entered the wretched streets of Pedroso.  He had ridden
but a few yards into the town when a figure on horseback moved silently
out from the shadow of a church and stood full across his path.  He
pulled up, and then a guttural and husky voice addressed him roughly:

"Who go zere?  Qui va la?  Quien vive?"

Jack laughed quietly.

"Is the caballero himself the allied army?" he said in his best
Castilian.

"Donnerwetter noch einmal!" growled the horseman, adding in bad Spanish:
"Give the word, and quickly."

"You have the advantage of me, my good friend," responded Jack in
English, "so you had better take me to your captain."

Jack had now recognized the man by his uniform as a trooper in the 3rd
Light Dragoons of the King’s German Legion.  The dragoon grunted in
surprise on hearing English, and, wheeling his horse beside Jack’s mule,
he laid one hand on his rein, and with the other held his carbine close
to the new-comer’s head, and so escorted him to the inn where the
cavalry patrol was quartered.

The officer there seated at ease, a burly moustachioed Hessian, looked
up as the trooper clanked into the room, holding Jack by the sleeve.

"A stranger, Herr Rittmeister," he said in German, "who cannot or will
not give the countersign."

"Not such a terrible stranger, Captain Werder," said Jack in English,
recognizing the German as the officer through whom he had obtained his
horse in Salamanca. A few words sufficed to explain his presence in such
guise, and half an hour afterwards, mounted on a spare horse luckily at
hand, he set off on the last eighteen miles that lay between him and his
destination.

It was seven o’clock when he reached Salamanca, and, tired as he was,
bespattered with mud from head to foot, he proceeded at once to the
general’s quarters.  There he learnt that Sir John was attending a
reception given by the Marchesa de Almaran, one of the grandes dames of
the city.  Leaving the horse at a neighbouring inn, Jack made his way to
the Marchesa’s palace, hoping that the commander-in-chief’s explicit
instructions would excuse any want of ceremony there might be in his
action.  He pulled the broad brim of his hat well over his eyes, and
turned up the high collar of his coat, passed the English guard of
honour outside the palace, and, entering at the open door, asked for the
major-domo.

"General Sir Moore is within?" he said to that functionary when he
appeared.

"He is."

"Will you tell him that a señor waits below with important news, and
begs an instant audience?"

The major-domo looked somewhat suspiciously at the dirty, travel-stained
Spaniard before him.

"The general is in the sala, and there is dancing.  I do not know that I
can interrupt him now."

"If you will kindly give my message, the general will see me," persisted
Jack.

"What name shall I tell him?"

"I do not give my name.  Merely say that it is a señor whom he knows."

The functionary shrugged, and led Jack within the vestibule—a vaulted
apartment not unlike the porch of a church, illumined by a single small
lamp.  Two or three servants were gathered about a fire.

"Wait here," said the major-domo, and left the visitor. The servants
eyed him for a moment, then resumed their conversation, of which Jack
caught a few words here and there.  A messenger from General Castaños—a
long ride from Saragossa—brave fellow—yes, a true caballero, no other
would have faced the perils of so long a ride through country infested
by the French—yes, such courage was worthy of a true son of Spain, and
far exceeded anything of which the English were capable.  Such were some
of the remarks Jack overheard, and he smiled as he remembered that Mr.
Vaughan had ridden double the distance, and come through equal perils,
arriving earlier after all.

Some minutes passed, and every now and then, as the sound of guitars
floated down the broad staircase, Jack envied the good fortune of the
officers who, he did not doubt, were footing it gaily above.  Then the
major-domo returned and silently beckoned the visitor to follow him.  He
led him upstairs, through a narrow corridor where, on benches of carved
wood or plaited straw, lay a variety of cloaks, hats, and silken
scarves.  Pushing open a door, the major-domo preceded him into a wide
dimly-lighted room.  "Remain here; I will fetch the general," he said,
and was gone.

Jack saw that the room was connected by folding-doors, which were now
thrown open, with a large salon lighted by numerous candles.  It was
crowded with a brilliant assembly.  Along the walls sat many ladies in
elegant mantillas, each gracefully wielding the indispensable fan. Among
them was a sprinkling of priests and sad-eyed students of the
university.  The centre of the room was occupied by the younger society
of the city—Spanish officers and lawyers, with young ladies in festal
array, engaged in dancing the javaneja to the music of a band of
guitarists stationed at the farther end of the room.  It was the first
time that Jack had seen this characteristically Spanish dance since he
had left Barcelona six years before, and his feet itched to join in it.
He watched the couples as they made their graceful rhythmic movements,
each holding a coloured kerchief in one hand, the other curved over the
head.  It formed an interesting spectacle against the bright background
formed by the red coats of British officers of all ranks, who stood
silent spectators, each no doubt privately wishing that the unfamiliar
dance would come to an end, and that an opportunity might be given them
of teaching the señoritas the quadrilles which were then all the rage in
England, or country-dances, in which they were still more at home.
Nearly all the men, except those who were dancing, were smoking
cigarettes.  Every lady, young or old, had a flower in her hair.

The javaneja at length ceased, and the Spaniards gave place with evident
reluctance to the British officers, who immediately set partners for a
quadrille, and began their task of tuition, to the great hilarity of the
ladies.  Jack was becoming impatient.  He had not caught sight of Sir
John Moore, and wondered how long he was to be kept waiting in this dim
ante-chamber.  He looked around.  There were two or three tables set
with refreshments; but there was no tea, no ices, no punch; nothing but
urns of chocolate, small glasses of sugared water, and a plate of
azucarillos.

Jack wondered how the English section of the company, among whom he had
now recognized his friends Pomeroy and Smith and several other of his
acquaintance, would be satisfied with this plain and simple fare, so
different from that provided at the luxurious entertainments at home.
Two or three solemn servants moved quickly about between the rooms,
carrying glasses of sugared water to the ladies.  As they passed Jack
they eyed him curiously, but with Spanish stolidity made no remarks.
Keeping in the shadow, he looked on at the animated throng with
ever-increasing impatience, wondering whether the major-domo had
forgotten him altogether.  By and by he saw Pomeroy lead his partner to
a seat, and come towards the ante-room with the manifest intention of
seeking refreshment for her himself.  Jack stepped back as Pomeroy
crossed from room to room, and the subaltern, throwing a curious glance
at the strange cloaked figure that stood there in the shadow, looked for
a moment as though he would like to question his right to be there. But
the moment passed, and almost immediately afterwards Sir John Moore
emerged from a curtained doorway behind the band, and crossed rapidly to
where Jack stood awaiting him.

"I am sorry to have kept you waiting, Señor," he said in Spanish, with
his unvarying courtesy, "but I have had to listen for half an hour to a
countryman of yours who brought me news which, after all, happened to be
a trifle stale.  You have an important message for me, I understand?"

"I am Lumsden of the 95th," said Jack in English, in a low tone which
none but the general’s ear could catch.  Sir John started, and glanced
keenly at Jack; then a smile passed over his face.

"Capital! capital!" he said.  "I shouldn’t have known you from Adam.
Come into the farther corner, away from these noisy dancers, and tell me
your news.  You’d rather be kicking your heels among them, eh?" he added
with a twinkle.

"Not till you have done with me, sir," replied Jack as he accompanied
the general out of earshot.  There, in a dim corner of the room, he gave
Sir John a succinct account of his movements, assuring him that the
French were beyond doubt making for Madrid, ignorant of, and not even
suspecting, the proximity of the British column at Salamanca.

"You have come very pat to the occasion," said Moore, who had listened
to Jack’s story without interrupting it. "You confirm what I already
suspected from a previous messenger.  No, not the messenger who came
just now from General Castaños, and whom the good people here have
already elevated into a hero; his news was three days behind time.  But
to-day the Spanish generals Bueno and Escalente reached me from the
Junta at Madrid, and made a strong, and, I must say, insolent, protest
against my intended retreat, assuring me that General San Juan, with
20,000 men, has fortified the pass of Somosierra and effectually blocked
the way to Madrid, and urging me to march towards him.  They would have
talked a cow’s hind-leg off, Mr. Lumsden, but I effectually shut the
mouths of my informants by confronting them with Colonel Graham, who has
just come in from Talavera, where San Juan is the prisoner of the
villainous runagates from Castaños’ beaten army.  If the Spaniards
depend on him to defend the Somosierra pass their hope is a poor one.
However, what you tell me proves that the French are not coming towards
me, and for the present at any rate I am perfectly safe here.  Now, you
have been so successful that I am going to tax you still further.  You
are very tired, no doubt?"

"A good supper and a night’s rest will cure that, sir."

"Then you’ll be prepared to set off again to-morrow?"

"Certainly.  I am very glad to be of use."

"You have been of the greatest use; I shall act upon your information,
and at once.  And, by the bye, I must congratulate you on your
messengers.  Your two Spanish lads brought me your messages, and gave me
great hopes that I had not misjudged you—hopes amply justified.  I have
despatches to write, so I will take leave of my hostess and accompany
you to the door."

In a few minutes Sir John Moore, cloaked and hatted, was striding down
the corridor with Jack by his side. They came to the outer door, where
by the light of a huge torch a tall Spanish officer in brilliant uniform
was taking leave of two ladies with what struck Jack as somewhat
affected gallantry.  He glanced up as the Englishmen passed, saluted Sir
John Moore with much condescension, and then, as his eye fell on Jack,
started with an air of bewilderment.  He looked again with still keener
scrutiny at the shorter of the two figures, whom he followed slowly. At
the porch Sir John bade Jack a cordial good-bye.  The latter turned to
the left, towards Don Pedro’s house, but had only walked a few yards
when he felt a touch on his arm.  Glancing over his shoulder without
checking his pace, he saw that he had been followed by the tall Spaniard
whom he had passed at the door.  The next moment a voice that was oddly
familiar addressed him in smooth suave tones that struck him with a
curious sense of discomfort.

"Surely the Señor will spare a minute to an old friend."



                             *CHAPTER VIII*

                          *Don Miguel Priego*


Memories—A Self-confessed Patriot—Confidences—Plain
Speaking—Reflections—A Public Departure


Jack stopped now, and faced round at the speaker, who still had a hand
on his arm.

"I recognized you at once," the man continued, "though your disguise is
good, very good.  I have not seen you for a good many years, Jackino,
but I never forget any face I have once seen, still less one that I have
lived with in the days of childhood.  Don’t you remember your old
friend—"

"Why, you’re Miguel Priego," interrupted Jack, with no great cordiality
of tone.  "How you’ve grown!  Who would have thought you would have
topped me by a couple of inches!  And what a swell, too!"

"Yes, I have changed more than you, amigo," said Don Miguel with a
complacency that irritated Jack, already annoyed that his disguise had
been penetrated. "Ah! and there have been other changes, great changes,
since I last saw you, Jackino.  You are an English officer, and I might
perhaps not have recognized you so easily if you had been dressed in
your uniform like your friends; but the hat and cloak—oh!  Miguel Priego
would have been a fool indeed if he had not known the dear companion of
his boyhood."

"You’re rather more affectionate than you were when we parted, Miguel,"
said Jack bluntly.

"Don’t say that.  We were always good friends, Jackino; is it not true?
You and I and Juanita—ah! what fun we had in the old house at Barcelona.
Do you remember the times when Don Fernan came from Saragossa and
brought Juanita on a visit to your father and mine, and how we shared
the presents he gave us?"

"Your share usually happened to be the biggest, if my memory doesn’t
play me false."

"Well, I was the eldest of the three; I am three years older than you,
amigo mio, and four years older than Juanita."

"How is Juanita?" asked Jack.

"In fair health, but paler than I should like to see her.  But her grief
will wear away in time, and when she becomes my—"

"Her grief!  What do you mean, Miguel?"

"You do not know, then?  I am forgetting; of course you do not get news
very well here.  I myself rode in only to-day from Saragossa, at the
risk of my neck, Jackino, with tidings of the unfortunate misadventure
at Tudela, and—"

"Come, Miguel," said Jack, "we can’t stand here. Where are you staying?
While I’m in this rig-out it will be better for me to go with you than
for you to come with me."

"That is true.  Come, then; I am staying at the Fonda de Suizo in the
Calle de Zamora.  We can talk there at ease, and I shall be glad on my
part to hear again of my old friends your father and mother, and to tell
you of the sad changes that have taken place, and the bright changes
also, dear friend."

Jack was very tired, and in no mood to make himself amiable to a man for
whom he had an intense aversion. But he was so anxious to learn the
meaning of Miguel’s hints and half-statements that he put his feelings
in his pocket and trudged along.  Ever since he could remember, he had
disliked Miguel, the only son of his father’s second partner, Don
Esteban Priego.  They had grown up together in Barcelona, and almost his
earliest recollections were connected with the petty meannesses and
cruelties of Miguel.  Three years older than Jack, Miguel had played the
bully with the younger boy until he grew strong enough to defend
himself; and then, not daring to molest him openly, he had shown great
ingenuity in devising petty annoyances which were even harder to bear
than his former brutalities.  He was cruel to children and animals
smaller than himself.  Jack remembered how Miguel had once lamed a
spaniel of his in wanton mischief, and how, whenever Juanita, the only
daughter of Don Fernan the senior partner, had been brought to Barcelona
on a visit, she had often run to Jack’s house in tears to seek
protection from the boy’s bullying and domineering.  The tone in which
Miguel had referred to Don Fernan and Juanita gave Jack vague
uneasiness, and he paid scant heed to Miguel’s talk by the way, and
scarcely answered him.

Don Miguel, however, was quite content to do all the talking.  He was a
patriot, he said, and high in favour with General Palafox.  He had early
volunteered in defence of his country, and had won rapid promotion,
being now indeed, though but twenty years of age, a major in Palafox’s
Hussars.  When the news of Castaños’ defeat arrived in Saragossa,
Palafox had sent him off with the news to General Moore, and he boasted
largely of his readiness to undertake, with only one servant, so
perilous a ride.  Not, he thought, that his servant would have been of
much use had they come across the French; he would have had to trust to
his own skill and courage, for the poor man had unfortunately lost an
eye; still, he was a faithful fellow and a good forager.

Jack caught himself wondering what service the man could have rendered
the master.  It was scarcely in Miguel’s character to allow a mere
question of sentiment to outweigh the loss of an eye.  Jack recalled his
passion for display; he could not imagine him willingly accepting a
one-eyed follower.  This thought passed like a flash through Jack’s mind
while Miguel was proceeding to dilate complacently on the scenes of
butchery and torture he had witnessed as he came through the country of
the guerrilleros, who had no mercy on the stray Frenchmen they succeeded
in ambushing.  Jack at last gave utterance to an exclamation of disgust.

"Ah!" sneered Miguel, "that is your English squeamishness. You English
have no nerves.  What is the good of your coming out here?  We will show
you how to deal with these accursed Frenchmen, and if your stomach turns
against it, well, go home to your nurses in little England, and play
with your tin soldiers and toy guns, for you are no good in Spain."

Their arrival at the inn checked the reply that rose to Jack’s lips.
Don Miguel, in the same oily, languid tone that was causing Jack more
and more irritation, ordered the landlord to make himself scarce, as he
had important business to discuss with his friend, and in a few moments
the two were left alone in the room.  The Spaniard flung off his cloak,
revealing the resplendent uniform of Palafox’s Hussars, and as he
removed his hat Jack noticed a long, livid scar running from his brow to
his left eye, disfiguring what was otherwise a well-looking countenance
so far as features were concerned.

"And how is your excellent father?" asked Miguel as he lolled in the
only easy-chair in the room.  "He is lucky, truly, for the stock in
London is a good one, and he will do a good business, whereas with us
these troubles have brought trade to a stand-still, and we are obliged
to suspend all operations.  But things will improve.  Don Fernan, with
his shrewd head for business, foresaw what would happen, and took steps
to realize what he could on the stock before the outbreak of war, which
was a very lucky thing for my father and myself and Juanita. And he
could not have chosen a more convenient moment for dying, for—"

"For dying!  Is Don Fernan dead?" cried Jack.

"Dead as a door-post, poor man!  I thought you would be surprised to
hear it.  He had been ailing ever since his exertions in the siege of
Saragossa last summer—there was something wrong with his heart, I
think,—and when the news came that General Castaños had met with a
mishap at Tudela, he held up his hands and cried: ’Oh my country! my
poor country!’ then fell forward and died. He was an old man, of course,
and must have died soon, and I have only come a little sooner into the
inheritance that was bound to come to me."

"Did Don Fernan appoint you his heir, then?" asked Jack with a keen
look.  "What about Juanita?"

"Does it not come to the same thing, my friend? Juanita, of course, is
Don Fernan’s heiress, but since in a little while, when the mourning is
over, she will marry me—"

"Marry you!"

There was contempt as well as surprise in Jack’s tone, and Miguel
evidently felt this, for he replied with flashing eyes, though with no
change in his bland manner:

"Yes, marry me—that was what I think I said.  Of course if my good
friend Jackino has any objection—"

"Good heavens!  Juanita is a thousand times too good for you!" Jack
blurted out.

"Quite so; she is a thousand times too good for any man.  But since she
does me the honour to become my wife, you will surely not have the
impudence to question her choice, dear friend."

He hissed out the last sentence, and bent a little forward.  Jack
shrugged.

"She wasn’t always so fond of you," he said bluntly.

"That is not the point, is it?" returned Miguel with an exasperating
smile.  "The match has long been talked of; Don Fernan and my father
were agreed that it was an excellent arrangement for uniting the
business interests of the two families.  And now that Don Fernan is dead
I shall marry Juanita as soon as possible, my father will retire, and I
shall be the sole partner of your excellent father, for you, of course,
have a soul much above business, and will no doubt ere long be a
field-marshal.  Perhaps, however, you have no ambition to earn fame in
the open and heroic way?  Your costume would suggest, my friend, that
you are satisfied with a more modest and retiring part—but still, no
doubt, profitable—"

"It seems to me, Miguel," said Jack, interrupting him very quietly,
"that you have forgotten the last thrashing I gave you.  Remember, I am
always at your service.  But I should not advise you to risk another
scar like the one you have already.  How," he added quickly, "did you
come by that?"

Miguel’s sullen face assumed a dusky hue, and the scar showed all the
more livid.  He flinched, as bullies will, before Jack’s menacing
attitude.

"Hot-tempered as ever," he said with an attempt to smile.  "Why will you
take offence so easily?  What have I said?  Here I find you, an
Englishman, in Spanish dress, and I conclude, naturally enough, that you
are fulfilling an office of very great importance and usefulness, and
when I—"

"Now look here, Miguel, I don’t want to quarrel with you, but you’d
better understand at once that I’m not a child, and that your oily
tongue won’t do you any good with me.  I don’t suppose we shall see much
more of each other; when—if—you marry Juanita you will settle down, I
suppose, in Saragossa, and our paths won’t cross.  I tell you frankly
I’m astonished that Juanita will have you; but she’s old enough to know
her own mind—though our girls in England don’t marry so early—and I hope
with all my heart she’ll be happy.  And now I think I’d better say
good-night!"

"And good-bye!" said Miguel sweetly.  "I will carry your good wishes to
Juanita, be sure of that."

"Where is she, by the way?" asked Jack.

"In Saragossa, with her aunt the Doña Teresa."

"And you are returning immediately?"

"Oh no!  I go on to-morrow towards Leon, with despatches for the Marquis
of La Romana.  The Spanish generals will have to strike a blow without
the assistance of your General Moore, it appears."

Jack ignored the sneer.

"Well, good-bye!" he said.  "There’s no need to suggest that you should
take care the French don’t catch you."

"True, true, Jackino.  Give my respects, when you see him, to your
excellent father, to whom I hope to have before long the honour of
sending the documents relative to the changes in the business.  Adios,
amigo mio!"

He accompanied Jack to the door, and looked after him with a mocking
smile.  Jack, pulling his cloak more closely around him, and his
sombrero lower over his eyes, walked rapidly to his quarters, where,
proceeding directly to his room, he threw himself upon his bed with a
sigh of weariness and contentment.

But it was long before the much-needed sleep came to him.  He lay awake,
unable to keep his thoughts from running round the circle of his
adventures and dwelling on his unexpected meeting with Miguel.  The more
he thought of his conversation with that gentleman the more puzzled he
felt.  As a child, Juanita had shrunk from the boy and had never
willingly gone into his presence.  It was very odd that she should have
overcome her dislike and now be ready to marry him.  Perhaps she still
disliked him, and had agreed to the match merely because it was desired
by Don Fernan and Miguel’s father, Don Esteban.  But even then it was
extraordinary, for Don Fernan himself had never shown any liking for
Miguel, and had indeed on many occasions taken him severely to task and
punished him for acts of deceit and dishonesty. Miguel did not appear to
Jack to have changed: what had altered Don Fernan’s opinion of him?
Then, too, there was Don Fernan’s letter, in which he had spoken of his
anxiety on behalf of his daughter.  Why, if he were satisfied with the
proposed match, should he be anxious about her future?  And what had
General Palafox to do with all this?  Miguel was the general’s trusted
messenger; could Palafox have influenced Don Fernan’s judgment? Jack
wished he could go to Saragossa, and enquire for himself into all the
circumstances—see Juanita, and discover whether she were in truth a
willing bride.  And then he thought of the phrase Don Fernan had so
carefully impressed upon his memory: "Palafox the man, Palafox the
name," and with this repeating itself to the hundredth time in his weary
brain he at length fell asleep, and slept on until he was awakened about
ten o’clock next morning by loud cries in the street.

Springing from bed, he ran to the window.  Men were waving their hats,
women their fans and handkerchiefs. At every window there was a
fluttering scarf.  Loud vivas rose into the air as an officer in full
uniform, followed by a gorgeously-dressed orderly, clattered by.

The officer smiled with gratification at the warmth of the cheers, and
kissed his hand gallantly to the ladies who peeped at him out of their
mantillas.  Jack smiled satirically.

"Pooh!  It’s only Don Miguel Priego!  Confound the sneak!"

He was about to withdraw, when the orderly turned his head to the left,
as though seeking a share of the admiration so lavishly bestowed on his
superior.  Jack noticed that one eye-socket was closed; the man’s
remaining eye had a curiously malign glitter that gave the beholder a
strange sense of uneasiness.

"Is this how people feel when they talk of the evil eye?" he said to
himself with an unmirthful laugh.  Then he donned his own clothes and
went gloomily downstairs to find his brother officers.



                              *CHAPTER IX*

                            *Some Surprises*


At the Cross-Roads—A Mêlée—Bagged—Franceschi’s Chasseurs—Under Guard—A
Hard Case—Moore’s Plans—Reconnoitring—Within the Gates—Caged—Blind Man’s
Buff—A Strategic Move—A Dash on Rueda—An Alarm—A Chase in the Dark—A
Tragedy


About two o’clock on a frosty December afternoon, some ten days after
Jack Lumsden’s return to Salamanca, four riders were walking their
horses up a slight incline about three miles out of Alaejos towards
Valladolid.  Three of them were troopers in the 18th Light Dragoons, the
fourth, riding slightly in advance of the rest, was Jack himself, now
wearing his own uniform, and mounted on a fine black charger borrowed
from the regiment to which his companions belonged.  A few yards from
the crest of the hill, lying back from the road, was a mean-looking
hovel at the door of which stood a little black-eyed girl, who watched
the advancing riders with her finger in her mouth.

"Hullo, little girl," said Jack in Spanish, pulling up as he came
abreast of her, "are we on the right road for Tordesillas?"

The child gave a scared look at the troopers and fled into the hut
without replying.

"You’ve sent the timid little beggar into her burrow," said Jack with a
smile.  At the same moment a heavy-browed man appeared at the door, in
the rough coat and thick gaiters of a muleteer.

"Ha, my friend," said Jack in a genial tone, "your little daughter
needn’t have been afraid of us!  Are we going right for Tordesillas?"

"Straight on, Señor," replied the man, with stolid countenance.  "Over
the river; you can’t miss your way."

"Thanks!  Any sign of the French hereabout?"

"Never a man—the saints forbid!" said the man with a scowl.  "They
carried off my last pig six months ago. Gr-r-r!  I hate them!"

"Well, they won’t trouble you much longer if we can help it.  Buenas
tardes!"

"Vaya usted con Dios, Señor!" replied the muleteer, doffing his hat; and
as the Englishman rode off, his little daughter came to his side and
watched with him their retreating figures.

A mile farther on they had just crossed the stream of which the man had
spoken, when Jack suddenly reined up his horse and in a low tone ordered
his men to halt.

"Do you hear anything, Kelly?" he asked of one of the troopers.

The man turned his head aside, and his companions sat motionless, an
expectant look upon their faces.

"Riders, sir!" said Kelly in a moment.

"I thought so," returned Jack.  "To our right, eh?"

"Yes, sir."

There was a moment’s silence.  Behind them came a slight murmur from the
full river, but more distinctly, from some distant point beyond a
wall-enclosed orchard on their right, sounded the unmistakable clatter
of horses’ hoofs on the hard road.

"Wait here," said Jack, springing from his horse. "Don’t make a sound.
I’m going forward to reconnoitre. Hold my horse’s rein, Kelly, and don’t
let him champ his bit."

He ran forward, round a slight bend in the road.  In two minutes he was
back.

"Men," he said in a low voice, "there’s a road to the right, and half a
dozen Frenchmen riding down towards us.  I think they’re French—by their
helmets.  We four are a match for the six, eh?"

The men grinned.

Jack rapidly took stock of the situation.  The wind was almost due east;
he and his men were riding north-east, and as they were the smaller
party, and had been travelling only at walking pace, it was not likely
that the enemy had heard them coming.  The idea of dismounting his men
and forming an ambuscade at first suggested itself.  Jack glanced round
for a convenient tree or post to which they might tether the horses; but
though there were plenty of trees beyond the orchard wall, the only way
in was a quarter of a mile to their rear.  This meant that even if the
ambuscade were successful two at least of the enemy would be almost
certain to escape, for Jack and his men, with three carbines and a
pistol, could at the best only account for four at the first volley, and
the remaining two would have a start of half a mile before they could be
pursued.  On the other hand, if Jack told off a man to hold the horses,
his striking force would be reduced to three, and there was always the
risk that two of the horses—young Spanish chargers purchased at
Salamanca and only half-trained—would break away at the sound of the
firing. For these reasons Jack preferred to trust to cold steel.

Giving his commands almost in a whisper, he drew up his men in line
under cover of the wall, about thirty yards from the cross-road,
ordering them to be in readiness to charge at the word.  Each man
silently drew his sabre and Jack uncovered his sword, still fresh as
when he received it from the makers in Pall Mall.  It was not perhaps
quite so suitable for the purpose in hand as the weapons carried by the
troopers, but Jack knew that it was of the highest temper, and felt
confident that it would not fail him.

In little more than a minute the increasing clatter showed that the
unsuspecting Frenchmen were approaching the cross-roads.  There was no
slackening of pace as they neared the junction, and Jack inferred from
this that their route lay straight across the main road towards
Castroduno or Toro.  Every second seemed like a minute to him as he
waited for the horsemen to arrive, but after what seemed an interminable
delay two helmets at last appeared beyond the angle of the wall.  Jack
drove his spurs into his horse, giving the word "Charge!" and, with
their leader a pace or two in advance, the three troopers dashed
forward.  In a few seconds the two bodies met with a terrific shock.
The French dragoons, unable to check their progress, had just had time
to draw their sabres; the leading files had half-wheeled their horses to
meet the storm, but the two succeeding troopers were taken square on the
flank, and all the advantage of momentum being on the side of the
attacking force, the whole four went down like a ship struck by a
squall. Almost before Jack could realize what had happened he was
reining in his horse on the far side of the cross-road; three of the
Frenchmen were lying motionless on the road, a fourth, dismounted, was
defending himself with spirit against one of Jack’s troopers, and three
horses were scampering wildly towards Toro.  He was wheeling his horse
round, when, almost at the same moment, two bullets whizzed past his
head.  The two remaining Frenchmen had halted before reaching the
cross-road, rapidly fired their carbines, and, turning round in the
direction from which they had come, were now galloping wildly away.

"After them, Kelly!" shouted Jack to the corporal, who was just beside
him; and, leaving the other two troopers to secure the dismounted
Frenchmen, the two dashed off at a mad gallop.  They were a hundred
yards behind at the start; the Frenchmen were down upon their horses’
necks, shouting to the beasts in a fever of haste. But as luck would
have it, they were heavy men; Jack was a light-weight, and before the
chase had proceeded for two hundred yards he began to gain, and the
interval between himself and Kelly was increasing.  Foot by foot he made
up on his quarry; in little more than a mile he was at the heels of the
rearmost Frenchman.  The man, feeling that he was at a disadvantage,
suddenly swerved towards the near side of the road, bending low as he
did so to avoid Jack’s blow, and then, as Jack darted past, pulled his
horse on his haunches and wheeled round to meet Kelly.  Thinking he
could safely leave this man to the heavy trooper, Jack rode on after the
Frenchman in front, and within a couple of minutes had him at his mercy.
The dragoon had no time to turn and meet his pursuer; with a horse of
superior speed, Jack, coming up behind him, had a terrible advantage
over the fugitive, who was painfully twisting himself round in the
saddle to meet the expected blow.  Choosing his opportunity, Jack,
dropping his own sword, wrested the Frenchman’s sabre from his grasp,
and next moment drove him into the hedge.

"Je me rends! je me rends!" cried the Frenchman, panting.

"Comme de juste!" gasped Jack, who then turned to see how Kelly was
faring.  He had ridden down and over the luckless dragoon, who, rising
painfully to his feet, called for quarter.  Being a strapping fellow,
the trooper had been unable to do more than maintain his distance from
the second Frenchman, who, however, seeing Jack now standing full in his
path, recognized that the game was up, checked his horse, and quietly
surrendered his sword just as Kelly came bustling to his side.

[Illustration: Jack Captures a Dragoon]

"Jolly good chase, sir!" said Kelly, as Jack and his prisoner came up.
"The froggies showed the cleanest pair of heels I ever did see."

"You stuck to it like a Briton," said Jack.  "Now we’ll get back to the
others and see what damage is done."

With the two Frenchmen disarmed between them, they retraced their steps,
the Frenchmen sitting limp and careless, with a resigned expression of
countenance that tickled Kelly’s sense of humour.

"Where do you come from, mon brave?" asked Jack of the man next to him.

"From Rueda, monsieur le capitaine," answered the trooper with a smile.
Jack chuckled inwardly at his sudden promotion, and went on:

"And what is your regiment?"

"Mais, monsieur, the 22nd Chasseurs of General Franceschi’s cavalry.
And little did we think, monsieur, that we should meet Englishmen
to-day.  Eh bien! it is all the fortune of war, and monsieur le
capitaine rides a good horse."

"No better than your own, mon brave," said Jack, not to be outdone in
politeness.  "Well now, how many of your regiment may happen to be in
Rueda, if I may ask?"

The trooper looked at him with twinkling eyes.

"Non, non, monsieur le capitaine," he said.  "You have captured our
patrol: c’est égal! but you want to know too much.  I tell you how many?
Non, non; but we are enough to capture all Sir Moore’s army before it
ends its retreat to Lisbon.  Monsieur wants to spoil the joke."

"Very well," said Jack with a laugh.  "I won’t press you; but there are
more ways than one of killing a cat, as we say in English."

He kept up an amicable conversation with the Frenchman until they
arrived at the cross-roads.  There he found his two troopers mounting
guard over the four wounded chasseurs, and Jack was sufficiently new to
warfare to feel relieved and glad that no life had been lost.  The
dragoons had made clumsy attempts to bind up their prisoners’ wounds,
and had allowed the least injured of them to fetch water in his helmet
from the stream.

"That’s right," said Jack as he came up.  "We’ve had an unexpected piece
of luck, my men, and our capture may be important.  But we have no time
to lose.  We made noise enough along the road to bring up the whole
French army if it’s hereabouts.  Lucky the regiment isn’t far behind us.
Now help these fellows on to their horses; we’ll take them back to the
hut we left a while ago, and I’ll leave them in your charge while I go
on alone and pick up a little information."

"May I come, sir?" asked Kelly.  "’Tisn’t safe to go alone."

"Safer for one than two.  But come along; there’s no time to waste, and
it’s getting dark."

In a few minutes the cavalcade had reached the hut on the hillside.  The
muleteer glowered viciously at the prisoners as they were led up to his
door, and handled his knife as though he would have liked there and then
to take vengeance upon them for the loss of his favourite pig.  But Jack
allowed no mistake about his intentions; he told the man that the
prisoners would remain with him, in charge of the dragoons, until the
British advance-guard under General Stewart arrived.

"I’m going on to Rueda," he added.  "How far is it from here?"

"A league and a half, Señor," said the man.

"That’s about seven miles as your Spanish league goes. Kelly, if General
Stewart arrives before I get back, tell him that there are some of
General Franceschi’s chasseurs at Rueda on our right flank, and I’ve
gone to find out how many.  If all goes well I’ll be back within two
hours."

"Very good, sir!" said Kelly, and then looked as though he would have
said more.

"Well, what is it?" asked Jack.

"Beg pardon, sir, but you’ll be nabbed as sure as a gun.  Your uniform—"

"Don’t worry, Kelly.  I’m going to borrow an outfit from one of our
French friends here.  Come, mon ami," he said, turning to the sergeant
whom he had captured, "I must trouble you to take off some of your
things—your helmet, say, and your cloak, your breeches, and your boots;
I think they’ll be enough."

"Pardon, monsieur le capitaine, but I’m a soldier of the emperor, and
the emperor would shoot me as a traitor if I parted with my uniform to
an Englishman."

"That would be unfortunate.  But we can’t stand on ceremony now; make
haste, if you please."

"But, monsieur," said the man, "the breeches won’t fit you."

"They will be a trifle baggy, but no one will be critical in the dark.
Come now, hurry up!"

"But, monsieur, I shall be cold, I shall freeze.  If monsieur will lend
me his things in exchange, perhaps—"

"No, thanks!  If you’re cold you’d better ask the muleteer to lend you
some things, or, better still, go to bed.  Kelly, come and help the
sergeant off with his things."

But as Kelly approached him with a grin, the Frenchman unclasped his
cloak and proceeded to divest himself of the garments Jack required.
Soon Jack was cantering off on his reconnoitring expedition to Rueda.

By this time it was almost dark, and Jack rode gently, partly in order
to avoid mishap, and partly to spare his horse in case hard work were
required of him later.  His blood tingled with the excitement of his
recent adventure and with anticipation of the unknown adventures before
him.  Like his brother officers, and indeed every member of the army,
from the chief of staff to the smallest drummer-boy, he rejoiced in the
sudden change of plan which Sir John Moore had announced about a week
before.  The news he himself had brought to the general, reinforced by
further news obtained through Manuel and Juan, and by information that
the Spanish armies were concentrating, had determined Sir John, on
December 5th, to countermand his order to retreat.  The French, he had
learnt, were not marching in his direction, but towards Madrid, which,
he was assured, was defended by large forces at the difficult Somosierra
Pass, and would resist to the utmost. He put little faith in the
Spaniards’ power of resistance, but he saw a possibility of creating a
diversion in their favour, and of cutting in between Soult and Napoleon
and striking a blow at the former.  If Madrid had not yet fallen, his
movement might draw off Napoleon and save the capital, or at any rate he
might make matters so unpleasant, by seizing Valladolid and Burgos, that
time would be gained for the re-equipment of the Spanish armies.  If, on
the other hand, Madrid fell, he could still make a run for it. He
therefore ordered Baird on his left and Hope on his right to move
forward towards Valladolid, while he himself prepared to advance on the
same town by way of Alaejos and Tordesillas, acquainting the Marquis of
La Romana, who was at Leon, some 120 miles due north of Salamanca, with
his intentions.

A few days after Moore had arrived at this decision he received the news
that Madrid had capitulated to Napoleon. It was a severe blow.  He had
hoped against hope that the Spanish promises would at last be fulfilled,
that their boasts would at last justify themselves.  Once more the
Spaniards had shown their instability.  But Moore was not disposed to
alter his plans; there seemed every probability of his striking a
successful blow at the French communications.  On December 11th, then,
the infantry moved out from Salamanca, General Paget marching with the
reserve for Toro, where his brother, Lord Paget, had already arrived
with Baird’s cavalry, while Hope left Alba de Tormes next day to join
the main body on the Valladolid road.  The advance along this road was
led by General Charles Stewart’s cavalry brigade, consisting of Hussars
and Light Dragoons.  It happened that during the previous week Jack had
more than once been sent backwards and forwards between Salamanca and
Alba de Tormes with despatches and reports, and he had come under the
notice of General Stewart.  When the advance was ordered, Stewart,
thinking that Jack would be useful in gathering news from the Spaniards,
and acting as interpreter in matters connected with commissariat and
billeting, asked that he might be temporarily attached to him as extra
aide-de-camp, and it was while riding ahead to enquire about billets in
Tordesillas that Jack met with the adventure just related.

As he rode along towards Rueda he could not help feeling a glow of
satisfaction at his continued good luck. But he did not indulge in idle
dreams.  It was now too dark to see, but his ears were keenly alert to
catch any sound that betokened danger, and he told Pomeroy afterwards
that he felt as sensitive as a cat’s whiskers.  His enterprise was
obviously full of peril, for he had no knowledge of the number of troops
in Rueda, or of that town itself, and it behoved him to go warily.  If
the French force was large, there would certainly be outposts at some
distance from the town, and every now and then he pulled up his horse
and waited, straining eyes and ears for a sound or a light.

At length, when he had been riding for about three-quarters of an hour,
he saw, at the bottom of a slight hollow more than half a mile in his
front, a twinkle of light which he inferred came from a house by the
roadside.  Dismounting at once he led his horse off the road to the
left, and found that he was in a vineyard where many of the poles used
for supporting the vines were still standing in the soil.  He led his
horse well out of sight from the road, tied him to one of these poles,
patted his neck, and then set off to walk through the field, keeping a
distance of about fifty yards from the highway. The light shone more
clearly now, and as he approached it he went ever more and more
cautiously, stopping at one point to remove the spurs that, in spite of
his careful tread, made a slight clanking on the frozen ground.  At
thirty yards distance from the light he saw that it proceeded from the
window of a small cabin not unlike the muleteer’s behind him.  Now every
step he took was as stealthy as a cat’s.  His pulse beat a little faster
as he came within a few feet of the cabin, though he was barely
conscious of this, so intent was he on the task in hand.

He crept at first behind the hut and waited for a moment.  Voices
reached him from within.  Pressing his ear against the wooden wall, he
distinguished a few exclamations in French, and then a burst of
laughter.

"They’re having a high old time!" he said to himself with a chuckle.
"Evidently well occupied.  I’ll chance it."

Stealing round the hut he fell down on hands and knees and crawled till
he came beneath the window; he then removed his helmet, took a breath,
and raised himself inch by inch until he could just peer over the lower
sill.  For a moment his eyes were dazzled by the light.  As they became
more accustomed to it he saw four French troopers, in the same uniform
as the one he now wore, seated at a round table playing cards.  An empty
bottle stood in the centre, and some glasses were half-full of red wine.
Jack inferred at once that the cabin was a sort of impromptu guard-room,
from which sentries were posted at the entrance to the village.

"Pretty sentries!" he said to himself.  "I wouldn’t give much for their
skins if Boney caught them!  They’re making enough row to drown the
sound of an army.  So much for that."

Lowering himself with equal care, he crept away, rose to his feet, and
set off at a sharp walk towards Rueda. Before long he descried a number
of scattered lights ahead.  Then he found himself in a lane that
appeared to lead towards the town.  "Here goes," he thought, and without
hesitation struck up the lane in the direction of the lights.

It led straight into the principal street.  Jack walked boldly on,
thinking that boldness would attract less attention than stealth.  He
noticed that nearly all the houses at this end of the place were lit up.
Sounds of merriment floated upon the air—a laugh, a cheer, an
exclamation of anger, the clink of glasses, the rattle of dice.  There
was a small inn; twenty yards away Jack smelt fried onions, and longed
for his supper.  The street was empty, and as he went forward he
observed that the houses were almost all dark, and guessed that the
French were billeted at the end he had passed.  By and by he came to the
Plaza, a narrow open space in the centre of the town, and saw what was
evidently the town-house looming before him, a large building in the
middle of the square.  He halted in the shadow of a church porch.

"There’ll be a sentry posted here," he thought.  "I wonder which side of
the building he is on!"  He hesitated for a moment whether to proceed or
to return at once, seeing no prospect of obtaining definite information
of the number of the French.  "In for a penny in for a pound," he said
to himself; "I’ll try another few yards."

He chose the street passing by the left-hand face of the town-house, and
stole along on tiptoe.  A narrow beam of light fell obliquely across the
street from an upper window on his left, throwing a luminous circle on
the townhouse wall just above the level of his head.  He skirted the
wall, and had reached the mid-point of that face of the square, when a
voice suddenly arrested his steps.

"Señor, charity for a poor prisoner.  A copper, Señor, for the love of
God!"

The voice appeared to come from just above his head. There was something
in the tone that seemed familiar, and with a quickening pulse he
resolved to test the surmise which had flashed upon him.  Retracing his
steps for a couple of yards, he looked up, and there, full in the shaft
of light from the house opposite, he saw the barred grating of a
dungeon, and, pressed against the bars—yes, it was the small elfin face
of the gipsy boy Pepito. "Here’s luck again!" he thought.  Being below
the level of the beam of light, Jack himself was out of sight, and he
knew that Pepito could only have caught the sound of his footsteps, and
must have addressed him without knowing who he was.  Putting his hand
into the pocket of his breeches—forgetting they were not his own—he took
out a few copper coins, and stretched his arm up towards the grating.

"Here you are, poor prisoner!" he said softly in Spanish.

A low exclamation answered him.  The coins were taken, and a small lean
hand pressed his gently.

"Muchas gracias," said Pepito; then turning to speak to someone behind
him in the cell: "A Christian gives alms to the poor, and four noble
Spaniards and a gipsy boy will not go supperless to bed."

"Four noble Spaniards!" echoed Jack.  "Let me speak with one of them."

Pepito disappeared instantly, and his place was taken by a large,
heavy-jawed Spaniard, whom Jack recognized at once as the stableman who
had led the pursuit of him from Olmedo.  The man looked suspiciously at
the French uniform.

"Hist!  I may help you," began Jack, but at this moment he heard the
clamp-clamp of ammunition boots approaching from round the corner behind
him.  "The sentry!" he thought.  "Silence!  I will come back," he
whispered.

He crept along the wall on tiptoe, in the direction away from the
approaching footsteps.  At the same time he heard from within the cell
Pepito’s shrill voice in song:

    "Kosko gry!  Romany gry!
    Muk man kistur tuté knaw!"


"Clever little imp!" he thought.  "He didn’t give me away to his
companions there, and now he’s trying to smother the sound of my
footsteps."

He turned the corner and waited.  The sentry was still approaching with
measured tread, and when he arrived beneath the grating he cried
angrily:

"Tais-toi, maraud!  Il faut te taire, ou je vais te brûler la cervelle."

The singing ceased, and the sentry with a grunt resumed his march.

"He’s going to make the round of the building," thought Jack.  "So will
I; but I hope to goodness no one will be passing on the other side."

He tiptoed along and turned the other corner.  Not a soul was to be
seen.  He waited.  On this face of the building was the door, over which
a feeble light flickered, and Jack wondered whether it was open, and if
he would be seen from within.  But there was no time for hesitation. The
tramping sentry was coming behind him.  Taking his courage in both
hands, Jack slipped along, passed the door safely, turned the farther
corner, and in another half-minute was back under the grating,
breathless with excitement.

For a moment he stood listening.  The sentry had halted in front of the
building.

"Hist!  Are you there?" he whispered towards the grating.

"Sí, Señor," said the man.

"Now, answer quickly.  How many French are in the town?"

"About a hundred, Señor."

"Foot or horse?"

"Half one, half the other."

"And they come from—"

"From Segovia, Señor."

"That’ll do.  Where’s that gipsy boy?"

"But, Señor—"

"Hush!  Where’s the gipsy?"

"Here, Señor," said Pepito, pulling the Spaniard away.

"Here’s a few pesetas.  Buy them all a supper from the jailer.  All
being well, I’ll have you out to-night."

Then he thought for an instant.  He must make sure his escape from the
town.  What if the sentry were again moving round the square?  Stepping
softly into the road, he picked up a large loose cobble and flung it
with all his force towards the corner farthest away from the road he
meant to take.  The stone struck the road several yards beyond the
building, and made a clatter as it ricochetted along.  He heard an
exclamation from the sentry, who set off at a quick step in the
direction of the sound. Without more delay Jack hastened in the opposite
direction, hearing behind him, more and more faintly, the quaint refrain
of the gipsy’s wild song:

    "Kosko gry!  Romany gry!
    Muk man kistur tuté knaw!"


He arrived safely at the end of the street.  The mirth of the French was
even more uproarious, their fancied security clearly still more
confident.  Out of the town, into the lane, Jack hurried at full speed;
past the guard-house, along over the field, among the bare vine-poles
until he reached his horse again.  A whinny greeted him. He sprang on to
the animal’s back, and cantered back rapidly in the direction of the
Valladolid road.

"We’ll make a clean swoop of them or I’m a Dutchman," he said to himself
gleefully.  "Was there ever such luck—and such bad management!  Won’t
Charley Stewart be delighted!"

On he rode, keeping his ears open for the slightest sound.  He had come,
as he judged, within a mile of the scene of his afternoon’s adventure
when he heard the sound of horses trotting.  Turning off the road, he
walked his horse for some distance across the field and waited. The
riders were approaching him.  He tried to determine from the sound of
the hoofs how many they were.  Then he heard voices—they carried far in
the silence of the frosty night,—and as they came opposite him he heard
an English voice say with a growl:

"’Pon my soul, the madcap deserves to be nabbed!"

"Charley himself!" chuckled Jack.  "Who goes there?" he called.

The horses stopped, and a voice called sharply:

"Who are you?"

"Lumsden of the 95th."

"Gad, it’s the fellow himself.  Come and show yourself, you daredevil!
Where in the world have you been?"

"Into Rueda and back, sir," said Jack, saluting.

"And what the blazes have you been doing there?"

"Taking stock, sir.  There are a hundred French in the town, cavalry and
infantry mixed, and they’re all hard at it with drink and cards."

"The deuce they are!  No sentries, eh?"

"A few in a cabin this side of the town, sir, but they’re busy at the
same game."

"Are they, begad?  Seymour, we’ll collar this little lot.  We were
coming to rescue your dead body, young man, and you’ve disappointed us.
Ride back, there, and tell the squadron to hurry.  We’ll draw first
blood to-night."

Ten minutes later the whole squadron of 250 men of the 18th Light
Dragoons, General Stewart himself in command, were on their way to
Rueda.  Jack rode ahead by the general’s side—no longer in French
uniform, for when the squadron arrived on the scene Kelly came forward
and said:

"Brought these, sir; thought you might want ’em."

He handed Jack his head-dress and cloak, receiving the Frenchman’s cloak
and helmet in exchange.

"I didn’t bring the breeches, sir," added Kelly, "thinking it might be a
cold change to-night."

"Right, Kelly! and that reminds me that I’ve borrowed some of the
Frenchman’s money; all fair in war, eh?"

General Stewart enquired of Jack as they rode how he had contrived to
pick up his information.

"Famous, famous!" he exclaimed when the tale had been briefly told.  "We
mustn’t let a man escape if we can help it.  If Franceschi doesn’t hear
of this we may scoop up his whole division.  How are we going to escape
the sentries?  They can’t fail to hear us on this hard road, and we
can’t muffle the horses’ hoofs."

"If you like, sir," suggested Jack, "I’ll go ahead with a few men across
the fields and collar them first."

"You want to do it all, eh?  Very well; we’ll halt when you tell us.  If
anything goes wrong, give us a hail and we’ll be on your tracks like the
wind."

When he judged that the squadron had arrived at a safe distance Jack
gave the word, the general halted, and Jack went forward across the
fields with four men to make a detour and come upon the sentries’ cabin
from the direction of Rueda, thereby to deceive the Frenchmen into the
belief that the approaching riders were a party coming out to relieve
guard.  Jack’s men had ridden two hundred yards beyond the cabin, and
were just turning to the left to regain the road, when one of the men
declared that he heard the sound of trotting horses from the town.

"That’s a relief patrol," said Jack.  "Ride back to the general, Kelly;
tell him we can hardly hope to surprise the town now, and ask him to
pick up the men in the cabin as he passes.  Now, dragoons, forward with
me into Rueda."

They set spurs to their horses, and made for the road. Secrecy was no
longer possible; the approaching chasseurs heard them, stopped short,
hesitated a moment, then turned tail and made at full speed back towards
the town, with Jack and his men close at their heels.

"Who’s in first, my boys!" cried Jack, rising in his stirrups and urging
his flying steed.  On they went, heedless of the road, sparks flying
from the hoofs, the horses snorting with the joy of the chase.  Into the
town with a clash and a clatter!

"Sauve qui peut!  Les Anglais!  Les Anglais!" shouted the sergeant of
the flying patrol.  Instantly the little town was filled with noise, the
inns belched forth their scared revellers, from every house streamed
soldiers, drunk and sober, some in full uniform, some half-dressed, some
without swords, some without muskets, the chasseurs clamouring for their
horses, the officers of Lefebvre’s infantry shouting to their men to
form up and stand firm in the square.  Jack dashed on.  A pistol flashed
at him; he heeded nothing, keeping his eye on the form of the sergeant
who headed the patrol, and who had now distanced his companions, and was
clearly making in a panic for safety.  By this time about sixty of the
infantry had formed up in some sort of order in the square.  Giving rein
to his horse, the sergeant of chasseurs, yelling incoherent
exclamations, dashed into their midst, cleft a way through them, and
pelted on towards the other end of the town.  At his heels flew Jack,
whom in the confusion and the semi-darkness the Frenchmen appeared to
take for one of themselves.  Behind him he heard the clatter of hoofs
and the shouts of Stewart’s dragoons as they dashed into the town, the
crack of pistols, the dull thud of infantry muskets, then the clash of
sabres and the yells of wounded men.  Still he rode on.  "Not a man must
escape," the general had said, and not a man should, if Jack could help
it.

He was now out of the town, and the Frenchman was apparently losing
ground.  Jack spurred his panting horse, and knew by the louder clicks
of the hoofs before him that he was gaining on the enemy.  But it was
only for a moment.  The chasseur shouted to his horse, flung a mocking
cry behind, and tore on at increased speed. On went Jack, his mouth set,
determined to run his quarry down if only his horse would hold out.
Mile after mile the chase continued; each horseman could hear the pants
of the other’s steed, each rode headlong, careless of ruts or stones,
Jack hoping now against hope that something would happen to check the
Frenchman’s career. His own horse was almost done; he remembered that it
had had scarcely any rest for half a day, while the chasseur’s was
probably fresh; and it occurred to him at length that the Frenchman
could easily have outstripped him if he pleased, and must be holding him
now for his own malicious amusement, or perhaps to lure him on till he
reached a larger body of Franceschi’s men.  Just as he was wondering
whether it might not be the more discreet part to relinquish the chase,
he caught sight of lights ahead. The Frenchman was quickening his pace;
evidently then he did not expect to find friends in the village or town
to which they were coming.  Jack endeavoured to get still more out of
his own breathless steed.  On went the chasseur at full gallop into the
town.  At the door of an inn a group of men was gathered, some of their
number holding flaring torches above their heads.  The crowd parted to
make way for the flying horseman, and he dashed pell-mell through their
midst.

"The game’s up!" thought Jack with a sigh of disappointment.  "Poor old
horse!  You’re done up."  He rode into the crowd.  "After him!" he cried
in Spanish, pointing after the Frenchman.  "After him, hombres! The
English are at Rueda.  Don’t let him escape.  My horse is foundered;
somebody mount and catch the dog!"

But not a man moved in response to his cry.  Jack dismounted, trembling
in every limb, and furious with the Spaniards for their apathy.  As he
led his quivering horse towards the inn, and the throng gathered around
him, he stopped suddenly, for there, in front of the inn door, stretched
on his back, lay a soldier, his eyes closed, his cheeks pale in the
ghastly torchlight, a dark stain marking the frosty road.

"What is it?  Who is he?" asked Jack.  He looked round, and saw at the
inn door a man with a reeking knife in his hand.  As Jack passed, the
man came forward.

"I did it!  One of the accursed French.  I killed him!"

He went on to explain that he was the posting-master of the place.  The
French horseman had ridden up half an hour before and demanded
refreshment; he had behaved with such insolence and brutality that human
nature could not endure it.

"He was an enemy of my country, and I killed him!" the man concluded.

Jack shuddered involuntarily, and stepped round the corpse to enter the
inn.



                              *CHAPTER X*

                        *The Emperor’s Despatch*


Spoils of War—Hard Cash—A Good Bargain—"To Command the World"—A
Wigging—"Missing"—Through the Night—Dead Beat—Grumbling—A Late
Breakfast—Mixed Metaphors—A Change of Route


Jack threw himself wearily into a chair.  He was tired, famished,
disappointed—above all, disappointed,—for he had set his heart on
capturing the Frenchman as a crowning achievement for this crowded day.
For a few moments he sat staring with downcast eyes at the floor; then
he pulled himself together.

"It can’t be helped," he thought.  "I did my best.—Landlord, give me
some food."

The landlord put down on the table, between two smoking candles, the
knife which he had retained up to this moment.

"Some food for the caballero," he said to one of his men.  "And you,
Perez, go outside and bury that carrion Frenchman."

Some minutes passed.  Jack found that he had no appetite for the crude
dishes set before him, and heard dully, with inattentive ears, the slow
monotone of the landlord, who seemed to be anxious to justify to himself
the act of murder he had committed.  Presently two of the inn servants
entered.

"We have buried him, master," said the first.  "And his clothes are
rich; we thought maybe you would wish to have them."

His companion came forward, and laid before the inn-keeper a heap of
garments.

"He was a handsome man," added the first.

"Fine feathers, fine feathers!" muttered the landlord. He took the
garments up one by one, turning them over and commenting on them.  There
was a black cloth pelisse, a white dolman with gold braid and fur, and a
shako of scarlet cloth, surmounted by an aigrette of white heron’s
plumes.  The uniform was ornate with gold braid, cord, and buttons; and
a rich sash of black and gold silk, a small cartridge-pouch, a
sabretache, and a long Damascene sabre completed the brilliant
appointments. As Jack watched the landlord fingering the articles, he
recognized vaguely that they could only have belonged to a soldier of
high rank or position, and for the first time he wondered what had
brought the Frenchman to this out-of-the-way village of Valdestillos.
The landlord stroked the fur of the dolman caressingly.

"Worth some dollars, this," he said, shaking it out to see its full
extent.  As he did so, a folded paper fell to the floor.  Jack was up in
an instant.

"I want that," he said, fatigue, hunger, disappointment forgotten at
once.  He stepped forward, but the landlord put his foot on the paper.

"No, no, Señor," he said quickly.  "He was my prisoner; I killed him;
all his things are mine."

"But don’t you see," said Jack, now hardly able to control his
excitement; "don’t you see, the man was a despatch-rider!  That explains
his rich uniform.  Perhaps he was one of Napoleon’s own aides-de-camp,
and the fate of all Spain may lie in that simple paper.  You must give
it to me, landlord; I must take it to my general."

Jack was too much agitated at the moment to perceive that his urgent
manner was likely to defeat his ends.  The probability that the paper
had value had aroused the cupidity of the landlord, who stooped
cautiously, picked up the despatch, and thrust it into his pocket.

"It is mine—mine," he said gloatingly.  The man’s attitude served to
quiet Jack’s nerves.

"Very well," he said.  "Keep it.  I wouldn’t be in your shoes for
something.  Your servants have seen the despatch.  Look, there’s a crowd
of peasants gaping at the door there.  You can’t keep it quiet, even if
anything happens to me; and when General Stewart finds out what a
patriot you are, he’ll send you to the Marquis of La Romana, and then—"

Jack shrugged expressively.  The servants cast uneasy glances at their
master, who at first frowned at them, then himself looked uncomfortable.

"What does the Señor offer for it?" he said at length with a covetous
leer.

"You sell your patriotism, eh?  Well, I’ll give you five dollars."

The landlord shook his head.

"I have lost many dollars of late through the war.  It is worth more
than five dollars."

"Well, I won’t stick at a few dollars.  Say ten."

"No, no.  The Marquis of La Romana would give more than ten."

"I won’t haggle with you," cried Jack.  "I make you a last offer.  If
you accept it, you are so much to the good; if you refuse it, you not
only won’t get a maravedi, but you’ll come pretty badly off when the
authorities hear of it. I’ll give you twenty dollars, and not a peseta
more."

The landlord looked at him enquiringly, as though questioning whether he
might not squeeze a few more dollars from the young officer.  Jack eyed
him firmly.

"That’s final," he said.  "Twenty dollars, or nothing, plus your
country’s curse."

"A paltry sum!" said the innkeeper.  "In cash?" he asked cunningly.

"In cash.  I have the money here."

"Let me see it."

Chafing at the man’s suspicion, Jack unbuckled his belt, and counted out
from the pockets on the inside twenty small golden dollars of the old
coinage of Spain. The landlord’s eye gleamed.  He took out the despatch
from his pocket, and held it doubtingly in his hand.

"Give me ten dollars first," he said.

Angrier than ever, but outwardly calm, Jack handed over ten of the
coins.  The man bit each one between his teeth, and dropped them into
his pouch.

"Take it, Señor," he said.

It was the most exciting moment Jack remembered in his life when he took
the folded paper in his hand, and paid the balance of the price.  He
turned it over; there was no writing on it; the flap was fastened with a
great red seal; what if it was no despatch after all?  Instantly he
broke the seal, and, unfolding the stiff paper, read at the top:


"To the Marshal Duke of Dalmatia, commanding the Second Army Corps at
Saldana, the Vice-Constable Major-General".


His eyes swam, and he felt a rush of blood to his cheeks. The landlord
was droning on to his servants, and Jack remembered afterwards, with
infinite amusement, that, at this tense moment, he had heard as in a
dream the land-lord directing his servant to put out one of the candles;
one was enough: "’Tis a waste of good pork fat, and we have no pigs left
in Spain—bar the French."

He read on by the light of one guttering dip, running his eye rapidly
down the closely-written page.  Moment by moment his joy increased.  The
despatch was written from Chamartin by Marshal Berthier, Prince of
Neufchatel, and Jack saw that it contained Napoleon’s plan of campaign,
and gave information of the position of his armies which would be beyond
price to Moore.  Having read it hastily, he went through it again with
more care, fixing the details in his mind in case by any mishap he
should lose it before reaching head-quarters.  What he read was as
follows:—


"I read to the Emperor your letter of the 4th of December, which was
brought by one of your officers.  His Majesty approves of all you have
done.  The brigades of Generals Debelle and Franceschi are under your
orders, and you can manoeuvre them as you think proper.  The Emperor is
of opinion that with the division of Merle and the division of Mouton,
together with the four regiments of cavalry, nothing can resist you.

"What are you to do?  Take possession of Leon, drive back the enemy into
Galicia, make yourself master of Benavente and Zamora.  You can have no
English in your front, for some of their regiments came to the Escurial
and Salamanca, and everything shows that they are in full retreat.  Our
advance-guard is this day at Talavera de la Reyna, upon the road to
Badajos, which it will reach soon.  It will be clear to you that this
movement must compel the English to hasten immediately to Lisbon, if
they have not gone there already.  The moment you are sure that the
English have retreated (of which there is every presumption), move
forward with rapidity.  There are no Spaniards who can resist your two
divisions.  Order shoes and greatcoats to be made at Leon, Santander,
and Palencia.  His Majesty grants every demand for improving your
equipment. You may also require mules for your artillery, and horses to
remount your cavalry; but let it all be done according to the regular
forms of administration.

"It is possible that as soon as the dragoons of General Millet arrive in
Spain, the Emperor will send them on to you.  But his cannot happen for
a fortnight.  At the distance at which you are you must be guided by
what you think best, and look upon all I write as only general
instructions.  His Majesty conceives that you will take measures to
reduce the country between the Douro, Galicia, and the Asturias, always
most carefully guarding Santander.  The 5th Corps, commanded by the
Marshal Duke of Treviso, has been ordered to advance on Saragossa; the
8th Corps, under the Duke of Abrantes, whose 1st Division arrived at
Vittoria on the 12th, will probably receive orders to concentrate at
Burgos.  Gunboats and armoured vessels of any kind have orders to sail
for Santander.  Load them with confiscated English merchandise, cotton,
wool, artillery, and send all to France.

"Five divisions of Castaños’ best troops have been routed with even less
difficulty than you found in beating the Estremaduran army at Burgos.
The wreck of Castaños’ army is being pursued by Marshal Bessières, who
has cut them off the road to Estremadura, and is pursuing them towards
Valencia, several marches beyond the Tagus.  The Emperor’s headquarters
are at Chamartin, a little country seat a league and a half from Madrid.
His Majesty enjoys an excellent state of health.

"The city of Madrid is quite tranquil.  The shops are all open, the
public amusements are resumed, and there is not the least appearance of
our first proposals having been emphasized by 4000 cannon balls.

"THE PRINCE OF NEUFCHATEL,
       "Major-General.

"I will send you to-morrow a proclamation and some decrees of the
Emperor, in which you will recognize the style of him who was born to
command the world."


Every word was impressed on Jack’s memory as though burnt in with fire.
He had been disappointed of catching a Frenchman!  He almost laughed
aloud, for here, surely, was a find worth a king’s ransom.

"Landlord, I ride back to Rueda."  His voice had the ring of authority.
"My own horse is tired.  I will ride the Frenchman’s horse.  You will
keep mine here until it is sent for, and a fair price shall be paid you
for the other if mine is returned to me safe and sound.  At once, if you
please!"

It was not the Spaniard’s way to move with alacrity, and it took fifteen
minutes to saddle the horse and bring it round from the stables.  Then
Jack mounted, his whole body tingling with joy; and, the despatch
carefully buttoned up inside his tunic, he set off on the fine Arab gray
for Rueda.

The horse was not too fresh, and went all too slowly for Jack’s eager
haste.  It was near midnight when he cantered into the open street of
Rueda, and dismounted at the door of the posada.  There was a light in
this as in many other houses, and he guessed that here he would be most
likely to find General Stewart.  The sound of his horse’s hoofs had
drawn an orderly to the door.

"Ah, Benson, catch hold of this nag, there’s a good fellow!  Is the
general up?"

"Yes, you’ll find him in the first room, sir."

Jack waited to hear no more.  He almost ran into the room, and found
himself in the presence of General Stewart and a few other officers.

"Oh, it’s you!" said Stewart, turning on his chair to face the intruder.
"Now, look here, Lumsden, this is all very well, but things may go too
far, you know.  ’Twas a mere fool’s trick to bolt off after a runaway
vedette when, for all you knew, a whole army-corps was within a mile of
us."

"Sorry, sir," said Jack, "but I understood that you wished to secure the
whole party, and I went after the only one that had escaped....  There
are no Frenchmen on the road; in fact, to the best of my belief there’s
only one Frenchman between here and Valladolid, and he’s dead."

"You got him after all, then?" said Stewart with a gleam of interest.

"Unluckily no, sir; he got off.  It was another fellow, and he carried
this despatch."

The general took the paper without a word.  He opened it, and began to
read.

"Gad, what a find!" he exclaimed.  "Look here, Seymour.  ’Born to
command the world’, begad!"

The other officers got up and looked over his shoulder. Jack watched
their faces, and noticed how their expression changed from an ordinary
interest and amusement to an excitement rivalling his own.

"By George, Lumsden," cried the general as he finished the document,
"you’ve found a treasure here!"

"It cost me twenty dollars, sir."

"Dirt cheap at twenty thousand!  How did it happen?"

Jack briefly told the story.

"Boney was always too careless about his aides-de-camp," said Seymour.
"The idea of sending the poor chap off without an escort!"

"Spare your pity!" laughed Stewart.  "This must go off to the
commander-in-chief at once."  He looked at Jack, and added dryly: "I
suppose you are too tired to take it yourself?"

"If you’ll give me a fresh horse I’ll start at once, sir."

"Very well, though you look dog-tired.  Have you got a flask you can
give him, Seymour?  That’s right. There’s a fellow half an hour ahead of
you, with a despatch reporting our capture here—and I’ve put you down as
missing, my boy.  You’re sure you can do it?  It’s a ride of nearly
twenty miles."

"I’ll go, sir," said Jack simply.  "May I mention two things?  I left my
horse at the posting inn at Valdestillos, and promised to send for it
and buy the Frenchman’s gray. Will you look at it, sir, and offer a
price?  And there was a little gipsy boy with a few Spaniards in the
watch-house here.  The boy has been rather useful to me; will you order
him and the rest to be released and looked after a bit?"

"Done to both.  I’ll buy the horse myself if he’s fit; and as for the
boy and those Spanish louts, they were released long ago, and the gipsy
has kept the men in fits with his monkey antics.  Now wait just a moment
while I scribble a note to Sir John, and then be off, and think yourself
a lucky young dog."

When Jack, fortified with Captain Seymour’s flask, went to the door to
mount his horse, he became for the first time thoroughly aware how tired
he was.  He had been in the saddle almost without intermission for more
than twelve hours, and as he lifted his foot to the stirrup, he felt as
though his thigh was weighted with lead, and on the point of snapping.
But he would never have confessed his fatigue, much less have abnegated
his right to carry the important despatch to the commander-in-chief; so,
aching but cheerful, he cantered off into the night.

He had a ride of eighteen or twenty miles before him, and it was now
past midnight.  "Thank heaven!" he said to himself, "in three hours or
so I shall be between the sheets."  Soon after he started, snow began to
fall in scattered flakes, giving cold and gentle dabs to his face. The
horse answered to his spur, and trotted rapidly along the solitary road,
which grew whiter and whiter as he proceeded, past the cabin where the
French outpost had been surprised, past the cross-road where the little
tussle of the afternoon had taken place, over the bridge, up the hill,
and thus on and on until he was within a couple of miles of the town of
Alaejos.

At this point he overtook suddenly another horseman, whom the snow,
driving now thick and fast, had hidden from his sight, while the
carpeted road had deadened the sound of his own horse’s hoofs.  Guessing
at once that this must be the courier bearing General’s Stewart’s
earlier despatch, the recollection that he had been reported missing
made him chuckle.  Throwing a word of salutation to the rider as he
passed him, he urged his horse to a gallop, soon came to the advanced
pickets of the British force, and in a few minutes arrived at the door
of the house in which Sir John Moore had fixed his quarters.  The
general had not long arrived, and was still up, engaged in arranging
with a few of his staff the details of the next day’s march.  Jack was
ushered to his room at once.  Staggering in, white from head to heel, he
drew Stewart’s letter and the intercepted despatch from his breast
pocket, and, holding them out towards the general, he said:

"A despatch, sir, from General Stewart."

"Ah, indeed!" said Sir John, rising in his chair.  "I hardly
expected—why, Colborne, the boy’s done up!  See to him."

Jack’s face had turned the colour of his snow-laden cloak, and he would
have fallen had not Major Colborne, Moore’s secretary, hastily caught
him and placed him on a seat, asking one of the aides-de-camp present to
give him some cordial.  Meanwhile Sir John had hurriedly run his eye
over Stewart’s covering note, and was now eagerly perusing Berthier’s
despatch.

"Gad, we have him at last!" he exclaimed, as he came to the end.  The
assembled officers looked expectant of an explanation, but at this
moment the courier whom Jack had passed on the road entered, bearing the
despatch announcing the capture of the French garrison at Rueda.

"Another despatch!" exclaimed the general; "Stewart appears to have been
busy."

Tearing it open, he said, with a jubilant note in his voice:

"First blood, gentlemen!  The campaign has opened at last.  General
Stewart has captured fifty of Franceschi’s chasseurs and seventy of
Lefebvre’s infantry at Rueda, and—why, what’s this?  Lieutenant Lumsden
missing!"

He looked across the room at Jack, who had now recovered, and was
sitting, half-asleep, with his back to the wall.

"You’re Mr. Lumsden, surely?" he said.

"Yes, sir."

"I thought I could not be mistaken.  How is it you are reported missing
in the second despatch?"

"I was missing when the courier left, sir.  I overtook him on the road."

"I see.  You’re dead beat, I’m afraid, but I should be glad to hear how
you came by this despatch of yours, if you can manage to keep awake for
a few minutes."

Jack briefly gave an account of the circumstances.

"You did very well, uncommonly well, Mr. Lumsden," said Sir John when he
had concluded.  "Colborne, be good enough to send someone to see Mr.
Lumsden safely to the quarters of the 95th.  Mr. Lumsden, you will hear
from me to-morrow."

Jack rose stiffly and saluted; then, accompanied by one of the
aides-de-camp, he walked off to the quarters of his battalion.  The
officers had all gone to bed.  Learning from Jack the name of his
servant, the aide-de-camp roused the servants’ quarters, and, just as
the church clock was striking three, Jack was put to bed in a cosy
little room on the ground floor of the house by his man Giles Ogbourne.


"What I want to know is, when are we agoing to have a slap at the
French?  Here we’ve been tramping and camping for two months or more,
and nothing to show for it—not a shot fired.  And you call that
sojering!"

The words and the grunt that followed came on Jack’s ears as it were out
of a mist, along with the pungent fumes of strong tobacco.  He had just
awoke from a heavy sleep; the window of his room was open, and he could
see the deep-blue sky of a fine December day.

"My friend Corporal Wilkes holding forth!" he said to himself with a
smile, and, turning on his back, he listened for more.

"What are we here for?" went on the grumbler. "What’s the good of
cleaning your rifle day after day when it’s had no chance of getting
fouled?  It’s nothing but walking, walking, walking; ’ang me if we ain’t
out on a bloomin’ walking-match."

"There’s been a bit of a scrum somewhere for’ard, so I heard," put in
another voice.  "P’raps things is waking up, corp’ril."

"Shut up, Bates!  What’s the good o’ that to us?  It was those
long-legged dragoons, by all accounts.  Why should they have it all?
Where does the 95th come in?—that’s what I want to know.  What’s the
good o’ pickin’ out the Rifles from the whole army and then giving them
cavalry chaps the only job that’s going?  Besides, nothing’ll come of
it.  We shall only have a longer walk than ever, you see.  A flick in
the ear to the French, so to say, and then we skedaddles!"

"That ain’t fair, corp’ril.  Who says we’re a-going to sheer off?"

"Nobody _says_ we’re going to sheer off, but anyone with half an eye
could see those blessed grub-carts over there cutting up the roads this
morning, and anyone with an ounce of gumption would know what that
means.  That ain’t the road to Valladolid!  What I want to know is, do
the general mean to fight, or don’t he?  If he do, let’s step off on
shanks his mare and get to business; if he don’t—why, he’s only spoiling
good sojers, that’s all I’ve got to say."

"Not so much noise, corp’ril," said Giles Ogbourne; "you’ll wake Mr.
Lumsden."

"Spoil his beauty sleep, eh?  Where’s he been, getting so dead tired
that he ain’t up to take his rations?  I don’t hold with such late
hours.  Not but what he’s a good plucked ’un mostly, and I don’t grudge
him the—"

At this point Jack got out of bed, wincing as his aching muscles
reminded him of the previous day’s hard work.

"You there, Giles?" he said, putting his head out of the window.  "Get
me some hot water, and then see about my breakfast while I dress."

A guffaw broke from the soldiers below, and was instantly suppressed.

"Yes, sir," said Giles, adding: "Beg pardon, sir, but it’s not
breakfast, it’s dinner."

Jack laughed.

"What!  Have I been asleep so long?  What’s the time?"

"Gone four, sir, and mess is at a quarter past."

"Hurry up, then!  There’s just time."

"Mr. Pomeroy’s been twice to see if you was up, sir, but he wouldn’t let
me disturb you.  And he said I was on no account to say a word about—"

He caught himself up, with a blush that gave his honest round face a
very boyish air.

"About what?"

"I wasn’t to say, sir."

"Oh well, cut off and fetch the water!  Been fighting any Spaniards
lately, Wilkes?"

"No such luck, sir.  Spaniards or French, it’s all one to me, and what I
want to know is—"

Jack smiled and shut the window.

When he entered the mess-room he found the officers of his regiment
already seated, Colonel Beckwith being at the head of the table.

"Hullo!" exclaimed Smith, who was opposite the door. His exclamation
drew all eyes towards Jack, and as he passed down the table to take the
place made for him beside Pomeroy, the subalterns rapped knives and
glasses on the unstained deal, and gave a rousing welcome to the
wanderer.

"Of all the lucky beggars!" said Pomeroy in Jack’s ear, when the general
greetings had subsided.  "And I can’t even punch your head!"

"You’re welcome to try," retorted Jack, "but allow me to get some dinner
first.  I’ve had nothing but pucheros and gaspachos for days past, and
there are heavy arrears to make up."

"Well, I don’t want to take advantage of you, though you have played me
rather a mean trick."

"What do you mean?"

"Wine with you, Mr. Lumsden," interjected Colonel Beckwith from the far
end of the table; "a good ride, begad!"

"Thank you, sir! most happy," said Jack, with a look of mingled pleasure
and surprise.  After the interchange of compliments, Jack, turning again
to Pomeroy, said quietly: "What’s Sidney driving at?  I’ve never been
honoured in this way since I first joined."

"Oh, he’s anxious!" returned Pomeroy carelessly.

"Anxious!  About what?"

"About his job."

"How?  What?"

"’Fraid he’ll be superseded, you know."

Jack was so much puzzled by the apparent inconsequence of the reply that
he failed to remark the wide grin of amusement which all the subalterns
within hearing were vainly endeavouring to dissemble.

"He’s trying to carry it off," added Pomeroy.

"I say, Smith, what does this lunatic mean?"

"What!  Haven’t you heard the rumour?" answered Smith.

"’What great ones do the less will prattle of,’" quoted Shirley _sotto
voce_.

"What rumour?" asked Jack, more mystified than ever.

"Well, there may be nothing in it, but for my own part I think it’s a
shame to promote a raw sub like you over the heads of men like Colonel
Beckwith and Captain O’Hare, to say nothing of Pomeroy."

Jack, looking somewhat startled, appealed to Captain O’Hare, who was
bubbling with amusement.

"Are they all mad, sir?"

"’S mad’s hatters!" replied O’Hare with a chuckle. "’Tis a shame to keep
ye in suspense.  The fact is, my boy, as you’d have learnt if you’d only
kept dacent hours, you’ve been growing in your sleep.  You’re like the
mushroom that blooms in the dark.  You went to bed a second lieutenant
and woke up a full-blown one.  ’Tis most unusual, this promotion, and
bedad, ’tis Peter O’Hare himself that’s glad, so he is, and so’s all the
rest of us."

"Except me," said Pomeroy in a tone of regret; "for as my superior
officer I can’t punch his head."

There was a laugh, under which Jack was glad to hide his pleasure and
embarrassment.

"And the worst is," added Pomeroy, "that it’s another bet won for the
Grampus."

"By the way," asked Jack, "what’s become of the Grampus?"

"Oh!" said Smith, "he went off a week ago.  Said he came out to be at
the front; bet me Baird would open the ball with Soult, and went to lend
a hand."

"He’ll be lucky if he isn’t made mincemeat of by the French, or else by
Spanish bandits," said O’Hare.  "These amachures would be safer at
home."

At this moment an orderly entered and handed a note to Colonel Beckwith,
who, having read it, crumpled it up and rapped on the table.

"Gentlemen, I may as well inform you, although of course it must go no
further to-night, that a change has been made in our route.  We march
for Toro to-morrow."

There was a dead silence, broken only by a half-audible growl from
Captain O’Hare.  The shadow of a smile flickered across the colonel’s
face as he noticed the glum looks of his officers.

"This change, I may add, is due to some news lately received."  Here he
glanced quizzingly at Jack.  "It’s not so bad as it looks, and you may
take my word for it that before the week’s out we shall be in the thick
of it."

"Thanks be!" said Captain O’Hare.



                              *CHAPTER XI*

                         *Napoleon in Pursuit*


To the Douro—Pepito Turns Up—Four Noble Spaniards—At Sahagun—In
Suspense—News from La Romana—On the Trail—War with the Elements—Word
from O’Hare—A Cavalry Skirmish—A Break-down


Sir John Moore had instantly recognized the immense importance of the
despatch so opportunely discovered by Jack at Valdestillos.  It informed
him of the exact positions of the various components of the Imperial
army; it assured him also that up to the present Napoleon’s ignorance of
his enemy’s whereabouts was profound. But Moore knew that after
Stewart’s brilliant little affair at Rueda it was only a matter of days
before this ignorance would be dispelled, and then Napoleon would
without doubt launch every Frenchman within striking distance upon his
track.  If, therefore, he pursued his original intention of moving on
Valladolid he would come into the direct line of the emperor’s advance,
whereas, with his new information about Soult’s position, it was just
possible that he would have time to strike a blow at that marshal before
the huge masses converging on Madrid could be wheeled round and hurried
over the passes of the Guadarrama in direct pursuit, or pushed forward
from Burgos upon his flank.  That Napoleon would interrupt all other
operations to crush him he had no doubt, and if he was to strike at all
it must be at once.

His own force numbered some 25,000 men, and he was assured from several
sources that he might hope for the co-operation of La Romana, who was
said to be at the head of a continually increasing army of Spaniards at
Leon.  Thus reinforced, he would be more than a match for Soult, if
Soult, with some 16,000 men, were ill-advised enough to risk an action.
On the other hand, if Soult, probably the ablest of Napoleon’s marshals,
resisted the temptation to close with Moore before the other French
armies came up, the British general would have, as he himself said, "to
run for it", with one army on his flank and three others at his heels.
The risks were great; the boldest general might well shrink from the
ordeal with which Sir John was now confronted.  But Moore’s courage and
promptitude increased with the magnitude of the peril; he fully counted
the cost, and, feeling bound in honour to take this one chance of saving
Spain, he quickly formed his resolution and set to work with energy to
carry it out.

Within a few hours of receiving the intercepted despatch, Moore
countermanded the advance to Valladolid, and ordered his infantry to
cross the Douro at Zamora and Toro, throwing out cavalry as a screen for
both columns.  When the news spread through the ranks that a rapid move
was to be made against Soult, their enthusiasm knew no bounds.  The
dissatisfaction which all had felt, the murmurs which had not been
confined to the men, gave place to jubilation, and it was with laughter
and singing that the advance-guard marched out of Alaejos northward to
the Douro.

Jack’s regiment was brigaded with others to form the Reserve, and the
men had to curb their impatience for some hours before their turn to
march arrived.  It was a bitterly cold day, that 15th of December, and,
having performed all their immediate duties, Jack and his fellow
subalterns were stamping up and down before their quarters, wrapped in
long cloaks, and doing their best to warm their blood.  They had been so
busy since Jack’s arrival that there had been no time to get from him a
full account of his recent adventures, but now, in their enforced
idleness, they kept up a fire of questions as to where he had been and
what he had seen, and how it was that he had had, as they put it, all
the luck.  Jack found that the simplest means to escape the bombardment
was to give a consecutive account of the events at Rueda and
Valdestillos, to which his chums listened with interest, scarcely
remarking the modesty with which the narrator minimized his own share in
the bustling incidents.

"That boy Pepito, you see," he said at one point in his narrative, "is
not quite the thorn in the flesh we all supposed he was going to be.  In
fact, he has the strangest knack of turning up at odd moments when he
can be of use—"

"A regular god in the machine!" said Shirley.

"A familiar spirit, I’d call him," said Pomeroy.  "I never had much
faith in witchcraft, but upon my word I shall soon begin to believe that
you’re in league with the powers of darkness, and no wonder you have
such confounded luck!"

"Talk of the—" cried Smith suddenly.  "Look at that!"

The subalterns, looking in the direction pointed out by Smith’s
stretched forefinger, saw, at the other end of the street, a strange
cavalcade approaching.  Between two stalwart troopers of the 18th Light
Dragoons rode a picturesque little figure on a gaily-caparisoned mule,
the rider cocking his head aloft with a consequential air that was
irresistibly comic.  Behind tramped a crowd of foot-soldiers, and the
rear was brought up by a troop of dragoons.

"By George!" cried Pomeroy, "it’s Pepito himself, riding in like a
conqueror.

"And the French prisoners of Rueda behind him," added Jack.  "I’m glad
to see the boy.  Giles, go and see where they halt, and bring the little
beggar to me."

In a few minutes Giles returned, bringing not only Pepito but a group of
four rather dilapidated-looking Spaniards.

"My friends of the Olmedo inn," thought Jack, recognizing them with a
chuckle.  "Well, Pepito, so you’ve turned up again, eh?"

"Sí, Señor," answered the gipsy with his captivating smile.  "And with
me the four noble Spaniards, Señor."

"So I see.  You seem in high feather.  You’d better tell me what has
happened since I saw you last on the way to Medina."

Pepito stood in the centre of the group of officers, while the four
stablemen hung on the outskirts, Giles keeping a watchful eye on them.
The boy, speaking in rapid Spanish, with an occasional Romany word when
he found his emotions too much for him, told how, after being provided
with clothes by Giles Ogbourne, he had started to track the Señor, in
spite of orders to the contrary.  Being hungry, and having no money, he
had, on arriving at the farmhouse where Jack had met him, offered to
clip the farmer’s mules, such clipping being the traditional occupation
of the gipsies in Spain.  There he had seen Jack’s plight, caught sight
of the pursuers, and instantly determined the course of action he
adopted. When overtaken by the panting stablemen, he had sent them off
on the wrong track; but they carried him along with them and threatened
him with a lingering death if he proved to have played them false.  He
was cudgelling his wits for a plan of escape when, as luck would have
it, they fell suddenly in with a troop of French chasseurs, who captured
the whole party, chose to assume that they were spies, and bundled them
into the watch-house at Rueda to await punishment.

"Ay, ay, that cell!" said Pepito.  "It was dark and damp and foul, and
Señor knows how the Romany love the fresh air and the open sky.  But
still, there were the Busne, the four noble Busne, Señor, and when I
felt sad I would laugh at them, and tell them what fools they were, who
the Señor really was, and how it was all their own fault if they were
shot.  Oh, it was good, Señor!"  The gipsy’s black eyes twinkled at the
recollection.

"I’m afraid you’re a mischievous young scamp," said Jack.  "You’d better
come along with me—that is, if you’ll behave yourself."

"Ta ra, ta ra!  Viva!" cried Pepito, flinging his knife in the air and
catching it as it fell.  "’The Romany chal to his horse did cry’"—and
singing his merry song he skipped up to Giles, and dug the stolid
Devonian in the ribs.

Meanwhile, Jack beckoned to the Spaniards, and they slouched towards him
with shamefaced sullenness. Addressing the biggest of them, he said with
a smile:

"Well, hombre, you will be wiser next time.  It might have been awkward
for you.  You’d better go home by way of Salamanca, or you might happen
to meet some more Frenchmen.  Here, you may find this useful."

He gave the man a few pesetas, and the four dejected fellows, muttering
their thanks, shambled away.

Half an hour later the order came for the regiment to march, and soon
the men were swinging along on the way to Toro.  It was a fine frosty
day, and the cold, though keen, was exhilarating.  The road, which in
wet weather would have been a mere slough of mud, was now frozen hard,
and walking was easy and pleasant.  Many women walked with the regiment;
others, with their children, were perched on the baggage- and
ammunition-wagons.  There was joking and laughter; the prospect of soon
meeting the enemy whom they had been so long hoping to fight gave
brightness to the men’s eyes and elasticity to their gait.  Colonel
Beckwith rode up and down the column, throwing a word to this man and
that, encouraging the laggards and chaffing the boasters.  A little snow
fell at times, causing the women to snuggle under their cloaks and the
men to growl about wet boots; but during this day’s march, and the four
succeeding days’, the high spirits of the regiment were well maintained,
and it was with surprisingly little loss by sick or stragglers that the
infantry arrived, on December 20th, at Mayorga, where a junction was
effected with the column under Sir David Baird.  They moved forward
again the following morning, and their enthusiasm was raised to the
highest pitch by the news that Lord Paget, with the 10th and 15th
Hussars, had surprised a large body of French cavalry in Sahagun,
killing or capturing over 200 officers and men.

When they arrived at this place in the evening, the main army found that
it had outstripped its supplies. Wagons were short, and neither food nor
clothing was to be had.  It was therefore imperative that a
breathing-space should be allowed, that time should be given for
recruiting their strength and repairing their equipment. Eager as they
were to fight, they were not sorry when they learnt that at least a
day’s rest was to be given them.

But when the whole of December 22nd passed without the expected order to
advance, the men again began to chafe at the delay.  Corporal Wilkes and
some of his cronies were sitting round their camp-fire on the evening of
that day discussing the situation.

"What I want to know," said Wilkes in a tone suggesting that he would
rather have resented the information—"what I want to know is, why we
don’t up and at them Frenchmen at once.  What are we waiting for?  True,
we ain’t had much grub, and our toggery ain’t exactly what the general
would specially admire on parade, but over yonder, where that Marshal
Salt, or whatever they call him, is, there’s plenty of tommy and fine
clothes too, and if we could only make a move we’d very soon be able to
fill our insides and polish up our outsides.  Here we are, three days
off Christmas, and where’s the roast-beef and plum-pudding to come from?
We’ll have to sing for it, by what I can see."

"Sing for it!" interposed Bates with a grunt.  "No, thank’ee; we’ve had
enough of the waits.  Ha! ha!"

There was a general guffaw at Bates’s little witticism.

"I don’t see nothing to laugh at," growled Wilkes, resenting the
interruption.  The others looked reproachfully at Bates, who relapsed
into abashed silence.

It was not until the morning of the 23rd that the general of the
Reserve, Sir Edward Paget, a younger brother of Lord Paget, received
marching orders.  On the evening of that day he was to move his division
forward from Grajal del Campo along the road to Carrion, join the main
body, and halt until head-quarters should arrive from Sahagun.  At this
news the younger and less experienced men found it almost impossible to
keep still.

"Lie down and rest, you silly fellows," said Jack to a group of men whom
he saw fidgeting about in sheer nervousness and anxiety.  "Look at
Wilkes yonder; he knows what war is, and he’s snoring away, getting a
good sleep before the march to-night.  Here, Pepito, just come and show
these fellows some of your tricks, and keep them amused, or they’ll be
dead-beat before they start."

Pepito, who had followed Jack like a shadow ever since he had left
Alaejos, obediently went among the men, and soon had them laughing
merrily at his absurd antics and extraordinary gibberish.  The bleak
winter day passed, and at four o’clock, under a gray and leaden sky, the
Reserve at last set out towards what they hoped was to be a brilliant
victory.  The whole country was covered deep with snow.  The men had
been ordered to refrain from talking or singing while on the march; and
thus, in cold and silence, the column trudged along in the gathering
night.

After some hours’ tramping a halt was called, and the men stood and
shivered and wondered.

"What are we waiting for now?" growled Corporal Wilkes, shaking the snow
from his shako.

"To let the guns come up, shouldn’t wonder," returned his friend Bates.
"This blessed snow makes it slow work to bring ’em along."

"I expect it’s old Romana not up to the scratch," suggested Tom Plunket,
the best shot in the regiment. "Very likely he’s lost his way, or
forgotten the date, or frizzing his moustache, or something, and that’s
keeping our general waiting."

"Humph!" growled Wilkes, "another case of to-morrer, to-morrer.  Tell
you what, boys, these Dons will say ’manaña’ once too often.  When the
last roll-call comes they’ll say ’manaña’ as sure as fate, and then
where’ll they be?—that’s what I want to know."

"Hush! what’s that?" said Sergeant Jones, a little man known familiarly
as "The Weasel".

A bugle-call was sounding.  Every man started to his feet.  Surely the
two hours’ halt was over and the battle was at hand.  But no; there was
no sound of movement among the troops, no cheer from the men near the
general’s quarters.  While the men stood in a tense attitude of
expectancy, Jack came up out of the darkness.

"Men," he said quietly, "we are ordered back to Grajal.  Fall in!"

Not a word broke from them.  Back to Grajal?  But the French were not
there.  Was the battle postponed again?  No one appeared to know the
meaning of this new order.  They collected their kits, strapped on their
heavy knapsacks, and trudged despondently back over the frozen roads.

At six o’clock that evening a note had been brought to Sir John Moore
from the Marquis of La Romana.  It read:


LEON, _Dec. 22_.

SIR,

The confidential person whom I had placed on the River Douro has written
to me on the 18th inst. that he is assured that the enemy’s troops
posted at the Escurial are moving in this direction.

He adds that if the person who gave him this intelligence should not
arrive the same day he would go himself to Villacastin, twelve leagues
from Madrid, to watch the two roads, the one of which leads to Zamora,
and the other to Segovia.

I hasten to give this information to your Excellency that you may judge
what measures are requisite to be taken.

LA ROMANA.


What Moore had expected and hoped for had come to pass.  It was clear
that Napoleon had learnt the British position at last, and was hastening
from Madrid northward across the mountains with his whole army to crush
the little force.

"We must cut and run for it," said Moore to his staff with a hard smile.
"And by Jove we’ll give them a race!"

When Moore suddenly, ten days before, altered his line of march from the
Valladolid to the Toro road, Napoleon had not had time to learn of the
affair at Rueda.  He had made up his mind that the British were
retreating on Lisbon, and had already despatched Lefebvre and Lasalle in
pursuit by way of Badajos, preparing himself to back them up with an
overwhelming army of 40,000 men and 150 guns.  The news of Stewart’s
exploit at Rueda reached him on the 19th.  It had the effect of an
electric shock. Where before had been activity, there was now feverish
energy.  Couriers were sent on the instant to all parts of Spain,
ordering all the scattered units of his immense force to converge on
Valladolid, which he persisted in believing to be Moore’s objective.
Mere skeleton corps were left to hold in check the shattered Spanish
armies. The rest followed Napoleon over the Guadarrama mountains, or
pushed along the Burgos road to join hands with Soult.

On the 21st, the same day on which Moore marched for Sahagun, an immense
French army, comprising the flower of Napoleon’s troops, left Madrid.
Marshal Ney, "le plus brave des braves", led the van, and he was lucky
in bringing his troops across the Guadarrama in comparatively fine
weather.  But no sooner had he crossed than a terrific snow-storm burst
over the mountains.  When Napoleon himself arrived from Madrid he found
the passes blocked with snow, guns, wagons, all kinds of impedimenta;
and the advance, on which so much depended, to all appearance
indefinitely delayed.

[Illustration: Map of Spain and Portugal to illustrate Moore’s Campaign]

But opposition, even on the part of the elements, only roused the
emperor’s indomitable energy.  The gale was raging its fiercest, men and
horses were being hurled over precipices by the force of the wind.  The
leading battalions had actually turned back and were making confusion
worse confounded, when Napoleon appeared.  Addressing the soldiers, he
announced that he meant to overtake the British at all costs.  He set
thousands of men to clear the drifts, others to beat down the snow into
a hard road, over which the artillery, harnessed with double teams,
crawled painfully northward.  He ordered the members of each infantry
section to link arms and thus help each other along the perilous
mountain way.  He dismounted the cavalry, and used their horses to haul
the guns.  Then, gathering his staff about him, he bade them lock their
arms, and himself led the way, walking arm in arm with Lannes and Duroc.
Thus, in the teeth of wind, snow, and ice they pushed up the wild
mountain steeps.  Half-way up, the marshals and generals, who wore
jack-boots, were too much exhausted to move another step.  Nothing
daunted, Napoleon had himself hoisted on a gun, and sat there astride.
He called to his marshals to do the same; and thus, after four hours
battling with the elements, the grotesque cavalcade reached the convent
on the summit, where, with food and wine, the rigours of the march were
forgotten.

It was in this spirit of fierce determination that the great emperor,
sparing himself as little as his troops, strained every nerve to
accomplish the end he had in view—the destruction of Moore’s gallant
little army.  If La Romana’s confidential agents had been napping, Moore
might indeed have beaten Soult, but only to find himself enveloped by a
force triple his own in numbers, commanded by the most brilliant soldier
of the age.  Fortunately, information had reached La Romana, and through
him Moore, in time.  At the moment when Napoleon arrived at Villacastin,
only some three marches distant, Moore was countermanding the advance on
Sahagun.

That moment marked the ebb of Napoleon’s fortunes. Hitherto he had
pursued his wonderful career with scarcely a check; but the decision of
Moore on that December evening was the signal for the break-up of
Napoleon’s power; it was the step that saved Europe.  It diverted the
emperor from his immediate purpose of conquest, and engaged his huge
armies in a fruitless and exhausting chase; it gave Spain time to
bethink herself and rise as a nation.  Her rising set an example to
Europe, by which Austria and Prussia slowly profited, and which led
Russia, three years later, to that spirited defiance which burnt Moscow
and brought destruction upon the finest army in the world.

The British retreated in two columns, one, under General Baird, by the
northern road to Valencia, the other, under General Hope, by Mayorga
towards Benavente.  General Paget’s reserve division, including the two
light brigades under Generals Anstruther and Disney, and five cavalry
regiments, remained for twenty-four hours behind the main body.  It was
on Christmas-day that Jack’s regiment received orders to march.  The men
were formed up in readiness for starting.  Every face was gloomy, every
heart bitter with rage.  It was only vaguely known in the ranks why the
advance had been so suddenly countermanded, and the general opinion was
that it was due to the cowardice and incompetence of the Spaniards. The
officers remarked this spirit of sullen discontent, and Captain O’Hare
determined to make a personal appeal. Calling his company to attention,
he stood in pouring rain and addressed them.

"Now, my boys," he said cheerily, "we must put a good face on it.  The
froggies are too many for us now, and the general don’t want every
mother’s son of you to be clapped into a French prison.  We’re off to
Astorga, and bedad, if Marshal Soult comes within reach of our heels,
we’ll give him a good parting kick before Boney arrives.  But remember,
we form part of the rear-guard; ’tis the post of honour because ’tis the
place of danger.  If there is to be any fighting, ’twill fall to us, and
every man Jack of you must keep himself as fit as a fiddle, or he won’t
be able to do what’s wanted.  I trust to you, my boys; and sure we’ll
show that every Englishman, whether Scotch or Irish, is worth ten
Frenchmen yet.  Shoulder arms! Left turn!  Quick march!"

"All very well," grumbled Charley Bates, as he swung along beside
Corporal Wilkes; "there’s to be fighting at Astorga, he says.  The
general means to march us to death first, and expects us to fight
after!"

"You shut up, Bates," said the corporal sullenly.  He was just as much
irritated as his friends, but, being disputatious by nature, he was
ready to contradict anyone. "I’ve fought under Johnny Moore before, and
he ain’t one to run for nothing.  And you and me, Charley Bates, has got
to show a good example to them young orficers—Mr. Lumsden an’ the
rest,—didn’t you hear Peter say so? So step out, my boy, and don’t
argue."

"Hear that, Pommy?" said Jack, who was nearer the corporal than that
worthy believed.

"I heard it," growled Pomeroy, "and I hope you’ll profit by Wilkes’s
example."

They needed all their strength of will to preserve their cheerfulness.
A thaw had set in, and the road, running between fields of soft rich
loam, was knee-deep in slushy clay.  All that day they tramped heavily
through the rain. They halted at Mayorga for the night, and pushed on
next day to Valderas, their clothes like sponges, their limbs racked
with pain.  At the halting-places they saw the first signs of failing
discipline.  Some of the men in the regiments which had preceded them
had broken out and vented their rage on the houses of the Spaniards.
Food was scarce; means of carriage were lacking; and the men were so
incensed against the inhabitants of the villages through which they
passed that they seized food for themselves, and, the country being for
the most part treeless, tore down doors and sheds to provide wood for
their camp-fires.  But this marauding spirit had been as yet confined to
a few regiments; the men of the light brigades were held well in hand by
their officers, and refrained from the ill conduct of their
less-disciplined comrades.

As they marched on the 26th and 27th it became known that Lord Paget’s
cavalry were having a warm time behind them.  Soult had sent Lorge’s
dragoons in pursuit of Baird’s column, and the advance-guard of the
emperor’s army at this time began to appear, until the five British
cavalry regiments were closely pressed by no fewer than thirteen French.
But Paget was a consummate cavalry leader; spreading his 2400 men as a
screen to the whole army, he showed ceaseless activity in fending off
the assaults of the French dragoons, beating them time after time, and
capturing many prisoners.  Every effort of the French to break through
and attack the infantry was baffled and checked.  So admirably, indeed,
did he handle his men, that Napoleon imagined they were twice as
numerous as they actually were.

On the afternoon of the 27th, Jack was marching with his regiment, the
first battalion of the 95th, along the road from Valderas to Castro
Gonzalo, where the river Esla was to be crossed.  Behind came the second
battalion, with other regiments, and the rear was brought up by Lord
Paget’s cavalry.  The pace had been forced for some hours, for the
French were continually pressing closer, and Sir John Moore was anxious
to get his whole army across the river without delay.  He had given
orders that when the passage had been completed the bridge was to be
destroyed, and Jack and his fellow-subalterns were disappointed that
this task, and the chance of a brush with the enemy, would fall to the
second battalion and not the first.

About half a mile before they reached the village of Castro Gonzalo
there was a momentary stoppage of the column, caused, as was learnt in a
few minutes, by the breaking down of the last of the baggage-wagons.
Jack’s company happened to be the nearest to the scene of the accident,
and as they halted, Captain O’Hare came up and said:

"Lumsden, I’ll leave you with a squad of men to repair this confounded
cart.  It’s got our whole wardrobe in it, and we can’t afford to lose
that.  Choose your men, and don’t be longer about it than you can help.
You’ll probably have the job done before the second battalion come up,
but if not, there’ll be the hussars behind to see you safe in."



                             *CHAPTER XII*

                       *Corporal Wilkes on Guard*


Amateur Wheel-wrights—Wilkes Disappears—Dodging Dragoons—Night with a
Picket—A Roman Bridge—Benevente—Wilkes enters a Protest—One MacWhirter


Jack was glad to have the chance of doing something that was not merely
trudging through slush.  He selected four men to assist him with the
wagon—Wilkes, Bates, Tom Plunket, and his own man, Giles Ogbourne, who
had some experience of smith’s work.  An inspection of the vehicle
showed that the tyre of one of the wheels had broken, and with it one of
the spokes.  It was evident that, unless the tyre were repaired, the
felloe would soon fall to pieces if the wagon were hauled farther over
the heavy road. The first thing to be done was to take off the wheel.
Luckily the Portuguese driver had a spanner in the cart, and with this
the axle-cap was screwed off and the pin knocked out.

"Now, Wilkes," said Jack, "you and Bates will look after the cart while
the others come with me to find a smithy.  The second battalion will be
up in a minute or two.  If anyone asks, you can explain what has
happened."

Jack started off with the other two men, who carried the heavy wheel
between them.  Reaching the village of Castro Gonzalo, they went along
the streets in search of a smithy. Every house was deserted; the
inhabitants had fled in terror at the news that the French were
advancing. Nowhere was a smith’s shop to be seen, nowhere a person of
whom to make enquiry.

"There must be a smithy somewhere," said Jack, "even if the smith has
taken to his heels."

"Maybe ’tis along the road to the left, sir," said Giles. "The smithy
sometimes lies a bit out of the village at home."

"Perhaps.  Let us try it."

The three proceeded down the road towards Villapando, in the teeth of a
blinding storm of sleet.  At a distance of nearly half a mile from the
village they came to a small stone house at the left of the road.

"Here we are!" said Jack, noticing a horse-shoe nailed on the wall, and
some broken bits of iron by the doorway. "The door’s open; the smith
seems to have bolted."

He led the way in, and found himself in a dark smithy. The forge was
black and cold; evidently no fire had been lighted there for some time.

"Now, Giles, kindle a fire.  You’ll find some wood and charcoal about,
no doubt.  We must be quick about this, for we don’t want to be left in
the lurch."

It took some time to get a good fire alight.  The wood was damp, and
Giles’s tinder-box had not altogether escaped a wetting.  But the fire
was ablaze at last, and then Jack set to work with the creaking bellows
to blow it to a heat sufficient to weld the broken ends of the tyre.
The third man, Plunket, held the iron in the glowing charcoal with the
smith’s huge tongs, while Giles stood ready with the hammer to beat it
on the anvil.

"I’m afeard it won’t be big enough to go round the felly without a bit
more iron," said Giles; "and there don’t seem to be a bit of the right
kind here."

"Try it first.  The whole tyre may expand enough with the heat."

But when Giles had welded the broken ends, and tried to fit the tyre on
the wheel, he found that it was too short, as he had feared.

"We can’t give it up," said Jack.  "Look round the place and see if you
can find a scrap of thin iron that will serve the purpose."

After searching in the smithy and the surrounding yard for several
minutes, a strip of iron was discovered which Giles thought might weld
with the rest.  The tyre had to be heated again and cut at the cleavage.
The small piece had to be beaten until it was of the same thickness as
the tyre, and only after a good deal of patient manipulation did Giles
succeed in forming a tyre of the required circumference.  It was
finished, however, at last.  It fitted on the scorching felloe, and
after cold water had been thrown on it from the blacksmith’s tank,
filling the air with vapour and the characteristic smell of the smithy,
Giles declared that the wheel was good enough for another campaign.

"That’s right, then," said Jack.  "Now we must get back to the cart.  By
George! it has taken us a long time. It’s past five o’clock, and getting
dark.  Raining as hard as ever too!"

They trudged up the road and through the village, expecting to meet the
rear-guard of the British infantry, or at any rate the cavalry.  But
there was nobody to be seen.  They hurried along out of the village
towards the spot where, in the gathering darkness, they saw the wagon
still standing in the middle of the road.

"But where are the bullocks?" cried Jack, noticing that the shafts and
rope traces were empty.

Hastening in advance of the men, burdened as they were with the heavy
wheel, he came to the cart.

"Wilkes, where are you?"

There was no answer; nor was there any sign of the men he had left on
guard.

"This is awkward, my men," he said, as the two came up.  "The wheel’s
right, but those two fellows and the driver have gone off, and the
bullocks with them.  We can’t move the thing without animals."

"The corp’ril wouldn’t budge without he were sent, sir," said Plunket.

"Maybe the French have come up in the dark and captured ’em, sir," added
Giles.

"Nonsense! the French were not so close as all that.  I don’t fancy our
cavalry have gone by yet.  You two fellows fix the wheel on.  I am going
back to the village to find a team.  I sha’n’t be long."

Jack went back to the village in the darkness, going in and out among
the houses and the gardens, expecting every moment to come upon some
traces of the men and animals. The night was silent, save for the steady
downpour of rain and the dull roar of the flooded river, he knew not how
far beyond.  Presently he heard splashing footsteps, then two men rushed
towards him breathless—first Giles, then Plunket.

"The French dragoons!" panted Giles.

"Not our own men?" said Jack quickly.

"No, sir.  We heard hoofs, and ran up to the first house and waited; and
then two vedettes came up and stopped at the wagon, and we heard the
French lingo, sir."

"Then we must make ourselves scarce.  Have we time to reach the bridge?"

But even as he spoke, the sound of galloping horses and rumbling wagons
came from the other end of the village.

"We must cut, my men.  Follow me!" cried Jack.

Running at full speed along the Villapando road, he did not draw breath
until he reached the smithy where the tyre had been repaired.

"We must wait here till we know what is happening," he said.

As they stood by the dark forge, they heard the clash of steel and the
shouts of officers from the village.

"Soult’s men for a certainty," said Jack.  "I wonder if our fellows are
across the bridge."

Soon after came a clatter and rumble as of wagons driven furiously, and
then the thunder of horses’ hoofs. Crack!  That was a musket-shot.
Another, another, then a rapid succession of reports, muffled by
distance, struck their ears.

"They’re trying to drive our pickets in," said Jack. "Come, men, we must
try to find our own lines, or we shall stand a poor chance of escaping
with whole skins in the morning.  All we can do is to cut across the
country over there; no one will hear us through this noise.  Come
along!"

Leaving the shelter of the smithy, he ran across the road into the field
opposite.  Great clods of earth clave to his boots, and it was heavy
running; but, followed closely by the two men, he pounded on, listening
for shots on his right, and moving obliquely to the left to avoid the
skirmishers who, he guessed, had been thrown out by the French.  As he
ran he found the ground rising in a gradual ascent.  The firing still
continued in a desultory way, and Jack rejoiced that the night was so
murky that he and his men would not, as they ascended the slope, present
a mark to the enemy.  They had run for nearly twenty minutes, and were
panting for breath, when they were suddenly brought to a stop by hearing
the click of a firelock directly in front of them, and, as they ducked
their heads, a shot rang out, followed by the cry:

"Who goes there?"

"A friend—an officer of the 95th!" shouted Jack in answer.

There was a murmur of astonishment.  In the darkness several forms were
heard rather than seen to advance, and in a few moments Jack and his men
were hauled over a rough, semicircular embankment, where they found
themselves among a picket of the 43rd.

"Where the deuce do you come from?" asked the sergeant in charge,
letting go his hold of Jack’s collar.

"Look here, my man, I’m Lieutenant Lumsden of the 95th, and—

"Beg pardon, sir," said the sergeant hastily.  "No offence.  ’Twould
need cat’s eyes to tell a dook from a dustman in a night like this."

"What’s going on, sergeant?  I want to get to the bridge with my men.
Can you put us in the road?"

"Heavens above, sir, you’d be shot in a winking.  The bridge is half a
mile up-stream, and we’re holding these heights while t’other half of
the brigade knocks a hole in it.  We’re the last picket this way, and
as, judging by the sound of it, the Frenchmen are dismounted and
a-trying to pass us, and we expect ’em here direckly minute, I’m afeard
you’ll have to stay here till morning light, sir."

"Oh, all right!  I’ll take a hand if there’s any fighting. What has been
going on this afternoon, then?"

"Troops all crossed, sir, except our half-brigade."

"Are the cavalry over?"

"Yes, sir.  They came up rather late; and directly they and the guns was
got over, the general had a hole knocked in one of the arches—cut
completely through, sir—so that the rest of us will have to swim across,
I expect, if we get through the night.  And we’ll all be drownded, sure
as fate.  Hark to the water a-rushing and raving behind us!"

His voice, indeed, was almost smothered by the roar of the swollen
river.  Getting what shelter was possible, Jack and his men passed a
miserable night with the picket of the 43rd, and were glad when the
darkness cleared, and they saw once more the grim dawn of another wintry
day.

It brought little comfort.  The wind had risen to a furious gale,
beating sheets of snow and sleet in their faces.  Jack and his men were
shivering with cold and ravenous with hunger, though the men of the 43rd
shared with them the scanty rations they had.  During the whole of that
day, and far into the night, they had to hold their position, ever on
the alert to repel a flanking attack of the French cavalry, who several
times galloped close up to the bridge, always retiring more quickly than
they came before the volleys of the British infantry who lined the
heights.  More than once Jack thought of making his way along the
embankment and rejoining his regiment, but the picket of the 43rd was
always outnumbered; it had lost several men, and he decided, every time
the opportunity of leaving occurred, that he would stay, thinking that,
after all, he could probably do more good in the fighting line than in
security on the other side of the bridge.

At the bridge General Craufurd kept his men unremittingly at the task of
mining the arches.  There had been no time to send an engineer forward
to make the necessary preparations; the men lacked the proper tools; and
the material of the bridge was so strong, and the construction of the
Roman engineers centuries before so solid, that the task of penetrating
the massive masonry was of unusual difficulty.

Towards night the spasmodic attacks of the French ceased altogether, and
they withdrew out of range.  After several more hours of cheerless
waiting, word was passed quietly along the entrenchments that the work
at the bridge was finished and that the troops were now to retire.  The
wet and weary men needed no urging; in dead silence they crept along and
down the heights towards the end of the bridge, where General Craufurd,
commanding the rear-guard, was in person superintending the crossing.
The middle arch had been cut completely through, but the men had not to
swim for it, as the sergeant of the 43rd had anticipated, for planks had
been laid across the gap.  Jack was among the last to cross, and as he
passed over the narrow, shaking strip of boarding, the impetuous and
roaring torrent dashed over it, threatening at every moment to carry
away planks and men together.  But the last man safely reached the other
side, and Jack, as General Craufurd passed him, heard that fine soldier
mutter with a grim chuckle:

"There!  We’ve dished the fools!"

A few minutes afterwards there was a terrific roar, that for the moment
drowned the fury of the torrent; then a blinding glare that flashed
along the gray masonry and shot through the falling rain; and then, with
a great crash, two arches and their supporting buttresses fell to the
bottom of the river, where they lie to this day.  The mine so
laboriously excavated had exploded with complete success, and between
the French and the English raged the boiling torrent, which effectually
forbade present pursuit.  Mocking cheers broke from the throats of the
tired, drenched soldiers; then they turned their backs on the river and
marched on, half-asleep, towards Benavente.  Jack looked at his watch;
it was just midnight.

When he awoke, at daylight next morning, some minutes passed before he
realized where he was.  He had no recollection of going to bed; in fact,
on arriving in the town he had been so fatigued that he could have slept
in his wet clothes on the road.  But his man had been anxiously on the
look-out, and it was to him that Jack owed his bed in the convent where
his fellow-officers had found lodgment.

His dazed senses were fully recalled to him by the sound of Pepito’s
voice humming one of his gipsy songs outside the door.

"Pepito!" he called.

The boy bounded lightly into the room with an eagerness that bespoke, as
clearly as words could have done, the affection he now bore towards the
young Englishman.

"Find Giles for me, my boy," said Jack, "and tell him to get me
something to eat—something substantial—for I’m ravenous."

When the boy returned, Jack had dressed.

"Find him?  That’s right.  So you got here safely yesterday!  You’ve not
been up to any mischief, I hope?"

"No, Señor," replied Pepito gravely.  "But I can, now that you are
here."

Jack smiled, and then sprang up as Giles entered with a dish that filled
the room with a very savoury odour.

"What’s this?" said Jack, sniffing.  "Roast hare, by all that’s
glorious!  Giles, you’re a wonder."

"’Twas Pepito, sir," said Giles.  "The young varmint went out before
’twas light this morning and snared the beast for your breakfast, sir.
I allow he makes himself useful sometimes."

Pepito was grinning with pleasure, and Jack without ado devoted himself
to his meal.

"By the way," he said presently, "have you seen anything of those two
fellows I left with the wagon?"

A broad smile broke over Giles’s ruddy face.

"They was brought in yesterday, sir, under guard, and locked up in the
guard-room.  They was mad, sir, both on ’em, but Corporal Wilkes the
worst.  He made a few remarks, sir—" and here Giles gave vent to his
loud guffaw, and instantly straightened his face to its usual stolid
impassivity.

"Are they still locked up?" asked Jack.

"No, sir.  Captain Stovin ordered ’em to be released when they’d had
about two hours of it."

"Go and fetch them."

In ten minutes Corporal Wilkes entered, followed by Bates, each man
wearing a look of sullen discontent.

"Now, Wilkes, what have you got to say for yourself?" said Jack sternly.

"Say, sir?  I ain’t got nothing to say, nor I didn’t get a chance o’
saying nothing.  It ain’t common fairness, let alone justice, that it
ain’t, begging your pardon, sir.  It ain’t for the likes o’ me to
question what an orficer says, sir, to say nothing of an orficer like
Bobby—beg pardon, like General Craufurd.  But," continued the corporal,
his eloquence increasing with his indignation, "but, Mr. Lumsden, sir,
what I want to know is, what call the general ’ad to miscall me a
straggler, to say nothing o’ Bates, and send us in under guard of a
bloomin’ corp’ril of the second battalion—why, we’re the laughing-stock
o’ the regiment."

"There now," said Jack with due gravity, suspecting what must have
occurred, "I suppose there was some little mistake.  Tell me all about
it."

Wilkes proceeded to explain that a few minutes after Jack left with the
broken wheel a heavy shower of sleet had come on, and he and Bates had
taken shelter beneath the wagon.  From this point of vantage they had
seen the passage of the greater part of the second battalion, which was
whipping in all stragglers from the various other regiments that had
gone by earlier in the day.  In the rear of the battalion rode General
Craufurd with Colonel Wade and other officers, and Craufurd’s eagle eye
had at once remarked the abandoned wagon.  Riding up to it, he descried
the two figures crouching underneath, and sternly demanded what they
were doing there.

"I was beginning to explain, sir," said Wilkes, "but before I could
crawl out into the open, ’Enough of that’, says he.  ’Come out of that,
you skulkers!’  Me a skulker!  And without sayin’ another word he
marches us off to the bridge, where he hands us over to Corp’ril
MacWhirter, a feller I’ve the greatest dislike of.  ’Here,’ says the
general, ’see these two stragglers safe into Benawenty, and hand ’em
over to Colonel Beckwith with my compliments’.  MacWhirter he sniffed,
and it was hard work to keep my hands off him, sir, for blest if he
didn’t pass foolish and opperobious remarks all the way to Benawenty,
just a grunt here and there, like as if we was pigs, and his two
Riflemen like to bust ’emselves with laughing. Now, sir, what I—"

At this point Captain O’Hare came into the room. Jack, who had had some
difficulty in keeping his countenance, said hurriedly:

"Well, well, it was very unfortunate, but I’ll see that it is put
right."

As Wilkes turned away, Jack heard him mutter under his breath:

"Yes, and I’ll put it right with MacWhirter."



                             *CHAPTER XIII*

                           *Don Miguel’s Man*


Fine Feathers—A Fight by the River—Lax Discipline—Scenes at Astorga—A
Cry for Help—The One-eyed Man—At Bay—A Warm Corner—Wilkes to the
Rescue—Miguel Explains—Righteous Indignation—Wilkes’s Supper


Captain O’Hare’s eyes were twinkling as he watched the aggrieved exit of
the two soldiers, and when they had gone he joined in Jack’s shout of
laughter.

"Ah! ’tis all very well for you to laugh at Corporal Wilkes; but faith,
my boy, we’ll have to court-martial you for deserting his Majesty’s
stores, to say nothing of my best pair of galligaskins.  Begorra, let’s
hope they won’t fit the spalpeen of a Frenchman who gets them.  The
whole mess is rejuced to one suit."

Then, changing his tone, the captain proceeded to inform Jack of what
had happened since his arrival at Benavente.  The inhabitants of the
town had received the British army with an attitude of sullen dislike
and even animosity.  Relying for their rations on what could be obtained
during the march, the troops had come into the place tired and hungry,
to find the doors barred and food withheld.  The shops were all closed,
the magistrates had taken flight, and although the British were prepared
to pay for supplies, neither bread nor wine was to be had. The men were
already embittered by the hardships of their long march, and
disappointed of their hopes of meeting the French in fair fight, and it
was small wonder that coldness where they might well have looked for
warmth, and aversion where they might have claimed active friendship,
provoked resentment and reprisal.  They were received as enemies; they
could scarcely be expected to act as friends.

"Indade, the whole army’s going to the dogs," said Captain O’Hare
dejectedly; "all except the Gyards and the Reserve.  Things are as bad
as they can be, and there’s worse to come.  The main body’s looting, and
behaving worse than Pagans and Turks.  They should be at Astorga by now,
and we’re to follow them in an hour or so.  The company’s falling in,
and you’d better hurry up, or you run a risk of finding an escort like
our friend Wilkes.  And bedad," he added, as the dull sound of firing
was heard in the direction of the river, "there’s the music again."

Jack had by this time finished his breakfast, and, hurrying out with the
captain, he found the 95th preparing to move off.

"Hullo!" cried Smith, "you’ve turned up, then!  What have you done with
the wagon?"

"Where are my boots?" asked Pomeroy.

"And my best frilled shirt, the one with the ruffles?" continued Smith.

"And my new highlows, the ones with the silver buckles?" added Pomeroy.

"They are coming after us," returned Jack.  "If you care to wait they’ll
probably be here in half an hour—and Colbert’s dragoons inside them."

As the regiment moved off, the firing behind them became more and more
distinct and continuous.  Bodies of mounted troops could be seen on the
horizon; a smart cavalry action was apparently being fought, and the men
of the 95th were again jealous of what they considered the better luck
of the cavalry.  But Jack’s company, marching away at the quick step,
was soon beyond sight of the combatants, though for an hour afterwards
the boom of guns could be plainly heard.

Lord Paget was fighting one of those brilliant little rear-guard actions
that stamped him in an age of great soldiers as one of the finest
cavalry leaders of his time.  At Benavente he had to deal, not with the
ruck of Napoleon’s cavalry, who, be it said to their credit, were never
wanting in dash, but with the flower of the emperor’s troops, the famous
Cavalry of the Guard, led in person by Lefebvre-Desnouettes, his
favourite general, who had been until now the spoiled child of fortune.
When Lefebvre-Desnouettes discovered that the bridge across the Esla was
broken beyond possibility of immediate repair, he rode fuming up and
down the river, vainly seeking a practicable ford for the large body of
infantry that had now gathered on the banks.  On the farther side was a
thin chain of British vedettes; beyond these, as far as the eye could
reach across the great plain, there was no sign of Sir John Moore’s army
except a few belated camp-followers hurrying into Benavente.  The French
general, chafing with impatience, at last flung prudence to the winds
and decided to follow up the pursuit with his cavalry alone, leaving the
infantry to follow as soon as the bridge could be patched up.  Fording
the swollen river with 600 chasseurs of the Guard at a spot some
distance above the ruined arches, he drove back the vedettes in his
front and pushed rapidly across the plain in the direction of Benavente.
Meanwhile the news of the crossing had brought the British vedettes at
full gallop from their posts opposite the fords below and above the
bridge; and when a few score had collected they made a plucky charge at
the head of the French column, and in spite of their small numbers threw
it into disorder.  The discomfited chasseurs, supported by the
succeeding squadrons, rallied and pursued the audacious little band; but
they were again broken by a second charge, led in person by General
Stewart, who had come up with a few reinforcements.  The British
troopers broke clean through the first line, and although they narrowly
escaped being cut off by the main body, they hewed their way out again
and retired in good order towards Benavente.  They were only two
hundred, the French were three times their number, and
Lefebvre-Desnouettes, irritated by these checks, incautiously pressed
them into the outskirts of the town. There Lord Paget, with the 10th
Hussars, lay grimly in waiting.  Forming up his men under cover of some
buildings, he held them, straining at the leash, until the chasseurs
were well within striking distance, then he let them loose, and the
hussars, instantly joined by Stewart’s pickets, rode at the enemy at a
headlong, irresistible gallop.  The leading squadrons of chasseurs went
down like ninepins; the rest wheeled about, galloped back to the Esla,
and did not draw rein until they were safe on the French side of the
stream.  Lefebvre-Desnouettes himself rode his horse at the river, but
the animal had received a wound and refused to face the water.  While
still floundering at the brink, it was seized by an enterprising British
trooper; the general was captured with seventy of his men, and Napoleon
was left chafing at the first decisive check he had personally met with
in Spain.

Meanwhile there was growing dissatisfaction in the ranks of the British
infantry, and even among the officers. It had been stated, with some
show of authority, that Moore intended to make a stand at Astorga, but
no one believed it; a similar statement had been made so many times
before, always to be falsified.  Some of the more clear-headed among the
rank and file endeavoured to prove to their discontented comrades that
the retreat was inevitable; Moore was no coward, and only the knowledge
that he was overwhelmingly outmatched would have induced him to retire
without giving battle.  He had nothing personally to gain by running
away; his military reputation was at stake, and he had further the duty
of showing that Britain honourably stood by her pledges to Spain.  It
was a bitter disappointment to him, and nothing but a strong sense of
responsibility had actuated his decision to march to the sea.

Unhappily a retreating army is always prone to get out of hand.  Already
marauding had taken place at various stages of the march, and the sullen
incivility of the Spaniards provoked ill-tempered words and deeds on the
part of the British.  The road was encumbered with stragglers, as well
as with numbers of women and children, who suffered from the inevitable
hardships of a march through wild country in mid-winter.  The confusion
and disorder were only increased when the troops reached Astorga.  There
they met the ragged Spanish regiments of the Marquis of La Romana, who,
in spite of Moore’s repeated requests that he would retreat northwards
into the Asturias, had marched westward into Galicia, giving as his
reason that the only available pass into the former province was blocked
with snow.  In retreating before Soult his rear-guard had been cut to
pieces by Franceschi’s dragoons at the bridge of Mansilla, where there
had been every opportunity of making a stubborn resistance.  They
arrived at Astorga in a state of panic, more like a crowd of peasants
driven from their homes than a regular army. They were half-naked, and
half-starved; many were suffering from a malignant fever, and they were
maddened by cold, disease, and want.  Learning that large supplies of
food lay at Astorga, as well as stores of shoes, blankets, and muskets,
they prowled through the town, seizing whatever they could lay hands on,
setting an example which too many of the British soldiers showed
themselves ready to follow.

When, on the evening of December 30th, Jack’s company marched into
Astorga, they found disorder reigning everywhere within its ancient
turreted walls.  Several houses were on fire, men were plundering on
every side, all kinds of objects were littering the streets.  Three
divisions of Moore’s army had already left the town on the way to
Villafranca, and the only British troops now quartered there were the
Reserve under General Paget and the two light brigades.  These had kept
better discipline than most of the regiments which had preceded them,
and the signs of havoc provoked a great burst of indignation from the
rear companies of the 95th as they swung round into the great square.
Corporal Wilkes was especially voluble in denunciation of the bad
discipline among the Spaniards. He was expressing himself warmly to
Bates as they kept step together, when the sight of a tall Spanish
soldier in somewhat better trim than the tatterdemalion rank and file of
La Romana’s forces added fuel to his wrath.  The men were standing near
the lighted door of the Town Hall, where Jack’s company was to be
quartered, and the Spaniard looked with a cynical smile at the Riflemen
defiling past.  He had a villainous countenance, its forbidding aspect
enhanced by the fact that he had only one eye, which was gazing at the
men with a fixed, stony, unwinking stare.

"What’s that one-eyed villain of a Don doing there?" growled Wilkes,
staring into the solitary eye as he passed. "Why ain’t he keeping his
men in order, instead of loafing about like a London whitewasher out o’
work?"

Jack heard the remark, and turned to look at the one-eyed man; but a
scuffle between a man of the 28th and a squalid Spaniard drew off his
attention for a moment, and when the quarrel was ended by the
Englishman’s fist, the man had disappeared.

After the men had been safely got to quarters Jack was sitting in the
room he was to share with Pomeroy and Shirley when he was summoned to
the Casa Morena. He there found Colonel Beckwith vigorously haranguing a
Spanish officer, and was called on to act as interpreter. Beckwith was
insisting in no measured terms that the officer should make some attempt
to check the disorder among his men, and Jack did his best to soften the
colonel’s language without depriving it of its authority. At the close
of the interview, about eight o’clock at night, he was returning to his
quarters when he fancied he heard a cry proceeding from a large house
that stood alone, and by its size seemed to belong to a person of some
importance. He stopped and listened; the cry was not repeated; he was
passing on, when out of the darkness a little boy ran up, seized his
hand, and began to pull him towards the house.

"Señor!  Señor!" he cried in a terrified wail, "my father—he is being
murdered.  He is an old man; he cannot fight.  Come, Señor, and save
him!"

Jack had broken from the boy’s clutch and was already making with long
strides to the front door.  It was firmly barred and unyielding to his
pressure.

"Not that way, not that way, Señor!" cried the boy, and seizing Jack’s
hand again, he led him to the back, through a narrow enclosure, to a
flight of stone steps, at the head of which was a French window with one
of its halves open inwards, and a dim light shining through. Running
with the boy up the steps, Jack found himself in what was evidently the
sala of the house.  It was in darkness, but a door at the far end giving
on to a corridor was open, and a dim light filtered into the room from a
lamp, consisting of a shallow bowl in which a wick was floating on oil.
Treading very warily, the two crossed the room to the corridor beyond;
at the end of the passage a brighter light was streaming from a
half-open door, and Jack, alert to catch the slightest sound, heard a
rasping voice say in Spanish:

"Now, you old dotard, I will give you one minute by yonder clock.  After
that the knife, and I will search for myself."

Pushing the boy behind him, and signing to him to be quiet, Jack crept
cautiously to the door and peeped into the room.  Tied to a chair, with
a rope cut from the bell-pull, was an old gentleman, very frail and
thin, with sparse gray hair and beard.  On the table before him a long
knife, driven into the wood, rocked to and fro with diminishing
oscillation; an angular man in Spanish uniform, his back half-turned to
the door, occupied a chair within a couple of feet of the victim, and,
leaning forward, elbows upon his knees, gazed with a vengeful smile into
the old man’s face.  At the side of the room a large escritoire lay
open, its contents thrown pell-mell upon the floor.

The old Spaniard, bound and helpless as he was, looked steadily with
unflinching gaze into the face of his enemy.

"Do you think for a moment, wretch that you are," he said with quiet
scorn, his tone strangely contrasting with the fury of the other, "do
you think for a moment that you will cajole me with empty promises, or
scare me with insolent threats?  I expect no mercy from you—you were
always a villain,—but I can at least baulk your greed. I am an old man,
do your worst; your knife has no terrors for me."

The man, springing to his feet, snatched the knife from the table, and
lifted his hand to strike; but Jack had already sprung into the room.
The sound of Jack’s step arrested the villain’s movement; he half-turned
to meet the intruder, disclosing as he did so the distorted features of
a man with one eye.  Even at that tense moment Jack connected him
vaguely in thought with some previous experience, but there was no pause
in his action.  Before the man had time to wheel completely round, Jack
struck him a blow on the chin that felled him to the floor, where he lay
stunned and motionless.  The boy threw himself on the fallen man with a
cry of triumph, snatched up the knife that had dropped from his grasp,
and with two quick strokes severed the cords that bound the old man.
Then in a paroxysm of fury he turned to drive the weapon into the
would-be assassin’s heart.  Jack stayed his hand, and at the same moment
heard the sound of trampling feet, and a familiar voice exclaiming:

"This way, my men; we shall find the English bandit here."

[Illustration: Jack makes an Opportune Appearance]

"Miguel!" said Jack under his breath, remembering in a flash the
one-eyed servant he had seen following him in Salamanca.  Turning
quickly to the old gentleman, who now stood in seeming uncertainty what
the new interruption might portend, he pointed to the prostrate man and
said:

"It is this man’s master."

Then, as there was obviously no time to parley, he rushed to the door
and slammed it, intending to turn the key.  The key was not in the lock.
Pressing his knee against the door, Jack looked round and saw the
missing key on the table.  He called to the boy to bring it, but he was
too late.  The door was pressed inwards in spite of Jack’s exertions;
there was greater force on the other side.  Feeling it opening inch by
inch Jack turned on his shoulder, set his back against the oak, and drew
his sword, preparing to give way suddenly and attack the enemy before
they could recover from their sudden inrush. But the boy, with a quick
wit that did him credit, had rushed into the corner of the room, where
there was a space of some two feet between the jamb and the wall, and
there, crouching on the floor, he jabbed with the knife through the
slowly widening aperture at the legs of the nearest figure.  There was a
yell of pain; the pressure on the door instantly relaxed; and Jack,
putting forth all his strength, had almost succeeded in closing it when
a musket was thrust into the gap.  Jack’s muscles were strained to the
utmost.  From the clamour in the corridor he knew that the enemy were
preparing for a concerted rush.  He called to the old Spaniard to push
the table against the door, but before that could be done he felt
overpowering pressure on the other side.  Hastily forming his
resolution, he sprang back suddenly; the door flew open, and three of La
Romana’s ragged ruffians fell sprawling upon the floor.  Others came
behind, and one of them, with his heavy flintlock, struck out of Jack’s
hand the sword he had drawn, dropping his weapon immediately with a yell
as he felt the boy’s knife in his leg.  Jack saw that the old Spaniard
had taken down one of two rapiers that hung on the wall beneath the
portrait of an ancient caballero.  Exerting all his strength, he dragged
the table round so that it stood obliquely across the room, cutting off
a triangular corner.  Then he seized the second rapier, and stood side
by side with the Spaniard, behind the table, facing their foes just as
several of them were preparing to leap across it.

Among them Jack now recognized Miguel Priego, his face lit up with
savage excitement, flourishing his sword and goading on his desperadoes.
The boy had crawled beneath the table, prepared to use his terrible
knife on all who came within reach.  The one-eyed man had recovered from
the blow dealt him by Jack, and had snatched a musket from one of his
fellows.  Fortunately none of the firearms were loaded, and the
Spaniards, mad with rage, grudged the delay necessary to charge their
cumbrous weapons.

"I think, Miguel, you had better call off your followers," said Jack, in
a momentary lull that preceded the rush.

There was no reply; in point of fact Jack scarcely expected one.  Miguel
was at the moment out of sight behind a burly mountaineer, and Jack felt
rather by instinct than by any reasoned process of thought that the
Spaniard would scarcely let slip this opportunity of taking him at a
disadvantage.  Behind the table Jack measured the forces opposed to him.
Six men were gathering themselves for the onslaught—lean, half-starved
wretches for the most part, but ugly customers in the bulk. A raw-boned
mountaineer, armed with a long musket and a rusty bayonet, was the most
formidable among the gang, and Jack marked him out for special attention
when the critical moment came.  It was not long in coming. At the cry
from Miguel: "Down with the English dog!" the six made a simultaneous
rush, and if they had not impeded one another’s movements they must have
made short work of the little garrison.  The lanky Asturian lunged
viciously at Jack, who dodged the point by a hair’s-breadth, narrowly
escaping, as he did so, the clubbed musket of another Spaniard on the
right.  Before the mountaineer could recover, Jack’s long rapier,
stretching far across the table, had ploughed a gash in his arm from
wrist to elbow, and at the same moment the second assailant, howling
with pain, had dropped his musket and fallen to the ground a victim to
the terrible knife of the little Spaniard, who had been forgotten by the
enemy in the excitement of the fight.

The old man, however, had been less successful; one of his opponents had
felt the point of his rapier, but, attacked simultaneously by another,
his weapon had been dashed from his grasp, and he now stood defenceless
against the foe, who were beginning to push the table into the corner of
the room.  Miguel, having left the brunt of the action to his allies,
now advanced resolutely to the attack; and Jack’s rapier had crossed
with the long sword carried by his opponent, when through the open door
sounded the heavy tramp of feet; and a loud voice was heard shouting:
"What I want to know—"  The sentence was never completed, for Corporal
Wilkes sprang into the room, cleaving a way through the maddened
Spaniards with his fist.  Before they realized the meaning of this
unlooked-for interruption, the corporal flung himself on Miguel, caught
him by the collar, and hurled him upon two of his men, who fell under
him with a resounding thud.  Immediately behind Wilkes, Bates and two
other men of the 95th had dashed in, and the rear of the unexpected
reinforcement was brought up by Pepito, who at once engaged in a tussle
with the Spanish boy, now upon his feet, for the possession of the
knife.

Wilkes stood with clenched fists over Miguel, while his companions of
the 95th threw themselves on the other Spaniards and speedily disarmed
them.

"You hound of a Don!" cried Wilkes, preparing to knock Miguel down if he
should attempt to rise; "what I want to—"

"Wilkes, let him get up," said Jack quietly, coming round the table, the
rapier still in his hand.

Miguel rose stiffly, his face expressing the purest amazement.

"Verdaderamente!" he exclaimed.  "If it is not my dear friend Jack!
There is some strange mistake.  And I did not recognize you in your
uniform, Jackino!  Last time I saw you, you remember, you were dressed
as one of ourselves.  Truly, dress makes a world of difference, amigo
mio."

His tone had all the oily suavity that Jack knew so well, and so
cordially detested.  Wilkes was looking from one to the other with
concentrated interrogation in his eye, ready at a word from Jack to lay
the Spaniard low again.

"Shut the door, Bates," said Jack, as he saw the one-eyed man slinking
in that direction.  "That’s your man, I think?" he added, addressing
Miguel.

"My servant, who accompanied me from Saragossa," replied Miguel.  "And I
am at a loss to understand—"

"So am I," interrupted Jack.  "I am at a loss to understand why a man in
your position should countenance violence, robbery, almost actual
murder."

"Robbery!  Murder!  Really, my dear friend, these are strange words to
me.  I was in the street, and one of these men—soldiers in the army of
the Marquis of La Romana—told me that an English ruffian—it was a
mistake, yes, but he said an English ruffian—had forced himself into
this house: for what purpose?  It could only be, as you say, to rob or
murder.  You know what sad excesses your troops, usually so excellently
disciplined, have been guilty of; and having but a short time ago heard
that your colonel—Beckwith, is that his name?—had sternly ordered his
men to refrain from acts of pillage, why, my dear friend, was it not
natural for me to come in and do what little I could to prevent such
admirable orders from being disobeyed?  That explains—"

"Oh!" said Jack.  "And your man—was that his errand too?"

"Perez?  Oh no!  He obtained my permission to visit his old master, the
faithful fellow.  It was inconvenient, for we should now be on the road;
but could I—would you?—hesitate in such a case?  I was touched by the
poor fellow’s devotion."

Perez’ solitary eye gleamed with a baleful light singularly out of
keeping with the sentimental character thrust upon him by his master.
He wriggled venomously in Bates’s grasp.  The burly Rifleman checked his
contortions by impressing his knuckles into the nape of his neck.

Jack turned to the old man, who had watched the scene in dignified
silence.

"I think, Señor, you can throw some light on this man’s devotion."

The Spaniard, in a few quiet words, told Jack that the man had, in fact,
been his servant, but had been dismissed two years before for attempted
robbery.  He had suddenly made his appearance that evening, taken his
old master unawares, and when he had bound him had broken open the
bureau containing, as he supposed, the valuables he coveted, and,
failing to find them, had demanded the secret of their hiding-place
under threat of assassination.

"I owe my life," he concluded, "the little that remains of it, to my son
here, who providentially overheard from his bedroom above the threats of
this wretch, and to you, Señor, whose chivalrous intervention came at a
moment when I regarded my case as hopeless.  I thank you!"

"This, Señor," said Miguel, turning to the old man, "is to me a most
extraordinary, a most painful, discovery. The man was recommended to me
by Señor Alvarez, my father’s partner"—Miguel’s fluency in his present
predicament recalled to Jack’s memory many of his youthful essays in
mendacity.  "It only shows, Señor, how sadly one may be deceived by a
specious exterior."

As he spoke he regarded his one-eyed follower with a look of mournful
disappointment.

If Perez’ exterior at this moment was any index to his quality, he was
scarcely a man in whom the most credulous would have placed confidence.
In Bates’s iron grip his body was quiescent; but the malignant glitter
of his single eye told of raging fires within.

"It will be my duty," continued Miguel with increasing sternness, "to
bring this wretch to justice.  Men, seize him, and see that he does not
escape.  He shall be dealt with by the marquis himself."

The Spanish soldiers advanced to carry out Miguel’s order, but Bates
merely tightened his grip and looked enquiringly at Jack for
instructions.  Jack could not but admire Miguel’s astuteness.  He was
perfectly well aware that the man would be released as soon as he was
out of reach; but while loth to let him escape scot-free, he saw how
powerless he was in the face of Miguel’s declaration. It was a matter
for the Spanish authorities, in which, except as a witness, he himself
had no concern; and it was nothing to the point that the Spanish
authorities were hiding in cellars, lofts, and even, as he had heard, in
pig-styes.  He turned to the old man, and said:

"I fear, Señor, that, as things are, we have no choice but to return
this man to the care of his present—master. Bates," he added in English,
"let him go."

In apparent abstraction, Bates gave a farewell twist to the Spaniard’s
neck-band, shot him among the knot of tattered soldiery in the doorway,
drew himself up, and saluted.  With a ceremonious bow Miguel followed
his men from the room, several of them carrying with them painful
mementoes of the affray.  Wilkes shadowed them to the end of the
corridor.  Meanwhile the venerable Spaniard had taken a decanter and
several glasses from a press in the corner of the room.

"You will permit me, Señor," he said to Jack, "my servant having
deserted me, to offer you and your worthy soldiers a little refreshment.
It is a poor expression of my gratitude to you and them, but it comes,
believe me, from a full heart."

The men willingly tossed off their bumpers, and soon afterwards escorted
Jack to his quarters.  He there learnt from them that while at supper
they had been summoned by Pepito, who announced in broken English, eked
out by gestures, that el Señor Lumsden was in urgent need of help.  He
had apparently been shadowing Jack as usual, had seen him enter the
house, and a moment after heard Miguel hounding on his willing dupes to
kill the English bandit.

"The little rascal is always putting me in his debt," said Jack to
himself as the squad saluted and marched off.  "He is quite a guardian
angel."


No one but Jack had cause to regard Pepito in this gracious light.

"What I want to know," asked Corporal Wilkes wrathfully, when he
returned to his billet "—what I want to know is, what’s become of my
supper?"

Only Pepito knew.



                             *CHAPTER XIV*

                      *An Incident at Cacabellos*


Stragglers—Oblique Oration—The Massacre at Bembibre—Moore’s Appeal—A
Shot in the Dark—A Souvenir


There was no rest for Jack or his friends that night.  On returning to
his quarters he found that Colonel Beckwith had called the officers of
the regiment together, and was already addressing them with more than
usual seriousness. He told them that their hope of making a stand at
Astorga was fated to be disappointed.  Sir John Moore had decided to
continue the retreat with all speed, either towards Vigo or towards
Corunna.

"It is useless to pretend I am pleased," said the colonel. "None of us
are that.  Some of the youngsters among us may think that things would
be ordered differently if they were in command.  That’s not our
business.  The general is satisfied that his reasons are good, and all
we have to do is to obey orders.  And that brings me to the point.  A
retreating army is always apt to get out of hand, and a British army
perhaps more than any other.  Take any man in the regiment and he’ll ask
you why he should retreat, and what the dickens is the good of running
away from a Frenchman.  We’ve seen already what disorder and
ruffianliness have disgraced some of the regiments. And I tell you,
gentlemen, I won’t have that in the 95th. We shall from this time form a
part of the actual rear-guard.  The second battalion leaves, with other
regiments, direct for Vigo to cover our left flank.  The safety of the
whole army will therefore depend much on us.  The French won’t let us
off lightly.  We shall often be in touch with them, and if there’s any
want of steadiness they’ll get through us, and then it’s all up.  I ask
you then, gentlemen, every one of you, to keep a tight hand on the men.
There must be no slackness, no relaxation of discipline.  The honour of
the regiment is in your keeping, and, by heaven!  I’ll never lift my
head again if the 95th fails me."

The colonel’s vehement words sent a thrill through the group, and Jack
Lumsden was not the only officer among them who vowed inwardly not to
disappoint "old Sidney". Beckwith went on to prescribe their immediate
duties. He alluded to the confusion and disorder in which they had found
the town, in great part due to the unexpected presence of La Romana’s
ragged regiments.  The place had been crammed with stores, consisting of
shoes, blankets, tools, muskets, ammunition, from which many of the
preceding regiments had been partially re-equipped. But in the haste and
muddle the distribution had been mismanaged.  Many of the stores had
been left behind, and the town was full of British and Spanish
stragglers eager to plunder where they could.  The colonel instructed
his officers to see that pillaging was checked as much as possible.
What stores could not be removed were to be destroyed.

During the night, therefore, Jack and his chums were busy in carrying
out the colonel’s orders.  It was found next day that there were not
sufficient draught animals to serve for the transport of all the
remaining stores, and the 95th were employed for many hours in burning
and blowing up valuable stuff to prevent it from falling into the hands
of the French.

The regiments of the Reserve were to march in the evening for Cambarros,
a village some nine miles in the direction of Villafranca.  Before they
started, Captain O’Hare paraded his company and repeated to them the
substance of what Colonel Beckwith had said to the officers.

"I’ve heard a deal of grumbling at times," he said. "You don’t want to
retreat.  No more do I, but our chance’ll come, please the pigs; and
then I know who’ll be at the front—not the grumblers and skulkers, but
the men who know how to obey.  Now, my boys, I trust ye. I don’t want
the general to send for me by and by and say: ’O’Hare, ye’ve the most
blackguardly company in the whole army.’  We’ll do better than the best,
and sure I’ll be proud of ye.  And if there should be a man among ye
with a deal o’ power over the company—a good soldier let us say, but
with a long tongue and a way of speaking that—well, a way of
speaking"—the captain studiously kept his eyes from Corporal Wilkes: "if
there’s such a man, to him I’d say, with all my solemn seriousness:
Ye’ve a deal of persuasion; then use it for the glory o’ the regiment;
and bedad, I believe he’d know what I meant."

Corporal Wilkes, looking straight in front of him, had turned a
brick-red, and was unusually silent as the company marched off.  To
Sergeant Jones, the little Welshman, toddling along by his side, he
remarked presently:

"I hope you’ll mind what Peter said, Sergeant.  As for me, ’tis a good
thing for the glory o’ the regiment that the second battalion’s off
another way, for all my good resolutions would be turned into sour milk
by the long fiddle-face of Corp’ril MacWhirter."

After their sleepless night, and hard work during the day, both officers
and men were glad to fling themselves down on rough beds of hay and
straw when they reached Cambarros at dusk.  But they had hardly settled
to rest when some dragoons came riding in with news that the enemy were
advancing in force.  The order was immediately given to get under arms,
and the march was continued through the night.

The Reserve reached Bembibre, a dirty village of mud and slate, at
daybreak on January 1st, expecting now at least to enjoy the rest so
much desired.  But again they were disappointed.  On entering the
village they were at once ordered to pile arms and clear the place.  It
presented the appearance of a town that had recently been stormed and
put to the sack.  It happened to be a depôt for the wine produced in the
neighbouring vineyards, and large quantities were stored in the vaults
and cellars of the houses.  The inhabitants had shown themselves
unfriendly to the regiments of the main body of Moore’s army, and had
provided food and drink for them only with the greatest reluctance.  The
result was that the men of the least-disciplined regiments broke all
bounds, and set furiously to work to get for themselves what the
Spaniards had denied them.  Doors were wrenched off, windows smashed,
property of all kinds destroyed; and the unfortunate discovery of so
large a stock of wine had the worst consequences.  Those were the days
when hard drinking was the rule in all classes of society.  It was
little to be expected, then, that rough soldiers, suffering the
hardships of exhausting marches on short rations, and feeling bitter
shame and humiliation at having to retreat continually before a despised
enemy, should prove able to withstand the temptation to excess.  Ready
to fight like bull-dogs if the call came, they lost all sense of
responsibility at the sight of means to enjoyment, and set their
officers at defiance.

The Reserve spent that day and part of the next in chasing the
stragglers from the houses and driving them along the streets towards
the mountains; but the task had been only partly accomplished when
cavalry pickets came in and reported that French dragoons were pushing
rapidly down the Manzanal pass in their rear.

"We must leave the ruffians to their fate," cried General Paget
furiously, ordering the Reserve to march out towards Cacabellos.  Not
until late in the day did the 95th learn from the last of the hussar
pickets what had happened when they left Bembibre.  Lahoussaye’s
dragoons had come galloping into the village, riding through the groups
of stragglers who flocked staggeringly along the road when they heard
the noise of the pursuing horse, and slashing at them as a schoolboy
does at thistles.  The French made no distinction of age or sex.  They
hewed their way indiscriminately through drunken redcoats, women, and
children.  Even mothers who held up their babies, pleading for mercy on
them, were struck down as ruthlessly as soldiers with arms in their
hands.  Few escaped. Those who did bore terrible signs, in sabre-cuts on
head and shoulders, of the revenge the French horse had wreaked for
their defeat at Benavente.

The road from Bembibre led over the crests of the Galician hills, with
ravines and gorges and precipitous crags on both sides.  Then it made a
rapid and crooked descent, ending in a valley through which dashed a
thundering river, white with foam, bearing huge stones and logs along
with it in its tempestuous rush from the Asturian mountains to the
ocean.  Here the hill-slopes were covered with gaunt trees, which,
though now bare of foliage, threw a mysterious gloom over the narrow
road.  Marching rapidly down this road against a beating storm of sleet,
and whipping up innumerable stragglers on the way, the 95th at length
arrived at Cacabellos.

Here, just as they halted, Sir John Moore met them, having ridden back
with his staff the five or six miles from Villafranca, where the main
body had bivouacked. The regiments of the Reserve were at once formed up
in columns in the fields by the roadside.  Sir John, his fine face lined
with care and sorrow, took up a position in their midst, and then, in
his clear penetrating voice, amid a silence broken only by the distant
thunder of the torrent, he spoke in stern biting phrases of the disorder
and want of discipline he had lately witnessed.  With a pungent irony
that made many ears tingle, the commander-in-chief concluded his address
thus:

"And if the enemy are now in possession of Bembibre, as I believe they
are, they have got a rare prize!  They have taken or cut to pieces many
hundreds of drunken British cowards—for none but unprincipled cowards
would get drunk in presence, nay in the very sight, of the enemies of
their country; and sooner than survive the disgrace of such infamous
misconduct, I hope that the first cannon-ball fired by the enemy may
take me in the head."

After a few words, addressed specially to the 28th, which had done
glorious service with him in Egypt, Sir John turned rein and rode back
to Villafranca.  His words made a deep impression on both officers and
men. Previous appeals had not been in vain.  The reserve regiments had
kept much better discipline and committed fewer excesses than the main
body, and the general’s stern speech deepened the resolve of all good
soldiers to abstain from disorder, and merit Sir John’s approbation.

Alas! all were not animated by the same spirit.  General Paget bade the
men encamp some distance away from the town, and gave orders that no one
was to enter the streets unless accompanied by a non-commissioned
officer, who was to be held responsible for the orderly return of those
committed to his charge.  But no sooner had darkness fallen over the
camp than many of the soldiers, forgetting the reproof of Sir John
Moore, forgetting the subsequent appeals of the company officers,
escaped from their lines, and, entering the town, resumed the old work
of plundering. During the night many were arrested by the patrols, and
two men were seized in the act of committing a serious crime, of which
few had yet been guilty.  They were maltreating and robbing a poor old
Spaniard, who, paralysed with fright, was piteously beseeching them to
take all that he had, but to do him no harm.

"This means a drumhead court-martial!" said Captain O’Hare when the
matter was reported.  "Keep the men in irons; Lumsden, take a note to
the general from me."

Jack had delivered his note, and was returning to his quarters, when, as
he passed along a broad road shadowed by trees on one side and a high
wall on the other, he felt that someone was dogging him.  He had heard
no pursuing footsteps; he was at a loss to account for his strange
uneasiness; but, obeying an impulse of which he was only half-conscious,
he turned suddenly round, moving as he did so a little towards the wall
on his right.  At the same moment there was a report and a flash.  A
bullet whizzed past him; he could feel the rush of air on his cheek,
there was a dull thud as the missile flattened itself on the stone wall.
Springing forward in the direction of the report, he could just discern
in the murk a tall figure scuttling for cover among the trees.

The man had a dozen yards’ start, but Jack, always a good sprinter, had
reduced the gap by half when his quarry disappeared into the trees.  It
was a narrow belt of chestnuts about three or four deep, and, following
the sound of the footsteps in front, Jack dashed through, heedless of
obstacles.  A moment’s scramble among roots and brambles brought him to
the far side; his assailant had turned sharp to the right and was
scampering towards a high wall running parallel with the belt on the
opposite side of the road.  With a fine spurt Jack reduced the gap to an
arm’s-length; his outstretched hand was within a few inches of the man’s
collar, when, to his utter amazement, the pursued disappeared into the
wall.  Jack shot past an open door, and before he could check his
progress there was a violent bang and the sound of falling bolts. Jack
pushed against the door, then threw himself upon it with all his force;
it did not even creak.  The wall was too high to clamber over; it was
too long to go round; he had perforce to relinquish the thought of
further pursuit.

"Some poor demented Spaniard who has lost his all, perhaps," he thought,
and was about to resume his walk when he noticed a small triangle of
cloth projecting between the door and the jamb.  The would-be assassin’s
cloak had caught, and, but that the door was rather clumsily fitted,
would have prevented its being closed. Without any definite motive, Jack
drew his sword and cut off the strip, which he put into his pocket,
where it lay for many days forgotten.  He said nothing about the
adventure to his fellow-officers, and it did not keep him awake for an
instant when, at a late hour that night, he threw himself, worn out,
upon his uncomfortable bed.



                              *CHAPTER XV*

                          *The Great Retreat*


Reprieve—A Fight in prospect—Trapped—Napoleon leaves Spain—Salvage—The
Tragedy of War—In Motley—A Breathing Space—The Slough of
Despond—Motherless—Thalatta!—A Batman’s Battle


The growing spirit of indiscipline and lawlessness among the Reserve
determined General Paget to make a signal example of the culprits.
Early on the following morning he marched all the five regiments under
his command towards the crown of a low hill overhanging Cacabellos, in
the direction of Bembibre.  After sending pickets to the summit, to keep
the enemy under observation, he ordered the whole division to form a
hollow square, the men facing inwards.  Some distance to the rear of
each regiment, the officers sat in drumhead court-martial.  The men
caught in the act of plundering were brought before them, tried, and
sentenced, and then taken into the square, where, lashed to the
triangles, they received the punishment awarded.

During this scene the general sat stern and impassive on his horse.  At
one moment a cavalry vedette galloped up with news that the French were
in sight.  "Very well," replied the general, and the punishment went on.
Soon another trooper appeared, to report that the enemy were rapidly
advancing.  "Very well," said the general, without movement or further
word.

So many were the offenders that the work of flogging continued for
several hours.  At length came the turn of the two soldiers taken in the
act of assaulting and robbing the Spaniard.  They were summarily tried,
and condemned to be hanged.  At one corner of the square stood a tree
with accessible branches.  The unhappy men were conveyed thither, with
halters round their necks.  They were hoisted on the shoulders of two
strong Riflemen, and the ropes were fastened to the lower boughs.

It was just twelve o’clock.  One movement of the supporting men would
leave the criminals dangling in the air.  The whole division awaited in
breathless stillness the dread signal for execution.  General Paget
looked grimly down from his horse upon the wretched men, and in his set
face they saw no hope of mercy.  At this tense moment a captain of
dragoons galloped through a gap opened for him in one side of the
square.  Halting before the general, he excitedly reported that the
pickets on the hill were being driven in.

"I am sorry for it, sir," said the general coldly; "and I should rather
have expected the information from a trooper than from you.  Go back to
your fighting pickets, sir," he added sternly, "and animate your men to
a full discharge of their duties."

The officer retired.  General Paget was again silent.  His lips
twitched, his eyes flamed.  Then suddenly he burst out: "My God! is it
not lamentable to think, that when I might be preparing my troops to
receive the enemies of their country, I am preparing to hang two
robbers!  But if at this moment the French horse should penetrate that
angle of the square, I will still execute these villains at this angle."

Again he was silent, and now shots were heard from the direction of the
hill.  The awed soldiers looked with consternation at their general’s
face.  How long was this suspense to continue?  A brief pause; then,
swinging round in the saddle, Paget cried:

"If I spare the lives of these two men, will you promise to reform?"

A quiver passed along the ranks; the men held their breath; there came
not a murmur from their parted lips.

"If I spare the lives of these men," again said the general, "will you
give me your word of honour as soldiers that you will reform?"

Still the same awful silence reigned—and the ominous sound of firing
came nearer and nearer.

"Say ’yes’ for God’s sake!" whispered an officer to the man next him.

"Yes," murmured the man.  His neighbours repeated the word in firmer
tones, and then, as though a match had been laid to a train of powder,
shouts of "Yes! yes!" rang along the faces of the square.

"Cut the ropes!" cried the general.  The prisoners were instantly
released, the triangles removed.  The men cheered, and as the square was
reduced, and formed into columns, the British pickets came slowly over
the brow of the hill, steadily retreating before the advance-guard of
the enemy.  Paget’s orders were rapidly given.  The men started at the
double towards the River Cua behind them. Three battalions crossed the
bridge and took up their position behind a line of vineyards and stone
walls parallel to the stream.  A battery of horse-artillery, escorted by
the 28th, was placed so as to command the road in its ascent towards
Cacabellos from the bridge, and a squadron of the 15th Hussars, together
with half the 95th Rifles, was left on the Bembibre side of the river to
keep observation on the French.

"At last, my boys!" said Captain O’Hare.  The men of his company were
flushed with excitement.  At last!  The weary waiting of two months was
at an end; the enemy were upon them; and now every man tingled with the
joy of the fight to come, and greedily watched for the foe. The
officers, looking along their ranks, could not but be struck with the
wonderful change.  Gone the blank despair, gone the sullen discontent,
gone the hang-dog look; every man’s face was lit up, every man’s eyes
flashed, every man stood erect with an air of high-hearted staunchness
that had not been seen for many a day.

"There they are!" cried Pomeroy, whose keen eyes had descried Colbert’s
hussars advancing cautiously over the hill-top.

At this moment the bugle sounded for the last companies of the 95th to
retire across the bridge and occupy the defensive positions allotted to
them.  The men marched with alacrity; it was certain there must be a
fight now. Jack’s was the rearmost company but one.  It had only reached
the middle of the bridge when the 15th Hussars came riding behind in hot
haste, and the infantry were in imminent danger of being trampled down.
The French were pressing on in such force that the hussars, wholly
outnumbered, had been hurriedly withdrawn.  Unsupported, the 95th were
too weak to withstand a charge of cavalry; they must retire, and there
was no time to lose.

"Hurry your stumps!" shouted a trooper as he passed Wilkes.

"No hurry!" said the corporal coolly, looking over his shoulder.

But behind them Colbert’s hussars and chasseurs had swept down on to the
bridge and ridden into the rear-most company.  Some of the latter were
cut down, half were captured, the rest succeeded in gaining the farther
bank, and joined their comrades behind the vineyard walls.

"A close shave, mates!" said Wilkes.  "But let ’em come on; we’re
ready."

General Colbert, a young and gallant officer, and reputed the handsomest
man in the French army, had reached the bridge, and saw that the slopes
on the other side were held by artillery and what appeared to be a small
infantry escort.  All the regiments but the 28th were by this time
concealed from view.  Burning to distinguish himself, and anxious to
emulate the successful charge of Franceschi’s dragoons at Mansilla a few
days before, Colbert did not wait to reconnoitre the position and
discover the actual strength of his enemy, but ranged his leading
regiment four abreast, and led them straight for the bridge.  Paget’s
guns played briskly on the French horse until, with the dip in the road,
they sank below the line of fire; then the hidden infantry followed up
with steady volleys from the walls and hedges.  But the French were
barely within range.  The majority of the troopers escaped injury,
cleared the bridge, and dashed up the hill, to carry, as they thought,
all before them.  Then the men of Paget’s Reserve showed their mettle.
The 28th were drawn across the road; the 52nd and the 95th were out of
sight behind the vineyard walls; and the French horsemen fell into the
fatal trap.  They suddenly found themselves in the midst of a hail of
bullets from left, and right, and front.  For a brief moment they
struggled on; then Tom Plunket, leaping the wall and flinging himself
flat on the slope, fired two marvellous shots which killed Colbert and
his aide-de-camp in succession, whereupon the whole brigade wheeled
about and fled madly back to the bridge, leaving the road strewed with
their killed and wounded.

Cheer after cheer broke from the ranks of the exultant British infantry.
Many of the men wished to leap the walls and pursue the baffled enemy,
and had to be pulled back like hounds straining at the leash.  Not a man
had been lost since they left the bridge, and Paget’s "Well done,
Riflemen!" was like wine to their hearts.

But the fray was not yet over.  Lahoussaye’s dragoons swept down to the
river, avoided the fatal bridge, forded the stream at several points,
and tried to make their way over the rocky ground and through the
vineyards. Finding this impossible, they dismounted and advanced on foot
in skirmishing order, meeting with a spirited response from the 52nd and
95th, whom they first encountered.  Then, as the afternoon wore on,
Merle’s light regiments of the line came into sight, and in column
formation marched forward with loud cries to cross the bridge.  For a
few moments the 52nd were in danger of being swept upon and overwhelmed,
but the six guns from the battery above opened a raking fire on the
massed columns of French, and drove them back pell-mell to the other
side.  For an hour longer the French sharpshooters kept up a skirmish
with the 95th and 52nd; then, as darkness fell, they recognized the
hopelessness of their attack, gave up the contest, and hastened down the
slopes to the eastern bank of the Cua.

"By George, this is a change of scene!" said Smith, standing with his
fellow-subalterns around a hastily lit fire. "Won’t the Grampus be green
when he hears what he has missed?  I wonder what the fellow is doing?"

"Offering Napoleon long odds on something or other," said Jack with a
laugh.

He had hardly spoken when the command came to form up in marching order.
Sir John Moore had ridden back from Villafranca on hearing Paget’s
cannon, and was delighted to hear of his old friend’s success.  The
French having suffered so decisive a check, he saw that the Reserve
could be safely withdrawn under cover of night. The troops set out in
better spirits than they had known for many a day, tramping cheerily
over the snow-covered road with the comfortable assurance that at last
they had won the general’s approbation and proved themselves men. Their
gaiety was doubled when they learnt from a wounded prisoner on the way
that Napoleon was no longer behind them.  He had withdrawn part of his
army, leaving Soult and Ney to continue the pursuit.  The thought that
they had baffled the great emperor was delightful to the British troops:
they never doubted that Napoleon had seen he was beaten by Johnny Moore,
and had run away in sheer petulance and chagrin.

Four miles after leaving the scene of their brilliant rear-guard action,
the Reserve arrived at the outskirts of Villafranca.  Long before, they
had noticed a red glow in the sky, which as they approached threw a rosy
light upon the banks of dazzling driven snow.  As they drew still
nearer, the whole town seemed to be on fire.  In every street great
heaps of stores and provisions were burning, and so thoroughly was the
work of destruction being carried out that guards had been placed even
round the doomed boxes of biscuit and salt meat.  But the temptation was
irresistible to hungry soldiers; many men, as they passed, stuck their
bayonets or pikes into junks of salt pork that were actually on fire,
and bore them off in great glee.  The men had been marching so steadily
that the officers for the most part winked at this rescue from the
flames, Jack remarking to Pomeroy that they’d all be precious glad to
get a slice or two of the meat by the time the march was ended.

After leaving Villafranca they passed through the defile of Piedrafita
into still wilder country.  Climbing Monte Cebrero and emerging on to
the barren plain of Lugo, the troops reached Herrerias shortly before
daybreak. They were suffering intensely from fatigue and cold, but their
halt for food and rest was of the shortest; as soon as day dawned they
had to set off again.  Now that daylight illumined the scene, they saw
terrible signs of the misery and disorder into which the constant forced
marching had thrown the main body.  The road was strewn with wreckage of
all kinds—horses were lying dead, wagons lay shattered and abandoned;
here was a rusty musket, there a broken sword; worn-out boots,
horse-shoes, pots, articles of apparel, dotted the white and rugged
causeway for miles.  Worse than that, human bodies were mingled with
these evidences of woe.  At one spot Jack saw a group of redcoats
stretched on the snow. Thinking they were stragglers asleep, he went to
rouse them.  They made no response to voice or touch; in their sleep
they had been frozen to death.

As the day wore on, other incidents added to the general misery.  The
horses of Lord Paget’s cavalry were constantly foundering through losing
their shoes on the stony road.  When this happened, the dragoons
dismounted, and led their chargers till the poor beasts could go no
farther.  Then, by Lord Paget’s orders, they were shot, so that they
might not fall into the hands of the French. Many a rough trooper shed
tears as he raised his pistol to the head of the faithful animal whose
friend he was, and as the cracking of the pistols reverberated from the
rocks, the sounds sent a painful shudder through the ranks of the
trudging infantry.

Hundreds of stragglers from the leading divisions loitered along the
road, causing an exasperating delay to the march of the disciplined
Reserve.  Among the laggards were not merely the marauders and
ne’er-do-wells who had cast off all obedience, but veterans who were
overcome by the rigours of the winter cold and the heavy marching on
diminished rations.  Every mile brought new horrors. Many sick and
wounded were being conveyed in baggage-wagons, which, as the beasts
failed, were abandoned, leaving their human occupants to perish in the
snow. Women and children panted along beside their husbands and fathers,
or rode in the few wagons that were left; but many dropped on the road
and died of cold and fatigue. Looking back from a spur of the mountain
chain, Jack saw the white road behind covered with dead and dying, a
black spot here, a red spot there, showing where a woman or a soldier
lay sleeping the last sleep.  The groans of women, the wails of little
children, were torture to the ears of the more sympathetic.  Sometimes a
soldier whose wife had given up the struggle, would fling himself down
beside her, and, cursing the general whose object he so grievously
misunderstood, remain to die.

Long after dark the Reserve reached Nogales, where they remained for the
rest of the night.  Before dawn, however, news came that the enemy were
pursuing close upon them, and as they marched out, the rear companies
became hotly engaged with French cavalry.  The force hurried on, across
a many-spanned bridge, up a zigzag road, skirmishing all the way, and
halting at favourable points to tempt the enemy to attack.  At one spot
the mountain rose up a sheer wall on the right of the road, and on the
left a deep precipice fell steeply to a valley.  Here General Paget
ordered the men to face round.  The position could not be gained by a
frontal assault, and the enemy, waiting for their heavy columns to come
up, sent voltigeurs and some squadrons of cavalry into the valley to
attempt a flank attack.  But deep drifts of snow having hidden the
inequalities in the ground, men and horses tumbled head over heels as
they advanced, and, amid grim cheers from the British troops above, the
French withdrew discomfited.

Fighting almost every yard of ground, the Reserve continued their
rigorous march towards Lugo.  Near Constantino they were amazed to meet
a train of fifty bullock-carts crammed with stores and clothing for La
Romana’s army.  Someone had blundered.  The Spaniards were dispersed far
and wide, and, but for its being intercepted by the British, the convoy
must inevitably have fallen into the hands of the French.  Astounded at
this piece of Spanish folly, but rejoiced at the luck which had brought
clothes at such an opportune moment, the soldiers soon stripped the
wagons, many a man carrying off several pairs of trousers, and enough
shoes to last a lifetime. Thus, when they were halted for action at the
bridge of Constantino, they presented a remarkable appearance. Some wore
gray trousers, some blue, some white; they were new shod, but with no
regard for pairs.  Corporal Wilkes, in his haste to replace his own
worn-out boots, had put a black shoe on his right foot and a white one
on his left.  But there was no time to attend to niceties of costume,
for the enemy kept up an incessant fire all the afternoon, and it was
only at nightfall that the tired regiments could withdraw from the
eastern end of the bridge and resume their march.

At dawn on January 6th they reached the main body, drawn up in battle
order three miles in front of Lugo. The brigade of Guards were in their
shirts and trousers, cooking their breakfast, having hung their tunics
and belts to the branches of trees.  As Captain O’Hare’s company passed
through them, one of the officers asked him if he had seen anything of
the French.

"Bedad, now," exclaimed O’Hare, "you’d better take down your pipe-clayed
belts from those trees, my dear, and put them on, and eat your murphies,
if you’ve got any, as quick as you can, or by the powers those same
French will finish ’em before they’re cold."

The Guards laughed mockingly; they themselves had not fired a shot
during the whole retreat.  But as the 95th marched on they heard Paget’s
guns open on the advancing enemy behind, and, turning, they gave the
incredulous Guards a derisive cheer.

No sooner had the Reserve reached Lugo than General Paget ordered the
men to clean their weapons and polish their accoutrements as thoroughly
as if they were going on parade in the barrack-ground at Colchester.
Corporal Wilkes had scarcely uttered a murmur for three days, but this
command was too much for him.

"Discipline be hanged!" he growled.  "We ain’t out for a picnic, nor
goin’ for a walk in the park, and what’s polishin’ paste to do with
lickin’ the French?—that’s what I want to know."

But when he had recovered from the first feeling of hardship he
recognized that the general’s motive was to maintain the excellent
discipline which had hitherto prevailed in his division; and Wilkes was
too good a soldier not to do his best, even with the polishing leather.

For three days the army lay at Lugo—three days of incessant rain, which
turned to slush the snow on the hills, and proved more trying to the
spirits and tempers of the men than the frost had been.  There were
large stores at Lugo, and Sir John Moore judged it wise, after the
exhausting forced marches of the past weeks, to allow the men a good
spell of rest and plentiful supplies of fresh food.  His position was
very strong, and he hoped to tempt Soult to a fight, being assured that
the troops would pull themselves together and give a good account of the
enemy.  But Soult was too wary to attack until he had overwhelming
numbers at his disposal.  His own force had suffered almost as severely
as Moore’s, and some of his divisions were still toiling on far in his
rear. After a few attempts to feel the British position he made no
further movement, and Moore waited and fretted in vain.  He would not
risk an offensive movement himself. He had no hospitals, few wagons, no
reserve of food or ammunition; delay would weaken him and strengthen
Soult.  There was no alternative but to continue the retreat.  The route
to Vigo was definitively abandoned; orders were issued for the whole
army to slip out of its lines on the night of the 8th, leaving the
camp-fires burning so as to deceive the enemy, and to make for the
direct road to Corunna, to which harbour the transports had already been
commanded to sail round the coast.  As soon as darkness fell all the
foundered horses were shot, and such provisions, stores, and ammunition
as were not required were destroyed.  At half-past nine the first
companies moved off, and by midnight the whole position was evacuated.

This was the beginning of the last stage of the army’s demoralization.
The frost of the previous week had quite broken up; a pelting storm of
sleet and rain assailed the troops as they marched.  In the inky
darkness many of the guides missed their way amid the labyrinth of
vineyards, orchards, and intersecting paths.  Regiment after regiment
went hopelessly astray, and when General Paget’s reserve division
reached the appointed spot on the Corunna road, it proved to be not in
the rear but actually in advance of the main body.  In these
circumstances Paget moved his troops slowly, knowing that if the enemy
overtook the less trustworthy regiments behind him the whole force would
run the risk of being annihilated.

Through the black and rainy night, then, the men marched, halting at
intervals.  No man was allowed to leave the ranks; all were filled with
apprehension of what might befall.  On the morning of next day the
belated divisions of the main body began to appear, and the Reserve
thankfully resumed its proper position of rear-guard.

A terrible lack of discipline prevailed in all but a few of the
regiments of the main body.  Drenched by the incessant rain, the men
sought shelter in cottages and outlying hovels whenever they were
halted, with the result that when the order for marching was given vast
numbers could not be found and had to be left behind.  All day and all
night the Reserve was harassed by the necessity of beating up these
loiterers, until officers and men alike were almost overwhelmed with
despair.

The experiences of that fearful 9th of January haunted the memories of
Jack and his friends for years afterwards. From cheerless dawn to
cheerless eve their eyes were shocked, their hearts were riven, by
misery almost passing belief.  For mile after mile of that bleak
desolate country, a land of bluff and spur, torrent and ravine, men fell
down upon the road, groaning, weeping, dying of weariness and disease
aggravated by the bitterness of shame and despair. Mules and oxen lay as
they fell, and in the wagons they had drawn, husbandless women and
fatherless children wailed and moaned, a prey to hunger and exhaustion.
Many a time Jack stuffed his fingers into his ears to keep out the
intolerable sounds, until the very frequency of them made him almost
callous, and he tramped along with haggard face and the same sense of
dreary hopelessness. Smith was bent almost double with illness, Pomeroy
and Shirley were so utterly weary and dispirited that they dragged their
feet like old peasants racked with the ague of the fields.  Even
Pepito’s vivacity had vanished; for the greater part of every day he
rode on a gun-carriage, a silent image of depression.

As the 95th halted for a brief spell at a hamlet, Corporal Wilkes, his
tanned, weather-beaten cheeks drawn and pinched, came up to his captain
and said:

"Sir, Sergeant Jones’s wife is dead."

"God help the poor fellow!" said Captain O’Hare; "what’ll he do now with
those two little children?  How are they?"

"Well, sir, and cosy; that good woman gave her life for them.  The
sergeant’s crazy, sir, and the wagon’s come to grief that they were
riding in.  I thought, sir—"

"Well?"

"I wouldn’t like to leave ’em behind, sir, and the sergeant’s as weak as
a rat and can hardly trail his pike. Couldn’t I carry one, sir?"

"Sure an’ you can.  Take turns with another man. And the other one—the
poor little colleen—"

"Pomeroy and I will look after her," said Jack.  "It’ll give us
something to think about.  We’ll either carry her by turns or get some
of our best men to do it."

And so it happened that for the rest of the retreat two little children,
a boy and a girl, rode along in the rain on the shoulders of
tender-hearted Riflemen, who talked to them and cheered them, so that
the small things, all unconscious of their irreparable loss, prattled
and laughed and felt exceedingly proud of their unusual altitude.

It is the morning of January 10th; the regiments are climbing the face
of a range of hills, the last, they have been told, that intervene
between them and the harbour of Corunna.  The rain has ceased, the sky
clears, and as the drenched and footsore warriors top the crest the sun
bursts through a lingering cloud and throws its low beams from behind
them.

"The sea! the sea!"

A great shout reverberates over the rugged hills.  Below lies the little
town of Betanzos, and beyond it the blue white-crested waters of the
Atlantic.  Corunna is only a few miles distant; the end of the long
agony is in sight; and the sudden coming of weather springlike in its
mildness after the severity of winter, fills all hearts with unutterable
gladness.  Colonel Beckwith roars at his men with a gruffness which
nobody mistakes, and the fierce tension of General Paget’s face is
relaxed for the first time for many days.

"The finest retreat that was ever retreated," cries Captain O’Hare, who,
though he looks only the shadow of his former self, has suddenly
recovered his usual cheerfulness.  "But what’s afoot down yonder,
begorra?"

All eyes follow his gaze downhill.  They light on a curious spectacle.
In the distance the road is dark with French cavalry, their helmets and
accoutrements flashing in the unwonted sunlight.  Between them and the
heights there marches a nondescript horde of stragglers, in all
uniforms, from all regiments.  But they are no longer straggling.
Formed in a solid mass across the road, they are retiring by alternate
companies, one company remaining to face the French, another marching
along the road until they reach a position whence they can cover the
first’s subsequent retreat.  Time after time Franceschi’s horsemen
charge; but every charge is beaten back by the rolling fire of the
British, who fight and retire, retire and fight, with equal steadiness.

"Bedad, now, that’s fine!" cries Captain O’Hare enthusiastically.
"That’s the greatness of the British Arrmy! Three cheers for the
fighting stragglers, my boys!"

Cheer upon cheer roll down towards the baulked and angry French.  Stage
by stage the army of stragglers retire up the slope until they are safe
within the protecting lines of the Reserve.  There the curious incident
is explained.  Dr. Dacres of the 28th had entrusted his instruments and
baggage to the care of a batman, who had loaded his mule’s panniers so
heavily that the animal had fallen far behind the regiment.  During the
night the man slept in a cottage by the roadside, and, rising before
dawn, was astounded to find that the French were almost within
arm’s-length.  Shouting to the numerous stragglers in the vicinity, the
batman, relishing a little brief authority, got them into some sort of
order and began to fight a rear-guard action on his own account.  A
sergeant of the 43rd, seeing what was in the wind, hurried up and
assumed command of the growing companies. It was by the skilful handling
of this man, William Newman by name, that the impromptu rear-guard had
held their own against the enemy’s cavalry and been brought safely out
of danger.

The army remained for a whole day at Betanzos.  On the 11th they marched
out towards Corunna, the Reserve being hotly engaged with the enemy’s
cavalry, and disputing the last ten miles yard by yard, under the
approving eye of Sir John Moore himself.  Two bridges were blown up.  On
the 13th Franceschi’s dragoons discovered a ford, and Sir John, seeing
that his main body was now secure, ordered the Reserve to fall back on
Corunna.  The regiments had hardly left their bivouac when shots from
the French artillery came with a crash on to the roofs of the houses
they had occupied near the bridge.

It was with this thundering adieu reverberating in their ears that the
gallant 95th, along with their equally gallant comrades in arms, marched
into their new quarters at Eiris, above Corunna, and attained, after
much travail, their long-desired haven.



                             *CHAPTER XVI*

                        *The Battle of Corunna*


The Eve of Battle—Moore’s Position—Wilkes is Himself Again—The First
Shot—Advance 95th!—Hand to Hand—Wilkes in Action—A Message to Moore—The
Commander-in-Chief—A Hero’s Death—"Alone with his Glory"


The great retreat was ended.  Sir John Moore’s army, after its terrible
forced marches over 250 miles of wild country in the worst of weather,
had reached the sea.  Five thousand men were left behind in sick, dead,
wounded, stragglers, and prisoners—a small proportion considering the
awful experiences they had come through.  The honours of the retreat
belonged to Sir Edward Paget and his regiments of the Reserve, who had
fought dogged and successful rear-guard actions wherever opportunity
offered, and had come through the whole campaign with little loss.

But the crowning achievement of the retreat was yet to be accomplished.
Sir John’s purpose had been to embark his army at Corunna on the
transports he expected to find awaiting him there, and to sail at once
for home. If this had been effected the history of the British army
would have lacked one of its most glorious pages.  When Moore arrived at
Corunna, the expected vessels were still beating about under stress of
weather in the Atlantic. The embarkation was perforce delayed.
Meanwhile the French were straining every nerve to catch their enemy; it
was more than likely that Soult would arrive in sufficient force to
compel Moore to fight, and the long-wished-for opportunity of a great
battle with the French would come at last.

Corunna was packed with military stores.  In readiness for anything that
might befall, Moore gave his men new muskets and rifles to replace the
rusty weapons they had brought with them across the hills.  He blew up a
large amount of superfluous ammunition, and then sat down in security to
await the arrival of the belated transports.

When, on the evening of the 13th, the Reserve fell back upon the main
army at Corunna, there was still no sign of the ships.  The British army
was in position on a range of heights a short distance to the south of
the city, and Paget’s hard-wrought troops were ordered to occupy the
little village of Oza, in the rear of the British line.  There they
formed, for the first time since the retreat began, the real Reserve of
the army.

During the next two days Jack had more than one opportunity of visiting
Corunna, where the Spaniards were making vigorous preparations for
defence.  For he was selected as usual by the general to arrange with
the native contractors for the supply of provisions to the division. In
his journeys to and fro he supplemented the company mess with small
luxuries to which it had long been a stranger.

"I could almost forgive you your good luck, Jack," said Pomeroy at
breakfast on the 15th.  "But you should have been in the commissariat;
you are wasted as a fighting-man.  Eggs, butter, cream, and coffee—why,
the 52nd across the way are as green as our coats with envy."

"If we stay here much longer we shall be back again on the old rations,"
replied Jack.  "We shall soon eat up the native produce; only our own
regulation hard-tack will be left."

"How are they getting on down at the harbour?" enquired Shirley.

"Slowly, as far as I could see.  They don’t seem to have done much since
the transports arrived yesterday. It is ticklish work embarking the
guns.  But they expect to be ready to-morrow; and I hear that the
Reserve are to be the first to embark."

"I don’t like that," remarked Smith indignantly; "after we have borne
the brunt of the retreat, they might at least have let us see it through
to the end."

"Oh! as for that, we may take it as a compliment," said Jack with a
smile.  "It’s a reward of good conduct. Our baggage is to be sent down
to-night, we are to follow to-morrow at mid-day, and by the time the
other divisions are ready we shall be snug and comfortable."

"It seems to me," said Pomeroy, pointing out of the window of the cura’s
house in which they were quartered, "that by this time to-morrow some of
us will be a little too snug."

Jack and the rest, after a hasty glance at the heights to which Pomeroy
was pointing, could not help feeling that the prospect of an unmolested
embarkation was indeed becoming remote.  They were now black with the
masses of Soult’s infantry.

Soult’s progress during the previous two days had been very slow.  He
found the British strongly posted; and his experiences during the
pursuit were calculated to inspire him with a wholesome caution when
tackling, not as during the past fortnight an isolated rear-guard, but
the whole of Moore’s army in battle array.  There were three ranges of
hills, on any of which an army defending Corunna might be assured of a
strong position.  But two of these ranges were of too great an extent to
be held by Moore’s little force of 15,000 men, and the British general
had been obliged to content himself with occupying the innermost of the
three, extending over about a mile and a half of country to the south of
the city.  It would have been an entirely admirable position had it not
been commanded at the right extremity by a hill of considerably greater
height, and within easy cannon-shot, while beyond this exposed flank was
a stretch of open country extending to the gates of Corunna, and
offering the enemy a good opportunity of turning the whole position.
But Moore had no choice; he knew the risk he ran, and relied on the
valour and steadiness of his men, who, now that their troubles were
over, had become cheerful, confident, and well-behaved British soldiers.
And with the instinct of a great general he ultimately turned his very
weakness into a source of strength.

Throughout the day French troops continued to stream westward along the
hills, and when night fell Soult had driven in the British outposts and
was in full occupation of the whole line of heights.  There were sounds
of incessant activity during the night, and at dawn on the following
morning the British found that the enemy had dragged guns up the steep
rocky eminence dominating their right wing.

For several hours after daybreak, on that 16th of January, the two
armies stood fronting one another.  Moore had sent all his cavalry, and
most of his guns, on board the transports, retaining only the infantry
to fight Soult if he attempted to interfere with the embarkation.
Hope’s division, consisting of Hill’s and Leith’s brigades, occupied the
extreme left of the British line, its flank resting on the river.  Next
came Baird’s division, comprising Manningham’s and Bentinck’s brigades,
the latter facing the little village of Elvina that lay at the bottom of
the slope held by the British, but almost under the frowning heights
occupied by the French batteries.  On the Corunna side of the British
position, and protected by the crest of the hills, Catlin Crawford’s
brigade lay in support of Hope’s division, while Warde’s two fine
battalions of Guards were posted a little farther to the right, ready to
reinforce Baird.

Almost out of sight of the French, in front of the village of Oza, lay
Paget’s Reserve, ready to be hurled upon any force attempting a turning
movement against Baird. It was so well concealed by the formation of the
ground that the French were not likely to discover its presence until
their movement was well developed.  Some distance in Paget’s rear
General Fraser’s division occupied a low eminence outside Corunna, ready
either to support Paget or to hold in check the large body of French
horse that was found to be threatening the right rear of the British
position.

Dinner-time came, and there was still no forward movement among the
enemy.  Moore concluded that Soult had made up his mind not to risk an
attack, and consequently made preparations for completing his
embarkation.  The reserve division, with orders to embark as soon as the
mid-day meal was over, grumbled while they ate their plentiful rations,
even those from whom no murmur of complaint had been heard during the
lean days of the retreat.  Corporal Wilkes, whose courage and
cheerfulness during the black fortnight had more than once earned him a
word of praise from his officers, now made no attempt to disguise his
feelings.

"I call it a shame," he remarked, gazing moodily up the valley to the
dark masses on the heights, "that we should scuttle away without even
the chance of a slap at ’em.  Of course they’ll come on as soon as they
see our backs, and of course there’ll be another fight.  Of course there
will.  But where shall we be?—shut up with rats and cockroaches and
shellbacks, and wishing we was at the bottom o’ the sea.  We’ve been
doin’ the worst of the work—there ain’t no arguin’ as to that—why
couldn’t they let us see it out?—that’s what I want to know."

[Illustration: The Battle of Corunna]

At this moment the order is given to march; the men shoulder their
rifles and sullenly tramp down the valley in the direction of the
harbour.  For weeks they have been straining all their energies to reach
the coast; now, when a few minutes’ march will place them beyond the
reach of their enemies, and ensure complete immunity from the
insufferable horrors that have dogged their footsteps during the
retreat, their bearing is that of savage resentment.

Suddenly the dull boom of artillery is heard far up the valley; the
division, as if at the word of command, comes to an instant halt, and
the men’s faces clear as if by magic.  Surely this must mean a fight
after all; they are to have their long-wished-for chance of coming to
grips with the enemy.  While they are thus waiting, anxious expectancy
on every face, an aide-de-camp from the commander-in-chief dashes up at
full speed.

"There is a general movement, sir," he says, addressing General Paget,
"all along the enemy’s line.  An engagement appears to be imminent.  The
commander-in-chief desires that you will return to the position you have
just left."

Never a general’s voice rang out more thrillingly than when Paget gave
the order to countermarch.  Never was an order received with more joy by
officers and men. In a few minutes the Reserve had regained its old
position around the little village of Oza.  There the eager troops
awaited, with what patience they might, the lurid moment that was to
compensate them for all their past sufferings and humiliations.  This
moment was some time in coming, but it came at last.

The brunt of the attack fell, as Moore had expected, upon Baird’s
division.  The guns from the opposite heights, completely outranging the
British artillery, played upon Baird’s front, and from the
vantage-ground of the rocky eminence on his flank raked it from right to
left. Under cover of this artillery fire a great French column, preceded
by a swarm of skirmishers, swept down the hill, drove in the British
pickets, cleared the village of Elvina of a company of the 50th, and
advanced up the slope held by Bentinck’s brigade.  A portion of the
column at the same time detached itself from the main body and moved
round the right of the British position with the object of taking it in
flank.  Moore instantly seized the opportunity.  Hurling the 42nd and
50th regiments of Bentinck’s brigade at the French front attack, and
driving home the charge with the help of Warde’s two battalions of
Guards, he swung round the 4th Regiment on Bentinck’s right to meet the
flanking column, and ordered up Paget from behind the hill to take this
force in its turn in flank.

The hour has struck at last!  With a cheer the 95th, who are in the van
of the Reserve, dash forward in extended order across the valley, where
they come into immediate contact with Lahoussaye’s dragoons, who have
been pushed forward on the French left to assist the turning movement.

The country, however, was far better suited for infantry than cavalry
tactics; low walls and ditches broke up the formation of the horsemen
and prevented them from charging with effect, while giving excellent
cover to the Riflemen.  The Frenchmen made a good fight, and there were
several fierce combats between knots of Riflemen and small isolated
bodies of horse; but the 95th pressed steadily forward, sweeping the
enemy before them until the dragoons were driven back upon the slopes of
San Cristobal, a low hill on the extreme left of Soult’s position.
There Lahoussaye dismounted his men and made a desperate effort to hold
the Riflemen at bay, while the infantry that had hoped to turn
Bentinck’s flank were fighting a losing battle with the other regiments
of the Reserve. It was here that many who had come unscathed through the
perils of the retreat fell under the withering fire of the troopers.  A
dismantled farmhouse, with some ruined out-buildings, stood facing
Corunna some distance up the slope.  Encircling it was a low stone wall;
other stone walls, taking the place of the hedges in an English
landscape, radiated from it, dividing the surrounding fields, and the
ground on all sides was cut up by ditches and ravines.  It was an ideal
position for defensive tactics, and Lahoussaye’s men, sheltered behind
the walls, made an obstinate stand against the advancing Rifles.

The task of clearing the farm fell to O’Hare’s company. A rough
cart-track led to a gap in the wall that had once been the gateway, now
blocked up by the French with heavy wooden beams.

"Now, Riflemen," cried Captain O’Hare, "you have your chance at last.
Remember Bembibre!" and with a cheer he led the company straight at the
gap.  When the Rifles were within twenty yards of the walls they were
met with a murderous volley from the defenders, and there were many gaps
in the line before the wall was reached.  Then began a fierce
hand-to-hand fight, in which every advantage was on the side of the
defenders.  Again and again the Riflemen mounted the wall and swarmed up
the barricade, only to be thrust back by the sabres and clubbed carbines
of the troopers.  Sergeant Jones, whom the loss of his wife had made a
dangerous foe for a Frenchman to meet, succeeded in forcing his way
across, accounting for two of the troopers in his passage, but the man
behind fell to the pistol of a French officer, and before the sergeant
could be supported he was surrounded by the enemy and sank under a dozen
wounds. Captain O’Hare, at the first assault, was stunned for a few
moments by a blow from a clubbed carbine, Pomeroy received a cut over
the brow from a sabre, and others lay either dead or badly wounded
within a few yards of the gateway.

Jack, on the right extremity of the line, had attacked the wall some
fifty yards from the gateway, but the ground falling away steeply at
this point, the obstruction was even more difficult to scale than in the
centre. Three times he and Wilkes, although gallantly supported by their
men, were thrust back after laboriously climbing the steep bank that
carried the wall.  He was about to make a fourth attempt when he
observed that a few yards to the right, near an angle in the wall, the
stones showed signs of approaching collapse.  The bank had given way at
this point, several huge stones had already fallen out of the wall,
others were loose, and the mortar was crumbling.

"Corporal Wilkes, order six men to load and fire at any head that
appears above the wall.  The rest go at them again.  Bates, and you,
Plunket, follow me."

Jack led the way to the weak spot in the wall, and directing the men to
work as quietly as possible, began to remove the loose stones.  As he
did so the surrounding blocks came away without difficulty, and in the
course of a couple of minutes a hole some two yards wide and about a
yard and a half high, extending half-way through the wall, was made just
above the bank.  In the meanwhile Wilkes had led another assault up the
bank, and sounds of fierce fighting still farther to the left proved
that a renewed effort was being made to carry the barricade.  A glance
to his left showed Jack that the other companies were busily engaged
with a large body of Lahoussaye’s horse, who had taken advantage of some
open ground to remount and threaten the regiment’s flank.

Seizing a rifle dropped by one of his men, Jack ordered Bates and
Plunket to make a simultaneous attack with him on the spot where they
had broken half through the wall.  Running up the bank, they put their
shoulders to the tottering masonry.  The wall shook, then cracked, and
falling, fortunately for Jack and his men, inwards, left a gap a couple
of yards wide.  There was a cloud of dust, through which Jack, followed
by Bates and Plunket, dashed with a rousing cheer.  The three men were
at once surrounded by twice their number of dragoons; but with their
rifles they kept the Frenchmen at bay, while Wilkes and the others,
profiting by the temporary diversion, scaled the wall.  "Come on, my
boys!" shouted Wilkes.  "What I"—crack on a Frenchman’s head—"want to
know"—a second crack, and the big fellow burst through the French
troopers, followed by several men of Jack’s company.  Thus reinforced,
Jack led a vigorous charge; nothing could withstand it.  The French
troopers broke, and made a dash for their horses, tethered in the rear
of the ruined farm, but in their flight they impeded one another’s
movements, and only a few got away.

Meanwhile Smith, who in O’Hare’s temporary absence was in command of the
company, formed up his men on the far side of the farm, and continued
the forward movement that had been for the moment arrested.  Within a
few yards of the farm they were overtaken by General Paget, who galloped
up and said:

"Well done, Number One Company!"  Then, after a careful examination of
the ground in front, and of the retreating enemy, he turned to Captain
O’Hare, who had recovered from his blow and came up eagerly.  "I think,
sir, we hold them safe in this quarter.  I shall be glad if you can
spare me one of your officers.  I have a message for the
commander-in-chief."

O’Hare, who, chafing at being knocked over, had remarked Jack’s share in
carrying the farm wall, beckoned him forward.

"Take one of the Frenchmen’s horses yonder," continued General Paget,
when Jack came up and saluted, "and tell the commander-in-chief that the
enemy on this side are in full retreat.  We shall continue to push them
through the valley, and ought shortly to threaten their great battery."

He pointed, as he spoke, to the rugged slopes, now covered with a thick
pall of smoke, on which Soult had massed his heaviest guns.  A
continuous dull roar came from the battery, from which the French
gunners were pouring shot after shot at the British infantry.

With a parting hint to Jack that the commander-in-chief would probably
be found with Baird’s division, General Paget wheeled his horse round
and returned down the slope.  In a few seconds Jack was in the saddle,
jumping walls and ditches, and floundering through ravines towards the
village of Elvina.  The retreating French infantry, broken but not yet
dispersed, barred his direct progress. He ploughed across the valley,
finding terrible evidence of the bitterness of the struggle in the
scores of dead and wounded dotting the fields from which the tide of
battle had now ebbed, and spurred his horse to a hand-gallop up the
gentle acclivity beyond.  When he reached the crest, the whole battle
was spread like a panorama before him.

Far to the left General Hope’s division was slowly pushing the French
back through the village of Palavea, from which they had driven the
British outposts at the beginning of the battle.  In the centre a severe
struggle was being waged for the possession of Elvina, where Bentinck’s
brigade, after hurling back the frontal attack and driving the enemy up
the opposite slopes, was now with difficulty holding its own doggedly
against superior numbers.  On the right the French flanking columns were
being driven steadily through the valley by Paget’s division, and
Franceschi’s dragoons were already retiring behind the great battery,
where eleven guns at almost point-blank range were now tearing huge gaps
in Bentinck’s slender columns.

Jack had halted for a moment to get his bearings; he was beginning to
make his way down the slope towards Elvina when he caught sight of three
officers on his left, galloping towards him on the crest of the hill.
In the leading horseman, mounted on a cream-coloured charger with black
tail and mane, he instantly recognized Sir John Moore; the others were
officers of the staff.  Jack had eyes only for the general as the
well-known figure swept up at headlong speed to within a few yards of
the spot where he had halted, then suddenly drew rein, throwing the
gallant charger upon its haunches, with quivering nostrils and heaving
flanks.  Jack never forgot the picture of horse and rider at this
moment: the charger snorting with excitement, its eyes dilated, its ears
cocked forward, its hoofs ploughing deep furrows in the soft earth; the
rider, with eyes fixed searchingly upon the enemy, seeming to keep his
seat without conscious effort, his whole being concentrated in the
lightning glance with which he took in every detail of the fight.

He was about to move away when Jack trotted up, saluted, and delivered
his message.  Sir John seemed too much preoccupied to notice who his
informant was.  After an instant’s reflection he said: "Follow me, sir;
I shall probably have a message for General Paget in the course of a few
minutes."  Then, setting spurs to his horse, he galloped down the hill
towards Elvina.

As they approached the village the 50th Regiment, commanded by Major
Charles Napier, was making a desperate effort to retake the place.  They
drove the enemy at the point of the bayonet through the village street
and beyond some stone walls on the outskirts; but there the French
rallied, and, being reinforced from the slopes above, again advanced,
capturing Major Napier, who was desperately wounded, and pressing hard
upon the 50th regiment and the Black Watch, both of which were running
short of ammunition.  The 42nd, mistaking an order, began to retire.
Then the commander-in-chief rode up, and addressing them said: "Men of
the 42nd, you have still your bayonets.  Remember Egypt!  Remember
Scotland!  Come on, my gallant countrymen!"

With a cheer the Black Watch returned to the attack. Moore followed the
brilliant charge with kindling eyes. "Splendid fellows!" he exclaimed.
He was just turning to give Jack the promised message when a cannon-shot
from the battery above struck him to the ground.  For one brief moment
it might almost have been thought that the hurt was a trivial one, for
the general, raising himself upon his right arm, continued to gaze
eagerly and with a look of noble pride upon the struggle beneath. It was
not until the success of his troops was assured that he sank back and
allowed himself to be removed from the field.  Four soldiers carried him
tenderly in a blanket to the rear.  No doctor was needed to tell the
grief-stricken bearers that the wound was mortal.  The injured man knew
that there was no hope.  They would have removed his sword; its hilt was
pressing against the wound.  "It is as well as it is," he said.  "I had
rather it should go out of the field with me."  As they carried him
towards Corunna he more than once bade them turn to learn how the fight
was going.  They bore him to a house in the town; as he lay dying his
mind was filled with his country and the commanders who had served him
and England so well during the bitter days of the retreat.  "I hope the
people of England will be satisfied.  I hope my country will do me
justice."  He spoke of Paget, asking to be remembered to him. "General
Paget, I mean; he is a fine fellow."  He left messages for all his
friends, and in the midst of his agony mentioned for promotion several
officers whose gallantry in the field he had noticed.  He bore his
dreadful sufferings without a murmur.  Only when he dictated a last
message to his aged mother did he show signs of breaking down.  And
thus, nobly as he had lived, when night had stilled the sounds of war
and the stars blinked over the awful field, the great soldier passed
away.

Jack had accompanied the bearers to the little room whither the general
was carried, and remained for some time doing such small services as
Moore’s aides-de-camp required of him.  When it was seen beyond all
doubt that death was very near, he was sent back to the battle-field
with the sad news.  During his absence the fight had been raging with
undiminished fury.  The enemy were retiring; the British were pressing
forward on all sides; and but for the lamentable event that had just
occurred it is possible that Soult’s army would have been utterly
destroyed, for his ammunition was failing, and behind him his retreat
was barred by an impetuous torrent, spanned by only one narrow bridge.
It was not to be. Sir David Baird, who would naturally have succeeded to
Moore’s command, had himself been wounded.  Sir John Hope, to whom the
command now fell, ordered the advance to be checked as the shades of
evening were falling.  His decision was doubtless wise.  He was not in a
position to follow up a successful action, for the cavalry and guns were
all on board ship.  The advantage already gained secured the immediate
object for which the battle had been fought—the safe embarkation of the
army.

When Jack, sad at heart, regained his regiment, below the great French
battery, he brought no message from the commander-in-chief.  What the
message would have been he could only guess.  But he felt that had Moore
lived, the 95th would have had stern work to do upon the rugged hills
above.  Sadly the army retired into its lines at Corunna; and as the
last shot from the French guns boomed across the valley, and the
watch-fires of the British pickets broke into flame on the heights, the
body of the noble Moore was laid to rest in the citadel, simply,
peacefully, without pomp, amid a reverent silence.



                             *CHAPTER XVII*

                         *In the Guadalquivir*


In the Dumps—Messages—A Fellow Passenger—A Match—Marcamiento—The
Despatch Disappears—A Quick Recovery—Pepito Expostulates—Perez
Plunges—Returned with Thanks—Mr. Frere—An Opportunity—A
Volunteer—Pepito’s Present—Before the Gale


The sadness which overshadowed the whole army was partly alleviated by
the bustle of embarkation.  The battle had been won; the object of the
great retreat had been achieved.  There was nothing to be gained by
postponing the return of the victorious but battered army to England.
Delay would have enabled reinforcements to reach Soult, which might
place him in a position to renew his attack with better hope of success;
while the state of the British army was such that it was impossible to
follow up their success by a pursuit of the French.  Sir John Hope,
therefore, upon whom the command had fallen through Moore’s death, gave
orders that the embarkation of the troops should be hastened, and within
twenty-four hours the men were aboard the transports, ready to set sail
for home.

Jack was resting in the afternoon with the officers of his company.
Illness and fatigue had worn them all to shadows.  Pomeroy was wounded,
Smith was so haggard as to be hardly recognizable, while Shirley’s
spirits had forsaken him, and his chums were too much depressed even to
object to the melancholy dirges which he quoted, on the homoeopathic
principle, for his own solace.  Jack alone retained something of his old
cheerfulness, and he was doing his best to hearten his companions,
before their turn came to embark, when a messenger entered, saying that
Sir John Hope desired to see Mr. Lumsden at once. He hurried off, and
returned half an hour later with even greater cheerfulness in his eyes
and gait.

"What do you think, you fellows?" he cried.  "I am not going to sail
with you after all!"

"Thank heaven!" said Pomeroy, with his head bandaged.

Jack smiled at his old chum’s petulance.

"I’m not so thankful, Pommy," he said.  "But for one thing I’d much
rather go home with you.  As it is—"

"Well, what’s your one thing?" said Smith, as he paused.

"I’ll tell you some day.  I don’t want to leave Spain just now, that’s
all."

"What are you going to do, then?" asked Pomeroy.

"Hope is sending me with a despatch to Seville, to Mr. Frere, our
minister there.  I’m to put myself at his orders. The general thinks
that people at home will be so mad at this retreat that they’ll howl for
leaving Spain to its fate; so it’s very probable that I shall not be
long behind you.  And you’ll be as fit as fiddles when I see you again."

"My own mother wouldn’t know me now," said Smith. "You always have had
all the luck.  Ten chances to one you’ll be promoted again, while we,
what with our wretched condition and that awful Bay of Biscay, shall
either be thrown to the fishes on the way home or drop into our graves
as soon as we get there."

"’Call for the robin redbreast and the wren,’" quoted Shirley dolefully.

"Now, Shirley, cheer up!" said Jack.  "Don’t give all the fellows the
blues."

"Faith, no," said the voice of Captain O’Hare, who had heard the last
words as he entered.  "I’m so weak myself I could hardly kill a fly, but
I’m captain o’ this company, and I won’t have my men driven into the
dumps.  There’s that Wilkes, now.  I left him outside, smoking some
unmentionable stuff with his mates, singing ’Down among the dead men’,
in a voice that would scare an undertaker. ’Faith,’ says I, ’it’s
delighted ye ought to be, seeing ye’re a sergeant before your time.’
’Sir,’ says he, ’I’m only promoted cos poor Sergeant Jones is down among
the dead men, and what I want to know is, whether it ain’t my dooty to
have the nat’ral feelings of a man and a brother.’  But what’s this I
hear, Lumsden?—we leave you behind, eh?"

"Yes, though I hope you’ll soon be out again.  Surely our government
won’t throw up the sponge!"

"Bedad, not if they ask my advice.  No Englishman, let alone an
Irishman, ever turned his back for good on a Frenchman yet; and as the
war secretary’s an Irishman, why, I prophesy we’ll be wid ye in six
months, my boy."

"Oh! but I’ll be home long before then.  There’s one thing I’d like to
stay in Spain for, but I see little chance of doing anything in it till
the war’s over, and then it’ll be too late, so no doubt Mr. Frere will
send me home at once."

"Ah!  And your one thing?"

"A precious secret," interposed Pomeroy.  "Lumsden’s a mystery-man ever
since he picked up that brat Pepito, who’s the owner of the evil eye if
ever gipsy was. Some cock-and-bull story of a hidden treasure, or a
beautiful heiress, or something of that kind, if the truth was known;
but Jack’s as mum as a mile-stone."

A bugle sounded outside the house.

"That’s our call, my boys," said the captain.  "Come now, out and get
the men into order, and march ’em off with as much decency as their rags
admit.  God bless ye, my boy! please the powers we’ll have you back in
the mess yet."

"’Fare thee well, but not for ever!’" said Shirley, giving Jack a hearty
grip.

"Good luck, old chap!" added Smith.  "Give my love to the heiress Pepito
finds for you, and if you should happen to come across the Grampus, take
my advice—don’t gamble."

Pomeroy shook hands silently.

"You’ll give my love to the old people, Pommy?" said Jack.  "I haven’t
had time to write to them since we left Salamanca.  You can give them
all the news."

Then they went among the men.  Sergeant Wilkes looked astonished as he
filed past and saw that Jack was not among his company, and Jack felt
sure that he "wanted to know" more emphatically than ever, especially
when, on turning suddenly, he found that Pepito was making farewell
grimaces at all his friends in the regiment.

"Now, Pepito," said Jack sternly, "if you’re to come with me, you must
learn to behave yourself.  Cut away and get my things ready; our ship
leaves at nine to-night."

Jack’s departure, however, had to be deferred until the following
morning, the wind being unfavourable.  Early on the 18th of January,
then, he went on board a bergantin of some 300 tons, carrying his
despatch for Mr. Frere in a waterproof bag, and followed by Pepito
bearing the few articles he had been able to save out of his
well-stocked kit of a few months before.  Sir John Hope, when taking
leave of him, had asked him to put in, if possible, at Vigo, and report
to General Craufurd, if he were still there, the recent happenings at
Corunna.

His errand fortunately fitted in with the instructions of the master of
the brig.  Jack had to spend the night at Vigo, where he learned that
Craufurd had embarked his brigade some days before, and had already
sailed for home. Next morning he was standing on deck, watching the last
bales of a miscellaneous cargo as they were lowered into the hold, when,
looking along the quay, he saw hurrying towards him two figures which he
recognized with no little astonishment.  The one was a tall Spaniard in
military uniform; the other, still taller, was covered with a ragged
brown cloak, and staggered along under the weight of a large valise.
Perceiving Jack’s eyes fixed on him, the foremost figure waved his hand
with easy condescension, and smiled, and when he was still several yards
away, began to speak:

"Ah, amigo mio, you look surprised!  As for me, I am both surprised and
delighted.  I had not hoped for the pleasure of an old comrade’s company
on this voyage. We will talk over old times, Jackino, and help each
other to face the perils of the sea."

"You anticipate a storm, then?" said Jack, with a meaning look.

"Not anticipate, my friend; but one must be prepared. And there is one
peril that, storm or no storm, every traveller has to endure."

"That is?"

"Mareamiento, amigo mio!  The motion of a ship produces an unpleasant
perturbation of the internal organs, resulting in—"

Jack laughed.

"That’s your peril!  Well, it’s one that everyone has to face for
himself.  If I were you, when you feel the perturbation beginning, I
should lie on my back."

"But then I should have to turn over," said Miguel seriously.  "However,
you do not ask why I am prepared to endure this disagreeable accident of
travel; you show no curiosity, my dear friend."

"About other people’s business—no.  But I see that your man appears none
the worse for the punishment which, no doubt, the Marquis of La Romana
awarded him for his outrage at Astorga—you remember?—the occasion when
you were so much shocked at the man’s heartless treachery."

"I remember well, dear friend.  Perez was the victim of a sudden
temptation, poor fellow.  You see, he has only one eye.  He is not all
there.  Oh, he was punished!  He was made to take off his uniform—it had
gold lace, you remember?—and to dress as a servant, and that, to a man
of Perez’ illustrious connections and personal pride, was a great, an
overpowering humiliation.  He felt the disgrace so keenly that he
assured me he could not live unless I took him back into my service.
What could I do?  I could not be responsible for the miserable wretch’s
self-destruction.  I did what every man of heart would have done, and—
But we are moving, my friend; the ship is oscillating like a child’s
cradle; the wind catches the sails.  Yes, the voyage has begun.  I think
I will—ah!—descend."

As Miguel, leaning on the arm of his follower, disappeared down the
companion-way, Jack noticed a large rent in the man’s cloak, into which
another material, by no means a good match, had been clumsily darned.
He started, and drew out of his pocket a jagged remnant of cloth, the
sole memento of his narrow escape at Cacabellos.  In general appearance
it closely resembled the material worn by the Spaniard; but as both were
brown, and Spanish cloaks were usually of this colour, it would not be
easy, without close examination, to establish their identity.

"It may be merely a coincidence," thought Jack, "but it’s queer, anyway.
I have no doubt he owes me a grudge; I hit him rather hard.  And Miguel,
who doesn’t love me either, would not be above reminding him of it."

With a careless resolve to be on his guard, Jack dismissed the matter
for the moment.  For two days he saw nothing more of Miguel.  The wind
was fresh, and while Jack revelled in the rapid progress, and felt
himself braced by the keen salt air, Miguel, his man, and Pepito all
passed through various stages of misery and despair.  Pepito was the
first to recover, and from him Jack learnt that Miguel had intended to
attempt the journey southwards overland, but that, having accidentally
caught sight of Jack in Vigo, he had made enquiries, and determined to
risk the sea-passage in his company.  This information Pepito had picked
up from one of the seamen, who had been accosted and questioned by Perez
before they left the harbour.

"Two villains, Señor!" said Pepito, as he concluded his story.  "They do
not love the Señor," he added, significantly fingering the small knife
that protruded from his sash.  The action, like the weapon itself, was
two-edged. It was a warning to Jack and a menace to the two Spaniards,
who had just crawled for the first time from below, and, unwashed and
unshorn, presented anything but a formidable appearance.  Nevertheless,
whenever he moved, Jack felt that Perez was watching him.  He never
succeeded in catching him in the act; he felt rather than saw the glare
of the man’s forlorn eye.

Miguel volunteered the information that he was carrying despatches from
La Romana to the Supreme Junta at Seville, and asked Jack what errand
had brought him southwards.  Jack, however, evaded the question,
enquiring into the present circumstances of La Romana’s rabble, and its
prospects of escaping destruction.  The Spaniard was evidently annoyed
at Jack’s want of communicativeness. He gave the shortest answers to his
questions, and then, with a malicious gleam in his eyes, turned the
conversation into another channel.

"And when my errand at Seville is accomplished," he said in his blandest
tones, "I shall make my best speed to Saragossa, where I shall find my
pearl, my rose, querida mia, the lovely Juanita.  Pity, Jackino, I
cannot invite you to my wedding.  It would give you so much pleasure to
see the two friends of your childhood united in the holy bonds of
wedlock; and when—"

But Jack had moved away; he walked forward and watched the prow cutting
its white furrow, thinking of the old days when Juanita and he had both
detested Miguel Priego, and wondering how the girl could have been
persuaded to plight her troth to such a man.

The skipper told him that he hoped to make the mouth of the Guadalquivir
on the evening of the fourth day after leaving Vigo.  He proposed to
anchor there for the night, and sail up to Seville next day.  Jack was
so eager to reach his destination and deliver his despatch that he
half-resolved to have himself put ashore at San Lucar, and finish the
journey overland.  With this intention, when one evening the lights of
San Lucar were sighted, he went to his cabin for his despatch-bag,
telling Pepito to carry his few belongings on deck.  Lifting the bag, he
was struck by the appearance of fine scratches on the hasp of the lock.
He held it close to the flame of his lamp to examine it more thoroughly,
and found in a moment that the lock had been forced and the despatch
abstracted.

"Pepito," he said quickly to the boy, "do you know anything about this?"

"Nothing, Señor."

"The truth?"

"Fear makes lies, Señor; I know no fear."

"We shall not go ashore to-night.  Have you seen anyone in my cabin?"

"No, Señor."

"Very well.  Say nothing about this."

Jack sat down to reflect.  Neither captain nor crew could have any
interest in stealing a despatch.  The bag had contained nothing else.
Miguel and his man were the only other passengers beside himself and
Pepito.  What would it profit either of them to tamper with the bag? The
possession of the despatch would be of real advantage to neither of
them; its loss would be merely an annoyance to himself.  Anyhow, the
despatch was gone; it remained to be discovered whether it had been
taken by Miguel or Perez.

Pepito had been watching Jack’s face.  He seemed to divine what his
master was thinking, for he came up to him and said quickly:

"Señor, I know the Busne.  The paper is gone, and I will find out
where."

Jack looked back at him for a moment without speaking, then he nodded,
and Pepito hastened away with the light footstep of a cat.

Two hours afterwards he returned, with a grin of glee upon his elfin
face, and a paper in his right hand.

"Señor’s paper," he said.  Then, bringing his left hand from behind his
back, he produced a second paper, saying:

"The Busno’s paper too.  Both were together in the Busno’s bag, beneath
the Busno’s pillow."

Jack frowned.  He looked at the address on the second paper; it ran:
"The Marquis of La Romana to their excellencies the Supreme Junta at
Seville."

"You must take this back, Pepito," he said.

"No, no," said the boy, his eyes gleaming.  "The Busno and the one-eyed
man are asleep; I should wake them if I took the paper back.  The Busno
took Señor’s paper.  Very well, I, Pepito, take the Busno’s; and I will
tear it in pieces, and throw it into the sea."

"No," replied Jack.  "You are a clever boy, but you must learn to do
things in my way, not your own.  I will give back the paper myself."

Pepito shrugged, as though expressing his inability to understand an
Englishman’s mad way of doing things. An idea had come to Jack; he would
not restore the despatch at present, but would wait until the morning.
Placing them both inside his tunic, and buttoning it up, he lay down and
settled himself to sleep.

Soon after daylight Jack heard angry, excited voices in Miguel’s cabin.
It was evident that the master had discovered his loss, and that the man
was bearing the first brunt of his vexation.  Gradually the voices
dropped to a whisper, then there was silence, and Jack detected a soft
footfall in the passage.  The catch of the little cabin-door was slowly
raised; Jack coughed gently, the catch dropped noiselessly, and the
visitor disappeared without a sound.

At breakfast Miguel, evidently preoccupied and ill at ease, made no
reference to the subject.  As Jack had anticipated, he was not sure
enough of his ground to report his loss to the captain.  But his look
became more and more anxious, even agitated, as the vessel worked its
way in long reaches up the river.  Perez, lounging against the bulwarks,
was keenly watching Pepito, in whose somewhat provocative bearing he
seemed to find cause for suspicion.  The gipsy was even more monkey-like
than usual, swarming up and down the yards, flitting around and above
his scowling enemy with a disconcerting assumption that Perez was
non-existent.

Suddenly, while Jack was watching the play of sunlight on the mountain
ranges in the east, he heard a cry, followed instantly by a splash on
the port side.  He sprang across the deck, noticing as he did so the
half-recumbent form of Perez lolling unconcernedly at the spot he had
occupied for the past hour.  There was nothing to be seen in the
sluggish river below, and for a moment Jack was inclined to think that
his ears had deceived him; but even as the thought passed through his
mind he caught sight of a small dark object rising above the surface
some yards in the wake of the vessel.  With a loud cry "Man overboard!"
he threw off his cloak, sprang on the bulwark, and dived into the river.
The water was icy cold, but fortunately in these lower reaches the
current ran slowly, and when he came to the surface, with the rapidity
of a practised swimmer, he saw the small black head much nearer than he
had expected.  In another second the reason was clear; the owner of the
head was swimming towards him with slow leisurely strokes, and Jack
began to regret his precipitancy.

"The Señor will get wet," cried Pepito as he approached. His tone was
that of aggrieved expostulation.  "He will spoil his fine clothes.  Ay
de mí!  Why will the Señor be so rash?  And he has only one uniform.
Now he will have to travel as a Busno.  Ay de mí!"

Jack had now turned, and was swimming hard against the current.  He
heard Pepito remonstrating in his wake, but although he treasured the
remembrance afterwards, he was in no mood at the time to be amused with
his follower’s untimely zeal.  His heavy boots and water-logged clothes,
to say nothing of the numbing cold of the water, made swimming anything
but an agreeable exercise, and he was heartily glad when he clambered
into a boat that had been promptly lowered from the ship.  Pepito
followed him a few seconds later, looking not unlike a water rat as he
emerged dripping from the river, in which he seemed perfectly at home.
In the boat the boy showed him, with an expressive grin, a piece of rope
about five feet long.  He had dragged it with him out of the river.
"What are you doing with that?" enquired Jack sharply.

"It belongs to the ship," was the reply.  "Pepito is not a thief; he
must give it back."

"How came you to fall in?"

"I was swinging on the rope."

"And it got untied?"

"No; it was cut."

Jack started and looked closely at the end of the rope, which Pepito
handed to him with a chuckle of enjoyment. It had evidently been severed
with a knife.

"Perez?" enquired Jack.

"Yes, Señor," said Pepito.

They had by this time come under the ship’s quarter, and a rope-ladder
was let down for their benefit.

"Stay where you are for a moment," said Jack to the bos’un; "I am
sending another passenger."

As he clambered over the bulwarks Miguel met him with assumed
solicitude.

"You English are such sea-dogs, there is no keeping you out of the
water.  I trust, my friend, you will not suffer a chill.  At this time
of the year—"

He was warming to his theme when Jack stepped quietly through the little
knot of seamen gathered on the deck, and went straight towards Perez,
who was still lolling against the bulwarks, with a gleam of malicious
enjoyment in his solitary eye.  Before the man was aware of what was
coming, Jack had seized him by the waistband, and, using the bulwark as
a fulcrum, had tilted him over into the river.

Then Jack went below and changed his dripping garments for the Spanish
dress which he carried with him in case of emergency.  He noticed as he
did so that in his absence his effects had been thoroughly ransacked.

When he came on deck he found that Perez, by no means a favourite with
the sailors, had been hauled out with extreme deliberation, after
swallowing some quarts of the turbid waters of the Guadalquivir.  He
glared at Jack with concentrated malignity, but was physically incapable
of reprisal, even if his morale had not been impaired by the knowledge
that he had only got his deserts.

The captain listened gravely to Jack’s explanation, and examined the
severed rope with a judicial air.  Jack did not consider it necessary to
make any reference to the incident of the despatches.

"I suppose," said the captain, "that the Señor will wish to lodge an
information?  A friend of mine is well acquainted with a man of law in
the Calle del Amor de Dios, a very able man—he has one case of assault
that has lasted thirteen years."

"Thank you!" said Jack with a smile; "but as I only propose to stay in
Seville for a few days, I fear I shall have to forgo your friend’s
friend’s assistance."

The captain looked disappointed.

At length the vessel passed the Torre del Oro, a crenelated octagonal
tower near the landing-stage.  The brig was moored, Miguel and his man,
who had been below since the incident, came on deck at the last moment,
and ostentatiously ignoring Jack’s presence, stepped across the gangway
on to the quay.  As Miguel passed him, however, Jack quietly touched him
on the shoulder.

"Allow me, Don Miguel," he said, "to hand you this packet.  It was
found—you can perhaps guess where—with some property of mine.  I have no
occasion for the one; you will perhaps permit me to retain the other?"

A dull flush mounted to Miguel’s cheeks.  He took the despatch without a
word, gave Jack a glance in which humiliation, chagrin, and undisguised
hatred were strangely mingled, and prepared to move off.

"A word," continued Jack, "before we part.  Your Polyphemus is doubtless
a very devoted servant, but if we meet again, and I find him still at
your elbow, you will pardon me if I betray a little suspicion."

Jack turned abruptly away, leaving Miguel for once at a loss for an
adequate answer.  By the time he had recovered himself, Jack, followed
by Pepito, was half-way across the quay.


Jack had never been in Seville before.  He was struck by the forest of
masts from ships lining the river bank, by the whitewashed houses built
in Moorish fashion, with barricaded windows, and the narrow, busy,
cobbled streets. It was a fine clear day, and for almost the first time
since he landed, four months before, at Mondego Bay, he felt the dry
warmth of a southern climate.  He found his way with Pepito along the
river bank, past the bull ring, to a comfortable inn in the Plaza Nueva,
and having there made himself as presentable as his worn and faded
garments allowed, he set off for the Alcazar, where he had learnt that
the British minister was then in conference with the Junta.

He had some curiosity to meet Mr. Hookham Frere. It had been common talk
in the army that Sir John Moore had received a number of almost insolent
epistles from the minister, who had gone quite beyond his province in
dictating the course of action which he thought the commander-in-chief
should follow.  Mr. Frere, indeed, was not cut out for the delicate work
of an ambassador, and he was perhaps as little surprised as anybody
when, two months later, he was recalled by the dissatisfied Government
at home.  He was no doubt worried by the mingled vacillation,
braggadocio, and incompetence of the Spanish authorities with whom he
had to deal, and in truth their behaviour was such as would have tried
the temper of a more patient and self-assured man than Mr. Frere.

He received Jack in a private room, and read the despatch in silence,
save when the news of Sir John Moore’s death provoked an exclamation.
He folded the paper and laid it down on the table before him.

"Poor fellow!" he said.  "He always said he hoped to die after a great
victory.  You knew him, sir?"

"Yes, sir," said Jack.  "I had the honour to serve under him through the
campaign, and he was very kind to me."

"Ah!  I am afraid our relations were a little clouded of late.  I acted
for the best.  I did some things I now regret; they were due partly to
my lack of trustworthy information.  And now, though we have won a
victory, we have had to leave the country.  The army might perhaps have
sailed to Lisbon instead of returning home."

"I beg pardon, sir, but if you saw the horrible state of our men you
would be the last to say that.  They’re worn out with illness and hard
work, eaten with vermin, and have nothing but rags to cover themselves
with. I came off better than most, and you see what a condition my
uniform is in."

"Terrible!—I had hoped so much from this expedition. The Spaniards have
indeed been given a breathing-space, but they will make little of it.
And they are so untrustworthy, so untrustworthy, Mr. Lumsden.  At this
time, of course, it is of the utmost importance that the real state of
things should be known to all the Spanish generals in all parts of the
country; but I cannot depend on the Junta here telling the truth.  There
is General Palafox, for instance, in Saragossa, a young man for whose
talents I have the highest admiration; he is, as you may perhaps know,
besieged by the French, and the Junta has encouraged him with the news
that great battles are being won for Spain, and that armies will shortly
march to his relief.  All humbug, humbug!  Buoyed up by false hopes, he
will resist to the bitter end, and the poor people of Saragossa may
endure all the nameless horrors of a protracted siege only to find
themselves disappointed and deceived.  And then they will blame us,
accuse us of deserting them in their extremity.  It would be difficult
now for any messenger to reach him; but in any case I cannot depend on
the Junta’s telling him the truth.  I am weary of it all."

Jack had listened to this speech with growing eagerness. It suggested a
means by which he might fulfil what had been his dearest wish ever since
he met Miguel in Salamanca—to see Juanita Alvarez, and learn for himself
that she had really of her own free-will consented to trust her life and
happiness to Miguel Priego.  Until now it had seemed idle to hope for
such an opportunity, but why should he not offer his services to Mr.
Frere and volunteer to convey to Palafox a true account of the progress
of events elsewhere?  And Palafox!—he had a private reason for seeing
him.  "Palafox the man, Palafox the name!"—the phrase in Don Fernan’s
letter had never left his memory.  At odd moments, when free from his
duties, he had found himself conning the words over and over again; and
lately he had begun to wonder whether the mysterious message were not
connected in some way with Juanita—whether there were not some strange
link binding Palafox and Juanita and himself together.  His regiment had
gone home; he was now under the orders of the British minister; he had
been in dangerous places and circumstances of peril before; why not
combine the public service with his private ends, and start for
Saragossa?  His mind was made up.

"Let me convey a message to General Palafox," he said.

"You!  It is preposterous.  You would go to your death.  How could you,
an Englishman, and an English officer, hope to penetrate the French
lines?  You would be caught and shot."

And then Jack gave the minister a brief account of himself, his early
years in Spain, his recent work for Sir John Moore done in the guise of
a Spaniard.

"And so you see, sir," he concluded, "you could hardly find anyone, not
actually a Spaniard, with better chances of success than I have.  I have
been in Saragossa before, and I have some command of Spanish—and I am
not afraid, sir."

Mr. Frere was evidently taken with the suggestion. He had listened with
growing interest to Jack’s modest story, and smiled at his account of
his conversation with the boastful commissary and his subsequent
adventure with the Spanish stablemen.

"And this gipsy boy of yours—would you propose to take him with you?"

"Yes, sir; my chums regard him as my familiar spirit, and I myself have
begun to cherish a sort of belief that I sha’n’t come to much harm if he
is near at hand."

"Well, Mr. Lumsden, I am much interested in your story; I think, if I
may say so, that you have shown great capacity and resourcefulness, and
fully justified poor Sir John’s confidence, and I confess, after seeing
and hearing you, that I have every hope of your succeeding in this,
perhaps the most difficult, certainly the most hazardous, of all your
enterprises.  And now, as that is settled, we must lose no time.  When
will you be ready to start?"

"When the first ship sails, sir."

"You will go by ship, then?"

"It will perhaps be quicker, and safer on the whole."

"What about French frigates?"

"I must take my chance of them.  Luckily I kept the Spanish dress given
me by Don Pedro de Gracioso; Pepito has it in my bundle.  I shall, of
course, go as a Spaniard."

"I wish I had your youthful confidence!" Mr. Frere sighed.  "Very well;
find out when the boat sails northward, and I will have my despatch for
General Palafox ready at any time."

"You will answer for me to the military authorities, sir?"

"Certainly.  You may assume that you have six months’ leave; and for my
part, I do not suppose that your regiment will require your services any
more in Spain."

At the conclusion of the interview Jack stepped into the street with a
light-heartedness he had not known for many a day.  The winter, with all
its fatigues and disappointments, was passing away; he felt a strange
assurance that with the coming spring the tide of his affairs would turn
towards achievement and happiness; and he returned to his inn with a
buoyancy and eagerness in his gait that caused many a head to turn and
many a face to smile.

With Pepito he hastened at once to the quay by the Torre del Oro, only
to learn that no vessel would sail for the northern ports for some days.
"We can’t wait for that," he said to himself, and immediately sought out
the owner of a large fishing-smack he saw in the offing.  After some
bargaining he arranged to hire the craft with its crew, to sail, wind
and weather being favourable, next morning.

On the way back to their inn he set a seal to the hold he had
unwittingly obtained on the gipsy’s affections. Coming to a
clockmaker’s, he stopped, looked in at the window, then entered, and
soon returned carrying a huge silver watch, which he handed with its
chain to Pepito.

"There, youngster," he said, "that’s a little reward for the services
you have done me.  Take care you don’t lose it."

The boy beamed his delight, and pranced along the street in unfeigned
ecstasy.

The sun shone brightly next morning, and the wind blew fresh.
Accompanied by Pepito, Jack, in his Spanish dress, went down to the
quay, where, however, he found that the master of the smack was not
disposed to sail. He foretold a strong gale from the south-west, and
wished to postpone his departure till the next day; but Jack was so
eager to arrive at Saragossa that he would brook no delay.  After an
hour’s arguing and coaxing, and the promise of double pay, he induced
the mariner to attempt the voyage, and at nine o’clock the smack cast
off and sailed slowly down the river.  The wind increased in force as
she approached the mouth.  On reaching the open sea she encountered the
full force of the blast, and, swinging round, scudded before the wind at
a speed that promised a fast passage.



                            *CHAPTER XVIII*

                          *A Squire of Dames*


In the Casa Ximenez—Cut Off—Ways and Means—A Race with Time—The Bridge
Perilous—Into the Abyss—A Deserted House—Through the Streets—Adios—Señor


Near the convent of San Agustin, at the south-eastern end of Saragossa,
there stood, in the year 1809, an old, large, gloomy house known as the
Casa Ximenez.  It was not in the best part of the city, but it had an
air of high respectability, and in truth had been for many years the
town residence of a prosperous burgher family, whose name stood for all
that was solid and dignified in civic and commercial life.

On February 1st in the aforesaid year the spacious rooms of the mansion
were empty—all but one.  In the gilded sala on the first floor, a
chamber large enough to contain fifty or sixty persons as well as its
massive antique furniture, sat two ladies, one old, the other in the
heyday of youth.  Though it was early morning, the room would have been
in pitch darkness but for two candles which, set in the cups of a silver
candelabra on the table, threw a glimmering illumination upon the
panelled walls.  The sulphurous fumes of gunpowder hung heavily in the
air. The deep, square windows were shuttered on the outside; there was
no crack or aperture through which the light of day could enter save a
hole in one of the shutters, and that at this moment was blocked by a
long Spanish musket, behind which stood a middle-aged man in the sober
costume of an upper servant.

Within the house all was silent, but from without, penetrating the thick
walls and the iron-clamped shutters, came dull, heavy, thunderous sounds
that shook the air, set the candle flames quivering, and caused the
elder of the two ladies to start and shudder and moan as if in pain. At
intervals the man at the window withdrew the musket, letting in for a
few moments a streak of daylight that lay white across the yellow
glimmer from the candles.  With silent deliberation he charged his
weapon, passed it through the aperture with a downward slant, and pulled
the trigger, going through the same series of movements time after time
with clock-work regularity.

The old lady watched him as if fascinated.  She was small and thin; the
hair beneath her elaborate cap was white.  With the long bony fingers of
one hand she clasped her mantilla closely about her shrunken frame; the
other was held in the strong, warm hands of the younger lady, who sat on
the floor by the elder’s chair and spoke to her alternately in soothing
and in urgent tones.

"You really must come, Auntie," she was saying.  "It is not safe here.
Hark! there is another gun!  They will break in before long, and
then—oh! come, come now; you can walk if you only try."

The old lady, still with her eyes fixed on the servant, shook her head
and clutched her mantilla convulsively.

"Does he kill—every time?" she said in a thin quavering voice.

"How can we tell?  And if he does kill, it only makes our position
worse, for they will find out where the shots come from, and they will
burst in, and you—we—oh! Auntie, it is our only chance.  See, I will
support you; if you lean on my arm you will walk quite well, and I will
never leave you.  Come!"

"I will not go," said her companion.  "I will not, will not.  The French
may kill me, I have not long to live; but you, Juanita, you can escape.
Francisco will shoot and kill until the very end; he and I will remain
in the old house, in the old house—"

"They are coming nearer, Señorita," said Francisco, his respectful tone
as quiet and unperturbed as though he were announcing a visitor.

"You hear that?  You must come, Auntie.  I will not leave you here!"

Springing suddenly to her feet, she stooped, threw her arms around her
aunt’s body, and lifted her from her chair.

"Francisco," she said, turning to the servant, "go on firing.  If I do
not return, come after me in ten minutes."

Then, straightening her back, she went to the open door, bearing easily
the wasted form of her aunt, who did not resist, but moaned and muttered
in helpless impotence. Out into the corridor, down the broad staircase,
the strong girl carried the feeble woman.  She reached the patio; then,
instead of turning towards the great iron-studded gate at the front of
the house, she made her way to the smaller but still strong gate at the
back.  In the open patio the sounds of musket shots were tenfold louder
than they had been in the house above; they were mingled with the shouts
of men afar off, the sudden shocks of explosions, and the crackle of
flames.  A pungent smell of smoke filled the air.  The girl hastened her
steps towards the rear of the house, where the noises came less
distinctly to the ear.  Arriving at the gate, she set her burden down
gently upon a bench, quickly drew the bolts, and, promising to return in
a few moments, slipped out, closing the gate behind her.

She found herself in a narrow irregular street.  On the other side was a
row of smaller houses, the upper stories of which projected over the
roadway.  At each end the street opened to wider thoroughfares, and the
Casa Ximenez was nearer the northern extremity.  Juanita gave a quick
glance each way.  The house at the end of the street on her left was in
flames.  Nobody was to be seen, but she heard fierce shouts, apparently
in all directions, growing ever louder.  She paused but for an instant,
then ran across the street to a door opposite and hammered with her
fists upon the wood.  She waited; there was no answer, no sound of
movement within.  She knocked again with greater force, bruising her
knuckles until they bled.  Still no response.  She stepped back a pace
and looked up at the windows; all were shuttered. She struck the door
with repeated blows, and cried to any who might be within to open it.  A
shout to her left caused her to start and look round with apprehension
in her eyes.  A French soldier, armed with a pike, had just turned the
corner, and behind him were others, some armed with muskets.  At sight
of them the girl turned to run back to the gate of the Casa Ximenez.
Glancing in the other direction, she saw a figure hastening from the
nearer end of the street—a figure in the long cloak and low hat of a
Spaniard.  He caught sight of the French and stopped short.

"Señor," she cried, "help us for the love of God!  My poor aunt!"

"What is it, Señorita?" he said, running towards her. "What can I do for
you?"

She pushed open the gate and sprang through the narrow entrance.  The
stranger followed her, slammed the gate behind him, and shot the two
stout bolts into their sockets.

"My aunt," said the girl, "is an invalid; I was trying to save her.  The
French are at the front; what are we to do?"

She spoke with decision, in rapid tones that conveyed no impression of
fear, but rather of courage and determination.  The young Señor looked
at the huddled, helpless figure of the old lady on the bench.

"Señora," he said quickly to her, "we leave you for a little.  Take me
into the house, Señorita."

As she led the way the youth threw quick glances to right and left,
taking his bearings.

"Is anyone in the house?" he asked.

"Francisco; all the other servants have fled."

"Where is he?"

"In the sala."

"Take me to him."

Afterwards he remembered the peremptoriness of his speech; at the moment
neither noticed it.

Entering the room, he saw the servant loading and firing as
imperturbably as before his mistress departed.

"That’s right; go on firing," said the stranger.  "Now upstairs,
Señorita."

She led him to the top of the house.  The windows at the back overlooked
the tiled roofs of the lower houses opposite, slightly above the level
of the parapet.  The street below was filling with French soldiers, who
were battering and firing at the doors, without for the moment doing
much damage.  From the barricaded and loopholed windows on the other
side shots flashed at intervals; the houses were evidently defended in
some force, and the throng below were taken aback by the deadly
cross-fires from above.  The stranger measured with his eye the distance
across the street from house to house.

"Have you any boards, tables, anything, about fifteen feet long?" he
asked.

"I do not know.  Francisco will know."

They ran downstairs.

"Can you bring the Señora up?" asked the youth.

"Yes, I carried her down."

"Please do."

Juanita hastened to the patio below; Jack went into the sala.

"Stop firing now, hombre," he said to the servant. "There is one chance
of escape, from window to roof. Are there any planks?"

Francisco put down his musket, and glanced keenly at the speaker, with a
touch of surprise at his urgent manner.

"None, Señor, but the boards of the floor."

"No time to tear those up."

He glanced round the room.  He saw that the heavy curtains were enclosed
at the top within an ornamental wooden framework, square-cut, massive,
and ugly.

"Steps?  A ladder?" he said.

"In the press at the head of the stairs, Señor."

"Quick! bring them here; and a hammer."

In a few moments Jack was standing on a short ladder, hammering the
planks of the framework apart.  Extending over both windows and the wall
between, they were about sixteen feet in length.  A few hard blows
wrenched the fastenings, and two planks an inch thick lay on the floor.
Side by side they measured three feet across.

"Now, ropes, cords!" cried Jack.

A long, stout bell-pull hanging from the ceiling caught his eye.
Tearing it down, by the time Francisco returned with a length of rope
Jack had lashed the planks together at one end.  Soon the other ends
were bound as firmly together.

"Help me upstairs with it."

They reached the topmost room, whither the girl had already carried her
feeble, whimpering aunt.  The extemporized bridge was long enough to
rest on the ledge of the opposite parapet, with a foot each way to
spare.  But it could not be thrown across without a support at the other
end; its weight would more than counterbalance any pressure that could
be exerted on the end in the room.

"Another rope!" cried Jack.

He had noticed a strong staple in the attic roof above the window.
Francisco came back in two minutes with a long rope.  Jack lashed it
round the end of the planks, sprang on the window-sill, and pulled the
rope through the staple.

"Now let it out steadily as I push the bridge across."

Juanita stood with shining eyes, watching the young stranger as he
pushed the planks across the street, while Francisco stolidly paid out
the rope.  The bridge rested on the parapet.

"Hold this end firmly against the sill," said Jack to Francisco.

Juanita held her breath as the young fellow mounted a chair, stepped out
of the window, and walked cautiously to the middle of the bending
bridge.  In a moment he was back again in the room.

"It will bear," he cried.  "I go first with the Señora."

He lifted the old lady carefully; she was too much dazed to have any
consciousness of what was before her, and lay inert in Jack’s arms,
moaning "Ay de mí!  Ay de mí!" incessantly.

"Wait till I return," he said to Juanita, who stood, her cheeks flushed
with excitement and hope, within the room.

Step by step he slowly bore the old lady across the creaking, swaying
planks, till he reached the other side; then he laid her gently down
behind the parapet at the foot of the gable.  Then he sped back.

"Now it is your turn, Señorita," he said, preparing to lift the girl.

"I can go alone," she said without hesitation.  "I can," she repeated
resolutely as Jack sought to detain her.

Springing lightly on to the planks, she paused for an instant, caught
her skirt in one hand, bit her lips, and then ran across as lightly as a
hare, Jack watching her with a tense feeling of anxiety mingled with
admiration. He gave a gasp of relief.

"Now, hombre," he said, turning to the old servant, who had held the
planks steady without uttering a word.

"Not so, Señor," he said; "I go last."

"Nonsense!  I am responsible for this.  Get on at once."

There were loud shouts from below.

"I am old, Señor.  The Frenchmen in the street have seen us now; they
will shoot; it matters little if I die."

"No more.  You must go.  The ladies require you."

From the parapet opposite Juanita was looking at them. Her cheeks were
very pale.

"Come, Francisco," she said in a tone of authority that brooked no
denial.

The man hesitated no longer.  He mounted the bridge, and walked with
slow, firm step towards his mistress. An upward shower of shots pelted
all around him.  One struck him in the leg; he stumbled, nearly
wrenching the planks from Jack’s grasp, and Juanita uttered a cry as the
poor man fell headlong into the street.

[Illustration: Francisco Falls from the Plank]

Jack saw that there was no time to be lost.  A few dexterous shots from
below might destroy the bridge. He must run the gauntlet.  He mounted at
his end.  At the same moment Juanita, with great presence of mind,
seized the other end, and held it firmly against the parapet.  Three
bounds, amid flying shots, and Jack reached the parapet in safety.
Then, catching up the planks, he hurled them down upon the crowd.

"You are not hurt, Señorita?" he said.

"Poor Francisco!" was her reply.  There was a tremor in her voice, not
from fear, as her next words showed.  "I am ready, Señor; tell me what
we are to do now."

There was a trap-door a yard away, opening inwards. Jack tried this with
his foot; it was bolted, but the bolt rattled, and could evidently be
forced with little exertion. Without hesitating he sprang heavily on to
the wood; it gave and fell in with a crash.  Jack’s body had almost
disappeared into the opening, when as he fell he caught the ledge with
both hands, and though the sudden stoppage gave his muscles a severe
wrench, he managed to maintain his grip, and hung on with legs dangling.

"Señorita," he said, "come and look down and tell me what the drop is.
I cannot see, myself."

Juanita went down on hands and knees, and peered into the darkness.  For
a moment her eyes could discern nothing; then, as they became accustomed
to the obscurity, she said that the trap-door opened into an attic room,
and that the floor was not far below.  Jack instantly let go, and
dropped.  The distance was but ten feet.  Regaining an erect posture, he
found, after a little groping, a short ladder in a corner of the attic.
He placed this in the opening, and went up into the light again.  It was
the work of only a few minutes to carry the old lady down the ladder.
Juanita followed, and instantly busied herself with her half-fainting
aunt.

"Wait here, Señorita," said Jack, "while I go down into the house and
see if the way is open for escape."

The attic door was not locked.  Jack went out, down the stairs, through
the house from top to bottom, and found every room empty, every window
barricaded, and the outer doors locked.  Unlike the occupants of the
other houses on this side of the street, the inhabitants of this had
clearly not stayed to defend it.  The front door was bolted on the
inside; at the door of a yard at the back the bolts were drawn, showing
that escape had been made that way.  Jack pulled at the door; the lock
held firmly; it was impossible to force it; the only means of exit was
over the wall.  Hastening upstairs again, he explained the position to
Juanita, who looked at him with the same quiet self-possession.

"Do you know any house in the centre of the city, Señorita," asked Jack,
"where you can take refuge? Your own house is now, without doubt, in the
hands of the French."

"Yes, Señor, we have friends in the Calle del Coso with whom we can
stay."

"Then, if you will allow me I will escort you thither. I do not know the
town very well, but I know the Calle del Coso."

"Yes, we will go.  But how can we take my aunt, Señor?" asked the girl.
"Helpless as she was half an hour ago, she is prostrate now.  You could
not carry her all the way."

"I think I know of a plan.  The first thing is to take her downstairs,
and I am strong enough for that."

In a few minutes all three were at the yard door. Jack returned to the
attic for the ladder, and having placed that against the wall, he
carefully carried the old lady to the top, where he sat with her until
Juanita had also mounted, drawn up the ladder, and let it down on the
other side.  They were now in a narrow lane, in which nobody was to be
seen, though they knew by the shouts and the gunshots that fighting was
going on at no great distance.  Leaving the old lady in Juanita’s
charge, Jack went back into the house, and soon returned with a large
chair and two short props he had found in the patio. Placing the old
lady in the chair, he passed the props through the legs on each side.

"If you will hold them at the back, Señorita," he said, "I will take
them in front, and then we shall be able to carry the Señora between
us."

Thus burdened, they walked slowly down the lane, turned to the right,
and found themselves in a street filled with soldiers and citizens,
among whom were many women and priests.  Almost all, even the priests,
were armed, and many were hastening in the direction of the Augustine
convent, where the French, after a desperate struggle, had just
succeeded in forcing an entrance to the town. Barricades had been
erected at various parts of the street. No one showed any surprise at
the sight of an old lady carried on a chair.  Strange incidents of the
siege were happening every day.  Every hour some new family was obliged
to quit its dwelling and seek safety in flight. Unnoticed and
unmolested, Jack and his companions in a few minutes reached the house
in the Calle del Coso to which Juanita had referred.  They were admitted
immediately to the patio.  There Juanita found her friends eating a meal
the frugality of which spoke only too plainly of the straits to which
the city was now reduced.  The exhausted condition of the old lady
demanded instant attention, and while the group of friends gathered
about her solicitously, Jack took a hurried farewell of her niece.

"Now that you are in safety, Señorita, I can leave you and go to fulfil
an errand I have.  I trust the Señora will soon recover from her
weakness and terror, and that you will not suffer from the strain of
this frightful morning."

"Señor, you have the heart-felt thanks of my aunt and myself.  But for
your timely help—I dare not think of it.  And poor Francisco!  To think
of him dead, killed by those horrible French! ... We can never thank you
enough."

Jack was conscious of some constraint in the young lady’s manner, which
he ascribed to the reaction from her excitement and the peril recently
gone through.

"I am only too glad that I happened to be passing at that moment,
Señorita," he said.  "And now, farewell!"

He bowed.  The young lady looked at him with a curiously scrutinizing
expression in her eyes; then, returning his bow with somewhat more
formality, Jack thought, than the occasion required, she said:

"Adios—Señor!"



                             *CHAPTER XIX*

                           *Palafox the Man*


Night on the Ebro—Across the Boom—Heroines of the Siege—The
Captain-General—An Interview—A Missing Letter—War to the Knife—An
Interruption—Santiago Sass—First Impressions


So exciting an incident immediately on his entrance into Saragossa had
engrossed Jack’s attention so thoroughly as to drive from his mind the
matter which, until he turned the corner of the Casa Ximenez, had been
giving him much concern.  Where was Pepito?  That mischievous but useful
elf had been the life and soul of the sailors during their rapid voyage
from Seville to the mouth of the Ebro.  When they disembarked at Tortosa
he had managed with great cleverness the hiring of horses on which to
continue the journey overland, and had ridden with Jack across country
until they reached the village of Mediana, some fifteen miles from
Saragossa.  There Jack learnt that Saragossa was closely invested on all
sides by the French, and in particular that the Monte Torrero, an
eminence on the south-west of the city, was in the hands of the enemy,
who had made it the base of most vigorous and sustained operations.

It was clearly impossible to penetrate the French lines and enter the
city on foot or horseback; the only other means was the river.  Jack
made anxious enquiry as to the chances of finding the waterway open.  He
learnt that in the early days of the siege several boats had eluded the
vigilance of the French and come down the river, and that, only a
fortnight before, Francisco Palafox, the brother of the captain-general
in command, had escaped under cover of night and was now at large,
endeavouring to raise a relief force.  But the peasants of Mediana knew
of no case of a boat going up-stream and passing the French batteries
since Colonel Doyle had sent a number of new muskets into the city the
day before the strict investment began.  Further, in addition to a
bridge of boats near the confluence of the tributary Huerba with the
main stream, a boom had been thrown across the river a few hundred yards
below this point, and it seemed most unlikely that now, in the seventh
week of the siege, the French sentries would have so far relaxed their
watchfulness as to allow the boom to be crossed or broken.

This was bad news, and Jack, for the moment, felt baffled.  He
discovered, however, that at this time of year Saragossa and the
neighbouring district were covered at early morning with a thick mist
from the river and the low-lying banks, and he felt that if he could
take advantage of this fact he might slip into the city despite all the
enemy’s vigilance.  At any rate he determined to make the attempt.  A
bargain was soon struck at a riverside village for the loan of a boat.
The oars were carefully muffled, and after dark, on the night of January
31st, Jack started with high hope on the last stage of his long journey.

All went well.  It was a pitch-dark night, and the strain of rowing a
heavy craft against the stream necessitated frequent pulls-in to the
bank for rest.  But steady progress was made mile by mile, until, about
five o’clock in the morning, sounds ahead indicated that the boat was
drawing very near to the French encampments.

Every stroke of the oars was now made with infinite precaution, and the
boat crawled along at a snail’s pace. Pepito, in the bow, leant over to
watch for the boom which blocked the waterway, and many times dipped his
hands into the icy-cold water so that touch might not fail where sight
was impossible.  The air was raw and chilly, and Jack was delighted to
learn, from his sensations in throat and eyes, that the mist of which
his informant had spoken was an actuality.

It was drawing towards dawn.  The darkness was yielding to a faint
luminance that was not yet light, when suddenly, a few moments after
Pepito had withdrawn his numbed hand from the water, the boat was pulled
up with a jolt, and a harsh prolonged creak testified that its nose had
come at last into contact with the boom—a heavy chain drawn across the
river from bank to bank.  Instantly there was a cry from the bank on
their right: "Qui va la?"  At that same moment, without the least
hesitation, Pepito slipped noiselessly over the side of the boat into
the water, caught the chain with one hand, and endeavoured to pull it
down, whispering to his master to row over.  But his puny strength was,
of course, unavailing, and he crept back shivering into the bows. Jack,
however, had at once divined the only possible solution of the problem.
So heavy a chain must undoubtedly sag towards the middle of the stream.
Was the middle to his right hand or his left?  He pulled the boat
sideways against the obstruction, and told Pepito to slip overboard and
walk along the chain while he himself gently paddled.  At a guess he
moved to the right, and was soon gratified by Pepito’s whispered
announcement that the chain seemed to be sinking.  When the water
reached the boy’s middle, Jack gently brought the boat’s head to the
stream, and with two vigorous strokes drove the unwieldy vessel across
the boom.  The boat’s bottom scraped the massive links as it crossed;
Pepito clambered in rather too hastily and slipped; the sounds caught
the ears of the sentry on the bank, and another cry of "Qui va la?"
penetrated the mist, followed by a shot.  More voices were heard; more
shots; and then from a point behind came the sound of a boat being run
down the bank.  Jack now plied his oars with might and main; cries,
followed by shots, rang out from the other bank, and then, ahead and
approaching him, he heard the straining of oars against rowlocks.  There
was no time for hesitation.  Pulling hard on the left oar he headed for
the bank, taking his chance, and in a few seconds grounded with a shock.
In an instant he was out of the boat, and, followed closely by Pepito,
started at a quick walk through the clinging fog in what he guessed must
be the direction of the city.

They had not walked fifty yards when a terrific explosion rent the air,
deafening their ears and almost knocking them backward.  Immediately
afterwards the thunder of heavy artillery broke out to their right, and
the mist beyond them was fitfully illuminated by lurid flashes. Brought
to a momentary stop, Jack again went forward, with eyes and ears
painfully strained, every fantastic eddy of the mist presenting itself
as a possible enemy. Suddenly he looked round to see that Pepito was
with him. The boy was gone!  Retracing his steps, he peered through the
gloom, calling the gipsy’s name softly.  There was no answer, no sign of
him.  Five minutes were spent in fruitless search; then, within a few
yards of him, Jack heard the tramp of men marching rapidly in file.
With a mixed feeling of annoyance and anxiety he turned and made off in
the opposite direction, crossed the district known as the Tanneries, and
after wandering about for nearly an hour, dodging footsteps, and seeing
with concern the mist clearing, arrived at the turning of the Casa
Ximenez just in time to assist the young lady then so urgently needing
assistance.

Still anxious about the safety of the gipsy boy, Jack felt, after
leaving the house in the Coso, that he could do nothing at the moment,
and his first duty was to present his despatch to General Palafox.  The
sounds of combat hurtled in the air; behind him clouds of smoke and
flame bore witness to the success of the French bombardment. The street
was full of men, women, citizens, soldiers, priests, hastening from
point to point, all armed, all with fury and grim determination printed
on their worn features. Stopping a boy who was hauling along a barrow
filled with powder, Jack asked him where General Palafox could be found.

"In the Palace of the Inquisition, by the Portillo Gate," replied the
boy in surprise, scarcely stopping to answer the question, and hurrying
on again with his fatal load. Before he had gone fifty yards a bomb fell
into the barrow, and, unknown to Jack, this little defender of Saragossa
was blown into eternity.

Jack hastened along the street, climbing the barricades, shuddering as
he saw the unburied corpses of the slain lying before every church door,
wincing in spite of himself as the thunders of the cannonade resounded
in his rear, and admiring the courage of the black-robed noble ladies,
who went about the streets swiftly but quietly, some carrying aid to the
wounded, others almost staggering beneath the weight of great bags of
powder and ammunition tied to their waists.  He hurried along the Coso,
crossed the Calle del Hospital, pursued his way to the Portillo Gate,
and at length, passing through a long covered approach, reached the
Palace of the Inquisition—the Castle of Aljafferia, at the extreme north
of the city, outside the walls.  At the gate of the castle many people
were going in and coming out.  Jack joined the ingoing stream, and found
himself within the stately halls of the old palace of the kings of
Aragon, crowded with soldiers and people of all classes.  Learning with
some difficulty that the captain-general was in one of the smaller
salons, he at length reached the room, and stood in presence of the man
whom for months past he had been more than eager to see.

José Palafox was barely thirty years of age, a tall man with dark
complexion, heavy brown moustache and whiskers, and kindling
eyes—kindling now, alas! with the flame of disease as well as of
patriotic ardour.  He was seated at a table on which papers were
outspread.  Every now and then his frame was racked with coughing.  At
his right hand stood a grim-visaged priest, Don Basilio Bogiero, his
chaplain, whose fiery zeal in the defence of the city was equal to his
own.  Around were others of the notable men of the place, whom Jack came
to know before many days had passed—the parish priest Santiago Sass, the
burly peasants known to the whole populace as Uncle George and Uncle
Marin, who had already proved their valour at the first siege of
Saragossa, six months before. Making his way through the throng, he came
to the table, and, bowing to the general, presented him with the
despatch he had run such risks to deliver.

"From the British minister, Señor?" said Palafox in surprise, looking
keenly at Jack.

He broke the seal, and showed the handwriting to Don Basilio, who nodded
in answer to his mute enquiry.  The general then rapidly cast his eyes
over the despatch; Jack, watching him, saw his features twitch as he
read.  Collecting himself, he folded it up and placed it in his pocket.

"My brothers," he said aloud, "this is good news."

A shout interrupted him.

"Good news! good news!" rang from lip to lip.  Santiago Sass crossed
himself and cried: "Praise to our Lady of the Pillar!"  Don Basilio
watched everything with his fierce eyes.

"Yes, my brothers, good news!" continued Palafox. "The great English
general, Sir Moore, has smitten the hosts of the accursed French; an
army three times his own he has smitten and scattered to the winds of
heaven. The traitor, the regicide, Bonaparte, has fled to France, and
our brethren in all parts of Spain are massing to march to our
assistance.  Praise to the noble English! Praise to our noble allies!
Praise to the great and noble Moore!"

"Praise to Our Lady of the Pillar!" shouted Santiago Sass.

The room rang with exultant cries, some in praise of Moore and the
English, others in adoring gratitude towards the patron saint of the
city.  The fervour of religious enthusiasm was all the intenser because
of the general belief that the extraordinary failure of the first siege,
six months before, had been due to the miraculous interposition of Our
Lady.

While the exultation was at its height, Palafox whispered a few words in
the ear of Don Basilio, rose from his chair, and beckoned Jack to follow
him into a small inner room.  There, having shut the door, he asked:

"Do you know the contents of the British minister’s despatch, Señor?"

"Not in precise terms, Señor Capitan, but I know the facts.  I was
myself with Sir John Moore’s army.  I—"

"Pardon me, Señor.  You see what I am compelled to do?  The patriotic
ardour of the Saragossans is so furious that I dare not as yet let them
know all the truth.  And, indeed, I do not yet give up hope.  Though Mr.
Frere tells me that I can no longer expect assistance from without, I do
not know—I do not know.  My brother is raising levies to the south;
others are gathering forces.  In any case, our brave countrymen will
form guerrilla bands, and we shall give the accursed French no respite
until they are all driven back across the mountains.  And—but tell me; I
do not understand why I have received so long and full a despatch from
Mr. Frere and none from our own Junta.  I should have expected that the
Marquis del Villel would have given you a despatch that would have been
of equal importance with the British minister’s."

"That is easily explained, Señor Capitan.  I carry Mr. Frere’s despatch
because I am myself an Englishman. My name is Lumsden—Lieutenant Lumsden
of the Rifles."  Jack watched the general’s face for a sign of
recognition of the name.

"Indeed! you amaze me.  You speak our tongue so—Lumsden! I remember; I
had almost forgotten it; a friend of my old friend Don Fernan Alvarez—is
it not so? Alas!  Don Fernan could not survive the humiliation of his
unhappy country.  Are you the Señor Lumsden who was Don Fernan’s
friend?"

"My father was his partner, Señor," replied Jack.

"Yes, and I had a letter for you, addressed to you by Don Fernan, and
left in my charge ere he died.  As I understood, it was a duplicate of a
letter sent to Mr. Lumsden in London—your father, no doubt, Señor—and
Don Fernan asked me to retain it until I heard either from your father
or yourself, and if I heard from neither within six months, I was to
send it to an address in London that he gave me."

Palafox was here overtaken by a fit of coughing, which shook his
fever-worn frame.  When the coughing ceased, and the general lay back
panting, Jack said quietly:

"And the letter, Señor?"

"That is what troubles me, Señor.  I regret to tell you—"

He was seized again with coughing; Jack waited anxiously for the
paroxysm to cease.

"I regret to tell you the letter is gone."

"Gone!" echoed Jack blankly.

"Gone, Señor."

"But how—why—can it have been lost, mislaid?"

"It was locked in my cabinet.  A fortnight ago my cabinet was rifled,
and a box of papers was taken away, among them the letter addressed to
your father."

"But still I do not understand, Señor.  Why should anyone wish to steal
a letter addressed to an unknown Englishman?"

"No one wished that, I suspect," said Palafox with a faint smile.  "The
box in which the letter was placed was exactly similar to another box
containing papers of public importance, including plans for the defence
of the city. That, as I surmise, was the box which the thief wished to
secure.  Luckily for Spain, unluckily for you, he stole the wrong box,
and apart from your letter obtained nothing of any great importance."

"I am glad of that," said Jack instantly.  "Of course I am disappointed
and vexed about the letter, but a private loss like that does not matter
half so much as the loss of your plans would have done; it’s no good
crying over spilt milk, as we say, and I must put up with it."

"It is good of you to take the matter with such noble resignation," said
the courtly Spaniard.  "Believe me, I regret the circumstance
exceedingly.  I can only hope that the French spy who stole the box—he
must have been a French spy; we have no afrancesados in Saragossa—I can
only hope that there was nothing in the letter that will seriously
affect your fortunes, and after all, it was a duplicate, and the
original is probably safe with your father in London.  And now tell me,
Señor, how you succeeded in the daring and marvellous feat of entering
our sorely invested city."

Jack gave a brief account of his adventures, to which Palafox listened
with an air of the keenest interest.

"It will be more difficult to get out than in," he said at the
conclusion of the story.  "And yet to remain in the city will be to
court death or disease.  It cuts me to the heart to think of the
thousands who are dying here week by week, not for want of food—we have
provisions of a sort in plenty—but for want of air and space.  We had
too large a population, Señor, when the siege began.  I should have sent
away the townsfolk; I see it now.  And yet no, for the townsfolk are our
most ardent and staunch defenders; even when the courage of the soldiers
flags, the brave citizens cry "Guerra al cuchillo",[#] and "Hasta la
ultima tapia",[#] and when fell disease overtakes them in the fetid
cellars where they now mostly live, still with pious resignation they
cry: "Lo que ha de ser no puede faltar".[#]  Such is their spirit,
Señor, and hoping against hope I maintain my defences, and, if God
wills, shall yet win the day."


[#] "War to the knife."

[#] "To the last wall."

[#] "That which is to be cannot fail."


During this speech Palafox had worked himself up into a frenzy that
brought on another fit of coughing; and Jack, observing his unnaturally
bright eyes, could not but wonder whether the labours and
responsibilities of the defence were not affecting his mind.  In a
moment Jack said quietly:

"My position need not give you concern at present, Señor Capitan.  I
must stay in Saragossa for at any rate a day, for I have to make
enquiries after my old friend Don Fernan’s family.  His daughter,
Señor—is she well?"

"I believe so; I hope so.  It is long since I saw her. I wished her to
leave the city before the siege, but, like a true maiden of Spain, she
preferred to remain and do what she could to help the noble Countess of
Bureta and the thrice noble Maria Agustin, our heroic maid of Saragossa,
in serving the soldiers and tending the sick and wounded. The Señorita
is under the guardianship of her aunt, the Doña Teresa, and if you will
seek the Padre Consolacion, he will give you all particulars of their
welfare; he undertook to watch over their interests at my special
request. If you stay with us for a time, then, Señor, you will want a
residence.  There is little choice; we are at the mercy of the French
guns; no house is safe, but—"

"I have been thinking, Señor," interposed Jack, as the general paused:
"Will you accept me as a volunteer? I have some months’ leave.  I not
only have personal interests in your city, but I feel that the struggle
in which you are engaged is one that I can throw myself into with a
whole heart.  The cause of Spain is the cause of England, and if I can
do anything—"

"Señor, I thank you; I welcome you with eagerness. You are an officer;
your experience with Sir Moore’s army will be of value to me.  Many of
my best officers are dead; many more have no experience.  If you please,
I will assign you a definite command on our defences; will you come to
me to-morrow at this hour?"

Jack was on the point of replying when loud vociferations came through
the door from the large room.  "Palafox! Where is Palafox?  The
captain-general!  Come! Help!  Tio Jorge!  Palafox!"  The cries grew
louder and louder; heavy fists, muskets, pikes battered on the door; Don
Basilio’s powerful voice was heard endeavouring to quell the tumult.
Gathering himself together, and bravely repressing the signs of weakness
he had previously shown, Palafox walked to the door, opened it, and
stood in the doorway.

"What is it, my children?" he said.

The noise was hushed; the crowd turned as one man and seemed to be
looking for someone.  Then a passage opened up among them, and a huge
brawny figure, with capless, dishevelled head, torn clothes, and face
and hands black with the smoke of battle, elbowed his way through till
he came to the general.

"Viva Arcos!  Viva el valiente Arcos!" cried several in the throng.

"Silencio!" in the stern, authoritative tone of Don Basilio.

"Señor Capitan," said the big man, "the French are making towards the
Coso!  The Casa Ximenez block is in their hands.  They are burning,
butchering; they are beating down our men at the barricades!  I come for
the reserve, Señor; for Tio Jorge and Tio Marin, and all their men! At
once, Señor; send them at once; for if time is lost, the accursed foe
will swarm into the centre of the town, and all is lost."

Before Palafox could say a word, the priest Santiago Sass seized a
musket, and, raising his piercing voice, cried:

"Follow me! follow me!  In the name of God and Our Lady of the Pillar!
To the convent of San Agustin!  Tio Jorge, Tio Marin, Jorge Arcos,
follow me!"

He rushed out into the corridor, and the mob, in a frenzy of enthusiasm,
poured pell-mell after him, carrying their heroes with them.  The room
was left almost empty. Don Basilio turned to Palafox and said quietly:

"They will recover any ground that is lost.  Spare yourself, my son
José."

"But the madness of Santiago leading them to the convent!  The walls
were breached by the explosion this morning, and the French must now be
in full possession of it."

"If the Augustine convent is where the explosion took place," cried Jack
eagerly, "that is near where I came in this morning.  I found out by
accident something of the position there, Señor.  I think I could help.
Have I your leave?"

Palafox looked kindly into the boy’s shining eyes.

"Yes," he said, "go, and bring me word of what befalls."

[Illustration: Second Siege of Saragossa]

Jack sprang instantly towards the door.  As he passed out, Don Basilio
turned with an enquiring look towards Palafox.

"An English youth, Padre," said the general, in answer to his mute
question.

"A leader of men," said the priest, and sat down to write a
proclamation.



                              *CHAPTER XX*

                         *A Day with Tio Jorge*


A Barricade—Battering-Rams—A Lull—A Way In—On the Stairs—The Day’s
Work—A Triumph—Pepito’s Watch


At the end of the covered way leading to the Portillo Gate Jack found
Tio Jorge giving instructions to a group of armed citizens, who went off
one by one on various errands.  Seizing a favourable opportunity, Jack
went up to the big Spaniard, and in a few rapid words acquainted him
with his own position and intentions.  Jorge scanned him for a moment
with quick, penetrating glance, then said:

"Señor will want a musket.  There is a stand of arms at the corner
yonder."

In two minutes Jack, armed with a musket of British make—one of those
opportunely thrown into the town by Colonel Doyle the day before the
siege opened,—was hastening along by the side of Tio Jorge into the
city.  On entering the streets, the Spaniard summoned to join him small
bodies of citizens who were gathered at certain points to act as
reinforcements and reserves.  Soon he was at the head of a considerable
troop, all of the artisan class, for in these days of stress every
able-bodied man in the city was transformed into a fighter.

As they ran, their ears were deafened by a loud explosion on the right.
The air was darkened with dust; broken slates and stones came hurtling
down upon their heads; but the eager citizens pressed on with an
indifference that showed how much accustomed they were to such
incidents.

"A block of houses blown up between here and the Santa Engracia
convent," said Tio Jorge in answer to a question of Jack’s.  "But that
is not our business.  The French will hold the ruins, but they’ll get no
farther.  Our men will beat them back.  ’Tis more dangerous towards San
Agustin.  The French have gained more there in this one day than in
weeks on the Santa Engracia side. Hombres," he cried to the men with
him, "hasten, hasten!  The French are over the barricades, and we must
drive them out at all costs."

They ran on.  Even in the rush and excitement Jack was struck by the
scenes of horror in the streets.  At one point two corpses swung slowly
on gibbets erected by the door of a church.  Tio Jorge pointed to one of
them, a look of grim exultation on his face.

"He was my school-fellow," he said, "and my friend; but I hanged him.
So perish all who falter and counsel surrender!"

Wounded men were being carried to the hospitals by women; some were
limping or crawling with shattered limbs and ghastly faces.  Women and
children ran hither and thither, some carrying goods from houses
threatened by the enemy, others food and ammunition for the fighters.
Though many of them bore only too manifest signs of sickness and
privation, they all seemed animated by the same spirit of fierce
determination, and a gleam lit up their worn features whenever Tio
Jorge, as he passed, threw them a word of encouragement.

All the way along the Coso the sounds of firing in the eastern quarter
of the city came more and more distinctly on the ear.  Dense clouds of
smoke rolled towards them, and Jack heard the crackle of flames, still
invisible.  A messenger with blackened face came towards Tio Jorge, and
announced that the French had captured three blocks of buildings beyond
the Casa Ximenez, and were slowly but surely gaining ground.  The
Spaniard, bellowing out fierce maledictions on the enemy, hastened his
stride, and in a few minutes reached a street leading to the university.
Here the Spaniards had entrenched themselves behind a barricade, where
they endeavoured to find cover from the musket-shots fired from houses
on both sides of the streets. The French, borrowing the tactics of the
besieged, had occupied these houses, and were shooting from windows and
loopholes bored in the walls.

The lean figure of the frenzied Santiago Sass was conspicuous among the
defenders of the barricade.  Disdaining all artifice, he stood erect, a
mark for every bullet, yet unhurt, uttering derisive shouts, and
mingling his battle-cry with quotations from the Psalms.  Seeing Tio
Jorge approach at the head of his men, the priest hailed him with loud
acclaim.

"Twice," he cried, "twice, Tio Jorge, have we already beaten back the
men of Belial.  The hand of the Lord is heavy upon them!"

"And shall be heavier!" cried Tio Jorge.  "We must over the barricade,
hombres."

Instantly Santiago Sass mounted the entrenchment, and was first on the
other side, his long cassock flying loose as he led the charge, musket
in hand.  Tio Jorge and Jack were but a yard behind him, and with a
great shout the Spaniards swarmed over and dashed furiously at the
French advancing to the attack.  Nothing could withstand their rush.
The French gave way, but instead of retreating down the street they
disappeared into the houses on either side, bolted the doors behind
them, and went to swell the numbers of those who already occupied posts
of vantage within.  In vain the frenzied Spaniards beat on the doors
with their clubbed muskets; the massive panels were unyielding, and a
rain of bullets fell from above, thinning the Spanish ranks moment by
moment.

"Poles, bring poles!" shouted Tio Jorge.

Instantly men ran off, some of them only to drop on the way.  The
survivors returned by and by with poles and beams, with which as
battering-rams they drove at the fast-closed doors.  They were shot down
almost to a man; but the places of those that fell were at once taken.
A door here and there was burst in, and the heroic Spaniards sprang into
the gardens and patios, only to be killed or wounded before ever they
came to close quarters with the French.

From the first Tio Jorge had selected as the special object of his
attack a large house on the right of the barricade.  It was evidently
held by a considerable force of the enemy.  But all assaults upon its
thick door had proved ineffectual.  Even when a heavy beam was brought
up as a battering-ram it could not be used with effect, for the door was
at such an angle to the barricade that it could only be struck obliquely
unless the bearers of the beam advanced for several yards into the open,
where so many of their comrades had already been struck down.  Tio Jorge
ordered his men to make an attempt to drive in the door from the angle
of the barricade.  Before the beam could be thrown across, one of the
men carrying it was shot.  The rest persevered, hauled it over, and made
for the door.  A sheet of flame burst from the windows above; six of the
men were hit.  The weight of the beam being now unequally distributed,
the other men were dragged down, or tripped over the bodies of the
slain.

Jack had accompanied them.  Feeling a sharp pain in his left arm, and
seeing that nothing could be done at the moment, he ran back to the
barricade, narrowly escaping being hit by flying bullets.  Behind the
barricade he found Tio Jorge with a few others, the only survivors of
the band which had come up with such ardour and enthusiasm. The leader
was furious, railing at fate and at the failure of the men to back up
their comrades, and shouting for more men to come to his assistance.
Meanwhile, as Jack stood by endeavouring to bind up what proved to be a
slight flesh wound, a lady came from the corner of the street, bearing
food and wine.  Seeing what Jack was about, she placed her baskets on
the ground, calling upon the men to help themselves, and then with quick
deft hands completed the bandaging which Jack had clumsily begun.

"You look tired," she said.  "Take some food, Señor."

Jack was only too glad to eat and drink.  It was the first food that had
passed his lips since he left the boat. Tio Jorge, too, ate like a
famished man.

"Gracias, Contessa," he said in a softer voice than was usual with him.

When all had eaten and drunk, the lady picked up her baskets and moved
away without hurry towards another part of the city.

"Who is she, hombre?" asked Jack.

"The noble Contessa de Bureta, Señor; a delicate, frail lady, as you
see, but as fearless as—as I myself."

There was a breathing-space, during which the men rested, awaiting
reinforcements, and rejoiced that the French were contenting themselves
with their work from the houses, and made no further attempt at present
to storm the barricade.  Jack took stock of the situation. The house on
the right could not be taken by assault; it was occupied in too great
force by skilled marksmen.  To ram the door by a direct blow was
impossible, as experience had proved; the fire from the houses was so
deadly that no bearers could live through it.  While Jack was pondering,
the little band had been reinforced by other citizens, and Tio Jorge was
on the point of ordering another attack.  But he had uttered only a few
words of vehement encouragement when Jack interposed.

"Give me ten men, and I think in a few minutes we could drive the French
from yonder house without great loss."

Tio Jorge looked doubtingly at Jack’s eager face.  They were crouching
behind the barricade, and there was a temporary lull in the firing.

"How will you do that?" asked the Spaniard.

"Attack them from above."

"Impossible! impossible!  If you got to the roofs you could not get into
the houses, for the trap-doors are all towards the street.  You would be
seen from the houses on the opposite side, and shot down at once."

"Still, I think it is possible.  I have a plan."

"Well, then, go, Señor, in the name of Our Lady of the Pillar, and I
will remain here and fire on the French to cover your movements."

Accompanied by ten men hastily selected by Tio Jorge, Jack made his way
to the rear, and came to a house which had not yet fallen into the hands
of the French.  Gaining admittance, he led his men upstairs to the attic
floor, clambered out by the trap-door, and, before the enemy had caught
sight of him, succeeded in crawling over the sloping roof to the
opposite side.  Two or three men had followed him safely.  Then the move
was seen, and bullets began to patter on the roof, so that the other men
had to follow Jack at great risk.  All but one managed to crawl over and
join him without hurt, and the nine stood with him on the farther side
of the roof, sheltered by the low parapet from any shots that might come
from that direction.

Then he led them quickly on to the roof of the adjoining house, which
was occupied by the French.  Immediately over an attic window he
cautiously started to loosen the tiles, the Spaniards eagerly following
his example as they perceived his intentions.  After the first two or
three tiles had been gently prised out, the rest came away easily. Half
the men were employed in lifting the tiles, while the others took them
from their hands, and laid them quietly in heaps at the foot of the
parapet.  Under the tiles were the joists, and as these were not
connected by matchboard, it was an easier matter than Jack had expected
to break an opening into the room below.  It was empty. Such little
noise as had been made on the roof had evidently been drowned by the
continuous firing in the houses and streets.  Jack handed his musket to
the man next him, and, catching hold of one of the joists, swung lightly
down into the room.  The man handed him his musket, then followed him,
to be followed in turn by all his comrades.  In little more than ten
minutes after their arrival on the roof the ten stood together in the
attic.

"Now, hombres," said Jack, "we have to clear them out room by room."

Followed by the Spaniards, he dashed from the attic down the stairs into
the first room on the floor below. At the window were three men, so
intent on firing at the barricade that they were not aware of their
danger until the invaders were upon them.  When they turned and saw
their enemies they had no thought of surrender.  In this bitter war
surrender to a Spaniard was only another name for death.  But before
they could bring their muskets to the shoulder the Spaniards were at
their throats.  They fell.  Instantly the victors rushed to another
room.  In a few minutes all the occupants of that floor were disposed
off.

By this time the rest of the garrison had taken the alarm.  Many of the
French had left their posts, and were crowding downstairs in a panic,
believing that a large force of Spaniards had gained a lodgment in the
house. Tio Jorge below inferred from the slackening of the enemy’s fire
that the bold attempt had been successful. Without losing an instant he
ordered some of his men to make another onslaught with the beam on the
door, and sent others round to the back of the house, where a narrow
lane was at present clear of the French, to intercept any who should
endeavour to escape there.  Panic had now seized the French in the
house.  Fearing to be taken in front and rear, most rushed downstairs
towards the back entrance, a few obstinately refusing to stir, and
calling on their comrades to stand firm.  But Jack and his men poured in
pursuit, shouting, to keep up the illusion of their being a numerous
body.  Below, the door at last fell in with a crash before the strokes
of the ram.  Tio Jorge burst in, and found only a small knot of French
between himself and Jack’s men.  The execution was swift and sure.  Of
all the French who had used that house as their fortress only those
escaped who, fleeing out by the back door, cut their way through the
Spaniards sent by Tio Jorge to intercept them.

This brilliant success, won by citizens without the help of the
soldiery, wrought the spirits of the people to a high pitch of
exultation.  Santiago Sass, who had escaped in all his wild
peregrinations without a scratch, rejoined Tio Jorge’s band, and rolled
out sonorous sentences in jubilant frenzy. But the Spaniards were not
satisfied with the first triumph of the day.  There were other blocks of
houses in possession of the French.  After a brief respite, during which
reinforcements of soldiers and citizens came up in considerable numbers,
the defenders set to work systematically to dislodge the French from the
positions so hardly won. The housetop device was put in practice
wherever access could be obtained.  For hours the struggle continued,
and Jack, who worked as hard as any man, was struck with admiration of
the untiring enthusiasm of the Spaniards. Fighting from barricade to
barricade, and from house to house, they retook position after position,
until, as early dusk fell, the French had been cleared out of all the
houses and forced back to their impregnable position in the Santa Monica
and San Agustin convents.

The din of combat died down.  Jack had arrived at the Casa Ximenez, the
scene of his adventure in the morning. Entering the house, he found many
signs of its temporary occupation by the French, but the fighting had
been so intense and so persistent that they had had no time to
perpetrate the wanton mischief and destruction which usually marked
their progress.  Jack went through the house to make sure that none of
the French were left, and, entering one of the rooms, he guessed by the
character of its furniture and appointments that it belonged to the
young lady whom he had assisted earlier in the day.  The French had been
so much occupied in the lower rooms that they had left this room
untouched.  There were a few trinkets on the dressing-table.  Jack put
these into his pocket, knowing that the Señorita would be glad to
receive anything of value that could be rescued.  Then, descending into
the patio, he found that Tio Jorge had already told off a company of his
men to occupy the house during the night, in preparation for the renewed
attack which was undoubtedly to be expected in the morning.

"Come, Señor," shouted the big fellow, "we will now go to the
captain-general and tell him what we have done for Saragossa this day.
And your part, por Dios! is one that no Saragossan will forget.  Come!"

They left the house.  The sounds of bombardment and musketry had ceased;
parties of the citizens were moving about collecting the dead and
wounded; women and children were emerging for a breath of air from the
close cellars in which they had sheltered during the day.  As Tio Jorge
and Jack passed into the street, they became aware, from the attitude of
a group of soldiers and citizens all looking in one direction, that
something unusual was attracting their attention.  Looking up the
street, towards the same end at which he had entered it nearly twelve
hours before, Jack saw, by the light of the torches carried by
search-parties, a small figure advancing—the figure of a boy, with a
Frenchman’s képi many sizes too large for him almost obliterating his
head, a Frenchman’s sword dangling from his belt, its point trailing a
yard behind him along the cobbles, and a Frenchman’s musket weighing
down his shoulder.  The boy was staggering along under his burdens, yet
contrived to maintain an air of jauntiness and assurance that held the
Spaniards spell-bound with surprise and curiosity.

"The imp again!" ejaculated Jack with a smile.

The boy caught sight of him, and, endeavouring to hasten his step,
tripped over his sword and fell headlong, rising a moment after without
musket or képi, and revealing the swarthy face and unkempt hair of
Pepito.

"Here I am, Señor," he said with his enigmatical smile. "Not lost,
Señor."

"So I see.  And what have you been doing?  What do you mean by giving me
the slip like that, and making me think the French had got you?"

Pepito looked aggrieved.  He took out of his vest the silver watch Jack
had given him at Seville, and held it dangling by its chain.

"Señor’s gift; should it get wet?  Never.  I got into the water; not the
watch.  No, I put it on one of the thwarts.  We got out of the boat.
Señor went so fast that I forgot the watch.  It was Señor’s fault.  I
went back for it, Señor; I got it; then when I came away—ha! I hear the
march of men.  I stop; I hide; all day long from my deep hole I see the
French shoot with their big guns across the river.  I wait; I think,
what if Señor is dead?  I wish I had come with him, and let the watch
get wet.  Then, wonder of wonders! the Busne drive the French back.
They go by my hole; one falls; then all is quiet, and I steal out and
get these things from the dead man, and I come in and have Señor as well
as the watch."

Jack could hardly find fault with the boy for wishing to preserve his
own gift.  Explaining to Tio Jorge that Pepito was a servant of his, he
turned to resume his interrupted journey northward, and bade Pepito
follow him closely.



                             *CHAPTER XXI*

                        *Night on the Ramparts*


The Café Arcos—The Story of the Siege—Perfervour—An Oath—The Casa
Alvarez—The Missing Sentry—Through the Lines—Miguel Enters Saragossa—Don
Casimir is Astonished—Moonshine


On arriving with Tio Jorge at the Aljafferia Castle, Jack found that
Palafox had already received from Santiago Sass news of the excellent
work done in the south-eastern quarter of the city.  But Tio Jorge
insisted on telling the story again, and dwelt with enthusiasm on the
part the English Señor had played—his idea to scale the roofs, and his
intrepidity in fighting by the barricades.  The big Spaniard loved a
hard fighter, and Jack could have found no surer way to his confidence
and respect.

"Excellent! excellent!" cried Palafox; "you came to us most opportunely,
Señor.  And let me tell you, the good opinion of our brave Tio Jorge is
itself the highest praise.  Would to God that our success had been as
certain at other points!  Unhappily, the French have exploded mines in
the neighbourhood of Santa Engracia, and the most heroic efforts of our
men have failed to dislodge them from the ground they have gained.
Unhappily, also, Don Hernando de Solas, my valiant lieutenant there, was
shot as he led his men for the tenth time to the assault, and I have no
one whom I can conveniently send to take his place."

"Send the English Señor," cried Tio Jorge instantly. "He has shown what
he can do; he is an officer who has served with the great Sir Moore; he
is the very man for the post."

Palafox looked for a moment doubtfully at Jack’s youthful face.

"You are young yourself, Don José," added Tio Jorge, divining his
general’s reluctance.  "Por Dios! was there ever before a
captain-general so young!"

"It is an arduous post," said Palafox.  "Just now it has to bear the
brunt of the French attack, I fear.  But you have shown valour and
resource, Señor Lumsden; will you undertake the command of Don
Hernando’s district?"

"I will do my best, Señor, if you entrust it to me."

He spoke quietly, but his pulse leapt at the thought of the work opening
before him.  Accepting the general’s offer with alacrity, he set off in
a few minutes with Tio Jorge, who had offered to introduce him to his
men, and procure for him a Spanish uniform to replace his soiled
garments.  As they were hastening along the Coso, crowded with people
now that the day’s fighting had ceased, Tio Jorge stopped at the door of
a big café.

"You must be famished, Señor," he said.  "You have had nothing but a
bite and a sup all day.  Here is the café of my friend Jorge Arcos; let
us enter.  When we have eaten and drunk it will be time to seek the
ramparts."

Jack was nothing loth.  In a few minutes he was seated amid a crowd of
ardent Saragossans, whose blackened features and soiled garments bespoke
the part they had played in the defence of their city.  Jorge Arcos
himself, a robust and lusty Spaniard, attended to Jack’s wants when he
had learnt from Tio Jorge that the young Señor was an English officer
who had done good work that day, and been entrusted by Palafox with the
Santa Engracia command.  The big host, as well as the miscellaneous
company in the room, looked somewhat askance at the weird figure of
Pepito, who had closely followed his master. His garb showed him to be
one of the despised and outcast gitanos; but on Jack’s explaining that
the boy had been of service to him, Arcos shrugged, and brought him some
food and diluted wine, which the hungry little fellow despatched with
gusto.

As he ate, Jack fell into conversation with his host, and showed a
curiosity to learn something of the earlier history of the siege.  The
mere suggestion was enough to set the man’s tongue wagging.  He
evidently loved the sound of his own voice, and he owed indeed much of
his popularity with the citizens to his rough-and-ready eloquence.

"A remarkable siege, you say, Señor?" he said.  "It is, in truth; never
was such a siege since the world began! And ’tis not the first time the
French pack of wolves has come to eat us.  Last year, by the favour of
Our Lady of the Pillar, we escaped their greedy jaws; and now also again
they shall rue the day they came a-hunting.  For six weeks we have
withstood them; ’tis six weeks since they began to throw their bombs and
balls into our midst. Aha! and on the second day after, they sent a man
to summon us to surrender.  Surrender!  Little they knew Don José
Palafox, little they knew the hearts of our people—of Tio Jorge here,
and Tio Marin, of the padres Don Basilio and Santiago Sass and
Consolacion; aye, and of our noble ladies and of our poor folks such as
I myself. Surrender!  Why, our people well-nigh tore the French
messenger in pieces!  We knew they were coming to invest us; did they
think we should open our gates or that our walls would fall flat as the
walls of Jericho?  Por Dios!"

He uttered a scornful guffaw, and shouts of approval broke from the
crowd.

"No, no.  We had warning; the people from the countryside came flocking
in—workers in olive groves and vineyards, potters from the villages,
swineherds and muleteers—and Don José gave them each his task, and with
our own people they toiled night and day to make our city strong.  Men
and women and children, sixty thousand of us, we wrought upon the
ramparts.  Some carried earth in baskets, others plied the spade, others
went into the outskirts with picks and axes, and levelled houses and
orchards until, for half a mile round, the country was as bare as my
table here, a level waste on which no enemy could find a wall or tree to
shelter him. Thus we strengthened our defences, building bastions and
raising mounds, till the whole city was encircled with strong ramparts
from the Ebro to the Huerba.

"And all this time our people were gathering food—great stores of corn
and maize, oil and fish; and some were making powder and bullets, and
others were building barriers across the streets with timber and
sand-bags, so that if the accursed French did break through our walls we
could still fight from street to street, as you have seen to-day,
Señor."

"Yes, but they are gaining ground; how can we hold out longer, Jorge
Arcos?" said a voice in the crowd.

Arcos glared around and smote upon the table.

"Where is that coward?" he cried passionately. "Where is he?  For whom
does the gibbet stand in the Coso?  Is it not there for cowards, and
weaklings, and traitors, and all who talk of surrender?  Hold out
longer! We have only begun.  The French have got in here and there—well,
what of that?  Every house captured costs them a day; and every day
brings our triumph nearer. Have we not ample food?  Is there a wretch in
Saragossa who complains of hunger?  Set him before me; let me see his
face; he shall prove his words here in my presence, or—"  He made a
significant gesture, and continued: "No, we are not hungry; we can hold
out for months; and meanwhile friends are hastening to our succour.
North and south, east and west, armies are collecting. The French shall
be hemmed round like pigs for the butcher; the February rains shall
descend and flood their trenches; and by the grace of Our Lady of the
Pillar we shall be able once again to foil the plans of the Corsican
dog, and the men of Aragon will set such an example to the men of
Andalusia and Castile, of Leon and Estremadura, of Catalonia and
Navarre, that no Frenchman shall be left alive between the mountains and
the sea."

Loud vivas rang through the room as Arcos brought his oration to a
close.  It was no surprise to Jack to hear such a speech from the lips
of an ordinary café-keeper—every Spaniard is an orator,—but he by no
means shared the speaker’s assurance.  The influx of so many people from
the country must have swelled the population far beyond its normal
limit.  Overcrowding involved disease; the encroachments of the French
must constantly narrow the habitable region; in the exposed parts only
the vaults and cellars would be safe from bombardment; and while the
operations of war claimed their full tale of victims, Jack feared that
pestilence would carry off still more. But he said not a word of his
apprehensions, and soon afterwards, bidding his host and the company a
cordial adieu, he left with Tio Jorge and Pepito.

They passed the Franciscan convent beyond the Coso, cut through narrow
tortuous side streets, each barricaded and guarded, passed the Capuchin
nunnery, and came at length to the district of Santa Engracia, in which
a few days before the French had gained a lodgment by sapping and mining
and direct assault.  As they passed along a street from which the French
had been driven at the point of the bayonet, but which was now a mere
heap of charred and smoking ruins, Jack saw a young lady standing before
the smouldering embers of one of the houses.  By her side was a little
boy.  The lady, who could not have been more than twenty-five years of
age, was pale and haggard, and gazed upon the ruins of her home like a
very statue of sorrow.  As Tio Jorge and Jack came up to her, they heard
her talking to the boy in low fierce tones.

"It is the Doña Mercedes Ortega," said Tio Jorge half to himself.  "What
is the matter, Señora?" he asked.

She turned and threw back her mantilla.  Jack had never seen a face in
which utter woe and desolation was so piteously imprinted.  Her eyelids
were swollen with weeping; her eyes blazed out of dark sunken rims; her
lips were quivering.

"That was my home," she said in an agony of grief that Jack never
forgot.  "My husband lies there, and my father.  My brothers died on the
ramparts; my little girl died of fever in my arms.  Only Juanino is
left, only Juanino, he and I; we are alone—alone—alone!"

Jack turned away; there was a mist before his eyes. Then suddenly the
woman’s tone changed from grief to rage.  Her next words seemed to bite
into Jack’s soul.

"Stay, Señor!" she cried; "stay, Tio Jorge!  I call you to witness what
I teach my Juanino.  Yes, I teach him; he will never forget; it is for a
mother to teach her son his duty.  He shall be a scourge to all the
accursed race. He shall kill, kill, kill, knowing no rest till he join
his father—his father whom the French have killed!"

The boy looked up in her face with eyes of terror.

"Put your hands together," she continued, "and swear that henceforth, in
war or peace, at home or abroad, in the street or in the field, you will
kill every Frenchman you may meet, kill without mercy or ruth, and thus
avenge me and all your house.  Swear, Juanino!"

Jack shuddered as he heard the little fellow, whose age was perhaps
seven years, repeat the terrible oath his frantic mother demanded of
him.  At that moment the horrors of war were brought home to Jack’s mind
more forcibly than ever before; nothing in the terrible retreat to
Corunna had been so terrible as the picture of the young widow’s
desolate grief and passionate longing for vengeance.

He passed on, with Tio Jorge and Pepito, into a small plaza out of which
several narrow streets radiated.  The place was familiar to him, and a
few steps farther on he recognized the Casa Alvarez, and remembered,
what he had forgotten till now, that the house of his old friend stood
almost within a stone’s-throw of the Santa Engracia convent.

"This was the head-quarters of Don Hernando," said Tio Jorge.  "You had
better make it yours also, Señor."

"Yes.  But let us go on to the ramparts now.  I want to see the
position, and the men.  Do you know, by the by, what has become of the
family of Don Fernan Alvarez? The old Señor himself is dead."

"I cannot tell you, Señor.  He was a good man, was Don Fernan.  He had
one daughter; was it not so?  But they were far above a poor man like
me, and I know nothing about the Señorita."

Jack felt a curious pleasure in knowing that the Casa Alvarez was in his
own district, and would actually be his head-quarters.  Hastening down
the street towards the walls, he enquired whether the ramparts were
manned in force at night in anticipation of attack during the hours of
darkness.  Tio Jorge informed him that the French had not risked a night
attack in force since the beginning of the siege.  They continued their
mining operations, but they had found it so difficult to make headway
above-ground, even in the daylight, that actual assaults and fighting
seldom or never occurred between dark and dawn. The ramparts were
therefore guarded by a sufficient number of sentries, but not occupied
in force, the defenders being only too glad to recruit their overtaxed
energies with sleep.  When Jack arrived at the wall he found sentries
posted at intervals of a few yards.  He learnt from Tio Jorge that his
command extended from the Santa Engracia convent some fifty yards to the
north, where it adjoined the Porta Quemada district under the charge of
a personal friend of Palafox, Don Casimir Ulloa.  It happened that Don
Casimir was making a round of his sentries before leaving for the night,
and to him Jack was introduced by Tio Jorge at the point where their
commands met.  Tio Jorge then took his leave, promising to call at the
Casa Alvarez on the way back, and see that a room was arranged for the
Señor’s occupation.

"Is all quiet to-night, Señor?" asked Jack, after the first compliments
had passed.

"Yes; nothing has happened since the French blew up a house by the Santa
Engracia convent just before dark.  But one thing puzzles me, Señor.  Do
you know this part of the city?"

"I was here once before, but that was six years ago, and I was too much
a child then to remember it well now."

"But you will know that beyond the wall here, which has been greatly
strengthened and thickened, the ground slopes steeply down to the River
Huerba.  You can see it; the water shines in the moonlight.  On the
other side of the ravine, at the top, are the French trenches."

"I see.  What puzzles you, Señor?"

"I am coming to it.  Every night for ten days past I have been at this
spot at this hour, and every night I have either seen or heard a French
sentry exactly opposite. To-night, however, there is a difference.  At
dusk we saw the Frenchman tramping up and down behind the trench, just
out of range of your good English muskets, Señor; we heard the guard
changed; but a few minutes ago, when I looked, I found that the sentry
had disappeared. Perhaps my eyes are at fault.  Will you look, Señor?"

Jack looked across the ravine.  A pale half-moon was shining, as yet
somewhat low in the sky, and the ravine and river-bed were gloomed by
black shadows.  The line of the entrenchments showed rugged against the
background, in which watch-fires here and there marked the night bivouac
of the French.  From the far distance came faint and fitful noises; the
gurgling wash of the river against its embankments made the only sound
in the vicinity.  Jack ran his eyes along the edge of the entrenchment
for a hundred yards in each direction. Certainly no sentinel was in
sight.

"Perhaps he is resting," he remarked.  "There is no need for him to
tramp up and down in sight all the time."

"True, Señor, but why to-night?  Why on this night should we miss what
we have seen without exception for many nights past?"

"It is certainly strange.  I shouldn’t think it implied any particular
danger of an attack; should you?"

At this moment Pepito touched him on the arm.

"Something crawling, Señor!" he said.

He pointed across the river towards a spot in deep shadow half-way down
the opposite slope.  Jack looked in that direction, but failed to
perceive any moving object.

"You are mistaken, Pepito," he said.

The gipsy was stretched now at full length on the wall, peering, with
his hands arching his eyes, into the darkness.

"A man crawling!" he whispered.  "See!"

Jack and Don Casimir followed the boy’s example, and, keeping the
moonlight from their eyes, at length discerned a dark figure crawling
slowly down the steep.  A moment later, all three caught sight of a
second figure following at a short interval the first.

"They are coming within range," whispered Don Casimir. "I will order my
men to shoot."

"Stay!" said Jack quickly.  "Let us wait.  Pass the word along the
sentries not to shoot if they see two men approaching.  Two men will not
overpower us and capture the city, Señor; there is something puzzling,
as you say, in all this.  We must find out what it means."

The men had now reached the foot of the opposite slope.  On the ramparts
several pairs of eyes were watching them eagerly.  At the brink of the
river they halted for a moment, then stepped into the water.  Jack
looked questioningly at Don Casimir.

"Yes," said the latter, "the Huerba is fordable here."

Two figures were wading through the water.  They gained the nearer bank;
they climbed up.  When on dry land again they no longer crawled, but
clambered as rapidly as might be up the steep ascent to the wall.  Jack
felt growing interest and excitement as they came up foot by foot, with
no attempt at concealment.  They were within four yards of the wall.

"Quien vive?" asked Don Casimir in clear low tones.

"Silencio!" said the first of the two figures, holding up a warning
hand.  "I am a friend; help me up."

The wall was some fourteen feet in height, and there was no apparent
means of assisting the man below.

"If two of your men let down their muskets, I can catch hold of them,"
said the man in a whisper.

The hint was acted on.  Don Casimir beckoned up two of his men, who laid
themselves flat on the wall, lowering their muskets until the man below
was able to grasp a barrel in each hand.  Then they gradually drew up
the weapons hand over hand, and the man with them.  Don Casimir, with
drawn sword, kept a sharp look-out to assure himself that the new-comers
were alone, and that this strange incident was not part of a French plot
to rush the wall.

In half a minute the spokesman was standing beside the little group.

"Do I see Don Casimir?" he said, looking keenly at the Spaniard, who had
given a start of recognition as his features came into view above the
parapet.

"Yes, Señor," replied Don Casimir with a bow. "This is a strange
meeting."

"Strange indeed!  Ah, what an hour it has been!  I thought we should
never have got through.  Turn where we would, the French seemed to have
sentries everywhere."

"Except yonder, Don Miguel," said Jack quietly, coming a little more
distinctly into view.

Miguel made a quick turn at the sound of his voice, and with a scarcely
perceptible pause said:

"Ah! my dear young friend, who would have thought of seeing you here?
What a pleasant meeting!  Yes, as you say, except yonder.  But, as it
happens, the sentry yonder is now keeping guard in another world."  He
tapped the hilt of his sword significantly.  "We were not in the mood to
brook delay, and he was—well, one Frenchman the less."

"All the same, they have replaced him pretty soon," remarked Jack dryly,
"unless that is his ghost."

He pointed, as he spoke, to the form of a sentry leaning on his musket
at the spot that had been described to him by Don Casimir as the
customary post.

"It is strange," replied Miguel musingly; "one might have expected a
commotion—when they found the body. But, yes—no doubt they hush these
things up.  It would reflect on their discipline."

Don Casimir, who had been looking from one to the other in some
astonishment, here interposed.

"But—do I understand, Don Miguel, that you have come through the French
lines?"

"Why, certainly, my friend; how else should I be here?  We are from
Seville, from the Supreme Junta, with despatches.  We have ridden
post-haste four hundred and fifty miles in six days, as my friend here
must know, and by a miracle have succeeded in eluding the wolves yonder.
But that reminds me—I should lose no time in delivering my despatches to
the captain-general. I suppose he is still in the Aljafferia?  How goes
it in Saragossa?  I fear you have been hard pressed."

"Yes, indeed," replied Don Casimir.  "But the pack of wolves outside is
being thinned.  Every yard costs a man."

"Ah!  I shall have much to hear," said Miguel, with a meaning look at
Jack; "and on my side I have not a little to tell.  Adios, Señores!"

With a low bow he turned away, followed by his companion, whom Jack had
at once recognized, when he gained the summit of the wall, as the
one-eyed servitor of evil memory.  There was no look of recognition in
the man’s fixed stare as he left the group a few paces behind his
master.  Jack, however, was amused to note the attitude of Pepito, who
stood fingering his little knife with an air of tragedy worthy of Mr.
Kean himself.

"It was a daring feat," said Don Casimir, looking into the moonlit
distance as if gauging the difficulties that must have beset any attempt
to approach Saragossa from that side.  "Indeed, except yourself, I
believe no one has got in for at least three weeks past.  But we have
always known Don Miguel as a match for any Frenchman.  He gave many
proofs of astuteness during the first siege.  He is not easy to beat
when readiness and resourcefulness are needed.  It is strange," he added
after an interval, during which his eye rested on the figure of the
French sentry, "very strange.  I could have sworn it is the same man—the
man I missed an hour ago.  But, of course, it cannot be."

"The moonlight may be deceptive," suggested Jack; but as he left the
spot to return to his quarters he looked thoughtful.



                             *CHAPTER XXII*

                               *Juanita*


The Brave Antonio—A Survey—Towards the Coso—A Deed of Daring—The
Señorita Receives—Old Friends—Mig Prig—Don Fernan—An Ambush—José
Pinzon—The Call of Duty


Next morning, as soon as it was light, Jack started for a round of his
district.  The Casa Alvarez was a large square house, standing in the
middle of a small plaza of its own.  Exactly opposite its front, which
faced towards Santa Engracia, there were two smaller houses, known as
the Casas Vega and Tobar, the backs of which were separated from each
other by a narrow lane leading towards the convent.  Each of these
houses was the last of a block of contiguous buildings, and they were,
in fact, the only houses in their blocks which were still intact, the
rest being more or less in ruins.  The front of the Casa Tobar looked
into a street running parallel with the lane and entering the Plaza
Alvarez on the side nearest the ramparts. On the other side of the
street ran a row of houses parallel to the Casa Tobar block.  These also
were mainly in ruins.  The house exactly opposite the Casa Tobar was
known as the Casa Vallejo, and this, while at present unharmed, was the
immediate object of the French attack. Thus in the vicinity of the Casa
Alvarez there were three parallel blocks of buildings along which the
French were working simultaneously.  Two of the blocks were terminated
by the Plaza Alvarez, and the last house in each was in a line with the
Casa Vallejo.  The Casa Vallejo terrace was separated by a lane from the
ramparts, for the defence of which Jack was not responsible.

[Illustration: Plan of the Plaza Alvarez District]

The features of the locality were pointed out to him by a young Spanish
lawyer, Don Cristobal Somiedo, who had taken a voluntary part in the
struggle, and had acted as lieutenant to Jack’s predecessor, Don
Hernando de Solas.  It was he, toe, who introduced Jack to his little
corps.  It consisted of about 380 men, of whom no more than 250 could be
regarded as really fit for duty, and even of these, as they paraded
before him, many looked as though they should be in hospital wards.  The
majority of them were regulars, but nearly 100 were guerrilleros driven
into the city, before the actual investment began, by the advance of the
French.  Among the rest were once well-to-do shopkeepers, whose
businesses had been ruined, and whose houses and shops had in many cases
been destroyed by the French bombs or mines.  They were fighting side by
side with artisans from the lower quarters of the city, and peasants
from the country-side, all distinctions of class and occupation being
forgotten in the common peril.  Regulars and irregulars all bore marks
of the toils and dangers of their strenuous life—some in their tattered
garments, others in ghastly wounds, others in their haggard cheeks and
fever-lit eyes.  But only one spirit animated them all: the
determination to spend their last energies in the defence of the city.

Passing down their ranks, Jack was struck by one face that seemed
familiar to him, and he stopped before the man, endeavouring to recall
the circumstances in which he had seen him.

"Buenos dias, Señor," said the man, a stout thick-set fellow wearing a
heavy skin cloak.  He smiled somewhat sheepishly as he saluted his new
commandant.

The tone of voice brought back to Jack’s memory the roadside encounter
with a man on the way to Medina, and the subsequent meeting in the inn.

"The brave Antonio, is it not?" he said with a smile.

"Sí, Señor," replied the man.

"I am glad to see you engaged in such excellent work."

Passing on, Jack was introduced by Don Cristobal to Pablo Quintanar, the
chief of the guerrilleros, and learnt that the man, though subordinate
to the commander of the district, expected a certain amount of
consideration as head of an independent party of peasant-warriors. Jack
was not taken with the man’s appearance.  He had a sinister look and
shifty eyes, and replied in curt ungenial tones to the few words
addressed to him.

"Antonio, the man you spoke to just now," added Don Cristobal, "is
second in command of the guerrilleros, and a much better man, in my
opinion, than the chief.  You appear to know him, Señor?"

"I met him once," was Jack’s brief reply.

Having made acquaintance with his corps, and finding that the French had
not yet commenced their morning movements, Jack proceeded to complete
his survey of the position.  Beyond the River Huerba he could now
clearly see the long rows of French trenches, the parallels cut here and
there by a series of zigzags constructed with incredible labour to
secure the besiegers’ approach to the walls.  The French had actually
made good their position on the near side of the river, immediately
beneath the wall, towards Santa Engracia, but they had hitherto forborne
to press their advantage, the height of the bank rendering it difficult
for them to storm the ramparts in that quarter, and at the same time
preventing them from blowing them up by mines.

It was clear that no French attack was to be expected from the Porta
Quemada side of his district, for in order to reach him the enemy would
have to push their way through some hundreds of yards of streets held by
Don Casimir, who had proved himself a very capable leader. But on the
Santa Engracia side he was exposed to what was plainly the enemy’s
principal attack.  Their aim was obviously to reach the Coso, and to
connect the wedge they were driving into the city in this quarter with
the wedge already inserted at San Agustin.

They had made considerable progress since the capture of the Santa
Engracia convent four days before.  They treated each block of houses as
a miniature fortress. There was no attempt to carry it by storm until
the defences had been attacked by sap and mine.  As soon as a house was
blown up they rushed in and occupied the ruins, where they entrenched
themselves with bales of wool, gabions, and sacks of earth, and began to
drive mines under the next block.

Anxious to see for himself something of their method, Jack entered a
house next to one recently blown up, and, ascending to the top story,
peeped through a loop-hole pierced in the party wall.  The roof of the
next house had fallen in.  Some charred beams were still smouldering.
Here and there a tongue of flame licked the débris, and as the breeze
blew in fitful gusts, dense clouds of smoke rose into the air.

"They don’t do their work very thoroughly," said Jack to Don Cristobal.
"The shell of the house is still standing.  A good explosion would have
shattered the whole place."

"They have changed their ways, Señor," replied the lieutenant.  "At
first they used big charges and completely destroyed the houses; but
they found that when the ruins cooled, and they occupied the space, they
had no shelter from our fire.  Now they use smaller charges and throw
down only the wall next to them, leaving the other walls and the roof
uninjured.  The roof next door was not brought down by the explosion,
but by our own men setting fire to the shell."

"A counter-stroke, eh?  Obviously two can play at their game.  Well, it
will be at least a couple of days, I should think, before the ruins are
cool enough for the French to occupy the ground.  Probably they are busy
running a mine towards us."

A loud explosion at this moment shocked the air.  Looking out of the
window, across the barricaded streets, Jack saw a column of smoke
pouring from a house to his left, at the corner of another block of
buildings not in his quarter.

"One house nearer the Coso," he said.  "Well, Don Cristobal, we must do
what we can to check their progress in our direction.  Our men are no
doubt counter-mining."

"Not very successfully, I am afraid.  We have no trained sappers and
miners; only a scratch battalion formed from the workmen employed on the
great canal of Aragon, a mile to the south, and they haven’t been
accustomed to work underground."

"We must give them some practice, then," said Jack as they left the
house together.

Returning to the Casa Alvarez, which he had fixed on as his permanent
head-quarters, Jack learnt that there had as yet been no sign of a
French attack upon his district.  The houses and barricades were well
manned by the Spaniards.  It was clear that their vigorous opposition
had deterred the French from attempting an assault in force until they
had made further progress with their mines.  In pursuance of an idea
that had occurred to him, Jack sent for the foreman of the canal
labourers and took him at once into a small cabinet, where they remained
closeted for more than two hours.  At the end of that time the workman,
carrying a sheet of paper, left the house, collected a gang of the
labourers, and brought them, armed with various implements, into the
Casa Alvarez, where he descended with them into the cellars.

Meanwhile Jack, leaving Don Cristobal in command, made his way to the
Aljafferia Castle to see Palafox.  His interview with the general was
brief.  He reported that he had taken over command of his district,
rapidly surveyed it, and inspected his men.  He mentioned what he had
learnt of the recent operations of the French, and was informed by
Palafox that he might regard himself as having a free hand in preparing
measures of defence, though he would be expected to make a daily report
to head-quarters.  The business of the interview being concluded,
Palafox said:

"You will be interested to hear that last night Don Miguel Priego—he is
connected, I believe, with your father’s house—got through the French
lines by a stroke of matchless daring, bringing me despatches from the
Supreme Junta.  Their view of my country’s prospects is brighter than
Mr. Frere’s; and Don Miguel tells me that, from information he gained
during his wonderful journey across Spain, we may expect the siege to be
raised within a week."

"I am glad to hear it, Señor Capitan," said Jack gravely.  Then,
abruptly changing the subject, he continued: "Can you tell me where I
should be likely to find Padre Consolacion?"

"At the Franciscan convent, no doubt; you will pass it on the way back
to your district.  The padre is doing grand work."

Jack thanked the general and took his leave.  He was anxious to find
Padre Consolacion and discover from him the whereabouts of Juanita
Alvarez.  As he walked along the Coso towards the Franciscan convent he
came to the house where he had left the young Señorita whose
acquaintance he had made on his first entrance to the town, and
remembering the trinkets of hers he had in his pocket, he decided to
call and leave them with her, and at the same time enquire after her
welfare and the health of the fragile old lady whom they had rescued.
Rapping at the door, he was in a minute confronted by a pleasant-looking
old duenna, who, on learning the object of his call, at once asked him
in.

"The Señorita said that if you called you were to be shown up, Señor.
Follow me."

There was nothing unusual in this; in Spain a message is always
delivered in person, be the messenger high or low.  Jack followed the
old woman into a vast salon, darkened by the closing of the shutters
except at a small window at the back.

"The Señora is ill; the Señorita receives," said his guide, and went
out, closing the door.

In a chair sat the old lady, looking vacantly around the room, mumbling
her lips and fingering the ends of her lace mantilla.  She paid no
attention to the visitor, but the younger lady rose and came forward a
few steps, then stood in an attitude of mingled enquiry and expectancy.

"You will pardon me, Señorita; I could not help calling to enquire—I am
not sure of your name—"

"I don’t think we mentioned it, Señor.  And that reminds me of my own
neglect—my unpardonable neglect. I should certainly have asked the name
of our—deliverer."

At this word Jack looked uncomfortable.  His fluency in Spanish seemed
for the moment to have utterly deserted him.

"Oh," he exclaimed at a rush, "my name is Lumsden—Jack Lumsden."

"Ah! an English name, is it not?  Then you are not a Spaniard.  And yet
you speak—just like one of ourselves."

Jack’s reply was half-apologetic.

"Oh, well, I had a good deal of practice as a child. I used to live in
Spain."

"And now?"

"Now—I’m in the army—the English army—lieutenant in the 95th regiment."

"Lieutenant?—May I congratulate you?"

"Congratulate me!" repeated Jack in some surprise.

"Yes; is it not permitted?  Among us it is quite the custom to
congratulate a friend on his promotion."

"Certainly, Señorita—" began Jack, wondering still more; but before he
could collect himself the girl continued, with a twinkle of amusement in
her eyes:

"Surely it is only the other day that you were an ensign.  Can you have
forgotten that too?  You were not always so forgetful.  I fear—"

"True, Señorita, I was a kind of ensign, though in the 95th we’ve no
colours to carry.  But—"

"I fear," she continued, after a scarcely perceptible pause, "—yes, that
you are—well, not quite so nice as you used to be."

Her eyes were dancing with merriment, and in a flash Jack recalled the
time, six years ago, when a little maid with just such eyes had been his
occasional playmate in Barcelona.  True, there was little other
resemblance; she had been an elf-like girl, with tangled hair, thin
cheeks, and the shy manner of a child unused to the society of children.
Before him now stood a tall girl with a dignity and self-possession
beyond her years, her rounded cheeks and bright eyes showing that the
trials of the siege had as yet touched her but lightly.

"Juanita!" exclaimed Jack, almost below his breath. "Well, of all the
extraordinary—of all the stupid—"

Juanita laughed outright—the old rippling laugh that Jack now remembered
well.

"I hope, Señor Lumsden, you are not referring to me," she said.

"You must think me an ass," he replied, half-amused, half-nettled.
"But," he added, seeing a loophole, "it isn’t my fault.  It’s you who
have changed, not I.  And I came to Saragossa on purpose to see you.  To
think it was you all the time!"

"Indeed we thank you.  I don’t know what we should have done without
you," said Juanita more seriously. "We could never have got away.  Don’t
think me ungrateful; I knew you at once; but it was all so terrible, and
I saw you didn’t know me.  And then, when all was over, I ought to have
explained, but I—well—"

"Didn’t," said Jack with a smile.  "I see you haven’t changed so much
after all.  The same Juanita, mischievous as ever."

"I’m afraid not, Jack.  I’m years older than I was a few months ago.  We
were happy then; now everything is different."

The tears stood in her eyes.

"Yes," said Jack, "I had heard; that is why I came to see you."

They were silent; then Juanita, with a brave effort to smile, said:

"Now, Jack, tell me all about yourself."

In a few words Jack gave an account of what had happened to him since
his arrival in Spain, Juanita listening with an interest and excitement
that every now and then found expression in eager questions.

"But now," said Jack in conclusion, "it’s your turn. I have many things
to ask.  Do you know, I met an old friend not long ago, who told me
something about you."

"Oh!  Who was that, and what was it?"

"Well, I called him an old friend—for your sake.  It was Miguel Priego."

"Him!"  Her shrug was expressive.  "Why do you say for my sake?"

"Well, considering what he told me—"

"What did he say?  Don’t be mysterious."

"He said—that you were about to be married."

"Married!  Good gracious!  To whom?"

"To him!"

"To Mig Prig?"

Her scornful laugh was wholly convincing, and Jack could not help
joining heartily in her merriment when he heard once again his boyish
nickname for their common tyrant.

"That’s all right, then," he said.

"But surely you didn’t believe it?" added Juanita, with a touch of
indignation.

"Well, time works strange changes, you know."

"Possibly," said Juanita, appreciating the retort; "but not so strange
as that.  Marry _him_!"

Her gesture was imperial in its disdain.

"Another of Miguel’s lies!" said Jack.  "But," he added thoughtfully,
"there was usually a motive behind them.  What can it be this time?  He
gave me so many details; said it had all been arranged between your
father and Don Esteban; he was to have the business; and all the rest of
it."

"Ridiculous!  My father would have been the very last to think of such a
thing.  He distrusted him—with good cause."

And then she proceeded to give Jack a narrative from which, as the tale
was unfolded, he gained more than an inkling of Don Miguel’s designs.

More than two years before, when Napoleon formed his alliance with
Spain, Don Fernan Alvarez, a shrewd observer of events, had suspected
that the ostensible object of despoiling Portugal was only a ruse by
which the emperor intended to make himself master of the whole
peninsula.  Foreseeing a period of confusion and anarchy, the old
merchant resolved to take time by the forelock and set his house in
order.  He went to Barcelona, the headquarters of the business, and
proceeded to realize his stock as far as possible, with the intention of
converting it into bullion or valuables which could be laid aside as a
provision for his own declining years and his daughter’s future. On
going into the accounts of the firm he found that Don Esteban Priego’s
books showed large deficiencies, threatening to more than cover his
interest, not a great one, in the business.  When the matter was brought
to light, Don Esteban was much distressed.  He had been for some time in
failing health, and had left the management of his branch almost
entirely in the hands of his son Miguel, who, however, when brought to
book by his father’s partner, indignantly protested against the implied
charge of dishonesty, and declared that if there was anything wrong he
at any rate was absolutely clean-handed.  There was no time to
investigate the matter fully.  After a stormy interview Don Fernan left
the office in charge of a trusted clerk, and, taking with him the large
sum of money he had realized, together with the unsatisfactory books,
set out for Saragossa a few days before Barcelona was seized by the
French.

Owing to the disturbed state of the country he thought it wise to travel
with an escort of some score of well-armed men, half of them his own
retainers, half alguazils.  From some undefined motive of prudence he
kept his departure secret until the last moment.  But, despite this
precaution, the party was ambushed at dusk, at a lonely spot on the
hills within two marches of Saragossa, by a horde of brigands.  The
escort made a stout resistance, but being taken entirely at a
disadvantage by superior numbers they were overpowered.  Don Fernan
himself was severely wounded in the first moment of attack; several of
his men were killed or disabled; and the rest, seeing their case
hopeless, made their escape.

The brigands were about to kill the wounded, on the principle that dead
men tell no tales, when a body of French horsemen rode down the hill at
a gallop.  One startled glance, and the bandits hurriedly decamped.  At
that time the French were posing as disinterested friends of Spain.  The
cavaliers showed every attention to the wounded men, assisted Don Fernan
into Saragossa, and with a self-restraint that was remarkable in the
light of the subsequent behaviour of their countrymen, handed over to
him his books and boxes untouched.  This was a double relief to the
merchant, for, if what he learnt on the way from his old body-servant
José was true, he had not only saved the treasure for his daughter, but
preserved it from the hands of the one man whom he had recently had so
much reason to mistrust.  José had been stunned during the fight by a
blow from a clubbed musket.  On recovering consciousness he was amazed
to recognize, among the assailants, no other than Don Miguel Priego. He
could not be sure.  At that moment the French appeared and the brigands
fled.  But he felt that he could hardly have been mistaken.

"That was where Miguel got his scar," said Jack to himself at this point
of the story.

A few months after Don Fernan’s return to Saragossa the French began the
first siege of the city.  He contributed largely to the funds raised for
the defence, and though scarcely able to walk played a not
inconsiderable part in the actual work behind the walls.  But such
unwonted exertions tried his already enfeebled health.  He had never
thoroughly recovered from his wound.  The troubles of the siege were too
great a strain for a man of his age.  And though his strength revived a
little when the French were so signally beaten, he was again ailing when
the news of the fatal day of Tudela broke his last hold on life.  The
Saragossans gave him honoured burial.

His last days were troubled by anxiety about his daughter and only
child.  He knew that if his property became subject to the lingering
processes of the Spanish courts, very little of it would be left for
Juanita.  He had no near relatives or friends on whose integrity and
business capacity he could thoroughly rely.  Mr. Lumsden, his English
partner, would, as a heretic, probably be unable to act as executor of a
will, and in any case would be seriously handicapped in any legal
proceedings.  He therefore made no will, but solemnly entrusted his
servant with the task of carrying out his wishes.  José was forty years
of age, wholly illiterate, but devoted to his old master, and even more
to Juanita.  He enjoyed Don Fernan’s entire confidence, and was fully
informed of his master’s affairs.  A sum of money had already been
invested in England that would produce an income of about £400 a year;
of this Mr. Lumsden was trustee.  The remainder of his property
consisted of a country house and estate near Morata, some miles west of
Saragossa; the family plate and heirlooms; and the money realized by the
sale of his disposable stock in Barcelona.  The movable property was all
given into José Pinzon’s charge, to be handed over to Juanita when the
country should have settled down again.

"That won’t be yet, I’m afraid," remarked Jack, "but no doubt José has
it safe enough.  By the way, where is he?"

"I wish I knew," said Juanita anxiously.  "Nothing has been heard of him
since the great sortie of Captain Mariano Galindo about ten days ago.
He volunteered among the brave two hundred, and was one of the first to
spike the French guns.  But he never came back."

"Poor fellow!" said Jack.  "I’m very sorry.  We used to be great chums.
There aren’t many like him.  You will miss him sadly."

"Yes, indeed; and I wouldn’t mind about the property if only he were
safe."

"But surely his disappearance doesn’t affect the property?"

"Well, you see, nobody else knows where it is.  Father didn’t tell me.
He thought there would be less risk of harm if I knew nothing about it."

"But he would be sure to provide against José’s death. Ah!" he
exclaimed, as a sudden light dawned, "that explains it.  I had a letter
from him in Salamanca, telling me about another letter left with General
Palafox.  No doubt everything was explained in that."

"Was explained!  What do you mean?"

"The letter has disappeared—was stolen, mistaken for plans of the city.
But there’s still a chance left.  A third letter was sent to my father.
We must hope it was a duplicate of the lost one."

"Oh dear!" sighed Juanita, "to think that so many people should be
troubled with poor little me!"

"We seem to have rather muddled things among us," said Jack.  "But I see
now what Mig Prig is aiming at. Have you heard that he is back in
Saragossa?"

"Miguel back!" exclaimed Juanita; in her tone there was a hint of
uneasiness.  "Oh, I do hope I shall not meet him!  But I won’t think of
him."

"He’s not worth it.—I was almost forgetting.  I have brought some of
your trinkets from the Casa Ximenez. Will you—"

"Hark!" exclaimed Juanita, holding up her hand. There was a loud crash
as of falling masonry.

"They are bombarding again," said Jack, rising.  "I must hasten to my
post.  Good-bye, Juanita!"

"You will come and see us again when you have time?"

They both looked sympathetically at the huddled figure of Doña Teresa,
who had fallen asleep in her chair.

"Poor Auntie!" said Juanita.  Then, as Jack turned towards the door, she
folded her mantilla about her head and dropped a low curtsy, saying
demurely: "Adios, Señor!"



                            *CHAPTER XXIII*

                        *The Fight in the Ruins*


Mines and Countermines—In the Cellars—Burrowing—Y Mines—An Underground
Enemy—The Foe Within—Planning a Surprise—At Dawn—Across the
Barricades—In the Enemy’s Works—A Bird’s-eye View—Through the Wall—Sword
versus Bayonet—Shut Out—A Mob Leader—Too much Zeal—Not Proven


Jack walked downstairs abstractedly, and was only brought to himself by
the sudden realization that he had almost collided with a person
entering at the door.  Looking up with a murmured apology, he saw that
the visitor was a burly priest, in long cassock and broad sombrero which
roofed a round jovial face.  The priest was equally apologetic, and eyed
Jack curiously, stopping in the doorway and turning round to gaze after
his retreating figure. Outside, Jack found Pepito perched on a stone
post.  He sprang to the ground when he saw his master.

"Well, imp," said Jack, "sticking to me as usual, eh?"

"Sí, Señor.  Señor knows the fat padre?"

"No.  Do you?"

"A friend of the Busno Don Miguel," replied the boy.

"Indeed!  How do you know that?"

"I saw them talking at the door of the great big house over there."

He pointed to the Franciscan convent on the other side of the road.
Jack looked thoughtful; he wondered whether this was the Padre
Consolacion of whom he had heard, and was half-minded to turn back and
make his acquaintance. That he had been seen in consultation with Miguel
was somewhat disturbing.  But, on second thoughts, he decided that he
had already been long enough away from his command at Santa Engracia,
and he hastened his steps in that direction, anxious to see how things
had been progressing there in his absence.

When he left the Casa Alvarez, two hours before, he had given
instructions for the commencement of operations by which he hoped to
beat the French at their own game. From what he had learnt from Don
Cristobal he saw that the mistake up to the present had been the waiting
for the explosion of the French mines, the result being that the enemy
gained positions from which it usually proved impossible to dislodge
them.  The only means of keeping them effectually in check was to
practise countermining, not in the hand-to-mouth manner in which it had
hitherto been attempted, but systematically, with a longer outlook, with
a regard to ultimate developments rather than to the immediate repelling
of attack.  During his interview with the foreman that morning he had
explained his ideas, and learnt that, so far as the man’s limited
experience went, there was no practical obstacle to their
accomplishment.

The French, as he had seen, had been for some days past working steadily
through the three parallel blocks of buildings that ran from the Santa
Engracia direction towards the Plaza Alvarez.  They had made equal
progress in all three blocks.  The limit of destruction was marked by
the Casas Vega, Tobar, and Vallejo, the first two being at the end of
their blocks immediately facing the Casa Alvarez, separated from each
other by a narrow lane, while the last was separated from the Casa Tobar
by the street running into the plaza.  These three houses were still
standing, but it was obvious that they would form the next points of
attack, and it was highly probable that even now the enemy had begun to
cut galleries towards them.

Jack had made up his mind to anticipate the attack. Before leaving in
the morning he had learnt from the foreman, whose name was Pulgar, that
the work of mining underground could usually be heard from a distance of
about forty feet.  From this he calculated that, if the French began to
work from their side immediately after their last attack, there would be
time for his own men to drive a short gallery beneath the wall of each
of the three houses before there was any risk of their operations being
heard by the enemy.  He had therefore left instructions for a hole to be
cut beneath the farther party-wall of each house, where it adjoined the
house last demolished. He told Pulgar to see that the digging was done
as quietly as possible, and to be on the alert to catch the slightest
sound of the approach of the French miners in the opposite direction.

"Well, how are things getting on?" he asked of Don Cristobal, on
arriving at his post after his interview with Juanita.

"Excellently," was the reply.  "Pulgar has kept the men at work without
relaxation."

"In shifts, I suppose?"

"Only one man can work at each tunnel, so he gave each man half an hour;
then his place was taken by another.  Here is Pulgar himself."

"You are doing capitally, I hear, hombre," said Jack. "How far have the
men got?"

"The tunnels are nearly three feet long by this time, Señor.  It takes
about an hour to cut away a foot."

"Any sound of the French?"

"None, Señor."

"Very well.  Another four feet will finish these.  But we mustn’t stop
at that.  We can’t hope to keep the enemy back altogether by one
explosion at those walls.  It would delay them, certainly, and do
considerable damage; but we’ll have to prepare to give them much more
trouble farther back."

"I had thought of that, Señor."

"Well, I think we’ll go and have a look at the cellars. Come along.
Bring your measure with you; we shall require that, and a candle."

Descending to the cellars of the Casa Alvarez, Jack found that they ran
along the walls on the west and north sides of the building, at a
distance of ten feet below the surface of the ground.  They formed a
series of arched rooms leading one from the other, with small openings
for ventilation giving on the patio.

"Dark musty places these!" said Jack.  "Judging by the appearance of
them, they haven’t been used for a century.  There’s not even a bottle
of wine to be seen, let alone a rat.  Ah!  I spoke too soon; sh-h-h!"

A rat had just scurried along the wall into its hole in the corner.

"I have been thinking over things," resumed Jack, "and I shall be glad
of your opinion of the plan I have partly formed.  Our object, of
course, must be to hold the French in check as long as possible; but if
they succeed in occupying the two houses opposite, and the Casa Vallejo,
we shall be very hard put to it to defend the plaza and this house.
They outnumber us.  It is quite likely that, in spite of all we can do,
they will eventually succeed in obtaining a lodgment in these three
houses or their ruins.  I propose, therefore, to plan our defence on the
assumption that they will do so.  This house in which we now stand will
be our fort, and we should arrange so that we can do the enemy as much
damage as possible from this spot."

"That is reasonable, Señor," said Don Cristobal.

"Well, the greatest damage we can do will be done by mines like their
own—either to destroy their mines before they have time to explode them,
or to drive the enemy back when they have exploded their mines and
seized the houses.  To do that effectually we require to drive at least
two galleries from these cellars under each house. But the Casa Vallejo
is too far away.  We haven’t men enough, and it would take too long, to
cut a gallery from here right across the plaza and street and under that
house.  The Casas Vega and Tobar are much nearer, and I see nothing to
prevent us from cutting the galleries under them."

"In addition to the short tunnels already being cut under the
party-walls?" asked Don Cristobal.

"Oh yes!  You see my aim?  The short tunnels are to delay their attack
on those houses; the longer tunnels I propose are to check their advance
on this house when they have captured the others."

"But why two long galleries, Señor?" asked Pulgar.

"Because, after we have fired one, the French will come on in greater
strength again, thinking we have done our worst, and the explosion of
the second will have a shattering effect on them in every way."

"An excellent idea, Señor!" said Don Cristobal, "but our men are not too
strong, and it would cost immense labour to drive two galleries.  It is
forty feet across the plaza between this and the houses opposite; you
must allow for several feet of tunnel in each house if you want to spare
the walls facing us—"

"Eight feet at least," interrupted Jack.  "I don’t want to destroy the
houses entirely."

"Well, that makes ninety-six feet of tunnelling for each house, and all
the earth to be carried back as it is dug out.  You will work your men
to death, Señor."

Jack considered.  For the moment he envied some friends of his who had
commissions in the Engineers. "They would have mugged up all this sort
of thing in their books," he said to himself.  How could he achieve his
purpose without running the risk Don Cristobal had pointed out?  He
stood for a time unconsciously tapping the stone floor with his foot as
he thought over the problem.

"I have it!" he exclaimed suddenly.  "It’s a case of letter Y—you see?
Drive one gallery half-way; then two branching out from it like the arms
of a capital Y.  It won’t save time, but it will save labour, and we
can’t afford to knock the men up."

"That is it, Señor," said Pulgar, rubbing his hands.

"Then I will get you to arrange with the men so that they take turn and
turn about.  And by the way, two short tunnels must be cut between the
Casa Vallejo and the house next it on this side—the Casa Hontanon, is it
not?  Those houses are not so capable of defence as this is, but we must
do what we can to beat the enemy there also."

Pulgar at once set off to arrange with the workmen, while Jack proceeded
to organize the garrisoning of the houses.  Except for a few shells
thrown over the ramparts nothing had been done by the French since the
explosion of the previous evening.  The barricades in the streets and
lane were held by men of the Valencia regiment; Jack selected other men
from the same regiment, and some of the best of the guerrilleros, and
thus formed three companies of twenty men each to garrison the three
casas, Vega, Tobar, and Vallejo.  Fifty men were held in reserve in the
Casa Alvarez.

As the day wore on, Jack found that the tunnelling proceeded more
rapidly than he had expected.  Working on a more definite plan than
hitherto, the men saw that their chances of seriously checking the
French advance were much greater, and dug and carried with a dogged
perseverance that gave Jack a new respect for the Spanish character.  By
the evening the short holes under the party-walls nearest the French
were ready for the charges. Thinking it advisable to see for himself
what had been done, Jack crawled through one of the tunnels with a
lighted candle, feeling the oppression of the dank confined air.  He saw
by the dim light that the sides and roof were roughly shored up with
timber, and that, as he had wished, there was a slight slope upwards, so
that the head of the tunnel was only about four feet from the surface.
At the end he listened for the sound of the French miners, who, he
guessed, were approaching, but hearing nothing concluded that they were
not as yet so far advanced with their work.

Returning to the rear end of the tunnel, he arranged for a heavy charge
of powder to be placed in position with the fuses.  When this had been
done it was time to "tamp" the tunnels—fill them up again with earth to
a distance greater than the depth of the mines below the surface. This
was necessary, or when the explosion took place it would exhaust its
force along the open tunnel instead of in the upward direction intended.
But Jack decided not to do any tamping until he was sure that the French
had driven their galleries so close to his own that the explosion of his
own mines would destroy the enemy’s.  If he found that the French
tunnels were to the right or left of his own, so far away that his
explosion would not greatly affect them, he would have to await the
French explosion and then use his own mines to repel the attack on the
buildings that would instantly follow.

Late at night Antonio the guerrillero, who had been one of the most
enthusiastic of the workers, reported that at the farther end of the
short tunnel into the Casa Vega he had heard the faint sound of picks.
Jack instantly crawled into the tunnel to listen for himself.
Undoubtedly the man was right.  Giving orders that men should take turns
to watch all through the night at the tunnel head, he went to bed after
midnight, tired out with the day’s exertions.

Before he fell asleep his mind ran over the strange events with which
the last two days had been crowded. In particular he reflected on the
story he had heard from Juanita, and could not help wondering at the
extraordinary mischances which had befallen her affairs.  The letter
confided to Palafox must have contained instructions in regard to the
property which old Don Fernan had preserved somewhere for his daughter,
and had been written as a precaution in case anything happened to his
trusted servant José.  Some perverse fate seemed to have decreed that
José should die and the letter be lost simultaneously. And then his
thoughts turned to Miguel.  His story about the projected marriage was
clearly a sheer fabrication; but it showed what his intentions were.  He
meant to take advantage of Juanita’s orphaned condition to coax or
cajole her into a marriage, and thereby to secure the property which he
knew must be hers.  It seemed improbable that he could have learnt where
her father had stored his wealth; it might be that he supposed Juanita
knew.  His sudden nocturnal appearance in Saragossa, with a story of
overpowering a sentry, was in itself very suspicious. Could he be
playing a double game?  At any rate Jack felt that he must be on his
guard, on behalf of Juanita as well as himself; that Miguel would not
hesitate to injure him he had now little doubt.

These thoughts, however, were banished by the important work of the next
day.  At dawn he learnt that hour by hour during the night the approach
of the French had been more distinctly heard.  All that morning he paid
frequent visits to the Vega tunnel, and about eleven o’clock he felt
sure, from the direction and the proximity of the sounds, that the
French miners had arrived at a point in a line with the head of his
gallery.  The mining continued; it would take them between six and seven
hours to reach the wall.  Leaving Don Cristobal in charge, with
instructions to keep as vigilant a look-out as ever, Jack went to see
how the Y-shaped mines from the cellars of the Casa Alvarez were
progressing, and then made a general round of the district.  Several
times during the day he had heard the sound of explosions in other parts
of the city, but had been too busy to enquire about what was happening.
He learnt now, however, that a block of houses twenty yards nearer the
Coso, in the direction of the Franciscan convent, had been carried by
the French, by which means they had extended their attacking front by
nearly three times that distance.  He heard also that trenches had been
opened against the Jesus Convent, in the suburb of San Lazaro, across
the river.  It was evident that the enemy were at last arranging for a
determined attack in that quarter, where they had done little since the
early days of the siege. The possession of San Lazaro would enable them
to harass the whole north side of the city, the only portion that
hitherto had been immune, and where, consequently, the greater part of
the stores was collected and the mass of the fever-stricken inhabitants
huddled together.

About six o’clock he was recalled to the Casa Vega by the news that the
French gallery had reached the wall and the tunnelling had ceased.  It
would take them some four hours, Jack conjectured, to tamp their mine;
when that was done they would no doubt retire from the tunnel, and it
would then be safe for the Spaniards to tamp their mine in turn.  If
they started to do so earlier, the sound would betray them.  At ten
o’clock all sounds from the French end had ceased; then Jack, after
allowing a short interval, set his men to perform the tamping.  Working
without relaxation, they completed the task by two in the morning.
Within four or five hours the French would explode their mine beneath
the wall.

The first thing Jack did on being awakened by Pepito half an hour before
dawn was to enquire whether any sounds of the French progress had been
heard in the Casas Tobar and Vallejo.  In the former he learned the
mining had been heard for several hours; in the latter there had been no
sounds at all.  Satisfied that immediate work would only be required in
the Casa Vega, he proceeded to get his men into order.

His plan, carefully thought out on the previous day, was to withdraw his
garrison from the Casa Vega, leaving only one man to fire the mine;
otherwise a large number would be uselessly sacrificed.  The inrush of
the French after the explosion of their mine was to be the signal for
the firing of his own, and that in turn the signal for a sortie of the
whole of his available force.  By this means he hoped to drive the
French back to such a distance that he could discover and blow up the
galleries they were driving into the Casa Tobar, and probably into the
Casa Vallejo also.

It still wanted some minutes of dawn when his motley force was drawn up
in the plaza behind the walls of Vega and Tobar.  It numbered only 350
men in all—some haggard burghers of the city, some rugged guerrilleros
from the country districts, a few regulars from General Fiballer’s
Valencian regiment, a few of Palafox’s grenadiers.  All bore signs of
the stress and toil of the past few weeks; but all were animated by one
spirit of indomitable resolution. Fifty of the best marksmen were at
once picked out to garrison Tobar and Vallejo and harass the French with
musketry-fire from the windows.  Eighty good men were drafted as a
reserve.  This left 220, of whom 120 were told off to make the main
sortie over the barricade in the street between Tobar and Vallejo, while
30 were appointed to guard the shorter barricade across the lane between
Tobar and Vega.  The remaining 70 were ordered to march to the upper
side of the Casa Vega and make a demonstration at the barricade erected
in the street there.

Jack had resolved to lead the principal sortie in person, and he devoted
special attention to the organization of his band.  Ten of the men were
ordered to carry bags of powder to blow up the French galleries into
Tobar and Vallejo, if the sortie party were able to push home their
charge.  Another ten were given short ladders and mats to assist the
rest across the barricade, which was of timber, some twelve feet in
height, and studded at the top with sharp nails.  It had been
constructed so hastily, and with so little idea of the possibility of a
sortie, that it formed almost as formidable an obstacle to the Spaniards
as to the French.

The sortie party beyond the Casa Vega was entrusted to Don Cristobal,
the reserve to Pablo Quintanar, the chief of the guerrilleros.  This man
was very much dissatisfied with the post allotted him; he grumbled and
protested that he deserved a more prominent part in the operations, but
Jack had a vague distrust of the fellow, and somewhat curtly refused to
alter his arrangements.

All was now ready.  In the chill foggy dawn the men waited at their
several posts for the expected explosion. Sounds floated across the
river from the French lines: the blare of bugles, the rat-tat of drums,
occasionally the loud call of bustling officers.  Jack began to wonder
whether the French would wait until their galleries into Tobar and
Vallejo were ready, and then spring the three mines simultaneously.  But
the anxious period of waiting was at length ended.  About an hour after
daybreak there was a dull roar; the whole district seemed to tremble;
there was the crash of falling stones and timber, a cloud of smoke and
dust from the Casa Vega, and with a shout the French rushed into the
ruined building beyond, to make good their position there.

Then came a terrible interval of suspense, even more trying to the
nerves of the Spaniards than the long wait for the French explosion.
When would they hear the answering explosion?  Had the gallant fellow
who had offered to fire the train perished before his work was done?
Jack wondered, waited anxiously.  Second after second slipped by; he
could hear the ticking of the watch in his vest pocket.  At last when,
unable to endure the uncertainty longer, he was about to rush into the
casa himself, a deafening noise like a thunderclap close at hand checked
him.  The French mine, acting immediately upon the wall and at a
considerable depth below-ground, had spent most of its force on the wall
itself.  But Jack’s mine, having only a few feet of earth above it, and
being heavily charged, exerted its destructive effect in all directions.
It blew to fragments the ruins of the house adjoining the Casa Vega,
brought down what remained of its roof, shattered the remnants of the
walls on either side, and filled the air for a hundred yards around with
dust and débris, a few of Jack’s men, even in the plaza behind, being
injured by objects that were shot clean over the houses.  Jack, from his
position, could not see the extent of the damage; but the fact that the
explosion had actually occurred left him in no doubt that the French in
the ruined house beyond the Casa Vega must have been annihilated, and in
the ruins, where they had but slight protection, they must have suffered
heavy loss.

But he hardly waited to estimate the effect of his successful coup.
Immediately after the explosion he gave his men the order to advance;
they dashed from cover and began to swarm over the barricades.  At the
last moment Jack sent a man with orders to barricade as far as possible
the newly-made breach in the Vega wall.  Then, with Antonio at his side,
he led the charge.  The dust was still falling in clouds as they came to
the Tobar barricade.  So sudden was the unexpected event, and so swiftly
did the Spaniards move, that their manoeuvre was not discovered by the
French until the greater number had crossed and, headed by Jack and
Antonio, charged down the street. But within fifty paces a shot rang out
from beyond the ruined house on their left; it was followed immediately
by a scattered fire, and amid yells of rage and pain many of Jack’s men
fell.  The French were firing from the half-dismantled houses they had
rushed a few days before, which, being somewhat remote from the scene of
the explosion, and sheltered by the ruins of the house adjoining the
Casa Tobar, had not suffered like the rest of the French position.
Nothing daunted by their losses, the Spaniards pressed on with shouts of
"Nuestra Señora del Pillar!  A la cuchillo!"  Don Cristobal meanwhile
had swept round the upper barricade.  The ruins beyond the houses lately
burnt were carried with a rush.  Drums were heard beating not far away;
there were loud shouts in French and the hurried tramp of feet.  It was
clear that the enemy, not anticipating danger at this point, had drawn
away their troops in the direction of the Franciscan convent; they had
expected that under cover of the explosion the Casa Vega would be
captured, as a score of houses in the same quarter had been rushed
before, by a handful of disciplined men.  No plans had been made to meet
so unexpected a movement of retaliation; for a moment the battle was to
the Spaniards.

But Jack knew well that he durst not attempt to push his attack far.  He
had given orders to Antonio, who had led a small body to the assault of
a house to the left, where the street bent inwards from the ramparts, to
blow up the head of the gallery into the Casa Vallejo, then to retire
towards that house, recross the barricade, and take up a position behind
it.  To cover these movements, Jack directed a party of his men to keep
up a hot fire on the house at the bend of the street, from which some
French marksmen had swept the front of the attacking force.  Within a
few minutes he heard a sharp report.  At the same time Antonio’s men
came streaming back towards Vallejo and over the barricade.  One of the
French galleries was evidently accounted for.

Meanwhile Jack’s own position had been hotly assailed in front.  The
ruined houses on the right of the street were now full of Frenchmen, who
charged again and again across the débris up to the party-wall, only to
be driven back by the men stationed there, under such cover as the
irregular remnants of the broken walls afforded.  There was no time to
barricade the gap; it was only a question of time before the French must
break through in overwhelming numbers.  Don Cristobal had occupied the
ruins adjoining the Casa Vega, but he was now ordered back across his
barricade, from which he could protect the flank of Jack’s force when it
became necessary to withdraw it.

At this juncture Jack felt the necessity of obtaining a view of the
whole position.  He looked round for some point of observation.  Through
a large rent in one of the walls to his right he perceived the remains
of a staircase to the second story.  Was there time to clamber up it
before the French burst in?  "I’ll chance it," he said to himself.
Ordering his men to stand firm, he ran across the narrow lane, through
the wall, and began to ascend the staircase.  It was a rickety
structure; its top had been blown away; it remained upright only by
favour of one or two stout joists which had been so firmly embedded in
the stone as to withstand the shock of the explosion when the party-wall
was cracked.  Up he went.  The stairs creaked under him; at every step
it seemed that the whole structure would fall with him.  But at length
he reached a spot whence, through a hole in what had been once the wall,
he could see for a considerable distance over the quarter occupied by
the French.  To his left he saw the dreary waste of ruins through which,
by patient mining and sudden rushes, the French had made their painful
way from the convent of Santa Engracia, which stood a woful spectacle of
destruction some hundreds of yards distant.

Eastward he traced their progress through a series of dismantled
buildings, up to within a short distance of the Franciscan convent.
Farther to the right they had made yet deeper inroads into the city, and
were now almost within arm’s-length of the Coso.  Jack thought, with a
sudden pang, of the danger Juanita would soon be in, and decided that at
the earliest opportunity he must persuade her to change her quarters and
retire northwards, loth as he was to see her in that fever-haunted spot.

Suddenly his eye was caught by a compact body of French, about 500 in
number, advancing at the quick step across the wide open space outside
the Santa Engracia convent.  They had evidently been hurried from the
entrenchments beyond the walls.  At the same time, glancing to the
right, he saw another body of men issuing from some buildings near the
Coso.  Clearly no time was to be lost.  Outnumbered already, he had only
held his own up to the present by having the advantage of the defensive
position.  But the position was not strong. If the French occupied the
adjoining ruins in force there was scarcely an inch of cover for his
men.  He must, therefore, at once blow up the head of the French gallery
leading below the Casa Tobar, which he had been unable to do hitherto
for fear of destroying his own men, and then withdraw his troops to
their original position.  In face of the large French reinforcements
coming up, it would be as much as he could do to hold his own even
there.  Springing down the staircase, three steps at a time, one of them
breaking through and falling with a crash behind him, he hastened back
to his men.  He called up a little musketeer belonging to the Murcian
tiradores—one of the few survivors of that regiment—

"Hombre, run back to the Casa Alvarez; tell Pablo Quintanar to leave a
gap in the Vega wall wide enough to allow the passage of men in single
file.  Understand, in single file."

"Sí, Señor," said the man, and bounded off.

Now Jack prepared with all possible speed to evacuate his advanced
position.  He was delayed by the necessity of removing his wounded; for
all this time the French had been firing into the houses, and, though
their aim was bad, several shots took effect owing to the Spaniards’
almost reckless exposure of themselves.  Before he actually gave the
order to evacuate, the French, unaware of the reinforcements hastening
to their support, gathered themselves together for another charge.  They
came gallantly almost to the very muzzles of the Spanish muskets; then
they recoiled before a terrible volley, and fell back in confusion.
Seizing the moment, Jack ordered his men to retire towards the Casa
Vega.

[Illustration: Jack has a Narrow Escape]

"Leave the gap in the wall open for me," he said to one of the regulars;
"I shall not be long behind you."

Then, catching up a burning rope, he hastened to the end of the French
gallery, where his men had laid a train of gunpowder connecting with a
heavy charge.  He had just time to set light to the train before a group
of three or four French soldiers dashed towards him through the ruins.
His perilous task was done; he turned to follow his men, the enemy, not
waiting to fire, close behind him.  As he was crossing the lane dividing
the Casas Vega and Tobar there was a loud explosion; the gallery had
blown up, and with it the head of the French column immediately behind
his pursuers.  Only two men were now on his track.  He glanced over his
shoulder, and judged that there was time to reach the gap in the wall
before he could be overtaken. At this moment his foot slipped on a loose
heap of fallen masonry; he fell headlong, and before he could recover
himself, the foremost pursuer was upon him.  Wriggling over instantly on
his side, he drew his pistol, and managed to snap it at the man when the
point of his bayonet was within a foot of him.  The ball hit the man
full on the forehead, and he dropped like a log.

Springing to his feet, Jack drew his sword in the nick of time to meet
the attack of the second pursuer.  It was sword against bayonet, and if
the latter had been in the hands of a British soldier, Jack, in spite of
his skill as a swordsman, might have stood a poor chance.  But the
bayonet, as wielded by a Continental soldier, was not the same
formidable weapon, and it happened that his attacker was a Pole—one of
Colonel Chlopiski’s Vistula regiment, which, as Jack had already learnt,
had proved the most troublesome of all the French troops since the
capture of Santa Engracia.  Jack had more than once shown himself to be
a swordsman of exceptional resource, and at this critical moment the old
French émigré who had been his fencing master in London, if he could
have seen the duel, would have beamed with satisfaction.  After a few
passes Jack gave the Pole an opportunity to lunge; he eagerly seized it;
his thrust was lightly parried, and the next moment Jack was in beneath
his guard.

As he hurried away, even in that breathless moment Jack could not help
feeling some pity for his two gallant foemen who would see the Vistula
no more.  It was in the hope of freeing their country from the bondage
of Russia that the Poles had allied themselves with Napoleon.  They were
now purchasing their own freedom by assisting to enslave others.

Hastening across the ruins adjoining the Casa Vega, Jack saw terrible
signs of the havoc wrought by his mine. The attacking French force had
been a large one.  It had perished to a man.  But there was no time for
anything but escape from the horde of French now rapidly approaching
him.  Scrambling over charred beams, shattered brickwork, fragments of
household furniture, and the dead bodies of the fallen enemy, he drew
near to the spot where the explosion of the French mine had blown a
large hole in the party-wall.  It was here that Jack expected to find
the gap through which his men had preceded him into safety.  But there
was no gap.  The hole was completely closed up, and the obstruction was
too strong to be won through, too high to clamber over.  Nonplussed for
the moment, Jack turned to look for another means of escape, aware, as
he did so, of loud voices in altercation on the other side of the
barricade.

Bullets were now pattering on the brickwork, and the sound of scrambling
feet in the adjoining ruins showed that he had been seen by the French,
and that they were making towards him.  There was not an instant to
lose. To his left, as he faced the French quarter, the ruins were open
and exposed to fire from several directions; escape was impossible that
way.  But on his right there still stood the remnant of what had been a
lath-and-plaster wall between two rooms.  He caught at this chance of
even temporary concealment.  Bending low, he dodged along behind its
precarious shelter till he came to a ruined window within a few feet of
the barricade defended by Don Cristobal.  The rattle of musketry could
now be heard on all hands.  Jack felt sure that his appearance at the
window would be the signal for a hail of bullets from the opposite side
of the street, at the angle nearer the Coso where the French had
obtained a lodgment.  But it was now or never, and he was just wrenching
away a broken iron bar, to squeeze his way through, when his ears were
assailed by unexpected shouts from the street.  To his amazement, he saw
Don Cristobal’s men come swarming over the barricade and rushing along
the street towards the French.  But it was not Don Cristobal who led
them; the leader was a tall figure who rushed forward, sword in hand,
with long robe tucked up, and bare arms, from which the sleeves had been
flung back over the shoulders.  He was shouting in frenzied tones.  Jack
recognized Latin phrases mingled with Spanish.  It was the patriot
priest, Santiago Sass.

Wondering what had happened, Jack jumped into the street, safe now, for
the French were occupied with the rush of the headlong Spaniards.  There
they were, cutting their way through a large body of French troops,
heedless of the pelting bullets from the surrounding houses, yelling,
slashing, and, alas! many of them falling.

"What imbecile folly!" exclaimed Jack in his anger. The rash charge was
useless, hopeless.  All that he could do was to cover the inevitable
retreat.  Clambering over the barricade, Jack ran towards the Casa
Alvarez, overtaking on the way Don Cristobal, who had hastened thither
on the same errand as himself.

"Men of the reserve," cried Jack, "follow me!"

Pablo Quintanar, their leader, was, strangely, not with them.  They
dashed after Jack and Don Cristobal, and reached the barricade just in
time.  The Spaniards, all that were left of them, were streaming over
it, broken and disheartened, pursued by bullets from the French. Last of
them all came Santiago Sass, splashed with blood from head to foot,
blood streaming from a wound on his brow.

"In te, Domine, speravi!" he cried breathlessly as he staggered over the
barricade.

Catching him by the arm, Jack dragged the exhausted priest out of harm’s
way, and then, ordering his men to hold the barricade, enquired of Don
Cristobal what was the meaning of the recent extraordinary movement.  He
learnt that Santiago Sass, who was ever where danger was thickest, had
been passing the quarter, and, attracted by the noise of the explosions,
had hastened, full of burning zeal, to the nearest barricade.  There,
finding Don Cristobal’s force, as he thought, culpably inactive, and
hearing musketry on all sides, he had jumped to the conclusion that the
Spaniards were skulking, and, refusing to listen to Don Cristobal’s
explanation, had poured out upon them a torrent of invective and
exhortation, called on them to follow him, and led them furiously over
the barricade.  Such was his influence that not a man refused to obey
his call.

Meanwhile the hot fire maintained by the reserve had driven the French
back.  But they showed some disposition to come on in greater strength
and attempt the capture of the barricade.  Santiago Sass, furious at the
failure of his ill-timed sortie, and still more with Jack for forcibly
removing him from the scene, began to vent his wrath upon him.

"Do not stay me!" he cried.  "Cursed be any that flinches!  Dominus vir
pugnator!  Let us haste—"

"Señor Padre," interrupted Jack quietly, "you led a most gallant charge,
but look—it has cost me some twenty good men."

He pointed to the corpse-strewn street.  The priest looked, and was
evidently impressed.  Gathering his skirts about him he sped away
towards the Coso in search of more forlorn hopes to lead, the sound of
his wild and whirling words being scarcely drowned by the noise of the
battle.

For the rest of that day French and Spaniards continued to occupy their
respective positions.  The former made no attempt at organized attack;
they clearly dreaded the discovery of more mines.  The Spaniards were
not strong enough to expel the enemy altogether.  Thus, when nightfall
again put an end to the fighting, the situation was essentially the same
as it had been in the morning.

Reckoning up the results, Jack was able to congratulate himself on
having accomplished all that he had hoped to do.  The two French
galleries towards the Casas Tobar and Vallejo were destroyed; the French
had suffered very heavy loss in men.  The explosion of their mine in the
Casa Vega had not furthered their advance, and their work for three days
past was rendered null.  But their failure, Jack knew, would only nerve
them to redoubled energy; he must be prepared for an even more strenuous
attack on his position.  All that he could do was to ensure that if the
houses must be captured it should be with a maximum of delay and loss to
the French.

As he went the round of his district, before proceeding to convey his
nightly report to Palafox, Pablo Quintanar, the guerrilla leader, came
up and made a complaint against his subordinate Antonio.  He had been
attacked, he said, and nearly murdered by Antonio for refusing to reopen
the barricade thrown across the gap in the wall of the Casa Vega.

"Did you not receive my order?" demanded Jack.

"Your order was to hold the barricade, Señor."

"But you opened a gap to let in my men.  I sent the order by one of the
Murcian tiradores."

"Yes, indeed, and the men came through one by one, and when the last was
through I closed the barricade."

"And shut me out!"

Jack looked sharply at the man, but as usual was unable to catch his
eye.

"I waited for the Señor," he protested, "five, ten, twenty minutes; but
he did not come.  What was I to think but that he was dead?  If I had
known—"

"You would have acted otherwise.  Well, as you did make so unfortunate
a—mistake, perhaps the less you say about Antonio’s attempt to mend it
the better.  Buenas noches, hombre!"

Jack turned on his heel, and, wondering what conceivable motive Pablo
Quintanar could have for doing him a hurt, set off for the Castle
Aljafferia.



                             *CHAPTER XXIV*

                        *"A bon Chat, bon Rat"*


Under a Cloud—The Door—Padre Consolacion—A Daughter of Spain—The House
in the Lane—An Unexpected Visitor—A Gambit—In the Shadow—The Worm
Turns—A Blue Paper—The Simple Way


As he made his way through the throng of people filling the corridors
and halls of the palace, Jack could not but observe that the looks he
met were rather of suspicion than friendliness.  He was known by sight
to many of the habitués of the castle.  Tio Jorge had never tired of
praising his exploits and acclaiming him as a staunch friend of Spain;
and yet many now scowled on him, whispered to each other as he passed;
one or two even fingered their knives.

Surprised at this change of attitude, he was still more surprised to
find it reflected in the bearing of Palafox and Don Basilio and other
members of the Junta who were present when he made his report.  Palafox
listened to him coldly, spoke a few words of the faintest praise, and
dismissed him without a sign of real approval or encouragement.

Tio Jorge met him as he was re-entering the town by the Porta Portillo,
and Jack felt a sense of relief when he saw that the big peasant’s
greeting was cordial as ever.  After an exchange of news Tio Jorge, who
had scanned his face anxiously, said bluntly:

"I am a plain man, Señor.  You will answer me a plain question."

"Certainly, anything in reason," said Jack in surprise.

"They’re saying—I could not believe it—but they are all saying that you
wish to surrender; at least, that you do not think we can hold out.
Now, whatever we may think, we do not talk of these things; it is not
good for the people to hear such things.  If any man says them, he does
not live to say them twice.  Tell me plainly, Señor, have you spoken of
surrender?"

"My good friend," said Jack with a smile, "when you yourself hear an
Englishman talk of surrender, then you may believe it; till then—"

"Then it is false?" asked Tio Jorge.

"Absolutely."

"I knew it.  And that proves," added Tio Jorge after a moment, "what I
thought from the first: you have an enemy in Saragossa, Señor."

And then he explained.  The despatch brought by Don Miguel Priego had
been in several points so different from, so much less discouraging
than, that previously brought by Jack, that the Saragossans’ first flush
of enthusiasm for the English had soon disappeared.  The undoubted
retreat of Sir John Moore, and the subsequent departure of his army from
the shores of Spain, were twisted to mean a desertion of the Spanish
cause.  There was at first no personal feeling against Jack, though his
country was regarded with bitterness, but it had lately been rumoured,
on the authority of Don Miguel’s servant, that he had been overheard, in
the Cafe Arcos, expressing a despondent view of the chances of holding
the city, and hinting that it would be wise to make terms with the
French. Only the energetic and successful work Jack had been doing in
the Santa Engracia district, and the strong support of Tio Jorge
himself, had given pause to those who wished to treat him as all who
counselled surrender were treated—to gibbet him in the Coso.

Jack recognized at once that Don Miguel’s malignity was not to be
ignored.  The bare suspicion of disloyalty had been sufficient to bring
a full tale of victims to the gallows, and the fact that he was an
Englishman would not preserve him if the feelings of the populace were
once thoroughly roused.  Fortunately Tio Jorge was his friend; and Tio
Jorge was a host in himself.  Jack had seen no more of Miguel or his man
since their remarkable apparition on the ramparts.  He resolved to keep
a good look-out; though, after all, it was wily, underhand machinations
rather than open violence he had to fear from them.

He had determined to see Juanita and advise her to remove immediately to
a safer part of the city.  He therefore took leave of Tio Jorge at the
door of the house in the Coso where she was staying.  The same old
duenna admitted him.

"The Señora is very ill," she said.  "The Señorita receives.  There is a
visitor with her now."

"I will wait, then."

"Not so, Señor.  The Señorita gave orders that the Señor was always to
be shown up if he called."

Entering the sala, he saw a tall cloaked figure between him and Juanita.

"Ah!" said Juanita, coming forward eagerly with outstretched hand; "how
do you do, Jack?  You are just in time to show Don Miguel to the door."

"With pleasure," said Jack, returning at once to the door and holding it
wide open.

Miguel had faced round, and stood swinging his hat in the middle of the
room.  A fierce scowl darkened his face as he looked from one to the
other.  Juanita reseated herself, turned her back on him, and resumed
some needle-work for the wounded on which she had been engaged. Jack
stood in an attitude of polite expectancy at the door.

"I protest—" began Don Miguel; but Jack cut him short.  Speaking in a
quiet, even tone, he said:

"You have taken leave, Don Miguel?"

The Spaniard stood for a moment irresolute; then, flinging on his hat,
he strode across the room, made no response to Jack’s bow, and
disappeared.  The moment the door was shut Juanita sprang up, ran
towards Jack, and took him by both hands.

"Oh, Jack, Jack," she said, "you don’t know how glad I am to see you!"

"Has that hound been bullying you?"

"Bullying!  He dare not.  I am not a child!  But listen, amigo mio; he
came to ask me to marry him. He did!  He had the audacity!  You should
have seen him—heard him—his nasty oily voice; oh, he seemed to be quite
sure that he had only to ask!  ’And you think of marriage at this
fearful time!’ I said.  And he wanted me to believe that he was thinking
only of my safety. When the town falls, he said, I shall want a
protector. ’And you, one of Palafox’s hussars, how can you protect me?’
And then he smiled, and spoke in dark hints of some special power he
will have, and I grew angry, and asked whether he meant to turn
afrancesado, and then—and then you came, Jack, and I wondered what he
would do; and—and he went, and I couldn’t help remembering the time when
you and I were so terribly afraid of him, and—oh, Jack, it was
magnificent—it was indeed!"

Juanita laughed, and Jack himself smiled at the recollection of Miguel’s
undignified exit.

"But, Juanita," he said, "I came to warn you."

"Against him?"

"No; against the danger you run in staying here.  The French are coming
nearer every hour; almost at any moment they may reach the Coso.  They
are driving their mines steadily towards the centre of the city.  You
must find a place—I can’t call it a home—elsewhere."

"But, Jack, that is arranged already.  Padre Consolacion is going to
take us to a house near the Porta Portillo to-morrow.  What do you
think?—the padre came to see me only a minute or two after you left the
other day."

"Was that the Padre Consolacion?  I saw a benevolent-looking priest
enter as I went out."

"Yes.  And, only think, he wanted me to marry Miguel!"

"The padre?"

Juanita nodded.

"Of course I told him it was impossible—quite impossible.  He sat down
and crossed his white plump hands on his hat and began to talk.  Miguel
must have won him with his plausible manner.  I love the padre, but I
couldn’t listen to him; could I, Jack?  He asked me why I was so opposed
to what he thought was an excellent match, and one that my father had so
much desired; and then I told him that it was all lies, lies; my father
had never wished anything of the sort.  And the poor old dear was
puzzled, and kept tapping his thumbs together and looked at me so
sorrowfully, and then he was called away to attend to a dying officer.
And—Jack, tell me, will this siege ever end?  Can we hold out any
longer?  Are there big armies mustering to relieve us, as they all say?"

She bent forward with clasped hands.  Jack hesitated for a moment.

"Juanita," he said, "I won’t disguise my real belief. I don’t believe in
the big armies.  Saragossa will fall—unless one of two things happens."

"And they?"

"Unless General Palafox sends out a large sortie and defeats the French,
or unless their ammunition gives out. Neither is probable."

"Then what will become of us?  How long will General Palafox resist?
Cannot someone plead with him?  Think of the thousands who have died,
and the thousands who are dying—the poor women and children in their
horrible cellars!  Oh, Jack, what a terrible thing war is!  Does
Napoleon know, can he know, of all the horrors he has brought upon us?
Has he any heart at all?  Jack, my poor aunt is dying, I fear.  I can do
nothing.  Every morning when I go out to carry food and water to the
brave soldiers—"

"You do that, Juanita?"

"Why, yes; every girl in Saragossa does that or something else to help;
and every morning I go fearing that I shall never again see Tia Teresa
alive.  And if she dies, I shall be quite alone in the world.  Father
gone, José gone—  Ah! but I have you, Jack, and the good padre, and if
the worst comes you will look after me, won’t you?—take me to England,
perhaps—I used to like your mother,—and Napoleon will never conquer
England, will he, Jack?"

"Not he," said Jack with a laugh.  He saw that the events of the past
few days had wrought her nerves to a high pitch of excitement, and
tactfully turned the conversation into a quieter channel.  He asked for
the name of the house to which she was going on the morrow, assured her
that, when the inevitable capitulation came, the French would allow
generous terms to such brave defenders, and at length took his leave,
promising to visit her whenever he could snatch an opportunity.

"And will you be able to save the old house?" she asked, as he was going
out at the door.

"I shall do my best, for the sake of old times, be sure of that."

"I know you will.  Vaya usted con Dios, Jack!"

Before he reached the foot of the stairs, Jack saw, in the dim light of
the small hanging lamp, a portly figure ascending.  He crossed to the
other side and waited to allow the visitor to pass.

"Buenas noches, Señor!" said Padre Consolacion, sweeping off his large
shovel hat; then he stopped as he recognized the same youth whom he had
seen earlier in the week.

"Padre mio," cried Juanita from the top, "come along; I want to speak to
you."

"Buenas noches, Padre!" said Jack; and the priest, after a moment’s
hesitation, went up slowly.


Hard by the Casa Alvarez a narrow tortuous lane of mean houses, dirty in
appearance and evil in repute, ran almost due east from the ramparts.
It was not a district in which, before the siege, any person worth
robbing would choose to be abroad after nightfall.  But when, towards
dusk on this fifth of February, a well-dressed man passed rapidly down
the street and disappeared into one of the least reputable of the
houses, the few denizens who observed him did so without a thought of
their knives, almost without a sense of curiosity.  To such a height of
abnegation had the public danger brought the professional lawbreakers of
Saragossa.

It was a house of three stories, and the stranger, threading his way
gingerly through the gloomy entrance and up the narrow stairway,
gathered from the evidence of all his senses that every story was fully
occupied.  In hardly another street in this part of Saragossa could a
house have been found where its whole population was not herded in
cellars below-ground.  But here the lane was so narrow, and so closely
surrounded by buildings, that the inhabitants were in no danger from the
French bombardment, and lived in a security which few of their
fellow-citizens enjoyed.

As the visitor passed room after room on his upward way, the sounds of
coarse laughter, the oaths of men, the shrill expostulation of women,
and the querulous cry of children came to him through closed or
half-closed doors, and he drew his cloak around him with an instinctive
movement of disgust.  Treading almost noiselessly he reached the attic
floor, where the doors of three rooms opened on to a narrow landing.
Although evidently a stranger to the house he showed little hesitation.
With infinite caution he tiptoed across the landing to the farthermost
door, and put his eye to a crack in the panel, through which a narrow
beam of light fell on the dirt-encrusted wall behind him.

The room into which he looked was in keeping with the rest of the house.
The fitful light of a tallow candle showed a man bending over a crazy
table, two truckle-beds ranged at right angles to each other in the far
corner, and a few articles of clothing hanging from hooks on the wall.
The man was intently studying a blue paper spread out on the table,
spelling out the words with difficulty, and repeating them under his
breath with a growl of impatience that accentuated the unpleasing effect
of a countenance by nature unprepossessing.

For some minutes the man beyond the door, drawing shallow breath,
watched him closely as he struggled with the intricacies of the
document.  There was apparently a passage in it that completely baffled
him.  He turned the paper this way and that, examined it even upside
down, but without success, and at last, in a burst of anger, dashed it
down on to the table with an audible oath.

The visitor took this as his cue for entry, and tapped gently at the
door.

"Adelante!" was the answer, after a distinct pause.

He turned the handle and went in.  The man had faced round towards the
door, and the dim light of the candle disclosed the narrow features, low
receding forehead, thin lips, and shifty eyes of Pablo Quintanar.  The
blue paper had disappeared.

There was a momentary silence.  The host was evidently waiting for his
visitor to introduce himself.

"Buenas noches, hombre!" said the stranger suavely, with a conciliatory
bow.  "I trust I don’t come at an unseasonable hour."

The guerrillero scanned him from head to foot with a quick suspicious
glance.

"That depends, Señor, upon your business, who you are, and what you want
with me."

"As to who I am, hombre—may I take a chair? thank you!—my name is Miguel
Priego.  As to my business, that is not so simply stated; we must
improve our acquaintance first."

The man started at the mention of his visitor’s name; and the latter
duly noted the fact.  But as the guerrillero merely stood in an attitude
of expectancy, Don Miguel, loosening his cloak and placing his hat on
the table, continued:

"I have been, my friend, as you may perhaps have heard, four days in
Saragossa.  During these four days I have been searching for you."

The man’s hand went like a flash to his knife, and Miguel, quickening
his measured tones, hastened to add:

"No, my friend, not in that way, or, as you can imagine, I should not
have come alone.  I have been searching for you because I think we are
both of one mind regarding, let us say, the policy of our brave
commandant General Palafox."

"Say what you have to say, and have done with it. I don’t understand
your fine phrases."

Don Miguel smiled indulgently.  It was clear to him that his host fully
grasped his meaning.

"Well, to put the matter quite plainly, you—that is, you and I—regard
all this," waving his hand in the direction of a cannon-shot from the
ramparts, "as useless waste of life—sheer obstinacy; a noble enthusiasm,
but misguided.  Is it not so?  Now, acting upon our convictions we—that
is, you—have already done our little best to bring this distressing
conflict to an end.  We—that is, you—have endeavoured—unsuccessfully
endeavoured—to relieve our commandant of certain plans which, if placed
in proper hands might—I say might—"

At this point the guerrillero, who had been standing facing his visitor,
sank into a chair, his face blanched, his mouth twitching.  On the blank
wall before him his imagination was casting the grim shadow of a gibbet.

Don Miguel smiled faintly, and waved his hand reassuringly.

"There is no need, my friend, for emotion.  If we were not of the same
mind you might, of course, have some ground for uneasiness; but
fortunately we understand one another.  Is it not so?"

"Sí, Señor," the man replied, recovering himself with an effort.  "Sí,
Señor, we understand one another."

"That is well.  Now we can proceed.  You can understand that our good
friends out yonder, who also wish to end this terrible siege, are
grieved by your ill-success.  They are saying hard things about you.
They even went the length of giving me your name, which, if I were less
discreet, might well have been awkward for you.  I don’t disguise that
if they capture Saragossa while you are still in their debt—one thousand
pesetas, is it not?—they may treat you somewhat harshly.  But,
fortunately, you have a chance of retrieving yourself."

Don Miguel paused.  His host had now to some extent recovered his
composure.

"And what is that?" he asked sullenly.

"I happen to know, hombre, where our noble commandant has placed the
papers you failed to find.  If you can deliver those papers to me I will
see that our friends outside do not forget you."

The man smiled cunningly.

"Thank you, Señor!  If I run the risk it would suit me better to claim
the reward myself."

"As you please, my friend.  But remember that without my assistance you
can do nothing.  A few more days will end the siege, and then—"  He
smiled, then added reflectively: "They say it is an easy death."

Pablo Quintanar winced.  He felt himself in the toils, and had some
difficulty in resisting the impulse to throw himself upon his visitor
and end the interview with a knife-thrust.  But he felt that Don Miguel,
with all his languid urbanity, was fully on his guard, and choking down
his animosity he replied:

"What does the Señor wish me to do?"

Don Miguel’s voice throughout the interview had been carefully modulated
to defeat any eavesdropping.  He now rose quietly, and, rapidly opening
the door, peered out on to the landing.  There was no one in view.  He
stretched himself over the balustrade and saw, on the flight below, what
appeared to be a tall figure lurking in the shadow.  He seemed
satisfied.  Quietly re-entering the room, he closed the door.

Then began a long colloquy between the two men, Miguel giving precise
directions as to the whereabouts of a certain box, and the means whereby
it could be secured.

"I think, my friend, there is nothing more to say," he remarked in
conclusion.  "The matter now rests with you."

"One moment, Señor," said Quintanar, motioning him to be seated.  He had
listened deferentially to what Miguel had been saying, and had
obediently fallen in with every proposition; but there was now a
vindictive look in his eyes that caused Miguel a strange uneasiness.

"Certainly," he replied, "but I have little time to spare."

"I will not detain you long—not longer, Señor, than you wish, though I
think that when you have heard what I have to say, you may not be in
such a hurry.  The point is this.  If—mind, I say ’if’—I knew the
whereabouts of a letter in which your name is mentioned in connection
with a little affair on the Barcelona road—you remember?—a couple of
years ago?—if, I say, I had such a letter, that is, if I knew where such
a letter was to be found, would it be worth anything to you, Don
Miguel?"

Pablo Quintanar grinned maliciously.  He had been the victim for the
past half-hour; it was now his turn. Miguel had done his best to
dissemble his start of surprise and anxiety; but the man’s searching
gaze was upon him, and though he replied with a show of confidence he
felt that it was not convincing.

"My name has no doubt been mentioned in a good many letters, my friend;
but I am quite indifferent whether I am well or ill spoken of.  Hard
words break no bones."

"That may be, Señor, but they sometimes break reputations, and you are
dancing on a thin rope.  But if I tell you that this letter also has a
message about a sum of money hidden by the writer, how does that alter
the case?"

"I can tell you better if you inform me what the message is, and what
the name of the writer is."

"Well, I can tell you the name of the writer; it is the late Señor
Alvarez."

"Ah!  I heard that a letter had been lost—that, then, was what you found
instead of the plan.  Do you know, my friend, that this places you in a
very awkward position? You will do well to hand the letter over to me.
The slightest whisper of suspicion—"

The man glared viciously at the speaker, then snapped out:

"You may be quite sure that as you are the only man who knows anything
about it, I shall take care that you swing on the same gallows."

Don Miguel shifted his feet uneasily.

"You need not fear, my friend; I am not the man to betray you.  I merely
thought it would be safer for you if this letter were in my possession."

"Oh, no doubt! but, Señor," added Quintanar with a harsh laugh, "I
couldn’t allow you to take the risk—especially as the letter is of no
value to you.  I need not detain you, Señor."

Miguel considered a moment, tapping the floor lightly with his foot.

"What do you want for the paper?"

"Well, Señor, I am not unreasonable.  Let us say one thousand pesetas
down and a quarter of the treasure when you find it."

Miguel laughed softly.

"Thank you, my friend!  Before I pay a thousand pesetas I should like to
know what I am paying it for."

Quintanar, hesitating for a moment, slowly drew out a blue paper from
beneath his jacket, and said:

"What do you think of this?


’I am convinced that Miguel Priego was at the bottom of this dastardly
outrage.  Unfortunately, we have no proof at present that would satisfy
a judge, but if any of the men who assisted him can be found and induced
to give evidence it is still possible that he may be brought to book.’


What do you think of that, Don Miguel?  Ah!  I thought I should interest
you."

Miguel forced a smile, and, waving his hand airily, said:

"If that is all the letter contains I would not offer a maravedi for
it."

"Oh, there is more, a good deal more!  I need not read it all, but
listen to this:


"The sum saved from Miguel’s brigands, together with a large amount in
jewels and bullion, I have thought it best to secrete until more settled
times.  You will find appended to this letter instructions which, taken
together with a communication I have made to your son Jack, will enable
you or him, or such other person as you may be so good as to depute, to
find them in the event of anything happening to my servant José Pinzon,
who is fully acquainted with all my dispositions."


Don Miguel, greed written in every lineament, leaned forward on his
chair, listening eagerly.

"Well," he said impatiently, as the man concluded, "what are the
instructions?"

"Those, Señor, I cannot read.  They are in some strange tongue; but no
doubt you, having education, will be able to make them out.  That is to
say, if you make it worth my while to hand you the letter.  You know my
price."

Carefully refolding the letter, Quintanar replaced it in a pocket inside
his jacket.  In doing so he took his eyes for a moment off Miguel, whom
he had been watching with the utmost vigilance, to assure himself that
the document was safely stowed away.

The other, his face aflame with rage and cupidity, instantly seized the
opportunity.  Drawing his feet quietly beneath him, he sprang from his
chair and bore the guerrillero to the ground.  But the man, although
taken unawares, recovered himself with surprising agility. Before Miguel
had time to draw his knife he had clutched him by the throat, and with a
dexterous turn had reversed their positions, Miguel now being on the
ground, Quintanar above him, his long knife uplifted to strike.



                             *CHAPTER XXV*

                         *Pepito finds a Clue*


Morning Light—Bombarded—An Afrancesado—From the Roofs—In the Casa
Vallejo—A Fight at Daybreak—Anticipated—The Jesus Convent—New
Barricades—Repulsed—Borrowing a Gun—Round-Shot and Grape—Out of
Action—Odds and Evens


Jack was awakened next morning by the sounds of altercation outside the
small room on the ground floor of the Casa Alvarez that he had reserved
for himself.

"You shall not!" he heard Pepito cry in his shrill voice. "The Señor
sleeps; you—shall—not—"

Then his voice was stifled by the noise of scuffling. A heavy thud shook
the door, as though some massive body had been driven against it.
Springing from his bed, on which he had lain down in all his clothes
save his boots, Jack went to the door, opened it, and saw Antonio, the
guerrillero, raining blow after blow on the small form of Pepito, who
had twisted himself about one of the big man’s legs and held on grimly,
though he must have suffered not a little.

"Come, come!" said Jack; "what is it, Antonio? Pepito, let him go!"

Pepito sprang away instantly.

"The Busno wanted to wake the Señor," he piped, with a fierce look at
Antonio.

"You waked me between you.  Well, Antonio?"

"Señor, I was on night duty; I was to be relieved at two o’clock, so it
was arranged by Don Cristobal; the chief was to relieve me.  He did not
come.  I waited, one hour, two hours; he did not come.  The Señor knows
I would not leave my post.  At five came Don Cristobal on his round of
the posts.  I told him; he put a man in my place and I went home tired
as a dog, and there, in the top room I share with the chief, there,
Señor, I saw him, Pablo Quintanar, on the floor, still, dead, and blood
all round him."

Jack looked sharply at the man.  There was every sign of amazement and
agitation in his face, but Jack remembered that he had quarrelled with
his chief on the previous day, and could not but suspect there had been
a repetition of the dispute when the men met in their lodging, and that,
possibly by accident, it was Antonio’s knife that had done the fatal
work.  Antonio appeared to guess what was passing in his captain’s mind.

"I swear I did not do it, Señor.  I knew nothing of it till I saw him
there on the floor.  We quarrelled; yes, the Señor knows that, but I
keep my knife for the French; I would not—"

"Take me to the place," interrupted Jack coldly. Staying only to pull on
his boots, he accompanied the man to the dirty lane and into the dingy
house from which Miguel had stealthily issued some six hours before.
Pepito was at his heels as he climbed the filthy staircase; the gipsy
sniffed and snorted at the foul odours his nostrils encountered, and put
his hand on his knife as he passed each doorway.

They entered the attic.  The gray light of a dull morning coming through
a narrow skylight barely illuminated the sordid room.  On the floor,
stretched on his face, with arms extended towards the door, lay the
figure of the guerrillero.  This was no death in fair fight, face to
face with his enemy; but the base, stealthy thrust of an assassin.

"That is how I found him, Señor," said Antonio.

"Yes; it is the Spanish way."

He had noticed that the dead man’s hand clasped a knife.  Stooping, he
removed it from his grasp; the steel was bright and clear, as though it
had never been used for any but innocent purposes.  Jack, as he held the
weapon, reflected.  The man had drawn his knife.  It must have been for
attack or for self-defence against an enemy in front of him; therefore
the blow from behind that killed him must have been dealt by a second
person.  Antonio was scarcely likely to have brought another man into
his personal quarrel; Jack was inclined to believe that he was
guiltless, as he said.  He looked around the room; there were few signs
of a scuffle.  It was useless to institute an enquiry among the other
people in the house, and the sound of musketry and cannon-shots without
already called him to his duties.

"Bury the poor wretch," he said, "and then come to me."

"The Señor believes I did not do it?"

"Yes, yes; we have no time for enquiries.  There is work for us who are
left alive."

He hurried away.  There had been something sinister about the
guerrillero, something that Jack could not fathom; perhaps it was
resentment at a stranger being brought in and placed above him; but Jack
could not help feeling a passing pity for the Spaniard who had met his
death by the hands presumably of one of his own countrymen, instead of
in heroic combat with the enemy.

He returned to his post.  The situation as it had been left on the
previous evening had now been complicated. The cannon-shots he had heard
in the attic had been fired from two pieces mounted by the French at the
angle of the street.  An epaulement of sand-bags and gabions had been
thrown across between the ruined blocks, and from that point of vantage
the French gunners were pointing their cannon so that their shots fell
plump upon the walls of the Casas Vega and Tobar.  These, it was clear,
would before long be a heap of ruins.  Jack sent men to the end of his
subterranean galleries to listen whether mining operations had been
resumed by the French.  When they returned, reporting that no sound
could be heard, he concluded that the signal failure of their last mines
had been enough for the enemy, and that in future they would probably
trust entirely to cannonade, followed by attacks in force.  He could not
reply to their artillery; all that lay in his power was to hold his men
in readiness to repel a charge, and to fire his long Y-shaped mines when
the French attack was being pressed home.

Some two hours later he was consulting with Don Cristobal on the
possibilities of capturing the French guns in a night attack, when
Pepito came up, looking even more than usually mysterious.  He stood
before Jack with his hands behind him, waiting until his master, now
deeply engrossed in conversation, should notice him.

"I should dearly like to make the attempt," Jack was saying, "but your
arguments are, I am afraid, conclusive. We can’t afford to lose any of
our men unless we can be sure of success, and after their recent
warnings I don’t think we shall catch the French napping.  We must give
up the idea, I suppose, but you will see that our men keep a keen watch
on the epaulement, Señor—  Well, what is it, Pepito?"

Pepito came forward carelessly.

"I found these, Señor," he said, handing two papers to Jack, who took
them carelessly.  Without unfolding them, he asked:

"Where did you get these?"

"In the tall house, Señor."

"Which tall house?"

"Where the Señor went just now."

"Where the man was murdered?"

"Sí, Señor.  The big Antonio took him away.  I was there.  In a minute,
two men came in.  ’Now we get a bed,’ they say.  They pull the dirty
quilt off the bed.  One man carries it; the other pulls off the
mattress.  There, on the boards, I see two papers.  I snatch them, and
say: ’I take these to the Señor Capitan’.  The man laughs; and here they
are, Señor."

Jack unfolded the papers and glanced at them curiously. Suddenly he
started, and keenly scrutinized one of them.

"It is explained now, Señor," he said to Don Cristobal, at the same time
laying the papers before him. "Quintanar was a spy."

"An afrancesado!" ejaculated the Spaniard.

"Unhappily.  One of the papers, you see, is a pass through the French
lines; the other a rough plan of our defences.  See, the miserable
fellow had begun to dot in our mines under the houses opposite.  Someone
must have discovered his treachery, and killed him without remorse."

"So perish all traitors!" said Don Cristobal.

At this moment a man rushed in with the news that a small breach had
been made in the wall of the Casa Tobar.

"We must do something to check them," said Jack, rising.  "A few good
marksmen on the top of this house might pick off their gunners; let us
go and see."

They went up the staircase towards the roof, Pepito, left alone, put his
hand into his pocket, and drew out a small silver buckle, such as
Spanish burghers and officers wore on their shoes.

"Señor has the papers," he muttered.  "Ca!  I have the buckle.  The
buckle is better than the papers."

He swung it round his forefinger, humming under his breath, and was
still toying with it when Jack came downstairs again.  Then he hurriedly
thrust it into his pocket, and stood unconcernedly as though waiting for
orders.

A moment’s glance had shown Jack that his plan of placing marksmen on
the roof would be useless.  The Casas Vega and Tobar, though much lower
than the Casa Alvarez, were not low enough to allow an effective fire
over them.  But what could not be done from the Casa Alvarez might be
done from the lower roofs nearer the guns.  Jack lost no time in making
his way to the flat roof of the Casa Tobar.  Carefully crawling along
and peeping over, he saw that the angle of depression was just sharp
enough to allow a good marksman to take aim at the gunners’ heads.  It
would be dangerous work, for the French would instantly perceive the
source of the shots, and would bring a concentrated fire to bear in
return.  There was no parapet to the roof, but a parapet could perhaps
be extemporized with sand-bags, between which the Spaniards’ muskets
might be placed.

Returning to the ground, Jack explained what he had in his mind, and
Antonio at once volunteered to make the attempt.  With some of his men
he climbed to the roof, where they pushed sand-bags along until they
came to the edge.  Then one of the men tried a shot.  He missed.  But
Antonio took more deliberate aim, through the interstice between two
sand-bags, and hit one of the French gunners in the arm.

Three Frenchmen had been hit before the enemy discovered whence came
these disconcerting shots.  Then bullets began to patter on the walls
and roof.  But the Spaniards were too well protected by their
extemporized parapet to be in much fear, and continued their firing
without suffering serious loss.  Before the day was out the French found
it the part of discretion to withdraw their gunners, and for the time
being the cannon were useless.

Jack was not surprised next morning to learn that the French mining work
had been renewed.  This time the sounds were heard in the Casa Vallejo.
The French had evidently seen that their only chance of carrying the
position was by reverting to the slow burrowing which had been
successful in earlier days.  Jack went himself to the attacked house.
The sounds through the wall were very faint, but there could be no doubt
that the enemy were engaged in repairing the gallery destroyed in the
sortie, though they were as yet thirty or forty feet away. It was
probable that they had resumed, or would soon resume, operations in the
Casas Vega and Tobar also, and dispositions must be made to meet them.

It was Jack’s practice every morning to call the roll of the men under
his charge.  Every day the force dwindled, and the physical weakness of
the survivors had patently increased.  Wishing to spare them as much as
possible, he had been indisposed to set them to the arduous work of
mining until he felt sure that he was seriously threatened.  The fact
that the French had resumed their tunnelling showed that there was now
no time to be lost, and the morning was but little advanced when men
were busily engaged in clearing out the galleries, in Vega and Tobar,
that had been tamped and fired, so that they might be recharged.  But
while the sounds of mining grew clearer in front of Vallejo, hours
passed without the Spaniards detecting any signs of activity towards the
other two houses.  Leaving men to keep watch there, and report if any
change took place, Jack returned to Vallejo, where it seemed evident
that the only present danger was to be apprehended.

He stood with Don Cristobal near the end of the short gallery beneath
Vallejo and the ruined house beyond. About eleven o’clock he was struck
by a difference in the sounds, which up to the present had been fitfully
interrupted.

"Listen, Señor!" he said to Don Cristobal.  "I fancy the French are
making several tunnels this time.  Don’t you think so?  There is no
break in the sound now, as there would be if they were driving only one
or two; and yet there is a slight difference in the quality of the sound
at successive moments.  Do you hear?  There; that was a deeper sound
than the one before it."

"You are right, Señor," returned the Spaniard.  "We can do little on our
side, I fear."

"No.  You see what a piece of arrant folly that rush of Santiago Sass
was.  Several of our best miners were killed; and what with the
necessity of defending the barricades, and maintaining constant
garrisons in the houses, we simply can’t hope to match the French
underground. All we can do is to wait till the right moment comes, and
then explode our little mine first.  If we let the French anticipate us,
the explosion of several mines at once will blow ours up or make it
useless, and all our work will be thrown away."

"How many galleries do you think the enemy are cutting?"

"If we listen carefully we can tell."

They were silent, and after about a quarter of an hour Jack declared
that he had counted four separate operations. He sent for one of the
more experienced miners, and asked him to count independently.  The man
confirmed his opinion, adding that he thought there would be no danger
of explosions from the French side for a day or two.

The rest of that day passed quietly.  But early next morning the
necessity of maintaining adequate guards at the exposed points of his
position was brought home to Jack.  During the night a large number of
French had been silently posted in the ruined house at the end of the
lane to the north of the Casa Vega.  Issuing from these ruins, almost as
soon as day dawned, they rushed towards the barricade, bearing fascines
and scaling-ladders.  But Don Cristobal, who was in command at this
point, proved equal to the occasion.  He sent off a messenger to Jack in
the Casa Alvarez as soon as he saw signs of the French movement, and
with the thirty resolute men of his command he held the enemy off,
showing much coolness in awaiting their onset and ordering his men to
fire at the right moment.  When Jack came up at the head of a
considerable reinforcement, the French were decisively driven off,
leaving more than a score of dead behind them. They retired in
confusion, some going into the ruins from which the attack had been
made, others retreating down the street until they found protection from
the Spaniards’ musketry at the sharp bend in the roadway.

Hastening then to the Casa Vallejo, Jack found that the sounds of miners
at work had been steadily growing more distinct.  It was clearly time to
prepare his own mine.  The gallery extended some six feet beneath the
floor of the ruined house adjoining.  A heavy charge was laid in it;
then the mine was tamped as quickly as possible. All was now in
readiness.  Through that day Jack scarcely left the place for a moment.
It was of the utmost importance that the time for exploding the mine
should be well chosen.  He dared not run the risk of allowing the French
to drive the heads of their tunnels past his own, for indeed they might
not pass it, but come clean upon it, in which case they would either
explode it themselves, or more probably withdraw the charge.  His object
was to allow them to approach as near as seemed safe, and then to fire
the train.  After an anxious day he retired to rest, convinced that a
sharp conflict could no longer be much delayed.

At ten o’clock next morning, the 8th of February, he judged that the
French miners could only be a few feet distant.  Withdrawing all his men
from the Casa Vallejo to the Casa Hontanon, next door, he waited tensely
for a few minutes, then himself fired the train.  There was a thunderous
explosion, the walls of the room in which he was seemed to rock, then
came the crash of falling beams, followed by a death-like silence.  The
mine had done its terrible work effectually; for the rest of the day
there was no further sound of the French.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Ebro the French were gradually
preparing for a grand assault.  The part of the city along the river
bank had been hitherto little damaged, for it was protected by the
transpontine suburb of San Lazaro, and to some extent by a few gun-boats
moored near the bridge.  The key to the position was the Jesus Convent,
a building of bricks, with a ditch on the French side of it.  The French
batteries had made large breaches in its masonry, but in order to carry
it by storm it was first necessary for the enemy to trench their way
towards it by slow degrees, every step having to be taken under fire
from the walls.  Their work was delayed for a time by a sudden rise of
the river inundating their trenches and driving them back for several
hundred yards—a flood hailed with joy by the defenders, who regarded it
as another miraculous interposition on the part of Our Lady of the
Pillar.

Their condition was becoming pitiful in the extreme. All fresh meat and
vegetables were exhausted; they had nothing now to subsist on but fish
and salt meat.  The few chickens that could be got each sold for a sum
equivalent to an English pound.  The French had seized all the
water-mills along the banks of the river, so that the corn, of which the
Spaniards yet possessed large stores, could not be ground, and they were
forced to make a rough unwholesome bread of grain merely crushed or
bruised.  Fever, bred in the damp vaults in which most of the people
lived, was carrying off hundreds every day; yet the emaciated survivors
scarcely murmured, and the faintest suggestion of surrender was still
sufficient to carry a man to the gibbet.  Cheered by their brave
untiring priests, they hoped against hope that relief would come.

But the floods subsided, and there was no sign of the long-expected
succour.  On the morning of February 8th, twenty-two French guns opened
fire on the convent. Within a few hours the outer walls were battered
down; then Marshal Lannes in person ordered the place to be carried by
assault.  Five hundred men instantly sprang from the trenches.  The
Spaniards in the convent, mingled regulars and monks, made what
resistance they could, but they were unnerved by the preceding
cannonade, and before the furious rush of the French grenadiers they
fled and left the convent to its fate.  Within the walls the French
found hundreds of wounded and sick, and in the courtyard there were some
two hundred corpses, men, women, and children, piled up awaiting burial.
Even the French were sick at heart when they saw on these pale cold
faces the terrible signs of fasting and disease. They themselves had
suffered in their trenches.  Among them too men fell fast; and even in
their ranks there were heard murmurs against the long waiting of this
cruel siege.

But though they had gained possession of the convent, their capture of
the whole suburb was to be delayed for yet a few days.  News was brought
in to the French marshal, from his outlying positions, that a Spanish
army was marching towards the city.  The captain-general’s brother,
Francisco Palafox, had succeeded in raising a small force of 4000 men,
and was now but twenty miles away.  The attack could not be pressed in
this quarter until the exact strength of the new enemy was ascertained.
Marshal Lannes himself, therefore, drew off with 12,000 men, and once
more the hopes of the dwindling garrison within the walls flickered up
into the semblance of a flame.

Meanwhile Jack, in his little district, had become convinced that the
defence could not be maintained for many more days.  But he was
determined to hold his own to the very end.  After his explosion beyond
the Casa Vallejo there had been a prolonged silence on the French side,
but in the evening renewed sounds of mining in two quarters showed that
though two of the four French galleries had been injured, the other two
were still workable. It was only a matter of hours before the wall must
fall. All that Jack could do was to ensure that the house should be held
as long as possible after the explosion of the French mines, and that
this should cause his men the minimum of loss.  During the night of the
8th he built a fresh barricade between Vallejo and Tobar, some yards in
the rear of the first one, leaving a means of ingress into the
threatened house.  On the roof of Tobar he stationed men, just before
dawn, to give notice of any French movements in the ruins at the farther
end of the block.  Meanwhile the garrison of Vallejo were withdrawn
behind the barricade, with orders to rush in and reoccupy the house as
soon as the explosion had taken place.

At seven o’clock on the morning of the 9th a deep rumbling noise, as of
a miniature earthquake, shook the quarter.  Volumes of pungent smoke
rolled along the lanes, and the crashing sounds proclaimed that the
party-wall of Vallejo had fallen in.

"Into the house!" shouted Jack.

The men burst into the building.  Taking advantage of the cover afforded
by heaps of shattered masonry, woodwork, and furniture, they stood firm
to meet the attack of the French, who, as soon as the dust and smoke
began to clear, charged furiously up to the ruined wall. Their front
ranks were mowed down by the withering fire of the Spaniards, but the
gaps were instantly filled, and the undaunted enemy pressed on again.
The volumes of smoke and the heaped wreckage of the house made it
difficult sometimes for the combatants to see one another.  For the
moment the advantage was with the Spaniards.  Nothing could dislodge
them from behind their barricades of brickwork, furniture, even piles of
books.  But the French were swarming in at the other end of the block of
buildings, and some, mounting on heaps of débris, were able to fire over
the heads of the men in front of them into the Spanish position.  Jack
saw that with the fall of the party-wall of Vallejo the remains of the
roof and front wall of the house beyond had also come down.  Profiting
by this circumstance, he sent a number of men on to the roof of Tobar,
whence they were able to enfilade the French marksmen.  They were
assisted by a strong fire from the front barricade, where Antonio, now
the leader of the guerrilleros, was doing yeoman service.  Finding that
after repeated charges no impression had been made on the Spanish
defences, the French drew back disheartened, and, unwilling to face the
risk of meeting again such heavy losses, made no further serious attempt
during the morning to carry the position.  The action degenerated into a
fitful exchange of musket-shots, whenever a Frenchman or a Spaniard
incautiously exposed himself.

"Well done, hombres!" said Jack, who had gone from point to point
cheering them on, reinforcing weak spots, narrowly escaping the enemy’s
bullets as he moved at times across the line of fire.  He had been quick
to mark instances of special bravery or skill, and the few words of
praise he spoke nerved the ardent Spaniards to still more strenuous
exertions.

In the afternoon, as he was resting in the Casa Alvarez, news was
brought that the French had been seen clearing away parts of the débris
in the ruins at the farther end of the Vallejo block.

"What does that mean?" he exclaimed, starting up. "They will only expose
themselves to direct fire from the roofs and the barricade."

Hastening with Don Cristobal to the roof of the Casa Tobar, he sought
for an explanation of the new movement. Suddenly it occurred to him: the
French were about to bring the gun, which had been driven away from the
angle of the street, to a position whence it would bear upon Vallejo,
and the work they were doing was for the purpose of clearing away
anything that might intercept its fire.

"We can’t hold Vallejo against a bombardment," he remarked.  "Stay!
Perhaps Don Casimir would lend us a gun from his ramparts.  Things have
been pretty quiet with him lately.  Antonio, run off with twenty men and
ask Don Casimir to let you have an eight-pounder, with grape and
round-shot.  If we can get a gun to bear, Señor, the work the French are
doing will assist us as much as themselves."

"Can we mount the gun?" asked Don Cristobal, descending with Jack.

"We can but try.  ’Where there’s a will there’s a way’, as we say in
England."

Twenty minutes later Antonio returned with his men, hauling the
eight-pounder briskly along towards the barricade.  It was easily taken
into the patio of the Casa Vallejo, but to move it thence into a
position facing the French would necessitate the breaking of the wall of
one of the ground-floor rooms.

It was approaching nightfall when, from his post of observation on the
roof of Tobar, Jack saw that the French had completed their work.  He
could just perceive the muzzle of their gun, carefully blinded with
beams, protruding from a sort of screen in the ruins of the second house
from Vallejo.  He was confident that they would not begin their
bombardment until the following morning, and he hoped to use the hours
of darkness to place his own gun.  Before darkness fell, with Don
Cristobal’s help he took, from several points, careful observations of
the position of the French gun, and on the stone floor of the room
opening on to the patio in Vallejo he drew chalk lines indicating what
appeared to be a suitable position for his eight-pounder.

As soon as it was dark he set two men to break a way with picks through
the wall of the patio, at a spot where there was a window.  The work was
carried out with the aid of dark lanterns, large pieces of cloth being
hung over every gap to conceal any glimmer of light from the French. The
gun was then hauled through the hole and laid by the chalk lines; it was
screened with bags of earth, and then, after it had been loaded with
ball, a horse-blanket was hung over the muzzle, which alone was in sight
of the enemy.

"Now we can get some sleep, Señor," said Jack. "We’ve had a hard day’s
work.  I confess I’m longing for the morning, to see whether we can once
more get in first.  You have arranged the sentries for the night?"

"Yes.  Nothing has been neglected."

"A special guard for the gun?"

"Antonio and two of his guerrilleros will take turns through the night."

"We haven’t any better men.  I can hardly keep my eyes open.  Come
along."

There was but a faint glimmer of light beyond the Ebro when Jack again
took his place beside the gun.

"I’m not a gunner," he remarked to Don Cristobal, "but I fancy I can
manage to lay and fire it myself; it’s point-blank range, you see; I can
hardly miss.  Now, hombres," he said, turning to the eight men with him,
"everything depends on our shooting first, so keep as mum as door-mats."

Waiting till the increasing light showed him clearly the muzzle of the
enemy’s gun, he carefully pointed his own piece.  He aimed at a beam
covering the gun at a point which, as nearly as he could judge,
corresponded with the trunnion.  Don Cristobal watched him anxiously as
he lit the match.  What would be the result of the shot? One moment of
suspense, then Jack applied the match; there was a flash and a roar,
followed immediately by the crashing of timber.

It was impossible to see the effect of the shot through the cloud of
smoke that hung between the buildings; but, whatever it was, Jack knew
that it would awake the enemy to feverish activity.  Running his piece
in, he had it rapidly sponged and then reloaded with grape.  While this
was being done, he sent orders to the garrison to open fire on the
French position, to which there would certainly be a rush.  As soon as
the smoke cleared he saw that the French gun had also been run in.
Before it could be loaded, however, Jack applied his second match; his
canister of grape searched every square foot of the area around the
French gun, and the men serving it were annihilated.  Before another
complement of gunners could be brought up, Jack had his piece cleaned
and charged again, this time with round-shot.  He saw now that the first
shot had broken and splintered the beam; the third shivered it to
fragments.  A great cheer arose from the garrison when they saw the
damage already done.  A second charge of grape, together with sharp
musketry-fire from every point occupied by the Spaniards, scattered the
French reinforcements who were now attempting frantically to withdraw
the gun out of range. Again Jack loaded with shot, and a fierce shout of
exultation broke from the Spaniards on the roof-tops as they saw the
enemy’s gun completely dismounted, and the remnant of the French fly in
all haste to the rear.

This spirited defence had the effect of keeping the French quiet in that
quarter for the rest of the day.  Jack maintained his vigilance
unrelaxed, but there was no movement from the enemy’s direction either
above or below ground.

"Another day saved!" said Jack to Don Casimir, who, having heard of what
had happened, had come to congratulate him on his successful
manipulation of the gun.

"Yes, one more day.  But how long can we still hold out?" replied Don
Casimir.  "Surely, Señor Lumsden, you are not among the credulous people
who think that we shall save the city?"

"Since you ask me plainly, Don Casimir, I am not. But what does that
matter?  We have to hold our quarters, and I confess that I sha’n’t be
satisfied unless I can say, when the end comes, that here at all events
we are still unbeaten.—Do look at that odd little gipsy boy of mine.  He
is a strange child.  When the fighting is going on he is never to be
found; he hasn’t any courage of that sort; but he always turns up when
it is over, and looks as proud as though he had fought with the best.
What has the brat got now?"

Pepito approached jauntily, twirling a small silver buckle round on his
finger.

"Well, what is the mischief now?" asked Jack with a smile.

"That is for Señor to say," replied Pepito gravely.

"You found that buckle, I suppose.  Well, it looks a very good silver
buckle; what is there to explain?"

"I found it in the tall house.  It was under the dead man.  I saw it
when they took him away."

"Yes.  What then?"

Pepito put his hand into his pocket and produced a second buckle, the
exact fellow of the first.

"Now I have two," he said.

"So I see.  One isn’t much use without the other.  I suppose you will
want them sewn on your shoes now. You found that too, eh?"

"No, I cut it off.  Señor thinks they are the buckles a poor Busno would
wear?"

"Well, no; they are a little unusual for a guerrillero, certainly.  But
he may have been a bandit first."

"No, no.  They were not his.  Señor, listen as I tell. I find in the
room one buckle; I think I know it.  I put it in my pocket.  I go out at
once into the streets to look. What do I see?  I see a man walk; one
shoe has a buckle, the other shoe has not.  I open my eyes wide; I say
to myself: ’Ho! ho!  That is what I thought!’  But I was not sure.  I
wait.  A time comes.  I see the one-buckle Señor go into the Café Arcos.
I follow; big Jorge Arcos knows me now.  I keep much in the dark; Señor
One-buckle must not see me.  But I see him; I see his foot; I am under
the table.  I put buckle one next to buckle two; they are brothers.  I
take my knife and cut off buckle two. It is Señor No-buckle now!  Señor
knows?"

Jack had been impressed, not so much by the gipsy’s story as by the
solemnity of his manner of telling it.

"You have something more to tell me.  What is it?"

"Señor One-buckle, Señor No-buckle—who is it?  One-buckle, I find it
under the dead man in the tall house; two-buckle, I cut it from the shoe
of—of the master of Señor One-eye."

"Señor Priego?"

"Sí, Señor!"



                             *CHAPTER XXVI*

                      *Wanted: Don Miguel Priego*


Circumstantial Evidence—A Council of War—Miguel’s Despatch—A Statement
of Facts—The Inevitable Inference—Shambles—In the Belfry—Without
Guile—The People’s Curse


Jack had had so many evidences of Pepito’s sagacity that he could not
doubt the accuracy of the boy’s report.  The shoe buckles almost
certainly belonged to Don Miguel. From this one seed of fact sprang a
whole sheaf of problems.  Miguel had been in the room when the
guerrillero was murdered; he may not have dealt the blow himself, but
certainly he was there.  Then why was he there?  Had he learnt that the
man was an afrancesado and gone personally to serve him as every good
Spaniard would wish to serve a traitor?  That was improbable, for the
murder had been committed in secret, no report had been made of it, and
Miguel was not the man to let slip the chance of adding to his
popularity by ridding the city of a domestic foe.  No, he had not gone
to the house as an enemy; could he have gone to it as a friend?  What
bond of union could there be between Don Miguel Priego, in civil life a
well-to-do merchant and now also major in Palafox’s hussars, and a poor
obscure peasant who had no standing whatever as a citizen or a soldier?

Suddenly the idea came to him: could Miguel have visited the man because
he was an afrancesado?  The suggestion was like the letting out of a
flood.  Jack recalled the suspicious entry of Miguel and his man into
Saragossa; the strange tale about an overpowered sentry; the curious
reappearance of a sentinel in the French trenches almost immediately
afterwards.  Had Miguel got in, not in spite of the French, but with
their connivance? His rapid journey across country from Seville: how
could that be accounted for unless he had been helped through the
districts in French occupation, and provided with relays of post-horses
at every stage?  The inevitable conclusion was that Miguel was himself
an afrancesado, and had come into the city on some traitorous errand.
Knowing that the guerrillero was of the same kidney, he had visited him
for some purpose of his own.  A quarrel had arisen; during the struggle
one of his buckles had been wrenched off, and it lay unnoticed on the
floor.  It was improbable that Miguel himself had dealt Quintanar the
fatal blow; but, remembering Perez, the one-eyed man, Jack was in little
doubt where to look for the assassin.

There was only one thing wanted to complete his assurance of Miguel’s
treachery.  Miguel had certainly brought to Palafox a despatch from the
Supreme Junta at Seville. If he were a true Spaniard, and had really
gained admittance to the city by a hazardous feat of arms, the despatch
must have been intact when Palafox received it.  On the other hand, if
Miguel was a spy, in the pay of the French, it was little likely that
they would have allowed a despatch to pass through their lines without
mastering its contents. In that case they must have found means to open
and read it, without leaving anything to arouse suspicion in the mind of
Palafox when he received it.  How was that possible?  Palafox would
certainly have remarked any sign of tampering with the seal; the
despatch could not have been opened without tampering with the seal, and
that—  Stay!  Jack vaguely remembered having read somewhere that a seal
could be removed by dexterously slipping a thin hot blade between it and
the paper.  Had that been done with Miguel’s despatch?  The question had
no sooner formed itself in Jack’s mind than conviction flashed upon him;
he felt absolutely sure that the man he had always so much disliked on
personal grounds was a renegade and a traitor.

Next morning he rose from his bed unrefreshed, but with a plan of action
formed.  He made his dispositions for the continued defence of his
district with keenness and care. Then, somewhat after one o’clock, he
left the work in charge of Don Cristobal, and made his way by narrow
lanes towards the other end of the city.  The streets were almost
entirely deserted now; only a few brave women and ministering priests
went about fearlessly on errands of mercy.  All the men were engaged on
the ramparts or in the houses, striving with dogged energy to hinder the
creeping advance of the French.  He had crossed the part of the city
most in danger from bombardment or mines when he met Tio Jorge, whom he
had not seen for a few days.

"Tio," he said, "can you come with me?  I am going to see the general,
and I should like you to be with me."

"Assuredly, Señor.  And in truth, I think it well you should have a
friend with you, for the murmurs against you are growing stronger.  It
is whispered that an afrancesado was lately slain in your quarter, and
men are saying that he was not the only one there.  They are puzzled,
for if you are an afrancesado, as some think, why are you fighting the
French so desperately every day?  I only tell you what they think and
say, Señor; it is well I am your friend."

Jack set his lips; he traced this to Miguel’s inveterate malice.
Hurrying along with the big peasant, he arrived at the Aljafferia
Castle, and was admitted after some delay to Palafox’s room.  The
general had now taken to his bed; the fever had gained a terrible hold
upon him, and but for his indomitable spirit he would probably ere this
have died.  He was surrounded by a group of his advisers, among them Don
Basilio, Santiago Sass, Padre Consolacion, and General San March, who,
having failed to hold the Monte Torrero against the French in the early
days of the siege, had since been under a cloud.  The priests scowled at
Jack as he approached; the lean Santiago Sass and the rotund Padre
Consolacion looked at him with equal distrust.

"Come, Tio Jorge," said General San March, "you are in time to support
me.  I have been asking the captain-general to allow me to lead a sortie
across the Ebro, now that the French are weakened there by the
withdrawal of so many men."

"Useless, useless!" cried Palafox from his bed.

"Useless, Señores!" echoed Tio Jorge.  "What men have we now for
sorties?  Three weeks ago, yes; but now—most of our men can hardly
stagger under the weight of their muskets.  The time for sorties is
past; but let us hope the French are withdrawn from San Lazaro by news
of our brothers coming to aid us—"

"And we will never give in, never give in!" cried Santiago Sass.  "No,
not even though traitors within our walls give the gates to the enemy."

Tio Jorge was on the point of resenting, on Jack’s behalf, the glare
with which the priest accompanied these words; but Jack laid his hand on
the man’s arm, and, advancing to the bedside, spoke to the worn figure
lying there.

"You remember, Señor, the despatch that was brought to you from the
Supreme Junta, little more than a week ago, by one of your officers who
made his way by night through the French lines?"

"I remember it."

"You have that despatch still?"

"I have.  Why do you ask?"

"Pardon me, Señor, you will see in a few moments. You observed nothing
unusual about the seal?"

"Nothing."

"It was the usual seal of the Junta," put in Don Basilio. "I have the
despatch."

"Will you allow me to look at it?"

The chaplain hesitated; he appeared to be about to ask a question, but
Tio Jorge interposed.

"The despatch, Señor Padre!  The Señor has a reason; I know it not, but
he fought with me by the Casa Ximenez, and what he says, por Dios! there
is sense in it."

"Produce the despatch, Padre," said Palafox.

Don Basilio went to a cabinet, and after a little search found the
despatch and handed it to Jack.  The seal was broken across the middle.
Jack examined the edges carefully, lifting the wax slightly with his
thumb nail.  He looked up.

"It is as I thought," he said.  "Will Don Basilio look?"

The priest took the paper and looked at it with an air of puzzlement and
surprise.

"I see red wax and paper," he said coldly.  "What of that?"

"Do you not see, Señor Padre, a slight browning of the paper beneath, as
though it had been scorched?"

The chaplain scrutinized the seal again.  The other priests watched him
in silence; Palafox kept his burning eyes fixed on Jack; and Tio Jorge
stood with his lips parted as though wondering what deep mystery was
concerned here.

"I do see a faint coloration," said Don Basilio at length; "a light
tinge at the edge of the wax, becoming a little darker beneath the seal.
What then?"

"This, Señor.  The paper, I suggest, was scorched by the passage of a
hot keen blade beneath the seal."

There was a painful silence.  Then Tio Jorge cried, "Por Dios! that
explains everything.  It is all clear. The man that brought it is a
villain, an afrancesado, Señores!  And ’tis he who has sought to harm
the brave English Señor here!  Death to all traitors!  Death to Don
Miguel Priego!"

"Stay, stay!" said Padre Consolacion, his round face wearing a look of
concern.  "This is a terrible charge to bring against a reputable
citizen of Saragossa."

"One of my own hussars," murmured Palafox.

"He was my pupil," continued the padre.  "I have known him since he was
an infant.  I knew his father, an estimable man; he cannot be a traitor.
If the despatch was opened, it must have been without his knowledge. Of
that I am sure."

"The evidence is not sufficient—not sufficient," said Palafox.  "You
must be mistaken, Señor Lumsden."

"I am sorry, Señores," returned Jack; "but will you bear with me while I
put certain facts before you?  You remember how strangely Don Miguel
made his entrance into the city some days ago?  He had overcome a
sentinel, he and his man, and came by night across the Huerba, scaling
our ramparts by the aid of muskets held out to him by two of Don
Casimir’s men.  I was present, Señores, at the time.  I had just gone to
take over the command with which the Señor Capitan-general honoured me,
and was walking along the ramparts with Don Casimir Ulloa, who told me
how amazed he was to see no sentinel in the French trenches, where for
many nights before a sentinel had never failed to be.  Even as he spoke
we saw two figures creep down the slope and approach the walls. They, as
you know, were Don Miguel Priego and his man.  They forded the river,
clambered up the slope on our side, and were assisted over our ramparts,
and we heard from Don Miguel’s lips the story he told the general
afterwards."

"It was a bold feat," interjected Padre Consolacion. "Don Miguel was
ever a man of daring."

"But, Señores," continued Jack, "no sooner was Don Miguel safely within
our walls than, in the French lines opposite, a sentinel suddenly
reappeared.  Had the Frenchman, slain by Don Miguel, come to life again?
Why had Don Casimir heard no sound?  Would the discovery of their dead
sentinel have been regarded by the French as an ordinary accident, of no
more account than the finding of a dead rat?  And now we find that the
despatch brought by Don Miguel had been opened.  Is it not natural to
conclude that it was opened by the French, and that the temporary
absence of the sentinel was part of an arrangement between them and Don
Miguel to give colour to his story?"

"Surmise!  All baseless surmise!" said Padre Consolacion.

"One thing more," went on Jack quietly.  "The other night a man was
murdered in my quarter of the city.  He was assassinated in his room at
the top of a lofty house.  In that room was found this pass through the
French lines, and this drawing of our defences."

Everyone started as Jack produced the papers.

"Besides these, there was found this shoe-buckle, that had been torn off
in the man’s scuffle with his assailant. Two days afterwards the
fellow-buckle was brought to me, and Don Miguel Priego was seen in the
streets with shoes which had both lost their buckles.  It was this that
convinced me.  Had Don Miguel reason to dispute with an afrancesado
unless—"

"Enough!" cried Santiago Sass.  "It is clear he is a proved villain!  To
the gallows with him!  Where is he? With my own hand will I hang him in
the midst of the Coso!  To the gallows!  To the gallows!"

And, gathering his cassock about him, the priest rushed madly from the
room.  Almost before the door was closed behind him a tremendous
explosion set the whole building vibrating, and caused Palafox almost to
jump from his bed.

"My convent!" cried Padre Consolacion.  "It is my convent at last!  Tio
Jorge, come; they will have need of us."

"And of me!" cried Palafox, springing up.

"Stay, José," said Don Basilio, "you are not fit to go out."

"Do not stay me, Padre," answered Palafox, clasping his cloak, and with
trembling fingers buckling on his sword.  "I must go; I must share the
dangers of my people."

The chaplain made no further protest, and soon Palafox, accompanied by
San March, Tio Jorge, and Jack, was hastening towards the scene of one
of the most awful catastrophes that ever befell a beleaguered city.  The
French, undetected by the defenders, had driven a mine beneath the great
Franciscan convent, and charged it with 3000 pounds of powder.  The
convent was at the moment full of fighting-men; the cellars were
occupied by many families of citizens; and one part of the building was
crammed with 400 workpeople, men and women, who were there engaged in
making clothes for the soldiers. All these perished when the mine was
fired; and when Palafox arrived on the scene, the whole district for
many yards around was strewn not merely with broken masonry, but with
mutilated human remains.

All thought of Don Miguel’s treason was for the moment banished by the
hideous spectacle.  Yet, awful as the damage was, the Spaniards had not
awaited the arrival of their leaders before attempting reprisals.  A
wide opening had been made by the explosion, in the wall near the porch;
the pavement of the church of San Francisco had been torn up; altars,
pulpits, columns, arches, lay in shattered fragments; but Spaniards had
rushed in from the streets, and, barricading themselves behind the
ruins, were showering bullets upon the incoming French.  Some had
climbed into the galleries; others had mounted by a narrow spiral
staircase into the belfry, which had strangely withstood the shock; and
from these elevated positions they poured murderous volleys upon the
invaders.  As the rays of sunlight streamed through the broken
stained-glass windows, they fell upon groups of furious combatants,
imparting varied tints to the clouds of smoke and dust that rolled
through the shattered nave, and glinting on the bayonets of the French
infantry as they pressed desperately forward. The Spaniards fought with
the fury of despair.  Inspirited by the presence of their idolized
general, by the heroic efforts of Tio Jorge, and the fiery exhortations
of Padre Consolacion and Santiago Sass, who had soon appeared on the
scene, they defended every nook and corner with obstinate tenacity, and
when night put an end to the terrible conflict, had succeeded, at a huge
cost, in driving the French from a portion of the building.

Jack had climbed into the belfry along with a body of peasants under the
command of a French émigré, the Comte de Fleury.  He was almost overcome
by the sickening sight.  All around, the roofs of the neighbouring
houses were covered with dismembered limbs; the gutters, through which
for eight centuries nothing but rain had streamed, now ran red with
blood, that poured into the street as if from the mouths of the dragons,
vultures, and winged monsters that decorated the Gothic walls.  He could
not help exclaiming at the folly of maintaining a resistance against
such heavy odds.  It was terrible enough that soldiers, whose duty
brought them face to face with sudden death, should fall by hundreds to
the French arms; but innocent and helpless citizens, young boys and
girls, were all included in this late carnage, and Jack shuddered at the
dire results of what he could now only regard as sheer obstinacy and
blind rage.

Creeping down when the din was over, and French and Spaniards alike were
resting from the fray, he found that Palafox, in a complete state of
collapse, was being carried back to his bed.  Along with Tio Jorge, Jack
accompanied the sad group.  The halls of the Aljafferia Castle were
thronged with some of the more substantial merchants who were yet left
alive.  They had come to plead with the general to ask for terms from
the French.  But at the first suggestion there arose such an outcry from
the peasants and the poorer citizens, incited by their priests, that the
merchants were in danger of being torn limb from limb.  No voice was
louder than that of Santiago Sass in demanding that the defence should
be still continued.  The French who had withdrawn from the eastern
suburbs had not yet reappeared, and the priest vehemently declared that
the catastrophe at the Franciscan convent was the turning-point of the
siege, and that from that moment the hand of Our Lady of the Pillar
would work wonders on behalf of her city.  Backed up by him, the people
clamoured for a proclamation to be issued, enjoining still more
strenuous resistance, and not till this had been drawn up by Don
Basilio, and Palafox had affixed his tremulous signature, did the crowd
disperse.

Jack remained for some time in the castle.  He wished he was older and
more experienced.  He then might have pointed out to some of the
bitterest of the Junta what fearful hardship they were bringing on the
city by their insensate resistance.  But he saw that they were in no
temper to listen to expostulations from anyone, and he dared not speak
his thoughts even to his friend Tio Jorge. He was about to return to his
own district when he saw Padre Consolacion enter with a brisker step
than was usual with him.  The priest came straight towards him.

"Señor, Señor," he said, with a mingled look of regret and indignation,
"he that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor endureth a reproach against
his neighbour, he shall never be moved.  I knew it could not be true; I
knew the boy I taught at my knee could not be a traitor; I knew—"

"Señor Padre," interrupted Jack, "you don’t mean to say you have told
him?"

"Indeed, and what more natural?  Is it right to condemn unheard?  Should
I not ask of the man himself what—"

"Come to the general!" shouted Tio Jorge, catching the priest by the
arm.  "Come to the general!  He must know of what you have done."

They made their way to Palafox’s room, where none but Don Basilio
remained with him.

"Don José needs sleep," said the chaplain, meeting them at the door.
"What do you want with him?"

"Caramba, Padre!" cried Tio Jorge, "he must know whether the man be a
traitor or not.  Listen to Padre Consolacion!"

The priest seemed amazed at the fuss Tio Jorge was making.

"I went, Señores, to find Don Miguel Priego, to ask him, on his honour,
whether there was a word of truth in the English Señor’s story.  He was
indignant, as I knew he would be.  He demanded to know why he, a loyal
son of Spain, should be suspected on such flimsy grounds.  He scoffed
when I spoke of the scorched paper, and—"

"You told him that, Padre?" said Palafox, raising himself on his elbow.

"I did, of course, and he flew into a passion, and said that with
morning light he would come and meet his accuser and give him the lie to
his face."

"Send for him now; bring him here instantly.  Shall there be treason in
our midst?  Tio Jorge, do you go and command Don Miguel Priego instantly
to my presence."

It was an hour before Tio Jorge returned.

"Proof!  Proof of treason!" he cried furiously.  "He is gone; he and his
man.  See what your meddling did, Señor Padre!  No sooner was your back
turned than the accursed afrancesado fled."

"Fled!" echoed the priest in consternation.

"’Meet his accuser—give him the lie to his face’, you said," exclaimed
Tio Jorge with bitter mockery, "’with morning light’!  He is gone, and
even now, I doubt not, is making merry with the French who have hired
him. A curse light on him!  May he die by a traitor’s hand, even as he
is a traitor!"

"Write, Don Basilio," said Palafox, "write a proclamation! Proclaim
Miguel Priego to all men a traitor, and call upon all true men to seize
upon him and bring him before us to suffer the penalty of his crime.  My
unhappy country!  Let me die, let me die!"

He turned his face to the wall.  The stern chaplain wrote a
proclamation; within an hour printed copies were distributed throughout
the town, and the name of Miguel Priego, hitherto lauded to the skies,
was now hissed with venomous hate by every loyal citizen of Saragossa.



                            *CHAPTER XXVII*

                          *The Eleventh Hour*


Tantaene Irae?—Taking thought—Pepito’s Charge—Horrors of the
Siege—Beyond the River—A Ring of Steel—Unconquered Still—Patriots All


With morning light the French completed their capture of the Franciscan
convent.  By a series of desperate charges they cleared the vast ruins
of the Spaniards who had held their position during the night, the brave
Comte de Fleury and his men were bayoneted on the narrow stairway of the
bell-tower, and with one final rush the French pursued the fleeing
remnant of the defenders to the very edge of the Coso.

Not long afterwards the French outposts beyond the Aljafferia Castle
were surprised to see a strange and motley procession issue from the
Portillo Gate.  A mob of peasants—for the most part women and
children—ragged, famished, fever-stricken, almost mad, rushed pell-mell
towards the French lines, preferring to die by the hands of the enemy
rather than endure longer the terrors of the beleaguered city.  Reaching
the outposts, they begged to be allowed to pass through towards their
village homes; this being refused, they implored the French to kill
them, not to drive them back.  But the marshal would not forgo this
opportunity of teaching the obstinate defenders a lesson.  He ordered
the poor creatures to be fed, and then sent back to the city, hoping
thereby to impress the Spaniards both with his humanity and with the
abundance of his stores.

When news of this incident was brought to Jack, he read it at once as a
sign that the inevitable end could not now be long delayed.  Heroic as
the defence had been, the strain upon poor human nature was too heavy to
be borne, and though the priests and the mob-leaders were still
vehemently opposed to surrender, it was clear that only surrender would
save the city from the most horrible of fates.  Not even the most
violent fanatic would have the heart to prolong the struggle for more
than a few days.

Things being still quiet in his own quarter, Jack determined to see
Juanita, and advise her upon her course when the city fell.  He left Don
Cristobal in charge, and made his tortuous way around the captured part
of the town towards the northern end of the city.  Pepito accompanied
him.

Juanita was looking pale and worn.  Her aunt was seriously ill, and the
girl had spent sleepless nights in watching her.

"Oh, Jack, Jack," she cried, "surely the end must come now!  It is
wicked of our Junta to hold out longer. The people are dying like flies.
Two were carried out of this very house yesterday.  Are we all to die?"

"General Palafox must capitulate soon," said Jack, "and that is what I
wanted to see you about.  Have you thought of what you will do when the
capitulation takes place?"

"Why, you will be with me; you will look after my poor aunt and me."

"No, I shall be a prisoner."

"A prisoner!  Oh, but you must escape!  It will be easy to escape in the
confusion.  What shall we do if you are a prisoner, Jack?"

"I can’t run away.  I have to defend my quarter till the last.  And
then—well, it’s the fortune of war—the French will make sure of all the
officers, you may depend on that.  But about yourself, Juanita; you
won’t be in any danger—except from Miguel."

"Why from Miguel?  Won’t he be a prisoner too?"

Jack laughed grimly.

"Miguel has taken care of that.  Last night he disappeared from
Saragossa—just in time to escape being gibbeted as an afrancesado, a
traitor, and a spy."

Juanita’s eyes blazed, her cheeks flamed with the hot Spanish blood.

"Kill him!  Kill him, Jack!" she cried.  "He was a traitor to my father;
he is a traitor to Spain!  Oh, if I were a man!"

Jack was amazed at the girl’s fury.

"I don’t think I’d like to soil my hands with him," he said quietly.
"Besides, he will keep out of my way. But don’t you see, Juanita, that
he will come in with the French, and then—I’m afraid he might bother
you, you know."

Juanita drew herself up with a proud air.

"I could borrow a knife!" she said.  "A Spanish girl is not afraid to
die."

"Don’t talk like that.  What need is there for you to die?  I shall have
to give you orders, as I give my men.  Señorita Juanita Alvarez, you are
to make your way, after the capitulation, to some place of safety, where
I will find you—

"You, a prisoner?"

"Oh, I don’t mean to remain a prisoner!  I shall say good-bye to my
captors at the earliest possible moment, and then find you, and we will
steal our way to the coast, and find a ship and sail for England.
Mother will be glad to see you."

"I have always wanted to see England," said Juanita musingly.  "But what
about my property—that all this mystery is about?"

"We don’t know where it is; but, you remember, a duplicate letter was
sent to father in London, and we can find out all about it there.  And
then, when the war is over, no doubt father will come back with you and
put everything straight.  And then—"

"Well, Señor?" said Juanita archly.

"Oh, then I suppose you’ll marry a Don—of some sort—"

"How dare you, Señor Lumsden!" she cried with flashing eyes.

Jack looked astonished at her sudden anger.

"But never mind that," he went on.  "The question is, is there anywhere
that you can go to when the city falls?"

"Ay de mí!  Our old country house near Morata was shut up months ago;
only one old man remains in charge. The garden must now be a waste.  But
I have friends at Calatayud, some miles farther away, and I could stay
with them.  It is quite sixty miles distant.  Could I get there safely?"

"I think so.  After the siege many peasants will be returning to their
homes.  I will enquire if any are going in that direction, and will let
you know if I find some respectable people with whom you might travel.
Your old duenna would, of course, go with you.  And then I thought of
lending you a special friend of my own, who has done me many a good
turn; he is outside now—a young gipsy boy who—

"Pepito!  Oh, he and I are good friends!"

"You know him, then?"

"Of course I do.  He comes to see me every day, and talks about you all
the time.  Strange to say, he thinks a great deal of you, Jack."

"Poor little chap!  I owe him a good deal.  Well, he shall go with you,
and you will make your way to Calatayud, and I will come to you there
in—let me see, under a week.  I shall have had enough of the Frenchmen
in a week."

"But suppose you can’t escape, Jack?"

"Never fear," said Jack with a smile.  "That is all arranged, then?"

"Yes, I suppose so," replied Juanita doubtfully.  "You will be sure to
find me, Jack?"

"Unless you hide away—like your treasure."

Returning to his quarter he found that the French had still made no
further attempt upon it.  The situation indeed, remained unchanged for
several days.  They were so fully occupied in pushing the advantage they
had gained in the direction of the Coso that they could afford to leave
Jack’s little block of buildings for the present. They continued to
occupy the ruins facing the Casa Vallejo, and Jack discovered, by
observations made from the roofs of the Casas Tobar and Alvarez, that a
considerable body of troops was held ready in Santa Engracia to
reinforce any point that should be threatened by the Spaniards.

Though his own position was thus left unmolested, every few hours
brought news of the steady progress the enemy were making elsewhere.
One after another the blocks of buildings adjacent to the Franciscan
convent fell into their hands.  Jack saw that, even if he could hold his
own in front, the French were gradually creeping around his flank, and
that in the course of a few days he would be attacked from the east as
well as the north. On February 12th Don Casimir sent for the gun he had
lent.  An urgent message had come from Palafox asking for all artillery
that could be spared.  It was needed for the defence of the Coso.  The
French had established two batteries among the ruins of the convent, one
of which raked the Coso, while the other commanded the street leading to
the bridge across the river.  Jack had already withdrawn Don Casimir’s
gun from the direct view of the French, and he trusted that its total
disappearance from his defences would remain for some time undiscovered.

But although he was not seriously pressed, he was alarmed to see how his
small force had dwindled and was still dwindling in numbers.  A few fell
by the musket-shots of the French; far more dropped out through
sickness, and of these almost none recovered.  A form of typhus fever
had broken out in the city, attacking especially the guerrilleros from
the country and wounded soldiers who had no fixed homes.  The Countess
Bureta was dead; many of the other ladies who had nobly done their best
in nursing the sick and wounded had perished; the stock of medicines was
exhausted.  Many invalids lay untended on the stone pavements of the
courtyards, with nothing but a little straw for their beds.  In the
intervals of fighting the worn survivors were to be seen sitting on
stone benches, shivering in spite of their cloaks, their hands scarcely
able to hold their weapons.  So weak were they that the slightest wound
proved fatal.  Jack was sick at heart as he saw his ranks depleted day
by day through the loss of some stalwart guerrillero or seasoned tirador
who had succumbed to an enemy more terrible than the French.

Once or twice he thought of finding relief in leading a desperate sortie
on the enemy’s entrenchments.  But consideration showed him the futility
of any such move. He might inflict some loss on the French, but even if
he drove them from their advanced position, he could not hope to retain
the ground he might thus win.  His efforts must be confined to defensive
work; he must hold his own, as he had hitherto succeeded in doing.  He
had now been for a fortnight in command of the Casa Alvarez district,
and during that period the French had not made any real progress.
Indeed, they had lost very heavily in men, and had suffered so many
disasters from the Spanish mines that they appeared for the present to
have suspended all mining operations in Jack’s quarter.

As the days passed by without any serious demonstration against his
position, Jack inferred that the French, like the Spaniards, were
suffering from the long-continued strain.  The force under Marshal
Lannes’ command was evidently not sufficient to maintain a simultaneous
attack on all the points at which they had effected an entrance into the
city.  On the 13th the corps sent out to drive away the army collected
by Francisco Palafox returned to the siege; their mere appearance had
been sufficient to scatter the relieving army of which the Saragossans
had expected so much.  It was at once apparent that the interrupted
attack on the San Lazaro suburb was to be actively pressed.  The French
entrenchments were pushed closer to the river; heavy siege-guns were
brought into position, and epaulements were constructed across all the
roads by which the Spaniards holding the suburb could escape.

On February 18th a vigorous bombardment was commenced.  No fewer than
fifty-two guns opened fire at daybreak, the main point of attack being
the San Lazaro convent, which commanded the bridge across the Ebro, the
sole link between the city and the suburb.  The effect of the
bombardment was stupendous.  Roofs crashed in beneath the bursting
bombs, the crackle of flames was mingled with the clang of alarm-bells
from every belfry, the whole city shook as with an earthquake.  The
Spanish batteries responded vigorously.  The Spaniards fought for every
inch of ground in the streets, but they were steadily beaten back.  A
breach was made in the convent wall; the French rushed in, massacring
the monks who dauntlessly opposed them, cutting down without mercy
crowds of men, women, and children who had sought a refuge in the church
itself.  The yells of the combatants were mingled with the screams of
the wounded and dying, and not till every one of the occupants of the
convent was slain did the hideous clamour cease.

Retreat to the city was now cut off, and scattered bands of Spaniards
wandered frantically about, seeking a means of escape and finding none.
Three hundred, led by a bold fellow named Fernando Gonzalez, succeeded
in running the gauntlet of the French fusillade and forcing their way
across the bridge into Saragossa.  Many who sought to escape by the
river were drowned, and 3000 who tried to make their way along the bank
towards the country were headed off by a regiment of French cavalry and
compelled to lay down their arms.  Palafox himself, though so ill that
he could scarcely stand, came at the head of his troops to the succour
of the suburb, but his efforts were vain.  The French remained masters
of the position, and were now able to place their guns so as to command
the northern part of the city, which hitherto had been almost untouched.

While this terrible struggle had been in progress, the Spaniards had
suffered a serious disaster elsewhere.  At three in the afternoon three
huge mines, charged with more than two tons of powder, were exploded
beneath the University, which was carried with a rush.  With it fell
several buildings in its neighbourhood, and in the evening the French
penetrated to the Coso, where they gained several houses, among them one
which had repulsed no fewer than ten previous assaults.  The Spaniards
lost ground also near the Trinity convent, and the district known as the
Tanneries began to suffer severely from the new French works thrown up
in the captured suburb of San Lazaro.

That night Jack held a serious consultation with Don Cristobal and
several of his more trusty men.  The successes won by the French in
other parts of the town would no doubt encourage them to make a renewed
attack on the only quarter along its outer rim which had yet withstood
them.

"I am not going to give it up without a tussle," said Jack resolutely.
"If they bring artillery to bear, our barricades must fall; but we still
have the houses opposite.  The Y mines in Tobar and Vega will do
enormous damage if the French get in there.  I rather suspect they will
fight shy of the houses and try to rush in from the streets.  All that
we can do with our little force is to man the windows and roofs of the
houses and delay them as long as possible."

It was a pathetic sight to see the unquenched eagerness of the haggard
crowd.  Not one faltered; all were as resolute as though it were the
first day of the siege. Jack arranged with them for their respective
posts on the morrow, and waited anxiously for daylight.


About twelve o’clock on February 20th Tio Jorge and Jorge Arcos were
staying their hunger in the latter’s café with a mess of boiled rice and
half-baked corn-meal.  Their begrimed, black-bearded faces wore a look
of savage gloom.  No one was with them.  Outside, in the Coso, not a
living person was to be seen.

"By all the saints, I vow I will not surrender!" Tio Jorge was saying.

"Nor I!" replied his friend.  "Nor would the general himself, but that
he is ill.  Had he been well, no one could have persuaded him to beg for
terms from the French dog. When I heard it last night I could not
believe the news. For two months we have fought; shall we yield now?  I
for one will not yield; I will die rather!"

"And we could have told the general it would be of no use.  We have
killed too many of the accursed French for them to let us march away.  I
could have laughed when Señor Casseillas came back after his journey to
the French camp, and said that we must lay down our arms without
conditions.  And the general is dying!  God have his soul!  He has given
the command to San March.  Ay, ’twas San March who lost the Monte
Torrero—curse him! But the Junta!—the saints be praised our brave padres
are members of the Junta, and will not let the others yield. Traitors,
por Dios!  I myself will shoot any man, high or low, who counsels
surrender.  But Don Basilio, and Padre Consolacion, and Padre Santiago
Sass—ah, they will never yield!  The priests of Spain are men, mi
amigo!"

"Yes; they will fight and—"

A shattering explosion from the other side of the Coso interrupted him.

"Where is that?" cried Tio Jorge, starting up.  Running to the door he
saw, beyond the Franciscan convent, a cascade of dust and stones
darkening the air.  "’Tis towards the Casa Alvarez," he cried, "where
the English Señor still holds out.  The dogs are attacking there.  Come,
Jorge Arcos, we can do nothing elsewhere; come, and let us help the
brave Englishman!"

Together they left the café.  The crash of the explosion had drawn
others to the street, and as the two leaders hurried along, past the
barricades, up narrow by-ways, pursuing a roundabout course towards the
Huerba, they were joined by ones and twos and threes, who came in answer
to their hail.  At the corner of a lane near the Seminary thirty men who
had escaped with Fernando Gonzalez from San Lazaro swelled their
numbers.

"To the Casa Alvarez!" shouted Tio Jorge.

A second explosion made him hasten still more eagerly.

"To the Casa Alvarez!" he repeated.  "War to the knife!"



                            *CHAPTER XXVIII*

                     *The Last Fight in Saragossa*


The Last Muster—The Fougasse—A Forlorn Hope—Spiking the Guns—A Race with
Death—A Sally—Solicitude—Jorge Arcos Volunteers—To the Bitter End—A Bolt
from the Blue—The Last Sacrifice—The Courage of Despair—Truce


At the Casa Alvarez a stern fight was in progress.  On the preceding day
what Jack had foreseen had at length come to pass: the French had once
more brought guns to bear on his position.  Warned by their previous
experience, they blinded their batteries in such a way that their
gunners were protected from the muskets of the Spaniards on the roofs.
They cleared a space at the end of the ruined block of which the Casa
Vallejo formed a part, and there placed two guns; another was mounted at
the end of the street between that house and the Casa Tobar; a fourth at
the end of the street in which the Vega barricade was erected.  It was
clear to Jack that he could not hope to prevent the enemy from gaining a
footing in the houses; all that he could do for the present was to await
developments, and act as the need of the moment dictated.

But, to be prepared for emergencies, he rapidly constructed, beneath the
floor of the Casa Vallejo, a fougasse—a shallow mine in the form of a
truncated cone, with its axis inclined towards the point of attack.
Over this he piled some tons of brickwork and stones which, in the
explosion, would be hurled many yards to the front and flanks.  With
this, and the as yet unexploded Y-shaped mines beneath the Casas Tobar
and Vega, he hoped to destroy the French who would rush the houses when
the bombardment ceased, and thus to enable his men to retake the
positions they must lose.

He had only 200 men now with him, and many of these were on their last
legs.  But when the rumour spread through the quarter that the French
were preparing to make a serious attack, some fifty poor wretches,
scarcely able to crawl, staggered from their squalid lodgings, and
begged to be allowed to take part in the defence.  They were a pitiful
sight, gaunt and haggard, with ague-stricken limbs and fever-lit eyes.
They were incapable of hand-to-hand fighting; many of them were too weak
even to lift their muskets to their shoulders; but they could fire
muskets rested on window-sills and through loopholes, and Jack, gladly
as he would have spared them, was too hard-pressed to reject any aid,
however slight.  A score of women came forward, offering to load muskets
for the men, and thus save time.  Among them Jack recognized the lady he
had seen as he came with Tio Jorge to take over his command.  He
remembered her attitude of frenzied grief; he recalled the fierce
command she had laid upon her little boy.  The child was no longer with
her; the little fellow had died of fever a few days before.  The poor
creature had now lost father, brothers, husband, and son, and had come
with the wild fury of a mad woman to wreak vengeance on the enemy.

About ten o’clock in the morning the French opened fire with all their
guns upon the Casa Vallejo and the barricades.  Jack made what reply he
could from the roofs and windows, but the batteries were so well
screened that the fire of his men was almost wholly ineffectual. Great
gaps were soon made in the wall of the house and in the barricades, and
seeing that the attempt to hold the latter in the face of the
bombardment would entail a useless loss of life, Jack withdrew his men
behind the Casas Vega and Tobar, and held them in readiness to rush into
the houses when his mines had exploded.  After two hours’ bombardment
the four guns ceased fire. Immediately afterwards three parties of
French dashed forward in headlong charge.  The Spaniards, who, on the
cessation of the bombardment, had sped back to their posts, met the
enemy with dauntless front.  The Frenchmen in the streets fell rapidly
under a hot fire from the roof and windows of the Casa Tobar and from
the advanced barricades, but, seeing the hopelessness of continued
resistance to the overwhelming numbers opposed to him, Jack withdrew his
forces again, and sent word to the men stationed at the mines to light
their matches in readiness for firing the trains.  With exultant shouts
the enemy, for the most part Poles and voltigeurs, swarmed into the
houses.  Jack gave the word first at Vallejo. The fougasse exploded with
a terrific crash.  It was this explosion which had interrupted Tio
Jorge’s conversation in the café.  But though not a Frenchman was left
alive in the house, the places of the dead were instantly filled by
their furious comrades, who were only kept from rushing across the
street towards the Casa Alvarez by the concentrated fire of the
Spaniards there posted.

A few minutes later the French in Tobar and Vega met with a like fate.
Jack had exploded in each case one of the arms of his Y-shaped mines,
and for the time both houses were cleared of the enemy.

But Jack had long since seen that, unless he could deal them a harder
blow than any he had recently been able to strike, he must inevitably be
swamped by superior numbers.  Even though the explosions should slay a
hundred of the French to every ten of his own men, the former could be
continually replaced, while a loss to him was irreparable.  He could
hold the enemy in check for the moment, but a time must come when his
gallant little force must be overwhelmed and annihilated—unless he could
effect some diversion.

His greatest danger came from these formidable batteries, to which he
could make no effective reply.  Under cover of their fire the French
could at any time repeat the rush across the street by which they had
carried Tobar.  Was there no way by which the guns could be silenced?

During the two hours’ bombardment Jack had spent many anxious minutes in
thinking out this problem.  What were the chances?  The explosion of the
fougasse, followed by that of the Y mines, would not only deal immense
destruction, but would also, he hoped, have a tremendous moral effect.
Could he not make a rush for the guns while the French were demoralized
and at sixes and sevens?  Would there be time to spike them? Ought he to
diminish his little force even by the minimum number of men necessary to
perform the feat?  He now had no more than 180 men all told.  The
French, he computed, had numbered nearly 700 at the beginning of the
day.  Could he, with, say, 50 men, hope to penetrate their ranks and
return in safety?

"It must be tried," he said to himself, and from that moment bent all
his energies to ensure the success of his daring scheme.  Before firing
the Y mines he collected his whole disposable force, and, amid a
breathless silence, addressed them.

"Hombres," he said, "there is one thing for us to do. The French guns
must be spiked.  I will lead the way.  I want fifty men to follow me.
It will be dangerous, perhaps fatal work.  Who will volunteer, for
Saragossa and Spain?"

Every man held out his hand.  Jack felt proud of the unswerving
patriotism and courage of his troops.  The trouble was, not to accept,
but to refuse their offers. He quickly selected fifty of the strongest.
Ten of these he sent to find long nails and hammers, and they soon
returned, bearing tools of all sizes and shapes.  The rest were armed
with muskets and bayonets.  Jack gave as many as he could pistols in
addition.

"Now, hombres," he said, "when the mines explode, the French in the
houses will be destroyed, and those behind them dismayed.  We must seize
that very moment to rush into the Casa Vega.  I shall go first.  You
must follow close upon me as rapidly as you can.  I intend to make for
the guns.  We shall spike them.  We shall then rush back through the
ruins and the houses beyond the Casa Vallejo and take the French there
in the rear. Don Cristobal will still defend his barricade.  Antonio
here will hold the rest of you in readiness to sweep upon the French in
Vallejo and the street.  If I am overcome, and you cannot hold the
second barricades, retreat to the Casa Alvarez and fight to the death."

The Spaniards were eager to start, and almost too impatient to wait for
the explosion.  When that occurred, the larger débris hurled into the
air had scarcely reached the ground before Jack, followed by his devoted
fifty, dashed through the dust that was swirling in vast eddies from the
ruins.  Entering the Casa Vega by a low side doorway, almost suffocated
by the pungent fumes and the clouds of dust, they scrambled through the
ruins, springing over stones and beams, broken furniture, burning
draperies, every man taking his own course and trying to avoid impeding
his comrades.  A few seconds brought them to what had been the
party-wall of the house. Bearing to the left, Jack dashed into the
charred ruins of the adjoining house, through the midst of a few
Frenchmen who, injured but not killed by the explosion, were crawling
painfully away.  A glance to the right!—he saw that the next clearing
was still held by the force supporting those who had rushed the houses;
but they were in no sort of order, having scattered to seek shelter from
the beams and stones that had descended upon them as from the crater of
a volcano.  A glance in front!—across the narrow street, in the wrecked
house nearest the gun, Jack saw in an instant that he had a more
formidable foe to reckon with.  The French there, some 150 in number,
had not been affected materially by the explosion; but it had taken them
by surprise, and for the moment they were at a loss what they should do.
Before they could realize what was happening, a band of fifty fierce
yelling Spaniards, led by a young officer with sword in one hand and
pistol in the other, was among them. A score fell at the first onset;
the rest scattered to right and left of the Spaniards, and by the time
they had collected their wits, and perceived how small was the party
engaged in this desperate sortie, Jack and the first of his men were
already engaged with the gunners.  The onslaught was so sudden, and Jack
was so intent on the work in hand, that he was scarcely conscious of
what happened until afterwards.  One of the gunners, in the urgency of
the moment, picked up a linstock and raised it as a kind of club.  Jack
sprang straight at him, toppled him over by the mere force of his
impact, and came upon another gunner, whose smoking musket showed that
he had just fired.  Him Jack cut down; the others meanwhile fell to the
bayonets of the Spaniards.  The gun was reached.  Jack sped past, while
a burly Catalan, with two strokes of his huge mallet, drove a nail into
the vent. Then the whole party, diminished by half a dozen who had
fallen, swept on across the street towards the spot where stood the two
guns that commanded the Casa Vallejo.

[Illustration: Jack Leads a Forlorn Hope]

The few seconds occupied by the tussle about the first gun had given the
gunners at the other two time to form up.  At the same time the French
behind Jack had recovered from their surprise and were swarming upon his
track.  Would he have time to complete his work? A few bullets pattered
on the jagged remnants of walls still standing; but the French were too
much afraid of hitting their own men to fire volleys, and those who did
shoot were too flustered to take good aim.  Amid a din of shouting, Jack
dashed into the ruins on the far side of the street.  Some two-score men
were there drawn up ready to receive him.  Fortunately they were on the
French side of the epaulement that had been thrown across the ruins.
Had they occupied the other side they could have held their assailants
at bay long enough for the reserves to come up from the direction of
Santa Engracia and take them in the rear.

In a moment the two bands met.  The French were outnumbered, but for a
few seconds they held their own around the guns.  Then the Spaniards
closed about them, and with their backs to the epaulement the valiant
gunners fell, to the last man.

The first gun was quickly spiked.  At the other a gallant pair of
Frenchmen caused a momentary delay by their desperate defence.  But they
were in turn overpowered, and fell covered with wounds.  A nail was
driven home, and the hazardous exploit was complete.

But the peril was only just beginning.  The sortie had been so sudden
and impetuous that even if the French had been thrice as numerous the
chances were on the side of the assailants.  But they had now had time
to rally. Sixty yards of ruins lay between the breathless Spaniards and
the Casa Vallejo, which was strongly held by the French.  Jack hoped
that the diversion from the Casa Alvarez would keep these sufficiently
employed; it was a race between him and the French who were now coming
up from the rear of their position.  For an instant he thought of
retaining a few of his men and attempting to check the pursuit while the
remainder ran on and stormed the French in Vallejo.  But he saw in a
flash that this exposed him to the danger of being headed off by the
enemy, who would make greater speed along the comparatively clear street
than he could make through the ruins.  Without a moment’s hesitation he
bade his men run for their lives.  That he was right was proved at once.
Stalwart Poles and little voltigeurs were swarming along the roadway;
Jack could see them through the gaps in the ruined walls, and hear them
as they dashed along out of sight parallel with his own men.  Would they
outrun him?  Would they succeed in joining hands with their countrymen
in Vallejo, and meet him in such force that his own gallant band, now
diminished by half, would fall a helpless prey to them?

There broke out at this instant, ahead of him, a pandemonium of cries,
which seemed too great to proceed even from the mingled horde of French
and Spanish in Vallejo. The foremost of his men were now at grips there
with the enemy.  He dashed into the house, and found a desperate combat
in progress there, but was surprised to see no Frenchmen upon his flank.
He had expected to find those who had rushed along the road now pouring
into the house through the gap in the walls.  But the French in the
house were engaged on two sides; on one side by Jack’s own party, on the
other by the second sortie-party, under Antonio’s command.  That was not
all.  Amid the din Jack heard the stentorian voice of Jorge Arcos
shouting words of encouragement to his men and of obloquy to the French;
immediately afterwards the bellow of Tio Jorge echoed through the ruins.
Jack understood now what had so suddenly checked the French in the
street. How the great mob-leaders had come upon the scene he knew not;
it was sufficient that they had come in the nick of time.  They had
evidently manned the nearest barricade, and, battered as that had been,
it was good enough yet to afford a strong defence.  With a sense of
relief Jack threw himself into the midst of the fray; in a few moments
the French in Vallejo were accounted for.  Emerging into the street,
Jack saw his bulky friend chasing the French back towards the spiked
gun.  The sudden sally over the barricade, when they least expected it,
and when their ranks were in the disorder of pursuit, had been too much
for the enemy.  They gave way before Tio Jorge’s impetuous rush; then,
as Jack, with a feeling of elation that once more the enemy were foiled,
arrived at the barricade, he heard Jorge Arcos shout to his men to
retire, and they came pelting back, followed by a few wild shots from
the discomfited French.

"Viva la España!  Viva Saragossa!  Viva el Señor Ingles!  Viva Tio
Jorge!"

The air rang with the jubilant shouts of the Spaniards, panting,
dishevelled, many of them utterly exhausted.  A strange calm succeeded
the turmoil.  Scarcely a live Frenchman was now to be seen; the ground
was strewn with dead, and with wounded whom Jack did not dare to remove.
He knew that the lull could only be temporary; the French would
undoubtedly send for reinforcements. After their successive checks they
would not be content until they could bring absolutely crushing force to
bear upon the obstinate defenders.  The crisis was still to come, and
Jack, after warmly congratulating Tio Jorge and Jorge Arcos, as well as
Antonio, on the brilliant success they had done so much to bring about,
returned to the Casa Alvarez to concert means of meeting the most
formidable attack of all.

Before he reached the house he saw a girl flying towards him, her
mantilla streaming behind.

"Oh, Jack, Jack," she cried, "I thought you would be killed!"

"Juanita!" he exclaimed.  "But you should not be here.  It is no place
for you.  You ought not to have run into danger.  Come back with me at
once."

"I came to help.  I will help!  Tia Teresa died last night; I have no
one now.  I can do something.  And you—you are hurt!  Oh, Jack, you are
covered with blood! Come, come, at once, let me do something for you."

"I didn’t know it," said Jack simply.  He brushed his hand across his
brow; it was smeared with blood.  Looking at his coat he saw blood
trickling through a rent in the sleeve.  "It’s nothing," he said.  "I
don’t feel a scratch.  If you must help, Juanita—and it is brave of
you,—why, there are many others who need attention more than I."

"You first, Jack.  Come at once; I insist!  How can you lead your men if
you are blinded with blood?  Jack, you are doing grandly; it is
splendid!"

"You are right, Señorita," put in Tio Jorge, who had come up with them.
"All the men say the English Señor is a hero, and, por Dios! the French
will never get the better of him."

By this time they had reached the house, where Juanita insisted on
bathing and binding up Jack’s wounds before she attended to any of the
others.  Jorge Arcos had been slightly wounded in the dash across the
barricade, and afterwards Jack remembered, with a strange glow, the
roughly-expressed gratitude of the savage innkeeper as Juanita tenderly
assisted him.

While she went about on her errand of mercy, Jack consulted with his
lieutenants.  The new-comers recognized him unhesitatingly as their
leader, and declared that they would remain with him and support him to
the utmost of their power.  None doubted that the next fight would be
the most terrible of all; it was only a question how long an interval
would elapse before it came.  The Spaniards had lost some forty men
since the morning; they were all on the verge of collapse; only Don
Cristobal’s men, who had been unmolested at the Vega barricade, were for
the moment fit for active work.

To ascertain the movements of the French, Jack went with Tio Jorge and
Jorge Arcos to the roof of the Casa Hontanon, that adjoined the empty
shell of Vallejo.  From that coign of vantage they could overlook the
whole district.  After a time they saw in the distance a compact body of
some 200 men approaching through the ruins from the direction of the
Franciscan convent.  With great difficulty they were dragging a gun over
the heaps of obstacles. It must have been taken from one of the
batteries now mounted near the Coso.  Slowly they approached; nearly an
hour elapsed between their first appearance and the placing of the gun
at the end of the street facing the Tobar barricade, on the same spot
whence the spiked gun had been withdrawn.

As soon as the gun was fairly in position, a renewal of the bombardment
of the barricade was commenced, and the sound of heavy shots showed that
an attack was being simultaneously made on the Vega barricade.

"We can’t hold Vallejo any longer," said Jack.  "We shall be cut off
from support."

"Not so, Señor," said Arcos at once.  "I will hold it with twenty men.
If the French capture it, our flank will be at their mercy."

"But if the French attack in force you cannot escape."

"Caramba, Señor!  What does that matter?  A man must die, and I vow I’d
rather die fighting for Saragossa than of fever in the cellars—or of
rage in a French prison."

"You are a true son of Spain, hombre," exclaimed Jack, and the gleam in
Arcos’s eyes showed that he wished for no higher praise.  "The
barricades, now—it is useless to attempt to repair them?"

"Sí, Señor," replied Tio Jorge, "but we can fill up the breaches with
sacks and baskets of earth, if we push them out from the sides of the
street."

"Very well.  Will you see that that is done?"

Tio Jorge instantly departed on his errand.  Arcos had already gone to
select his twenty men for the perilous post in the ruins of Vallejo.

At half-past three in the afternoon the French cannonade suddenly
ceased.  Jack had placed his men in position, but as he saw that nearly
a thousand men were being launched against scarcely more than two
hundred, he felt that even the desperate valour of his patriotic troops
could not prevail against such odds.  But it never occurred to him, or
to a single member of his gallant force, that there was any alternative
to the one simple course—to hold on to the end.  Palafox had entrusted
him with the defence of that quarter; he would defend it to the last
gasp, and he knew that no British officer in the same situation would
have come to any other conclusion.

The attack had begun.  In the two streets the French were rushing ten
abreast at the barricades.  In the ruins approaching Vega and Vallejo
their formation was necessarily broken, but they swept forward with a
dash and a courage which Jack, remembering their former failures, could
not but regard as magnificent.  The front ranks seemed to melt away
under the fire of the defenders, who, well disciplined by their long
experience, fired calmly and with deadly accuracy, wasting no powder,
and watching the French advance in seeming unconcern.  But though the
enemy fell by scores, there was no halting now.  They swarmed up to and
through the breached barricades, and ran a race with death towards the
grim skeletons of the shattered houses.  For a few seconds there was a
tense silence; the majority of the defenders had discharged their pieces
and were either reloading or preparing to repel with the bayonet.  Then
the opposing forces met; there was a sudden babel of noise, steel
clashing against steel, pistols cracking, men shouting fiercely in their
several tongues, and some crying out in the agony of death.  The street
was narrow; for a time the French could make but little impression on
the unbroken front opposed to them, but Jack, from his post on the roof
of Hontanon, saw that it was now a question of the most desperate close
fighting. As soon as the head of the attacking column was lost to view
beneath him, he hurried down to take his part in the tremendous
struggle.

It was as he had feared.  As soon as the French swarmed over the Vallejo
barricade, the Casa Vallejo and its garrison became completely isolated.
At the moment of his arrival a furious fight was proceeding at the inner
barricade.  The French charge, led by a gigantic Polish officer, had
driven the Spaniards behind their last defence and threatened to
dislodge them from that.  Jack at once summoned twenty men from the
reserve stationed at the Casa Alvarez, and with them threw himself into
the breach, where, amid fragments of beams, displaced sacks and baskets
of earth, and the débris of part of the wall of Vallejo thrown down by
the explosion of the fougasse, a stern hand-to-hand fight was being
waged.  It was almost impossible, in the turmoil and rush, to
distinguish friends from foes, but in the centre of the human whirlpool
the huge form of the Polish officer was conspicuous.  He was wielding a
large bar of iron, which he had picked up among the ruins, and even at
that moment Jack marvelled at the man’s immense strength.  Disdaining
the blows aimed at him by men who looked mere pigmies beside him, he was
step by step forcing a way through the barricade towards the open space
fronting the Casa Alvarez. Jack, with his reinforcements, had arrived
not a moment too soon.  As he pushed through towards the spot where the
deadly iron, wielded with as much ease as though it had been a malacca
cane, rose and fell with fatal regularity, the onward rush of the French
was stayed for a moment.  Another second would have brought the two
leaders together; but Jack was not yet to cross weapons with the Pole.
At the very instant when they came within striking distance there was a
terrible crash; Pole and Englishman started instinctively.  A huge mass
of masonry had fallen from Vallejo upon the outer barricade, into the
midst of the crowded ranks of the Frenchmen, of whom a score at least
were buried beneath the ruins.  Even above the clash of weapons, the
shouts of the combatants, and the groans of the wounded, a shrill
mocking voice could be heard exulting in the deadly effect of the
avalanche, and raining frantic curses upon the French.  In the moment of
surprise the enemy gave way.  Glancing up, Jack saw the figure of the
madwoman, the demented Doña Mercedes Ortega, giddily poised upon a
jagged corner of masonry that threatened every instant to follow the
rest into the street below.  The poor creature had seen from the Casa
Alvarez that the outer wall of Vallejo had been so breached that a push
would precipitate it into the street upon the barricade.  Escaping from
Juanita’s detaining hand, as Jack afterwards learnt, she had crept from
the roof of the Casa Hontanon on to the wall of Vallejo; had leapt from
point to point of the uneven summit, reached the corner overlooking the
street, and with the strength of frenzy had pushed the masonry down,
working more havoc among the enemy than had been wrought by many an
elaborately-prepared mine.

While she stood on her precarious eminence, wildly gesticulating in her
insane triumph, there was the report of a musket from down the street.
She swayed for a brief moment upon the crumbling wall, uttered one
heart-rending shriek of "Juanino!" and fell lifeless upon the ruins
below.

The interruption was but momentary.  At the instant when the hapless
Doña Mercedes fell, Jorge Arcos, desperately wounded, struggled from the
ruins of Vallejo, followed by half a dozen of his men, all showing
terrible signs of the struggle they had made to hold the position. While
a portion of Jack’s force continued their gallant attempt to repel the
French from the barricade, the rest swarmed into the house, only to be
driven out again with heavy loss by the enemy, who, backed by a large
force in the ruins, had now an overwhelming superiority in numbers.  In
the street the gigantic Pole, swept away from before Jack, returned to
the attack at the head of a compact band of his compatriots, and the
Spaniards, still fighting furiously, were driven back inch by inch
through the gap in the barricade, their retirement being hastened by
shots from the walls of the Casa Tobar, which, together with its
neighbour, the ruined Casa Vega, had fallen into French hands.  Save for
the Casa Alvarez and the surrounding streets, the whole of the quarter
towards Santa Engracia had now been captured, and Jack, extricating
himself from the mêlée, saw that it was time to play his last card.

"Señor," said Antonio, running up at this moment, "Don Cristobal sends
me to say that he still holds his barricade, but that he will not be
able to do so for more than a few minutes longer."

"You are the man I want, Antonio," replied Jack. "Run to the Casa
Alvarez, send every man of the reserve to me, and go into the cellars
and fire the last of our mines.  Don’t wait; do it at once."

Antonio, who was almost unrecognizable from his wounds, at once returned
to the house.  Immediately afterwards the remnant of the reserve dashed
out, and threw themselves into the fray with a vigour which for a moment
checked the enemy’s advance.  A few seconds later there came the
deafening crash which Jack expected. Huge fragments of the walls of the
houses were projected into the street, injuring a few of the Spaniards
who were still tenaciously defending the extremities of the inner
Vallejo barricade, but working fearful havoc among the French between
the two barricades and in the street beyond.  Volumes of blinding smoke
poured from the shattered houses, into which, at Jack’s order, Antonio
rushed with a party of men.  He himself, calling on the rest of his
troops to follow him, sprang through the barricade, leading an impetuous
charge against the distraught enemy.  Even as he did so he heard the
strident voice of Santiago Sass behind him, urging on the men, and
shouting Latin words of denunciation and triumph.  Dismayed by their
repeated failures, appalled at the apparent inexhaustibility of the
defenders’ resources, the French were now giving way like sheep, in
spite of all the exertions, example, and admonition of their officers.
The big Pole, carried away in the rush towards the outer barricade,
there turned and lifted his iron bar to deliver a crushing blow at Jack,
who was just behind him.  The fraction of a second occupied by his
wheeling round cost him his life. Before the blow could fall, Jack
closed with him and ran him through the body.

Meanwhile the French in Vallejo, some of whom had been hurt by portions
of the flying masonry, had caught the infection of panic, evacuated the
position, and fled helter-skelter across the ruins.  Jack saw the danger
of allowing his men to become widely scattered in pursuit.  Stopping at
the outer barricade, he ordered his men to withdraw, in spite of the
frenzied imprecations of Santiago Sass, who would have thrown himself
single-handed against a host. The Spaniards retired slowly; they were
clearly indisposed to relinquish the pursuit, though all were well-nigh
spent, and some, indeed, when the excitement had subsided, dropped their
weapons and fell beside them on the ground. At length the whole of the
force was withdrawn behind the inner barricade.

Jack stood there panting, wondering how long respite he would have
before the French came on again, when he heard his name called from
behind, and, turning, saw Juanita running towards him.

"Go back!" he cried; "for God’s sake, go back, Juanita!  This is no
place for you."

"A white flag, Jack!  a white flag!"

"What do you mean?"

"A man is coming round the corner of the street with a white flag.  I
saw him from a window."

"What!  Another regiment coming to attack us!"

"No, it is not a regiment.  It is one man carrying a small white flag,
and another, an officer, walking by his side.  Oh, it must be a flag of
truce, Jack!  See, there he is, turning the corner of the street."

It was as she said.  Above the epaulement protecting the French gun at
the end of the street a white flag was held aloft.  A moment afterwards
the Frenchman bearing it stepped into the street, and, accompanied by an
officer, began to approach Jack’s position, picking his way among the
débris and the bodies of the slain.

"I must go to meet him," said Jack.  "Have you anything to match his
flag, Juanita?  I’ve nothing fit to be seen."

Juanita handed him her handkerchief.  Tying this to a musket, Jack gave
his extemporized flag to one of his men, and walked down the street to
meet the Frenchman.



                             *CHAPTER XXIX*

                             *French Leave*


Overtures—Capitulation—Prisoners of War—Colonel de Ferrusat—In
Tudela—Personally Conducted—Adding Insult to Injury—Quos ego—Before a
Fall—Out of Bondage


Meeting midway down the street, the officers courteously saluted each
other.

"I come with a flag of truce, Señor," said the Frenchman in very bad
Spanish.

"I understand French, monsieur," replied Jack with a slight smile, which
the other returned.  The Frenchman continued, speaking now in French:

"Marshal Lannes has given the order to cease fire, and has sent an
aide-de-camp into the town to discuss terms of capitulation."

It was impossible not to feel an unutterable sense of relief.  But Jack
gave no sign of it to the Frenchman.

"Can you give me any particulars?" he said.

"Yes, monsieur, certainly.  Last night General Palafox sent his
aide-de-camp to ask our marshal for a three days’ truce, and asking
impossible terms.  These, of course, were refused, and the fighting was
resumed.  But your people seem now to be more amenable to reason, and,
to tell you the truth, monsieur, I have great hopes that this very
afternoon the end of this most lamentable siege will come. It is, of
course, impossible and useless for your people to continue the
struggle."

"That, monsieur, is a matter for our general to determine."

"Allons, allons, monsieur!  You have made a brave defence, but you are
being driven in at all points, and it can only be a matter of a few
hours before we capture your whole city."

"I can only speak for myself, monsieur," said Jack quietly; "but it is
now nearly three weeks since I had the honour to be appointed to this
quarter.  I am now, monsieur, where I was then."

The French officer smiled, and bowing, half-ceremoniously,
half-humorously, said:

"Pardon my oversight.  Permit me, monsieur, to offer my congratulations
to a so gallant foe."

After an exchange of courtesies, Jack returned to his men, who had
watched the scene with mingled excitement and distrust.

"Hombres," he said, "a truce is proclaimed.  There will be no more
fighting for the present."

"Thank God!" exclaimed Juanita.  "That means that we shall capitulate at
last."

"Capitulate!" cried Santiago Sass.  "Never, hombres! To the Aljafferia
palace with me!  Never will we surrender—never! never!"

But none followed him save Tio Jorge.  No sooner had he gone than a
tremendous explosion occurred near the University.  Some French engineer
officers, who had not heard of the cessation of hostilities, exploded a
mine, and the jet of stones ascended to such a height that it was
visible to the whole town.  Crowds of people rushed towards the
Aljafferia palace, crying for vengeance on the treacherous French, and
demanding that the French envoy, at that moment in consultation with the
Junta, should be instantly put to death.  He was only saved from being
torn in pieces, by the intervention of some Spanish officers with drawn
swords, and by a message from the French marshal expressing regret for
the unfortunate accident. Marshal Lannes’ message to the Junta was
peremptory. He allowed two hours for deputies to be sent him with full
powers to arrange a capitulation.  The news was brought to Jack by Tio
Jorge, whose weather-beaten face was expressive of the deepest
dejection.

The interval was spent in anxious suspense.  Juanita went from one to
another of Jack’s wounded men, doing all that was possible to ease their
sufferings.  It was her tender ministry that soothed the last moments of
big Jorge Arcos, who was past recovery, and who died breathing words of
thankfulness.

Later in the evening Jack learnt the result of the negotiations.  The
Spanish deputies had again tried to extort impossible terms from Marshal
Lannes, but his most effective reply was to unroll before them a plan of
his mines, from which they saw that the centre of the city was in
imminent danger of being blown to atoms.  After this the discussion was
short.  Jack had to inform his gallant but exhausted men that the
garrison was to march out next morning and deliver up their arms.  All
who would not take the oath of allegiance to King Joseph were to be sent
as prisoners to France.  He pointed out that the terms were on the whole
lenient.  The French knew how to respect a brave enemy.  And he did not
fail to impress upon the men that, so far as they personally were
concerned, they could always remember that nowhere else throughout the
city had the defence been more stoutly maintained or more successful.
This recollection would sweeten whatever was bitter in the surrender.

When the men had accepted the inevitable, and the quarter had settled
down, Jack found time for a serious consultation with Juanita.  Now that
her aunt was dead, there was nothing to fetter her movements.  Jack had
found a number of respectable farming people who would return, after the
capitulation, to their homes in the direction of Calatayud, and had
arranged that Juanita should accompany them.  He explained to Pepito
what was required of him—that he should go with the Señorita, and never
leave her except at her own command.  Once more he assured Juanita that
within a week, by hook or by crook, he would rejoin her.  Then, late at
night, he accompanied her back to her lodging, and took leave of her in
a spirit of unbounded hopefulness.

Next morning the last scene of this great siege was enacted.  At
daybreak all the posts around the city were occupied by the French.  At
noon the French troops were drawn up in order of battle on the Aragon
road, holding lighted matches in readiness to prevent any attempt of the
Spaniards to break loose.  Then the garrison marched out.  Jack never
forgot the sad and touching spectacle. With Don Cristobal and other
officers he stood, under guard of a detachment of the 5th Léger
regiment, near the Portillo Gate, and witnessed the whole scene as the
mixed column, soldiers and peasants, defiled past.  It was a motley
crowd.  There were young and old, some in uniform, others in peasant
rags.  Even the most ragged had tried to smarten up their appearance by
tying bright-coloured sashes round their waists.  Their large round
hats, surmounted with feathers, and their brown ponchos flung over their
shoulders, made their very tatters picturesque.  Their pale emaciated
features were scorched, and scarred with wounds.  Many had long black
matted beards.  All had been so much weakened by disease and privation
that they could scarcely stagger along under the weight of their
weapons.  Some were smoking cigarillos, and affecting an air of proud
indifference to their fate; others took no pains to conceal their rage,
but ground their teeth and glared out of their gleaming haggard eyes at
the enemy they had withstood so long. Women and children were mingled
with them, and these wept bitterly, and, flinging themselves on their
knees before the effigy of Our Lady in the gate, prayed for solace in
their affliction.  The whole population numbered but 15,000 souls;
nearly four times that number had perished during the two months of the
siege.

The scene was closed by the warriors delivering up their arms and flags,
many of them then being unable to refrain from tears and violent cries
of rage and despair. Within the city the victorious French had now begun
to plunder the houses and churches of all the valuables left in them.
At the Aljafferia Castle, Palafox, ill as he was, had been brutally
treated by a French colonel, appointed temporary governor of Saragossa.
Jack learnt long afterwards that even before the brave captain-general
had recovered from his illness he was carried off to France, where
Napoleon, instead of treating him as a prisoner of war, with the
generosity due to a chivalrous foe, chose to regard him as a traitor,
and kept him for several years a captive in the gloomy keep of the
Chateau of Vincennes.

Jack himself was more fortunate.  Along with Don Cristobal and other
officers he fell at first into the more kindly hands of the captain who
had brought him the flag of truce.  He remained in the French camp for
two days after the capitulation, and was able to assure himself that
Juanita had got safely away.  Meanwhile the main body of the garrison
had already been put in motion for France.  On the 23rd Jack’s own turn
came.  He took a friendly farewell of the French captain who had been
responsible for him, and who was in entire ignorance that he had an
Englishman, not a Spaniard, to deal with. His last sight of Saragossa
was made terrible by a scene he witnessed as he set out among a large
company of officers and men, defenceless prisoners.  They passed a spot
where two Spaniards in priests’ robes stood upright against a wall,
opposite a firing-party of French.  As the volley rang out, Jack
recognized the victims of this act of cold-blooded murder; they were Don
Basilio Bogiero and Santiago Sass.


Monsieur le Colonel Hilaire Maxime Lucien de Ferussat, of the 121st
regiment of the line, felt pardonably annoyed when he found that his
corps, or what remained of it, had been selected, with another of
Morlot’s regiments, to escort the Spanish prisoners to Bayonne.  The
duty involved hard marching, and brought no glory, and Glory, as he was
never tired of declaiming at his mess-table, was the sole object for
which every true Frenchman should live and die.  He had not
distinguished himself very greatly in the operations of the siege;
indeed it was whispered among his fellow-officers, who did not love him,
that his selection for the escort duty was by no means a mark of Marshal
Lannes’ favour.  He himself, however, seemed quite unconscious of
everything except that he had a grievance in being thus shunted for some
weeks off the highroad to fame, and, as was only to be expected, the
wretched prisoners in his charge bore the brunt of his displeasure.
They were physically incapable of prolonged marches, but that was
nothing to monsieur le colonel. He was determined to reach Bayonne as
soon as possible. He played the drover with the unfortunate Spaniards,
and many of them succumbed to fatigue and illness on the road.  The men
of his escort, adopting his attitude, and themselves resenting the
rapidity of the march after all their hardships, were in no mood to
spare the wretches committed to their charge, and many a prod with the
butt-end of a musket, or the more lethal bayonet, quickened the steps of
laggards until they could endure no longer, but dropped and died.

Mounted on a fine Andalusian charger, Colonel de Ferussat rode up and
down the line, roundly abusing the non-commissioned officers of his
party whenever he saw any tendency to straggling among the prisoners.

"Peste!" he said to one sergeant, in charge of a herd of some 200
miserable skeletons; "if you value your chevrons you will step out more
briskly.  No more of this lagging, or, saprelotte!  I’ll reduce you."  A
moment or two later he turned to the captain of a company: "How long,
monsieur le capitaine," he cried, "how long do you propose to spend in
herding these pigs of Spaniards? Your men are dawdling as if they were
sweethearting in the Bois."

Such remarks caused a quickening all along the column until the lost
ground was made up.  With such a commander it was not surprising that
the men took short measures to save themselves trouble.  Many a prisoner
who found the pace too fast, and sank down with a groan, was spared
further suffering.  One bullet was usually enough.

Late in the afternoon of the second day after leaving Saragossa, Colonel
de Ferussat’s column wound its way into Tudela, a place held in bitter
memory by those of the prisoners who had formed part of Castaños’ army
on the fatal 23rd of November.  The scared inhabitants sullenly
submitted to having the prisoners, with their guards, quartered upon
them.  Every building of any pretensions was occupied; but the smaller
houses were left, for monsieur le colonel had a wholesome dread of
scattering his men too widely.

Colonel de Ferussat took up his quarters in the Plaza de Toros.  His
chagrin was somewhat mollified when he found that under the same roof
was lodged no less a personage than General Chabot, who was on his way
southward to rejoin his division, operating under General Gouvion de
Saint-Cyr in Catalonia.  The colonel thought a good deal of generals,
for did he not expect to be a general himself some day?  When,
therefore, on entering the house, he found General Chabot himself
lolling at ease, his coat thrown open and his jack-boots unlaced, he
saluted with an air of unction, and prepared to make himself amiable.

"Bonsoir, monsieur le général!" he said, sweeping his plumed hat at a
radius of a yard.

"Bonsoir, colonel!" responded the general.  "En route for France, I
presume?"

"Yes, monsieur le general, and with the most paltry set of prisoners a
French officer ever had.  As scarecrows they’d disgrace any farmer’s
field in La Beauce."

"Ah!  I had heard from some of your predecessors on the road about the
end of the siege.  I wonder at such a rabble being able to hold out so
long."

"Rabble indeed, monsieur le général.  But there! what are Spaniards but
rabble!  If you had only seen them three months ago, when the marshal
whipped them at this very spot!"

"You were at the battle, colonel?"

"Ma foi!" ejaculated the colonel, "I was indeed present on that amusing
day."

"I shall be glad to hear something of the fight—if you can spare time,
colonel."

"You honour me by the request.  Would you care to ride over the field
with me?  We have time before it is dark."

"Certainly; I shall understand the details so much the more clearly if I
see the actual site."

In a few minutes the two officers were riding side by side over the
battle-field, on which many grim tokens of the struggle lay scattered.
Striking into the road that led from the village in a south-westerly
direction, between olive groves and stone fences, they passed the hill
of Santa Quiteria, where the Spanish centre, under San March and
O’Neill, had been so cleverly outflanked by Maurice Mathieu, and arrived
at length at Cascante, the extreme left of the Spanish position, where
La Pena, with characteristic stupidity, had remained inactive throughout
the fight.  Then, retracing their course, they turned to the left, and
rode past the spot where Colbert had held his cavalry until the pursuit
began.  Leaving Tudela on their right, they came within sight of the
Cerro de Santa Barbara, where Roca had been so brilliantly outmanoeuvred
by General Morlot.

General Chabot had been so eager to obtain a comprehensive view of the
whole scene of action that he had set a quick pace, which the colonel
found rather discommoding to his rotundity.  But he bore it all without
a murmur, for he was deeply imbued with the importance of paying
becoming deference to the higher powers.  He was, however, somewhat
blown and heated when he pulled up at a large house near the Ebro,
commanding an excellent view of the Cerro de Santa Barbara and the
country whence Morlot had delivered his attack.  Round two sides of the
house ran a veranda, the roof being supported by light pillars resting
on a low balustrade.  Beneath the veranda stood a group of Spanish
officers.  They had just marched in, and were awaiting the preparation
of the interior of the building, which was being got ready for them.  A
sentry with fixed bayonet was stationed at the corner of the veranda,
and a squad of some twenty men had piled arms in the open plaza beyond.
An equal number of Frenchmen were inside the house.

"A capital horse of yours, colonel!" said the general admiringly, as
they reined up just outside the balustrade. "Mine is wheezing a little,
you observe, while yours is hardly breathed."

"It is an excellent beast indeed," panted De Ferussat, with a gratified
smile.  "I got it from a ridiculous old Spanish nobleman at Pamplona,
months ago—at a low figure, I assure you; hi! hi!  But look, monsieur le
général, it was out there"—he pointed towards the Ebro—"that we first
came in touch with these cowardly curs of Spaniards."

He made no attempt to moderate his voice.  Every word was clearly
audible to the gaunt group in the veranda, and some of them looked with
a glare of impotent rage at the ill-mannered officer.  As if to obtain a
clearer view of the field he edged his horse up to the balustrade, and
continued his narrative.

"There were about 50,000 of them, but we had at least half that number,
so that there was not much doubt of the issue.  The more Spaniards in
the field, monsieur le général, the more there are to run away.  Hi!
hi!"

He laughed, a harsh grating cackle of satisfaction that made several of
the Spaniards behind him turn livid with wrath.  General Chabot, to whom
his remarks were ostensibly addressed, seemed ill at ease.  Like most of
Napoleon’s lieutenants, he was a rough-and-ready soldier, but he at any
rate had a genuine Frenchman’s respect for a gallant foe, and he was
reluctant to connive, even tacitly, at De Ferussat’s gross insult to
helpless prisoners. But, all unconscious of the contempt with which his
superior officer was beginning to regard him, the colonel continued:

"Our division, you observe, was posted behind the Cerro de Santa Barbara
yonder.  There were thousands of Spaniards on the summit.  Behold how
steep the slope! Imagine their marvellous bravery!  Ma foi, monsieur,
but courage is indeed magnificent at the top of a hill!  Hi! hi! They
plumed themselves that we could not get at them. But mark, monsieur le
général, that was a mistake—oh! trifling, but a mistake all the same.
Why?  There were French at the bottom.  I was there, monsieur.  To me
turns General Morlot, and says: ’De Ferussat, mon ami, your battalion
will take that hill.’  A word—parbleu! and at a word the thing is done.
Do you see, monsieur le general, that narrow cleft on the hillside?
Voila!  That is where we climbed up, I and my men."  The general glanced
somewhat incredulously at the protuberant figure beside him.  "It was
unguarded, and before the Spaniards knew what was happening, behold! we
are upon them.  A few minutes, then pouf!—General Roca’s division is
pouring past the spot where we are now standing, squeezing through the
streets of the city on to the Saragossa road. Farther to the left
yonder, General Lefebvre-Desnouettes—alas that he is now a
prisoner!—broke the enemy’s centre with his cavalry; and presto! the
other Spanish generals were kissing the heels of Roca’s braves, off to
Saragossa.  Tredame! how these Spaniards can run when there is a French
bayonet behind them!  It was laughable, truly a comedy, a farce.  I
laugh always when I think of it.  Hi! hi!"

Colonel de Ferussat’s recollections had once more overcome his gravity;
but the first strident notes of his cackle had barely had time to
lacerate the ears of the prisoners when there was a slight commotion
behind him.  Even while his mouth was agape he felt a powerful grip upon
his collar, and in a twinkling he was turning a complete somersault from
the saddle to the balustrade, and thence to the floor of the veranda.
While he had been delivering himself of his double-edged reminiscences a
young Spanish officer, unobtrusively detaching himself from the group,
had moved quietly to within striking distance of the sentry on guard,
who was listening with open-mouthed appreciation.  Disposing of him with
a single knock-down blow, the officer had leapt upon the balustrade and
hurled the fat colonel from his seat.

As De Ferussat rebounded from the balustrade, his steed, naturally
nervous at this unusual experience, started aside, and the reins were
jerked from the Frenchman’s grip.  In an instant the young officer threw
himself into the vacant saddle, and as the horse, now thoroughly
alarmed, dashed madly forward, its new rider just succeeded in grasping
the reins short at the neck, and clung to his seat by the sheer muscular
grip of his knees.

The whole incident had passed rapidly, but General Chabot, with the
readiness of an old campaigner, bent forward to clutch the near rein of
the maddened horse. His own horse swerving at the critical moment, he
missed his grip and himself almost overbalanced, and though he at once
spurred his charger into a gallop, endeavouring to unbutton the holsters
containing his pistols, the fugitive had gained at least twenty yards
before the pursuer’s horse settled into its stride.

Jack almost shouted with glee as he lay forward on his horse’s neck and
got his feet into the stirrups, expecting every moment that a hail of
bullets would come flying after him.  But, hearing the clatter of the
general’s horse behind, he lifted himself and laughed, and began to hum
a song he remembered Shirley was fond of:

    "Oh, who will o’er the downs so free,
    Oh, who will with me ride,
    Oh, who will up and follow me—"

The general was up and following him, but he cared nothing for that.
Not a shade of misgiving crossed his exultation.  While the general
pursued him he was safe. The group of French soldiers in the square had
rushed to their arms, but were unable to fire, for General Chabot was
between them and the fugitive.  Colonel de Ferussat, purple to the verge
of apoplexy, was spluttering with rage and pain, intensified by the
evident delight of the Spanish officers, who, forgetting that they were
in the man’s power, were openly laughing at him.  In the street,
meanwhile, soldiers and civilians alike cleared out of the way of the
dashing horsemen, not realizing at first what had happened.  When they
did understand, Jack was beyond their reach.  He could not stop to
choose his course.  He urged his steed straight along the road, out at
the north gate of the town, into the country of vineyard and olive
grove, gaining on his pursuer, even steadying his horse somewhat when he
found that the beautiful and spirited animal had the heels of the
general’s charger. Chabot must have recognized this, but with dogged
pertinacity he held on for nearly two miles, only desisting from the
chase when he found that his horse was failing. Then he discharged his
pistol; the shot flew wide.  Jack turned on the saddle and swept off his
sombrero in ironical salutation; and as the Frenchman drew rein, Jack
jogged the heaving flanks of his steed with his spurless boots, and
cantered gaily off into the dusk.



                             *CHAPTER XXX*

                            *The Whip Hand*


No Thoroughfare—A Mountain Inn—A Night with Guerrilleros—The Parting
Guest—A Little Dinner—Antonio in Command—A Night Surprise—On the
Latch—Mars and Bacchus—The Festive Board—Monsieur Taberne off Duty—A
Toast—The Score—Crowded Moments—A Fight in the Glade—Quietus


Nothing ever gave Jack more pleasure to remember than that ride from
Tudela.  The scent of spring was in the air, birds were twittering ere
they tucked themselves up for the night, and under him was a beautiful
horse, whose easy swinging motion was a double joy after so many weeks
of hardship and confinement.

"It is good to be alive," he thought, as he rode on, humming gaily.
"And now what am I to do?"

He had only the vaguest idea of the country.  He was riding north-west
from Tudela.  The red glow of sunset was fading on his left hand.
Calatayud, where he hoped to find Juanita, was far to the south-west.
Now that he was quite clear of pursuit, his best plan, he thought, would
be to double on his track, and, while avoiding Tudela, and any other
place likely to hold a French garrison, to make his way back again
towards Saragossa, keeping somewhat west of the highway until he struck
the road between that city and Calatayud.

"But it will not do to go too far west," he thought, "or I shall get
among the mountains, and then goodness knows when I’ll find my way out
again."

Cautiously enquiring his way at cottages along the road, he arrived in
about three hours at the outskirts of the township of Agreda.  It was
necessary to pass through the place.  He thought it more than likely
that the French would have a garrison there, for the mountain ranges
beyond were the haunt of several guerrilla bands which the enemy were
making spirited but ineffectual efforts to keep in check.  He therefore
rode in, with one pistol cocked in his right hand, and the holster of
the other unbuttoned, in readiness for any emergency.

The moon was rising, and Jack, as he passed through the principal
street, noticed that narrow lanes led out from it on both sides,
presumably towards the vineyards with which the surrounding valley was
covered.  His horse trod silently on the roadway, owing to a thick bed
of last year’s leaves placed upon it by the people, for the purpose of
making manure.  There was no light in any of the houses; everybody
appeared to have retired to rest, and Jack was congratulating himself on
having reached the last house, when he came suddenly upon five mounted
French carabineers, with drawn swords, blocking the street.  They had
apparently just come into the town from the other end, on a
reconnoitring expedition.  They saw him at the same moment, and with a
shout dashed forward. With only his two pistols to rely on, Jack chose
the discreet part, and instantly wheeled his horse round to the right
into one of the lanes, in which there was no more than space for one
rider to pass.  It was a steep ascent, and his horse, gallantly
breasting the hill, showed signs of fatigue natural after the long
distance already travelled.  Something must be done to check the
pursuit, for if the Frenchmen had fresh horses they were bound to run
him down as soon as they drew out of the lane Springing from his horse
where the path opened into the vineyards, he fired at the leading man,
who was within a few yards of him, and then, with some compunction,
discharged his second pistol at the trooper’s horse.  It fell.  There
was a cry, followed by confused shouts. Jack quietly remounted, and
threaded his way through the vineyards, bearing to the left until he
struck a road that appeared to lead in the direction he wished to go. He
looked cautiously about, in case his recent assailants had belonged to a
scattered party.  Finding no trace of an enemy, he sped on his way.

The road was rocky and uneven, winding among the hills, which showed
bare and ghostly in the increasing moonlight.  After riding on for some
six or seven miles, wondering where he was going and how long his horse
would hold out, he was passing by the brink of a ravine overhung by a
dark wall of rock, when in a narrow cleft to the right he fancied he saw
a glimmer of artificial light. At once dismounting, he led his horse
towards it, carefully picking his way over the rough ground.  At the end
of the narrow defile he came to a venta of rough-hewn stone, with large
casements, all of which were closed with wooden shutters.  The light he
had seen proceeded from a round knot-hole in the shutter of one of the
rooms on the ground-floor.  The hole was higher than his head.
Remounting, he drew his horse sideways to the house, and, stooping, put
his eye to the peep-hole.  He saw a spacious room, part kitchen, part
dining-room, and part dormitory, to judge from the dirty mattresses
spread here and there on the floor.  In the centre of the wall to the
right was an immense chimney-piece, where a pile of pine-logs were
crackling and blazing merrily.  Over the fire two huge black kettles
were suspended, and in front a long iron spit, garnished with fowls and
goats’-flesh, was turned by a miserable-looking dog, which, perched
against the wall in a wooden barrel, must have suffered both from the
heat and from the tread-mill work it was forced to do.

Opposite the fire, at a more comfortable distance, Jack saw a large
table, around which, seated on benches, crippled chairs, and upturned
casks, a score or more of men were beguiling the time, till supper
should be ready, by frequent applications to the wine-jug.  A glance at
their dress was sufficient to inform Jack of their condition. They wore
short tight-fitting jackets, low-crowned black hats with the brim looped
up on one side, breeches fastened at the knee with coloured ribbons, and
long leather gaiters. From pegs on the wall hung long brown cloaks, and
in the corners lay heaps of sabres, pistols, and long carbines.

"Guerrilleros, for a ducat!" said Jack to himself, "and a desperate set.
They have not even troubled to post a sentry.  I’m afraid they’ll have
to be my bed-fellows to-night, at any rate."

Without hesitation he rapped smartly on the door with the butt of a
pistol.  There was a sound of movement within, heavy steps approached
the door, and a gruff voice demanded:

"Quien vive?"

"España!" said Jack, giving the usual countersign, then by a happy
inspiration adding: "Amigo de Antonio el valiente guerrillero."

With an exclamation of delight the man inside drew the bolts and threw
open the door.  The light from a lamp streamed out, and Jack, bending
his head, asked whether he could be put up at the inn for the night.

"Verdaderamente, Señor," replied the guerrillero, recognizing from
Jack’s tone that he had a caballero to deal with.  In a few minutes the
horse was stabled, and Jack was seated at the table, partaking of the
savoury stew poured bubbling from the chaldron, and answering the men’s
eager questions about the end of the siege of Saragossa.  They belonged
to the band of which Pablo Quintanar and Antonio had been the leaders,
and were burning with anxiety as to the fate of those sturdy
guerrilleros.  Many a deep growl of rage and indignation burst from them
when they learnt of Quintanar’s treason, many a sigh of satisfaction
when they heard of his fate; and when they knew that Antonio had come
safely through the siege, they were all confident that somehow or other
he would escape from the French, and hasten to rejoin them in their
mountain fastnesses.

Jack in his turn asked for information, which the men were not very
ready to give.  All that he learnt of their movements was that they had
recently left Soria and were going southward by easy stages, hoping to
meet members of their band escaping from Saragossa.  He spent a
comfortless night in the dirty inn, and departed next morning early,
glad to have got off from such rough companions without the loss of his
horse, on which they had cast longing eyes.

All that day he travelled by devious paths among the mountains, asking
his way of the few people he met, putting up at night in a ruined cabin,
and arriving late on the following evening in the neighbourhood of
Morata. Remembering that the Alvarez country house was near at hand, he
found on enquiry that it lay a few miles to the north, and was at
present in charge of one old man, who had been a gardener on the estate.
Suspecting that Morata itself might be garrisoned by the French, he
decided to turn off before reaching the town, and to seek shelter for
the night at the Alvarez villa.

Spring had set in unusually early this year, and as Jack rode through
the lanes he rejoiced in the bright sunshine and the scent of lavender
and rosemary, violets and narcissus, that filled the warm air.  He
reached the villa at dusk.  It stood half-way up a hill, in a walled
garden, amid luxuriant foliage of laurels.  On three sides the garden
wall was approached by the young growth of olive plantations.  The house
itself was a long low building of white stone, mellowed by age and
weather.  A broad oak balcony ran round, sheltering the ground-floor
rooms from the sun’s rays; and amid its massive columns creeping plants,
already in full leaf, pushed their way towards the roof.  As Jack rode
up, the odours of honeysuckle and clematis greeted his nostrils, and he
noted the small white stars of the jessamine glittering among their
narrow dark-green leaves.

The caretaker, a bent old man, received Jack somewhat mistrustfully, but
thawed when he was assured of his friendship for the Alvarez family, and
volubly deplored the ruin which had fallen upon it.  He conducted the
visitor over the house and round the immense garden, shaking his head at
the wildness of its untended state; all the rose-trees wanted trimming,
the fruit-trees pruning, and the strawberries, already ripe, were
rotting in their beds.  He did what he could, but what was one gardener
for such an immense garden?  He made up a bed for Jack in one of the
upper rooms, and promised to provide as good a breakfast as possible in
the morning.

Shortly after six Jack was urgently aroused by the old man.

"Señor, Señor," he said, "there are cavalry approaching up the hill.
They are French—I am sure they are; it is not safe to stay longer."

Jack was up in a trice.  Hurrying to the stable he quickly saddled his
horse, stuffed some bread into his pocket, and made off by a side gate
leading out of the garden just as the horsemen drew rein in front of the
house.  Fortunately the wall hid him from too curious eyes as he led his
horse rapidly away.  Gaining an olive plantation a quarter of a mile up
the hill, he decided to wait there for a while, in the hope of
discovering something about the horsemen whose advent had broken his
sleep.  After about half an hour, peeping over a stone fence, he saw
them leave the casa, and strike off in a north-easterly direction among
the foot-hills.  Only the tops of their helmets were visible as they
trotted past, a shoulder of the hillside hiding the rest of them from
view.  He counted forty-two.  As soon as they had disappeared he
returned on foot to the house, taking his chance of any Frenchman
remaining there.  He found the old gardener in a frenzy of rage and
agitation.

"The cursed Frenchmen!" he cried.  "Gone—yes, they are all gone, but
they are coming back—this evening. They are foraging, and among them is
a dastardly Spaniard, an afrancesado, Señor.  He asked me questions; he
wanted to know where José Pinzon, old Don Fernan’s servant, is.  As if I
would answer him, even it I knew!—a traitor, who knows the country and
is guiding the French to spoil his countrymen.  He told them that the
casa would give them good lodging when their work is done, and ordered
me—yes, the dog of an afrancesado ordered me—to have ready a good dinner
for them—for him and three officers, and nearly forty men—by the time
they return.  They come from Calatayud; would to God they’d break their
necks in the hills and never return alive!"

Jack was sympathetic with the old man, but after all much less concerned
with his troubles than with the possibilities of a scheme that had
flashed upon him.  The guerrilleros he had lately left were marching in
that direction from a point somewhat to the west of the line taken by
the French.  There was little chance of their falling in with the
foraging-party, but it was at least possible that, if they could be
found, they might be able to arrange a little surprise for the French
when they returned.  Were they still in the neighbourhood?  Jack thought
it worth while to spend a few hours in discovering this, and decided to
return to the plantation where he had left his horse, and ride off.
Before going he asked the old Spaniard to leave unbolted a door he had
noticed at the back of the house; it was evidently little used, and now
almost hidden by tangled masses of creepers.

"I may want to get in to-night," he said.

His horse, refreshed by a good night’s rest, covered the ground at a
rapid pace.  Jack eagerly scanned the bare hills for signs whether of
friend or foe; it was always possible that the French had turned off in
his direction after visiting this or that farm or country house.  But he
saw nothing for nearly two hours, when, having ridden, as he estimated,
some twenty miles, he suddenly heard a voice, from a rocky ridge at his
left hand, calling him to halt He reined up instantly, and shouted back
in Spanish:

"Who are you?  I am a friend."

"Get off your horse and put down your pistol then."

It was a peremptory order, which Jack at any other moment might have
resented; but there was no time to spare, and he decided immediately to
risk compliance. The speaker then emerged from behind his rock, and
stood revealed in the rough yet gaudy costume of a guerrillero.

"Hombre, take me to your captain," said Jack, stepping towards him.  "I
must speak with him instantly."

The man pointed out a narrow path between the rocks, just wide enough to
admit a horse, and a few minutes later Jack was led into the presence of
his stalwart friend Antonio.  Explanations were soon exchanged.
Antonio, having become an inoffensive civilian on the fall of Saragossa,
had had no difficulty in making his way to the mountains.  Falling in
with a portion of his old band that had been raiding French convoys
along the Saragossa-Tudela road, he had, only a short time before Jack’s
arrival, effected a junction with the smaller band whom Jack had met in
the inn.  He was now the leader of a total force of over a hundred men,
among whom Jack recognized with pleasure several of his sturdiest
fighters during the siege.

When Antonio had explained to the others who Jack was, their enthusiasm
knew no bounds.  The Saragossa veterans had already told them what their
English leader had accomplished during the siege; how theirs had been
the only quarter in the city in which the French had made no progress
during the last three weeks.  Antonio now waxed eloquent on the same
theme, and wound up by commanding his men to serve the Señor as they
would their own captain.

If anything had been wanting to complete his welcome it would have been
supplied by the news he brought. Antonio no sooner heard that a French
foraging-party was in the neighbourhood than he decided to cut it off.
He was anxious to start immediately and ambush it on its way back to the
house, but Jack suggested a better plan.  The country around the house,
being, though hilly, fairly open, presented little opportunity for a
successful ambuscade, and in the event of the guerrilla troop being
discovered, there would be great likelihood of the majority of the enemy
escaping.  It would be better, Jack suggested, to surround the house at
night; not a Frenchman should then escape.  Antonio at once agreed.  He
said that he would leave the planning entirely to the Señor, which, Jack
thought, was as it should be; for Antonio, though a brave and dashing
leader of a storming-party, had little claim but that of bull-dog
courage to his position as captain.

At four o’clock the band, well-mounted and eager, set out on their
march.  The road followed led by a circuitous course to the foot of the
hill on which the Casa Alvarez stood.  It was past seven when, as they
wheeled round to the left, they saw the twinkling lights of the house
more than a mile above them.

"They are very bold," remarked Jack to Antonio. "There must be a
considerable force of French in Calatayud, perhaps at Morata also, or
these foragers would have made some attempt to conceal their movements."

"Few or many, Señor," declared Antonio, "we’ll capture these dogs and
hang them up in a string."

"No, no; but we needn’t talk about what we’ll do with them till we have
them.  I’ve been thinking out a plan of attack as we rode along.  It
will be best to leave our horses some distance from the house.  If one
of them began to neigh it would at once put the French on the alert.  We
must attack on foot in any case.  There is a hollow a little farther on
where we can leave the horses under guard."

"Very well, Señor."

"Now we don’t want to lose any lives if we can help it, so I think it
will be best for us to get an idea of the enemy’s arrangements.  I know
the house, and I propose to go forward alone and see what I can find
out.  The old gardener will have left the back-door unlocked on the
chance of my returning.  If when I get there I see a good chance of your
succeeding in a rush over the walls up to the house, I’ll give you a
signal—a shrill whistle, say; one of your men can cut me a reed."

"No need, Señor; I have a whistle here."

He produced a big steel whistle, which he handed to Jack.

"That’s well.  If you don’t hear anything from me in the course of an
hour after I leave you, you may conclude that I am captured.  You had
better then rush the sentries, who will no doubt be posted at the front
gate. At the same time your men will scale the wall.  One body should be
sent to cut off egress from the stables, and another to enter by the
back-door.  I leave the rest to you."

Half a mile farther on they came to the wooded hollow of which Jack had
spoken.  The horses were left there as arranged, and the guerrilleros,
headed by Jack and Antonio, advanced cautiously up the hill to within
three hundred yards of the house.  By the light of the rising moon two
sentinels could be seen standing at the front gate, between which and
the house lay fifty feet of flower-garden. Jack wondered whether
sentries had been placed on the other sides, but judged from the evident
carelessness of the French that that precaution had not improbably been
neglected.  There was no cover for the attacking force beyond about two
hundred and fifty yards from the gates, but at both sides the
plantations would conceal them. The guerrilleros stole into the shade of
the trees; the main body remained at the corner of the wall ready to
attack in front; smaller parties worked round the sides, until the whole
enclosure was practically surrounded.

Jack accompanied the party which had gone to the wall facing the rear of
the house.  Under cover of the overhanging branches of a chestnut he
climbed over the wall, which was about eight feet high.  No sentry was
posted at the back of the house.  In a few minutes Jack had run up the
garden and come to the back-door.  Already he had heard sounds of
merriment proceeding from the house.  He placed his ear against the
door, listening for footsteps within.  Hearing nothing in the vicinity,
he lifted the latch and slipped inside, finding himself in a large
square stone-floored room, which had evidently been used as a storehouse
for the gardener’s tools.  At the far side of the room was a door
leading, as he knew, to the corridor surrounding the patio.  As he
cautiously opened this door his ears were saluted by a deafening babel
from a room on the right, opening on to the corridor.  To judge by the
sounds, a large party of French troopers were there enjoying their
evening meal.  Shouts of laughter were mingled with bursts of song and
the clatter of knives and crockery.  The patio was pitch dark save where
a beam of light fell across it from a window of the room on the right,
and another from the kitchen on the opposite side.  Hugging the rear
wall of the patio, Jack made his way cautiously across its tiled floor
to the window of the kitchen.  A door opened into the kitchen from the
corridor, opposite to the middle one of the three arches in the
colonnade of the patio.  Keeping well in the shadow, Jack saw several
Frenchmen leave the kitchen carrying dishes and flagons, and cross the
patio to the room whence the boisterous sounds were proceeding.  He saw
also another man, a tall fellow, whom in the half-light he seemed to
recognize, carry a dish into a room at the farther end of the corridor,
and close the door behind him.  While the door was open Jack heard a
burst of song from within. Evidently some of the Frenchmen were also
regaling themselves there.

Peeping in at the kitchen window, he saw the gardener, now alone.  He
tapped.  The Spaniard looked startled for a moment.  Then a light of
recollection came into his eyes.  He made hurriedly for the door, and in
another moment was with Jack.

"I’ve a hundred men outside," whispered the latter. "Where are the
officers?"

"In the room at the end, Señor."

At this moment the door of that very room opened again, and the tall
servant came out, and turned down the corridor at the farther end of the
patio.

"He is going to the cellar under the stairs for wine," whispered the old
man.  "Curse them!  They are drinking my old master’s store of
Valdepenas."

The man had left the door open, and from within the room came the sound
of a mellow baritone voice trolling out a sentimental ditty:

    "J’ai fait un bouquet pour ma mie,
          Un bouquet blanc;
        J’ai mis mon coeur dedans,
        Dedans mon bouquet blanc.
      Comm’ nous partions, v’là qu’elle cri-i-e:
          ’Oh! reviens t’en.’
        ’Marche!’ dit mon lieutenant.
        Je lui laiss’ mon bouquet blanc.
    J’ai mis mon coeur, j’ai mis mon coeur dedans,
        Dedans mon bouquet blanc."


Shouts of applause followed the last words.  Immediately afterwards the
tall servant returned with a huge flagon, re-entered the room, and shut
the door.

"Hombre," said Jack in a whisper, "you must go into that room."

"But, Señor, I’m afraid for my life.  There’s a big hound of a Frenchman
there whose very voice makes me shiver."

"You must go in.  I caught sight of a screen as that man entered just
now.  All I want you to do is to go in and show yourself—ask if they are
fully supplied—and give me time to slip in behind you; then wait outside
the door till I call."

The old man hesitated for a moment, then plucked up his courage and
walked along the corridor, Jack following. The Spaniard opened the door,
and was instantly ordered to go about his business.  He moved back at
once, but meanwhile Jack had slipped inside the room, and found that in
an angle of the four-leaved screen he could conceal himself, not only
from the persons in the room, but from anyone passing through the door.
He quietly slit a hole in the screen with his penknife, and peeped
through.

Around a ponderous old table of black oak, illuminated by a dozen wax
candles and covered with dishes and flagons and glasses, sat four men.
At the head, with his braided scarlet coat open from the neck, sat a
fat, red-faced, big-moustachioed officer, whom Jack recognized at once
as the blusterous commissary from whom he had coaxed such valuable
information at Olmedo.  At the foot sat a French captain, who was
already half-drunk; on the other side was a young lieutenant, with pink
cheeks.  With his back to the door there was a man in Spanish dress, who
at that moment beckoned forward the tall servant to fill the captain’s
empty glass.  As the man moved round the table, Jack caught the glitter
of Perez’ one eye, and at the same instant recognized the seated
Spaniard as Miguel Priego himself.

Listening, Jack was amused to find that Commissary Gustave Taberne had
lost nothing of his braggadocio.

"Parbleu, Señor Don What-do-you-call-yourself, this is wine of the right
sort.  Nothing in this world is so soul-satisfying as good Valdepenas
after a hard day’s work. Mind you, I say ’after’.  I’m not like Captain
Horace Marie Etienne d’Echaubroignes yonder, who’ll drink in bed, on
horseback, or in a pig-stye—it’s all one to him. No; the emperor would
call me a pig if I got drunk before my work was over.  I can drink a
gallon without staggering, and have a bottle at my hand without touching
it; but when my duty is done—ah ça!  then I can fill my skin in comfort,
and sing a song with any man."

The long-named captain scowled at the reference to himself, bent forward
over the table, and stuttered:

"Monsieur l’inten—l’intendant, do you mean that for a—a reflection?"

"Not at all, not at all, monsieur le capitaine.  It was a compliment—to
your versatility and your—h’m!—capacity."

"Eh bien!" rejoined the captain, lifting his glass unsteadily, "if you
mean it that way—"

The commissary winked at Miguel.

    "J’ai fait un bouquet pour ma mie,
      Un bouquet blanc,"

he hummed.  "Tiens!  Songs like that suit a gay young bachelor like you
better than a man of my age, with a wife and family.  Come, Señor Don
Something-or-other, sing us one of your Spanish songs—a serenade such as
your gallants sing by night under their lady’s window. Tol-lol-di-rol!
Come now—sing up."

"Really, monsieur, after hearing your excellent voice, I do not feel
able to enter into competition with you," said Miguel stiffly.

"Ah bah!  Allons! you are still in our debt.  You did us a good service
to-day, in truth; but remember, we found your lady-love for you
yesterday.  Ohé! her eyes, her cheeks, parbleu!  I envy you the
lovely—how does she call herself—la belle Juanita?  Tol-lol-di-rol!
Chantez, mon ami."

"We Spaniards are not accustomed to discuss such matters in mixed
company," said Miguel, still more irritably.

"We Spaniards!  Par exemple!  I’m not a Spaniard; nor are you, my
friend, to judge by your reception in the Spaniards’ houses to-day."

His tone was decidedly nettled, and the young lieutenant looked
uncomfortable, and seemed about to hazard a remark.  The captain was
solemnly drinking.

"Eh bien!" said the commissary, changing his tone. "There’s no need for
us to quarrel.  The lovely Juanita is to be your bride; that is settled.
We’ll see what we can do with King Joseph to hasten matters.  And so,
without more words, let us drink a health to her!"

"Perez, another bottle," said Miguel.

The one-eyed servant came across the room, and Jack slipped out of sight
between two leaves of the screen. The commissary sang on:—

      "J’ai mis mon coeur dedans,
      Dedans mon bouquet blanc.
    Comm’ nous pardons, v’là qu’elle crie:
        ’Oh! reviens t’en.’

Voila qu’il en revient!" (as Perez re-entered).

"You can go and get your own supper," said Miguel when the cork was
drawn.

Perez left the room.  As soon as he had gone, Jack, relying on the
commissary being engrossed with the bottle, opened the door an inch, and
beckoned the old Spaniard in.

"Now, Señor Don What’s-your-name," said the commissary, "we Frenchmen
will drink a bumper to the fair Spaniard, the black-eyed beauty.
Messieurs, aux beaux yeux de la belle Ju—an—i—"

He had lifted his brimming glass half-way to his lips, and turned with a
fat smile towards Miguel, when he paused, his hand stayed in mid-air,
and he broke off in the middle of Juanita’s name.  Advancing towards him
from behind the screen he saw a young Spaniard, with a drawn sword in
his right hand, and in his left a pistol, cocked and pointed.

"You will excuse me, messieurs," said Jack quietly, "intruding upon you
thus unceremoniously—pray keep your seats," he added, as the lieutenant
pushed back his chair, and the fuddled captain half rose.  "In fact, I
shall take it so ill if you move but a hair’s breadth that I cannot
answer for my nerves!"

For all its banter, Jack’s tone had in it so much of deadly earnestness
that the officers sank limply back into their seats, the instinctive
movement towards sword and pistol arrested as if by a sudden palsy.
Miguel had remained on his chair without moving a muscle.  With him the
French were four to one, for as a combatant the old man did not count;
but each of the four knew that the first among them to take up the gage
would fall instantly to Jack’s pistol, and the knowledge dulled the edge
of their courage.

"Hombre," continued Jack, addressing the old gardener, "bolt the door."

The man was trembling in every limb, but hastened to obey the order.

"That is right.  Now, feel in my left-hand pocket.  You will find a
whistle.  You have it?  Then open yonder window and blow three times."

The man went to the window behind the commissary, opened one of its
leaves, and blew three shrill blasts. While this was going on, the four
sat helplessly in the same position in which Jack had surprised them.
The lieutenant’s pink cheeks had paled; the commissary’s rubicund
features had become like mottled soap; the captain was red with sottish
indignation; Miguel had never moved.  Jack could only see his back.

"With your permission, messieurs," Jack went on, "this good man will
make a little collection.  Hombre, relieve that gentleman at the head of
the table of his sword and pistol.  No, no; not this side of him.  You
may get hurt if you come between us, and we cannot spare a good
Spaniard—can we, Don Miguel?  Go round him.  That’s right.  Now bring
the weapons and put them on the floor behind me.  So.  Now, go round in
the same way and get the next gentleman’s arms."

Before the man reached the lieutenant, a confused hubbub came into the
room from the front of the house through the open window—the clash of
steel, the report of firearms.  Almost at the same moment loud sounds of
the same kind came from the direction of the patio.  The old servant
hesitated, stood still, his fingers working nervously.

"Go on, hombre," said Jack sternly, his pistol still pointed.

While the uproar on both sides gathered strength, the Spaniard tottered
towards the lieutenant, and with shaking hands disengaged his sword and
pistol, which he placed alongside of the commissary’s on the floor
behind Jack. He was just repeating the process of disarmament with the
captain when loud shouts were heard at the door, followed by heavy blows
from the butts of muskets.  Apparently the French troopers had been
driven across the patio, and were seeking their officers in the inner
room.  Jack did not move a muscle, but he devoutly hoped that the door
would stand the strain; otherwise the window was his only chance, though
in any case he could not desert the old man.

The noise outside provided a strange contrast to the quietness within.
Almost silently the Spaniard had disarmed three of the four feasters.
It was now Miguel’s turn.  In advancing towards him the old man, alarmed
by the tremendous thunderings on the door behind him, and by a bullet
that crashed through one of the panels, incautiously stepped between
Miguel and Jack.  In an instant, with an extraordinary muscular effort
for so slightly built a man—an effort nerved doubtless by the knowledge
of what his fate would be if he fell into the hands of his
countrymen,—Miguel seized the man by the middle, and, swinging him round
so as to make of him a screen between himself and Jack, dashed towards a
curtain of arras that apparently overhung a doorway on the opposite side
of the room.  At the same moment a number of Spaniards, headed by
Antonio, came headlong through the open window.

"Secure the Frenchmen!" shouted Jack, springing after Miguel.  He could
not fire.  When he reached the curtain he stumbled over the old
Spaniard, whom Miguel flung back at his pursuer as he dashed through the
door into the dark anteroom beyond.  Jack recovered himself in an
instant, but Miguel had disappeared, and when Jack had followed him into
the darkness he heard him stumbling over furniture on the other side of
the room.  Then began a desperate chase.  As is common in Spanish
houses, room opened into room, and Jack pursued the traitor through door
after door, occasionally catching a fleeting glimpse of him by the
moonlight filtering through the windows of rooms on the outer wall, but
losing him again in the darkness before there was time to fire.  At last
Miguel, gaining a slight lead, was able to open a window at the back of
the house, and sprang out into the garden, flinging the leaf of the
window back almost in Jack’s face.  Outside he fell sprawling on the
ground, but was up in an instant, and rushed madly down the path cutting
the garden in two.

Jack leapt through the window after him, stumbled, recovered himself,
and was off after the fugitive.  Tearing through the bushes that had
overspread the path, he flew along, saving his breath, setting his lips,
fiercely determined to bring the wretched man to book at last.  Miguel
had reached the wall; with the agility of despair he sprang at it, and
was over.  Jack was a better runner; he made as little difficulty of the
wall; pursuer and pursued were now in full career through the olive
plantation.  Miguel’s breath was failing; he knew that he could not
escape. Stopping suddenly in an open glade, he turned round, and a
bullet whistled past Jack’s head as he closed with his quarry.  The
headlong rush had spoiled Miguel’s aim.

Disdaining to use his pistol, Jack at once engaged Miguel with his
sword.  The Spaniard stood fiercely at bay, panting with his exertions,
his face showing livid with fear in the pale moonlight.  There were a
few rapid passes; then with a groan he dropped his sword, his forearm
gashed from wrist to elbow.

"Hold!" he gasped.  "I am at your mercy.  Spare me!"

Jack dropped the point of his sword.

"What—are—you—going—to—do—with—me?" panted Miguel.

"Do with you?  There is only one thing for me to do: deliver you to your
fellow-countrymen.  They shall judge you."

"Not that, for the love of God!" was the agonized reply, whispered
rather than spoken.  "You know what that means!  Spare me that!  Rather
finish what you have begun.  For old time’s sake you would not throw me
to those wolves.  Ah! their fiendish tortures!  See! have done with it;
strike here!"

[Illustration: Miguel Escapes from the Garden]

He tore open his shirt and bared his bosom to the sword.  It was well
acted, but Jack was not for a moment deceived.  Miguel, he knew, had not
the slightest expectation of being taken at his word.  Yet the
alternative! When once the guerrilleros had him in their power there
would be no torture too horrible for the renegade and traitor.  Jack
remembered with a shudder the tales he had heard—even those told him by
Miguel himself in Salamanca.  Could he deliver the wretch, vile though
he was, to so awful a fate?  Could he allow the traitor to go free?  It
was a painful dilemma.

So they stood while a man might count ten.

There was a crackle in the undergrowth, the sound of a light footfall,
and, lifting his sword, Jack half-turned.  As he did so a heavy form
struck against him.  He felt a scorching pain between the shoulders, and
pitching heavily forward sank unconscious to the ground.  The dilemma
had solved itself.



                             *CHAPTER XXXI*

                   *Doctor Grampus and a French Cook*


An Amateur—Pantomime—At Cross Purposes—Miguel’s Pocket-book—Links—In
Cipher—Potatoes—Monsieur Taberne on Duty—The Compelling Onion


When Jack came to himself it seemed to him that he was in a shaded room
by an open window, for the air gently fanned his temples, and he saw a
wide stretch of blue sky. He turned his aching head.

"Hullo!" said a voice in English.

"Hullo!" murmured Jack in reply, automatically, not knowing what he
said.  He looked with puzzlement at the speaker, a tall, stout young
fellow in guerrilla costume.

"There, I wagered you wouldn’t know me in this rig. Don’t you remember
Dugdale, at Salamanca—Percy Dugdale, don’t you know?"

"The Grampus!" whispered Jack.

"The very same.  I might have bet you’d know Grampus better than my good
old respectable honoured ugly name.  Here, drink this."

He held a cup to Jack’s lips.  After drinking, Jack closed his eyes and
fell asleep.

"Where am I?" he asked, waking an hour later.

"Feel better?  That’s grand.  Where are you?  High up among the hills,
in a sort of cave, lying on a pile of blankets, with a splendid outlook
over—well, nowhere in particular."

"In the hills!" repeated Jack feebly.  "How did I get there?  I can’t
remember.  Is anything wrong with me? I don’t seem to be able to move.
I don’t feel right."

"There’s gratitude!  Why, you’re as right as a trivet. You’re really
doing splendidly!  Now, you’re not to talk. Doctor’s orders."

"Oh!"

Jack was silent for a moment, and dozed away again.

When he woke, Dugdale came towards him from the entrance of the cave.

"What’s the matter with me?  How do you come here?  I can’t remember
anything."

"I said you were not to talk.  Doctor’s orders."

"Tell the doctor I want to see him."

Dugdale chuckled.

"Bet it’d be no go.  Truth is, I’m the doctor.  I’ve pulled you through,
and when I get home I’m going to demand a diploma from the doctors’
college or whatever it is gives a man a licence to be a sawbones."

"I must know all about it.  I can’t remember.  How long have I been
ill?"

"Nearly three weeks.  Now, if you’ll promise not to get excited, I’ll
tell you what happened.  You know a man named Antonio?"

"Yes, of course; he helped me in Saragossa."

"Well, if he weren’t a friend of yours I’d punch his head.  He is the
leader of this band of ruffians that scooped me up, two months ago, when
I was riding over the hills to see the fun at Saragossa.  Antonio wasn’t
with them then.  I couldn’t understand a word they said. They couldn’t
understand a word I said.  I roared ’Inglese!  Inglese!’ till I was
sick.  No good.  They kept me with them and made me get into this
outrageous toggery, and with them I’ve been ever since, like a canary in
a cage."

"But—"

"You mustn’t talk.  Doctor’s orders.  Lucky for you I was here, or
they’d have sent you to kingdom come. With their nasty messes!—ugh!"

"Where did you get your medicines, then?"

"Silence!  Don’t believe in medicine.  Bet Antonio three to one in
Frenchmen—only he couldn’t understand—that I’d pull you through on cold
water; and I’ve done it,—thank God!"

The sudden change to earnestness in Dugdale’s tone was almost comic.

"And you were pretty bad, I can tell you.  Raved like one o’clock.  All
about Pomeroy and Pepito, and some chap whose name rhymed with ass, and
Mig Prig—most about Mig Prig,—and you laughed and shouted ’Fire the
mine!’ and ’Pommy, I’ll punch your head,’ and all sorts of funny
things."

"But what made me ill?"

"A villainous stab in the back.  By gum! if I had the beast here I’d
trounce him, I bet I would.  You and Antonio had captured a
foraging-party of French at a country-house down there; you tackled the
officers single-handed; dashed plucky of you, begad!  and you sprang out
after a scoundrelly Spaniard who escaped, a fellow in French pay; and
afterwards you were found among the olives with a hole in your back and
your sword covered with blood."

"I remember now," cried Jack.  "I must get up.  I must save Juanita."

He tried to rise, but found that he had no power.

"Juanita be hanged, whoever he may be.  Lie still, and don’t talk.  I
haven’t finished yet.  Wish I’d been with you, but these confounded
brigands won’t let me stir from head-quarters.  I’ve had the most
disgusting luck.  I came out to see the fun, and hanged if I’ve seen any
at all. Well, they found you with a hole in your back and brought you
here, and they were in a deuce of a way about you. They had a score or
more of French prisoners with them, including officers, one of them a
fat, red-faced fellow—"

"I remember it all now.  That’s my friend the commissary."

"Well, he’s peeling onions at this moment.  A little change for him, but
all in the same line of business.  It was he told me what had happened;
lucky I can make out two French words out of ten.  By Jove! what
bloodthirsty ruffians these Spaniards are!  If it hadn’t been for me all
the prisoners would have been garroted or roasted before slow fires, or
something.  When I saw what was in the wind my blood boiled.  I couldn’t
stand that; no Englishman could; so I made ’em a speech.  Lord!  I never
knew I could rattle it off so; I must go into Parliament.  Of course
they couldn’t understand what I said, but I threw my arms about, and
pointed to my neck, and shook my head, and generally played the goat, as
I’ve seen ’em do at the hustings; and they made out what I meant, and so
the prisoners are here still,—except the captain, who died of
over-drinking."

At this moment Antonio came quietly into the cave; he had been in and
out during Jack’s periods of unconsciousness, and now showed every mark
of delight at his impending recovery.

"The saints be praised, Señor!" he said.  "We feared you would die.  We
should have grieved."

Jack was touched by his simple sincerity.

"I am not gone yet," he said, smiling, "thanks, I understand, to my
friend Señor Dugdale here."

"He is a clever doctor, Señor," said Antonio.

"He tells me that you have the Frenchmen we captured at Morata."

"Sí, Señor, and another lot too."

"Indeed!  It is well that he managed to persuade you to do them no
harm."

"What does the Señor mean?"

"My friend Señor Dugdale tells me that you were going to torture the
prisoners, and he made a speech and—"

"Oh, that!" exclaimed Antonio, with a wave of the hand.  "We didn’t
understand.  We thought the Señor wanted us to cut all their throats;
but I knew you would not like that."

Jack became almost hysterical with laughter at this explanation, and
Dugdale bundled Antonio out of the cave, and told Jack he must go to
sleep again.  He allowed no more talk on that day, but the patient was
so much better next morning that he made no objection when Jack asked to
see the guerrillero again.

"I want to hear what has happened," said Jack to him. "I am anxious."

"I know, Señor; but there is no need.  The day after we got back with
the prisoners, the gitano Pepito came and said the Señorita Juanita had
been captured by the French and was living with a colonel’s lady in
Morata.  I got my men together and we went down at once, and in the
night surprised the French, killed a great many, and captured the rest.
But the Señorita was not among them.  We found the colonel’s lady; she
told us that the Señorita had escaped."

"Where is she?" asked Jack anxiously.

"We do not know, Señor.  The boy Pepito was frantic; he said you would
punish him for losing the lady, and he went away to find her.  He has
never come back."

"Did he say anything about Señor Priego—the man who was in Saragossa,
you remember?"

"He said that Señor Priego was with the French who captured the
Señorita, but no more."

"And you did not capture him at the house?  It was he I was fighting in
the olive-grove."

"Por Dios, Señor, if I had known that!  When we found you lying on the
ground we let a few minutes slip. We thought you were dead, Señor.  Then
we searched all around, but we could find no one.  Was it the cursed
afrancesado that wounded you, Señor?"

"No.  It was someone who came behind my back; his servant, I have no
doubt.  He has twice attempted my life."

Antonio swore a hearty oath, and vowed a terrible vengeance should
either Priego or his servant fall into his hands.  Jack was much
perturbed.  He hoped that Juanita in escaping from the French had
escaped also from Miguel, but the latter had much to gain by not letting
her slip through his hands.

"There is one thing, Señor, yet to be told," added Antonio.  "In the
morning, when we were bringing away the prisoners, one of my men found
this at the back of the house, lying on the grass."

He produced a leather pocket-book, which he handed to Jack.

"I can’t have this," said Dugdale, entering at this moment.  "You’re not
well enough yet to be bothered with business."

"You will do me more good by letting me get to the bottom of things.  My
hand’s all wobbles.  Take the pocket-book, old fellow, and tell me what
is in it."

Dugdale opened the case, and, taking out a number of papers, unfolded
them one by one.

"All in foreign lingos," he said ruefully.  "Can’t read one of them."

"Let me see them," said Jack.

Dugdale handed him one of the papers.  It was a pass through the French
lines, signed by Marshal Lannes.  At the first glance Jack understood.
The pocket-book must have been jerked from Miguel’s pocket when he fell
on escaping from the house.  Jack examined the papers eagerly.  The
second was a note from the marshal’s aide-de-camp Saint-Marc: "In
consideration of Monsieur Priego’s services to the Government of His
Majesty King Joseph, his excellency will use his influence with the
commandant at Bayonne to facilitate the interview sought by Monsieur
Priego".  The third was a memorandum evidently relating to private
business.  The fourth was a long blue paper, on unfolding which Dugdale
cried:

"By George, Lumsden, this is curious!  Hanged if there isn’t your name
here!"

Jack took the paper with still more eagerness.  He saw at once that it
was in the same handwriting as the letter he had received from Don
Fernan Alvarez at Salamanca. It was in Spanish, addressed to Mr.
Lumsden, and Jack had only to read a few words to be assured that this
was the very letter entrusted to the charge of General Palafox—the
letter whose disappearance had so much perplexed him.  Before he had
read more than two or three lines, however, Antonio broke in:

"Señor, I know that paper.  I saw it often in the hands of Pablo
Quintanar in Saragossa.  He used to take it out of his pocket every
night and read it, and always when he came to a certain place he
stopped, and frowned, and cursed.  I am sure it is the same."

In a flash the mystery of Quintanar’s assassination was made plain to
Jack.  Miguel must have discovered in some way that the letter was in
the possession of the guerrillero, and the wretched man had been slain
from behind by one-eyed Perez while Miguel tried to wrest the paper from
him.  Jack was aghast at this additional proof of Miguel’s villainy; his
heart misgave him as he thought of what might be Juanita’s fate.

He read the letter.  It gave a clear narrative of the events of which
Juanita had told him—Don Fernan’s making up of the accounts of the
business, the journey from Barcelona to Saragossa, the ambush on the
road, the suspected treachery of Miguel Priego.  Then followed a
declaration of the old merchant’s intentions in regard to his property.
In the last sentence he stated that the place where the treasure had
been concealed was known only to his servant José, but that the secret
was contained in a short postscript, which could only be read in the
light of a private communication made to Jack himself in Salamanca.

Jack looked eagerly at the postscript.  He uttered an exclamation of joy
as he realized that Miguel must have found the letter useless to him.
For the postscript consisted of a single line of sprawling uneven
capital letters, set close together, not divided into words, and
conveying to the uninitiated absolutely no meaning.

"What do you make of that?" said Jack, handing the letter to Dugdale.

"No good.  Don’t know a word of Spanish except pan, agua, cebolla, which
I hear every day, and a few—interjections, I think they call ’em in
grammar."

"I don’t mean the letter, I mean the postscript."

"The postscript!"  He held the paper at arm’s-length, shut one eye, and
frowned.  "H’m!  Looks like a cat’s swearing, or Welsh.  Too bad even
for Spanish.  Some infant set to practise his capitals, eh?"

Jack smiled.

"I’m as much in the dark as you are.  Perhaps you wouldn’t mind making a
copy of the letters, in case the original goes astray?"

"Very well.  Bet you I’ll make a dozen mistakes.  It dazzles my eyes.
You’d better call ’em out one by one."

Accordingly Jack read the twenty-nine letters off separately, and
Dugdale, whose inaptitude with the pencil was clearly shown by the
frequency with which he licked his lips, made laborious strokes on a
sheet of paper taken from Miguel’s note-book.

"There," he said, when the task was finished.  "Looks a deal prettier
than the original, don’t it?"

In big boyish capitals Jack saw the following puzzling sentence:—

S E O S F L S A E O A P E J E J P J J F J P J X P A P P F


"It’s all right, Grampus," he said, after comparing it with the
original.  "How long shall I be on my back here?"

"Can’t say.  Why?"

"Because I’ve something to do when we’ve discovered the cipher.  You and
I must do that, and, by all appearance, it will take time."

"No good asking me.  Never answered a riddle in my life.  Blinks of
Merton tried me just before I came down. Strolled into my room one
morning—Blinks always dawdles,—threw his leg over a chair, and piped up:
’Grampus, my dear, would you like to answer a question?’  ’Well?’ says
I.  ’Tell me,’ says he: ’Why do birds in their little nests agree?’
’Bet you they don’t always,’ says I.  He was put out; I could see it.
He don’t like a chap to be serious, you know.  Yet he’s a good sort; so
to please him I said: ’Why do they, then?’  ’Because if they didn’t
they’d fall out,’ says he, and strolled away quite happy.  I call that
mighty clever, don’t you?"

Jack made a rapid recovery.  The fresh air, the good simple food, the
unremitting care of Dugdale and Antonio, and perhaps, more than all, his
own strong determination, soon set him upon his feet.  When he was first
allowed by the Grampus to leave the cave, he was much amused at the
sight of Commissary Taberne sitting on an upturned pail, peeling
potatoes, and singing as blithely as a bird:

        "Ma mie,
        Ma douce amie,
      Réponds à mes amours;
        Fidèle
        A cette belle,
      Je l’aimerai toujours.

      Si j’avais cent coeurs,
    Ils ne seraient remplis que d’elle;
      Si j’avais cent—"


"Bravo, monsieur, et bonjour!" said Jack,

"Ha!  Qui est-ce que j’ai l’honneur de voir?"

The commissary sprang off his perch, catching at the bowl of potatoes
just in time to prevent a cataclysm.  He presented a queer figure as he
stood there, in Spanish vest and pantaloons, with bare arms and legs,
for it was a hot day.  Laying his hand on his portly middle, he made a
bow as low as he conveniently could.

"I congratulate you, monsieur," he said.  "I am pleased to see you once
more in health.  Ah ça! but you have the courage, you English!  It was
magnificent—to come into the room alone and face me, Gustave Taberne,
single-handed.  Parbleu! you took me by surprise, or—Ah! and I
congratulate myself that it was not my sword that wounded so admirable a
warrior.  Nom d’un tonnerre! that wretch, that scamp, that renegade,
that Don Miguel What’s-his-name—if I could catch him!  Gr-r-r-r!"

"I hope you have been well treated, monsieur," said Jack politely.

The commissary shrugged.

"Me voici!" he said.  "Here am I, a commissary-general of the emperor’s,
accustomed to feed huge armies, the winner of innumerable victories that
others have the credit of,—and behold me, peeling potatoes for a herd of
unwashed, thieving, villainous, abomin—"

"Stay, stay!" interrupted Jack.  "I really cannot hear my friends
abused."

"Pardon, monsieur.  I for one moment forgot myself. I have feelings, I
am sentimental, I am upset; I see myself on the road to glory; then,
vlan! the vision dissolves; it is a mirage!"

"The marquisate is a little farther off, you mean, monsieur?"

"Hé quoi?"

Monsieur Taberne looked puzzled.

"Do you remember, monsieur," asked Jack, "a little inn at Olmedo, where
one day last November you made your first acquaintance with the puchero,
and honoured with your conversation a young Spaniard, about my own age,
who happened to be able to speak a little French?"

"H’m! h’m!  I have a slight recollection of the incident. I got a good
deal of information out of the young cockerel, if I’m not mistaken."

Jack smiled.

"You were looking forward then, monsieur, to being made a peer of
France, like Marshal Lefebvre, Duke of Dantzig.  I am sorry that this
little check has happened in your career.  You promised then, you
remember, to join me some day in drinking a bottle of Valdepenas—none of
your tarred vinegar of Toro, you know—when your duty was done.  You have
one more potato to peel, monsieur.  While you are doing that, no doubt
my good friend Antonio will produce a bottle of Valdepenas from his
store."

During this speech the commissary had stared at Jack in amazement.

"Par le sambleu!" he ejaculated, "it is the very same!"

He dropped down on his tub, his mouth agape, and mechanically took up
his last potato, which he began to pare with the dexterity of long
practice.  He was evidently casting back to that November day, and
racking his memory to recover the details of his conversation.  Jack’s
eyes twinkled.  The commissary caught his look, and, flinging the
newly-peeled potato into the bowl, uttered a huge guffaw.

"Zut!" he cried, "I see twice, monsieur, that you are a dangerous person
to meet.  One needs to be of the greatest discretion.  It is not only
your sword that is formidable.  Tenez: voici le Valdepenas!  I had hoped
you would have been my guest.  N’importe; Valdepenas is Valdepenas.  The
fortune of war is now to you; perhaps on another occasion—"

"No, thank you," said Jack, laughing, "unless our two nations are at
peace.  Let me say, monsieur, how glad I am that you take your little
mischance with so much philosophy.  I am not in command here, of course,
but if there is anything I can do—"

"Morbleu, monsieur, you can do me an infinite favour. The potatoes—they
are nothing; but the onions!—sapristi! when one weeps for sentiment, it
is noble, it is French; but when one weeps for onions, it is a
degradation.  Bien sûr! precisement ça! allez!"



                            *CHAPTER XXXII*

                       *The Prisoner at Bayonne*


Running the Gauntlet—A Bait—Figments—Prophecy—Judas—At Large


"You will excuse a little delay, monsieur le colonel. The letter from
Monsieur le Maréchal Lannes is somewhat—indeed I may say very—unusual.
We must assure ourselves that everything is en règle—a mere formality,
but in official business we live by rule and regulation. Monsieur will
understand."

The lieutenant-general in command of the port of Bayonne leaned back in
his chair and smiled deprecatingly, at the same time eying his visitor
with no little keenness. The stranger was a Spanish officer in the
French service, and as such to be distrusted; and although his manner
lacked nothing in ease and assurance, there was something in his bearing
and expression that added to the Frenchman’s instinctive suspicion.  But
from motives of prudence he forbore to explain that he was detaining his
visitor until an aide-de-camp had ransacked the archives for an
undoubted autograph of Marshal Lannes with which the letter brought by
the Spaniard could be compared. For nearly half an hour the two chatted
on indifferent subjects, the Spaniard growing more and more impatient,
the Frenchman more and more apologetic.  At last the aide-de-camp
entered, and handed a document to the general, which the latter keenly
scrutinized.

"I am glad to say, monsieur," he said, rising, "that I find his
excellency’s letter perfectly in order.  I am delighted to make the
acquaintance of one who, as the marshal informs me, has done good
service to the emperor and to France, and, let us hope, to Spain.
Captain Broussier will see that you are granted the most complete
facilities for a private interview with the man José Pinzon. I
understand that he is at present delirious—fever, monsieur, carries off
too many of our prisoners,—but he has lucid intervals.  For any service
I may be able to render you, command me."

Captain Broussier led the way from the general’s quarters near the Place
d’Armes, across the St. Esprit bridge that spanned the Adour, to the
grim citadel in which some hundreds of prisoners, Spanish, Portuguese,
and English, were immured.  Passing under the massive archway, they
entered the great courtyard in which the unhappy captives were allowed
to take exercise; some were sitting, the picture of dejection; others
maintaining the semblance of cheerfulness; many endeavouring to add, by
basket-weaving and similar light occupations possible within prison
walls, to the wretched subsistence allowance doled out to French
prisoners of war.  A group of Spaniards, looking up as the two officers
passed through the courtyard, caught sight of the afrancesado, and as
they did so their attitude underwent an instant and extraordinary
change.  Listlessness gave place to the most intense interest; every man
showed, each in his own way, the most passionate hatred of the
new-comer.  But for the presence of the two French sentries in the
courtyard, and half a dozen more in the guard-house beyond the gate,
they would have thrown themselves upon him as he passed.  He caught the
look of murder in their eyes and paled visibly, shrinking as if for
protection closer to his companion, who noted the action and its cause,
and smiled questioningly.

"Some men of—the opposite party—in Saragossa. Misguided, but dangerous;
they bear me no good-will."

"If appearances go for anything, monsieur, those basket knives of theirs
would have some pretty work to do but for the bayonets of our men
yonder."

The Spaniard winced.  He was clearly relieved when they passed from the
courtyard into a long corridor leading to the room used as a hospital
for the prisoners. There were several occupants, many in the last stage
of disease, and the captain, having directed that a screen should be
placed round the bed of the patient whom the visitor had come to see,
left hastily.  A visit to the hospital of the citadel was not without
its dangers, for prison fever was no respecter of persons.

Upon a low truckle-bed in one corner of the room a man, shrunken to a
skeleton, lay stretched, apparently at the point of death.  He was
conscious, for the light in his eyes was clear although dim, but so weak
was his breathing, so wasted his figure, that at any moment it seemed
the wan flame of life might flicker out.  He turned his gaze slowly upon
the stranger as he approached; then there came into his eyes the same
look of inextinguishable hatred that had transfigured the wretched
prisoners in the courtyard.

"Traidor!"

It was a mere movement of the lips, from which no sound issued; but the
visitor, already unnerved, started as if stung; his face flushed,
bringing into relief the livid scar across his brow.  Then, collecting
himself with an effort, he said, ignoring the unspoken insult:

"It pains me, my good José, to find you thus—sick and a prisoner.  I
have come a long way to see you, to bring you freedom—for the sake of
old times.  Fortunately I am not too late.  A few more days in this
place would have killed you; but we shall soon see what liberty and good
nursing will do, eh, my friend?"

An eager light came into the sick man’s eyes.  In his feeble state he
was unable to grasp the full import of what his visitor was saying.  He
was only capable of mastering one idea at a time.  The word "liberty"
had sent a sudden flash of colour into his cheek.  The mere prospect of
freedom, dim though it was, had banished for a brief moment his mortal
antipathy to the man beside him.  The walls of his prison-house fell
asunder; he saw himself once again among his own people, the trusted
servant of a beloved mistress whom he had sworn to serve, and whom his
capture had left unprotected, exposed to all the dangers of a besieged
city.  The other, watching him keenly, was quick to note the changed
expression of his face; and without giving the weakened intelligence
time for ordered thought, he continued in the same tone of kindly
interest:

"But I must first give you news of the señorita.  I know, my good José,
you care nothing for yourself.  It is of her you think.  I honour your
fidelity; it is because of that that I am here."

"What of her?  Tell me!" whispered the sick man. The voice was scarcely
audible, but the eyes showed an agony of doubt and apprehension; he had
wholly forgotten his distrust.  He moved as if to raise himself; but he
was unable to lift his head from the pillow.

"Make your mind easy; she is well, quite well.  I left her with the wife
of the old porter.  She is a worthy woman, and devoted to the señorita.
My influence with the government of King Joseph ensured the safety of
your mistress after the fall of the city.  She sends you the kindest
messages.  When you did not return from that brave sortie, she feared
you were dead, and she grieved. But I learnt that you were a prisoner,
and when I told her she clasped her hands and cried for joy, and bade me
come at once to find you.  ’Tell my good José that I shall know no peace
until I am assured of his safety. I pray for him.  He is much in my
thoughts.’"

The sick man’s eyes filled with tears.  He would have lifted his hand to
dash them away, but his strength was unequal to the effort.  The visitor
continued, his accent carefully modulated, gentle, persuasive:

"But, alas! my good friend, she is poor, very poor. The house in
Saragossa is destroyed, burned during the siege.  The house at Morata is
pillaged by brigands. There is no rent from the estate; the people are
all dispersed; and the good aunt is dead.  The worthy porter and his
wife have scarcely enough to keep themselves. It is terrible, this war;
would that all good Spaniards thought with me that it is best to make
peace with the king!"

The speaker bent forward, intently watching the effect of these words.
As he had expected, a look of keen distress crossed the prisoner’s face.
Again he strove to rise, as if by raising himself he could shake off his
intolerable weakness.  He was suffering acutely.  The visitor was silent
for a while, giving the imagination of the sick man full play.  Then he
continued:

"I, alas! can do little to help.  I am poor, my good José, miserably
poor.  I have sacrificed all—you will know how.  I would willingly share
my last crust with the señorita, but in this fatal war so many things
may happen. I begged her to take shelter in a convent, but she would
not; brave girl, she would stay to help her people!  ’José,’ she said,
’could assist us if only he were free.  He alone knows what my poor
father has done to provide for me. Go to him, Miguel; tell him of our
distress; he will find a means of helping us.’"

"What would you wish me to do?"

The visitor, bending low, caught the whispered words. The man’s clear
eyes were upon him, and he checked the involuntary expression of
satisfaction that crossed his face. But, instantaneous though it was,
the sick man, strangely sensitive to shades of tone and manner, seemed
to be instinctively aware of it, and the other was clearly ill at ease
under his searching gaze.

"Well, my good José," he said hesitatingly, "your illness places us in a
difficulty.  I have here an order for your release" (he drew from his
pocket a blue paper which might or might not be what he described); "I
hoped that we should have been able to return to Spain together.  You
could have then placed the señorita beyond the reach of want; for from
what she told me it is clear that your master left a large sum in your
charge. But, alas! you are not at present able to travel.  The best plan
that I can think of is that you send the señorita instructions where she
can find her property—you can either write her a letter or give me the
message,—and I will see that you are released and nursed back to health.
You can return to Spain when you are fit to travel."

The sick man feebly shook his head, whispering:

"I must not tell—anything.  I swore it."

"Yes, you swore it, and you have kept your oath.  But it was never Don
Fernan’s wish that the señorita should be allowed to—to starve while her
fortune remained hidden.  It is your duty to be guided by
circumstances—by common sense."

The other winced, but still replied: "I cannot; I swore it.  Not till
the war is over."

Then, a ripple of impatience showing above his suave manner, the visitor
said hastily:

"Certainly, but the war is over; the fall of Saragossa finished the war.
Joseph is again king in Madrid."

"You are mistaken, Señor.  If what you say is true, the war is only just
beginning."  There was a light in the man’s eyes, a fierce energy in his
whispered words, that seemed first to embarrass, then to anger his
visitor.

"Well, my friend, if you will not listen to reason, if you prefer to
allow your mistress to starve, I can do nothing more.  I will give her
your message."  He rose from his seat.  "And I shall at least have the
satisfaction of being able to add that such an ungrateful rascal is
dead; for in this hole you won’t live another week, and you can’t expect
me to do anything for your release."

"Stay!"

The afrancesado caught the word and halted expectantly as he was turning
away.  With a supreme effort the sick man had raised himself on his
elbow, and, struggling hard for breath, gasped out:

"Liar!  Traitor!  Spy!  Do you think—I do not—do not see you—for what
you are?  Go back—go back, accursed afrancesado, to those who
have—bought you.  Out of my sight!  The price of blood!—Judas!—the doom
of Judas—awaits you—the doom—of—Judas!"

The afrancesado recoiled as at the stroke of a lash; then an ugly look
crossed his face, and his hand sought the hilt of his knife.  But even
as it did so the man sank back half insensible, the gleam of fierce rage
faded from his face, and while Miguel was hesitating whether to stay or
go, the prisoner began to talk in a low but distinct voice, as repeating
a lesson he had learned by heart.

"Yes, Señor, dear master, I swear it.  I will watch over the señorita as
long as I have life; I swear it.  None shall ever know except the señor
Ingles.  In the garden—the old—"

His voice was dying away again into a whisper; the afrancesado bent
eagerly over him to catch the feeble tones, and when he rose a look of
mingled greed and malignant triumph shone in his eyes.  He waited for a
while longer, while the sick man continued to babble in the same strain,
his voice occasionally rising so that it could plainly be heard by the
sufferers in the neighbouring beds.  Murmurs arose, and, helpless as
they were, their mutterings struck the heart of the afrancesado with a
cold chill of dread.  Rising, and throwing one hurried backward glance
at the now silent figure on the bed, he hastened from the room, pursued
by the vengeful glance of all who were conscious enough to recognize
him.

An hour later the sick man opened his eyes and looked around, as though
fearing to meet once more the traitor’s malign glance.

"What is that you were saying about a promise, and a garden, and a
señorita?" whispered the prisoner in the next bed.

"Saying!  When?" he asked with a note of mortal anguish.

"Just now, when the vile afrancesado was with you. Have you forgotten?"

The man waited a moment, expecting a reply.  None came; the man had
fainted.


The afrancesado did not leave Bayonne that night as he intended.
Stricken with the prison fever, he took to his bed, and there lay for
several weeks, tended with unstinted care by his one-eyed servant.  When
he recovered from his delirium he was eager to set out, as soon as his
strength permitted, on his return journey to Spain, and was amazed to
hear from the French commandant that he must consider himself a
prisoner.

"Nonsense!" he said; "la prisoner!  What have you against me?"

"The prisoner you talked with in the sick ward, monsieur—"

"Is he dead?" asked Miguel eagerly.

"He may be, but his body has not been recovered. His health rapidly
mended from the day of your interview with him, and ten days ago he
escaped by swimming the Adour—a marvellous feat for a man in his
condition."

"Escaped!" screamed Miguel, starting up.  "I must go, I must go at once,
before it is too late!"

"Then you did not arrange the escape, monsieur?" said the Frenchman,
surprised at the other’s violence.

"Arrange it!  Am I a fool?  Am I mad?  Arrange the escape of my worst
enemy!  I must go!  He has gone to rob me; he will ruin me; I must go,
before it is too late!"

His agitation was so sincere that, after a consultation among the French
officers, the afrancesado was permitted, a few days later, to depart
with his servant, and they rode southward out of Bayonne at a furious
pace, the stones clattering, the dust flying behind, and all who saw
them staring after them in amazement.



                            *CHAPTER XXXIII*

                           *Palafox the Name*


Nonplussed—In the Convent—A Warning—The Key—Permutations and
Combinations—Light Ahead—Don Fernan’s Message


One day the guerrilla camp in the mountains was thrown into some
excitement by the sudden reappearance of Pepito.  All the guerrilleros
by this time knew something of the strange complications in which the
English señor was involved.  They had been constantly on the look-out
for the gipsy boy whom he was so anxious to see; and when, on this sunny
morning, the boy was seen bounding up the hillside, they flocked to him
in a crowd, crying "Qué hay de nuevo?  Qué hay de nuevo?"  Pepito made
them no answer.  He had already caught sight of his master sitting some
yards above him, and rushed forward with a piercing cry of delight.

"Found, Señor!" he shouted.  "Found!"

Jack needed no telling who was found.

"Where is she?" he asked.

"Glad Señor is well, glad Señor is well!" shouted the little fellow.
"The Señorita will be glad too.  Oh, she will!  When I told the
Señorita—"

"Where is she?" repeated Jack impatiently.

"When I told the Señorita that Señor was ill, she jumped up; said she
must come; but the old Busna looked ugly; said no; and I come to fetch
Señor."

"Pepito, tell me at once where she is."

"Safe, at a convent near Cariñena, Señor, all among the trees and
flowers.  Señor can go, now he is well, and I know who will be pleased.
Yes, I know!"

"You’re a good boy, Pepito."  He turned to Dugdale. "Grampus, when shall
I be fit to ride?"

"Good heavens!  Not for a long time.  Look here, Lumsden, I’m not going
to have my cure spoilt and my career ruined by you going raiding before
you’re fit. Don’t laugh.  I’m in dead earnest.  I’m sick and tired of
playing the fool at Oxford.  As soon as I get home I’m going to be a
doctor.  New idea, you know; fresh air and cold water.  The pater will
laugh himself into a fit when I tell him; but don’t you see, if you back
me up, and I can show you as my first case—why, bet you the old boy
comes round and doubles my allowance, to encourage me.  See?"

"All right!" said Jack, laughing.  "But you must finish my cure quickly,
for the instant I can manage it I’m going to ride over to Cariñena."

"What for?  What is there special about Cariñena?"

"Well, I’ve a—a friend there I want specially to see."

"H’m!  A friend?  Bet you my first year’s fees it’s a girl.  Now look
here, Lumsden, don’t be a fool.  An Englishman oughtn’t to marry till
he’s thirty at least. I’ve got ten years yet, and it won’t be too much.
It takes time to be able to face a girl without flinching, and for my
part I’d rather learn Greek verbs than—"

"Oh, shut up!" exclaimed Jack.  "Who said anything about marrying?
Juanita—"

"Oho!  Juanita!  Sorry for you, my boy; no cure for that complaint.
Well, I’ll take care of you, but it’ll be a long time yet before you can
ride."

Nearly a month passed away before Jack, after a few experiments, was
pronounced fit to undertake the ride to Cariñena.  The period of waiting
was diversified by one or two expeditions against French convoys, in
which Antonio achieved brilliant successes.  Jack chafed at being
obliged to remain inactive, and to share in these raids merely in
imagination.  He spent hour after hour in attempting to decipher the
postscript of Don Fernan’s letter, always without success.  Remembering
the enigmatical phrase in the letter he himself had received in
Salamanca, "Palafox the Man, Palafox the Name", he believed that the key
must be contained in that; but though he tried to fit it to the ciphered
message, and made considerable demands on Dugdale’s patience, he drew no
nearer to solving the puzzle, and finally gave it up in disgust.

At length the day arrived when, feeling well and strong, he set off on
his ride to the convent.  Pepito had several times conveyed verbal
messages between him and Juanita, but nothing had been committed to
paper for fear lest it should fall into the hands of the French.  Guided
by the boy, who rode before him, he reached the convent in the afternoon
of a beautiful April day, and was at once admitted to the presence of
Juanita, with whom he found the old duenna he had seen in Saragossa.

Though Juanita greeted him with as much cordiality as ever, he was
conscious of a slight difference in her manner; there was not quite the
same frank comradeship she had shown in Saragossa.

"I am very glad to see you looking so well, Jack," she said.  "Will you
take a cup of chocolate?"

"Thanks!" replied Jack briefly.  He sipped it for a brief interval
without speaking, then said suddenly: "I say, Juanita, I am mighty glad
you escaped, you know. It was good of Padre Consolacion to help
you—after trying to persuade you to marry Miguel, too.  Tell me about
it."

Without her usual animation Juanita recounted how she had been captured
as she neared Morata by a party of troopers, among whom she had
recognized Perez, Miguel’s one-eyed man.  She had been treated kindly
enough by the wife of a colonel of chasseurs, who, however, irritated
her beyond endurance by constant reference to her approaching marriage.
Miguel himself had only seen her once.  He had asked what had become of
her father’s old servant José, and shown some annoyance when she refused
to answer.  But she had had another and a more frequent visitor.  After
the capitulation, Padre Consolacion had been surprised to find that,
though he had been as consistent an opponent as Don Basilio and Santiago
Sass, he had not met with the same fate at the hands of the French.  He
could only conclude that he owed his security to the good offices of
Miguel, whom, however, he now held in utter abhorrence.  Making his
escape from the city, he had gone into hiding at Morata, where he soon
learnt of what had befallen Juanita.  It was not difficult for him, with
the assistance of the people of the house, to obtain secret interviews
with her.  On the day before Miguel went with Commissary Taberne on the
foraging expedition, Juanita learnt from the colonel’s wife that
pressure was to be brought to bear in high quarters for the purpose of
bringing about her marriage with Don Miguel.  She sent a message by a
secret channel to Padre Consolacion, informing him of this alarming
news. On the next evening, almost at the moment when Jack was surprising
the commissary, she had slipped out of the house in the dress of one of
the Spanish maid-servants, fled to where the priest was awaiting her,
and by him was escorted to the convent, where she was joined in a few
days by the duenna, after the sudden swoop of Antonio had cleared the
place of French.

"The padre is a trump," said Jack.  "I confess I didn’t like him in
Saragossa; but then, of course, he hadn’t found Miguel out.  I thought
he must be either stupid or something worse.  I shall do him more
justice in future."

He would not perhaps have been so cordial if he had known that it was to
Padre Consolacion he owed the strange alteration in Juanita’s manner
which had puzzled him.  When he left her in the convent, the padre’s
last words had been: "Now, querida mia, though I have helped you to
escape a marriage with a traitor and a villain, remember I shall not
approve, I shall forbid, your marriage with a heretic.  You will
understand me."

All unconscious of this, Jack waxed eloquent in praise of the padre, and
went on: "Well now, I’ve something to tell you besides what you have
heard from Pepito.  You remember that a letter left with General Palafox
for my father disappeared—a letter about your property?"

"Yes.  I hate the sound of the word ’property’."

"I have the letter.  It was—perhaps you guess—in the possession of
Miguel."

He proceeded to tell the whole story.  Juanita listened with growing
interest, and when it was concluded every trace of her stiffness had
passed away.

"Ah, Jack!" she cried, "now we can get this wretched treasure that has
nearly cost your life—for but for it you would never have come to
Saragossa—and then—oh! do you think we can get away to England?"

"I’m very sorry, Juanita.  I was just going to tell you that I’m afraid
we can’t get the treasure."

"Why not?  You said the letter was about it."

"So it is.  But, unfortunately, the secret of its whereabouts is locked
up in a postscript—a single line of capital letters, which I can’t read.
It is in cipher."

"Show it to me.  You have it with you?"

Jack took out the paper, and unfolded it before her. She read over the
postscript letter by letter:

S E O S F L S A E O A P E J E J P J J F J P J X P A P P F


"Certainly a most curious-looking sentence," said Juanita.  "And have
you no clue at all?"

"None whatever.  I thought I had.  I made sure I had, but when I tried
to work it out in the cipher it proved useless."

"What was it?"

"Well, I had never told anyone.  Your father said I was to burn the
letter as soon as I received it, and I did so; but now that things have
altogether changed, there can be no harm in telling you all about it.
In the letter I received at Salamanca, Don Fernan said that I was to
remember the phrase, ’Palafox the Man, Palafox the Name’.  It occurred
to me, of course, that the clue to the cipher might be found in that
phrase; but, try it as I might, I couldn’t make anything of it.  You
see, the cipher message contains all the letters of the word Palafox,
but there are a number of J’s and other letters that have nothing to do
with it."

"And you gave it up!" exclaimed Juanita, with some scorn.  "Just like a
boy!"

"Really, Juanita—" began Jack, but she interrupted him.

"Don’t talk.  Let me see if I’ve a little more perseverance. I count six
P’s, three A’S, one L, three F’s, two O’s, and one X; that accounts for
PALAFOX.  Why are there so many P’s?  Besides, there are four E’S, six
J’s, and three S’s.  What can EJS stand for?  EJS, ESJ, JES, JSE—I see
it! Take an O out of PALAFOX and you have JOSÉ.  That is the name of our
old servant, and of the Captain-General too. Now, do you see, Señor Don
Juan?—the key to the cipher is JOSÉ PALAFOX."

"What an ass I am!" said Jack.  "It never struck me that Palafox’s
Christian name might be included.  But what then?  The only ciphering I
ever did was in money sums, and weights and measures.  How do you work
out the thing now?"

"Why, it’s clear that my father’s message is made up of the words JOSÉ
PALAFOX, which have only nine different letters.  It’s not likely that
the message contains only nine letters; therefore one letter of the
cipher probably stands for several, and I shouldn’t wonder if all the
letters of the alphabet were represented by those nine.  Suppose we put
down the letters of the alphabet and the other letters underneath, and
see what can be made of it then."

"We don’t know what language it is in."

"Probably Spanish, like the letter itself.  Let us try."

She wrote down the twenty-seven letters of the Spanish alphabet, and
under each the corresponding letter of the key words:—

    a b c ch d e f g h i j l ll m n ñ o p q r s t u v x y z
    J O S  E P A L A F O X J  O S E P A L A F O X J O S E P


"There you are, Jack.  Now look.  The first letter of the cipher, s, may
stand for either _c_ or _m_ or _x_; we can’t tell which of the three
until we get a little further."

"It’s a pretty puzzle," said Jack.  "The next letter is E; that may be
either _ch_ or _n_ or _y_, and if we put either of them after _c_, _m_,
or _x_, we sha’n’t begin to make any Spanish word that I know of."

"No," agreed Juanita, putting her pencil to her lips. "It looks as if
the sentence can’t be Spanish."

"Don Fernan wrote to me in English.  Let us try that. I’ll do it this
time."

Jack wrote down the letters of the English alphabet, placing the
key-words below as before:—

    a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z
    J O S E P A L A F O X J O S E P A L A F O X J O S E


"S is either _c_, _n_, or _y_ this time, and E is either _d_, _o_, or
_a_. We can drop _d_ and _e_, because they can’t follow any of the first
three; that leaves _co_, _no_, and _yo_.  This is getting interesting,
Juanita."

"Yes, I am getting quite excited.  Now for the next letter, O.  That can
stand for _b_, _j_, _m_, _u_, _x_.  I’ll write down all the
combinations, and see how they look."

They were fifteen, as follows:—

    cob nob yob
    coj noj yoj
    com nom yom
    cou nou you
    cox nox yox


"Some of these are too comical for anything," said Jack; "but we’ve one
complete word, _you_.  Let us see what the next comes to.  S again;
that’s _c_, _n_, or _y_.  Then F; that’s _i_ or _t_.  No English word
begins with _ct_, _nt_, or _yt_, so _t_ goes out.  Now for L; that’s _g_
or _r_; and the combinations now are:—

    cig   nig   yig
    cir   nir   yir

I say, your father wouldn’t begin by addressing me as ’you nigger’,
would he?  The next letter is S; _c_, _n_, or _y_ again. Not a single
one of them helps to make a word.  We are on the wrong track, Juanita."

"Perhaps the first word is not _you_ at all."

"Well, let’s go back and see how many of the fifteen combinations of the
first three letters will fit on to the fourth.  It’s quite clear that
you can’t make a word by putting c or y after any of them; there’s only
n left, and all we can make is _coun_ and _noun_.  Don Fernan wouldn’t
go in for grammar, would he?  If we drop _noun_ we’ve only coun, and
that looks most unlikely."

"Be quick with the next letter, Jack.  Why do you talk so much?  I could
jump with excitement."

"Don’t be in a hurry; perhaps the whole thing will come to grief again.
The next letter is F; that stands for _i_ or _t_; _i_ won’t do, but _t_
will, and we get _count_; that’s a word at any rate.  I wonder what
we’re to count. Now for L; that’s _g_ or _r_; and S again; that’s _c_,
_n_, or _y_.  And unless I’m a Dutchman, that makes the word _country_."

Juanita clapped her hands and laughed.

"You _are_ getting clever!" she said.

The irony escaped Jack, who was busy working out the next word.  In a
few minutes he had made out _house_.

"Country house!" exclaimed Juanita.  "Oh, you are slow, Jack; do be
quick!  What about the country house?"

But the same process had to be gone through with every letter, and it
was quite half an hour before the whole message was deciphered.  The
excitement of Juanita and himself increased with every fresh discovery,
and when the task was finished, and the simple English words were
written down, each gave a gasp of relief.  The message consisted of but
six words:—

_Country house old well twelve feet_.


"I see it!  I see it all!" exclaimed Juanita.  "Oh, Jack, we shall get
it after all!  I don’t care for the treasure itself one bit really, not
one bit; but I could dance with joy at defeating that wretch Miguel, and
I should like to have some money to give to the poor people ruined in
Saragossa.  You must go, Jack.  The well is in the garden behind the
house, near the wall.  It has not been used for many years; we got water
from a new well by the kitchen.  Only to think that all is coming right
after all!"

"Yes," said Jack; "Pepito and I will go to-morrow. How deep is the well,
Juanita?"

"I don’t know.  It doesn’t matter.  Twelve feet means something.  You
will find out what, Jack.  And then—"

"Then, Juanita, for England!"



                            *CHAPTER XXXIV*

                        *Dead Men Tell no Tales*


The Old Well—A Voice—Visions—Infimis


"It is locked, Señor."

Pepito had dismounted at the gate of the Casa Alvarez on the hillside.

"Shout, Pepito," replied Jack from the saddle of his mule.  "Perhaps the
old man will hear us from the house."

The gipsy put his hands to his mouth, and called shrilly.  There was no
answer, no sound save the hum of bees and the song of birds.

"We must climb the wall, then," said Jack, springing to the ground.

"See, Señor, a face in the bush!" cried Pepito, pointing through the
iron railings into the garden.

Looking, Jack saw, framed in the foliage of a dense laurel, the face of
the old gardener.

"Adelante, hombre!" he said.

Instantly the face vanished.  Jack called again; no voice answered, no
footstep was heard.  The two riders tied their steeds to trees in the
plantation on the right, then scaled the wall and hastened towards the
house.

Nearly two months had elapsed since Jack’s night adventure. He was
struck by the alteration in the place.  It had looked untidy,
ill-cared-for, then; it was now a wilderness. Flowers and shrubs bloomed
in unchecked luxuriance; hollyhocks drooped their heavy heads, sprays of
woodbine twined in and out among the laurels, unpruned vines crept over
the weedy paths, the sweltering air was sickly with mingled perfumes.
The house stood white and brown in the glowing sunlight; lush creepers
almost hid the door; the dry wood-work was blistered, the lattices
falling away; all was decay, silence, and desolation.

It was high noon of a sultry summer day, yet Jack shivered.  He rapped
at the door.  There was no response save an echo.  He walked round the
house; every window was shuttered, every door barred.  He went on down
the garden at the back, following the directions given him by Juanita,
and Pepito crept along behind him, his big eyes wide with awe.  A
vulture flew up in front, and clattered away on creaking wings.  He
stepped from the path, and pushed his way through tangled shrubs and
matted undergrowth towards a broad chestnut in the angle of the wall.
Tendrils of convolvulus clung around his feet, the scent of thyme came
in gusts with the cloying odour of gardenias. Suddenly the rank
vegetation ceased, and before him, in a clear space, he saw the circular
covering of the old well.

Frame and winch had been removed.  A broken moss-grown bucket lay hard
by; near it was a long bar of wood. Around the well was a broad patch of
soft black earth. As Jack approached to remove the wooden cover from the
well-mouth, Pepito touched him on the arm.

"Marks, Señor!" he said under his breath; "footsteps, and marks of a
mule’s hoofs; fresh, Señor; made to-day."

Jack started.  A green lizard, sunning itself at the edge of the well,
disappeared in a flash.  He saw the hoof-marks in the soil; his heart
sank with a sudden misgiving.  The well-cover seemed to have been
clumsily replaced.

"Help me lift it," said Jack.

They removed the heavy cover.  The well opened black before them.
Pepito peered over the edge; he saw nothing; there was neither rope nor
ladder.

"How can we get down?" said Jack.

Looking around, he saw what appeared to be the end of a ladder
projecting from beneath a bush.  He dragged it out; a snake dropped from
it and vanished in the grass; it was a ladder some sixteen feet long.

"It will not reach the bottom of the well," said Jack. His eye caught
the bar of wood.

"Bring me that, Pepito."

He laid it across the well-mouth; on its mossy side there was a dull
splash of red.  The bar stretched across the opening.  Lifting it again,
Jack gave it to Pepito, and, taking the ladder, lowered this into the
well till only the topmost rungs were above the brickwork.

"Put the wood through," he said.

Thus the ladder hung dangling on its support, fifteen feet into the
well.  Pepito looked at his master enquiringly.

"Yes, you are to climb down.  Stay!" he added, as the boy prepared to
step down on to the swinging ladder.

He took some papers from his pocket, twisted them into a loose mass, and
wound about them the end of a long vine tendril.  Then he kindled them
from his tinder-box, and let the flaming mass down quickly into the
well.  It burned until it was consumed.

"There is air enough.  Go down, Pepito."

He steadied the ladder as the boy descended step by step.  Jack counted
twelve rungs, then ordered the boy to stop.

"Do you see anything, Pepito?"

A few moments passed.  The gipsy’s eyes were adjusting themselves to the
gloom.

"A hole, Señor, a big hole in the wall."

"Can you get into it?"

"No, Señor, it is on the other side, too far away."

Bidding the boy ascend, Jack shifted the ladder across the bar.  Pepito
went down again, and soon Jack heard his muffled voice exclaim that he
was in the hole.

"Do you find anything there?  Search thoroughly."

A minute passed.  Jack was crouched at the brink, holding the joists of
the ladder firmly with both hands.

"There is nothing, Señor; all emptiness."

"Come up again."

He stepped out on to the brickwork, and Jack rose to his feet.

"Dead! dead! dead!" said a quavering voice behind him.

He turned with a nervous start.  While he had been engaged at the well,
a figure had been slowly approaching from a thicket of laurel,
furtively, with hesitation, stopping for a moment, then taking another
unsteady step and stopping again.  Jack recognized the old gardener, but
how altered!  His limbs shook as with a palsy; his lips mumbled without
sound; his eyes were wild.

"What is it, hombre?" said Jack quietly without moving.

The old man stood as if listening.  Then, raising his shaking right
hand, the long fingers working convulsively, he murmured:

"I saw it! ... Dead!"

Then he smiled, a thin wan smile, and tottering forward pointed
waveringly to the well.  Jack recoiled.  The old man’s smile was more
awful than a sob of agony.

"They came through the gate;" he pointed across the garden to the
farther wall.  "There were two; I was hidden in the copse; I watched
them.  I watched them. They brought a mule; it was a fine mule, with gay
trappings,—a fine mule..."  The old man passed his hand across his brow.
"What was I saying?  I have forgotten."

"They brought a mule," said Jack.

"Yes, they brought a mule.  They led it across the garden, trampling
down the poor flowers—my flowers!  I saw them!  There were two.  One was
in front—the cursed afrancesado; I knew him; yes, did I not serve him at
my master’s table? the afrancesado!  He was in front; behind him a man,
a long thin man, a one-eyed man, with the mule.  They crushed the
flowers—my flowers ... what was I saying?"

"They came across the garden," said Jack.

"They came across the garden.  They came here, here! where we are
standing.  The man, the one-eyed man, fastened the mule to yonder tree;
then they stooped down and lifted the cover.  It was heavy...I watched
them. They peered down into the well, into the deep well, but they could
see nothing.  Then the tall man, the man with the one eye, went away;
the other, the afrancesado, the cursed afrancesado, waited, and while he
waited he cast pebbles into the well ... horrible! horrible!"  He
covered his eyes with his hand, as if to shut out some dreadful thing.
"What was I saying?"

"The tall man came back," said Jack.

"The tall man came back; he brought a ladder; he fetched a beam, that
beam, and they let down the ladder into the well, the deep well ... I
watched them.  ’Twelve steps,’ said the afrancesado, the cursed
afrancesado, and the tall man, the man with the one eye, went down ...
Twelve steps! ... The other, the afrancesado, bent over; there was a
noise below; the afrancesado said ’Bien!’—I heard him.  Then the man,
the long man, the man with the one eye, came up, slowly; there was a
box, a heavy box; the other took it, and the man, the one-eyed man, went
down, ... twelve steps ... He came up again; there was another box, a
small box.  I knew it; it was the master’s.  Then he went down again,
... twelve steps, ... and the other, the afrancesado, the accursed
afrancesado, drew his knife, silently; it flashed in the sun; I watched
him..."  The old man stared fixedly before him.  "What was I saying?" he
whispered.

"He drew his knife," said Jack.

"He drew his knife," said the old man, still in a whisper.  "The other,
the long man, the man with one eye, came slowly, slowly, up.  He
stretched his left hand for the box, he raised the arm with the knife.
He was behind him.  He leant forward; I saw him—him, and the long man,
the man with one eye—he drove it between his shoulders..."

The old man made as if to brush a cobweb from before his eyes.

"Horrible! horrible! ... down! down! down! ...  What was I saying?"



                             *CHAPTER XXXV*

                                 *Doom*


Outcast—Spectres—Conscience—Tracked—Vanity—Scylla—
Charybdis—José—Faithful unto Death


Within a few miles of Calatayud, a narrow path, little more than a
foot-track, leads down from the hills on to the highroad to Saragossa.
Just before joining the highway, the path winds between two low bluffs
that screen it from the sight of wayfarers below.  Indeed, any muleteer
or arriero unacquainted with the country might almost pass unawares the
spot where road and hill-path meet, so completely is it hidden by the
ash-gray contours of the hills.

About the time when Jack dismounted at the gate of the Casa Alvarez, a
man was making his way downward along this narrow track, urging a
heavily-laden mule with low cries to hasten its flagging pace.  He was a
young man, in the costume of a muleteer; his cheeks were pale and
sunken, his eyes unnaturally bright.  Every now and again he would throw
an anxious backward glance over his shoulder, not consciously, as if he
feared pursuit, but as though in obedience to some impulse of which he
was hardly aware.

When he approached the point where the track joined the road he stepped
to the mule’s head and brought the animal to a stand-still, looking from
left to right as if in doubt.  After a moment’s hesitation he tied the
mule to one of the rare saplings that grew at the side of the track, and
advanced warily towards the highway, pausing at short intervals, and
bending his head forward to listen. There was no sound save the silver
trill of a lark far above, and the soughing of a light breeze as it
lapped the edges of the hills.  The man moved forward again, still more
cautiously; rounding a knoll, he came to the road, that stretched in
gentle undulations for several hundreds of yards in a straight line east
and west.  No one was in sight.  The man gave a sigh of relief, followed
by one of those quick uneasy backward glances that seemed to be habitual
with him.  Rapidly scanning the road once more, he returned to the mule,
released the bridle from the tree, and slowly led the laden animal down
the path.

He was within a dozen paces of the dusty highway when he halted
suddenly, dragging heavily upon the reins.  His dusky, olive-hued
features paled, the hand that grasped the bridle trembled nervously; his
whole attitude was one of dire apprehension.  For a moment he stood
intently listening, his eyes fixed in a wide stare; then, wheeling the
mule sharply round and prodding the weary beast desperately with the
knife he drew from his belt, he raced back along the track.  For a full
quarter of a mile he continued his upward course; then he stopped, and
again turned his head towards the road in the attitude of listening.  At
first he could hear nothing but the throbbing of his heart and the quick
breathing of the mule by his side; but gradually the clatter of many
hoofs on the hard road became more and more audible through the clear
air, though the horsemen were hidden from view by the obstructing hills.
They arrived at what he judged to be the place he had just left.  He
heard "Halt!" in a rough stentorian tone.  The voice was Spanish, and
its effect on the anxious listening man was as that of a galvanic shock.
With a smothered cry he dashed forward, dragging the unwilling mule,
which he goaded with alternate stabs of the knife and whispered words
half of menace half of entreaty.

There was no halting now.  For mile after mile they continued their
flight, until, when both mule and man were exhausted, they at length
stopped at the edge of a wild gorge high up in the mountains.  There,
for the first time since he fled the voice, the man looked carefully
around. The place was evidently new to him.  In his flight he had
diverged at the first opportunity from the track, along which he had
come, not then alone, earlier in the day. The new path was more
difficult than the old; it wound away from his obvious destination; it
led, indeed, almost due north into the heart of the mountain country—the
Sierra de Moncayo, the precipitous granite range where King Æolus had
his mythic throne.  But the fugitive knew not, cared not, whither he
went, so long as it was away from the voice of his countrymen.  And he
avoided, with the shrinking of dread, the track he knew.

One thing was remarkable during his late impetuous flight.  He seemed to
have forgotten his strange trick of glancing backward over his shoulder.
Many times he turned half round to see if he was followed, but
consciously, less abjectly, for all his panic fear.

When he had rested for a few minutes, he rose and carefully scanned the
surrounding country, debating with himself what course to follow.  His
view was circumscribed by the irregular masses of bare rock and sparsely
wooded slopes that formed the horizon.  But he appeared at last to have
made up his mind, for, pulling the mule slowly round on the narrow
track, he took a few steps as if to return in the direction from which
he had come. But his bearing was timid, uncertain, vacillating, and when
a mountain eagle swept from its eyry, and screamed just above his head,
he started as if struck, hauled his poor beast feverishly across the
track, and once more pressed in hot haste towards the north.

For some time he marched on rapidly.  Then the fatigue of travelling
over the steep uneven track again made itself felt; his pace slackened;
he moved along behind the mule as if mechanically, while mechanically he
still urged it forward with his knife.  For minutes at a stretch he
seemed as in a dream, immersed in dark thought.  Again he glanced
fearfully backward, not as though seeking a visible object of menace,
not at the frowning hills, but with eyes that attempted to pierce the
infinite for a something beyond.  At moments he started from his waking
nightmare to a full consciousness of his position among these bleak
inhospitable hills.  The phantoms dogging his thoughts then vanished,
giving place to real cares—physical pain, a sense of desolation.  At
such times he searched anxiously for a path to the west, whereby making
a circuit he might reach his goal, avoiding the highroad, where he had
so narrowly escaped the hands of his countrymen the guerrilleros.  But
the track wound on, swerving sometimes to right or left, yet leading
remorselessly northward, no by-path branching towards Calatayud.  He
dared not turn back.  The danger of the road, had he known it, was past;
but the awful risk of capture made him sick with fear.  He plodded on,
sunk more and more in dark imaginings, until at last, when the red sun
was sinking below the distant purple peaks on his left, the mule
suddenly stopped, and, breathing heavily, dropped upon its knees.  The
poor brute was spent.  The man awoke with a start from his reverie.  He
was on the edge of a deep gully; giant rocks hemmed him in on either
side; the path—there was no path!  For the first time he realized that
the granite hills held him in their grip.

He looked at the mule, that lay with lolling tongue and starting eyes.
The animal was famished.  He had no food for it, none for himself; only
now was he conscious of his own gnawing hunger.  He loosened the girths,
and, removing the heavy panniers from the mule’s back, enabled it to
rise.  There was nothing to tie it to.  Sinking down on a flat rock, he
held the bridle and peered into the deepening gloom.  He dared not move
forward; one careless step in this wild place might hurl them both into
an abyss.  There he sat, and the darkness gathered, and the chill of
night wrapped him round.

What were his thoughts as he waited and endured? Who shall say?  Human
justice may falter, may be long upon the road; Eternal Justice is
instant, relentless, inevitable.  The sense of doom was upon this man,
as he held sombre vigil with the cold accusing stars.


It was an unkempt, haggard, agued figure that rose stiffly and dizzily
from his hard couch as soon as the pale dawn came creeping through the
narrow gully among the hills.  He could just see the mule standing
motionless a few yards away.  He shuddered as his eye fell upon the
brass-clamped coffers at its feet.  Then he moved as if to pass away,
leaving behind him both mule and treasure, the visible links that bound
him to the past.  But after a few staggering steps he hesitated, set his
teeth in desperate resolve, and returning, painfully lifted the boxes on
to the panniers, the mule standing with drooped ears, and shivering in
the raw air.  In the half-light he led the famished beast away from the
ravine, searching the rocky ground narrowly for marks of its track.
Here and there appeared a stone covered with gray lichen; at these the
mule halted and licked a scanty, bitter meal.  At one point a silver
rivulet poured from a fissure and fell clattering upon the rocks far
down the steep.  There Miguel dropped to his knees and drank with the
animal, then went on again.

It was nearly two hours before he saw, on the far side of a deep ravine,
a foot-path winding about a wall of rock. Was it the path he had left?
He did not know.  Only the guerrilleros he feared to meet could have
told him that but one other path led across these barren heights.
Leading the mule cautiously down one face of the ravine, he hauled it
with infinite difficulty up the other.  The poor beast, faint with
hunger, had scarcely strength to crawl when at last it scrambled with
its burden on to the track. But for the constant goad it would have
fallen by the way. The path ran north and south; Miguel hesitated which
direction to take.  Northward he would have to scale steeper heights,
but would increase his distance from the garden of his fear; southward,
he might reach Calatayud and safety with the French, but who knew what
danger might lie between?  As the question beat this way and that in his
tortured brain, his eyes lit upon a long, thin, jagged rock in which, in
the gloom of the preceding evening, he had marked with a shudder a
grotesque resemblance to a human form he would have given worlds to
forget.  Then he knew that he was upon the track from which he had
wandered; he would persevere in the attempt to find a cross-path to the
west.  Surely there must be one that would lead, by however long a
circuit, to his goal?

He turned wearily towards the north and instinctively glanced back
across the hills, now variously tinted by the ascending sun.  As he did
so his eyes dilated, and for some moments he stood as if rooted to the
ground.  In the clear distance two figures mounted on mules were coming
towards him.  Even while he looked he saw one, the smaller of the two,
pointing in his direction. The other drew rein for an instant, then both
urged their mules to a trot.  A bend in the path hid them from view, and
Miguel leapt round, knowing that he was in very truth a hunted man.  For
nearly a day he had been pursued by the phantom of his crime.  He had
run from the shadow of a sound, fled from the perils his own imagination
had created.  Terror of he knew not what had left him all unstrung.  But
now that vengeance dogged him in real bodily form his mind braced itself
to meet it.  Only for a moment did his heart quail with misgiving; he
reeled slightly, and clutched at the mule’s bridle for support; then,
recovering himself instantly, he struck the jaded beast, and with a
fierce cry drove it before him up the path.

Suddenly the track bent eastward, it ceased to rise, he seemed to be on
the northern slope of the watershed up which he had toiled during the
previous day.  He topped the crest.  The path stretched downwards before
him; and, scattering the loose stones to right and left, Miguel raced on
with the mule until at a turn in the track a vast and brilliant panorama
opened before his yearning eyes.  Below him, at the edge of the long
slope, stretched a rolling wooded country intersected by numerous
watercourses shining in the morning sun.  Far away on the horizon a
silver streak wound and doubled on itself. It must be the river Ebro.
Could he but gain the rich champaign below, he hoped that, for a time at
least, he would be safe.  In some copse or covert, vineyard or
olive-ground, even in the byways of some hamlet, he might find a
temporary refuge.  But with the thought itself its utter hopelessness
was borne in upon him.  His pursuers must be closing in fast, although
the windings of the track hid them from him when at intervals he turned
to see. Panting himself, he dragged his panting beast with reckless
haste, though in his inmost consciousness sure that the road was too
long, the time too short.  One solitary hope remained to him.  If he
left the mule with its retarding load, abandoned the prize for which he
had staked his all, he might perhaps even yet find some rocky defile,
some favouring grove, wherein to hide and baffle pursuit.  But no, the
renunciation was too great for his blighted soul. For the treasure he
had schemed and sinned; he could not, dared not, let it go.

Scrambling on down the mountain track, he spied at length, some hundreds
of feet below him, a narrow hillroad to which his headlong course must
lead him by and by.  Its farther side bordered a ravine.  The road
seemed near at hand, but as he continued his flight he found that the
downward track zigzagged on the face of the slope, so that sometimes two
or three of its coils lay immediately beneath him.  There was no shorter
way.  Approaching the end of the last of these windings, he was warned
by the clatter of dislodged stones that his pursuers were now hard upon
his heels.  He threw a quick glance upward; there, two hundred feet
above him, the riders crossed his sight, following at headlong speed the
first winding of the track.  Without pause he raced staggeringly along.

All unknowing, he had himself been watched for some time from below.  At
the edge of the hill-road, hidden from him by a jutting mass of rock, a
man was resting, seated on a boulder, eating a frugal meal from a wallet
hung at his neck.  He was a gaunt, hollow-eyed man, with wasted cheeks;
thin, unkempt locks straggled from beneath his cap; his long tangled
beard was snowy white. His attitude was of one in pain.  At first he
watched the impetuous muleteer dully, without attention; then he
started, paused in lifting a piece of bread, and stared long with
quickening breath.  As the mule turned the last of the zigzags a sunbeam
flashed on the brass of one of the boxes.  The seated man rose; his
eyes, opened to their fullest width, now fixed themselves with a glare
of the intensest hatred upon the fugitive approaching, until once more
he was hidden from sight.

Then with the stealthy movement of a cat the worn, panting wayfarer
glided from the brink of the ravine to the opposite side of the road,
and crouched down under cover of the rocks that had hidden him from the
man above. Almost ceasing to breathe, he drew his knife, and waited. His
movements suggested that he expected the muleteer to emerge into the
road between himself and the animal. But not thus was the event ordered.
Rounding the last turn of the path, Miguel, to avoid a projecting rock,
had changed sides; thus when, after a few seconds, he reached the
junction of path and road, the mule was between him and the man who lay
there waiting, ready to strike.  The anticipated moment was come.  But
Miguel was snatched from human vengeance; for him was reserved another
fate.  With an inarticulate cry of baffled rage the ambuscader sprang
forward as if to overtake the mule, but, under the impetus gained during
the last few yards of the hill-path, the beast was still moving quickly
in an oblique direction across the road.  Miguel at one and the same
moment heard the cry and saw the flash of the knife.  Till then he was
unaware of his enemy’s presence, so absorbed was his attention with the
path ahead and the progress of the pursuers behind.  At the cry he gave
a startled side-long glance at the wild menacing features glaring at him
across the mule’s neck.  In that dark look he read his doom.

It fell more quickly than any of the four persons—the actors themselves,
the spectators above—could have thought possible.  The two riders on the
steep hill-path had now come within full sight of the scene passing on
the road.  As they gazed, holding their breath, they saw the mule
between the two men staggering across the road. Startled by the sudden
flash of the uplifted blade, the poor beast swerved towards the ravine,
driving Miguel, all unconscious, on to the brink.  He had already
slipped towards the almost perpendicular descent before he realized his
peril; then he clutched wildly at the slackened bridle, dragging the
mule after him.  It stumbled at the edge; burdened with its
treasure-laden panniers it could not recover its footing, and in a
moment man and beast, with one mingled scream of terror, disappeared
into the yawning gulf.

The spectators above had halted, transfixed by the appalling tragedy.
Then they hastened downward impetuously.  The older man had fallen
forward on the very edge of the ravine.  Jack feared that he would
follow Miguel Priego to destruction.  But when, reaching the road, he
threw himself from his mule and stooped to the prone figure, he found
that the man had fainted, overcome by his fierce passion and the
agitation of the last tense moments.  Then for the first time Jack was
aware of the thunderous roar of a torrent, and looking into the ravine
he saw a white flood swirling over the rocks hundreds of feet below.

"Pepito," he said in a strained voice, "clamber down carefully.  See
what has become of Don Miguel—if anything can be done for him."

While the boy was gone on his perilous errand Jack loosened the clothing
of the prostrate man, fetched water from a mountain-rill, and bathed his
head.  He opened his eyes, but there was no speculation in them.  They
wandered vacantly and closed again.  Jack looked at him pityingly, and,
as he looked, felt vaguely that the worn features were familiar to him.
They reminded him of someone he had known as a child in Barcelona, a man
who had mended his toys for him, and carried him on his back when tired;
who had petted him and scolded him by turns, and whom he had alternately
plagued and domineered over.  Was it José Pinzon?  Jack could scarcely
believe it.  The José he had known was a man touching his prime, strong,
stalwart, bright-eyed, raven-haired; the man lying before him was bent
and aged, wasted, hoary, decrepit.  Yet the likeness to the old José was
remarkable. Was it possible that the faithful servant had not been
killed in Galindo’s sortie, as Juanita had believed?

It was three-quarters of an hour before Pepito returned from his descent
of the precipice.  Nothing living could have survived so terrible a
fall; Miguel must instantaneously have gone to his account.  Fragments
of the boxes, but for which the mule might have regained its footing,
lay scattered on the rocks, and out of the ruin Pepito had recovered but
one relic—one gold pendant,—which he handed to his master; all else had
been swept away by the torrent.  Then he helped him lift the poor
wayfarer to the back of his mule, and together they bore him to a
muleteer’s cabin in the hills.

For three days the man lingered there, unconscious for the most part,
and in intervals of consciousness talking at random of people and things
that were quite strange to his hearers.  Jack nursed him with every
care; but it was evident from the first that his days were numbered.  On
the third evening, when the sun was near setting and the cicalas had
commenced their chant, the man opened his eyes wide and looked amazedly
about him.  He made an effort to rise, but fell back upon the rough
blanket that formed his bed.  He seemed to be listening.  Jack, watching
him, saw for the first time a glimmer of intelligence in his eyes.
Through the open door came the sound of hoofs rapidly approaching.
There was a strange eagerness in the man’s upward gaze.  The sound
ceased; Pepito came into the hut, followed by a young lady and a priest
fetched in hot haste from Cariñena.  The former bent over the bed and
looked hard at the pallid face; the latter fell on his knees and began
to recite the prayers for the dying.

"José!  José!" whispered Juanita; "you know me, my dear friend?"

"My mistress!" he murmured faintly.

She clasped his hand; a look of glad content shone for a brief moment in
the sick man’s eyes.  There was a silence; then, as the light faded,
came the solemn voice of Padre Consolacion:

"Domine, in manus tuas animam suam commendamus!"



                            *CHAPTER XXXVI*

                    *Sergeant Wilkes wants to know*


Mr. Lumsden and Me—Me and Mr. Lumsden—A Lady in the Case—The Pleasure of
your Company—O’Hare and the Ladies—The Grampus takes Cover—The Eve of
Parting—The Age Limit—Poor Mr. Dugdale!—The Question

"Want to know about the fight at Corunna, do you? Hanged if you ain’t
always wanting to know something. Well, attention! dress by the right!
and stand easy while I endeavour to reconstruct the situation."

The scene was the quay at Lisbon; the speaker was Sergeant Wilkes; the
audience was a knot of green-coated recruits who, to judge by their
docility, regarded the sergeant with admiration and awe.  Since he had
won the three stripes Wilkes had lost nothing of his loquacity, and had,
indeed, cultivated a vocabulary of words long enough to match his new
importance.

"Here you are, then; that there stands for the formidable French battery
at the summit of the eminence"—he placed a jack-knife on the wall before
him,—"this here stands for General Disney’s brigade"—he put a plug of
black tobacco at a distance from the knife,—"this here stands for the
Reserve of that exemplary and notorious general Ted Paget"—he ranged two
pebbles to the right of the tobacco,—"and this here," taking up one of
the pebbles, "is Captain O’Hare’s company.  Look at him well, ’cos ’twas
Captain O’Hare’s company, and me in it, that won the battle on that most
fatal and obstrepolous day.  We was a-going up the hill towards that
there battery, when blowed if we didn’t get variegated with a lot of
French dragoons in among the farmyards. Then up comes Mr. Lumsden, and
says to me, ’Corp’ril Wilkes,’ he says—I was only a corp’ril then, you
understand—’Corp’ril Wilkes,’ he says, ’we’ve got to shove down that
there wall and drive the mounseers out.  You an’ me can do it if we puts
our backs into it,’ says he. ’Right you are, sir,’ says I, ’we’ll
fustigate the mounseers and extipulate them to the last individual.’
Them were the words I used.  Well—"

"I say, sargint," said Corporal Bates, strolling across the road,
"that’s a smart little craft a-spanking up the river there.  Looks like
a despatch-boat, eh?"

"Don’t interjeculate," said Wilkes irritably.  "You always must put your
spoke in.  I was just telling the young ’uns how Mr. Lumsden and me won
the fight at Corunna; who cares for a despatch-boat?—which it ain’t, but
only a common sloop."

"Go on, sargint, if you please," said one of the men.

"Well, as I was saying, Mr. Lumsden and me was just a-going to shove
down the wall what was intermediate between us and the mounseers when—"

"Hold hard a bit, sargint," put in Bates; "ain’t that there little chap
on the boat there rather like the gipsy brat what Mr. Lumsden took up
with?"

"Corp’ril Bates, if you keep on interrupting your superior orficer I
shall rejuce you.  Gipsy brats is neither here nor there; what the young
’uns want to know is how me and Mr. Lumsden licked the French at
Corunna."

"That’s him; that’s Pepito!" cried Bates, heedless of Wilkes’ increasing
irritation.  "P’r’aps he’ll be able to tell us what’s become of his
master."

Bates sheered off, and Wilkes resumed his much-interrupted narrative.
He was in the middle of a very vivid description of how Mr. Lumsden and
himself fought eight Frenchmen at the wall, when he became aware of a
commotion at some distance along the quay.  Chagrined to find the
attention of his audience wandering, he stood up, exclaiming:

"What are the rampaging Vamooses at now?—hang them!"

But he saw, not Portuguese, but a number of men in the well-known green
of the 95th Rifles, marching up the street, cheering vigorously.  Among
them, in the middle of the causeway, strode two young Spaniards, the one
slim and lissom, the other broad and bulky.  Both walked buoyantly, and
seemed in high good-humour. Behind them, over their heads, could be seen
the antic figure of Pepito, perched on Bates’s shoulders, and looking as
proud as a peacock.  Wilkes stared at the procession as it approached,
wondering to see two Spaniards with the unprecedented escort of British
Riflemen.  All at once he drew himself up, struck his feet together,
and, just as the head of the procession reached him, brought his hand to
his eyebrow in the stiff military salute.  His face was a study in its
successive expressions of perplexity, vexation, and pleasure.

The recruits were taken too much aback to be able to make their salute
before the procession had passed.

"Who’s that ragged Don you’re saluting, sargint?" asked one of them.

"Who’s that, you dough-faced clod-hopping chaw-bacon, you!" cried
Wilkes, seizing the opportunity of venting his feelings.  "Why, that’s
Lieutenant Jack Lumsden, him what helped me to lick the mounseers at
Corunna.  And I’ll make it warm for Charley Bates," he muttered,
"stealing a march on me like that.  Why didn’t I perpetrate the
disguise?  That’s what I want to know."

Meanwhile Jack and the Grampus had continued their progress until they
arrived at the head-quarters of the 95th.  There, two or three
subalterns were seated at an open window, to catch a breath of air from
the sea, grateful on that hot June day.

"Hullo!" said Pomeroy, catching sight of the procession, "what are the
rascals up to now?"

"Some mischief, you may be sure," said Smith, looking over his shoulder.
"I shall be glad when we get marching orders to join Sir Arthur.  The
men will get horribly loose if we’re here long."

"By George!" said Pomeroy, "they appear to have got two Spaniards among
them.  Why—what—look here, Shirley, isn’t that Lumsden’s boy Pepito
grinning like a monkey on Bates’s shoulder?"

"Eh!  What?  Where?" said Smith, pushing his head out.  "Jehoshaphat!
That fat Spaniard—ha! ha!—don’t you see, you fellows?—ha! ha!—he’s the
Grampus, bigger than ever.  Gad!  I shall die of this!  The Grampus in
Spanish toggery!"

"And the other fellow’s Jack himself!" shouted Pomeroy excitedly.
"Hurray! hurray!"

"’Sound the trumpets, beat the drums!’" quoted Shirley.  "Hurray!  Three
cheers for Lumsden!  But what am I to do with my epitaph?"

"What’s all this pandemonium about?" cried a loud voice from the door of
the room.  "I wish you gentlemen would behave less like a pack of
schoolb—"

"Lumsden’s back, sir," said Smith.  "The men are escorting him up the
street."

"Good gad!" ejaculated Colonel Beckwith.  Then, without more ado, he
caught up Smith’s cap from the table, stuck it on his head, and ran
downstairs buttoning up his jacket on the way.  He reached the door just
in time to meet Jack before he entered.

"’Pon my honour—how d’e do?—glad to see you, hang it!  You’re not dead,
then, after all?"

"Not a bit, sir," said Jack, heartily returning his handgrip.  "Come to
report myself, sir."

"Good gad!  What a—what a villainous brigand you look!  But we’ll soon
put that right.  ’Pon my honour, I am deuced glad to see you."

The colonel shook hands again, and for some minutes Jack’s arm was going
up and down like a pump handle as he returned the greetings of his old
friends, who meanwhile volleyed questions at him with clamorous
excitement.

"Uncommonly kind of you fellows," he panted, "but if you’ll excuse me—"

"Not a bit of it," cried Smith.  "Excuse you, indeed!"

"No, begad," said the colonel.  "You’ll come in and let us drink your
health—three times three.  Come along."

"Most happy, sir, if you’ll just allow me five or six minutes.  The fact
is, there’s a lady on board, and—"

"Good gad!  A lady!"

"And I came to get a coach to fetch her."

"Of course.  A lady!  My barouche is at your service. Here, Ogbourne,
bring the barouche round in two minutes, for Mr. Lumsden.—Used to be
your man, I think; a useful fellow.—Hang me!  I must go and find Captain
O’Hare."

Not many minutes later the subalterns at the window were as much
surprised as interested to see the colonel’s heavy rumbling chariot draw
up at a house almost exactly opposite.

"I say, you fellows," cried Smith, "get out of sight. We don’t want the
lady to think we’re a lot of peeping Toms."

"She’s probably as old as your grandmother," said Pomeroy, "and long
past blushing.  Still—"

Consequently, when Juanita and her old duenna stepped out of the coach
and entered the opposite house, there were no spectators of the scene.
But when Jack returned to head-quarters he was instantly the mark of a
running fire of questions.  His fellow-officers, from the colonel
downwards, were consumed with curiosity to know whether she was young or
old, tall or short, dark or fair; where he had found her; what was her
name.  Shirley eagerly asked whether she was the famous Maid of
Saragossa; Pomeroy was boiling with impatience because the Grampus had
absolutely refused to give any information.

"Gentlemen, gentlemen," cried Jack, "I can’t attend to you all at once.
The lady is the Señorita Juanita Alvarez, daughter of my father’s old
partner, on her way to England, and the friend with whom she is staying
has invited the officers of my company to dinner to-morrow, so that if
you care to go I’ll introduce you en bloc."

"Bedad now," said Captain O’Hare, "that’s mighty perlite.  I must
practise my best bow, and get my hair cut.  ’Tis a powerful pity
pigtails are just gone out of fashion, for sure I always looked killing
in a pigtail.  Ah well!"

"Come, Mr. Lumsden," said the colonel, "the Señorita has driven you out
of our heads.  What have you been doing with yourself?  We learnt when
Mr. Frere came home that you had gone to Saragossa, and not a man of us
expected to see you again.  Ogbourne, get some tumblers, and we’ll do
the honours."

It was late before the meeting broke up, and then not one of the company
was satisfied.  Jack had given them, indeed, a full and interesting
account of the siege of Saragossa in general, but he appeared to be
woefully lacking in detailed information about his own part in it.  He
was not so affectedly modest as to conceal the facts that Palafox had
entrusted him with the defence of a certain district, and that the
district was still in Spanish hands when the siege ended; but of the
weeks of ceaseless work, unresting vigilance and anxious thought which
had purchased his success he said never a word.  Colonel Beckwith
watched him closely as he told his story, and at its conclusion made a
brief comment which gave him a thrill of pleasure.

"Gentlemen," he said, rising, "I speak for you all when I say that we’re
glad to have Lumsden back at the mess. There are big gaps in his story
which somebody has to fill; but we don’t want ’em filled to know that
he’s been an honour to the British army, and a credit to the Rifles.  I
give you Mr. Lumsden!"

When the cheers that followed the toast had died away, Jack on his side
was eager to learn what had brought his old friends back to the
Peninsula.  Hearing that a new campaign was opening under Sir Arthur
Wellesley, his face clouded for a moment.

"Sure an’ ye’ve done enough for glory," said Captain O’Hare, noticing
the expression, "and there’s never a doubt the colonel will let ye go
home to your sorrowing mother,—not to speak of escorting the colleen."

Jack blushed.

"Thank ’ee!" he said, "but I’m not going to run away from the regiment.
Have you got a uniform to spare?"

"What, aren’t ye in love then?  Sure an’ when I was your age I was
desp’rately in love with half a dozen at once—the milkmaid, and the
doctor’s daughter, and the girl in the haberdasher’s in Sackville
Street, and a lot more."

    "’I could not love thee, dear, so much,
      Loved I not honour more,’"

quoted Shirley lugubriously.

"Honour, bedad!  That’s what I said to Patsy O’Dowd when she taxed me
with making eyes at Honour O’Grady, and she boxed my ears,—and Patsy had
a powerful heavy hand, begore.  And if ye’re not afraid of someone
cutting you out—Mr. Dugdale, for instance ... By the way, is he going
home too?"

"Not a doubt of that, sir," said the Grampus himself. "Amateuring isn’t
such fun as you’d think; why, I had to peel the onions till the
Frenchman came!  I’m sick of it; and I’m going home to practise
doctoring on a new plan."

"What’s that about onions?" called Colonel Beckwith from the head of the
table.

The Grampus proceeded to relate his capture by the guerrilleros, and to
expatiate on various little grievances incident to his state of bondage,
which the company appeared to find vastly entertaining.  This want of
sympathy with his misadventures nettled even the good-natured Grampus,
who became more and more red and indignant, until at length he burst
out:

"Well, at any rate I did some good, and that was no laughing matter.  If
it hadn’t been for me they’d have tortured some scores of poor devils of
Frenchmen that Lumsden bagged—so there!"

"Story! story!" was shouted round the table.

"You must get Lumsden to tell you that.  He caught ’em; but ’twas a
speech I made saved ’em from being fried or boiled or something."

"Now, Lumsden, fill up that gap," said the colonel.

Seeing that there was no help for it, Jack gave a brief account of his
adventure with the commissary’s party at Morata, awarding a due meed of
praise to Antonio the guerrilla captain.

"He was a good sort," he added, "quite mild-mannered for a Spaniard.
None of them knew a word of English, and he complained that his men had
been roused to fury against the prisoners by the violent harangue of the
English senior.  He could hardly hold them."

"Oh, come now!" expostulated Dugdale.  "I didn’t know Spanish, but I
made myself clear enough."

"Exactly," said Jack; "when you pointed to your throat and then to the
fire, the poor simple guerrilleros were only in doubt as to whether you
meant roasting or garrotting."

A roar of laughter completed the Grampus’s discomfiture.

"Bet you—" he began in desperation; but finding himself unable to state
a wager that would meet the case, he buried his face in a tankard, from
which it took a considerable time to emerge.

Next day it was a quiet and subdued group that crossed to the house
opposite.  Captain O’Hare was unmistakeably nervous, Pomeroy
self-consciously gorgeous, and Shirley pale with sitting up late the
previous night over a Spanish grammar, conjugating the verb Amor in all
its moods and tenses.  The Grampus took his revenge in chaffing them,
and they all grunted approval when Captain O’Hare exclaimed:

"Bedad, if ’twas on Shannon’s shore ’tis meself that would be at home,
but ’tis a mighty different thing meeting a Spanish lady on the banks of
the Taygus without a word of the lingo to turn a compliment."

But they were agreeably surprised when, after being welcomed in broken
English by their portly and amiable Portuguese hostess, they were
greeted in the same tongue, spoken with the prettiest accent imaginable,
by a charming young señorita.  Her beauty made an instant and visible
impression on Captain O’Hare’s susceptible soul.

The dinner was long remembered and talked of by the officers of O’Hare’s
company.  There was a numerous party, Spanish, Portuguese, and English.
Jack was unwillingly the hero of the evening, and the flattering
attentions paid him would have been still more embarrassing had he not
been so preoccupied in watching Juanita, who appeared to him in a quite
unaccustomed light.  He had admired her courage during the dark days of
the siege; he had got an inkling even then of the essential brightness
of her temperament; but he was hardly prepared for her perfect ease and
self-possession, the vivacity of her conversation, and her social tact.
He felt an inexplicable sinking at the heart; Juanita seemed to be
farther away from him than at any time since he had first met her in
Saragossa.  They had been frank comrades during the hazardous journey
across country to the coast, and the delightful voyage that had just
closed their adventures, and under stress of circumstances Jack had for
so long taken the lead that it was a sort of awakening to find that she
was now independent of his counsel and protection.  Moreover, she was
going to England.  He had intended to go with her, but the return of his
regiment had altered all that.  Till this moment he had not realized
what a separation might really mean.  He felt that they were at the
parting of the ways.

It was from Juanita’s lips that his brother officers heard the full
story of his work in Saragossa, and after.  Simply, without
exaggeration, yet glowingly, she described how, with unfailing resource,
he had met and frustrated all the attacks of the French on his little
garrison and kept the flag flying to the last.  Captain O’Hare followed
her story with unwavering interest.  He was not the man to praise
lightly.  Indeed, it was not the custom in that age of hard fighters to
scatter vain compliments; his subalterns were therefore the more deeply
impressed when, in a pause, he turned to Juanita and said in a tone
vibrant with earnestness:

"By my faith, Señorita, yours is a story of which every soldier, British
or Spanish, may be proud.  I honour your countrymen and countrywomen for
their glorious defence of Saragossa—there is nothing finer that I know
in all history.  And we British officers are proud to think that one of
ours, one of the 95th, is among the heroes of the siege.  We all try to
do our duty; few of us get the chance, like my friend Lumsden, of doing
so much more than our mere duty; and by my soul, if we do get the
chance, I only hope we’ll make as good a use of it."

Jack, who had spent a most uncomfortable half-hour, was greatly relieved
when the ladies withdrew.  But his troubles were not over, for Captain
O’Hare, resuming the brogue which had disappeared during his late
outburst, said with a chuckle:

"By Vanus and all the Graces, ’tis a lucky thing for you, you young
scamp, that Peter O’Hare is not fifteen years younger.  ’Tis meself
would have tried a fall wid ye—ay, and come in at a canter.  Indeed an’
I’m not sure ’tis too late even now.  She was mighty civil to me at
dinner, indeed she was."

The worthy captain laughed heartily, and turned to make himself
agreeable, in halting French, to a colonel of Portuguese artillery.

"Hang it, Lumsden," said Pomeroy, "I call it a crying shame, that merely
because a man happens to patter a little Spanish he should not only be
shoved over the heads of better men than himself, but cut out more
presentable ones with the jolliest girl I’ve seen this end of the Bay."

Jack smiled and held his peace.

"I say, you fellows," said Shirley, "give me a rhyme for Saragossa,
someone.  I’ve just knocked off a little gem of a thing—’Lines to J——a
A——z’, but hang me if I can tag the last of ’em."

"A good job too!" said Smith.  "The whole company seems to be
moonstruck.  ’Pon my word, I believe I’m the only one of you that can
keep his head."

"Ah," said the Grampus with a capacious sigh, "’tisn’t the head, it’s
the heart!"  There was a general laugh at his lugubrious accent;
whereupon, with a sudden return to everyday life, he cried: "And I’ll
bet you, Harry George Wakelyn Smith, you’re one of the first to find it
out."

Smith snorted scornfully.  He little imagined that long before the war
was over he would himself meet the lovely Spanish damsel in distress who
was to become Lady Smith of Aliwal and give her name to a certain little
town, the Saragossa of South Africa.

Jack, who had taken his comrades’ good-humoured banter with unfailing
cheerfulness, now slipped away to join the ladies in the sala.  When he
entered the room, he noticed at once a deeper flush than usual on
Juanita’s cheeks, and felt that something was amiss.  It was some little
time before he could escape the renewed attentions of the circle.  Then,
seating himself beside Juanita, he said anxiously:

"Is anything wrong, Juanita?"

"Wrong!  No, of course not.  Why should anything be wrong?"

She turned her head away, and tapped her hand impatiently with her fan.
Jack, noting the flush on her cheek, felt uneasily that her manner
belied her words.

"I don’t know," he said.  "I was afraid there was something.  I wanted
to tell you, Juanita, that—that—well, things have changed, you know.
There is to be another campaign; I shall have to march with the
regiment. There’s no help for it.  I can’t go back to England—not yet."

"I knew; I was told it—by somebody else."

There was that in her tone which made Jack wish that he had told her
earlier of what his unexpected meeting with his old comrades must
inevitably involve.  He had shrunk from the explanation—he did not quite
know why.

After a moment’s silence she added slowly: "I am sorry for Mr. Dugdale;
he will have a lonely journey, I fear, and he’s so very fond of
company."

"Lonely!  But you get on very well together."

"Oh yes!  I like Mr. Dugdale very much, but you see—I shall not be
there.  I have made up my mind, quite decided, not to go after all.
England is a cold, foggy, horrid country, and I’m sure I shouldn’t like
the English. I ought never to have come so far."  She rose from her
seat.  "I will go back to the dear Sisters at Cariñena."

As she moved towards the balcony at the far end of the room, Jack caught
the sparkle of tears in her eyes.  He felt that he must be in fault; how
or why he could not tell, and he was too much perturbed at Juanita’s
distress to think the matter out.  He merely followed her.  When they
reached the balcony they stood for a few moments silent in the twilight,
looking with unseeing eyes at the dim plaza below.  There was a murmur
of voices from the dusk, at first vague and indistinct, the words
gradually stealing upon their consciousness with clearer and clearer
meaning.

"There he was, poor little beggar, crying his eyes out. ’Ogbourne,’ says
I, ’what’s amiss with Pepito?’  ’Oh!’ says he, ’crying for the moon.  He
wants to go with the Spanish señorita and stay with Mr. Lumsden at the
same time; which ain’t possible.’  ’Well,’ says I, ’I ain’t so sure o’
that.  They do say he rescued her from old Boney himself and from a
rascally Don too—yes, and they say she’s main fond of him, which is only
natural—considering.’"

Even in the dusk Jack, stealing a look at Juanita, saw that she had
flushed hotly.  As she half-turned to re-enter the room, he imprisoned
the little hand that lay on the balustrade.  She did not draw it away.

"But," continued the insistent voice, "what I want to know is, when’s it
to be?—that’s what I want to know."



                      *Glossary of Spanish Words*


_adelante_, forward! come in!
_adios_, adieu.
_afrancesado_, a Spaniard who had accepted the French domination.
_agua_, water.
_alcalde_, mayor, chief magistrate.
_alguazil_, constable, guard.
_amigo_, friend.
_arriero_, muleteer, carrier.
_ay de mí_, alas! woe is me!
_azucarillo_, a confection of paste, sugar, and rose-water.
_bergantin_, brig.
_bien_, well.
_bueno_, good: _buenos dias_, good-morning; _buenas noches_,
   good-night; _buenas tardes_, good-afternoon.
_caballero_, rider, gentleman, cavalier.
_calle_, street.
_caramba_, an exclamation.
_casa_, house.
_cebolla_, onion.
_cerro_, hill.
_choriso_, spiced sausage.
_cigarillo_, a small cigar, whiff.
_con_, with.
_contessa_, countess.
_contrabandista_, smuggler.
_copa_, cup, goblet.
_coso_, wide thoroughfare.
_cuchillo_, knife.
_cura_, parish priest, parson.
_dia_, day: _buenos dias_, good-morning.
_Dios_, God: _Vaya usted con Dios_ (lit. go with God), good-bye.
_don_, a title, equivalent to esquire.
_doña_, a title, equivalent to madam.
_el_, la*, the.
_España_, Spain.
_fonda_, inn.
_garbanzo_, a species of bean.
_gaspacho_, a compound of vegetables and condiments.
_gitano_, gipsy.
_gracias_, thanks.
_guerrillero_, an irregular warrior, member of a guerrilla band.
_hidalgo_, nobleman.
_hombre_, man, a common mode of address to inferiors.
_javaneja_, an old-fashioned dance.
_junta_, council.
_manaña_, to-morrow.
_Maragato, one of a race of mingled Gothic and Moorish
   blood, inhabiting a district in N. W. Spain.
*maravedi_, the smallest Spanish coin.
_marchesa_, marchioness.
_mareamiento_, sea-sickness.
_mi_, _mio_, _mia_, my.
_muchas_, many.
_noche_, night: _buenas noches_, good-night.
_nuestra_, our.
_padre_, father.
_pan_, bread.
_patio_, courtyard, characteristic of the better Spanish houses.
_patron_, landlord.
_peseta_, silver coin worth about tenpence.
_plaza_, square, open space: _Plaza Mayor_, great square.
_par_, by.
_porta_, gate.
_posada_, tavern, inn.
_puchero_, a sort of hot-pot.
_qué hay de nuevo?_ what news?
_querida_, darling.
_quien_, who: _quien vive?_ who goes there?
_regidor_, alderman.
_sala_, hall, drawing-room.
_san_, _santo_, _santa_, saint.
_señor_, sir, a title used in addressing equals or superiors.
_señora_, madam, lady.
_señorita_, miss, young lady.
_sí_, yes.
_silencio_, hush! silence!
_tarde_, afternoon.
_tia_, aunt.
_tio_, uncle.
_tirador_, sharpshooter.
_usted_, you.
_valiente_, brave, valiant.
_vamos_, come along!
_vaya_, go: _vaya usted con Dios_ (lit. go with God), good-bye.
_venta_, small wayside inn.
_verdaderamente_, verily, indeed.
_viva_, hurrah! long live!
_vive_: _quien vive?_ who goes there?





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