The Bravest of the Brave by G. A. Henty
Chapter XVI: Ingratitude
Barcelona rescued, Peterborough at once urged the king to march upon Madrid and have himself proclaimed king in his capital. There was no force which could oppose his advance, and Lord Galway and the Portuguese could move unresisted from the west and meet him there. But it was a long time before Charles and his counselors would listen to his advice; and although at last they agreed to follow it, their resolution was short. In the first place, they determined to leave so large a force to garrison Catalonia that the army available for the advance on Madrid would be very seriously weakened--fifteen hundred English and eleven hundred Spaniards were to be left at Barcelona, sixteen hundred English and Dutch and fifteen hundred Spanish at Gerona, eight hundred and fifty Spanish and Dutch at Lerida, and five hundred Spanish at Tortosa.
This left but sixty-five hundred men available for service in the field, and even this number was subsequently diminished by the vacillating Charles to forty-five hundred.
As Peterborough wrote to Lord Halifax: "We have saved kingdoms in spite of the king, who would abandon them, and we have waged more dangerous war with ministers than with enemies. Lord Galway and the Portuguese generals pass all understanding."
No wonder the earl was astounded by the incompetence of Lord Galway and the Portuguese generals. They had twenty thousand men, while to oppose them there were but five thousand under the Duke of Berwick; and yet after entering Spain they fell back, without doing anything, into Portugal--their retreat beginning on the 11th of May, the day on which Philip retreated from Barcelona. So that on the opposite side of Spain two large armies simultaneously retired before others vastly weaker than themselves. When the news of Tesse's retreat to France reached Portugal they again advanced. Berwick was too weak to oppose them, and on the 25th of June the advance guard of the allies occupied Madrid, and there proclaimed Charles as king.
Had Galway and his colleagues now shown the slightest energy, and moved against Berwick's little force, with which was Philip himself, they could have driven them across the frontier without striking a blow, and the French cause would have been lost in Spain; but, having reached Madrid, they remained there doing absolutely nothing --leaving ample time to Philip to repair his misfortunes, receive aid from France, and recommence the campaign with vigor. As Peterborough wrote indignantly to General Stanhope: "Their halt is as fatal as was Hannibal's at Capua."
As soon as the movement upon Madrid had been decided upon, Peterborough sailed with the English and Dutch infantry to Valencia, where he was received with enthusiasm by the inhabitants. He at once set to work to raise a regiment of dragoons, and organized them in three weeks. The very day they were mounted he marched them upon Castile. During this time not only had Lord Galway made no movement, but he had joined in the German intrigue by which Charles was induced to abandon the plan of marching to his capital under the escort of Peterborough.
The allied generals at Madrid were indeed basely jealous of the brilliant conqueror of Catalonia and Valencia. His deeds had thrown theirs entirely into the shade. With utterly insufficient means he had done everything; with ample means they had effected nothing, and had only been enabled to enter Madrid by the fact that he had drawn off the army which had successfully opposed them.
After incessant labor in organizing his force, the earl sent two thousand men, under the command of Lieutenant General Wyndham, to besiege the towns of Requena and Cuenca--two places of some strength which blocked the road between Valencia and Madrid.
Wyndham easily accomplished the task; and the road being thus secured, Peterborough wrote to Charles that "nothing remained to hinder him from entering Madrid with even a small escort of horse." The earl had everything prepared along the road for the passage of the king; but although he wrote over and over again urging him not to delay, Charles refused to stir, and told General Stanhope (who backed Peterborough's entreaties) that he had "no becoming equipment with which to enter his capital."
"Sire," the English general exclaimed in indignant astonishment, "our William the Third entered London in a hackney, with a cloak bag behind it, and was made king not many weeks after."
A month after the date originally settled Charles set out and proceeded to Taragona, but then, to the astonishment of the English general and envoy, they learned he had altered his mind and taken the route to Saragossa. When he heard the news, Peterborough sent couriers day after day with urgent letters to the king. He prevailed upon a deputation of the Valencian nobility to follow with the same purpose, and transmitted the opinion of a council of war, which was unanimous in entreating the king to stay his steps. The king again hesitated, and was about to follow Peterborough's advice, when a French officer in the Portuguese service arrived from Galway and Das Minas, again urging him to move by the route which they had suggested.
Charles again hesitated, the Count of Cifuentes (who was with him) gave his advice in favor of the Saragossa route, and the king decided on that line.
On the 26th of July the earl summoned a council of war, including the Governor of Valencia, two Spanish generals, and his own officers. They agreed unanimously that Peterborough should march his army to Madrid or join the army in Portugal, as circumstances might require. Just before they started letters came in from the king desiring that Peterborough should send the forces under his command either to relieve the Duke of Savoy or to capture the Balearic Isles.
The earl declined to follow this ungrateful suggestion, which was manifestly intended by Charles and his advisers, English, Portuguese, and German, to send away from his kingdom the man who had won it for him. Being fortunately independent of orders, Peterborough marched for Castile, as he and the council of war had previously determined.
Charles was not long in regretting that he had not followed Lord Peterborough's advice. Instead of the triumphant procession from Saragossa to Madrid, which he had been promised, he was met with the most determined opposition.
Every town and village in the center and south of Spain rose against him; Salamanca and Toledo declared for Philip, and Andalusia raised eighteen thousand men. The troops of Las Torres from Valencia, and those who had retreated under Tesse to Roussillon, had joined Berwick at Xadraque, and Philip had placed himself at the head of this formidable army. Charles was obliged to send in the utmost haste to ask the Earl of Peterborough to extricate him from the position in which he had placed himself by neglecting his advice.
The earl instantly complied with the request, and marching with all speed overtook the king on the 4th of August at Pastrina, and thence on the following day escorted him in safety to the army of Portugal at Guadalaxara.
The total strength of the united allied army was eighteen thousand men--a force inferior, indeed, to that with which Berwick confronted them; and that portion brought by Lord Galway and the Portuguese General Das Minas was not to be relied upon, having fallen into a state of great indiscipline owing to the tedious delays, the frequent retreats, and the long inactivity to which it had been subjected by the incompetence of its leaders. That this was so was evident by the fact that the day after the king's arrival the French made a partial attack, and many of the allied battalions at once fell into complete confusion. But this was not the greatest drawback to the efficiency of the allied army; they were paralyzed by the dissensions of their commanders--Galway, Das Minas, and the Dutch Count de Noyelles. Each and all declined to acknowledge Peterborough as commander in chief. The earl then offered to waive his own rights entirely and to fight as a simple volunteer, and that Das Minas, Lord Galway, and the Dutch general should each command their own forces, receiving their orders from the king.
This offer was, however, refused by the three generals. The partisans of the various leaders shared their animosity. The English troops of Peterborough claiming, and justly, that Catalonia and Valencia had been gained and won by him, and that to him alone the king owed his crown, were furious that those who had shown naught but incapacity from the commencement of the campaign should now refuse to recognize his authority. While the disputes continued Berwick had nearly succeeded in surprising Galway, and a disastrous defeat had only been prevented by the gallant defense made by Lord Tyrawley of an outpost which he commanded, and which he held for two hours against all the efforts of the French, and so gave time for the army to make a hasty retreat.
The army was, moreover, straitened by want of provisions; Lord Galway and his colleagues had made no arrangements whatever for its supply. Day and night the German favorites of the king, who had ruined their master's cause by dissuading him from following the advice of Lord Peterborough, now labored with the king still further to destroy his confidence in Peterborough; and finding himself treated coldly by the ungrateful monarch, who owed everything to him, opposed at every turn by the other generals, and seeing that his presence was worse than useless, Peterborough announced his intention of obeying the orders from Queen Anne, dated the 12th of June, and repeated on the 17th, to proceed to the assistance of the Duke of Savoy.
On the same evening a council of war was held. The king formally laid Peterborough's announcement before the generals, who, delighted to get rid of their rival, unanimously recommended that he should depart.
On the 11th of August, full of mortification and disgust at the treatment that he had experienced and the base ingratitude of the king, Peterborough rode from the camp at Guadalaxara. As if to humiliate him as far as possible, he was given only an escort of eighty dragoons, although there were serious difficulties to be encountered on the road to Valencia. His two favorite aides de camp, Stilwell and Graham, were the only officers who accompanied him. It is satisfactory to know that from the moment of the earl's departure misfortune and disaster fell upon the fortunes of King Charles, and that the crown which he had received from the English earl was wrested from his unworthy grasp. Peterborough had gone but a short distance when he heard that all his baggage, consisting of eight wagon loads and of the value of eight thousand pounds sterling, had fallen into the hands of the enemy. When he left Valencia to extricate the king from his difficulties he had ordered it to be sent after him to Guadalaxara. When it arrived at Cuenca, General Wyndham, who commanded there, forwarded it with a small escort; but it was attacked while passing through the town of Huete by a party of the Duke of Berwick's troopers.
The earl was furious at the news. Not only were all his personal effects, jewels, and uniforms lost, but his spare horses, carriages, and mules. Upon making inquiry he found that the troopers of Berwick had been aided by the inhabitants of Huete, who had given information to the troopers and shared in the plunder. His first impulse was to burn the town to the ground, and as when he arrived there he was joined by Wyndham's force, he had ample power to do so.
He immediately summoned the magistrates and clergy to meet him, and told them in decided terms that they must find his baggage and the rogues that had stolen it. After making a search in the town they were able to find but a small portion of it. They then offered to pay him ten thousand pistoles for his loss, or any other sum which he might choose to name; but the earl, with that singular generosity which formed so marked a part of his character, declined the offer, and said:
"I see you are honest gentlemen; for my part I will sit content with my loss if you will bring all the corn of the district to the army."
The townspeople were delighted at this clemency, as corn was much more easy to procure than money, and it was accordingly sent to Lord Galway's camp, where it sufficed to supply the whole army for six weeks.
This was an act of almost unparalleled magnanimity and generosity to the generals whose jealousy and machinations had driven him from the army; but the earl was so satisfied at thus heaping coals of fire upon the heads of his rivals that he continued his journey in the highest state of good humor in spite of the loss which he had suffered, and which, as he was by no means rich, was a very considerable one. He took with him Killigrew's dragoons and sent on Wyndham's brigade to join Lord Galway. On the way he encountered several adventures.
One night when he arrived at the little town of Campillo, he heard of a barbarous massacre that had that day been perpetrated in a neighboring village upon a small detachment of English soldiers, who had just been discharged from the hospital at Cuenca, and were proceeding under the command of an officer to join Wyndham's battalion of the guards, to which they belonged. They had slept at the village, and were marching out unconscious of danger, when a shot in the back killed their officer, and the peasants at once rushed in upon the men and killed several of them, together with their wives who had accompanied them. The rest were dragged up a hill near the village, and then one by one thrown down a deep pit.
No sooner did the earl hear of the outrage than he ordered the trumpets to sound to horse. The dragoons, who, weary with their long march, had just unsaddled, turned out wondering at the order; but when they heard what had happened, they mounted with an impatience for vengeance equal to that of their general. Arriving at the village they found, to their great disappointment, that the murderers had fled, and that hardly any of the inhabitants remained. They found, however, hidden in the church, the clothes of some of the murdered guardsmen. The sacristan of the church was alleged by the inhabitants, who were narrowly examined, to have taken an active part in the slaughter, and the earl ordered him to be hung up at once to the knocker of his own door. The troops then rode up to the top of the hill, and the earl and his aides de camp dismounted at the edge of the pit. They had procured a rope at the village, although the inhabitants insisted that no one could be found alive, as the pit, which was a disused one, was of vast depth.
"Is any one alive down there?" the earl shouted.
"Yes, yes," a voice cried a short distance below them. "Thank God friends have come; but help me quickly, for I cannot hold on much longer."
Jack seized the rope and twisted one end round his body. Several of the soldiers lowered him down, and some twenty feet below the edge he came upon the man who had spoken. As he fell he had caught some bushes which grew in the side of the old pit, and having managed to find a ledge on which to place his feet, had maintained his grasp in this perilous position the whole day. As the rope was amply strong enough to hold two, Jack clasped his arms around the man's body and called to those above to haul up. They were soon at the surface.
The soldier, who had fainted when he found himself in safety, was laid down and brandy poured down his throat, and Jack, to his astonishment and satisfaction, recognized in him his old friend Sergeant Edwards. He did not wait, however, for him to recover sensibility, but at once told the troopers to lower him again to the end of the rope. This they did, and Jack then shouted several times, but received no answer. He then dropped a small stone he had brought down with him, but no sound came back in return, and, satisfied that none of the soldiers could have survived the fall, for he was already more than sixty feet below the surface, he shouted to those above to draw him up. He found that Edwards had now recovered his senses, and was giving to the earl a detailed account of the massacre, which so exasperated him that he gave orders that the village should be burned to the ground, a command which was willingly carried out by the troopers. Edwards was delighted at recognizing Jack, and when, after the destruction of the village, the party rode back to Campillo for the night, the two old friends had a long chat as to the events which had happened since they last parted at Barcelona.
"Is it true, sir, that the general has resigned his command?"
"Quite true, Edwards."
"And is he going home, sir?"
"No; he will sail to aid the Duke of Savoy; at least that is the present intention; but I should not be surprised if he is in England ere many months are over."
"Well, sir, I should like to get my discharge and go home too; being chucked down that pit has given me a regular sickness of campaigning among these savages. Talk about pirates, Captain Stilwell, why, I had rather fall among pirates any day than among these bloodthirsty wretches. Calls themselves Christians too! The pirates wasn't hypocrites, in that way, anyhow; they didn't bow down on their knees before every little trumpery doll stuck up by the wayside, and then go and cut a man's throat afterward--it was all fair and square with them. Anyways, it don't matter to me, as I see, whether they has King Charles or King Philip to rule over them; I wishes him joy of the job, whichever it may be; but I don't see no call to be risking my life in being shot, or chucked down pits, or stabbed in my bed, for such a lot of varmint any longer. I have served my full time, and can take my pension; besides, I have got something like a thousand pounds stowed away in a snug hiding place near Barcelona."
"You have, Edwards? I am glad to hear it; I had no idea you were such a rich man,"
"It's prize money, sir, lawful earned prize money, though I don't know between ourselves as the colonel would have approved of it; so I stowed it away and says nothing till I gets a chance to lift it before I set sail. It's been rather worrying me in case we should be ordered to take ship at some other port."
"Well, but how did you get it, Edwards?"
"Well, sir, I know that I can tell you, 'cause I am sure it won't go no further. Just afore the French came down to besiege Barcelona I was up with the brigade at Lerida. The people were pretty much divided up there, but the news as the French was coming to drive us into the sea made the folks as was against us very bold. The sentries had to be doubled at night, for lots of our men were found stabbed, and it was dangerous to go about outside the town except in parties. Well, sir, Sergeant Adams of ours, as smart a soldier as ever wore pigtail, had fallen in love with the daughter of an innkeeper at a place four miles from Lerida.
"It wasn't much of a village, but there was a big convent close by, one of the richest in Spain, they said. The girl was fond of Adams, and had agreed, so he told me, to cut and run when the regiment marched away, and to be spliced to him. I rather tried to dissuade him from the affair, for, as I pointed out, how would a Spanish woman get on in barracks with the other sergeants' wives, specially if she was as pretty as the whole lot put together? However, of course, he wouldn't listen to that--no chap ever does when he's downright in love; so he asked me one afternoon if I would go out with him and Sergeant Saunders to the village, so that while we were having our glass he could manage to get a few words with the girl to arrange about her joining him, for the French were only two or three marches away, and we might have to fall back any day.
"I didn't much like the job, for it was a risky business three of us going so far; but he pointed out that we needn't start till it got dark, so nobody would see us till we got to the village, and we needn't stay there above a quarter of an hour, and could be off before any one who meant mischief could find out that we were alone; besides, hitherto the people there had always been friendly, for, being just the right distance for a walk, and the wine there being good, our fellows went over there a good deal: so the long and short of it was we went.
"We got there all right, and walked into the wine shop as usual and sat down and called for wine. There were half a dozen fellows sitting there drinking. They were talking aloud when we entered, but stopped at once as we came in, and looked as men do when you come across them just as they are saying something as is no good about you. We passed the word as usual, and were soon chatting with them. They didn't seem very free and friendly, and asked several questions about the French army, and whether we had any troops coming up to help us hold Lerida. I said we expected five or six thousand in a day or two, which seemed rather to take them by surprise.
"Well, presently Adams got up quietly and went out of the door, and I knew he was going round to the back to meet his girl. I had seen a look pass atween them when she brought in our wine. We went on talking quiet for some time; four or five other men dropped in, and some of them got talking together in low tones, and I began to wish we were well out of it, and to wonder how much longer Adams was going to be before he came back. Suddenly we heard a loud scream, and Manola--that was the girl's name--came rushing in from behind. 'He's killed him,' she screamed, and she fell down as if she had been killed too. As I heard afterward, her old rascal of a father had for some time suspected something was up between her and Adams, and when he missed him had stolen out behind and came upon them just as he was kissing her and saying goodby. Then he whipped his knife out, and before Adams had time to turn round, stabbed him in the back, and the sergeant fell dead without a word.
"Close behind the girl rushed in the innkeeper, swearing and cursing and calling us heretics, and dogs, and robbers, and every other bad kind of name. The men got up and began to stamp and shout, and seeing that it was no time for argument I said to Saunders, 'We had best make a bolt of it, Bill.' So we out swords and made a dash for the inner door, for they had closed in at the other with their knives out. We got safely through the house. Just outside the back door we came upon the body of Adams. We stopped a moment and turned him over to see if he was dead, but it was all up with him.
"It didn't take a moment to look; but, before it was done, they were upon us, both from behind and running round from the front of the house. We cut and slashed for a moment and then bolted with them at our heels. We got separated in a minute. I turned in among some bushes and lost Saunders. I heard afterward he was killed before he had run fifty yards. Luckily they missed me for the moment, and I lay down among the bushes and thought it over. The whole village was up by this time, as I could hear by the shouts; and after thinking it over I concluded that there was no chance of my making my way back to Lerida, and that my best plan would be to go up to the convent and ask for shelter there. I knew well enough that once inside I should be safe from the peasants.
"Well, I crawled along for some distance. Half a dozen times they was nigh stumbling over me as they searched about in the gardens and vineyards; but at last I made my way safe up to the convent and rang at the bell. Presently the little window in the door opened, and a monk said, 'Who is there?' I kept out of his sight and said in Spanish: 'A fugitive who seeks sanctuary.' Thinking I was only somebody who had stabbed three or four men in a row, the monk opened the door. He gave an exclamation when he saw my uniform when I entered, and would have slammed the door in my face; but I pushed in. Then he gave a shout, and five or six other monks came running up and set up a jabbering, and stood staring at me as if I had been a wild beast. Then they wanted to turn me out; but I wouldn't budge, and as I had my sword still in my hand they didn't know what to do.
"At last some chap in authority came down. He talked to me and tried to persuade me to leave; but I said, 'No, I claim sanctuary;' and as they were ready to give sanctuary to the worst of murderers, I didn't see as they could deny it to me who had committed no crime whatever. He went away and came back again after some time, and then told me to sheath my sword and follow him. This I did, and he led the way to a sort of cell where there were some rushes laid on a stone bed, and told me that I could remain there.
"Thinking it was all right I lay down and went to sleep, but was presently woke by half a dozen monks, who were tying my hands and feet with cords. It was no use struggling, so I lay quiet; and when they had done, they carried me away, took me some distance, and went down a flight of stairs; a door was unlocked, and then I was pitched down on the ground as if I had been a log of wood. I didn't move much that night.
"In the morning there was just enough light came through a little slit high up in the wall to show me that I was in a place about six feet square. It was perfectly bare, without as much as a bit of straw to lie on. Presently two monks came in. One of them untied the cords which fastened my hands. They placed some black bread and a jug of water by me, and then went out again. There they kept me for six days. At the end of that time they told me to come along with them. I had, of course, taken the cords off my legs when I had got my hands free, and I followed them, wondering what was to come next. I was taken to the door of the convent, and there I saw a party of French troopers, to whom the monks handed me over. I mounted behind one of them, and was taken to Marshal Tesse's camp near Lerida, and a couple of days afterward sent back to Saragossa.
"I didn't stop long in the prison there, for the next day the people rose, turned the French from the citadel, and opened the prison doors and let out all the prisoners. They made a good deal of me, as I was the only Englishman there, supplied me with money and clean clothes, and provided me with a guide and a mule to take me by round about byroads so that I should avoid the French army. I put my regimentals in a bag, which I carried behind me, and at last got down to Barcelona the very day before the French arrived there.
"I found my regiment already there. I got a rare blowing up from the colonel for having gone out from Lerida without leave; but as he said he thought I had been punished enough already, and bore a good character, he overlooked it, of which I was glad enough, I can tell you, for I expected nothing less than reduction to the ranks.
"Well, after Lord Peterborough arrived with the fleet, and the French bolted as hard as they could to France, Wyndham's brigade went up again to Lerida. I got chatting the affair over with Jack Thompson, who was General Wyndham's servant, and we agreed between us that we would give those monks a fright, and perhaps get some compensation out of them. So we got hold of four of Killigrew's dragoons, who, when they heard what was wanted, was ready enough for the spree. So one day when General Wyndham had gone off with a party for the day, Thompson borrowed his hat and plumes and his cloak, and hiding them up, went out of camp with me to a place a quarter of a mile away, where the four troopers with two spare horses were waiting for us. Thompson put on the general's hat and cloak, and mounted one horse, while I got on the other, and away we rode out to the village.
"First of all we went to the inn and seized the innkeeper. Manola wasn't there, and I never heard what became of her--whether her father had sent her to a convent or killed her, I don't know. However, we held a court regular. Thompson he was the judge, and I gave evidence as to the innkeeper having murdered poor Adams, and Thompson sentenced him to death, and we hung him up over his door. When we had set that job right we went to the convent and rang the bell. They opened quick enough this time.
"'Tell the prior,' Thompson said, 'that the Earl of Peterborough is here, and desires to see him instantly.'
"Mighty frightened the monk looked, I can tell you, as he went off to give the message, and came back in a minute, asking Thompson to follow him. We all dismounted. Two of the troopers stopped to look after the horses, and the others with drawn swords followed Thompson and me. We were shown into the prior's room, which was fit for a prince. The prior looked mighty pale, and so did two or three other chaps who were with him.
"'Look here,' Thompson said in an angry tone of voice, 'I am the Earl of Peterborough, and I hear from this man, Sergeant Edwards, of the king's regiment of grenadiers, that he was basely and treacherously made a prisoner by you; that he was confined in an underground cell and fed with bread and water for a week, and then handed over to the French. Now, sir, I give you an hour to clear out with all your gang from this convent, which I intend to destroy. You will remain in the courtyard as prisoners. You will then be tried for this treacherous act against one of the King of England's guards, and all found to have had a hand in the proceeding will be hung.'
"Well, sir, yon may just guess the fright they were in. They knew that the earl was just the sort of man to carry his threat into execution, and they thought their last day was come. You never saw such a set of cowardly wretches in your life. I am blessed if they didn't go down on their knees and howl. At last Thompson began to think he had worked them up enough, and he said stern:
"'Well, I am disposed to have mercy, and if in half an hour you pay down the sum of five thousand pounds as a ransom for the convent and your wretched lives I will be merciful.'
"Then there was a fresh howling. They swore by all the saints that such a sum as five thousand pounds was never heard of. Thompson gradually dropped his demands to three thousand; still they swore they hadn't got it, and he said sternly to one of the troopers:
"'Ride back and fetch up the regiment which is a mile outside the village.'
"Then there was more howling, and at last they offered to give seven hundred pounds, which was all the money which they had in the treasury, and to make it up in precious stones. After a deal of haggling Thompson consented, and I believe if he had stood out for three times as much he would have got it, for the convent was rich in relics, and no end of precious offerings were stored away in their chests; however, he didn't wish to push matters too far, and in half an hour they brought the money, and a handful of diamonds and rubies, and things they had picked out of their settings in the vases and crucifixes and vestments, and what not.
"We didn't know if they were real or not; but Thompson told them he should give them to a jeweler to value, and if he found they had cheated him by giving him false stones he would come back and hang the lot of them. So off we rode again.
"When we got back to Lerida we took two or three of the stones to a jeweler and found that they were all right. Then we divided the swag into three parts as we had agreed. Thompson took one, I took another, and the other was divided among the four troopers, who were not running such a risk as we were. I never heard anything more about the matter, as far as I was concerned, though there was a row. The prior heard that Peterborough had never been near Lerida, and came over and saw General Wyndham.
"Killigrew's dragoons were paraded, but the prior couldn't spot any of them. We had chosen four fair fellows, and they had all darkened themselves a bit before they went. Luckily the prior did not say anything about me. I expect he was afraid that when Wyndham heard how I had been treated there he might have inflicted a fresh fine on the convent; however, I was not there at the time, for I had a touch of fever the day after the affair, and made myself out a bit worse than I was, and so got sent down to Barcelona, where I buried my share of the plunder four or five inches deep in a corner of the hospital yard. As to Thompson, there wasn't any reason why suspicion should fall upon him. Soon after I got back to my regiment I got ill again and was left in a hospital at Cuenca, and had a narrow escape of it this morning."
"It was a risky business," Jack said, "and it would have gone very hard with you and Thompson if you had been found out."
"So it would, sir. I knew that; but you see, it was only right and just those fellows should pay for their treatment of me. If I had laid the case before General Wyndham, no doubt he would have punished them just as severe as I did, only the fine would have gone into the army treasury, instead of going to the right person."
"I am afraid, Edwards, that you have not got rid of those loose notions of morality you picked up among the pirates," Jack said, smiling.
"Perhaps not, Captain Stilwell. You see, bad habits stick to a man; but I have done with them now. When I get back to England I shall buy a snug public house at Dover, and with that and my pension I shall be in clover for the rest of my life."
It was not until the voyage home that Jack, after obtaining a promise of secrecy, related to the earl the liberty which had been taken with his name. It was just a freak after Peterborough's heart, and he was immensely amused.
"The rascals!" he said, "they deserved hanging, every one of them; but the story is a capital one, and I should like to have been there myself to have seen the fright of the prior and his assistants. They richly deserved what befell them and more for betraying sanctuary. If it had been a scoundrel who had cut his wife's throat, and stabbed half a dozen men, they would have refused to give him up to the civil power, and would have stood on the rights of sanctuary of the Church. I think they were let off very easily. Let me see, is not that the same fellow that I exchanged into the grenadiers at Gibraltar at your request, for his conduct in that business of the mutiny on board your ship?"
"The same man, sir. He has led a queer life. He was a sailor originally, and was taken by pirates and forced to join them, and had a narrow escape of being hung when the vessel he sailed in was captured by an English cruiser; but his life was spared, and he was drafted into the army, and he is a willing and faithful soldier of the queen, and really a worthy fellow."
"He is evidently an arrant old scamp, Stilwell. Still, as long as we recruit our army as we do, we cannot look for morality as well as bravery, and I dare say your fellow is no worse than the rest. If you ever run against him in London you must bring him to me, and I will hear his story from his own lips."