Chapter XI. An Escape

While the battle was at its height Terence was despatched by the brigadier to carry an order to one of the regiments that had pushed too far forward in its ardour. Scrambling over rough ground, and occasionally leaping a wall, he reached the colonel. "The general requests you to fall back a little, sir; you are farther forward than the regiment on your flank. The enemy are pushing a force down the hill in your direction, and as there is no support that can be sent to you at present, he wishes your extreme right to be in touch with the left of the regiment holding Elvina."

"Very good. Tell General Fane that I will carry out his instructions. Where is he now?"

"He is in the village, sir." Terence turned his horse to ride back. The din of battle was almost bewildering. A desperate conflict was going on in front of the village, where every wall was obstinately contested, the regiment being hotly engaged with a French force that was rapidly increasing in strength. The great French battery was sending its missiles far overhead against the British position on the hill, the British guns were playing on the French troops beyond the village, and the French light field-pieces were pouring their fire into Elvina. Terence made his way across the broken ground near the village. Galloping at a low stone wall, the horse was in the act of rising to clear it when it was struck in the head by a round shot. Terence was thrown far ahead over the wall, and fell heavily head-foremost on a pile of stones covered by some low shrubs.

The shock was a terrible one, and for many hours he lay insensible. When he recovered consciousness, he remained for some time wondering vaguely where he was. Above him was a canopy of foliage, through which the rays of the sun were streaming. A dead silence had succeeded the roar of battle. He put his hand to his head, which was aching intolerably, and found that his hair was thick with clotted blood.

"Yes, of course," he said to himself at last; "I was carrying a message to Fane. I was just going to jump a wall and there was a sudden crash. I remember--I flew out of the saddle--that is all I do remember. I have been stunned, I suppose. How is it so quiet? I suppose the battle is over."

Then he sat suddenly upright.

"The sun is shining," he said. "It was getting dusk when I was riding back to the village. I must have lain here all night."

Suddenly he heard a gun fired; it was quickly followed by others. He rose on his knees and looked cautiously over the bushes.

"It is away there," he said, "on those heights above the harbour. The army must have embarked, and the French are firing at the ships."

His conjecture was speedily verified, for, looking along the crest which the British had held during the fight, he saw a large body of French troops just reaching the top of the rise. He stood up now and looked round. No one could be seen moving in the orchards and vineyards round. He peered over the wall; his horse lay there in a huddled-up heap.

"A round shot in the head!" he exclaimed; "that accounts for it. Poor old Jack! he has carried me well ever since I got him at Torres Vedras."

He climbed down and got what he was in search of--a large flask full of brandy-and-water, which he carried in one of the holsters. He took a long drink, and felt better at once.

"I may as well take the pistols," he said, and, putting them into his belt, climbed over the wall again, and lay down among the bushes.

He was now able to think clearly. Should he get up and surrender himself as a prisoner to the first body of French troops that he came across? or should he lie where he was until nightfall, and then try to get away? If he surrendered, there was before him a march of seven or eight hundred miles to a French prison; if he tried to get away, no doubt there were many hardships and dangers, but at least a possibility of rejoining sooner or later. At any rate, he would be no worse off than the many hundreds who had straggled during the march, for it was probable that the great majority of these were spread over the country, as the French, pressing forward in pursuit, would not have troubled themselves to hunt down fugitives, who, if caught, would only be an encumbrance to them.

He was better off than they were, for at any rate he could make himself understood, which was more than the majority of the soldiers could do; and at least he would not provoke the animosity of the peasants by the rough measures they would be likely to take to satisfy their wants. The worst of it was that he had no money. Then suddenly he sat up again and looked at his feet.

"This is luck!" he exclaimed; "I had never given the thing a thought before."

On his arrival at Corunna he had thrown away the riding-boots he had bought at Salamanca. The constant rains had so shrunk them that he could no longer wear them without pain, and he had taken again to the boots that he carried in his valise.

From the time when, at his father's suggestion, he had had extra soles placed on them, above which were hidden fifteen guineas, the fact of the money being there had never once occurred to him. He had had sufficient cash about him to pay for purchases at Salamanca and on the road, and, indeed, had five guineas still in his pocket, though he had drawn no pay from the time of leaving Torres Vedras.

This discovery decided him. With twenty guineas he could pay his way for months, and he determined to make the attempt to escape.

The firing continued for some time and then ceased.

"The fleet must have got out," he said to himself. "It is certain that the French have not taken Corunna. We were getting the best of it up to the time I was hurt, and it would be dark in another half-hour, and there could be no fighting on such ground as this, after that. Besides, Corunna is a strong fortress, and we could have held out there for weeks, for Soult can have no battering train with him; besides, everything was ready for embarkation, and I know that it was intended, whether we won or lost, that the troops should go on board in the night."

As he lay there he could occasionally hear the sound of drums and trumpets as the troops marched from their positions of the night before, to take up others nearer to the town. At times he heard voices, and knew that they were searching for wounded over the ground that had been so desperately contested; but the spot where he was lying lay between the village and the ground where the regiment he had gone to order back had been engaged with the enemy, and as no fighting had taken place there, it was unlikely that the search-parties would go over it. This, indeed, proved to be the case, and after a time he fell off to sleep, and did not wake until night was closing in. He was hungry now, and again crossing the wall he took half a chicken and a piece of bread that his servant had thrust into his wallet just before starting, and made a hearty meal. He unbuckled his sword and left it behind him; he had his pistols, and a sword would be only an encumbrance.

As soon as it became quite dark he made his way cautiously down the valley, passed the spot where the French column had suffered so heavily, and then, turning to the left, traversed the narrow plain that divided the position on which the French heavy battery had been placed and the plateau on which their cavalry had been massed. Numerous fires blazed in the wide valley behind, where the reserve had been stationed on the previous morning, and he doubted not that the French cavalry were there, especially as he found no signs of life on the plateau above. Coming presently on a small stream he bathed his head for a considerable time, and then proceeded on his way, feeling much brighter and fresher than he had done before.

The ground began to ascend more steeply, and after an hour's walking he stood on the crest of the hill and looked down on the position that the French had held, and beyond it on Corunna and the sea. The cold was extreme. He had brought with him his greatcoat and blanket, and, wrapping himself in these, lay down in a sheltered position and slept again till morning broke. His head was now better, and he was able to think more clearly than he could the day before. The first thing was to decide as to his course. It would be dangerous to make direct for the frontier of Portugal. Now that the British army had embarked, Soult would be free to undertake operations in that country, and would doubtless shortly put his troops in motion in that direction, and his cavalry would be scattering all over the province collecting provisions. Moreover, there would be the terrible range of the Tras-os-Montes to pass, and no certainty whatever of being well received by the Portuguese peasants north of Oporto.

His constant study of the staff maps was now of great assistance to him. He determined to turn west until he reached the river Minho some distance below Lugo, which he could do by skirting the top of the hills. He would therefore strike it somewhere about the point where the river Sil joined it, and, following this, would find himself at the foot of the Cantabrian Hills, dividing the Asturias from Leon. Then he could be guided by circumstances, and could either cross these mountains and make for a seaport, or could journey down through Leon to Ciudad-Rodrigo, which was still held by a Spanish garrison, and from there make his way through Portugal to Lisbon.

He questioned whether it would be wise for him to attempt to get the dress of a Spanish peasant instead of his uniform, but he finally decided that until he was beyond any risk of being captured by parties from either Soult or Ney's armies, it would be better to continue in uniform. If taken in that dress it would be seen that he was a straggler from Moore's army, and he would be simply treated as a prisoner of war; while, if taken in the dress of a peasant, he would be liable to be treated as a spy and shot. Having made up his mind, he started at once, and in three hours was at the foot of the hills on the other side of which ran the road from Lugo to Corunna, which proved so disastrous to the army. He presently arrived at a small hamlet, and the children in the streets ran shrieking away as they saw him. Women appeared at the doors and looked out anxiously; they had not before seen a British uniform, and at once supposed that he was French. Seeing that he was alone, several men armed with clubs and picks came out.

"I am an English officer," he said, "and I desire food and shelter for a few hours. I have money to pay for it."

The peasants at once came round him. Confused accounts had reached them of the doings on the other side of the hills. They knew that an English army had marched from Lugo to Corunna, hotly pursued by the French, but they had heard nothing of what had happened afterwards. They eagerly asked for news. Terence told them that there had been a great battle outside Corunna, that the French had been repulsed with much loss, and that the English had embarked on board ships to take them round to Lisbon, there to march east to meet the French again.

Nothing could be kinder than the treatment he received. They told him that Ney's army was between the Sil and Lugo, but that no French troops had crossed the Minho as yet.

They were eager to know why the English, if they had beaten the French, sailed away. But when he said that Soult would have been joined by Ney in a couple of days, and would then be well-nigh double the strength of the British, who would be so hotly pressed that they would be unable to embark, the peasants saw that what they considered their desertion could not have been avoided. The news of the terrible defeats that had, a month before, been inflicted upon their armies had not reached them, and Terence did not think it necessary to enlighten them. He told them that the march north of the English had been intended to bring all the French forces in that direction, and so to enable the Spanish armies to operate successfully, and that not only Soult and Ney, but Napoleon himself, had been drawn off from the south in pursuit of them.

They were filled with satisfaction, and he was at once taken into one of the cottages. A good meal was shortly placed before him, his head was carefully bandaged, and he was then asked how it was that he had not embarked with the rest of the army. He related how he had been left behind, and then asked them their opinion as to his best course, telling them the plan he himself had formed. They agreed at once that this was the wisest one, but that it would be dangerous to try it until Ney's force had moved from its present position. They knew that he had a division at Orense on the Minho, and that parties of his cavalry had scoured the plain as far as the river Ulla, and urged upon him to remain with them until some news was obtained of the movements of the French army.

He gladly accepted the invitation, and for a couple of days remained at the little hamlet. One of the peasants came in at the end of that time, saying that the French in Corunna had crossed the mountains and had arrived at Santiago, twenty miles distant, and that their cavalry were scouring the country. They also brought news that Romana was at Toabado, and that he had but two or three thousand men with him, the rest having been routed and cut up by the French cavalry. Terence at once determined to join him.

The fact that he still had some troops with him had no influence in causing him to form this resolution. Romana had been so often defeated that he knew that his men would, after their recent misfortunes, scatter at once before even the weakest French detachment. But Romana himself knew the country well, was a man of great resource and activity, and was likely to evade all efforts to capture him. He thought then that by joining him and sharing his fortunes he was more likely to have some opportunity of making his way to Lisbon than he would have if left to his own resources, especially as he had no doubt that Soult would at once prepare to invade Portugal by occupying all the passes, and thus render it next to impossible to journey thither alone and on foot. One of the peasants offered to guide him across the hills to Toabado. They started at once, and at daybreak next morning reached the village.

As Romana had been several times in personal communication with Sir John Moore, Terence was acquainted with his appearance, and seeing him standing at the door of the principal house of the village, went up to him and saluted him. The latter looked upon him with great surprise.

"How have you managed to pass through the French?" he asked.

"I have seen none of them, Marquis. I was wounded in the battle of Corunna, and after lying insensible all that night, found, when I recovered in the morning, that the French had advanced and that I was in their rear. I heard their guns from the heights above the town, and knew that our army had gained their transports. I lay concealed all day and then crossed the mountains, and have been resting for two days at a village on the other side of the hills. The news came that you were here, and I decided to join you at once. I was on the staff of General Fane, and, knowing the duties of an aide-de-camp, thought I might make myself useful to you until there was an opportunity of my rejoining a British force."

"You are welcome, sir," Romana said, courteously. "It was only this morning that we learned from a prisoner that my men took that you had driven back Soult before Corunna and had embarked safely. I was in great fear that your army would have been captured. I see that you have been wounded on the head."

"It can scarcely be called a wound, Marquis. I was carrying a message on the battle-field; when I was taking a wall my horse was struck with a round shot. I was thrown over his head onto a heap of rough stones, and it was a marvel to me that I was not killed."

"I am just going to breakfast, senor, and shall be glad if you will join me. I have no doubt that you will do justice to it."

Romana, who had commanded the Spanish troops which had escaped from Holland, was the most energetic of the Spanish generals. Defeated often, he was speedily at the head of fresh gatherings, and ready to take the field again. As a partisan chief he was excellent, but possessed no military talent, and was, like the Spaniards generally, full of grand but utterly impracticable schemes, and in spite of his experience to the contrary, confident that the Spaniards would overthrow the French.

"I have been unfortunate," he said, in reply to the inquiry as to how many troops he had with him. "At your English general's request I took a different course with my army to that which he was pursuing, in order that his magazines should be untouched. I crossed his line of retreat, but unfortunately Franceschi's cavalry come down upon us, cut up my artillery and infantry, and scattered my force entirely. However, some three thousand have rejoined, and I expect in a short time to be at the head of 20,000. I ought to have more, but these Galician peasants are stubborn fellows. They know nothing of the affairs of Spain, and although they will fight in defence of their own villages, they have no interest in anything beyond, and hang back from joining an army that might operate outside their province. You see, until now it has been untouched by war. They have suffered in no way from French extortions and outrages. As soon as they feel the smart themselves, I doubt not they will be as full of hatred of the invaders as people are elsewhere, and as ready to take up arms against them."

Romana's troops were but a motley gathering. The force that he had brought with him from Holland had been landed at Santander, marched to Bilbao, and joined Blake's army, and had shared in the crushing defeat suffered by that general at Espinosa, where most of them were taken prisoners. They were again incorporated in the French army, and afterwards took part in the Russian campaign, and in the retreat no less than four thousand of them were taken prisoners by the Russians and handed over by them to British transports sent to Cronstadt to fetch them. Romana himself had escaped from the battle-field, and afterward raised a fresh force. This had dwindled away from 15,000 to 5,000 when he joined Moore on his advance, and now amounted to barely 2,000, of whom the greater portion had thrown away their arms in their flight.

On the following day Romana, with a small body of cavalry, left Toabado, crossed the Minho, descended into the valley of the Tamega, and took refuge close to the Portuguese frontier line. Here he was, for a time, safe from the pursuit of the French, the insignificance of his force being his best protection. Soult lost no time. As soon as the English army had left, Corunna opened its gates to him, as did Ferrol, although neither of these towns could have been taken without a siege, and Soult must have been delayed until a battering-train was brought from Madrid.

The magazines of British powder and stores that had been lying for months in Ferrol were invaluable to him.

The soldiers were set to work to make fresh cartridges, and then, after six days' halt to give rest to his weary and footsore men, he began to prepare to carry out Napoleon's orders to invade Portugal. Ney, with 20,000 men, was to maintain Galicia, and, reinforced by a fresh division, Soult was to march direct upon Oporto with 25,000 men, leaving 12,000 in hospital, and 8,000 to keep up the line of communication with Ney. It took some time to complete all the arrangements and to gather the force at St. Jago Compostella, and it was not until the first of February that he was able to move.

On the day of his arrival on the frontier, Romana despatched Terence to Sir John Cradock, who now commanded the British troops in Portugal, which had been augmented by fresh arrivals from England until their numbers almost equalled that of the force with which Sir John Moore marched into Spain.

Romana asked that arms and money should be sent to him, promising to harass the French advance, and cut their communications from the rear. Terence gladly consented to carry his despatch; he was furnished with one of the best horses in the troop, and at once started on his journey. It was a long and harassing one; many ranges of mountains and hills had to be crossed, by roads difficult in the extreme at the best of times, but almost impassable in winter. Three times he was seized by parties of Portuguese militia and raw levies, but was released on convincing their leaders that he was the bearer of a communication to the English general.

The distance to be travelled was, in a direct line, over two hundred and thirty miles. This was greatly increased by the circuitous nature of the route through the mountainous country, so that it took nine days, and would have much exceeded this time, had Terence not found a British force at Coimbra, and there exchanged his worn-out animal for a fresh one, placed at his disposal by the officer in command.

Cradock was experiencing exactly the same difficulties that Moore had done. The Spanish and Portuguese authorities united in pressing him to advance, the former urging upon him that his presence would be the signal for the Spanish armies in the south to unite and entirely overthrow the French, while the latter were desirous that he should march to Ciudad-Rodrigo, defeat the French at Salamanca, and so protect Portugal from invasion from that side.

That Portugal might be attacked from the north and south simultaneously by Soult and Victor did not enter into their calculations, but while urging an advance, the Junta would take no steps whatever to enable the army to move; they would neither afford him facilities for collecting transport, nor order the roads that he would have to traverse to be put in order, and thwarted all his efforts to raise a strong force among the Portuguese.

There was, indeed, some improvement in the latter respect. At their own request, Lord Beresford had been sent out from England to take the command of the Portuguese armies, and as he had brought many British officers with him, some 20,000 men had been armed and drilled, and could be reckoned upon to do some service, if employed with British troops to give them backbone. The Portuguese peasantry were strong and robust, and by nature courageous, and needed only the discipline--that they could not receive from their own officers--to turn them into valuable troops. According to the law of the country every man was liable for service, and had the corrupt Junta been dismissed, and full power been given to the British, an army of 250,000 men might have been placed in the field for the defence of the country, with a proper supply of arms and money.

But so far from assisting, the Junta threw every possible impediment in the way. They feared that any real national effort, if successful, would get altogether beyond their control, and that they would lose the power that enabled them to enrich themselves at the expense of the people. Not only that, but they were engaged in a struggle for supremacy with the Junta of Oporto, which was striving by every means to render itself the supreme authority of the whole of Portugal.

Terence had hoped that when he arrived at Lisbon he should meet the army he had left at Corunna, for Sir John Moore's instructions had been precise that the fleet was to go thither. These instructions, however, had been disobeyed, and the fleet had sailed direct for England. It had on the way encountered a great storm, which had scattered it in all directions. Several of the ships were wrecked on the coast of England, and the army which would have been of inestimable service at Lisbon, now served only, by the tattered garments and emaciated frames of the soldiers, to excite a burst of misplaced indignation against the memory of the general whose genius had saved it from destruction.

On arriving at head-quarters and stating his errand, Terence was at once admitted to the room where Sir John Cradock was at work.

"I am told, sir, that you are the bearer of a despatch from the Spanish general, Romana. Before I open it, will you explain how it was that you came to be with him?"

Terence gave a brief account of the manner in which, after being left behind on the field of Corunna, he had succeeded in joining Romana.

The general's face, which had at first been severe, softened as he proceeded.

"That is altogether satisfactory, Mr. O'Connor," he said. "I feared that you might have been one of the stragglers, among whom I hear were many officers, as well as thousands of men belonging to Sir John Moore's army. We received news of his glorious fight at Corunna and the embarkation of his army, by a ship that arrived here but three days since from that port. Have you heard of the death of that noble soldier himself?"

"No, sir," Terence replied, much shocked at the news. "That is a terrible loss, indeed. He was greatly loved by the army. He saw into every matter himself, was with the rearguard all through the retreat, and laboured night and day to maintain order and discipline, and it was assuredly no fault of his if he failed."

"Was your own regiment in the rear-guard?"

"Yes, sir. It had the honour of being specially chosen by Sir John Moore for its steadiness and good conduct. I was not with it, but was one of Brigadier-general Fane's aides-de-camp. It was while carrying a message to him that my horse was killed and I myself stunned by being thrown onto a heap of stones."

Sir John Cradock nodded, and then opened Romana's despatch. He raised his eyebrows slightly. He had been accustomed to such appeals for arms and money, and knew how valueless were the promises that accompanied them.

"What force has General Romana with him?"

"Some two hundred cavalry and three or four thousand peasants, about a quarter of whom only are armed."

"He says that he expects to be joined by twenty thousand men in a few days. Have you any means of judging whether this statement is well founded?"

"That I cannot say. General Romana seems to me to be a man of greater energy than any Spaniard I have hitherto met, and I know that he has already sent messages to the priests throughout that part of Galicia urging upon them the necessity of using their influence among the peasantry. He got a force together in a very short time, after the complete defeat and capture of his own command by the French, at the time of Blake's defeat, and I think that he might do so again, though whether they would be of any use whatever in the field I cannot say; but should Soult advance into Portugal, I should think that bands of this sort might very much harass him."

"No doubt they might do so. I will see, at any rate, if I can obtain some money from the political agents. I have next to nothing in my military chest, and our forces are at a standstill for the want of it. But that does not seem to matter. While our troops are ill-fed, ragged, almost shoeless, and unpaid, every Spanish or Portuguese rascal who holds out his hand can get it filled with gold. As to arms, they are in the first place wanted for the purpose of the Portuguese militia, who are likely to be a good deal more useful than these irregular bands; and in the second place, there are no means whatever of conveying even a hundred muskets, let alone the ten thousand that Romana is good enough to ask for. By the way, are you aware whether Sir John Moore intended the army to sail to England?"

"Certainly not, sir. I know that up to the moment the battle began the preparation for the embarkation went on unceasingly, and General Fane told me the night before that we were to be taken here. Whether Sir John may, at the last moment, have countermanded that order I am unable to say."

"Yes, I know that it was his intention, for I received a letter from him, written after his arrival at Corunna, saying that the embarkation could not be effected without a battle, and that if he beat Soult he should at once embark and bring the troops round here, as Ney's approaching force would render Corunna untenable. Just at present the arrival of 20,000 tried troops would be invaluable. General Baird will, of course, have succeeded Sir John Moore?"

"General Baird was severely wounded, sir. He had just ridden up to General Fane when he was struck. General Hope would therefore be in command after Sir John Moore was killed."

"I have heard no particulars of the battle," Sir John said, "beyond that it has been fought and Soult has been driven back, that Sir John Moore is killed, and that the army has embarked safely. And do I understand you that it was towards the end of the battle that you were hurt?"

"It was getting dusk at the time, General, but I cannot say how long fighting went on afterwards."

"Will you please to sit down at that table and give me, as nearly as you can, a sketch of the position of our troops and those of the French, and then explain to me, as far as you may have seen or know, the movements of the corps and the course of events."

As Terence had, the evening before the battle, seen a sketch-map on which General Fane had written the names and positions of the British force and those of the French, he was able to draw one closely approximating to it. In ten minutes he got up and handed the sketch to Sir John Cradock.

"I am afraid it is very rough, sir," he said, "but I think that it may give you an idea of the position of the town and the neighbouring heights, and the position occupied by our troops."

"Excellent, Mr. O'Connor!"

"I had the advantage of seeing a sketch-map that the brigadier drew out, sir."

"Well, benefited from it. Now point out to me the various movements. It seems to me that this large French battery must have galled the whole line terribly; but, on the other hand, it is itself very exposed."

"General Fane said, sir, that he thought Soult was likely to be over-confident. Our army was in frightful confusion on the retreat from Lugo, and the number of stragglers was enormous. Although many came in next day, the field-state showed that over 2,000 were still absent from the colours. The brigadier was observing that there was one advantage in this, namely, that Soult would suppose that the whole army was disorganized, and might, therefore, take more liberties than he would otherwise have done; and that, at any rate, he was likely to rely upon his great force of cavalry on this plateau to cover the battery hill from any attack on its left flank. It was for that purpose that General Paget posted one of the regiments on this eminence on the right of the valley, which had the effect of completely checking the French cavalry."

He then related the incidents of the battle as far as they had come under his notice.

"A very ably fought battle," Sir John Cradock said, as he followed on the map Terence's account of the movements. "Soult evidently miscalculated Sir John's strength and the fighting powers of his troops. He hurled his whole force directly against the position, specially endeavouring to turn our right, but the force he employed there was altogether insufficient for the purpose. From his position I gather that he could not have known of the existence of Paget's reserve up the valley, but he must have seen Fraser's division on the hill above Coranto. I suppose he reckoned that this turning movement would shake the British position, throw them into confusion, and enable his direct attack to be successful before Fraser could come to their support. I am much obliged to you for your description, Mr. O'Connor; it is very clear and lucid. I will write a note, which you shall take to Mr. Villiers, and it is possible that you may get help from him for Romana. I shall be glad if you will dine with me here at six o'clock."

"I am much obliged to you, General, but I have nothing but the uniform in which I stand, which is, as you see, almost in rags, and stained with mire and blood."

"I think it is probable that you will have no difficulty in buying a fresh uniform in the city; so many officers have come out here with exaggerated ideas of the amount of transport, that they have had to cut down their wardrobes to a very large extent."

He touched the bell. "Will you ask Captain Nelson to step in," he said to the clerk who answered. "Captain Nelson," he said, as one of his staff entered, "I want you to take Mr. O'Connor under your charge. He has just arrived from the north, and was present at the battle of Corunna. He was on Brigadier Fane's staff. As at present he is unattached, I shall put him down in orders to-morrow as an extra aide-de-camp on my staff. He will be leaving to-morrow for the northern frontier. I wish you to see if you cannot get him an undress uniform. He belongs to the infantry. I will give you an order on the paymaster, Mr. O'Connor, to honour your draft for any amount that you may need. I dare say you are in arrears of pay."

"Yes, Sir John. I have drawn nothing since we marched from Torres Vedras in October."