With Moore At Corunna by G. A. Henty
Chapter XX. With the Mayos
The news that Terence brought to the regiment gave great and general satisfaction. Herrara was delighted to hear that he was to be made a lieutenant-colonel in his army. Bull and Macwitty were overjoyed on hearing that they had both been recommended for commissions, and Herrara's troopers were equally pleased. The rank and file felt no less gratification, both at the honour of being attached to the British army, and at the substantial improvement in their condition that this would entail.
On the following day Herrara's friends and Mary O'Connor left for Lisbon, and the latter astonished Terence by bursting into tears as she said good-bye to him.
"I have said nothing yet of the gratitude that I feel to you, Terence, for all that you have done for me, for you have always stopped me whenever I have tried to, but I shall always feel it, always; and shall think of you and love you dearly."
"It has been just as fortunate for me as it has been good for you, Mary," he said. "I have never had a sister, and I seem to have found one now."
The girl looked up, pouting. "I don't think," she said, "I should particularly care about being a sister; I think that I would rather remain a cousin."
Terence looked surprised and a little hurt.
"You are only a silly boy," she laughed, "but will understand better some day. Well, good-bye, Terence," and the smile faded from her face.
"Good-bye, dear. Take great care of yourself in Lisbon, and be sure that you look out to see if the Mayo Fusiliers arrive while you are there. I heard that they were about to embark again with a force that General Hill is bringing out, but my father won't be with them, I am afraid. I have not heard from him, but I should hardly think that he will be fit for hard service again; yet, if he should be, he will tell you where to go to till we get back. At any rate, don't start for England until the regiment comes. I fancy that it will be at Lisbon before you are, and Don Jose can easily find out for you whether father is with it. If he is not, go to Ballinagra. I have written instructions how you are to travel, but you had better write to him there directly you land, and I have no doubt that he will come over and fetch you. I don't know anything about London, but you had better see Captain Nelson at Lisbon. Here is a note I have written to him, asking him where you had better go, and what you had better do when you get to London."
The day after the party had left, Terence marched with his corps north, and established himself at Carvalho, where the road from Oporto passed over the spurs of the Serra de Caramula, in order to check the incursions of French cavalry from Oporto. In the course of the next fortnight he had several sharp engagements with them. In the last of these, when making a reconnaissance with both regiments, he was met by the whole of Franceschi's cavalry. They charged down on all four sides of the square into which he formed his force, expecting that, as upon two previous occasions, the Portuguese would at once break up at their approach. They stood, however, perfectly firm, and received the cavalry with such withering volleys that Franceschi speedily drew off, leaving upwards of two hundred dead behind him.
The day after this fight Terence received a letter from Mary, saying that General Hill had arrived before they reached Lisbon, and that Don Jose had learned that Major O'Connor had retired on half-pay. Also that Captain Nelson had obtained a passage for her in one of the returning transports, and had given her a letter to his mother, who resided in London, asking her to receive her until she heard from the major.
A few days afterwards he learned from Colonel Wilberforce that the English army had marched for Leirya. General Hill's force of five thousand men and three hundred horses for the artillery arrived at an opportune moment. The storming of Oporto, the approach of Victor to Badajos, after totally defeating Cuesta's Spanish army, killing three-fifths of his men, and capturing thousands of prisoners, while Lapisse was advancing from the east, had created a terrible panic in Portugal. Beresford's orders were disobeyed, many of his regiments abandoned their posts, and the populace in Lisbon were in a state of furious turmoil. Hill's arrival to some extent restored confidence, the disorders were repressed, and Sir John Cradock now felt himself strong enough to advance.
Terence's report of the repulse of Franceschi's cavalry was answered by a letter from Cradock himself, expressing warm approval at the conduct of the corps.
"There is but little fear of an advance by Soult at present," he said. "He must know that we have received reinforcements, and he will not venture to march on Lisbon, as the force now gathering at Leirya could operate upon his flank and rear. I shall be glad, therefore, if you would march with your command to the latter town. The example of your troops cannot but have a good effect upon the raw Portuguese levies, and, in the event of our advancing to the relief of Ciudad-Rodrigo, could render good service by clearing the passes, driving in the French outposts, and keeping me well informed of the state of the roads, the accommodation available for the troops, and the existence of supplies."
Immediately on receipt of this Terence marched for Leirya, where the British army was under canvas. On the way down they halted for a night at Coimbra.
"An official letter came for you last night, O'Connor," Colonel Wilberforce said. "I kept it until I should have an opportunity of forwarding it to you. Here it is, duly addressed, Colonel O'Connor, the Minho Regiment."
This was the name Sir John Cradock suggested to Terence, as a memorial of the service they had rendered in repulsing Soult at that river. It was the first time Terence had seen his name with the prefix of colonel.
"It looks like a farce," he said, as he broke the seal.
Inside was an official document, signed by Lord Beresford, to the effect that as a recognition of the very great services rendered by Lieutenant O'Connor, an officer on the staff of Sir John Cradock, when in command of the two battalions of the Minho Regiment, and in accordance with the strong recommendation of the British general, Lieutenant Terence O'Connor is hereby appointed to the rank of colonel in the Portuguese service, with the pay and allowances of his rank. Colonel O' Connor is to continue in command of the regiments, which will be attached to the British army, under the command of Sir John Cradock.
"Here is also a letter for your friend Herrara, and a much more bulky one; will you hand it to him?"
Herrara's letter contained his promotion to lieutenant-colonel, with an order to remain under Terence's command; also fourteen commissions, two giving Bull and Macwitty the Portuguese rank of major, the remaining being captain's commissions for the twelve troopers.
Two days later they reached Leirya. The April sun rendered shelter unnecessary for the Portuguese, and after establishing them, for the present, a quarter of a mile away from the British camp, he went and reported his arrival to the officer in command, and was told that he could not do better than bivouac on the ground he had selected. Leaving the headquarters he soon found where the Mayo regiment was encamped, and made his way to the officers' marquee. They were just sitting down to lunch when, at the entry of an officer on the general's staff, the colonel at once rose gravely. O'Grady was the first to recognize the newcomer.
"Be jabers," he shouted, "but it is Terence O' Connor himself!" There was a general rush to shake hands with him, and a din of voices and a confusion of questions and greetings.
"And what in the world have you got that uniform on for, Terence?" O'Grady asked, when the din somewhat subsided. "We saw that the general had appointed you as one of his aides-de-camp when you got here after Corunna, but you would wear your own uniform all the same."
"What matters about his uniform, O'Grady?" the others exclaimed. "What we want to know is how he saved his life at Corunna, when we all thought that he was either killed or taken prisoner."
"Wait till the lad has got something to eat and drink," the colonel said, peremptorily. "Pray take your seats, gentlemen. You take this chair by me, O'Connor; and now, while you are waiting for your plate, tell us in a few words how you escaped. Everyone made sure that you were killed. We heard that Fane had sent you to carry an order, that you had delivered it, and then started to rejoin him; from that time nobody saw you alive or dead."
"The matter was very simple, Colonel. My horse was hit in the head with a round shot. I went a frightful cropper on some stones in the middle of a clump of bushes. I lay there insensible all night, and coming-to in the morning, saw that the French had advanced, and the firing on the hill over the town told me that the troops had got safely on board ship. I lay quiet all day, and at night made off, sheltered for a couple of days with some peasants on the other side of the hill, joined Romana, went to the Portuguese frontier with him, and then rode to Lisbon, where Sir John Cradock was good enough to put me on his staff."
"We heard you had turned up safely at Lisbon, and glad we were, as you may be sure, and a good jollification we had over it. As for O'Grady, it has served as an excuse for an extra tumbler ever since."
"Bad excuses are better than none," Terence laughed, "and if it hadn't been that, it would have been something else."
"Shut up, you young scamp," O'Grady said. "How is it that you have not answered my question? Why are you wearing staff-officer's uniform instead of your own?"
"Have you not heard, Colonel," Terence said, "that I no longer belong to the regiment?"
There was a chorus of expressions of regret round the table.
"And how has that happened, Terence?" the colonel asked. "That is bad news for us all, anyway."
"I was gazetted lieutenant a month ago, Colonel. I suppose you had sailed from England before the Gazette came out."
"I suppose so, lad. Well, you richly deserved your promotion, if it was only for that affair on board the Sea-horse, and you ought to have had it long ago."
"I am awfully sorry to leave the regiment. It has been my home as long as I can remember, and wherever I may be, I shall always regard it in that light."
"And so you remain on the staff at present, O'Connor?"
"Well, sir, I am on the staff still, but for the present I am on detached duty."
"What sort of duty, Terence?"
"I have the honour to command two Portuguese regiments that marched in an hour ago."
A shout of laughter followed the announcement.
"Bedad, Terence," O'Grady said, "that crack on your head hasn't changed your nature, thanks to your thick skull. I suppose it is poking fun at us that you are. But you won't take us in this time."
"I saw the regiments pass at a distance," the colonel said, "and they marched in good order, too, which is more than I have seen any other Portuguese troops do. Now you mention it, I did see an officer, in what looked like a British uniform, riding with the men, but it was too far off to see what branch of the service he belonged to. That was you, was it?"
"That was me, sure enough, Colonel."
"And what were you doing there? Tell us, like a good boy."
"Absurd as it may appear, and, indeed, absurd as it is, I am in command of those two regiments."
Again a burst of incredulous laughter arose. Terence took out his commission and handed it to the colonel.
"Perhaps, Colonel, if you will be kind enough to read that out loud, my assurance will be believed."
"Faith, it was not your assurance that we doubted, Terence, me boy!" O'Grady exclaimed. "You have plenty of assurance, and to spare; it is the statement that we were doubting."
The colonel glanced down the document, and his face assumed an expression of extreme surprise.
"Gentlemen," he said, rising, "if you will endeavour to keep silence for a minute, I will read this document."
The surprise on his own face was repeated on the faces of all those present, as he proceeded with his reading. O'Grady was the first to break the silence.
"In the name of St. Peter," he said, "what does it all mean? Are you sure that it is a genuine document, Colonel? Terence is capable of anything by way of a joke."
"It is undoubtedly genuine, O'Grady. It is dated from Lord Beresford's quarters, and signed by his lordship himself as commander-in-chief of the Portuguese army. How it comes about beats me as much as it does you. But before we ask any questions we will drink a toast. Gentlemen, fill your glasses; here is to the health of Colonel Terence O'Connor."
The toast was drank with much enthusiasm, mingled with laughter, for many of them had still a suspicion that the whole matter was somehow an elaborate trick played by Terence.
"Now, Colonel O'Connor, will you please to favour us with an account of how General Cradock and Lord Beresford have both united in giving you so big a step up."
"It is a long story, Colonel."
"So much the better," the colonel replied. "We have nothing to do, and it will keep us all awake."
Terence's account of his interview with the colonel of the ordenancas, the demand by Cortingos that he should hand over the money he was escorting, and the subsequent gathering to attack the house, and the manner in which the leaders were captured, the rioters appeased and subsequently advised to direct their efforts to obtain arms and ammunition, excited exclamations of approval; but the belief that the story was a pure romance still prevailed in the minds of many, and Terence saw Captain O'Grady and Dick Ryan exchanging winks. It was not until Terence spoke of his rapid march to the mouth of the Minho, as soon as he heard that the French were concentrating there, that he began to be seriously listened to; and when he told how Soult's attempt to cross had been defeated, and the French general obliged to change the whole plan of the campaign, and to march round by Orense, the conviction that all this was true was forced upon them.
"By the powers, Terence!" the colonel exclaimed, bringing his hand down on his shoulder, "you are a credit to the ould country. I am proud of you, me boy, and it is little I thought when O'Flaherty and myself conspired to get ye into the regiment that you were going to be such a credit to it. Gentlemen, before Colonel O'Connor goes further, we will drink his health again."
This time there was no laughter mixed with the cheers. Many of the officers left their seats and came round to shake his hand warmly, O'Grady foremost among them.
"Sure I thought at first that it was blathering you were, Terence; but, begorra, I see now that it's gospel truth you are telling, and I am proud of you. Faith, I am as proud as if I were your own father, for haven't I brought you up in mischief of all kinds? Be the poker, I would have given me other arm to have been with you."
The rest of the story was listened to without interruption. When it was concluded, Colonel Corcoran again rose.
"Gentlemen, we will for the third time drink to the health of Colonel O'Connor, and I think that you will agree with me that if ever a man deserved to be made a colonel it's himself."
This time O'Grady and three others rushed to where Terence was sitting, seized him, and before he knew what they were going to do, hoisted him onto the shoulders of two of them, and carried him in triumph round the table. When at length quiet was restored, and Terence had resumed his seat, the colonel said:
"By the way, Terence, there was a little old gentleman called on me three days after we landed to ask if Major O'Connor was with the regiment. I told him that he was not, having gone on half-pay for the present on account of a wound. He seemed rather pleased than otherwise, I thought, and I asked him pretty bluntly what he wanted to know for. He brought an interpreter with him, and said through him that he hoped that I would not press that question, especially as a lady was concerned in the matter. It bothered me entirely. Why, from the time we landed at the Mondego till your father was hit at Vimiera I don't believe we ever had the chance to speak to a woman. It may be that it was some lady that nursed him there after we had marched away, and who had taken a fancy to him. The ould man may have been her father, and was perhaps mighty glad to hear that the major was not coming back again."
Terence burst into a shout of laughter.
"My dear Colonel," he said, "the respectable old gentleman did not call on behalf of his daughter, but on behalf of a cousin of mine, who was wanting to find my father; and Don Jose, who was in charge of her, was glad to hear that he was going to remain in England."
"A cousin!" O'Grady exclaimed. "Why how in the name of fortune does a lady cousin of yours come to be cruising about in such an outlandish place as this?"
"That is another story, Colonel, and I have talked until I am hoarse now, so that that must keep until another sitting. It is quite time that I was off to see how my men are getting on."
"Of course you will dine with us?"
"Not to-night, Colonel; this has been a long sitting, and I would rather not begin a fresh one."
"Well, we will come and have a look at your regiments."
"I would rather you did not come until to-morrow, Colonel. The men have marched five-and-twenty miles a day for the last five days, and they want rest, so I should not like to parade them again. If you will come over, say at twelve o'clock to-morrow, I shall be proud to show them."
The corps now possessed five tents, Terence having obtained four more at Coimbra. Herrara and himself occupied one, while two were allotted to the officers of each regiment. Bull and Macwitty had both by this time picked up sufficient Portuguese to be able to get on comfortably, and had agreed with Terence that although they would like to remain together, it was better that each should stay with the officers of his own regiment.
At twelve o'clock next day Colonel Corcoran came over with nearly the whole of the officers of the Mayo regiment, and was accompanied by many others, as they had the night before given many of their acquaintances an outline of Terence's story.
The men had been on foot from an early hour after breakfast. There had been a parade. Every man's firelock, accoutrements, and uniform had been very closely inspected, and when they fell in again at a quarter to twelve a most rigid inspection would have failed to find any fault with their appearance. Terence joined the colonel as soon as he came on the ground.
"So your officers are all mounted, I see, Terence?"
"Yes, Colonel; you see the companies are over two hundred strong, for the losses we had have been filled up since, and one officer to each corps could do but little unless he were mounted."
"The men looked uncommonly well, Terence, uncommonly well. I should like to walk along the line before you move them."
"By all means, Colonel. Their uniforms do not fit as well as I should like, but I had to take them as they were served out, and have had no opportunity of getting them altered."
Since the inspection at Coimbra the men had been taught the salute, and as Terence shouted:
"Attention! General salute! Present arms!" the men executed the order with a sharpness and precision that would have done no discredit to a British line regiment. Then the colonel and officers walked along the line, after which the troops were put through their manoeuvres for an hour, and then dismissed.
"Upon my word, it is wonderful," Colonel Corcoran said. "Why, if the beggars had been at it six months they could not have done it better."
There was a chorus of agreement from all the officers round.
"We could not have done some of those movements better ourselves, could we, O'Driscol?"
"That we could not," the major said, heartily. "Another three months' work and these two regiments would be equal to our best; and I can understand now how they stood up against the charge of Franceschi's cavalry regiments."
"Now, Colonel, I cannot ask you all to a meal," Terence said; "my arrangements are not sufficiently advanced for that yet; but I managed to get hold of some very good wine this morning, and I hope that you will take a glass all round before you go back to camp."
"That we will, and with pleasure, for the dust has well-nigh choked me. It is a different thing drilling on this sandy ground from drilling on a stretch of good turf. Of course, you will come back and lunch with us, and bring your friend Herrara."
Herrara, however, excused himself. He did not know a word of English, and felt that until he could make himself understood he would feel uncomfortable at a gathering of English officers. After lunch Terence was called upon to tell the story about his cousin. Among his friends of the regiment he had no fear of his adventure with the bishop getting abroad, and he therefore related the whole story as it happened.
"By my sowl," O'Grady said to him, afterwards, "Terence O'Connor, you take me breath away altogether. To think that a year ago you were just a gossoon, and here ye are a colonel--a Portuguese colonel, I grant, but still a colonel--fighting Soult, and houlding defiles, and making night attacks, and thrashing the French cavalry, and carrying off a nun from a convent, and outwitting a bishop, and playing all Sorts of divarsions. It bates me entirely. There is Dicky Ryan, who, as I tould him yesterday, had just the same chances as you have had, just Dicky Ryan still. I tould him he ought to blush down to his boots."
"And what did he say, O'Grady?"
"The young spalpeen had the impudence to say that there was I, Captain O'Grady, just the same as when he first joined, and, barring the loss of an arm, divil a bit the better. And the worst of it is, it was true entirely. If I could but find a pretty cousin shut up in a convent you would see that I would not be backward in doing what had to be done; but no such luck comes to me at all, at all."
"Quite so, O' Grady; I have had tremendous luck. And it has all come about owing to my happening to think it would be a good thing to take possession of that French lugger."
"Don't you think it, me boy," O'Grady said, seriously. "No doubt a man may have a turn of luck, though it is not everyone who takes advantage of it when it comes. But when you see a man always succeeding, always doing something that other fellows don't do, and making his way up step by step, you may put it down that luck has very little to do with the matter, and that he has got something in him that other men haven't got. You may have had some luck to start with--enough, perhaps, to have got you your lieutenancy, though I don't say that it was luck; but you cannot put the rest of it down to that."
At this moment Dick Ryan came and joined them.
"Well, Dicky," Terence said, "have you had no fun lately in the regiment?"
"Not a scrap," Ryan said, dismally. "There was not much chance of fun on that long march; on board ship there was a storm all the way; then we were kept on board the transport at Cork nearly three months. Everyone was out of temper, and a mouse would not have dared squeak on board the ship. I have had a bad time of it since the day we lost you."
"Oh, well, you will have plenty of chances yet, Dicky."
"It has not been the same thing since you have gone, Terence," he grumbled. "Of course we could not always be having fun; but you know that we were always putting our heads together and talking over what might be done. It was good fun, even if we could not carry it out. I tried to stir up the others of our lot, but they don't seem to have it in them. I wish you could get me transferred to your regiment. I know that we should have plenty of fun there."
"I am afraid that it could not be done, Dicky, though I should like it immensely. But you see you have not learned a word of Portuguese, and you would be of no use in the world."
"There it is, you see," O'Grady said. "That is one of the points which had no luck in it, Terence. You were always trying to talk away with the peasants; and, riding about as you did as Fane's aide-de-camp, you had opportunities of doing so and made the most of them. Now there are not three other fellows in the regiment who can ask a simple question. I can shout Carajo! at a mule-driver who loiters behind, and can add two or three other strong Portuguese words, but there is an end of it. Cradock would never have sent you that errand to Romana if you could not have talked enough to have made yourself understood. You could never have jawed those mutineers and put them up to getting hold of the arms. If Dicky Ryan and I had been sent on that mission we should just have been as helpless as babies, and should, like enough, have been murdered by that mob. There was no luck about that, you see; it was just because you had done your best to pick up the language, and nobody else had taken the trouble to learn a word of it."
"I see that, O'Grady," Ryan said, dolefully. "I don't envy Terence a bit. I know that he has quite deserved what he has got, and that if I had had his start, I should never have got any farther. Still, I wish I could go with him. I know that he has always been the one who invented our plans. Still, I have had a good idea sometimes."
"Certainly you have, Dicky; and if I have generally started an idea, you have always worked it up with me. Well, if you will get up Portuguese a bit, and I see a chance of asking for another English officer, say as adjutant, I will see if I cannot get you; but I could not ask for you without being able to give as a reason that you could speak Portuguese well."
"I will try, Terence; upon my honour, I will try hard," Ryan said. "I will get hold of a fellow and begin to-day."
"Quite right, Dicky," O'Grady said. "Faith, I would do it meself, if it wasn't in the first place that I am too old to learn, and in the second place that I niver could learn anything when I was a boy. I used to get thrashed every day regularly, but divil a bit of difference did it make. I got to read and write, and there I stuck. As for the ancients, I was always mixing them up together; and whether it was Alexander or Caesar who marched over the Alps and burnt Jerusalem, divil a bit do I know, and I don't see that if I did know it would do me a hap'orth of good."
"I don't think that particular piece of knowledge would, O'Grady," Terence agreed, with a hearty laugh; "still, even if you did learn Portuguese, I couldn't ask for you. I don't mind Dicky, because he is only a year senior to me; but if they made me commander-in-chief of the Portuguese army, I could never have the cheek to give you an order."
Three weeks later came the startling news that Sir Arthur Wellesley had arrived at Lisbon, and was to assume the command of the army. Sir John Cradock was to command at Gibraltar. There was general satisfaction at the news, for the events of the last campaign had given all who served under him an implicit confidence in Sir Arthur; but it was felt that Sir John Cradock had been very hardly treated. In the first place, he was a good way senior to Sir Arthur, and in the second place, he had battled against innumerable difficulties, and the time was now approaching when he would reap the benefit of his labours. To Terence the news came almost as a blow, for he felt that it was probable he might be at once appointed to a British regiment.
Personally he would not have cared so much, but he would have regretted it greatly for the sake of the men who had followed him. It was true that they might obey Herrara as willingly as they did himself, but he knew that the native officers did not possess anything like the same influence with the Portuguese that the English did, and that there might be a rapid deterioration in their discipline and morale. He remained in a state of uncertainty for a week, at the end of which time he received a letter from Captain Nelson, and tearing it open, read as follows:--
My Dear O' Connor,
I dare say you have been feeling somewhat doubtful as to your position since you heard that Sir Arthur has superseded Sir John Cradock. I may tell you at once that he has taken over the whole of Sir John's staff, yourself, of course, included. I ventured to suggest to Sir John that he should mention your case to Sir Arthur, and he told me that he had intended to take the opportunity of the first informal talk he had with him to do so. The opportunity came yesterday, and Sir John went fully into your case, showed him the reports, and mentioned how he came to appoint you because of the clear and lucid description you gave of the movements of every division of Moore's army.
Sir Arthur remembered your name at once, and the circumstances under which he had mentioned you in general orders for your conduct on board the transport coming out. Sir John told me that he said, 'There is no doubt that O'Connor is a singularly promising young officer, Sir John. The check he gave Soult on the Minho might have completely reversed the success of the Frenchman's campaign had he had any but Spaniards and Portuguese to oppose him. The report shows that O'Connor has done wonders with those two regiments of his, and I shall not think of removing him from their command. A trustworthy native corps of that description would be of the greatest advantage, and will act, like Trant and Wilson's commands, as the eyes of the army. I am much obliged to you for your having brought the case before my notice, for otherwise, not knowing the circumstances, I might very well have considered that the position of a lieutenant on my staff as the commander of two native regiments was an anomalous one. I should, no doubt, have inquired how it occurred before I thought of superseding an officer you had selected, but your explanation more than justifies his appointment.' So you see, Terence, the change will make no difference in your position. And as I fancy Sir Arthur will not let the grass grow under his feet, you are likely to have a lively time of it before long. By the way, a Gazette has arrived, and it contains the appointment of your two men to commissions.
While waiting at Leirya, Terence had ordered uniforms for all the officers. He had, after consultation with Herrara, decided upon one approximating rather to the cavalry than to infantry dress, as being more convenient for mounted officers. It consisted of tight-fitting green patrol jacket, breeches of the same colour, and half-high boots and a gold-embroidered belt and slings. The two English officers wore a yellow band round their caps, and Herrara a gold one.
"I am sure, Colonel O'Connor," Bull said, when Terence told Macwitty and him that they had been gazetted to commissions, "we cannot thank you enough. Macwitty and I have done our best, but it has been nothing more than teaching drill to a lot of recruits."
"We had two or three hard fights, too, Bull; and I have very good reason for thinking most highly of you, for I should never have got the corps into an efficient state without your assistance. And, indeed, I doubt whether I should have ventured upon the task at all if I had not been sure that I should be well seconded by you."
"It is good of you to say so, Colonel," Macwitty said; "but at any rate, it has been a rare bit of luck for us, and little did we think when we were ordered to accompany you it was going to lead to our getting commissions. Well, we will do our best to deserve them."
"That I am sure you will, Macwitty; and now that the campaign is going to commence in earnest, and we may have two or three years' hard fighting, you may have opportunities of getting another step before you go home."
Three days later an order came to Terence to march north again with his corps, and to place himself in some defensible position north of the Mondego, and to co-operate, if necessary, with Trant and Silveira, also ordered to take post beyond the river. Cuesta, the Portuguese general, had gathered a fresh army of six thousand cavalry and thirty thousand infantry. The greater portion were in a position in front of Victor's outposts. Between the Tagus and the Mondego were 16,000 Portuguese troops of the line, under Lord Beresford, that had been drilled and organized to some extent by British officers. The British and German troops numbered 22,000 fighting men.
Sir Arthur Wellesley, at Lisbon, had the choice of either falling upon Victor or Soult. The former would be the most advantageous operation, but, upon the other hand, the Portuguese were most anxious to recover Oporto, their second city, with the fertile country round it.
Another fact which influenced the decision was that Cuesta was alike incapable and obstinate, and was wholly indisposed to co-operate warmly with the British. The British commander, therefore, decided in the first place to attack Soult, and the force at Leirya was ordered to march to Coimbra. Five British battalions and two regiments of cavalry, with 7,000 Portuguese troops, were ordered to Abrantes and Santarem to check Victor, should he endeavour to make a rapid march upon Lisbon. Four Portuguese battalions were incorporated in each British brigade at Coimbra, Beresford retaining 6,000 under his personal command. On the 2d of May Sir Arthur reached Coimbra and reviewed the force, 25,000 strong, 9,000 being Portuguese, 3,000 Germans, and 13,000 British.
Soult was badly informed of the storm that was gathering about him, or many of his officers were disaffected, and were engaged in a plot to have him supplanted; consequently, they kept back the information they received of the movements of the British.