Chapter VIII. A False Alarm
 

The march was continued until the brigade arrived at Almeida, which they reached on the 7th of November, and Sir John Moore and the head-quarters staff came up on the following day. All the troops were now assembled at that place; for Anstruther, by some misconception of orders, had halted the leading division, instead of, as intended by the general, continuing his march to Salamanca. The condition of the troops was excellent. Discipline, which had been somewhat relaxed during the period of inactivity, was now thoroughly restored. The weather had continued fine, and the steady exercise had well prepared them for the campaign which was beginning. Things, however, were in other respects going on unfavourably.

The Junta of Corunna had given the most solemn promises that transport and everything necessary for the advance of Sir David Baird's force should be ready by the time that officer arrived. Yet nothing whatever had been done, and so conscious were the Junta of their shortcomings, that when the fleet with the troops arrived off the port they refused to allow them to enter without an order from the central Junta, and fifteen days were wasted before the troops could disembark. Then it was found that neither provisions nor transport had been provided, and that nothing whatever was to be hoped for from the Spanish authorities. Baird was entirely unprovided with money, and was supplied with L8,000 from Moore's scanty military chest, while at the very time the British agent, Mr. Frere, was in Corunna with two millions of dollars for the use of the Spaniards, which he was squandering, like the other British agents, right and left among the men who refused to put themselves to the slightest trouble to further the expedition.

Spain was at this time boasting of the enthusiasm of its armies, and of the immense force that it had in the field, and succeeded in persuading the English cabinet and the English people that with the help of a little money they could alone and unaided drive the French right across the frontier. The emptiness of this braggadocio, and the utter incapacity of the Spanish authorities and generals was now speedily exposed, for Napoleon's newly arrived armies scattered the Spaniards before them like sheep, and it was only on one or two occasions that anything like severe fighting took place. Within the space of three weeks there remained of the great armies of Spain but a few thousand fugitives hanging together without arms or discipline. Madrid, the centre of this pretended enthusiasm and patriotism, surrendered after a day's pretence at resistance, and the whole of the eastern provinces fell, practically without a blow, into the hands of the invaders.

At present, however, Moore still hoped for some assistance from the Spaniards. He, like Baird, was crippled for want of money, but determined not to delay his march, and sent agents to Madrid and other places to make contracts and raise money; thus while the ministers at home squandered huge sums on the Spaniards, they left it to their own military commanders to raise money by means of loans to enable them to march. Never in the course of the military history of England were her operations so crippled and foiled by the utter incapacity of her government as in the opening campaigns of the Peninsular War.

While Baird was vainly trying to obtain transport at Corunna, a reinforcement of some five thousand Spanish troops under General Romana landed at San Andero, and, being equipped from the British stores, joined the Spanish general, Blake, in Biscay. These troops had been raised for the French service at the time Napoleon's brother Joseph was undisputed King of Spain. They were stationed in Holland, and when the insurrection at home broke out, the news of the rising was sent to them, and in pursuance of a plan agreed upon they suddenly rose, marched down to a port and embarked in English ships sent to receive them, and were in these transported to the northern coast of Spain.

Sir David Baird was a man of great energy, and, having succeeded in borrowing a little more money from Mr. Frere, he started on his march to join General Moore. He had with great difficulty hired some country carts at an exorbitant rate, but the number was so small that he was obliged to send up his force in half-battalions, and so was able to proceed but very slowly.

Sir John Moore was still in utter ignorance of the situation in Spain. The jealousy among the generals, and the disinclination of the central Junta to appoint any one person to a post that might enable him to interfere with their intrigues, had combined to prevent the appointment of a commander-in-chief, and there was no one therefore with whom Sir John could open negotiations and learn what plans, if any, had been decided upon for general operations against the advancing enemy.

On the day that Moore arrived at Almeida, Blake was in full flight, pursued by a French army 50,000 strong, and Napoleon was at Vittoria with 170,000 troops.

Of these facts he was ignorant, but the letters that he received from Lord William Bentinck and Colonel Graham, exposing the folly of the Spanish generals, reached him. On the 11th he crossed the frontier of Spain, marching to Ciudad-Rodrigo. On that day Blake was finally defeated, and one of the other armies completely crushed and dispersed. These events left a large French army free to act against the British. Sir John Moore, however, did not hear of this until a week later. He knew, however, that the situation was serious; and after all the reports of Spanish enthusiasm, he was astonished to find that complete apathy prevailed, that no effort was made to enroll the population, or even to distribute the vast quantity of British muskets stored up in the magazines of the cities.

The general arrived at Salamanca with 4,000 British infantry. The French cavalry were at Valladolid, but three marches distant. On the 18th more troops had arrived, and on the 23d 12,000 infantry and six guns were at Salamanca. But Moore now knew of the defeat of Blake, and that the French army that had crushed him was free to advance against Salamanca. But he did not yet know of the utter dispersal of the Asturian army, or that the two armies of Castanos and Palafox were also defeated and scattered beyond any attempt at rallying, and that their conquerors were also free to march against him. Although ignorant of the force with which Napoleon had entered Spain, and having no idea of its enormous strength, he knew that it could not be less than 80,000 men, and that it could be joined by at least 30,000 more.

His position was indeed a desperate one. Baird was still twenty marches distant, his cavalry and artillery still far away. It would require another five days to bring the rear of his own army to Salamanca, as only a small portion could come forward each day, owing to want of transport; and yet, while in this position of imminent danger, the Spanish authorities, through Mr. Frere and other agents, were violently urging an advance to Madrid.

General Moore was indeed in a position of imminent danger; but the lying reports as to the strength of the Spanish army induced him for a moment to make preparations for such a movement. When, however, he learned the utter overthrow and dispersal of the whole of the Spanish armies, he saw that nothing remained but to fall back, if possible, upon Portugal.

It was necessary, however, that he should remain at Salamanca until Hope should arrive with the guns, and the army be in a position to show a front to the enemy. Instructions had been previously sent to Hope to march to the Escurial. Hope had endeavoured to find a road across the mountains of Ciudad-Rodrigo, but the road was so bad that he dared not venture upon it, as the number of horses was barely sufficient to drag the guns and ammunition waggons along a good road. He therefore kept on his way until he reached the Escurial; but after advancing three days farther towards Madrid, he heard of the utter defeat of the Spaniards and the flight of their armies. His cavalry outposts brought in word that more than 4,000 cavalry were but twelve miles away, and that other French troops were at Segovia and other places. The prospect of his making his way to join Sir John Moore seemed well-nigh hopeless; but, with admirable skill and resolution, Hope succeeded in eluding some of his foes, in checking others by destroying or defending bridges, and finally joined the main force without the loss of any of the important convoy of guns and ammunition that he was escorting.

The satisfaction of the troops at the arrival of the force that had been regarded as lost was unbounded. Hitherto, unprovided as they were with artillery and cavalry, they could have fought only under such disadvantages as would render defeat almost inevitable, for an enemy could have pounded them with artillery from a distance beyond their musket range, and they could have made no effectual reply whatever. His cavalry could have circled round them, cut their communications, and charged down on their lines in flank and rear while engaged with his infantry. Now every man felt that once again he formed part of an army, and that that army could be relied upon to beat any other of equal numbers.

Terence had enjoyed the march to Salamanca. The fine weather had broken up, and heavy rains had often fallen, but his thick coat kept him dry except in the steadiest downpours; while on one or two occasions only the general and his staff had failed to find quarters available. As they proceeded they gradually closed up with the troops forming a part of the same division, and at Almeida came under the command of General Fraser, whose division was made complete by their arrival. Up to this point the young aide-de-camp's duties had been confined solely to the work of the brigade--to seeing that the regiments kept their proper distances, that none of the waggons loitered behind, and that the roads were repaired, where absolutely necessary, for the baggage to pass.

In the afternoon he generally rode forward with Major Errington, the quartermaster-general of the brigade, to examine the place fixed upon for the halt, to apportion the ground between the regiments, and ascertain the accommodation to be obtained in the village. Two orderlies accompanied them, each carrying a bundle of light rods. With these the ground was marked off, a card with the name of the regiment being inserted in a slit at the end of the rod; the village was then divided in four quarters for the accommodation of the officers. But beyond fixing the name of each regiment to the part assigned to it, no attempt was made to allot any special quarters to individual officers, this being left for the regimental quartermaster to do on the arrival of the troops.

When the column came up Terence led each regiment to the spot marked off, and directed the baggage-waggons to their respective places. While he was doing this, Trevor, with the orderlies, saw the head-quarters baggage carried to the house chosen for the general's use, and that the place was made as comfortable as might be, and then endeavoured to add to the rations by purchases in the village. Fane himself always remained with the troops until the tents were erected, and they were under cover, the rations distributed, and the fires lighted. The latter operation was often delayed by the necessity of fetching wood from a distance, the wood in the immediate neighbourhood having been cut down and burned either by the French on their advance, or by the British regiments ahead.

He then went to his quarters, where he received the reports of the medical, commissariat, and transport officers, wrote a report of the state of the road and the obstacles that he had encountered, and sent it back by an orderly to the officer commanding the six guns which were following a day's march behind him. These had been brought along with great labour, it being often necessary to take them off their carriages and carry them up or down difficult places, while the men were frequently compelled to harness themselves to ropes and aid the horses to drag the guns and waggons through the deep mud. Between the arrival of the troops and dinner Terence had his time to himself, and generally spent it with his regiment.

"Never did I see such a country, Terence," O'Grady complained to him one day. "Go where you will in ould Oirland, you can always get a jugful of poteen, a potful of 'taties, and a rasher of bacon; and if it is a village, a fowl and eggs. Here there are not even spirits or wine; as for a chicken, I have not seen the feather of one since we started, and I don't believe the peasants would know an egg if they saw it."

"Nonsense, O'Grady! If we were to go off the main road we should be able to buy all these things, barring the poteen, and maybe the potatoes, but you could get plenty of onions instead. You must remember that the French army came along here, and I expect they must have eaten nearly everything up on their way, and you may be sure that Anstruther's brigade gleaned all they left. As we marched from the Mondego we found the villagers well supplied--better a good deal than places of the same size would be in Ireland--except at our first halting-place."

"I own that, although Hoolan sometimes fails to add to our rations, we have not been so badly off, Terence. He goes out with two or three more of the boys directly we halt, laving the other servants to get the tents ready, and he generally brings us half a dozen fish, sometimes a dozen, that he has got out of the stream.

"He is an old hand, is Tim, and if he can't get them for dinner he gets them for breakfast. He catches them with night-lines and snares, and all sorts of poaching tricks. I know he bought a bag with four or five pounds of lime at Torres Vedras, and managed to smuggle it away in the regimental baggage. I asked him what it was for, and the rascal tipped me a wink, as much as to say, Don't ask no questions, master; and I believe that he drops a handful into a likely pool when he comes across one. I have never dared to ask him, for my conscience would not let me countenance such an unsportsmanlike way of getting round the fish."

"I don't think that there is much harm in it under the present circumstances," Terence laughed. "It is not sport, but it is food. I am afraid, Tim, that you must have been poaching a good deal at home or you would never have thought of buying lime before starting on this march."

"I would scorn to take in an Oirish fish, yer honour!" Hoolan said, indignantly. "But it seems to me that as the people here are trating us in just as blackguardly a manner as they can, shure it is the least we can do to catch their fish any way we can, just to pay them off."

"Well, looking at it in that light, Tim, I will say no more against the practice. I don't think I could bring myself to lime even Portuguese water, but my conscience would not trouble me at eating fish that had been caught by somebody else."

"I will bear it in mind, yer honour, and next time we come on a good pool a dish of fine fish shall be left at your quarters, but yer honour must not mintion to the gineral where you got them from. Maybe his conscience in the matter of ateing limed fish would be more tender than your own, and it might get me into trouble."

"I will take care about that, Tim; at any rate, I will try and manufacture two or three hooks, and when we halt for a day will try and do a little fishing on my own account."

"I will make you two or three, Mr. O'Connor. I made a couple for Mr. Ryan, and he caught two beauties yesterday evening."

"Thank you, Hoolan. Fond as I am of fishing, I wonder it did not strike me before. I can make a line by plaiting some office string, with twisted horse-hair instead of gut."

"I expect that that is just what Mr. Ryan did, yer honour. I heard the adjutant using powerful language this morning because he could not find a ball of twine."

After this Terence generally managed to get an hour's fishing before the evening twilight had quite faded away; and by the aid of a long rod cut on the river bank, a line manufactured by himself, and Hoolan's hook baited with worms, he generally contrived to catch enough fish to supplement the ordinary fare at the following morning's breakfast.

"This is a welcome surprise, Trevor," the brigadier said the first time the fish appeared at table. "I thought I smelt fish frying, but I felt sure I must be mistaken. Where on earth did you get them from?"

"It is not my doing, General, but O'Connor's. I was as much surprised as yourself when I saw Burke squatting over the fire frying three fine fish. I asked him where he had stolen them. He told me that Mr. O'Connor brought them in at eight o'clock yesterday evening."

"Where did you get them from, O'Connor?"

"I caught them in the stream that we crossed half a mile back, sir. I found a likely pool a few hundred yards down it, and an hour's work there gave me those three fish. They stopped biting as soon as it got dark."

"What did you catch them with?"

Terence explained the nature of his tackle.

"Capital! You have certainly given us a very pleasant change of food, and I hope that you will continue the practice whenever there is a chance."

"There ought often to be one, General. We cross half a dozen little mountain streams every day, and the villages are generally built close to one. I don't suppose I should have thought of it, if I had not found that some of the men of my regiment have been supplying the mess with them. I hope to do better in future, for going over the ground where some of the troops in front of us have bivouacked I came upon some white feathers blowing about, and I shall try to tie a fly. That ought to be a good deal more killing than a worm when the light begins to fade."

"You have been a fisherman, then, at home?"

"Yes, sir; I did a good deal of fishing round Athlone, and was taught to tie my own flies. I wish I had a packet of hooks--the two one of our fellows made for me are well enough for worms, but they are rather clumsy for flies."

"I used to be fond of fishing myself," Fane said; "but I have always bought my tackle, and I doubt whether I should make much hand at it, if left to my own devices. We are not likely to be able to get any hooks till we get to Almeida, but I should think you would find some there."

"I shall be able to get some wire to make them with, no doubt, sir."

"I fancy after we have left Almeida you won't find many opportunities of fishing, O'Connor. We shall have other work on hand then, and shall, I hope, be able to buy what we want; at any rate, we shall have as good a chance of doing so as others, while along this road there is nothing to be had for love or money, and the peasants would no doubt be glad to sell us anything they have, but they are living on black bread themselves; and, indeed, the greater part have moved away to less-frequented places. No doubt they will come back again as soon as we have all passed, but how long they will be allowed to live in peace and quietness is more than I can say. As long as it is only our troops who come along they have nothing much to complain of, for they can sell everything they have to dispose of at prices they never dreamt of before; but they complain bitterly of the French, who ate their fruit and drank their wine, killed their pigs and fowls, appropriated their cattle and horses, and they thought themselves lucky to escape with their lives. You see there are very few men about here; they have all gone off to join one or other of the Portuguese bands."

"I fancy these Portuguese fellows will turn out useful some day, General," Major Errington said. "They are stout fellows, and though I don't think the townspeople would be of any good, the peasantry ought to make good soldiers if they were well drilled and led."

"That is a very large if," Fane laughed. "I see no signs of any leader, and unless we could lend them a few hundred non-commissioned officers I don't see where their drill instructors are to come from. Still, I have more hope of them than I have of the Spaniards. Those men under Trant were never tried much under fire, but they certainly improved in discipline very much in the short time they were with us. If we could but get rid of all the Portuguese authorities and take the people in hand ourselves, we ought to be able to turn out fifty thousand good fighting troops in the course of a few months, but so long as things go on as they are I see no hope of any efficient aid from them."

At Almeida Terence managed to procure some hooks. They were clumsily made, but greatly superior to anything that he could turn out himself. He was also able to procure some strong lines, but the use of flies seemed to be altogether unknown. However, during his stay he made half a dozen different patterns, and with these in a small tin box and a coil of line stowed away at the bottom of one of his holsters, he felt that if opportunity should occur he ought to be able to have fair sport. He had suffered a good deal during the heavy rains, which came on occasionally, from the fact that his infantry cloak was not ample enough to cover his legs when riding. He was fortunate enough here to be able to buy a pair of long riding-boots, and with these and a pair of thick canvas trousers, made by one of the regimental tailors, and coming down just below the knee, he felt that in future he could defy the rain.

At Salamanca there were far better opportunities of the officers supplementing their outfits. Landing on the Mondego early in August, they had made provision against the heat, but had brought no outfit at all suited for wear in winter, and all seized the opportunity of providing themselves with warm under-garments, had linings sewn into greatcoats, and otherwise prepared for the cold which would shortly set in. The greater part of the troops were here quartered in the convents and other extensive buildings, and as Fane's brigade was one of the first to arrive they enjoyed a short period of well-earned rest. Terence had by this time picked up a good deal of Portuguese, and was able to make himself pretty well understood by the Spanish shopkeepers. He, as well as the other officers, was astonished and disgusted at the lethargy that prevailed when, as all now knew, the great Spanish armies were scattered to the winds, and large bodies of French troops were advancing in all directions to crush out the last spark of resistance.

The officers of the Mayo Fusiliers had established a mess, and Terence often dined there. He was always eagerly questioned as to what was going to be done.

"I can assure you, O'Grady," he said, one day, "that aides-de-camp are not admitted to the confidence of the officer commanding-in-chief. I know no more as to Sir John's intentions than the youngest drummer-boy. I suppose that everything will depend upon the weather, and whether General Hope, with the artillery and cavalry, manages to join us. If he does, I suppose we shall fight a battle before we fall back. If he does not, I suppose we shall have to fall back without fighting, if the French will let us."

"I wish, Terence, you would give these lazy Spaniards a good fright, just as you gave the people at Athlone. Faith, I would give a couple of months' pay to see them regularly scared."

"If I were not on the staff I might try it, O'Grady, but it would never do for me to try such a thing now."

Dick Ryan, who was standing by, winked significantly, and in a short time he and Terence were talking eagerly together in a corner of the room.

"Who is to know you are a staff-officer, Terence?" the latter urged. "Isn't it an infantry uniform that you are wearing? and ain't there hundreds of infantry officers here? It was good fun at Athlone, but I don't think that many of them believed there was any real danger. It would be altogether different here; they are scared enough as it is, though they walk about with their cloaks wrapped round them and pretend to be mighty confident."

"Let us come and talk it over outside, Dick. It did not much matter before if it had been discovered we had a hand in it. Of course the colonel would have given us a wigging, but at heart he would have been as pleased at the joke as any of us. But it is a different affair here."

Going out, they continued their talk and arranged their plans. Late the following night two English officers rushed suddenly into a drinking-shop close to the gate through which the road to Valladolid passed.

"The French! the French!" one exclaimed. "Run for your lives and give the alarm!"

The men all leapt to their feet, rushed out tumultuously, and scattered through the streets, shouting at the top of their voices: "The French are coming! the French are coming! Get up, or you will all be murdered in your beds!"

The alarm spread like wildfire, and Terence and Ryan made their way back, by the shortest line, to the room where most of the officers were still sitting, smoking and chatting.

"Any news, O'Connor?" the colonel asked.

"Nothing that I have heard of, Colonel. I thought I would drop in for a cigar before turning in."

A few minutes later Tim Hoolan entered.

"There is a shindy in the town, your honour," he said to the colonel. "Meself does not know what it is about; but they are hallooing and bawling fit to kill themselves."

One of the officers went to the window and threw it up.

"Hoolan is right, Colonel; there is something the matter. There--" he broke off as a church bell pealed out with loud and rapid strokes.

"That is the alarm, sure enough!" the colonel exclaimed. "Be off at once, gentlemen, and get the men up and under arms."

"I must be off to the general's quarters!" Terence exclaimed, hastily putting on his greatcoat again.

"The divil fly away with them," O'Grady grumbled, as he hastily finished the glass before him; "sorrow a bit of peace can I get at all, at all, in this bastely country."

Terence hurried away to his quarters. A score of church bells were now pealing out the alarm. From every house men and women rushed out panic-stricken, and eagerly questioned each other. All sorts of wild reports were circulated.

"The British outposts have been driven in; the Valladolid gate has been captured; Napoleon himself, with his whole army, is pouring into the town."

The shrieks of frightened women added to the din, above which the British bugles calling the troops to arms could be heard in various quarters of the city.

"Oh, here you are, Mr. O'Connor!" General Fane exclaimed, as he hurried in. "Mr. Trevor has just started for the convent; he may be intercepted, and therefore do you carry the same message; the brigade is to get under arms at once, and to remain in readiness for action until I arrive. From what I can gather from these frightened fools, the French have already entered the town. If the convent is attacked, it is to be defended until the last. I am going to head-quarters for orders."

A good deal alarmed at the consequences of the tumult that he and Dick Ryan had excited, Terence made his way through the streets at a run; his progress, however, was impeded by the crowd, many of whom seized him as he passed and implored him to tell them the news. He observed that not a weapon was to be seen among the crowd; evidently resistance was absolutely unthought of. Trevor had reached the convent before him. The four regiments had already gathered there under arms.

"Have you any orders, Mr. O'Connor?" Colonel Corcoran asked, eagerly, for the Mayo Fusiliers happened to be formed up next the gate of the convent.

"No, sir; only to repeat those brought by Mr. Trevor, as the general thought that he might be intercepted on the way. The troops are to remain here in readiness until he arrives. If attacked, they are to hold the convent until the last."

"Have you seen any signs of the French?"

"None, whatever, Colonel."

"Did you hear any firing?"

"No, sir; but there was such an uproar--what with the church bells, everyone shouting, and the women screaming--that I don't suppose I should have heard it unless it had been quite close."

"We thought we heard musketry," the colonel replied, "but it might have been only fancy. There is such a hullabaloo in the city that we might not have heard the fire of small-arms, but I think that we must have heard artillery."

In ten minutes Fane with his staff galloped in. "The brigade will march down towards the Valladolid gate," he said. "If you encounter any enemies, Colonel Corcoran you will at once occupy the houses on both sides of the street and open fire upon them from the windows and roofs; the other regiments will charge them. At present," he went on, as the colonel gave the order for the regiment to march, "we can obtain no information as to the cause of this uproar. An officer rode in, just as I was starting, from Anstruther's force, encamped outside the walls, asking for orders, and reporting that his outposts have seen no signs of the enemy. I believe it is a false alarm after all, and we are marching rather to reassure the populace than with any idea of meeting the enemy."

The troops marched rapidly through the streets, making their way without ceremony through the terrified crowd. They had gone but a short distance when the bells of the churches one by one ceased their clamour, and a hush succeeded the din that had before prevailed. When the head of the column reached the gate, they saw Sir John Moore and his staff sitting there on horseback. Fane rode up to him for orders.

"It is, as I fancied, wholly a false alarm," the general said. "How it could have started I have no idea. I have had another report from Anstruther; all is quiet at the outposts, and there is no sign whatever of the enemy. There is nothing to do but to march the troops back to barracks. However, I am not sorry, for possibly the scare may wake the authorities up to the necessity of taking some steps for the protection of the town."

Terence rode back with General Fane to his quarters.

"I cannot make out," Trevor said, as they went, "how the scare can have begun; everything was quiet enough. I was just thinking of turning in when we heard a shouting in the streets. In three minutes the whole town seemed to have gone mad, and I made sure that the French must be upon us; but I could not make out how they could have done so without our outposts giving the alarm. Where were you when it began?"

"I was in the mess-room of the Mayos, when one of the servants ran in to say that there was a row. Directly afterwards the alarm-bells began to ring, the colonel at once gave orders for the regiment to be got under arms, and I ran back to the general for orders; and I must have passed you somewhere on the road. Did you ever see such cowards as these Spaniards? Though there are arms enough in the town for every man to bear a musket--and certainly the greater portion of them have weapons of some sort or other--I did not see a man with arms of any kind in his hand."

"I noticed the same thing," Trevor said. "It is disgusting. It was evident that the sole thought that possessed them was as to their own wretched lives. I have no doubt that, if they could have had their will, they would have disarmed all our troops, in order that no resistance whatever should be offered. And yet only yesterday the fellows were all bragging about their patriotism, and the bravery that would be shown should the French make their appearance. It makes one sick to be fighting for such people."

The following afternoon Terence went up to the convent.

"Well, O'Connor, have you heard how it all began?" the colonel asked, as he went into the mess-room.

"No one seems to know at all, Colonel. The authorities are making inquiries, but, as far as I have heard, nothing has taken place to account for it."

"It reminds me," the colonel said, shutting one eye and looking fixedly at Terence, "of a certain affair that took place at Athlone."

"I was thinking the same myself," Terence replied, quietly, "only the scare was a good deal greater here than it was there; besides, a good many of the townspeople in Athlone did turn out with guns in their hands, whereas here, I believe every man in the town hid his gun in his bed before running out."

"I always suspected you of having a hand in that matter, Terence."

"Did you, Colonel?" Terence said, in a tone of surprise. "Well, as, fortunately, I was sitting here when this row began, you cannot suspect me this time."

"I don't know; you and Ryan came in together, which was suspicious in itself, and it was not two minutes after you had come in that the rumpus began. Just give me a wink, lad, if you had a finger in the matter. You know you are safe with me; besides, ain't you a staff-officer now, and outside my jurisdiction altogether?"

"Well, Colonel, a wink does not cost anything," Terence said, "so here is to ye."

He exchanged a wink with the colonel, who burst into a fit of laughter so loud that he startled all the other officers, who at once came up to hear the joke.

"It is just a little story that Terence has been telling me," the colonel said, when he had recovered his breath, "about the scare last night, and how a young woman, with next to nothing on her, threw her arms round his neck and begged him to save her. The poor young fellow blushed up to his eyelids with the shame of it in the public streets!"