Chapter XI. The Fight on the Coa.
 

All through the winter of 1809-1810, Wellington had remained quietly on the frontier of Portugal, engaged in disciplining his troops, many of whom were raw drafts from the militia, in urging upon the home Government the necessity of fresh reinforcements, if the war was to be carried on with the smallest hopes of success, and in controversies and disputes with the Portuguese regency. This body of incapables starved their own army, refused supplies and transport to the British, and behaved with such arrogance and insolence that Wellington was several times driven to use the threat that, unless measures were taken to keep the Portuguese troops from starving, and to supply food to the British, he would put his army on board the transports at Lisbon, and give up the struggle altogether.

Spring found the army still on the frontier, and when the French advanced in force in May to lay siege to the Spanish frontier fortress of Ciudad Rodrigo, Wellington to the intense disappointment of his own troops, and the bitter anger of the Portuguese and Spaniards, refused to fight a battle to save the fortress, which, under its gallant old governor, Andrea Hernati, was defending itself nobly.

Wellington's position was, however, a very difficult one, and his responsibilities were immense. Allowing for the detachments which were massing to check three other French columns advancing in different directions, he had but 25,000 men with which to attempt to raise the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo, or to draw off the besieged garrison. Massena had under him 60,000 French veterans, and was desiring nothing more than that Wellington should attack him. The chances of victory then were by no means strong, and in any case victory could only have been purchased by a loss of men which would have completely crippled the British general, and would have rendered it absolutely necessary for him to fall back again at once. A defeat or even a heavy loss of men, would have so dispirited the faint-hearted Government at home that they would undoubtedly have recalled the whole expedition, and resigned Portugal to its fate. Thus Wellington decided not to risk the whole fate of the British army and of Portugal for merely a temporary advantage, and so stood firm against the murmurs of his own troops, the furious reproaches of the Portuguese and Spaniards, and the moving entreaties for aid of the gallant governor of the besieged town.

At the same time that he refused to risk a general battle, he kept Craufurd's division in advance of the Coa, and within two hours' march of the enemy, thereby encouraging the garrison of Ciudad Rodrigo, and preventing Massena from pushing forward a portion of his army while the rest pursued the siege.

Craufurd's front was guarded by the Agueda, a river only passable by two or three bridges and fords in wet weather, but fordable in many places in the dry season. At the commencement of June the Agueda fell, and the French crossed in strength at various places. Craufurd, however, still maintained his position in front of the Coa with great skill and boldness. He had under his command only 4000 infantry, 1100 cavalry, and six guns, and his maintenance of his position, almost within gun-shot of an enemy's army, 60,000 strong, for three months, is one of the finest feats of military audacity and ability ever performed.

Until the 11th of July the boys remained quietly at a cottage occupied by peasants, who believed their story that they were only waiting to proceed when the French army advanced. They were freed from molestation or inquiry upon the part of the French by the pass with which Madame Reynier had supplied them.

Upon that day Ciudad Rodrigo surrendered, and Massena prepared at once to enter Portugal. Upon the 21st the cavalry advanced in great force, and upon the following day the boys resolved upon endeavoring to rejoin the British army. The Agueda was now easily fordable in many places, but the boys determined to swim across, at a distance from the point at which the French army was now pouring forward.

As evening came on they left the cottage, and walked two miles up the stream, and, as soon as night fell, took off the costumes which had proved of such service to them and left them on the bank; then fastening their peasants' suits upon two bundles of rushes to keep them dry, entered the little river, and were soon upon the opposite shore. They knew, from what they had heard in the afternoon, that Craufurd had fallen back upon Almeida, a fortified town, and that it was probable he would at once cross the Coa, as resistance to the force now approaching him seemed nothing short of madness.

No good, indeed, could be gained by a fight in such a position, with a deep river in the rear, crossed by only a narrow bridge, and commanded by both banks, and Wellington's orders had been imperative "that, upon no account whatever was Craufurd to fight beyond the Coa."

Craufurd, however, a rash and obstinate, although a skilful general, was determined upon having a brush with the enemy before he fell back. He anticipated, no doubt, that only an advanced guard of the enemy would come up at first, and his intention was to inflict a severe check upon them with the magnificent little division under his command, and then fall back triumphantly across the Coa. Massena, however, was well aware of the fighting powers of the light division, and was preparing to hurl suddenly upon him a force more than sufficient to crush it.

The Scudamores had but little fear of meeting with any large body of the enemy, as the main French advance was direct from Ciudad Rodrigo; their cavalry would, however, be scattered all over the country, and were they to fall into the hands of any of these parties they would have been shot instantly, upon suspicion of endeavoring to convey news of the French movements to Craufurd.

The point where they crossed the river was between Villar and Naves Frias, and, after an hour's walking, they struck the little rivulet called Duas Casas. This they crossed at once, as they knew that by following its southern bank until they saw some high ground to their left they would find themselves near Almeida, which they hoped to reach before the English retreated.

All night they tramped through the fields of stubble, where the corn had been long since cut for the use of Craufurd's cavalry, but walking at night through an unknown country is slow work, and when day began to break they entered a small wood just beyond the point where the Turones, as the southern arm of the Duas Casas is called, branches off from the main stream. Several times in the course of the day bodies of the enemy's cavalry came near their place of concealment, and the Scudamores congratulated themselves that they had not given way to their impatience, and tried to push on across the twenty miles that alone separated them from their friends.

At nightfall the wind rose, and a heavy rain began to fall. They had no stars by which to steer their course, and were, therefore, forced to follow the bank of the Turones, although they knew that it would lead them some distance to the north of Almeida. It was slow work, indeed, for they had to grope their way along in the storm, following every turn and bend of the river, which formed their only guide. After several hours' toil they came into a road running north and south. This they knew was the road leading from Guarda to Almeida, and it gave them a clue as to the distance they had come. Still following the river, they continued their course until they approached San Pedro, whence they knew that a road ran directly to the British position in front of Almeida, that is if the British still maintained their position there.

As they approached the village, they heard a deep, hollow sound, and stopping to listen, and laying their ears to the ground, could distinguish the rumble of heavy carriages.

"The French are advancing in force, Peter; we are just in time; they are going to attack us in the morning at daybreak. We know the direction now; let us turn to the left, and try to get on in advance of them. They probably will not push on much farther until there is light enough to permit them to form order of battle; they are evidently, by the sound, going to the left, rather than straight on."

The Scudamores now hurried on, and presently the rumbling of the artillery died away, and they ventured to push to their left, and to get on the road, which they found deserted. Half an hour's run, for they knew that every minute was of importance, and they heard the welcome challenge, "Who comes there?" "Two British officers," they answered, and in a few minutes they were taken to the officer in charge of the picket, and having once convinced him of their identity, were heartily greeted and welcomed.

"The French are advancing in great force to attack," Tom said; "please forward us instantly to the general."

The matter was too important for an instant's delay, and a sergeant was at once told off to accompany them.

The first faint blush of daylight was in the east when they arrived at the cottage which served as General Craufurd's quarters, and, upon their speaking to the sentinel at the door, a window was thrown open, and a deep voice demanded "What is it?"

"We have just arrived through the French lines," Tom said, "the enemy are at hand in force."

The casement closed, and an instant afterwards the general came out. "Who are you?"

"We belong to the Norfolk Rangers, general, and have been detached on service in the interior; we have only just made our way back."

"How am I to know your story is true?" the general asked sharply.

"You may, perhaps, remember, sir, we landed from the 'Latona,' and you kindly lent us horses to accompany you."

"Aha! I remember," the general said. "Well, your news?"

"The French have crossed the Turones in force, sir; at least they have a good many guns with them."

"Which way were they going?"

"As far as we could judge by the sound, sir, they were taking up a position between Villa Formosa and Fort Conception."

"Good," the general said shortly; then turning to three or four of his staff who had followed him from the cottage, "Get the troops under arms at once. Come in here, gentlemen."

The Scudamores entered, and as they came into the light of a candle which stood on the table the general smiled grimly.

"It is lucky you were able to recall yourselves to my memory, for I should have needed some strong evidence to persuade me you were British officers had I seen you before you spoke. You are wet to the skin; there is a brandy bottle, and you will find some bread and cold fowl in that cupboard."

Five minutes later the boys followed General Craufurd from his hut.

Short as was the time which had elapsed since their arrival, the troops were already under arms, for three months of incessant alarm and watchfulness had enabled this splendid division to act as one man, and to fall in at any hour of the day or night in an incredibly short time. Ten minutes later and the ramble of the baggage wagons was heard along the road towards the bridge. The morning was clearing fast, the clouds lifted, and the daylight seemed to break with unusual suddenness.

The dark masses of the French became visible forming up before the Turones, and Craufurd hurried forward his cavalry and guns to check their advance.

"Hurry the infantry up, hurry them up," the general said urgently to the officers by him. "Let them take post along the ridge, and then fall back fighting towards the bridge. Major MacLeod," he said to an officer of the 43d, "take these gentlemen with you; they are officers of the Norfolk Rangers. They will join your regiment for the present. When your regiment falls back, occupy that stone inclosure a little way down the slope at the left of the road, and hold the enemy in check while the troops file over the bridge."

The officer addressed looked with surprise at the boys, and signing to them to follow, hurried off to his regiment, which was on the left of the British line.

Next to them came a regiment of Portuguese riflemen, with a wing of the 95th upon either flank, while the 52d formed the right of the line.

Upon reaching the regiment, Major MacLeod briefly introduced the boys to the colonel, who said, "As you have no arms, gentlemen, I think you had better make for the bridge at once."

"Thank you, sir," Tom replied, "there will be some muskets disposable before long, and directly they are so we will take our place in the ranks."

They had now leisure to look round and examine their position, and a glance was sufficient to show how great was the peril in which General Craufurd's obstinacy had placed his little force. In front of them were 24,000 French infantry, 5000 cavalry, and 30 pieces of artillery. An overwhelming force indeed, and one which could scarcely have been withstood by the 4000 British infantry, even under the most favorable conditions of position. The position, however, was here wholly against the British. They stood at the edge of a plateau, and behind them the ground fell away in a steep hillside to the Coa, a mile distant, and across the Coa there was but a single bridge.

The enemy was approaching fast. Ney's great brigade of cavalry swept the British horse before them, and the infantry were following at a run.

Resistance on the edge of the plateau was hopeless, and Craufurd ordered the infantry to fall back at once. The 43d filed into the inclosure, rapidly cut loopholes in the wall, and as the enemy appeared on the crest above opened a tremendous fire, under cover of which the cavalry and artillery trotted briskly and in good order down the road to the bridge.

The Scudamores, having no duty, stood at the entrance to the inclosure and watched the fight on their right. As the masses of French infantry appeared on the edge of the plateau they made no pause, but opening a heavy fire pressed forward on the retiring British troops, who were falling back in open order, contesting every inch of ground. So rapidly and hotly, however, did the French press after them that the British were soon pushed back beyond the line of the inclosure, and as the French followed closely, it was evident that the 43d would be cut oft and surrounded.

Their colonel saw their danger, and called upon them to fall in and retreat, but the entrance was so narrow that it was clear at a glance that ere one company could pass through it the French would be upon them, and the regiment caught like rats in a trap.

Officers and men alike saw the danger, and there was a pause of consternation.

Peter was standing next to the colonel, and said suddenly as the idea flashed across him, "The wall is not very strong, sir, if the men mass against it and push together I think it will go."

The colonel caught at the idea. "Now, lads, steady, form against the rear wall four deep, close together, shoulder to shoulder, as close as you can pack; now get ready, one, two, three!" and at the word the heavy mass of men swung themselves against the wall; it swayed with the shock, and many stones were displaced; another effort and the wall tottered and fell, and with a glad shout the 43d burst out, and trotting on at the double soon joined the rifles and 95th.

The ground was rough and broken with rocks, vineyards and inclosures, and the troops, fighting with admirable coolness and judgment, took advantage of every obstacle and fell back calmly and in good order before the overwhelming force opposed to them.

Fortunately the jealousies of the French generals, which throughout the campaign contributed in no slight degree to the success of the British, was now the cause of their safety, for Montbrun, who commanded the French heavy cavalry, refused to obey Ney's order to charge straight down to the bridge, in which case the whole English infantry would have been cut off; the French hussars, however, being on the British rear, charged among them whenever the ground permitted them to do so.

Upon the British right the ground was more open than upon the left, and the 52d was therefore obliged to fall back more quickly than the rest of the line, and were the first to arrive at the bridge head, which was still choked with artillery and cavalry. This was the most dangerous moment, the rest of the infantry could not retreat until the bridge was clear, and the French with exulting shouts pressed hard upon them to drive them back upon the river.

Major MacLeod, seeing the urgent danger, rallied four companies of his regiment upon the little hill on the right of the road, while Major Rowan collected two companies on another to the left. Here they were joined by many of the riflemen, and for a while the French advance was checked.

The Scudamores had remained throughout close to Major MacLeod, and had long since armed themselves with the muskets and pouches of fallen men, and with 43d shakoes on their heads, were fighting among the ranks.

The cloud of French skirmishers pressed hotly forward, and MacLeod, seeing that the bridge was still blocked, resolved suddenly upon a desperate measure. Taking off his cap, he pointed to the enemy, and calling upon his men to follow him, rode boldly at them. Peter Scudamore caught up a bugle which had fallen from a dead bugler by his side, blew the charge, and the soldiers, cheering loudly, followed MacLeod against the enemy.

Astounded at this sudden and unexpected attack, the French skirmishers paused, and then fell back before the furious charge of the 43d, who pressed after them with loud and continuous cheering. Looking back, MacLeod saw that the bridge was now clear, and recalled the troops, who fell back rapidly again before the French infantry had recovered sufficiently from their surprise to press them.

The hussars were, however, again forward, and were galloping down the road, which was here sunken between somewhat high banks. Tom and Peter were with the last company, which turned and prepared to receive them, when Tom, pointing to a coil of rope upon a cart which had broken down, shouted, "Quick, tie it to these posts across the road." Two or three men sprang to assist him, and in a minute the rope was stretched across the road at a foot from the ground, and fastened round a stone post on either side. They had scarcely seized their muskets and leapt on the bank again, when the French cavalry came thundering down the road. "Fire, a few of you," Tom said, "so as to call their attention up here," and in accordance with his order a dropping fire was opened. The French came along at a gallop; a few of the leading horses saw the rope and leapt it, but those behind caught it and fell, the mass behind pressed on, and in an instant the lane was choked with a confused mass of men and horses. "Now a volley," Tom cried, "and then to the bridge."

Every musket was emptied in to the struggling mass, and then with a cheer, the men ran briskly down to the bridge, and crossed--the last of the British troops over the Coa.

The rest of the infantry and artillery had already taken ground on the heights behind the river, and these opened fire upon the French as they approached the head of the bridge in pursuit. The British were now, however, safe in the position which they ought to have taken up before the advance of the French, and had General Craufurd obeyed his orders not to fight beyond the Coa, the lives of 306 of his gallant troops, including the officers, would have been saved.

The battle, however, was not yet over. The artillery on both sides played across the ravine, the French skirmishers swarmed down to the river bank, and between them and the British infantry a rapid fire was exchanged, while a heavy column marched down to the bridge. With a deep-sounding cheer they advanced upon it, while with answering cheers the British opened fire upon them. The depth of the ravine at first deceived the British marksmen, and the column pressed on until its head was three-quarters across the bridge. Then the shower smote it, and beneath that terrible fire the head of the column melted away. Still it pressed on until across the bridge the corpses lay piled in a mass as high as the parapet, and beyond this heap, this terrible line, there was no living. Then sullenly and slowly the French fell back, while the British cheers rose exultingly along the hillside.

Twice again did fresh columns pour on to the bridge, but only to melt away under the British fire, neither of them reaching the dreadful line which marked the point reached by the head of the first. The artillery and musketry fire on both sides continued until four in the afternoon, when a heavy rain set in, and the fire ceased altogether.

As the Coa was fordable at several points lower down, and the French could therefore have turned the position next day, the British troops fell back during the night behind the Pinhel river, where Picton's division was also encamped.

Next morning the boys exchanged their Spanish suits for the uniform of British officers, which they obtained from the effects of some of those who had fallen upon the previous day, these being, as is usual in a campaign, at once sold by auction, the amount realized being received by the paymaster for the benefit of the dead men's relatives. Major MacLeod had witnessed their ready presence of mind in throwing the rope across the road, and so checking the French charge, and giving time to the rear-guard to cross the bridge, and had made a very favorable report upon the subject.

Two days later and they joined the Rangers, who were stationed at Guarda, and were received with the greatest heartiness by their brother officers, with warm but respectful greetings by the men, and with uproarious demonstrations of gladness on the part of Sambo.

"The betting was two to one that you had gone down, boys," Captain Manley said, after the first greetings; "but Carruthers and myself have taken up all offers, and win I don't know how many dinners and bottles of wine. I had the strongest faith you would get through somehow. You will take up your quarters with me. I have two bedrooms upstairs there, which Sam has taken possession of in your name. He would have it that you were sure to be back in time for the first fight. Dinner will be ready at six, and after that there will be a general gathering round the fire in the open to hear your adventures. No doubt you would be dining with the colonel, but I know he is engaged to the general."

"Yes, he told us so," Tom said, "and we are to dine with him to-morrow."

"All right, then; we'll make a night of it. Carruthers is coming to dine, and Burke and Lethbridge; but the room won't hold more than six. We are going to have a feast, for Sam has got hold of a sucking-pig; where he got it from I dare not inquire, and Lethbridge said his fellow had, somehow or other, found a turkey; as to wine, we shall have it of the best, for Burke is quartered at the monastery, and the monks are so delighted at finding him a good Catholic that they have given him the run of their cellar."

It was a jovial dinner, and no words can express the satisfaction and delight which beamed on Sam's face as he stood behind his master, or the grin of pride with which he placed the sucking-pig on the table.

"Sam, Sam!" Captain Manley said reprovingly, "I fear that pig is not honestly come by, and that one of these days we shall hear that you have come to a bad end."

"No, no, Massa Captain Manley, sar," Sam said, "dat pig come quite honest, dat pig made present to Sam."

"A likely story that, Sam. Come, out with it. I have no doubt it was quite as honest as Lethbridge's turkey anyhow. Come, tell us how it was."

Thus invoked, Sam's face assumed the pompons air with which he always related a story, and he began,--

"Well, sar, de affair happened in dis way. When de massas arribe, two o'clock, and went in for long talk wid de colonel, dis chile said to himself, 'Now what am I going to get them for dinner?' De rations sarve out dis morning war all skin and bone, and war pretty nigh finished at lunch. Sam say to himself, 'Captain Manley's sure to say, 'You dine wid me;' but as Captain Manley hadn't got no food himself, de invitation was berry kind, berry kind indeed; but massa wasn't likely to get fat on dat invitation."

Sam's narrative was interrupted by a perfect shout of laughter upon the part of all at table, Captain Manley joining heartily in the laugh against himself. When they had a little recovered again, Sam went on as gravely as ever. "Dis struck Sam berry serious, not to have nothing for dinner after being away seben months; presently idea occur to dis chile, and he stroll permiscuous up to big farm-house on hill. When Sam got near house, kept out of sight of window; at last got quite close, took off shako, and put head suddenly in at window. Sure enough, just what Sam expected, dere sat missus of farm, fat ole woman, wid fat ole servant opposite her. De door was open, and dis little pig and several of his broders and sisters was a frisking in and out. De old women look up bofe togeder, and dey give a awful shriek when dey saw dis chile's head; dey fought it were de debil, sure enough. Dey drop down on dere knees, and begin to pray as fast as maybe. Den I give a loud 'Yah! yah!' and dey screams out fresh. 'Oh! good massa debil!' says the ole woman, 'what you want? I been berry, berry bad, but don't take me away.' You see, Massa Tom, I pick up little Spanish, 'nuff to understand since you been gone. I not say nuffin, and de ole woman den go on, 'If you want one soul Massa Debil, take dis here,' pointing to her serbant;' she been much more wicked nor me.' Den de serbant she set up awful shriek, and I says, 'Dis time I hab pity on you, next time I come, if you not good I carry you bofe away. But must take soul away to big debil 'else he neber forgibe me. Dere, I will carry off soul of little pig. Gib it me.' De serbant she gives cry ob joy, jump up, seize little pig, and berry much afraid, bring him to window. Before I take him I say to old missus, 'Dis a free gibt on your part?' and she say, 'Oh, yes, oh, yes, good Massa Debil, you can take dem all if you like.' I say, 'No; only one--and now me gib you bit advice. My Massa down below hear you very bad ole women, never gib noting to de poor, berry hard, berry hard. Me advise you change your conduct, or, as sure as eggs is eggs, he send me up again for you no time.' Den I gave two great 'Yah! yah's!' again berry loud, and showed de white ob my eyes, and dey went down on to knees again, and I go quietly round corner ob house, and walk home wid de pig which was giben to me. Noting like stealing about dat, Massa Manley, sar!"

Sam's story was received with roars of laughter, and when they had recovered themselves a little, Captain Manley said, "It is lucky we march to-morrow, Sam, for if the good woman were to catch a glimpse of you in uniform, and were to find she had been tricked, she might lay a complaint against you, and although, as you say, the pig was freely given to you, I imagine the Provost Marshal might consider that it was obtained under false pretences. But here are the other men outside, we had better adjourn, for every one is longing to hear your adventures."

It was a lovely evening, and as the officers of the Norfolk Rangers sat or lay round the fire, which was lit for light and cheerfulness rather than warmth, the boys, after their long wanderings among strangers, felt how pleasant and bright life was among friends and comrades. They had first to relate their adventures with the guerillas, after which it was agreed that they had earned the right to be silent for the rest of the evening, and song, and jest, and merry story went round the ring.

Sam was installed under the direction of the doctor, a jovial Irishman, as concocter of punch, and his office was by no means a sinecure.

"Now, major, give us the song of the regiment," Captain Manley said, and, as he spoke, there was a general cry round the circle of "The Rangers, the Rangers." "I'm agreeable," the major said. "Give me another tumbler of punch to get my pipes in order. Make it a little sweeter than the last brew, Sam; yes, that's better. Well, here goes--full chorus, and no shirking."

THE RANGERS.

  "Hurrah for the Rangers, hurrah! hurrah!
    Here's to the corps that we love so well;
  Ever the first in the deadly fray,
    Steady and firm amid shot and shell.
  Scattered as skirmishers out in the front,
    Contesting each foot of the ground we hold,
  Nor yielding a step though we bear the brunt
    Of the first attack of the foeman bold.

      Hurrah for the Rangers, hurrah! hurrah!
      Here's to the corps that we love so well;
      Ever the first in the deadly fray,
      Steady and firm amid shot and shell.

  "Steady boys, steady, the foe falls back,
    Sullenly back to the beat of the drum,
  Hark to the thunder that nears our flank
    Rally in square, boys, their cavalry come.
  Squadron on squadron, wave upon wave,
    Dashing along with an ocean's force,
  But they break into spray on our bayonets' points,
    And we mock at the fury of rider and horse.

      Hurrah for the Rangers, &c.

  "The gunner may boast of the death he deals
    As he shatters the foe with his iron hail,
  And may laugh with pride as he checks the charge,
    Or sees the dark column falter and quail.
  But the gunner fights with the foe afar,
    In the rear of the line is the battery's place,
  The Ranger fights with a sterner joy
    For he strives with his foemen face to face.

      Hurrah for the Rangers, &c.

  "The cavalry man is dashing and gay,
    His steed is fast, and his blade is fine,
  He blithely rides to the fiercest fray,
    And cuts his way through the foeman's line,
  But the wild, fierce joys of the deadly breach,
    Or the patient pluck of the serried square
  Are far away from the horseman's reach,
    While the Norfolk Rangers are sure to be there.

      Hurrah for the Rangers, &c."

Long, loud, and hearty was the cheering as the last chorus concluded. "Very good song, very well sung, jolly companions every one," shouted the doctor. "Now, Manley, keep the ball rolling, give us the 'The Bivouac,'" Captain Manley emptied his glass, and, without hesitation, began--

THE BIVOUAC.

  "The weary march is over, boys, the camp fire's burning bright,
  So gather round the blazing logs, we'll keep high feast to-night,
  For every heart is full of joy, and every cheek aglow,
  That after months of waiting, at last we meet the foe.
  To-morrow's sun will see the fight, and ere that sun goes down,
  Our glorious flag another wreath of victory shall crown.

    Hurrah, hurrah for the bivouac,
    With comrades tried and true,
    With faces bright, and spirits light,
    And the foemen's fires in view.

  "Then fill your cups with Spanish wine, and let the toast go round,
  Here's a health to all who love us on dear old England's ground.
  Be their tresses gold or auburn, or black as ebon's hue,
  Be their eyes of witching hazel, loving gray, or heaven's blue,
  Here's to them all, the girls we love, God bless them every one;
  May we all be here to toast them when to-morrow's work is done.

    Hurrah, hurrah, &c.

  "But whate'er to-morrow bring us, it shall shed no gloom to-night,
  For a British soldier does not flinch from thought of death in fight;
  No better ending could we wish, no worthier do we know,
  Than to fall for King and country, with our face towards the foe;
  And if we go, our friends who stay will keep our memory bright,
  And will drink to us in silence by many a camp-fire's light.

    Hurrah, hurrah, &c."

When the last chorus had ceased, the boys, who had had a long march that morning, and were thoroughly tired, stole quietly off to bed, but it was not till long after they had gone to sleep that the jovial party round the fire broke up, and that Sam was relieved from his duties of concocter of punch.