The Young Buglers by G. A. Henty
Chapter XIII. Albuera.
Very heavily did five months in the lines of Torres Vedras pass to the Norfolk Rangers. When, in the beginning of November, Massena fell back to Sautarem, the greater portion of the army followed him in readiness for attack should any openings be found. Massena, however, entrenched himself in a very strong position, and Wellington could no more attack him than he could attack the lines of Torres Vedras; so that both armies faced each other in inactivity until the beginning of March, when Massena broke up his camp and began to retreat.
The Norfolk Rangers had been one of the regiments which had remained in their quarters on Torres Vedras throughout the winter, and great was the joy with which they received orders to strike their tents and push on in pursuit. The retreat of Massena was masterly. Ney's division covered the rear, and several sharp fights took place which are known in history as the combats of Pombal, Redinha, Cazal Nova, Foz d'Aronce, and Sabugal.
In most of these the enemy were driven from their position by the British outflanking them and threatening their line of retreat; but in the last, by a mistake of General Erskine, a portion of his division attacked the enemy in rear, and, although vastly outnumbered, drove him off from the crest he held with desperate valor. Wellington himself said, "This was one of the most glorious actions British troops were ever engaged in."
The next day the French crossed the Coa and Turones, and took up their position under the guns of Ciudad Rodrigo, which they had left six months before with the full assurance that they were going to conquer Portugal, and drive the British into the sea. The invasion cost Massena thirty thousand men, killed in battle, taken prisoners, or dead from hardships, fatigues and fevers.
The Scudamores were not present at the battle of Sabugal, for on the afternoon after the combat of Foz d'Aronce an orderly rode up to the regiment and handed a note to the colonel. He read it, and at once summoned the Scudamores at his side.
"An order from the commander-in-chief," he said, "for you to go to him at once."
Following the orderly, the boys soon arrived at the cottage at which Lord Wellington had established his headquarters.
"His lordship is with Lord Beresford," the aide-de-camp to whom they gave their names said, "but the orders are that you are to be shown in at once."
The lads were ushered into a small room, where, seated at a table, were the commanders-in-chief of the British and the Portuguese troops.
"Young gentlemen," the former said, looking up with his keen piercing eyes, "I have not seen you since your return from Spain. I am content with what you did, and with the detailed report you sent me in. I shall keep my eye upon you. Lord Beresford has asked me for two officers as aides-de-camp, and he specially requires them to have a perfect knowledge of Spanish. I have mentioned your names to him. It is not often that I confidently recommend young officers, but from what I know of you I have felt able to do so in the present case. You will, with him, have opportunities of distinguishing yourselves such as you could not have with your regiment. You accept the appointments?"
Tom and Peter would far rather have remained with their regiment, but they felt that, after what Lord Wellington had said, they could not refuse; they consequently expressed at once their willingness to serve, and their thanks to the general for his kindness in recommending them.
"You can ride, I hope?" Lord Beresford, a powerfully-built, pleasant-looking man, said.
"Yes, sir, we can both ride, but at present--"
"You have no horses, of course?" Lord Beresford put in. "I will provide you with horses, and will assign servants to you from one of the cavalry regiments with me. Will you join me at daybreak to-morrow? we shall march at once."
There was a general expression of regret when the Scudamores informed their comrades that they were again ordered on detached duty. As to Sam, when Tom told him that he could not accompany them, he was uproarious in his lamentations, and threatened to desert from his regiment in order to follow them. At this the boys laughed, and told Sam that he would be arrested and sent back before he had gone six hours.
"I tink, Massa Tom, dat you might hab told de general dat you hab got an fust-class serbent, and dat you bring him wid you."
"But we shall be mounted now, Sam, and must have mounted men with us. You can't ride, you know."
"Yes, massa, dis child ride first-rate, he can."
"Why, Sam, I heard you say not long ago you had never ridden on a horse all your life."
"Never hab, massa, dat's true 'nuff; but Sam sure he can ride. Berry easy ting dat. Sit on saddle, one leg each side--not berry difficult dat. Sam see tousand soldiers do dat ebery day; dey sit quite easy on saddle; much more easy dat dan beat big drum."
The boys laughed heartily at Sam's notion of riding without practice, and assured him that it was not so easy as he imagined.
"Look here, Sam," Peter said at last, "you practice riding a little, and then next time we get away we will ask for you to go with us." And with this Sam was obliged to be content.
Half an hour later, when the boys were chatting with Captain Manley, Carruthers, and two or three other officers, in the tent of the first-named officer, they heard a commotion outside, with shouts of laughter, in which they joined as soon as they went out and saw what was going on.
Sam, upon leaving the Scudamores, determined at once upon trying the experiment of riding, in order that he might--for he had no doubt all would be easy enough--ride triumphantly up to his masters' tent and prove his ability to accompany them at once. He was not long before he saw a muleteer coming along sitting carelessly on his mule, with both legs on one side of the animal, side-saddle fashion, as is the frequent custom of muleteers. It was evident, by the slowness of his pace, that he was not pressed for time.
Sam thought that this was a fine opportunity.
"Let me have a ride?" he said to the muleteer in broken Portuguese.
The man shook his head. Sam held out a quarter of a dollar. "There," he said, "I'll give you that for a hour's ride."
The muleteer hesitated, and then said, "The mule is very bad tempered with strangers."
"Oh, dat all nonsense," Sam thought, "he only pretend dat as excuse; any one can see de creature as quiet as lamb; don't he let his master sit on him sideways?"
"All right," he said aloud, "I try him."
The muleteer dismounted, and Sam prepared to take his place on the saddle. By this time several of the Rangers had gathered round, and these foreseeing, from the appearance of the mule and the look of sly amusement in the face of the muleteer, that there was likely to be some fun, at once proposed to assist, which they did by giving advice to Sam of the most opposite nature. Sam was first going to mount on the off side, but this irregularity was repressed, and one wag, taking the stirrup of the near side in his hand, said, "Now, Sam, up you go, never mind what these fellows say, you put your right foot in the stirrup, and lift your left over the saddle."
Sam acted according to these instructions, and found himself, to his intense amazement and the delight of the bystanders, sitting with his face to the mule's tail.
"Hullo," he exclaimed in astonishment, "dis all wrong; you know noting about de business, you Bill Atkins."
And Sam prepared to descend, when, at his first movement, the mule put down his head and flung his heels high in the air. Sam instinctively threw himself forward, but not recovering his upright position before the mule again flung up her hind quarters, he received a violent blow on the nose. "Golly!" exclaimed the black in a tone of extreme anguish, as, with water streaming from his eyes, he instinctively clutched the first thing which came to hand, the root of the mule's tail, and held on like grim death. The astonished mule lashed out wildly and furiously, but Sam, with his body laid close on her back, his hands grasping her tail, and his legs and feet pressing tight to her flanks, held on with the clutch of despair.
"Seize de debil!--seize him!--he gone mad!"--he shouted frantically, but the soldiers were in such fits of laughter that they could do nothing.
Then the mule, finding that he could not get rid of this singular burden by kicking, started suddenly off at full gallop.
"Stop him--stop him," yelled Sam. "Gracious me, dis am drefful."
This was the sight which met the eyes of the Scudamores and their brother officers as they issued from their tents. The soldiers were all out of their tents now, and the air rang with laughter mingled with shouts of "Go it, moke!" "Hold on, Sam!"
"Stop that mule," Captain Manley shouted, "or the man will be killed."
Several soldiers ran to catch at the bridle, but the mule swerved and dashed away out of camp along the road.
"Look, look," Tom said, "there are the staff, and Lord Wellington among them. The mule's going to charge them."
The road was somewhat narrow, with a wall of four feet high on either side, and the general, who was riding at the head of the party, drew his rein when he saw the mule coming along at a furious gallop. The staff did the same, and a general shout was raised to check or divert her wild career. The obstinate brute, however, maddened by the shouts which had greeted her from all sides, and the strange manner in which she was being ridden, never swerved from her course. When she was within five yards of the party, the general turned his horse, touched him with his spur, and leaped him lightly over the wall; one or two others followed his example, but the others had not time to do so before the mule was among them. Two horses and riders were thrown down, one on either side, with the impetus of the shock, and then, kicking, striking and charging, the animal made its way past the others and dashed on in despite of the attempts to stop her, and the cries of "Shoot the brute," "Ride him down," and the angry ejaculations of those injured in its passage. Thirty yards behind the group of officers were the escort, and these prepared to catch the mule, when turning to the left she leaped the wall, eliciting a scream of terror from Sam, who was nearly shaken from his hold by the sudden jerk.
The anger of the officers was changed into a burst of amusement at seeing Sam's dark face and staring eyes over the mule's crupper, and even Lord Wellington smiled grimly. An order was hastily given, and four troopers detached themselves from the escort and started off in pursuit. The mule was, however, a fast one, and maddened by fright, and it was some time before the foremost of the troopers was up to her. As he came alongside, the mule suddenly swerved round and lashed out viciously, one of her heels coming against the horse's ribs, and the other against the leg of the rider, who, in spite of his thick jack-boot, for some time thought that his leg was broken.
He fell behind, and the others, rendered cautious by the lesson, came up but slowly, and prepared to close upon the animal's head, one from each side. Just as they were going to do so, however, they were startled by a scattered fire of musketry, and by the sound of balls whizzing about their ears, and discovered that in the ardor of the chase they had passed over the space which separated the French from the English lines, and that they were close to the former. At the same moment they saw a party of cavalry stealing round to cut off their retreat. Turning their horses, the dragoons rode off at full speed, but the French cavalry, on fresher horses, would have caught them before they reached the English lines had not a troop of British horse dashed forward to meet them upon seeing their danger. As to the mule, she continued her wild gallop into the French lines, where she was soon surrounded and captured.
The boys were greatly vexed at the loss of their faithful black, but they had little time for grieving, for an hour after they rode off with General Beresford's division. Three days' march brought them to Campo Mayor, a town which had, two days before, surrendered to the French, who, surprised by the sudden appearance of the British, evacuated the place hastily and retreated, after suffering much from a brilliant charge of the 13th Hussars, who, although unsupported, charged right through the French cavalry, and Beresford then prepared to lay siege to Badajos. Had he pushed forward at once, he would have found the place unprepared for a siege, but, delaying a few days at Elvas to give his tired troops repose, the French repaired the walls, and were in a position to offer a respectable defense, when he made his appearance under its walls. The army was very badly provided with heavy guns, but the approaches were opened and the siege commenced in regular form, when the news arrived that Soult was marching with a powerful army to its relief. The guns were therefore withdrawn, the siege raised, and Beresford marched to meet Soult at Albuera.
On the 15th of May he took up his position on rising ground looking down on Albuera, having the river in his front. Acting with him, and nominally under his orders, was a Spanish force under Blake. This was intended to occupy the right of the position, but with the usual Spanish dilatoriness, instead of being upon the ground, as he had promised, by noon, Blake did not arrive until past midnight; the French accordingly crossed the river unmolested, and the British general found his right turned.
Beresford's position was now a very faulty one, as the woods completely hid the movements of the enemy, and a high hill, which they had at once seized, flanked the whole allied position and threatened its line of retreat.
When the morning of the 16th dawned the armies were numerically very unequal. The British had 30,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry, and 38 guns; the French, 19,000 infantry, 4,000 cavalry, and 40 guns; but of these the French were all veteran troops, while Beresford had but 6,000 British troops, the remainder being Spanish and Portuguese, upon whom no reliance whatever was to be placed. The British officers present were all of opinion that their chances of success, under the circumstances, were slight indeed.
The battle commenced at nine in the morning by an attack by the French general Godinot upon the bridge of Albuera. Their columns were, however, so completely plowed by the guns of the Portuguese upon the eminence behind it, that they made no progress, and Beresford perceived at once that the main attack would be made on his right. He despatched Tom Scudamore with orders to Blake to throw back his troops at right angles to the main front. The pig-headed Spaniard refused to obey, asserting that the main attack was in front. Colonel Hardinge was sent to insist upon the order being carried out, but Blake still refused, and Beresford himself rode furiously across and took the command just as the French column debouched from the wood on the right.
Before the Spanish movement was completed the French were among them. Their cavalry swept round to the right rear, and menaced the line of retreat, the infantry charged the wavering Spanish battalions, and the latter at once fell into confusion and began to fall back. William Stewart now arrived with a brigade of the second division to endeavor to retrieve the day; but as they were advancing into position, four regiments of French cavalry, whose movements were hidden in the driving rain until they were close at hand, fell upon them and rode down two-thirds of the brigade, the 31st regiment alone having time to form square and repulse the horsemen.
Beresford himself, with his staff, was in the middle of the melee, and the lads found themselves engaged in hand-to-hand combats with the French troopers. All was confusion. Peter was unhorsed by the shock of a French hussar, but Tom shot the trooper before he could cut Peter down. Free for a moment, he looked round, and saw a French lancer charging, lance at rest, at Lord Beresford. "Look out, sir!" he shouted, and the general, turning round, swept aside the lance thrust with his arm; and as the lancer, carried on by the impetus of his charge, dashed against him, he seized him by the throat and waist, lifted him bodily from his saddle, and hurled him insensible to the ground. Just at this moment General Lumley arrived with some Portuguese cavalry, and the French lancers galloped off.
The Spanish cavalry, who had orders to charge the French cavalry in flank, galloped up until within a few yards of them, and then turned and fled shamefully.
Beresford, now furious at the cowardice of the Spanish infantry, seized one of their ensigns by the shoulder, and dragged him, with his colors, to the front by main force, but the infantry would not even then advance.
The driving rain saved the allied army at this critical moment, for Soult was unable to see the terrible confusion which reigned in their ranks, and kept his heavy columns in hand when an attack would have carried with it certain victory.
In the pause which ensued, the British regiments began to make their way to the front. Colbourn, with the 31st Regiment, was already there; Stewart brought up Haughton's brigade; and the 29th burst its way through the flying Spaniards and joined the 31st, these movements being made under a storm of shot and shell from the French artillery. Colonel Hartman brought up the British artillery, and the Spanish generals Zayas and Ballesteros succeeded in checking and bringing forward again some of the Spanish infantry.
The French advanced in great force, the artillery on both sides poured in grape at short distance, and the carnage was terrible. Still the little band of British held their ground. Stewart was twice wounded, Haughton and Colonels Duckworth and Inglis slain. Of the 57th Regiment twenty-two officers and four hundred men fell out of the five hundred that had mounted the hill, and the other regiments had suffered nearly as severely. Not a third were standing unhurt, and fresh columns of the French were advancing.
The battle looked desperate, and Beresford made preparations for a retreat. At this moment, however, Colonel Hardinge brought up General Cole with the fourth division, and Colonel Abercrombie with the third brigade of Colbourn's second division. Beresford recalled his order for retreat, and the terrible fight continued. The fourth division was composed of two brigades, the one, a Portuguese under General Harvey, was pushed down to the right to keep off the French cavalry, while the Fusilier brigade, composed of the 7th and 23rd fusilier regiments, under Sir William Myers, climbed the desperately contested hill, which Abercombie ascended also, more on the left.
It was time, for the whole of the French reserves were now coming into action; six guns were already in the enemy's possession, the remnant of Haughton's brigade could no longer sustain its ground, and the heavy French columns were advancing exultantly to assured victory.
Suddenly, through the smoke, Cole's fusilier brigade appeared on the right of Haughton's brigade, just as Abercrombie came up on its left. Startled by the sight, and by the heavy fire, the French column paused, and, to quote Napier's glowing words, "hesitated, and then, vomiting forth a storm of fire, hastily endeavored to enlarge their front, while a fearful discharge of grape from all their artillery whistled through the British ranks. Myers was killed, Cole and the three colonels, Ellis, Blakeney and Hawkshawe, fell wounded; and the fusilier battalions, struck by the iron tempest, reeled and staggered like sinking ships; but suddenly and sternly recovering, they closed with their terrible enemies, and then was seen with what a strength and majesty the British soldier fights. In vain did Soult with voice and gesture animate his Frenchmen; in vain did the hardiest veterans break from the crowded columns and sacrifice their lives to gain time for the mass to open out on such a fair field; in vain did the mass itself bear up, and, fiercely striving, fire indiscriminately upon friends and foes, while the horsemen hovering on its flank threatened to charge the advancing line. Nothing could stop that astonishing infantry; no sudden burst of undisciplined valor, no nervous enthusiasm weakened the stability of their order; their flashing eyes were bent on the dark columns in their front, their measured tread shook the ground, their dreadful volleys swept away the head of every formation, their deafening shouts overpowered the dissonant cries that broke from all parts of the tumultuous crowd, as, slowly and with horrid carnage, it was pushed by the incessant vigor of the attack to the farthest edge of the hill. In vain did the French reserves mix with the struggling multitude to sustain the fight; their efforts only increased the irremediable confusion, and the mighty mass breaking off like a loosened cliff, went headlong down the steep; the rain flowed after in streams discolored with blood, and eighteen hundred unwounded men, the remnant of six thousand unconquerable British soldiers, stood triumphant on the fatal hill."
While this dreadful fight was going on, Hamilton's and Collier's Portuguese divisions, ten thousand strong, marched to support the British, but they did not reach the summit of the hill until the battle was over; they suffered, however, a good deal of loss from the French artillery, which, to cover the retreat, opened furiously upon them.
The French were in no position to renew the attack, the allies quite incapable of pursuit, and when night fell the two armies were in the same position they had occupied twenty-four hours before.
Never was British valor more conspicuously displayed than at the battle of Albuera. Out of 6,000 infantry they lost 4,200 killed and wounded, while the Spanish and Portuguese had but 2,600 killed and wounded out of a total of 34,000; the French loss was over 8,000.
This desperate fight had lasted but four hours, but to all engaged it seemed an age. The din, the whirl, the storm of shot, the fierce charges of the cavalry, the swaying backwards and forwards of the fight, the disastrous appearance of the battle from the first, all combined to make up a perfectly bewildering confusion.
The Scudamores, after its commencement, had seen but little of each other. Whenever one or other of them found their way to the general, who was ever in the thickest of the fray, it was but to remain there for a moment or two before being despatched with fresh messages.
Tom's horse was shot under him early in the day, but he obtained a remount from an orderly and continued his duty until, just as the day was won, he received a musket ball in the shoulder. He half fell, half dismounted, and, giddy and faint, lay down and remained there until the cessation of the fire told him that the battle was over. Then he staggered to his feet and sought a surgeon. He presently found one hard at work under a tree, but there was so large a number of wounded men lying or sitting round, that Tom saw that it would be hours before he could be attended to. As he turned to go he saw an officer of the staff ride by.
"Ah, Scudamore! Are you hit too?--not very badly, I hope? The chief was asking after you just now."
"My shoulder is smashed, I think," Tom said, "and the doctor has his hands full at present; but if you will tie my arm tight across my chest with my sash, I shall be able to get on."
The officer at once leapt from his horse, and proceeded to bind Tom's arm in the position he requested.
"Have you seen my brother," Tom asked.
"No, I have not; he was close to Beresford when the fusiliers dashed up the hill; his horse fell dead, but he was not hit, for I saw him jump up all right. I did not see him afterwards. As he could not have got a fresh mount then, I expect he joined the fusiliers and went up the hill."
"Is the loss heavy?" Tom asked.
"Awful--awful," the officer said. "If it had lasted another quarter of an hour, there would have been nobody left alive; as it is, there are not 2,000 men at the outside on their feet."
"What, altogether?" Tom exclaimed.
"Altogether," the officer answered sadly. "We have lose two men out of every three who went into it."
"Thank you," Tom said. "Now where shall I find the general?"
"Up on the hill. I shall see you there in a few minutes. I hope you will find your brother all right."
Very slowly did Tom make his way up the steep slope, sitting down to rest many times, for he was faint from loss of blood and sick with the pain of his wound, and it was a long half hour before he joined the group of officers clustered round the commander-in-chief.
He was heartily greeted; but in answer to his question as to whether any one had seen his brother, no one could give a satisfactory reply. One, however, was able to confirm what had been before told to him, for he had seen Peter on foot advancing with the fusilier brigade. Tom's heart felt very heavy as he turned away towards the front, where the fusiliers were standing on the ground they had so hardly won. The distance he had to traverse was but short, but the journey was a ghastly one. The ground was literally heaped with dead. Wounded men were seen sitting up trying to stanch their wounds, others lay feebly groaning, while soldiers were hurrying to and fro from the water carts, with pannikins of water to relieve their agonizing thirst.
"Do you know, sergeant, whether they have collected the wounded officers, and, if so, where they are?"
"Yes, sir, most of them are there at the right flank of the regiment."
Tom made his way towards the spot indicated, where a small group of officers were standing, while a surgeon was examining a long line of wounded laid side by side upon the ground. Tom hardly breathed as he ran his eye along their faces, and his heart seemed to stop as he recognized in the very one the surgeon was then examining the dead-white face of Peter.
He staggered forward and said in a gasping voice, "He is my brother--is he dead?"
The surgeon looked up. "Sit down," he said sharply, and Tom, unable to resist the order, sank rather than sat down, his eyes still riveted on Peter's face.
"No," the surgeon said, answering the question, "he has only fainted from loss of blood, but he is hit hard, the bullet has gone in just above the hip, and until I know its course I can't say whether he has a chance or not."
"Here, sergeant, give me the probe," and with this he proceeded cautiously to examine the course of the ball. As he did so his anxious face brightened a little.
"He was struck slantingly," he said, "the ball has gone round by the back; turn him over, sergeant. Ah, I thought so; it has gone out on the other side. Well, I think it has missed any vital part, and in that case I can give you hope. There," he said after he had finished dressing the wound and fastening a bandage tightly round the body; "now pour some brandy-and-water down his throat, sergeant, and sprinkle his face with water. Now, sir, I will look at your shoulder."
But he spoke to insensible ears, for Tom, upon hearing the more favorable report as to Peter's state, had fainted dead off.
The surgeon glanced at him. "He'll come round all right," he said. "I will go on in the mean time," and set to work at the next in the ghastly line.
It was some time before Tom recovered his consciousness; when he did so, it was with a feeling of intense agony in the shoulder.
"Lie quiet," the surgeon said, "I shan't be long about it."
It seemed to Tom, nevertheless, as if an interminable time passed before the surgeon spoke again.
"You'll do," he said. "It is an awkward shot, for it has broken the shoulder bone and carried a portion away, but with quiet and care you will get the use of your arm again. You are lucky, for if it had gone two inches to the left it would have smashed the arm at the socket, and two inches the other way and it would have been all up with you. Now lie quiet for awhile; you can do nothing for your brother at present. It may be hours before he recovers consciousness."
Tom was too faint and weak to argue, and a minute later he dropped off to sleep, from which he did not wake until it was dusk. Sitting up, he saw that he had been aroused by the approach of an officer, whom he recognized as one of General Beresford's staff.
"How are you, Scudamore?" he asked. "The general has just sent me to inquire."
"He is very kind," Tom said. "I think that I am all right, only I am horribly thirsty."
The officer unslung a flask from his shoulder. "This is weak brandy-and-water. I have brought it over for you. I am sorry to hear your brother is so bad, but the doctor gives strong hopes of him in his report."
Tom bent down over Peter. "He is breathing quietly," he said. "I hope it is a sort of sleep he has fallen into. What are we doing?"
"Nothing," the officer answered; "there is nothing to do; every unbounded man is under arms in case the French attack us in the night. I expect, however, they will wait till morning, and if they come on then, I fear our chance is a slight one indeed. We have only 1,800 of our infantry; the German regiments and the Portuguese will do their best; but the Spanish are utterly useless. Soult has lost more men than we have, but we are like a body which has lost its back-bone; and if the French, who are all good soldiers, renew the battle, I fear it is all up with us."
"Have you got all our wounded in?" Tom asked.
"No," the officer said bitterly. "Our unwounded men must stand to arms, and Lord Beresford sent over to Blake just now to ask for the assistance of a battalion of Spaniards to collect our wounded, and the brute sent back to say that it was the custom in allied armies for each army to attend to its own wounded."
"The brute!" Tom repeated with disgust. "How the poor fellows must be suffering!"
"The men who are but slightly wounded have been taking water to all they can find, and the doctors are at work now, and will be all night going about dressing wounds. The worst of it is, if the fight begins again to-morrow, all the wounded who cannot crawl away must remain under fire. However, the French wounded are all over the hill too, and perhaps the French will avoid a cannonade as much as possible, for their sake. It is a bad look-out altogether; and between ourselves, Beresford has written to Lord Wellington to say that he anticipates a crushing defeat."
"Is there any chance of reinforcements?" Tom asked.
"We hope that the third brigade of the fourth division will be up to-morrow by midday; they are ordered to come on by forced marches. If Soult does not attack till they arrive, it will make all the difference, for 1,500 fresh men will nearly double our strength. But I must be going now. Good-bye."
The surgeon presently came round again to see how the wounded officers were getting on. Tom asked him whether there was anything he could do for Peter; but the surgeon, after feeling his pulse, said: "No, not as long as he breathes quietly like this; but if he moves pour a little brandy-and-water down his throat. Now gentlemen, all who can must look after the others, for there is not an available man, and I must be at work all night on the field."
There were many of the officers who were not hit too severely to move about, and these collected some wood and made a fire, so as to enable them to see and attend to their more severely wounded comrades. Tom took his place close to Peter, where he could watch his least movement, and once or twice during the night poured a little brandy-and-water between his lips. The other officers took it by turns to attend to their comrades, to keep up the fire, and to sleep. Those whose turn it was to be awake sat round the fire smoking, and talking as to the chances of the morrow, getting up occasionally to give drink to such of the badly wounded as were awake.
Tom, faint with his wound, found it, towards morning, impossible to keep awake, and dozed off, to wake with a start and find that it was broad daylight. Soon afterwards, to his intense satisfaction, Peter opened his eyes. Tom bent over him. "Don't try to move, Peter; lie quiet, old boy."
"What's the matter?" Peter asked with a puzzled look.
"You have been hit in the body, Peter, but the doctor means to get you round in no time. Yes," he continued, seeing Peter's eyes fixed on his bandaged shoulder, "I have had a tap too, but there's no great harm done. There, drink some brandy-and-water, and go off to sleep again, if you can."
The morning passed very slowly, the troops being all under arms, expecting the renewed attack of Soult, but it came not; and when early in the afternoon, the third brigade of the fourth division marched into camp, they were received with general cheering. A heavy load seemed taken off every one's heart, and they felt now that they could fight, if fight they must, with a hope of success.
The new-comers, wearied as they were with their long forced marches, at once took the outpost duties, and those relieved set about the duty of collecting and bringing in all the wounded.
Next morning the joyful news came that Soult was retiring, and all felt with a thrill of triumph that their sacrifices and efforts had not been in vain, and that the hard-fought battle of Albuera was forever to take its place among the great victories of the British army.