On the night of the 11th,
or rather the morning of the 12th of June, Ronald was awakened from sleep
by an officer, who occupied the same billet, entering his chamber
'Rouse, Stuart,' said he;
'something strange has happened. There is a noise and bustle over the
'I have heard nothing yet,
Kennedy,' answered the other, springing out of bed, and with military
instinct donning his regimentals hastily in the dark. 'You have aroused me
from the most pleasant nap I have enjoyed for these six months past.'
'Hark! there go the pipes.'
"Tis not the turn-out. What
can be the matter? 'tis still two hours from daybreak. We shall be
roughing it again with D'Erlon or Drouet, I suppose.'
'The pipes have ceased,'
said Kennedy, throwing open the casement, where the voices of the
musicians were heard engaged in a quarrel.
'Plaw the warning, Hector
Macfarlane, you very great sumph!' exclaimed Macdonuil-dhu, the
piper-major, in great wrath. 'Was it Hoggil nam Bo—the pibroch of your ain
mushroom name, I desired you to plaw?'
'Oich, prut trut!' replied
Macfarlane fiercely. 'I do suppose tat ta lads o' Lochsluai are as good
and as pretty men, and bear as auld a name as ony Macdonald o' the Isles.
'Hoch, Got tarn! it's
mutiny and repellion this! Did ye move yer hand to yer dirk, Macfarlane?'
asked Macdonald furiously. 'Did ye grip yer dirk to threaten me?'
'It's a far cry to Lochowe.
Gin you and I strode there, ye would na cock your feather or craw sae
crouse,' said the other coolly. 'It's piper-matchor you are, and sorrow
tak the hoor that Hector Macfarlane, the son of Rori-bheg, has to obey
your orders!' The angry reply of the noncommissioned officer was lost in
the sound of the war-pipe, the drones of which Macfarlane threw over his
shoulder, and strode down the street swelling with Highland indignation,
while he made Merida ring far and wide to the tune of Johnnie Cope, the
warning for the march, while the drums, bugles, and trumpets of other
regiments, horse and foot, were heard in various parts of the echoing
Macdonald, what is all this noise and uproar about? asked Stuart.
'I ken nae mair than an
unporn pairn, sir,' replied the leader of the pipers; 'put it's a tammed
cauld morning to rouse puir chields frae their plankets. There is a
soughing meeserable Hanoverian wind plawing frae the east, sharp enough to
skin our pare houghs, and be tammed tilt! And that trunken loon,
Macfarlane, has sae mony quegsfu' under his belt, that he took the dorts,
and in spite o' a' orders blew the pibroch o' Locks-loy. A ponny thing for
him—the son o' Rori-bheg, a riever, hanged at Crieff for liftin\ to speak
in defiance at me!'
The voice of the adjutant
bawling for his horse was now heard, as he issued from under the piazzas,
attended by an orderly with a lighted lantern, to collect the reports and
get the companies mustered. The men were already falling in at the
alarm-post, and the musket-butts were heard clattering heavily on the
pavement, as one by one they took their places in the ranks.
'Stuart, don your
fighting-jacket; pack up your best scarlets for a ball when we reach
Madrid,' cried Claude, as he passed the window. 'We are about to show Mr.
Soult the point of war.
'"Gin he meets us in the
morning," as the song says. A despatch has within this hour arrived from
Wellington, and we are ordered off to the front forthwith, to prevent
Estremadura being invaded. Turn out as soon as you can; the corps are
nearly all mustered in our Plaza de Armas. Ho, there! orderly drummer;
beat for the coverers! Fall in, covering sergeants!'
The gray daylight was now
beginning to make objects visible. The sky was clear, and of a cold and
dark blue, and a chilling blast swept through the dull and gloomy streets,
where all was martial bustle and preparation. While dressing himself with
more haste than care, Stuart heard the voice of Cameron and the adjutant
ordering and directing the sergeant-major; he in turn bawled to the
sergeants of companies, who were vociferously calling the rolls, in which
an immense number of Jocks, and Tams, and Donalds followed each other in
succession. All was commotion and 'hurry-skurry,' amid which De Costa's
brigade of Spanish horse galloped past, brandishing their swords, and
shouting 'Arma! arma! Viva! viva!' with might and main. General Long's
brigade of British followed, but in characteristic silence.
To prevent Marshal Soult
from invading Estremadura from the neighbouring province, Sir Rowland Hill
marched his brigades of horse and foot to Sancho Perez, collecting from
Zafra and other places on his march all the Spanish and Portuguese troops
he could bring together to meet the enemy, who advanced towards him in
great strength, plundering and destroying the grain and vines on their
route. At Zafra they attacked and defeated an advanced corps of Spanish
dragoons, commanded by the Condé Penne Villamur. Animated by this success,
Soult continued to press forward at the head of thirty-eight or forty
thousand men ; and Sir Rowland Hill prudently fell back upon the heights
of Albuera with his division, twenty-two thousand strong. There he took up
a position, which every means were taken to strengthen by the erection of
trenches, breastworks, and traverses, at the formation of which
fatigue-parties wrought day and night. Fresh troops joined them here
daily, and Ronald heard, with considerable pleasure, that Don Alvaro's
troop of lances were expected to join the Spanish brigade. Alvaro's
command was a sort of independent troop, unattached to any regiment, like
les compagnies franches, the free troops or companies, in the old French
service. The second division occupied this intrenched position twelve
days, awaiting the appearance of Soult, who advanced no nearer than Santa
Martha, a town about a long day's march distant. He showed no disposition
to fight a second battle of Albuera, the ground being so strong and its
occupiers so determined, that the heights could only have been captured
with immense loss,—if indeed Soult could have carried them at all. On the
first night after the position was taken up, a blunder of Evan's caused no
ordinary commotion throughout the camp.
At the base of the heights,
where a stream called the Albuera runs, he was posted as an advanced
sentinel in a most wild and dreary spot. A wide and desolate plain,
stretching away towards Santa Martha, lay before him ; black ridges like
waves of ink rose behind; and all around were scattered the ghastly
remnants of the battle fought on the ground twelve months previously. The
night was gloomy and dark, the sky was starless, and not a sound broke the
solemn stillness of the hour, save the Albuera, brawling and gurgling
along that deep and savage-looking ravine by means of which the French had
outflanked the Spaniards.
Excepting the murmur of the
mountain-torrent, all was silent as the tomb; not a blade of grass was
stirring, and those gloomy fantasies, so apt to fill the strong
imagination of a Highlander, arose appallingly before Evan. Anxiously and
intently he had fixed his eyes oh some shrubbery or tall weeds, which
appeared in the twilight afar off. These his heated imagination
transformed into battalions of foot and squadrons of horse, advancing
stealthily over the plain. He fired his musket, and retired on the main
body of his picket, which lay within an abatis composed of cork-trees,
felled and intertwined for a breastwork around them. The whole camp rose
in arms, expecting instantly to be attacked, but the dawn revealed the
cause of Evan's mistake. A few days after Soult had taken possession of
Santa Martha, Ronald had the command of one of the pickets thrown out in
that direction. All were on the alert, as the enemy were continually
expected to advance from their cantonments. The picket, which consisted of
thirty Highlanders, occupied the summit of a rocky eminence; where, piling
their arms, they lay down on the greensward to watch the sun, as it verged
towards the western horizon, glittering on the polished arms of solitary
sentinels and videttes posted at equal distances along the banks of the
rocky river, and in front of that dark forest from the bosom of which its
waters came. A Spanish sunset is a glorious scene in June, but which of
the Highlanders there would have exchanged the Scottish pine or purple
heath for the olive-grove or clustering grapes of Spain? Ronald was seated
in a grassy nook, employed in conning over the pages of the Madrid Gaceta,
when he was roused by the trampling of hoofs and clang of harness. He
sprang up in time to see the shining helmets of a hundred French
cuirassiers flashing in the sunbeams, as they issued successively from a
deep and narrow gorge on his left, into which they had contrived to
penetrate and advance unseen,—evading thus the sentinels of the other
'Death and fury! we are
lost men. Our retreat is cut off! Stand to your arms,' cried he, drawing
his sword. 'Form circle round the face of the rock,—show your front to
them! Be cool, and steadily take your aim. Keep up your fire till the
cavalry pickets in front of the wood ride to our rescue. Ha ! the gallant
9th are in their saddles already.'
With coolness and precision
his orders were obeyed. The brave little band, aware of the power of foot
over horse, formed circle round the eminence, and opened a close and
well-directed fire, before which the cuirassiers were compelled to waver,
recoil, and stay for some minutes their headlong charge, being impeded and
entangled with falling men and horses; and the former, if not dead when
they fell, were soon trodden to death by the hoofs of the rear rank.
'Charge!' cried the
officer, a dashing fellow, who led them on.
'Chargez en queue la
troupe!' and, firing their pistols, they came furiously forward sword in
hand, making the turf shake as they thundered along. It was a critical
moment for the little band! A sharp twinge in his left shoulder informed
Ronald that a pistol-shot had taken effect there, depriving him of the use
of his arm, and several of his men lay killed and wounded among the feet
of their comrades, who could not help feeling a little dismayed at the
overwhelming number of their opponents.
'Keep up your fire, brave
Highlanders! stand fast, true Scotsmen!' cried Stuart, brandishing his
claymore. 'Aim deliberately, and level low; strike below the corselet.
Courage, my boys! 'tis all for our lives. They will kill, as they cannot
capture. Hold your ground ! keep shoulder to shoulder, and give them the
bayonet at the face of the rocks. Hurrah! well done, my own brave
comrades! We shall be rescued instantly.'
The cuirassiers advanced in
a semicircle boldly enough; but the steady fire of their opponents caused
them again to recoil.
Chateaufleur, Chateaufleur! retournez à la charge. Charge!' cried the
officer again, and again the serried ranks came rushing on with renewed
impetuosity; but they were once more driven back, leaving the ground
strewn with writhing men and steeds. A few. resolutely pressed forward in
the rashness of their daring, and struck at the defenders of the rock
across the ridge of deadly bayonets which protruded over it. But they were
at once destroyed, shot and bayoneted. One soldier, who was cut across the
face, clubbed his musket and dashed out the brains of his adversary. And
one powerful French dragoon grasped the sergeant of the picket and
attempted to drag him down by main strength from the rock ; but Ronald
saved him, by plunging his sword through the corselet of the Frenchman,
who tumbled from his saddle, and was dragged away down the ravine of the
Albuera by his affrighted horse.
The rock was again free,
but not entirely so, as the cuirassiers, who were reduced to half their
original number, were preparing to renew the attack, which appeared to be
general along the whole chain of outposts, as the sound of firing was
heard in every direction. The pickets of the 39th and 66th regiments, on
the right and left, were retiring rearward on the heights, firing, as they
fell back, on bodies of the enemy's cavalry, which were advancing over the
plain. Ronald beheld all the other out-pickets retiring in safety. His
alone had been cut off, and by means of that accursed ravine ! His little
party were now reduced to sixteen effective men, and he gave them and
himself up for lost. But aid was nigh: part of De Costa's cavalry, lying
in front of the wood, were ordered forward by Sir Rowland Hill to his
rescue. Onward they came with the speed of the wind, bearing death on the
points of their spears. Ronald beheld with delight that it was the troop
of Alvaro de Villa Franca, who had just joined De Costa, which was moving
to his aid. As they came on, they raised the old battle-cry of Spain. 'San
Jago y cierra Espana!' was the shout, as they swept gallantly on in a
compact mass,—horse to horse, helms and corselets glancing, plumes and
strengthen our spears!' cried Alvaro, rushing forward with his uplifted
sword. 'Follow me, Montesa! Saint James and Close Spain! Stand, Frenchmen,
if ye be true cavaliers! viva! San Jago y cierra Espana! Cerrar con el
The lances of the front
rank sunk to the rest, while those of the rear protruded over the casques
of the former, and onward still they pressed, shaking the very rock from
which the rescued picket viewed this new conflict. Not a whit dismayed at
the number or character of their opponents, the undaunted cuirassiers met
them half-way, and a most gallant hand-to-hand conflict ensued. The scene
when the adversaries first met was a perfect combat in the style of the
days of chivalry,—the realization of a scene of romance. The proud
battle-cry of the Spaniards, answered by the 'Vive l' Empereur!' of the
French,—the crash of lances, splintering on casque and corselet,—the clash
of blades,—the tramp of hoofs,—the dust,—the blood,—the groans and
shrieks,—the curses,—the spurring and prancing, as the parties
intermingled,—the brown uniforms and the blue,—the steel helmets and the
brass,—the red plumes and the black,—the tall spears and uplifted sabres
flashing in the setting sun,— the gaudy standard of the Spaniards,—the
eagled guidon of the French, fluttering and waving above the conflict,—the
dead and the wounded trodden heedlessly below,—formed altogether a most
exciting and soul-stirring scene.
himself in no ordinary degree. The long horsehair on his crest was seen
dancing up and down amidst the thickest of the melee, and whenever his
sword descended, a saddle was emptied by the blow. But Ronald could not
remain long to witness the valour of his friend, although he eagerly
wished to do so. He drew off the remnant of his picket, and, crossing the
Albuera, retired into the trenches of the camp, where of course the whole
division were under arms.
The outposts were driven in
on all sides; and satisfied with this display, Soult brought off his
cavalry, who had suffered severely in the contest. Ronald's wound was
found to be severe; but the shoulder-blade had escaped fracture, and as
soon as it was dressed, he rejoined his company with his arm slung. On the
disappearance of the French, the troops piled arms, and all was again the
same as before, save the plain in front of Albuera, which was strewn with
dead and wounded, and other relics of the skirmish.
As Stuart sat in his tent,
writing an account of the day's fray for Lochisla, the door became
darkened, and Don Alvaro, entering, grasped him by the hand. He was pale
with fatigue, and Ronald knew, by the increased gravity and sorrow
imprinted on his features, that he was aware of his sister's death, and
that it lay heavy on his heart.
'Amigo mio,' said he, 'a
minute later had seen your brave picket cut to pieces. We drove back these
gay cuirassiers in glorious style, fighting, like true soldados, at point
of sword and spear every inch of the way.'
'I have a thousand thanks
to return you, Don Alvaro, for the dauntless manner in which you rode to
the rescue. These cuirassiers were tough fellows, and fought with a
bravery equalled only by that of their opponents.' 'Stay, senor; there is
another subject on which I would rather converse with you, than of our
hourly occupation of fighting,' replied Villa Franca, as he cast aside his
leather gauntlets, and unclasping his helmet, wiped the dust from his
swarthy face and dark moustaches. 'Catalina, my idolized sister,—I would
ask you about her.'
Stuart's heart beat
quicker. 'You have then heard ?' said he sorrowfully.
'Yes, senor; from Ignacio
El Pastor, a priest of Estremadura, I learned the terrible intelligence. I
fell in with him near Badajoz, when bearing your letter to my cousin and
wife Donna Inesella. I took the liberty of opening it, and making myself
master of its contents ; and thus, became aware of my sister's dishonour
and deplorable murder. Don Ronald Stuart, there is something very singular
in all that affair, and I must request that you will give me a detailed
account of the whole occurrence, without the omission of a single
circumstance, for the truth of which I hold your honour, as a cavalier and
'How is this, Senor
Alvaro?' replied Ronald, alike surprised and displeased at the tone and
bearing of the Spaniard. 'I consider it next to an impossibility that you
should suspect me of anything wrong, or of leaving anything undone.'
'Amigo mio, your pardon. I
spoke somewhat hastily; but when I mention the tumult of this day's
conflict, and the excitement which the recollection of my dear and
beautiful sister arouses within me, I have a sufficient apology.' He leant
against the pole of the tent, and covered his face with his hands,
betraying an emotion in which Ronald could not but participate. 'Pardon
me, Senor Stuart,' continued the cavalier, 'you loved my poor sister too
well to deserve that I should judge harshly of you; but say on, and tell
all you know of her dreadful death.'
The Spaniard stretched
himself on the turf floor of the tent, and resting on his helmet, leant
his head upon his hand, and fixing his keen dark eyes upon Ronald's,
listened to the account given by the latter of her death. He began with
his meeting her at Almarez, and without concealing a single sentiment
which had animated them, or an observation which had passed, he continued
the narrative down to the hour of her burial at the convent of Jarciejo.
But both became greatly excited as the tale proceeded. Love, sorrow, and
indignation caused Ronald's features to flush, and his brow to knit; but
those of the hot-brained Spaniard became black with fury, and convulsed
with the excess of those passions to which his tongue could not give
utterance. He wept and groaned, and grasped the hilt of his poniard
energetically. When Ronald ceased, he started from the ground, with his
large dark eyes flashing like those of an incarnate demon.
'Moderate your transports,
Don Alvaro; be calm, I beseech you!' said Stuart, grasping him by the arm.
'Cavalier, your story has
driven me to frenzy,' cried he, through his clenched teeth. 'You cannot
have loved Catalina as she deserved to be loved, otherwise you would not
be so calm in such a terrible hour as this. Excuse me, senor; alas! I know
not what I utter. You come of a northern people, less prompt to ire and
vengeance than the fiery Spaniard. But much as you may have heard of
Spanish vengeance,' said he, becoming suddenly calm, 'all the tales that
have been told of it since the days of King Bamba or Roderick the Goth
will fall immeasurably short of mine. I have left no means untried to
capture Narvaez Cifuentes, but where the ban-dog lurks at present I know
not. But the hour of retribution will yet come, and my fury will burst on
his devoted brow like a thunderbolt' He sunk upon his knees, and ratified
a solemn vow of vengeance by kissing the bare blade and cross-hilt of his
stiletto. 'Senor,' said he, 'is it the custom in your native land to swear
across the dagger?'
'In the days of my
grandsire it was; and there are yet some among our Scottish hills who
consider none now binding, unless sworn over the unsheathed dirk.'
"Tis well: it shows the
military spirit of your people. Conform to the present customs of Spain,
and to those of your northern ancestors. Swear with me, cavalier.'
Promptly as Alvaro could
have wished, Ronald unsheathed the long Highland dirk with which he had
lately equipped himself. It was a handsome weapon set with jewels, and
accoutred with knife and fork, like the regimental dirks now worn by every
Highland officer : and across it he vowed to aid Alvaro in delivering
Cifuentes up to vengeance.
'This is well. I will now
be calm,' said the cavalier in a tone of satisfaction. 'You may have some
scruples about slaying the dog with your own hand; but deliver him over to
the first alcalde, and he will reserve him for the fury of Alvaro of Villa
'Such a reservation may do,
should I meet him in camp or city; but woe to him should we foregather in
any desert spot,—my sword and his heart will not be long asunder.'
'Spoken like a true
hidalgo, who needs no friend save his own right. hand. Our Lady del Pilar!
slay me this earthly fiend, and I will consider you as much my brother as
if my sister, my sublime Catalina, had wedded you at the altar. Although,
in truth, to be frank with you, I would rather she had bestowed her hand
on her cousin, the Condé of Truxillo, a brave cavalier, who has loved her
long and dearly. What now, Pedro?' Do you bring me the list of killed and
wounded ?' said he, as Sergeant Gomez stood erect at the triangular door
of the tent, and brought hi: right hand up to the peak of his helmet, in a
sweeping military salute.
'The Valencian rogue, senor
cavalier; how are we to dispose of him?' ' Ha! I had forgotten. Right, my
true soldado. A base goatherd, senor,' said he, turning to Ronald, 'a most
contemptible traitor, who guided up the ravine those hundred cuirassiers,
who so nearly cut your picket off. Pedro captured the rogue after the
skirmish. He is a notorious spy and traitor. Where is he now, Pedro?'
'Tied hard and fast, like a
Merino sheep, under the belly of my Anda-lusian,' answered Pedro with a
'You had better turn him
over to the provost-marshal of the camp,' said Ronald; 'he will give him
his deserts from the branch of the nearest tree. The rascal! by his
treachery to his country my company has lost fourteen gallant hearts, and
I have won this wound.'
' As he is a prisoner of
mine,' said Alvaro, 'I will dispose of him, and cave senor the
provost-marshal any trouble in the matter. Desire a file of troopers to
dismount and load their carbines,—no! that were a waste of King
Ferdinand's powder. Run your dagger into his throat, Pedro, and see that
you strike deep; then fling his carcass over the rocks into the Albuera,
and let it rot in that same ravine that he knows so well.'
Pedro disappeared, and
almost instantly a prolonged shriek, which startled the whole camp,
announced that the unscrupulous sargento had obeyed his orders to the very
letter. Ronald was about to express some abhorrence of this summary mode
of execution, when he was interrupted. 'Villa Franca, said a handsome
Spanish cavalry officer, about twenty years of age, appearing at the door
of the tent; 'the Condé Penne Villa-mur wishes to see you. Our brigade and
De Costa's have been ordered to the front, as an advanced post. Such are
the orders of Sir Rowland Hill. The condé would speak with you without
delay, and our trumpets will sound "to horse" in an hour.'
''Tis well, Lorenzo. I am
in a true fighting mood to-day, and our troop of lancers are in glorious
order. The Marquess de Montesa of Valencia,' said Alvaro, introducing the
stranger to Ronald, 'the senior lieutenant of my lances.'
'A sharp skirmish that was
in which we were engaged a short time ago, senor,' said Montesa with a
laugh. He was one of those gay fellows who laugh at everything. ' We
appear to have shared alike in the misfortunes of war,' he added, pointing
to his left arm, which was bound up in his red Spanish scarf.
'Ha, marquess! your
presence reminds me of what other thoughts had nearly driven from my
memory. Look you, Senor Don Ronald,' said Alvaro, displaying a golden
cross suspended by a red and yellow ribbon. 'We have been commissioned by
my relative, Alfonso de Conquesta, Grand-master of the military order of
Saint James of Spain, to invest you with this badge, and create you a
knight-companion of our most honourable order, as a reward for your
bravery at Almarez, accounts of which have been fully blazoned forth by
the Gacetas of Madrid and other places.'
Stuart, who had longed with
all the ardour of a young soldier for some of those military decorations
with which the bosoms of foreign troops are covered, received the cross
with a pleasure which he could not conceal. At that time neither medal nor
star was to be seen in our service, save among the officers of the 15th
Light Dragoons, who received from the Emperor of Germany an 'Order of
Merit' for their singular bravery at Villiers-en-Couché, in 1794.
'A most beautiful cross
indeed, Don Alvaro!' said Stuart, 'but our mess are droll fellows, and I
shall be sadly quizzed about it.'
'A badge such as this
should raise other sentiments than those of ridicule in the minds of
honourable cavaliers,' observed Montesa. 'You will find it a star for the
ladies' eyes to follow. Our Spanish damsels know well that the tried and
proved soldier alone wins the cross and riband of St. James.'
'The marquess has your
diploma of knighthood in his sabretache; he will explain to you the rules
of the order. Meanwhile, I shall attend the noble condé,' said Alvaro, and
departed. The diploma, a parchment containing the oath, the rules of the
order, and bearing its seal appended, was written in Spanish and Latin,
and Ronald was a little startled at the tenor of the vow.
"Tis no small honour the
noble and venerable Grand-master confers upon you, senor,' said Montesa,
after reading over the document. 'The order of St. James is one of the
most ancient and chivalric in Spain. It was instituted, in the year 1170,
by Ferdinand II., king of Leon and Galicia. It is conferred solely on
hidalgos of the highest rank, very seldom on foreigners, and never yet on
'I am afraid, marquess,
your Spanish prejudices will incline you to class me with the latter.'
'I trust that, although as
true a Catholic as ever kissed cross, I have more liberality, and the
Grand-master is too anxious to enrol you as a gallant soldier in the
order, to inquire much about your tenets, which in truth are doubtful,'
said Montesa, laughing, ' if I may believe the reports of my fair cousin,
the abbess of Santa Cruz. Religious inquiries may be dispensed with, but
for form's sake the vows are indispensable; and when Alvaro returns, we
will examine and sign the diploma sent hither by Don Alfonso.'
'The vows; I should be glad
to know them. By your cross, I perceive that you are a knight of the
'Every Spanish officer of
distinction is,' replied Montesa, with a proud smile. 'We are supposed to
observe the rules of San Austin, and vow obedience, conjugal fidelity to
our wives—demonio! and service to all ladies. Things easily sworn to,'
added he, laughing heartily, 'but hard to keep in Spain. By San Jago! I
have broken them a score of times. Senor, you know that vows and
restrictions which suited the steel-clad knights of Ferdinand of Leon,
will scarcely suit the cigar-smoking and dashing officers of Murillo or
Don Carlos D'Espagna's divisions. Our Lady! we would as soon swear to the
vows of the barefooted Franciscan; But you will have to make it appear
that your ancestors have been, at least, hidalgos or gentlemen for four
'For sixteen, if you
choose, marquess; but I should need the assistance of some northern bard
to unravel the matter. However, my colonel will resolve that point for
'And that in your veins
there runs not the base blood of Jew, Morisco, or heretic ; and that you
have never been called in question by the late Inquisition,—the devil
'To these I may freely
swear, No! on blade and Bible.'
'You see by the diploma,'
continued Montesa, with a droll smile, 'that knights in their novitiate
are obliged to tug an oar in the king's galleys for six months, to harden
them to labour; and then live for six months more in a Carthusian
monastery, fasting and praying, being the while scantily supplied with
black bread, and liberally with water to wash away their sins and
'The deuce, marquess! These
disagreeable preliminaries will scarcely suit me; and I fear I must forego
the high honour intended me by the venerable Grand-master.'
'Not at all, senor,'
replied Montesa. 'Were these parts of the military novitiate to be
rigorously exacted how very few of our Spanish caballeros of Madrid would
display their crosses on the gay Prados! By Santiago! I would see De
Conquesta and his order at the bottom of the Mediterranean before I would
submit to such degradation. Besides, senor, if twelve months' campaigning
here will not harden us, nothing on earth will.' 'How then, marquess?'
'A few doubloons paid to
the grand-treasurer, at Cadiz, where at present Don Alfonso resides, will
procure you a dispensation from these, and all will then be right. Ha !
here comes Villa Franca. You have made despatch with the condé.'
'Montesa,' said Alvaro,
entering, 'our trumpets will blow "boot and saddle" instantly. The Spanish
horse will relieve General Long's brigade of the out-picket duty on the
Santa Martha road. We move the moment the sun dips behind the heights of
'You will probably see some
fighting before dawn.' 'True, Senor Stuart; and perhaps a few saddles will
be emptied before the bugle sounds the réveille,' replied Montesa, whose
own was doomed to be one of them. 'Ho! there go our trumpeters already.
Alvaro, we had better invest our friend with his cross: dispensing, of
course, with the mummery of monks and godfathers. Diavolo! we ought to
have had a fair lady to clasp on his belt and affix the star. Would we
were near the convent of Jarciejo!'
'The lady must be dispensed
with likewise. Hark! the condé already blows "to horse!" He is somewhat
impatient, truly. Lend me your sword, marquess; I cannot bestow the
knighthood with mine, as the cross-bar was broken off in our late fandango
with the enemy. Let us seek the tent of Don Juan Cameron; and when we have
been satisfied on some points of lineage, amigo mio, amidst the officers
of your own brave regiment, you shall become our sworn knight-companion.'
'A most unceremonious
instalment,' said Montesa, 'but war and necessity must be pleaded for our
excuse; and the knight that is created in a tent is more likely to prove a
true cavalier than he who receives his spurs in the carpeted palace or
In Fassifern's tent, Stuart
was duly dubbed knight of St. James, having, as such, the privilege of
wearing his bonnet in the presence of the King of Spain. As soon as the
hasty ceremony was over, the Spaniards sprung to their saddles and
departed, leaving Ronald with the cross on his breast, amid a circle of
his brother-officers, who, with their congratulations, threw in sundry dry
For many months afterwards
he was known among them as 'the Knight of Santiago,' seldom receiving any
other name except when on duty. Jokes must be furnished for mess and
parade, and Ronald's cross was a standing one. He became, however, a
greater favourite with the colonel and regiment. He was esteemed by the
officers and beloved by the soldiers, who would, as they emphatically
said, 'storm hell's yetts to serve him.' Than British soldiers, none knew
better how to appreciate the good qualities of an officer who treats them
well; and their love, esteem, and confidence, which cannot fail being of
service to the officer himself, are easily gained by kindness and
affability. Nor was St. James's cross the only piece of good fortune that
Ronald obtained. He had returned to his tent, where he sat finishing his
letter for Lochisla, and regretting bitterly that he was unable to send
another for Inchavon, when Alister came in with a newspaper in each hand.
'I congratulate you, Sir Knight of Santiago de Compostella; the saints are
propitious to you, certainly, or the Horse Guards at least. Lisle has sent
me these papers up from the castle of Belem, from which place he was just
about to set out on his return with a detachment of convalescents. Look
'What! any more orders of
substantial. "War Office, 24th—no, 28th Foot, Lieut. Dalbiac to be
captain, vice Paget, killed in action. Ensign Stuart, from the 92nd
Highlanders, to be lieutenant, vice Dalbiac."'
'Ah! is it really
possible?' exclaimed Ronald, springing up.
'Quite, and a most lucky
dog you are. You may thank Almarez and Sir Rowland Hill for this. He
recommended you for promotion, you know.'
'The 28th is an English
'The gallant slashers!
'I should be sorry to leave
the Highlanders—one of our most dashing national regiments.'
'Your taste appears to be
consulted admirably. Look at this "Gazette" in the next paper. "92nd
Highlanders—Brevet-major Colin Campbell to be major, vice Macdonald,
appointed to the 8th Garrison Battalion; Lieut. Macdonald to be captain,
vice Campbell ; Lieut. Ronald Stuart, from the 28th Foot, to be
lieutenant, vice the Honourable Sholto Douglas;, who exchanges."'
'Excellent !' exclaimed
Stuart, as they shook hands. 'I shall be with you still: Cameron has
planned this matter, surely. But this Honourable Sholto,—I have never had
the pleasure of seeing him.'
'Oh! he has been on the
staff in Ireland for these three years past. A drawing-room soldier, that
has no idea of bivouacs and tough ration beef—fording rivers up to the
neck, and having forced marches of forty miles. Sholto has kept himself
clear of these matters, and is, consequently, no favourite with the
chief,—Cameron, I mean: the warning he gave me about that title at San
Pedro must not be forgotten. I wish you joy heartily, Ronald,
notwithstanding you are promoted over my head. However, I am near the top
of the ensigns, and the next engagement may provide for some of the
seniors. We must wet the new commission to-night in glorious style; and,
hark ! firing, by Jove! The out-pickets are engaged! Soult is at it
again.' Drawing back the door of the tent, they saw the flashes of
musketry and gleam of steel appear on the Santa Martha road, and wreaths
of white smoke curling up among the rocks and broken ground between,
showing that a running skirmish had commenced.
The noise of the firing
became more rapid and loud, and then died away; and the Spanish cavalry
were seen, sword in hand, pursuing the French at full gallop. The Condé
Penne Villamur had repelled the attack of the French cuirassiers, and
having defeated them, rashly left his ground in pursuit along the road to
Santa Martha; where, falling into an ambush of several squadrons of horse,
his Spaniards were almost all cut to pieces. Don Alvaro, at the head of
his lancers, charged madly through and through them, and brought off the
condé, after a most desperate and bloody conflict fought hand to hand with
sword and spear, amid which the gay and brave young Marquess of Montesa
was slain, being 'cloven to the teeth, through steel and bone,' by Louis
Chateaufleur, a major of cuirassiers, mentioned by De Mesmai in preceding
chapters. Alvaro was so severely wounded by a sword-thrust between the
joints of his breast and back plate that he was rendered unserviceable for
some time; and, procuring leave, departed for Idanha-a-Velha, where Donna
Inesella still resided.