On the morning of the 25th Harry ran into Jack’s tent.
“Wake up, Jack, there is a row down near Balaklava. The Russians are coming on in force. You’re off duty, are you not? So am I. We only came out of the trenches half an hour ago. Hurry on your things and come along.”
Jack was only a minute or two getting into his clothes, the other midshipmen off duty also hurrying up. Tom Hammond brought in four cups of hot coffee, which they drank hastily, and then munching their hard biscuits as they went, the party of four hurried off.
On reaching the edge of the plateau the whole scene was visible. On four knolls in the plain, redoubts had been erected, and these were garrisoned by the Turks. Some two miles out ran the little river called the Tchernaya, which runs through the valley of Inkerman into the head of the harbor of Sebastopol, and upon this a body of Russian troops had been for some time encamped. Large bodies of the enemy were known to be gathered on the Mackenzie heights, a range of hills which bounded the plain upon the opposite side. These had been strongly reinforced, and at daybreak the Russian army, having gathered at the Tchernaya, advanced upon the Turkish redoubts. The scene when the boys reached the edge of the plateau was a stirring one. Great bodies of infantry were marching across the undulating plain. Strong regiments of cavalry swept hither and thither, and two batteries of light guns had already opened on the redoubts. Lines of British infantry could be seen drawn up at the foot of the slopes from Balaklava to the Marine Heights, where the marines were getting the guns in a position to command the plain. Solid bodies of British cavalry were drawn up near the mouth of the valley. The drums and bugles were sounding all over the plateau behind the group, and the troops were already forming up, and staff-officers were dashing about with orders.
“There goes my regimental call,” Harry said. “I must go back again, Jack.”
“I shall push on,” Jack said. “Come along, you fellows, we’re too far off to see much of it here. Let us get down as near Balaklava as we can.”
So saying, the midshipmen set off at a run. For a few minutes the guns of No. 1 redoubt, the farthest out of all, replied to the Russian fire, and then the Turks, menaced by overwhelming forces, and beyond the possibility of any assistance, left their guns and bolted across the plain towards the second redoubt. Few of them, however, reached it, for the Russian cavalry swooped down on them and nearly all were sabred as they ran. As soon as the Russians obtained possession of the redoubt they turned its guns upon the British, and the 93d Highlanders who were drawn up in front of the entrance to the Balaklava valley, were forced to fall back. Our cavalry, which were formed up in a slight dip of the ground, were invisible