In the centre and over against the wall to the left of the Castle were assembled Colville’s and Barnard’s men of the Fourth and Light Divisions. Theirs, according to the General’s plan, was to be the main business to-night—to carry the breaches hammered in the Trinidad and Santa Maria bastions and the curtain between; the Fourth told off for the Trinidad and the curtain, the Light Bobs for the Santa Maria—heroes these of Moore’s famous rear-guard, tried men of the 52nd Foot and the 95th Rifles, with the 43rd beside them, and destined to pay the heaviest price of all to-night for the glory of such comradeship. But, indeed, Ciudad Rodrigo had given the 43rd a title to stand among the best.
And far away to the left, on the lower slopes of the hills, Leigh’s Fifth Division was halted in deep columns. A knoll separated his two brigades, and across the interval of darkness they could hear each other’s movements. They were to operate independently; and concerning the task before the brigade on the right there could be no doubt: a dash across the gorge at their feet, and an assault upon the outlying Pardaleras, on the opposite slope. But the business before Walker’s brigade, on the left, was by no means so simple. The storming party had been marching light, with two companies of Portuguese to carry their ladders, and stood discussing prospects: for as yet they were well out of earshot of the walls, and the moment for strict silence had not arrived.
“The Vincenty,” grumbled Teddy Butson; “and by shot to me if I even know what it’s like.”
“Like!” McInnes’ jaws shut on the word like a steel trap. “The scarp’s thirty feet high, and the ditch accordin’. The last on the west side it will be—over by the river. I know it like your face, and its uglier, if that’s possible.”
“Dick Webster was saying it’s mined,” put in Nat, commanding a firm voice.
“Eh? The glacis? I shouldn’t wonder. Walker will know.”
“But what’ll he do?”
“Well, now”—Dave seemed to be considering—“it will not be for the likes of me to be telling the brigadier-general. But if Walker comes to me and says, ’Dave, there’s a mine hereabouts. What will I be doing?’ it’s like enough I shall say: ’Your honour knows best; but the usual course is to walk round it.’”
Teddy Butson chuckled, and rubbed the back of his axe approvingly. Nat held his tongue for a minute almost, and then broke out irritably: “To hell with this waiting!”
His nerves were raw. Two minutes later a man on his right kicked awkwardly against his foot. It startled him, and he cursed furiously.
“Hold hard, Spuds, my boy,” said the man cheerfully; “you ain’t Lord Wellington, nor his next-of-kin, to be makin’ all the noise.”
Teddy Butson wagged his head solemnly at a light which showed foggily for a moment on the distant ramparts.
“All right,” said he, “you——town! Little you know ’tis Teddy’s birthday.”