The Laird's Luck and Other Fireside Tales eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 310 pages of information about The Laird's Luck and Other Fireside Tales.
or four miles, and the head of the column was actually crossing by a pretty deep ford when some forty dragoons (which Trant had begged from Bacellar to help him in his proposed coup upon Sabugal, and which had arrived from Celorico but the day before) came galloping down through the woods with a squadron of French cavalry in pursuit, and charging in panic through the rearguard flung everything into confusion.  The day was a rainy one, and the militia, finding their powder wet, ran for the ford like sheep.  The officers, however, kept their heads and got the men over, though with the loss of two hundred prisoners.  Even so, Marmont might have crossed the river on their flank and galloped into Celorico ahead of them.  As it was, he halted and allowed the rabble to save themselves in the town.  While blaming his head I must do justice to his heart and add that, finding what poor creatures he had to deal with, he forbade his horsemen to cut down the fugitives, and not a single man was killed.

Foreseeing that Trant must sooner or later retreat upon Celorico—­though ignorant, of course, of what was happening—­I was actually crossing the river at the time by a ford some four miles above, not in the French staff officer’s uniform which I had worn out of Sabugal, but in an old jacket lent me by my friend the shepherd.  By the time I reached the town Wilson had swept in his rabble and was planting his outposts, intending to resist and, if this became impossible, to blow up the magazines before retiring.  Trant and Bacellar with the bulk of the militia were continuing the retreat meanwhile towards Lamego.

I need only say here that Wilson’s bold front served its purpose.  Once, when the French drove in his outposts, he gave the order to fire the powder, and a part of the magazine was actually destroyed when Marmont (who above all things hated ridicule, and was severely taxing the respect of his beautiful army by these serio-comic excursions after a raw militia) withdrew his troops and retired in an abominable temper to Sabugal.

How do I know that Marmont’s temper was abominable?  By what follows.

On March 30th I had left my kinsman, Captain Alan McNeill, with his servant Jose at Tammanies.  They were to keep an eye on the French movements while I rode south and reported to Lord Wellington at Badajoz.  It was now April 16th, and in the meanwhile a great deal had happened; but of my kinsman’s movements I had heard nothing.  At first I felt sure he must be somewhere in the neighbourhood of Marmont’s headquarters; but even in Sabugal itself no hint of him could I hear, and at length I concluded that having satisfied himself of the main lines of Marmont’s campaign he had gone off to meet and receive fresh instructions from Wellington, now posting north to save the endangered magazines.

On the evening of the 16th General Wilson sent for me.

“Here is a nasty piece of news,” said he.  “Your namesake is a prisoner.”

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The Laird's Luck and Other Fireside Tales from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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