The help was not needed, for in five minutes the second outpost was also in the possession of the allies. Working parties were at once thrown forward, and before morning the two captured positions were connected with and made part of the already established parallel.
The fall of these two redoubts in turn opened an enfilading fire on the British, and in desperation, just before dawn on the 15th a sortie was made, and the French were driven out of one of the batteries, and the guns spiked but the advantage could not be held against the reserves that came up at the first alarm, and they were in turn forced out at the point of the bayonet.
On the morning of the 16th almost a hundred heavy guns and mortars were in position; and for twenty-four hours the whole peninsula trembled, as they poured a torrent of destructive, direct, and raking fire, at the closest range, into the weakened defences and crumbling town, with scarcely pretence of resistance from the hemmed in and exhausted British, every shot which especially told being greeted with cheers from the trenches of the allies.
One there was in the uniform of a field officer, who never cheered, yet who, standing in a recklessly exposed position, staringly followed each solid shot as it buried itself in the earthworks, or, passing over them, was heard to strike in the town, and each shell, as it curved upwards and downwards in its great arc. Sometimes the explosion of the latter would throw fragments of what it destroyed in the air,—earth, shingles, bricks, and even human limbs,—raising a cry of triumph from those who served the piece, but he only pressed his lips the more tightly together, as if enduring some torture. Nor could he be persuaded to leave his place for food or sleep, urge who would, but with careworn face and haggard eyes never left it for thirty hours. Occasionally, when for a minute or two there would come an accidental break in the firing, his lips could be seen to move as if he were speaking to himself. Not one knew why he stood there following each shot so anxiously, or little recked that, when there was not one to fasten his attention, he saw instead a pair of dark eyes shadowed by long lashes, delicately pencilled eyebrows, a low fore-head surmounted by a wealth of darkest brown hair, a little straight nose, cheeks scarcely ever two minutes the same tint, and lips that, whether they spoke or no, wooed as never words yet did. And as each time the vision flashed out before him, he would half mutter, half sob a prayer:—
“Oh, God, rob her of her beauty if you will, but do not let disease or shot kill her.”
It was he, watching as no other man in all those lines watched, who suddenly, a little after ten o’clock on the morning of the 17th, shouted:—
Every man within hearing turned to him, and then looked to where his finger pointed.