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The Girl's Own Paper, Vol. XX. No. 1008, April 22, 1899

The Girl's Own Paper, Vol. XX. No. 1008, April 22, 1899
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Author: Various
Title: The Girl's Own Paper, Vol. XX. No. 1008, April 22, 1899
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{465}

THE GIRL’S OWNPAPER

The Girl's Own Paper.

Vol. XX.—No. 1008.]

[Price One Penny.

APRIL 22, 1899.


[Transcriber’s Note: This Table of Contents was not present in the original.]

“OUR HERO.”
OUR LILY GARDEN.
CHRONICLES OF AN ANGLO-CALIFORNIAN RANCH.
SPRING SONG.
THE HOUSE WITH THE VERANDAH.
THINGS IN SEASON, IN MARKET AND KITCHEN.
SHEILA.
THE GIRL’S OWN QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS.
ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS.


A PERILOUS RIDE.

[By permission of Franz Hanfstaengl, Munich.

All rights reserved.]


“OUR HERO.”

A TALE OF THE FRANCO-ENGLISH WAR NINETY YEARS AGO.

By AGNES GIBERNE, Author of “Sun, Moon and Stars,” “The Girl at the Dower House,” etc.

CHAPTER XXX.

A HAZARDOUS RETREAT.

T

he work intendedbythat spiritedadvance wasdone. Nothingremained forMoore but tofall steadilyback beforeoverwhelming odds.

All the bright expectations,with which he hadstarted on this expedition,were dashed to theground. In every directionhe had met with indifference, vacillation—evenopposition—where he oughtto have found only warm co-operation.The Spanish forces had proved themselvesworthless. Moore’s little Armystood alone in the heart of what wasnow practically an enemy’s country.

With almost superhuman energy thegreatest General of his age had exertedhimself to bring up such a force, thatthe complete annihilation of the Britishmight be a thing assured. In the courseof ten days, and in the bitterest wintryweather, he had marched fifty thousandsoldiers over snow-clad mountains adistance of two hundred miles, only tofind his stupendous efforts unavailing.For the first time in Napoleon’s career,he was decisively foiled.

Yet the utmost that Moore couldhope to do was to save his little Armyfrom destruction. To that aim hebuckled his powers with unfalteringresolution. As Sir William Napierwrote in after years: “The inspiringhopes of triumph disappeared, but theausterer glory of suffering remained;and with a firm heart he accepted thatgift.”

By the greater number of Moore’stroops this long ten days’ retreat to thecoast had to be done on foot. Therewere steep mountains to be climbed;there were deep valleys to be passed;there were rapid rivers to be crossed;while a confident Army, far outnumberingthem, and accustomed to unvaryingsuccess—an Army which twice hadfailed by only twelve hours to cut themoff from all hope of escape—pressedwith ever-growing fierceness upon theirrear.

It was mid-winter, and snow lay uponthe ground. The days were short; thenights were bitter. Heavy ice-cold rainfell often, adding to their difficulties.Shelter was hard to find; provisions werescarce; time for cooking there was not.The Spanish Army, contrary to Moore’searnest request, blundered into the wayof the retreating force, eating up thefood on which it depended, and blockingthe roads with carts and mules.

That race between the English andthe French, first for Benevente, next forAstorga, made it imperative that not anhour should be lost. At all costs the menhad to press onward, putting forth theirbest speed. Hour after hour, oftentimesby night, the march continued—throughrain or snow or fog; up steep andslippery ascents, or down sharp depthswhere foothold could hardly be found;on and on, hungry, thirsty, weary,half asleep, not a few shoeless andlame, many a one dropping throughweakness by the roadside, never to riseagain.

In the van and centre of the Armysome confusion reigned; but in thereserve, where Moore was always to befound, generally riding beside his friendGeneral Paget, discipline remained perfect,and an impregnable front wasoffered to the pursuing foe. All thereknew themselves to be under the eyesof their Commander; and his presence,even more than the close presence of theenemy, kept them up to the mark. Againand again the French advanced guardswere charged and driven back.

Roy Baron had passed through somestrange experiences in his short life.He would not easily forget this lastexperience—this steady dishearteningrearwards tramp, with the trainedbattalions of Napoleon ever “thundering”behind them. He would notforget the bitter snowy weather, thesleet and hail, the fogs and winds, themountain heights, the exposed nights,the dogged pluck and determinationshown by the rear-guard, the ceaselesscare and watchfulness of Moore, theinvincible resolution of this man who,by sheer force of will, held the wholeArmy together, and never at the worstallowed the retreat for one moment tobecome a flight.

Not that Roy was disheartened ordepressed. Far from it. He was youngand strong and full of vigour; and thevery hardships of the march seemedto him less hard to bear than thoseof a certain march which he couldrecall—from Verdun to Bitche. Forthen he had been alone; he had felthimself to be treated with cruel injusticeand tyranny. Now he was fighting forhis country; he was in the midst offriends; and not a day passed withouta sight of the Commander, upon whomhe looked with a passionate admirationand affection.

He hated the fact of having to retire,but his trust in the judgment of Moorewas complete; and at any time it tooka great deal to lower Roy’s buoyantspirits. Moreover, the reserve had toomuch of actual hard fighting on hand,to admit of their growing downhearted.Any one of them might chance any dayto win a smile of commendation fromMoore; and that was worth fighting for,worth bearing anything for.

Roy soon learnt what it was to beunder fire. If at first the experiencewas to him, as to most men, unpleasant,he grew quickly used to it. Before longhe had the supreme delight of beingpersonally praised by the General fordashing courage. It seemed to Roythen that life needed nothing more.

Journalising went to the wall duringthis retreat. Roy made some efforts tokeep it up, but soon gave in. By thetime that the day’s duties were done, hewas commonly fit only for sleep.

He managed, however, to start aletter to Molly, in readiness for the firstchance of getting it off. A thoughthad come to him one day that if—ifsomething should happen, which mighthappen to him as to any other man, itwould be wished that he should havewritten once more to his twin-sister.Whereupon he set to work so soon asten spare minutes could be found.

“Dec. 30th, 1808.

My dear Molly,—Jack thinks Imay be able soon to send a letter on,with Despatches from Headquarters,and I wd fain have one ready. Closeupon the end of the year—truly aneventful year to me. Jack and Ikeep well, I am glad to say. There ismuch that I cd tell you, but havenot time. An event which took placeyesterday, will, however, be of interest.

“We of the Reserve marched atdaybreak for La Banessa, and LordPaget as usual was to bring up therear. At nine o’clock the Enemy wasseen to be examining a ford near to thebridge which had been blown up, andnext thing six hundred of Napoleon’sImperial Guard came over. By-the-by,at the time of the blowing up of thebridge, Napoleon himself was seen byone of our officers standing over on theother side.

“Only a small body of the Britishpiquet was there to oppose ’em, andthey held on gallantly, but were forcedback inch by inch, fighting hard. TheEnglish and French squadrons chargedone another by turns; and when ourmen were joined by a few of the 3rdDragoons, they all went at the Enemywith such Desperate Valour as to breakthrough their front squadron, and to besurrounded by the French. Nothingdaunted, they charged back, and brokethrough again, and so got ’emselvesquick out of that scrape.

“Then they rallied and formed upanew, and made another charge,supported by the 10th Hussars. TheFrench broke before ever they cdget up with ’em, and fled through theriver, hard pressed by our brave fellows.A lot of prisoners were taken, andamong ’em is Marshal Lefebre Desnouettes,Duke of Dantzic—I say,doesn’t Boney love dukes?—Commanderof the Imperial Guard. Pretty big haulthat!

“No question but the French foughtwith great valour, as was to be expected.{467}General Lefebre says this same Guardat Austerlitz sent thirty thousandRussians flying. They didn’t sendour Dragoons flying yesterday, though.’Twas just about the other way.

“And now for what you and Pollywill like best to hear. Lefebre wasawfully down in the mouth at beingtaken prisoner, and his men beingbeaten. He counts himself a ruinedman, for, says he, ‘Buonaparte neverforgives the unfortunate.’ Sir Johnwas all kindness to the poor chap.Lefebre had a slight wound in thehead, and the first thing that SirJohn did was, not only to try to comforthim, but to send for water, andwith his own hands to wash the wound!Can’t you picture the way it was done?Wasn’t it like Moore?

“Well, and it so happened that Jackwas in luck, having been asked to dineat the General’s. So he came in fora scene, which, I should conjecture,has perhaps been scarce matched sincethe days of the Black Prince. Justbefore they all took their seats, SirJohn turned to the French General,and asked him—was there anythinghe wanted? And Lefebre said nevera word, but looked down to where hissword ought to have been, that wastaken away by the private who made himsurrender. Then he looked up at SirJohn in a meaning way.

“In a moment Sir John unbuckledhis own sword—’twas a fine Easternscimitar—and gave it to Lefebre. Iwish you could have heard Jack andCaptain Napier tell it all—the gracefulway in which the thing was done, and,beyond everything, the wonderful lookof kindness and ‘soldier-like sympathy’on Sir John’s face. Napier tried todescribe it to me, and finished off with,‘It was—perfectly beautiful! But whendoes Moore ever do anything that is notperfect!’[1]

“Take good care, mind you, that noword of this goes beyond yourselves,and above all, on no account risk thatit shd find its way into print. Foryourselves, ’tis a tale worth rememberingof one who is the very Flowerof Chivalry in Modern Days. ThisGeorge Napier is, as Polly knows,Jack’s friend, brother to Major CharlesNapier of the 50th, and to WilliamNapier of the 43rd—a brave trio.”

The letter begun thus waited unfinishedfor some days. Roy’s timewas occupied otherwise than in penmanship.

Advices by this date received fromthe coast decided Moore to shape hiscourse, with the bulk of his Army, forCoruña, where he expected to find theBritish transports waiting.

At Nogales, on the road to Constantino,occurred the one instance of treasureto any large extent having to beabandoned. A sharp action took placebetween the English rear-guard and theFrench advance-guard; and the rear-guardcoming on found upon the hillsidetwo guns broken down, and two cartsheavily laden with casks full of dollars,to the value, it was afterwards said, oftwenty-five thousand pounds. The bullocksby which both the carts and theguns had been drawn thus far wereutterly exhausted, quite unable to go anyfarther.

Matters had reached this stage, whenMoore rode up, and in a moment hegrasped the state of the case. It was aquestion between sacrificing guns andtreasure, or running the risk that hisrear-guard should be cut off by the enemy.Moore did not hesitate. He turned toRoy, who happened at that moment tobe the nearest junior officer, and saiddecisively, pointing to the edge of theprecipice—

“Take those carts and guns to thebrink, and roll them over.”

“Sir, it is money!” exclaimed onepresent in consternation.

“So are shot and shell,” repliedMoore.

Roy promptly carried out the order,and, under the energetic action of hismen, both guns and treasure soon wentplunging down the depth—out of sightof the French advance-guard, which onlyfive minutes later passed this very spot.They, however, did not know what hadjust taken place. Moore’s hope, that themoney might in the end fall into Spanishinstead of into French hands, was fulfilled.Some Spanish peasants found itnot long after.

On January 5th, at Constantino, muchfighting took place; and in the eveninga heavy trouble fell upon Roy.

Jack was missing!

All searching failed to find him; allinquiries brought no result. Amongthe sick and the wounded Roy went,alone or with Jack’s friend, GeorgeNapier, but in vain. On the field,amid the slain, he hunted, torch inhand; and as he turned up face afterface of those who had fallen, findingnot Jack’s features, a low-breathed“Thank God!” again and againescaped him. The only explanationseemed to be that Jack was surelytaken prisoner.

At Lugo the whole Army was halted.The march thither had been severe,through deep mud and pelting rain,with much suffering and fatigue. Collisionhere again took place between theEnglish and French, and Moore inperson led his troops, sending theenemy flying with heavy loss.

Then, during two days, he offeredbattle to the French; and hardly washis intention known, before the wholeBritish Army presented, as by magic,a changed look. Stragglers camehurrying in, the

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