One of the 28th - a Tale of Waterloo



"What do you think is the best thing to be done now doctor?" Ralph asked.

"I don't know," he replied. "I don't see how on earth we are going to get them over these rocks and up to the top. A slip or a fall would cost either of your friends their limbs, and that poor fellow his life. I don't see how it is to be managed. It's hard work for a man to climb those rocks, and how a litter is to be carried I can't see. If it were anywhere else I should say build a hut for them; but it would be a tremendous business getting the materials down, and I don't think it could possibly be managed by night."

"I am sure it couldn't," Ralph said, shaking his head. "I think, though, if we got two long poles and slung a piece of canvas like a hammock between them we may possibly get them down to the shore. You see we have plenty of strength to get them over rough places."

"We could manage that easy enough," Lieutenant Adcock, who had some time before joined the party, said. "There are some sixteen-feet oars in the boat and some sails. We could easily rig up the hammock. I suppose you mean to take them off in the boat, Mr. Conway?"

"Yes; that's what I meant," Ralph said. "Then you can land them in your cove, and they might stop in the village till they are fit to be moved."

"That would be an excellent plan," the doctor said. "Let us set about it at once."

In half an hour the sailors brought up the hammock.

"I will go first," Captain O'Connor said, "as I am the heaviest. You will see how you manage to get me down. If it's done pretty easily you can bring down the two others; if not, they had better stop in the cave for to-night, and we will get a hut for them to-morrow. By the way, Conway, you had better get the dead carried out and taken down to the seashore. Have them laid down out of reach of the tide. Some of them belong about here, and their friends will wish to give them a decent burial. Our own dead had better be put in the boat, if Mr. Adcock will allow it, and taken to the village with us. Then they can be carried over to Ballyporrit for burial. A corporal with four men must be left for to-night in charge of the caves."

"I shall want my men to row the boat," Lieutenant Adcock said. "In the morning I will send over a warrant officer and four men to take charge of the cave till I can take its contents round to our stores."

Captain O'Connor was now lifted into the hammock, and six sailors carried him down to the water. They managed it excellently, easing him down with the greatest care over the rocks, and succeeded in getting him down to the sea without a single jerk. Lieutenant Desmond and the wounded soldiers were then taken down in the same way, while the men carried down the dead bodies of their three comrades and of the peasants who had fallen.

"I will take charge of the wounded," Lieutenant Adcock said, "and see them comfortably housed and cared for. I suppose Dr. Doran will go with us."

"Certainly," the doctor said, stepping into the boat. I shall not give up charge of them until I see them all safely in bed."

"I shall come over and see you O'Connor," Ralph said, "as soon as I get the company back to the village. Shall I write a report of this business, or do you feel equal to doing so?"

"I will manage it, Conway. I can dictate it if I don't feel up to writing it. But you had better not come over to-day. There will be a good deal of excitement over this capture, and no doubt several of the killed and prisoners belong to Ballyporrit; so it wouldn't do for you to leave the detachment without an officer. Be sure you have a strict guard put over the prisoners, and keep an eye upon them yourself. You can send over to inquire about us, but till you have got them off your hands you had better not leave the village. If a party are wanted for still-hunting send Sergeant Morris with them. I shall dispatch my report to-night, and no doubt the colonel will send an officer out to help you as soon as he gets it."

The boat now pushed off. A corporal and four men were told off to occupy the cave until relieved by the revenue men, and then, with the prisoners in their center, the party climbed the cliff, and again, having been joined at the top by the rest of the company, marched to Ballyporrit. They found the village in a state of excitement. The soldier who had gone to fetch the doctor had brought the news that a fight had take place down on the face of the cliff, but he could not say whether any had been killed. As soon as the detachment returned with the prisoners in their midst many women flocked round with cries and lamentations, and exchanged greetings with the prisoners.

Ralph at once took possession of the stables at the inn, and saw that the prisoners were all handcuffed, the Red ruffian's legs being also securely bound. Then he placed two sentries inside and two out. The news that some of the men had been killed soon spread, and many of the villagers who did not see their relations among the prisoners hurried off toward the scene of action. Ralph informed the landlord that the dead had all been placed together on the seashore, and that their friends were at liberty to remove and bury them without any questions being asked. He then sent a corporal over to bring back news how the wounded men had borne the journey, and how they were disposed. But before his return the doctor drove up in a trap that he had borrowed.

"Adcock has put up the two officers in his own house," he said, "and his wife will look after them, so you need not worry about them. The other poor fellows are in the cottage next door. It belongs to the coxswain of the boat, who is also a married man. So you need be under no uneasiness about any of them. As far as I can see, they are all likely to do well. I shall go over the first thing in the morning, and will bring you news of them as soon as I get back."

Ralph had given orders that Denis Moore was not to be treated as a prisoner; and he now told the sergeant to send him in to him.

"I have been thinking it over, Moore," he said; "and it seems to me the best plan will be to allow you to go quietly away. Your conduct in the fight in the cave in itself showed that you were not voluntarily with the others; and I do not think, therefore, that it is necessary to report you among the prisoners. I suppose the Red Captain's gang have not done any unlawful act beyond taking part in the still business since they took you away from home?"

"No, your honor. We just came straight down here, traveling at night and hiding away by day."

"Very well. In that case you can give no special evidence against them. It is probable that at the trial evidence may be required from Galway as to the deeds that that red-bearded scoundrel committed there; and it is possible that you may be summoned with others, but I should think that the evidence of the constabulary will be sufficient. So, if you will give me your address there I will take it upon myself to let you go at once. In that case you can join your wife this evening and travel back with her."

"Thank you, sir," Denis replied. "I have no objection at all to give evidence as to what I know, so that it does not come out it was Bridget who tould you where they were hiding."

"You need not be afraid of that, Denis. Captain O'Connor gave her his word that her name should not be mentioned. At the same time I have no doubt he will claim for her the hundred pounds reward that was offered; and if he obtains it he will send it to you, so that nobody will be any the wiser."

"I should not like to take informer's money," Denis said.

"Not in ordinary cases," Ralph replied. "But you see she spoke out, not for the sake of money, but to get you out of their hands. And considering how much mischief those fellows have done, and how much more they would have done had we not laid hands on them, it is a very different case from that of an ordinary informer. None of your neighbors will know that she has had anything to do with the capture of these men, therefore no one will be any the wiser, and no doubt a hundred pounds will be very useful to you. I am sure you deserve some sort of compensation for being dragged away from home, and for the risk you ran in that fight; for a bullet might just as well have struck you as any of the others. I know that if I were in your place I should accept it without the least hesitation. And now, as I don't suppose they have left any money on you, and as your wife is not likely to be very well provided, I will give you five pounds on account; and remember that I shall always feel your debtor for the manner in which you saved my life by springing upon that ruffian just at the critical moment."

"You will deduct it from the other money, your honor?" Denis said, hesitating.

"Certainly I will, Denis. I should not think of offering you money for such a service as you rendered me. Now, if you will just give me your address in Galway I will make a note of it; though I don't think it at all likely you will be wanted at the trial. They will most likely proceed against him on the charge of shooting his officer and deserting; for they will have no difficulty in proving that, as the regiment he belonged to is in Dublin."

Denis started at once to rejoin his wife, highly pleased to have got away so quickly. Two days later Captain Morrison and Mr. Stapleton arrived from headquarters.

"I congratulate you, Conway," the latter said heartily. "We all pitied your being ordered away to this dreary place; and now you have been getting no end of honor and credit. O'Connor's report speaks in the strongest terms of you, and says it was entirely owing to your promptness and courage that the band was captured, and his life and that of Desmond saved. The Cork papers are full of the affair; and the capture of that notorious scoundrel, the Red Captain, created quite an excitement, I can tell you. The only bad part of the affair is that we have had to come out here, for I am afraid there is no chance whatever of another adventure like yours."

"Oh, I fancy there are plenty more stills to be captured, Stapleton; and that's good fun in its way, though it involves a good deal of marching and hard work."

"And how are O'Connor and Desmond getting on?" Captain Morrison asked.

"I had a very good report of them this morning from the doctor, and now that you have come I shall take a trap and drive over and see them at once. I had O'Connor's orders not to leave here till you arrived."

"You are to go back yourself to-morrow morning, Conway," Captain Morrison said. "You are to take the prisoners in with an escort of a corporal and ten men, and to hand them over to the civil authorities; which means, I suppose, that you are to take them to the prison."

"I suppose I shall come straight out again?" Ralph asked.

"I should think so; for with all this still-hunting business three officers are wanted here. But of course you will report yourself to the colonel and get orders. Here are the orders he gave me to give you. You are to start early, make a twenty-mile march, halt for the night, and go on again the first thing in the morning. You are to hire a cart for the wounded prisoners, and to exercise the utmost vigilance on the way. The men are to carry loaded muskets. It is not likely there will be any attempt at a rescue; but such things have happened before now. If anything of the sort should take place, and you find that you are likely to get worsted, your orders are that you are not to let the Red Captain be carried off alive. Put a man specially over him, with instructions to shoot him rather than let him be taken away from him. The colonel will hold you harmless. The scoundrel has committed too many murders to be allowed to go free."

"I understand," Ralph said, "and will carry out the orders; and now I will be off at once, for it will be dark in an hour."

Ralph was glad to find that the two officers were going on better than he had expected. Lieutenant Desmond was already up, with his arm in splints and a great patch of plaster across his forehead. O'Connor was still in bed, and was likely to remain so for some time. The regimental surgeon was with him, having left the other two officers at the turn of the road leading to the village.

"I am glad to see you, Conway," Captain O'Connor said cheerfully. "I was expecting you. The doctor said Morrison and Stapleton had gone on to Ballyporrit. None the worse for your brush, I hope?"

"Not a bit," Ralph said. "The bump on my head caused by that musket blow hurt me a bit the first day or two, but it's going down now. I am glad to see you and Desmond looking so well."

"Oh, we shall soon be all right; though I am afraid I shall be kept on my back for some little time. Desmond is rather in despair, because he is afraid his beauty is spoiled; for the doctor says that cut on his forehead is likely to leave a nasty scar. He would not have minded it if it had been done by a French dragoon saber; but to have got it from tumbling down a chimney troubles him sorely. It will be very painful to him when a partner at a ball asks him sympathizingly in what battle he was wounded, to have to explain that he tumbled head foremost into a peat fire."

Desmond laughed. "Well, it is rather a nuisance; and you see Conway, the ashes have got so ground up in the place that the doctor is afraid it will be a black scar. O'Connor chaffs me about it, but I am sure he wouldn't like it himself."

"Why, my dear fellow, it's a most honorable wound. You will be able to dilate upon the desperate capture of the noted ruffian the Red Captain, and how you and that noble officer Captain O'Connor dashed alone into the cavern, tenanted by thirteen notorious desperadoes. Why, properly worked up, man, there is no end of capital to be made out of it. I foresee that I shall be quite a hero at tea-fights. A battle is nothing to such an affair as this. Of course it will not be necessary to say that you shot down into the middle of them like a sack of wheat because you could not help it. You must speak of your reckless spring of twenty feet from that upper passage into the middle of them. Why, properly told, the dangers of the breach at Badajos would pale before it."

"I am glad to see that you are in such high spirits," Ralph said when the laugh had subsided. "There's no fear of your being lame after it, I hope?"

"No, Dr. Doran says it is a clean snap of the bone, and it will, he thinks, mend all right; and as Macpherson, who has been examining it, says the same, I hope it is all right. It is very good of the colonel sending the doctor over to us; but I think Doran understands his business well, and has made a capital job of both of us."

"How is Rawlinson going on?"

"Oh, I think he will do very well," the surgeon said. "Of course he's a little down in the mouth about himself. It is not a pleasant prospect for a man to have to go about on two wooden legs all his life. Still it's been done in the service; and as the fight was a sharp one, and such an important capture was made, he will get his full pension, and I shall strongly recommend him for Chelsea Hospital if he likes to take it. But he tells me he was by trade a carpenter before he enlisted, and I expect he would rather go down to live among his own people. His wooden legs won't prevent him earning a living at his trade; and as he is rather a good-looking fellow I dare say he won't have much difficulty in getting a wife. Maimed heroes are irresistible to the female mind."

"That's a comfort for you, Desmond, anyhow," O'Connor laughed. "That black patch on your forehead ought to add a thousand a year to your marketable value."

The next morning Ralph marched with his detachment, and arrived at Cork without adventure. Here he handed his prisoners over to the civil authorities of the jail, and then marched up to the barracks. He at once reported himself to the colonel, who congratulated him warmly upon the success that had attended the capture, and upon his own conduct in the affair.

"I will not keep you now," the colonel said, "for the mess-bugle sounded five minutes ago. I shall see you again in the morning."

As Ralph entered the messroom the officers had just taken their seats. He was greeted with a boisterous outburst of welcome. His comrades got up and shook his hand warmly, and he had to answer many inquiries as to how O'Connor and Desmond were going on.

"Sit down, gentlemen!" the major who was president of the mess shouted. "Conway has had a twenty-mile march, and is, I have no doubt, as hungry as a hunter. Let him eat his dinner in peace, and then when the wine is on the table he shall relate his adventures in detail. By the way, Conway, I hope you have lodged that ruffian safely in jail?"

"Yes, sir, I have handed him over, and glad I was to get him off my hands; for though I had him handcuffed and his feet tied, and brought him along in a cart, I never felt comfortable all the way. The fellow is as strong as a bull, and as he knows what is before him he was capable of anything desperate to effect his escape."

"I remember the man well," one of the officers said; "for, as you know, I was in his regiment before I exchanged into the Twenty-eighth. He was a notorious character. He had the strength of two ordinary men, and once or twice when he was drunk it took eight men to bring him into barracks. I am heartily glad he is caught, for the poor fellow he killed was one of the most popular men in the regiment—with the soldiers as well as with us—and if they could have laid hands on this fellow I believe they would have hung him up without a trial. I shall have real pleasure in giving evidence against the scoundrel for I was present at the time he shot poor Forrest. I wasn't five yards away, but it was all over and the villain was off before I had time to lift a hand."

After dinner was over Ralph gave the full history of the capture in the cavern, of which Captain O'Connor had sent but an outline.

"It was a sharp fight indeed," the major said when he had finished; "for, for a time you were greatly outnumbered, and in the dark discipline is not of much avail. I think on the whole you got very well out of it, and O'Connor and Desmond were lucky in having got off with a broken limb each."

Ralph was detained some days in Cork, as he had to be present at the courthouse when the prisoners were brought up before the magistrates. After giving his evidence as to the capture, his attendance was no further required. All with the exception of the Red Captain were committed at once upon the charges of working an illicit still, and of offering a forcible resistance with arms to the authority of the king's officers. The Red Captain was charged with several murders, and was remanded in order that evidence might be obtained from the regiment to which he belonged in Dublin, and of the constabulary and other people in County Galway. Ralph then returned to Ballyporrit.

A fortnight later the detachment was recalled, the colonel having received the news that the regiment would be shortly under orders for America. Lieutenant Desmond was able to travel to Cork at once, although still unfit for duty; and the surgeon reported that in another fortnight Captain O'Connor would be also fit to be removed.

Ten days later definite orders were received for the regiment to be ready for embarkation, as soon as the two transports which had been ordered round from Plymouth arrived. Soldiers are always fond of change; and although there were few more pleasant quarters than Cork, there was a general feeling of animation and excitement at the thought of service at the other side of the Atlantic. All officers and men on furlough were at once recalled. The friends of many of the officers came across from England, to be with them till they sailed upon what was then considered a long and perilous voyage. Balls and dinners were given to and by the regiment. Officers overhauled their kits and belongings, getting what new things were required, bargaining with brokers for their furniture, and making all preparations for a prolonged absence from England.

"Ah, Stapleton," Ralph said, as the young ensign came into his quarters one day in high spirits, "there will be a sad change come over you before long. You almost wished you might die on your way round here from London. What will be your feelings when you have to face the waves of the Atlantic?"

"Don't talk about it, Conway. The very thought makes me feel queer. However, I expect I shall get on better now than I did last time. What an ass I was, to be sure, on that voyage!"

"Well, I do think your four months with the regiment have done you a world of good, Stapleton. You certainly were a stuck-up sort of personage when you came on board in the Thames. I think it is an awful mistake for a fellow to be educated at home, instead of being sent to school; they are sure to have to suffer for it afterward."

"Well, I have suffered for it to some extent," Stapleton said. "The lessons I got at first were sharp ones; but they certainly did me good."

"There is no doubt about that," Ralph agreed; "and I think there is a good deal of credit due to you, Stapleton, for having taken things in the right way. I wonder where we shall be stationed in America, and whether we shall have any fighting? Upon the whole we have no very great reason to be proud of our feats of arms in America; but I hope we shall do better next time. You see, in the last struggle we knew nothing of their tactics, and were at a great disadvantage; but after fighting its way through the Peninsular, I don't think there is any fear of the regiment not giving a good account of itself, if it is called upon to do so, out there."

The next day an orderly came into the room just after mess-dinner had commenced. He whispered to the adjutant, who at once rose.

"Mr. President," he said to the major who was at the head of the table, "I must ask you to excuse me leaving the table. The colonel wishes to see me immediately at his quarters."

"What can be the matter now?" one of the officers said. "It must be something of importance or the colonel would never hare called Hallowes out in that way."

"Heard of some still away among the hills, I suppose. That means a night's tramp for some of us. Too bad to be put to this sort of work within a week of sailing on foreign service," grumbled another.

Various guesses were made as to the nature of the business, and several wagers were laid on the subject. In ten minutes the adjutant returned. He was evidently excited, and all listened with great interest as, instead of resuming his seat, he remained standing.

"Gentlemen," he said, "I have great news for you. A vessel has just come in from Plymouth with dispatches. Napoleon has escaped from Elba. He has landed in France, and been received with enthusiasm. The troops have joined him, and he is already close to Paris, which he is expected to enter without opposition. The King of France has fled."

For a moment there was silence, then the major leaped to his feet.

"Three cheers, gentlemen!" and all of those present joined in a hearty cheer.

Then a sudden silence fell upon them. The first idea that had struck each man was that the news meant their again taking the field for another stirring campaign. Then the dismal thought occurred to them that the regiment was under orders for America. It soon found expression in words.

"Why, major, they surely won't be sending us across the Atlantic now this news has arrived. The Powers will never permit all their work to be undone, and Napoleon to mount the throne of France again. Why, in a short time all Europe will be in a blaze, and how is England to take the field again? The greater portion of Wellington's army are scattered over the world—in America, India, and the Colonies. I don't believe there are half a dozen of the old fighting regiments available, and even their ranks are half-filled with raw recruits. Almost all the regiments at home are mere skeletons. Surely they will never be sending us away at such a moment?"

"That I can say nothing about," the adjutant replied. "Certainly no counter orders have reached the colonel this evening. I don't suppose anything will be decided upon for some time. The Powers will all exchange notes and hold councils and spend weeks in talk before they make up their mind whether anything is to be done, and if so what; and long before they come to any decision on the subject we shall be on the other side of the Atlantic, and then, possibly, after all the trials and monotony of perhaps a two months' voyage, we may land there only to be fetched back again. I quite agree with you that England can put nothing worth calling an army in the field, and that it would be madness to send a fine regiment out of the country at the present moment. But everyone knows the lack of wisdom with which we are governed, and the miserable slowness of our military authorities. It is not likely even to occur to any one to countermand our orders, but it will certainly be disgusting in the extreme to have to start just at the present moment."

"Beside," another officer said, "it will be maddening to be two months at sea without news, and to know that perhaps all Europe is in arms and tremendous events going on and we out of it altogether."

"I should think nothing will be done just at present," the major said. "Every country in Europe has been disbanding its armies just as we have since peace was proclaimed, and it will be a long time before any of them are ready to take the field in anything like force. Even Napoleon himself, great organizer as he is, will take some time to put all France under arms again. An army is a machine that cannot be created in a day. The soldiers have to clothed, arms to be manufactured, the cavalry to be mounted, the artillery to be organized, and a field train got together. No, I should say that at least four months must elapse before fighting begins in earnest. With anything like a favorable wind we should be across in America in a month. If orders are sent out a month after we start we may be back in time for the opening ball. Judging from the past, it is likely to be a long business unseating Napoleon again, and if we are not in for the first of it we may be in plenty of time for a fair share of the fighting, always supposing that the authorities are sufficiently awake to the merits of the regiment to recall us."

"How is the wind this evening?" one of the officers asked.

"It was westerly when we came in," Lieutenant Desmond said. "Why do you ask?"

"Why, as long as it blows from the west there is not much chance of the transports getting in here."

"That is so," the major agreed. "The question for us to consider is whether we ought to pray for a fair wind or a foul. A fair wind will take us quickly across the Atlantic and will give us a chance of getting back in time. A foul wind may possibly give them time to make up their minds at the Horse Guards, and to stop us before we start. It is a nice question."

"There is no hope whatever, major, that our government will make up their minds before the wind changes, not if it blew in one quarter longer than it has ever been known to do since the beginning of the world. Especially, as not only they, but all the governments of Europe have to come to a decision."

"Oh, if we had to wait for that it would be hopeless; but at the same time, as it must be evident to any individual of the meanest capacity that something or other for which troops will be required will have to be done, surely a month ought to be sufficient for the idea to occur to some one in authority that it would be as well not to be sending soldiers abroad until matters are finally settled."

"I agree with you," the adjutant said. "Therefore I think we had best decide that our hopes and wishes shall be unanimous in favor of a continuance of westerly winds."

Never were the weathercocks watched more anxiously than they were by the officers and men of the Twenty-eighth for the next fortnight. The elements certainly appeared favorable to their wishes, and the wind blew steadily from the desired quarter, so that it was not until ten days after they were expected that the two transports which were to convey the Twenty-eighth to America dropped anchor in Cork harbor.

Captain O'Connor rejoined the regiment on the evening before the transports arrived. He walked with two sticks, but this was a measure of precaution rather than of necessity.

"I feel like an impostor," he said, laughing, as he replied to the welcome of his comrades. "I believe I could safely throw away these sticks and dance a jig; but the doctor has laid his commands on me, and my man, who has been ruling me with a rod of iron, will not permit the slightest infringement of them. He seems to consider that he is responsible for me in all respects, and if he had been master and I man he could not have behaved with grosser despotism."

"I am glad to see you looking so well, O'Connor," Ralph said, shaking his captain warmly by the hand.

"I don't know whether I do right in shaking hands with you, Conway," O'Connor said. "I have been thinking it over while I have been lying there, and I have come to the conclusion that it's you I have to thank for this affair altogether."

There was a general laugh. "How do you make that out?" Ralph asked.

"It's clear enough, now my eyes are opened. It was you who discovered that passage, and when you did so you said at once to yourself, now, I will get O'Connor and Desmond to go down this place, they are safe to break their necks, and then I shall get all the honor and glory of the affair. And so it came about. There were Desmond and I lying on the top of each other with the breath knocked clean out of our bodies, while you were doing all the fighting and getting the credit of the affair. I appeal to all friends here if it is not a most suspicious affair."

There was a chorus of agreement. "We did not think it of you, Conway;" "A most disgraceful trick;" "Ought to be sent to Coventry;" "Ought to be drummed out of the regiment;" mingled with shouts of laughter.

"By the way, the trial of those fellows comes on next week," one of the officers said when the laughter subsided; "so if the transports don't come in you will be able to see the last of them, O'Connor."

"I shall have no objection to see that red rascal hung; but as to the other poor devils, I should be glad enough for them to get off. An Irish peasant sees no harm in making whisky, and it's only human nature to resist when you are attacked; beside it was the Red Captain's gang that set them to fighting, no doubt. If it hadn't been for them I don't suppose there would have been a shot fired. I hope that's the view the authorities will take of it."

As it turned out this was the view taken by the prosecuting counsel at the trial. The Red Captain was tried for the murder of his officer and for the shooting of two constables in Galway, was found guilty, and hung. The others were put on trial together for armed resistance to his majesty's forces, and for killing and slaying three soldiers. Their counsel pleaded that they were acting under the compulsion of the gang of desperadoes with them, that it was these and these only who had fired upon the soldiers as they ascended the rocks, and that the peasants themselves had no firearms; indeed, it was proved that only five guns were found in the cave. He admitted that in their desperation at the last moment the men had defended themselves with pikes and bludgeons; but this he urged was but an effort of despair, and not with any premeditated idea of resisting the troops. He pointed out that as all the soldiers had fallen by gunshot wounds, none of the prisoners at the bar had any hand in their death. The counsel for the crown did not press for capital sentences. Two of the men, who had before suffered terms of imprisonment for being concerned in running illicit stills, were sentenced to transportation. The others escaped with terms of imprisonment.


1 of 2
2 of 2