Chapter 45 | No More Bugling | !Tention

Chapter Forty Five.

That same night not only a regiment but a very strong brigade of the British army marched upon the important service that was in hand.

They marched only by night, and under Pen’s guidance the French forces that had been besieging the old mine were utterly routed. This happened at a time when provisions were failing, and the contrabandista captain saw nothing before him but surrender, for he had found to his dismay that the adit through which he had hoped to lead the Spanish monarch to safety had been blocked by the treacherous action of some follower—by whom, he could not tell, though he guessed that it was a question of bribery.

There was nothing for it but to die in defence of his monarch, and this they were prepared to do; but no further fierce fighting had taken place, for the French General, after securing every exit by the aid of his reinforcements, felt satisfied that he had only to wait for either surrender or the dash out by a forlorn hope, ready to die sword in hand.

Then came shortly what was to him a thorough surprise, and the routing of his forces by the British troops in an encounter which laid open a large tract of country and proved to be one of the greatest successes of Sir Arthur Wellesley’s campaign.

The natural sequence was a meeting in the English General’s tent, where the King was being entertained by the General himself. Here he expressed a desire to see again the brave young English youth to whom he owed so much, for he had learned the part Pen Gray had taken in his rescue.

It was one afternoon of such a day as well made the Peninsula deserve the name of Sunny Spain that the —th Rifles were on duty ready to perform their task of acting as escort to the dethroned Spanish monarch on his way back to his capital; and to the surprise of Pen a message was brought to him to come with his companion to the General’s tent.

Here he was received by the King in person, and with a few earnest thanks for all he had done, the monarch presented him with a ring which he took from his finger. He followed this up by taking his watch and chain and presenting them to Punch, who took them in speechless wonder, looked from one to the other, and then whispered to Pen, “He means this for you.”

The General heard his words, and said quietly, “No, my lad; keep your present. Your friend and companion has yet to be paid for the modest and brave way in which he performed his duties in guiding our force.—Private Gray, his Majesty here is in full agreement with that which I am about to do. It is this—which is quite within my powers as General of his Britannic Majesty’s forces. In exceptional cases promotion is given to young soldiers for bravery in the field. I have great pleasure in presenting you with your commission. Ensign Gray, I hope that some day I may call you Captain. The way is open to you now. I wish you every success.”

“Oh, I say!” cried Punch, as soon as they were alone.

The boy could say no more, for he was half-choking with emotion. But within an hour he was with Pen again bursting with news and ready to announce, “No more bugling! Hooray! I am the youngest full private in our corps!”

The End.