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ravines, rain, and hail, to press on, to join the column of Marshal Bugeaud. It was near four o'clock when we debouched on the heights of Riou, which we descended by a narrow path hardly discernible. At last we reached the bivouac of the Marshal. For six days we were exposed to a deluge of rain. It rained, and rained, and rained on, and not a hope of its holding up! Torrents poured down without ceasing, falling in thick continuous streams on the tents, with a sound that froze one to the marrow. The ground, even where firmest, had become liquid mud. He was a bold man who dared to put his nose out of his tent. One step sufficed to plunge him up to his knees in a miry pool. Then we were no longer like soldiers well equipped, clean and glittering in our uniforms; we had more the appearance of savages. Our poor horses were as miserable as their masters and not less to be pitied; their ears down, their heads between their legs, whilst the wind and the rain beat upon them; they were really pitiable objects. All this was disheartening in the extreme; and worse than all, provender was getting scarce. Masters and horses were in this respect in equally bad case, for our provisions began to fall short, and we were about to be put on short allowance. In Africa every thing must be foreseen before taking the field; no reliance can be placed on chances. For two months no supplies had reached us. Our wine was out, and our brandy was diminishing rapidly. Fortunately, we had still sugar and coffee in abundance; and we put the best face on our calamity, for so our sufferings might be called. Neither rain, wind, cold, nor scarcity disturbed our military philosophy. But our horses were not so patient as we were, and at any cost, it was necessary to provide for them. Expeditions in search of grain pits, across almost impassable roads, slippery paths, and steep mountain ridges, were therefore undertaken. Some were found, but we did not find much in them; so for four days our poor horses had but a handful of barley, with, to make up the deficiency, plenty of mud, rain, and hail.
Every day we received news of him whom we were in search of, Abd-el-Kader. According to the reports of spies, he was in the country of the Flittas, not far from us, and might be easily overtaken. The rain continued, nevertheless, to rain on; but the barometer rose, and the weather was prognostical of a favourable change of the moon.
Whatever the weather might be, we could
remain no longer inactive. It would not do to allow Abd-el-Kader to escape, if possible to capture him. The order was consequently given that the cavalry should hold themselves in readiness to march; and half an hour before daybreak we quitted the bivouac soaked to the skin. Whilst we were on our march, the marshal moved down the Riou and encamped at the confluence of that river and the Oued Teguiguess. It was there that we were to join him. Two hours after our departure the rain ceased, and a west wind drove away the clouds. We advanced quickly. The horses, knocked up by bad weather and scanty provender, got with difficulty through the heavy soil; but get on we must. The enemies' videttes had warned the Emir of our approach; so much the worse for stragglers. Twenty of our men, not able to follow us, were left behind.
Thus exhausted and breathless, we arrived at Temda just in time to see the regular horse of Abd-el-Kader debouch from a hill, with spread ensigns. In the centre of the squadron floated the great white banner with an embroidered hand, the sign of command; and on the two wings were seen little banneroles of different colours. The whole band of Arab cavaliers advanced
towards us, seemingly at a charge. The better to receive them, we broke into a gallop; but we were deceived in our expectation, for they suddenly made a turn to the left and gained a height, not, however, until they had fired a volley, and discharged all their arms. We followed them in close pursuit, sword in hand. Captain Larochefoucault, whose squadron took the lead, killed a few of them; but our tired horses, being quite knocked up, refused to go further. After a halt of an hour, we resumed our march to OuedTeguiguess. We followed, as long as we could, the road we had traversed in the morning, in the hope of rallying the men left behind. Night surprised us in the gorges of rocks. The trumpets sounded from time to time. In the silence and darkness, in the midst of these rocky hills, where the strongest felt bowed down with sleep, these shrill brayings, startling silence and solitude, produced a singular impression. They were like alarum cries, repeated by the echoes, to awake the dead. At ten o'clock we reached the bivouac of Marshal Bugeaud. One of our wounded, named Barthelmy, had received five shots. This Barthelmy is one of the heroes of our Odyssey. In the morning he was struck by a ball from his horse, and left on the ground. A foraging party of the enemy perceiving him, sent two more balls through his body; he pretended to be dead. The Arabs then plundered him, and abandoned, as they thought, the corpse. One of them, however, returned one of those miscreants (unhappily there are some even among the French) who are only courageous against the dead—and placed the muzzle of his gun on his temple. But his horse started, and the shot merely grazed the forehead of the chasseur.
On the next day, the 24th December, the Marshal formed a little column, composed of the cavalry and six hundred infantry, of which he gave the command to General Yousouf. Our first object was to reach Thiaret for barley and forage, after which we were to continue our pursuit of Abd-el-Kader. Great was our joy in finding at our first bivouac those whom we had left behind us on the evening before, and whom we had hardly hoped to see again. They had retreated to and fortified themselves in a marabout, where they remained till towards the close of the day; when they heard the drums and bugles of the column, which they rejoined, happily without impediment.