Not a man moved, the brave fellows stood in their ranks, firm as rocks. Again the officer whispered to Videla, and then dashed off at full speed. It was, as Alzura afterwards remarked, a bad quarter of an hour for us. If the chiefs endeavoured to force us into submission, there could be but one result. Videla would not yield, and we could not desert him.
If Miller goes to Lima, it's a proof there are hard knocks about. And high time too! According to the talk, the war should have been done with long ago." Next day the colonel made his arrangements, and on the following morning he set out, leaving Major Videla in charge of the district. Rather to my surprise, José formed one of the party, which consisted only of us three.
Presently the colonel came along, accompanied by Major Videla, to whom he gave final directions; and then, bidding me follow, rode from the camp. Four miles out we came upon Castro, walking, and leading his horse, which had fallen dead lame. "Have you been into Arica?" asked Miller. "No, colonel; but I have learned some news.
Perhaps the firmness of our bearing saved us; perhaps the chiefs feared the people, for the battalion was composed entirely of Peruvians; but whatever the reason, we remained unmolested, and the army marched off without us. Then the men were dismissed, and we gathered in groups to chat over the incident. "What will happen now?" asked one fellow. "It is all decided," replied Videla.
A new spirit seemed to enter into the nation: the people declared the country would fight its own battles, and preparations to meet the Spaniards were eagerly pushed on. What came of them we shall shortly see. "I have decided to leave you in Lima, Crawford, to help Videla with the second battalion.
I returned to Lima feeling rather gloomy, but Lieutenant-Colonel Videla, who commanded our second battalion, gave me little time for brooding. Fresh recruits were coming in every day, and the work of attending to them kept me employed for weeks. There was still a Patriot army encamped outside Lima, but it did nothing, though who was to blame I could not say.
Tell Videla to send the stores and the sick to Arica the first thing in the morning; then carry this order to Ilo. You will find three small brigs there; they are to sail at once for Arica. Take Castro the guide with you, and rejoin me on the march to Arica." "Very good, sir," I replied, though my words belied my feelings.
The troops were wakened early, breakfast was hurried over, and then, to the sound of bugles, the various regiments paraded. Presently they began to move, and a mounted officer dashed over to know why our battalion remained still. "By my orders they remain. I refuse to join in what my officers and I regard as an act of treason," calmly replied Videla.
However, I went out, gave Videla the colonel's message, and hunted up the guide. Castro was an educated Indian, trained by one of the missionaries, and a very decent fellow. I found him sound asleep; but he rose at once, looked to see if his bag of coca was full, loaded his pistols, and saddled his horse.
One morning, toward the end of February, Videla called a council of the officers belonging to his battalion. He looked pale, but firm and determined, as if he had resolved on some particular course. When we had taken our seats, he rose and said, "Señors, I have called you together to discuss an important proposal.