A young private, Penton Gray, known as Pen, is injured during an engagement in the Peninsular War. When he comes to he finds that the boy bugler, Punch, from his regiment, is lying injured close by. The British troops are near, but the area where the boys are is occupied by the French, who are the enemy. The boys need to recover from their wounds, and then to get back to their regiment. They have numerous adventures, and meet several people who help them, including the deposed Spanish King.
Eventually they reach their regiment where they are interviewed by the commanding officer, who realises that the young private has actually had the education normally needed for an officer, and that he has the knowledge needful to lead the troops through the mountains to take the French in the rear. This engagement is very successful, leading to the routing of the French. As a result Private Gray is made up to officer rank.
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