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CAMPAIGNS OF A CORNET.
I WAS Congratulating myself, as far as my own personal safety was concerned, on the successful termination of my first essay in arms, and beginning to think there were but few terrors in the frown of War, when I heard a report that the enemy had dispatched a fresh body of troops to supply the place of the regiments which had just been discomfited, and to form a rallying point for the fugitives. The newly-arrived corps took up nearly the same position, from which their comrades had been driven. This da capo sort of proceeding was rather more than I had contracted for; but the advantage which we had so lately obtained, seemed, if possible, to inspire our troops with a double share of ardour. I was absolutely astonished at the physical phenomenon which our men displayed after a most laborious and toilsome march, and after all the exhaustion of the battle, each individual in the regiment seemed as vigorous and alert as if he had just risen from his couch, refreshed with quiet slumber. For my own part, as I saw the enemy advancing, there seemed to be a sort of re-action in my frame; and my strength and vivacity rose in proportion to their former depression. I found each artery in my body as hardy as the Nemean lion's nerve," and exulted in the sound of the bugles, which at that moment reiterated the charge. We now had to "fight our battle o'er again;" for we found that the French, like the Dutch in Clarendon's time, “would endure to be beaten longer than we could endure to beat them." I knew still less of the last charge than I had done of the first, for, on closing with the enemy, my head and the butt-end of a French musket came in contact, and my unfortunate sconce being fashioned of the more yielding material, enforced me, like many of the brave fellows about me, to measure my length upon the ground. I must have lain for some time insensible to the trampling of both friends and foes, who must, I am sure, have stepped very inconsiderately over my recumbent frame; for, on recovering my recollection, I found, that in addition to the blow I had received, some very heavy heels had left their vestigia in various parts of my body. I scarcely know the length of time which I lay in this torpid state, but on opening my eyes, I perceived some fellows of a most disgusting appearance busily engaged in turning over the dying and the dead, and apparently taking out administration of all their personal effects. I was now exceedingly puzzled; and in truth I was hung between the horns of a very awkward dilemma-whether on the one hand to sham dead, like the valiant knight at the fray of Shrewsbury, and thus escape captivity, at the expense of all my clothes and a gold repeater, and, moreover, with the chance of being "embowelled" by-and-by; or on the other, by lustily crying quarter, to incur the certain horrors of a long duress. Seeing one of these "pernicious blood-suckers" approaching for the purpose of exercising his calling upon my prostrate carcase, I began to fear, lest if he thought me insensible, he might put a final period to my course of glory, by the application of a singularly large knife, with which he was reaping a golden harvest. from the shoulders of the fallen. At this moment I felt great relief at the sight of a French officer riding across the field, upon which I exclaimed, with a very audible voice, "Je vive." The officer, hearing
my cry, rode up to me, and calling to two or three of his men who followed him, bade them convey me to the French quarters. I was stronger than I expected, though my bones ached pretty considerably. Seeing that I was much bruised, the officer commanded one of the dragoons to dismount, and I seating myself on the outside of the longtailed caracoling charger of this chasseur-d-cheval, followed my conductors for about two miles, till we passed the encampment in which the French were stationed, and reached a village which I found was the head-quarters of the French General. My companions informed me that the French, by bringing up several fresh regiments, had regained the position from which we had at first driven them, and our troops had then directed their efforts against another body of the enemy, which occupied a position in another part of the ground; and I concluded, from the reserved and lame account of the transaction which I received, that the English had succeeded in their attempt. On my arrival I was conducted into the presence of the French General St.who interrogated me as to the movements, force, and station of our own army; but of course I resolutely refused to give any answer, which raised me a good deal in the estimation of the General himself, who, though a stern soldier, was a man of honour and high principle, and, from what I saw of him afterwards, seemed to be well acquainted with the world. I received an invitation to dine with him the next day, and was immediately assigned quarters in a neighbouring house, and placed under close arrest at my own request, as I refused for the present to be admitted to my parol of honour. At the appointed hour next day, with a silk handkerchief bound round my head, which still reminded me of the heavy arm of my Gallic adversary, I was ushered into a spacious room in a chateau, where the French General was lodged. Several staff-officers of the French army were standing around him, and, talking with them, I perceived two of our own officers, in one of whom, at the first glance, I recognized my brother Tom. We were very nearly furnishing our hosts with a scena, but at last I contented myself with shaking him heartily by the left hand, his right being hung in a sling, in consequence of a flesh-wound, which he had received just before he was made prisoner. The dinner was got up in very good style, and certainly better than any I ever afterwards saw in the British army. The amusing politeness and vivacity of the French officers were quite new to me; nor could I, from any circumstance which happened during my visit, have conjectured that my companions had, but four-and-twenty hours ago, been opposed to me in mortal hostility. The general tone of feeling which characterized our hosts, displayed itself in their frequent recurrence to the three maxims of Vive l'amour, Vive la guerre, and Vive la bagatelle. When our feast was concluded, General St. commanded a guard to attend my brother, the other officer, and myself, to a small but comfortable house in the neighbourhood, in which there were only a young man and his sister left, the rest of the family having fled to Toulouse for safety from the chances of war. We were not allowed our parol of honour, but were guarded with a sentinel before our door.
The first sound we heard on entering our new mansion, was one of those sweet and plaintive airs to which the French girls seem attached,
because they enhance by their beautiful contrast the singer's light gaiety of heart. As we proceeded the song ceased, and the fair creature from whose lips it had flowed with such "speaking sadness," stood timidly before us. I fear that my description of the beautiful Marie Custine will be thought a partial one, when the sequel of my story appears: however, I must describe her. Dark, very dark eyes, the gazellelike expression of which was ever changing, and ever delightful in its changes features which, from their pre-eminent national character, possessed for me the attraction of novelty, in addition to their other charms-a form exquisitely fashioned, but giving promise hereafter of the enbonpoint. But I find that in this poor attempt of mine, I have run into all the common-place descriptions of grace and beauty; and I shall therefore leave this imperfect sketch to receive its colouring from the hands of my readers, both old and young-by the former from their recollections, by the latter from their hopes. Marie's shyness soon wore away, and she ventured to talk to us in a sweet but incomprehensible patois, during which she displayed a most fascinating set of teeth. I soon perceived that, however unintelligible she was to us, she held a language with my brother which is current throughout the world-the language of the eyes. She seemed to take pity on Tom, and certainly he did look very interesting, for the loss of blood had blanched his cheek, and given him altogether a very languid appearance. During the ensuing day, there seemed to be an increasing intimacy between the gentle Marie and my brother; for my own part, I passed most of my time in the company of some of the French officers, whose attentive kindness was augmented as we grew better acquainted. As we expected the enemy would be forced to retreat, we declined accepting our parol, though we began to find our captivity extremely irksome. In the middle of the night which followed the second day of our imprisonment, I was wakened by some one giving me a gentle shake; and, as it was very dark, I was just starting out of bed, when I heard my brother's voice bidding me be silent, in a whisper. I asked him what he wanted; but, in a low voice, he desired me to ask no questions, but dress myself as speedily as possible, and follow him. This I did; and on silently descending the stairs, and reaching the door, I found two French dragoons waiting with three horses. The plan of escape was as follows: Captain F- and myself were to ride the spare charger, and my brother was to be accommodated behind one of the French Dragoons. We were all of us mounted except my brother, and on looking round for him, I found he had re-entered the house, from which I now saw him coming; while in the uncertain light I discovered a female form standing at the unclosed door, which, of course, I knew to be that of the beautiful Marie. We had no sooner commenced our march than I again began to interrogate my brother, but he, both from inclination and policy, seemed resolved to be silent. During the first three or four miles we frequently heard the challenge of the French videttes, Qui va la? a question which was always most skilfully parried by the smart repartees of our conducting chasseur, whose conduct appeared perfectly calm and collected during the very great danger which he was incurring. The sun had not risen when we reached the banks of the Bidassoa, through the rapid stream of which we were compelled to swim our horses, at no inconsiderable risk, from the great weight 2 H
VOL. IV. NO. XVII.
which they carried. It was just day-light when we arrived within the English lines, having made a very circuitous journey. I was now determined to learn the particulars which led to our escape; and I found that the tender-hearted Marie, commiserating our condition, had consented to act the part of ambassadress between my brother and the two dragoons, who were already well inclined to change their service. We amply rewarded our conductors, one of whom enlisted into the regiment of the Duke of Brunswick Oels, and the other I retained in the capacity of valet, butler, and cook. His name was Joseph.
After undergoing the most scrupulous examination before a subaltern, sergeant and twenty men, in which it was resolved by this grave council, nem. dis. on the motion of the learned sergeant, that we were good men and true, we were allowed to proceed to my brother's regiment, where we found we had been some time numbered with the mighty dead. I thought it now high time to return to my friend the baron, and accordingly on the morrow, resigning my borrowed plumes, and bidding adieu to my brother, whose wound had now healed, I resumed my dragoon trappings, and after a pleasant morning's ride, without any notable obstacle, I found my worthy commander engaged in the same laudable occupation in which he was employed when I was first introduced to him. I was exceedingly rejoiced to learn from him that I had arrived just in time to accompany the party on their march the next morning to join the regiment, which was stationed on the Ebro. Fraternal kindness had supplied me with a stout mule, and I had now to purchase another at a very extravagant price. About eight o'clock in the morning we prepared to march. We did not march as in England, with baggage-waggons following us, and with that sleek parade-appearance which proceeds from an abundant use of pipe-clay and blacking, but every soldier now carried along with him three days good entertainment for man and beast," while the baggage of the officers was generally carried on mules. Buried between two immense trusses of hay, their shoulders loaded with a canteen and haversack, the soldiers were so completely enveloped that very little of the outward man was exposed to view. Our baggage-animals presented a still more ludicrous appearance to the eye of a novice: the large packsaddles being piled upon each side to a most extraordinary height with all the necessaries of a campaign. We marched the first day to a small town, the name of which I have forgotten; and the next, still traversing "the Pyrenean," we arrived at Tolosa, which is a sort of Spanish Sheffield. At this place I received a billet from the Alcalde; but the unpatriotic boors who inhabited the mansion, "against the houseless stranger shut the door," which compelled me to make a forcible entry with the assistance of two of our dragoons, who carried the door, carbine in hand. Being aware of the pretty frequent use of the stiletto in Spain, I confess that I took the precaution of barricadoing my door, and placing my sword and pistols within reach, lest my hosts should be inclined in the night to requite the civility which I had shewn them in the morning. Most of the towns on the frontier have an appearance half French and half Spanish, but Tolosa is completely Spanish, though from its being occupied at the present time by the British, and used as a hospital and store, I had very few opportunities of seeing any thing of the town's-people. I trusted this day to an inn called the
Posada de Leon for a dinner, and from the experience which I then hid of garlic and oil, I never whilst in Spain repeated the experiment. The next morning we continued our march through the Pyrenees, and rode all day through the most beautiful and romantic scenery. We were now traversing the great road commenced by Louis XIV. and completed by Bonaparte, leading from Bayonne over the Pyrenees to Pampeluna-a road very much resembling in its construction our common turnpikes in England. For the first twelve miles from Tolosa, our course lay between stupendous mountains, which, covered with wood, towered perpendicularly above us. The level space between the mountains was about three times the breadth of the road, which was bordered by a pleasant rivulet. The clearness of the day and the beauty of the climate gave additional effect to the fine prospects which continually opened upon us as we wound round the base of the mountains; and what made the scene more interesting, was hearing the songs of the muleteers, and the tinkling of their bells, ere they came in sight. These mules and muleteers, of whom we read so much in the Spanish writers, certainly have a most singular and picturesque appearance. Eight or nine large and powerful mules, each nearly fourteen hands high, are placed under the conduct of one muleteer, who rides upon the leading mule. The beasts are ornamented with large bridles, decked with fringe and tassels, and with bells attached to their heads. The burden is carefully balanced upon their backs, so as not to cause any friction,-a -a sore back in Spain being a very different thing from a sore back in England. The dress of the muleteers consists of a sort of short jacket, made of a kind of velveteen, inexpressibles of darkblue plush, hung round with tassels about the knees, and something between slippers and sandals to supply the place of shoes. A large slouched hat covers the head, which seems made both "for shelter and shade." A long red sash, bound three times round their waists, which is used also as a pocket to carry their cigars and their money, gives them a light active appearance. Their hair is clipped in a most extraordinary manner;-I have often seen the operation performed in the streets on Sundays and fast-days;-the top of the head is cut so close as to give the skull the appearance of having been shaved, while the hair of that part of the head which is not subjected to this operation is suffered to grow to any length, and generally flows over the shoulders. This grotesque figure is seated on his leading mule, with his large cloak thrown over the neck of the animal, and his gun carefully tied on to the bow of his saddle, to be near at hand in all cases of exigency. During his progress he sits singing, or rather shouting, some old Castilian air, to which he often adapts some improvisatorial words in praise of the Volontarios D' Y Mina, or the Seignorittas de Madrida, every now and then interrupting his warbling with the words Anda Mulo carracco; which have only the effect, from their frequent repetition, of making his mules wag their tails. But to return from this digression. Our road continued nearly level until we arrived at the foot of a mountain, over which, from its great height and steepness, it was cut in a zig-zag direction. Our day's march terminated at a village about half way up the mountain, in which a convent of nuns was situated. Our men were stationed in some of the neighbouring houses, and the Baron and I took up our abode at the convent. I had some