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Showing how a volunteer may not be what Doctor Johnson
made him. A mayor's nest.-Cupping:—The Author's reasons for punishing the world with a book. And some volunteers of the right sort.
When we next changed our quarter we found the new one peopled exclusively by old wives and their husbands, and, as the enemy were at a distance, we should certainly have gone defunct through sheer ennui, had not fortune sent us a fresh volunteer-a regular “broth of a boy,” from the Emerald Isle, who afforded ample scope for the exercise of our mischievous propensities during our hours of idleness.
A volunteer-be it known to all who know it not -is generally a young man with some pretensions to gentility—and while, with some, those pretensions are so admirably disguised as to be scarcely visible to the naked eye, in others they are conspicuous; but, in either case, they are persons who, being without the necessary influence to obtain a commission at home, get a letter of introduction to the commander of the forces in the field, who, if he approves, attaches them to regiments, and, while they are treated as gentlemen out of the field, they receive the pay, and do the duty of private soldiers in it. In every storming party or service of danger, in which any portion of a regiment is engaged, if a volunteer is attached to it, he is expected to make one of the number, and, if a bullet does not provide for him in the mean time, he eventually succeeds to the commission of some officer who has fallen in action.
Tommy Dangerfield, the hero of my tale, was, no doubt, (as we all are,) the hero of his mother-in stature he was middle-sized-rather bull shouldered, and walked with bent knees-his face was a fresh good-natured one, but with the usual sinister cast in the eye worn by common Irish country countenances -in short, Tommy was rather a good-looking, and, in reality, not a bad, fellow, and the only mistake which he seemed to have made, was in the choice of his profession, for which his general appearance and his ideas altogether disqualified him-nevertheless, had he fallen into other hands, it is possible that he might have passed muster with tolerable repute until the termination of the war; but I don't know how it was, nor do I know whether we differed from other regiments in the same respect, but our first and most uncharitable aim was to discover the weak points of every fresh arrival, and to attack him through them. If he had redeeming qualities, he, of course, came out scatheless, but, if not, he was dealt with most unmer. cifully. Poor Tommy had none such—he was weak on all sides, and therefore, went to the wall.
At the time he joined, we were unusually situated with regard to the enemy, for, on ordinary occasions, we had their sentries opposite to ours within a few hundred yards; but, at that period, we had the French garrison of Ciudad Rodrigo behind us, with the 52d regiment between; while the nearest enemy in our front was distant, some ten or twelve miles-nevertheless, our first essay was to impress Tommy with a notion that our village was a fortified place, and that we were closely blockaded on all sides—and it became our daily amusement to form a recon. noitring party to endeavour to penetrate beyond the posts—which posts, be it remarked, were held by a few of our own men, disguised for the purpose, and posted at the outskirts of the village-wood. Tommy, though not a desperate character, showed no want of pluck-wherever we went he followed, and wherever we fled he led the way!
On the first occasion of the kind we got him on horseback, and conducting him through the wood until we received the expected volley, we took to our heels in the hope that he would get unseated in the flight, but he held on like grim death, and arrived in the village with the loss of his cap only. It was, however, brought to him in due time by an old rifleman of the name of Brotherwood, who had commanded the enemy on that occasion, but who claimed peculiar merit in its recovery; and, having taken the opportunity of cutting a hole in it as if a ball had passed through, he got a dollar for the cut!
Poor Tommy, from that time, led the life of the devil-he could not show his nose outside his own house that he was not fired at-and whenever we made up a larger party to show him more of the world it was only to lead him into farther mischief.
I was some time after this removed into the left wing of our regiment, which belonged to a different brigade, so that I ceased to be a daily witness of his torments, though aware that they went on as theretofore.
Tommy continued to rub on for a considerable time. Death had become busy in our ranks-first, by the siege and storming of Ciudad Rodrigo, and immediately
after, by that of Badajos. I had heard little or nothing of him during those stirring events of real war-and it was not until the morning after the storming of Badajos that he again came under my noticefrom having heard that he had been missing the night before. I there saw him turn up, like a half-drowned rat, covered with mud and wet, which looked very much as if he had passed the night in the inundation, adjoining the breach, up to his neck in the water, and probably a little deeper at times, when the fire-balls were flying thickest. He, nevertheless, contrived to
hold on yet a little longer-one day, (agreeably to order,) taking post in the middle of a river, with his face towards Ispahan, to watch the enemy in that di. rection and the next day, in conformity with the same orders, applying to the quarter-master.general for a route for himself and party to go to Kamskatcha to recruit, he got so bewildered that he could not distinguish between a sham and a real order, and, at last, when in the face of the enemy, in front of Salamanca, he absolutely refused to take the duty for which he had been ordered, and was consequently obliged to cut.
It was the best thing that could have happened both for him and the service; for, as I said before, he had mistaken his profession, and as he was yet but a youth, it is to be hoped that he afterwards stumbled upon
the right one.
Atalya, which we now occupied, is a mountain village about half a league in front of the Vadillo. The only amusing characters we found in it were the pigs. I know not whether any process was resorted to in the mornings to entice them from their homes to grub up the falling acorns from the beautiful little evergreen oaks which adorned the hills above, but it was a great scene every evening at sunset to go to the top of the village, and see about five hundred of them coming thundering down the face of the mountain at full speed, and each galloping in to his own door.
We had been a considerable time there before we discovered that the neighbourhood could furnish metal more attractive, but a shooting excursion at last brought us acquainted with the Quinta Horquera (I think it was called,) a very respectable farm-house, situated on a tongue of land formed by the junction of another mountain stream with the Vadillo.
The house itself was nothing out of the common run, but its inmates were, for we found it occupied by the chief magistrate of Ciudad Rodrigo, with his wife and daughter, and two young female relatives. He himself was a stanch friend of his country, and when the fortress of Rodrigo fell into the hands of the French, rather than live in communion with them, he retired with his family to that remote property, in the hope that as it was so much out of the way he might rest there in peace and security until circumstances enabled him to resume his position in society as a true and loyal Spaniard; but as the sequel will show, he had reckoned without his host, for with a British regiment in the neighbourhood, and his house filled with young ladies he was an unreasonable man to expect peace there, and the enemy also by and by came down upon him, as if to prove that his notions of security were equally fallacious.
Don Miguel himself was a splendid ruin of a man of three score, of a majestic figure, regular features, and stern dark Castilian countenance. He was kind and amusing withal, for though his own face was forbidden to smile, yet he seemed to enjoy it in others, and did all in his power to promote amusement, that is, as much as a Spaniard ever does.
His wife was very tall and very slender-the skin of her pale fleshless face fitting so tight as to make it look like a pin-head. She was very passive and very good-natured, her other day having long passed by.
Their only daughter was a woman about twenty: eight years of age, with rather a dull pock-pitted countenance, and a tall, stout, clumsy figure. She had very little of the Spaniard in her composition, but was nevertheless a kind good-natured girl. Her relatives, however, were metal of another sort: the eldest was a remarkably well made plump little figure, with a fair complexion, natural curly hair, and a face full of dimples which showed eternal sunshine; while her sister, as opposite as day from night, showed the flashing dark eye, sallow complexion, and the light sylph-like figure for which her country-women are so remarkable. To look at her was to see a personification of that beautiful description of Byron's in his first canto of Childe Harold