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might stand in it, which, with a little crisp brown toast, was always administered by the fair hands of one of the damsels, and certes I never could bring myself to consider it an annoyance, however unusual it may seem in this cold land of ours,
Very short, with a few anecdotes still shorter; but the principal
actors thought the scenes long enough.
AFTER the fall of Ciudad Rodrigo, our battalion took possession for a time of Ituera, a pretty little village on the banks of the Azava.
It was a delightlul coursing country, abounding in hares; and as the chase in those days afforded a double gratification the one present, and the other in perspective, (the dinner hour.) it was always followed with much assiduity. The village, too, happened to be within a short ride of Ciudad, so that frequent visits to our friends formed an agreeable variety, and rendered our short sojourn there a season of real enjoyment.
I was much struck, on first entering Spain, in observing what appeared to be a gross absurdity in their religious observances; for whenever one of those processions was heard approaching, the girls, no matter how they had been employed, immediately ran to the window, where, kneeling down, they continued repeating their aves until it had passed, when they jumped up again and were ready for any frolic or mischief.:
Such was the effect produced inwardly by the out- ward passage of the Hoste, but it was not until I went to Ituera that I had an opportunity of witnessing the fatal results of a more familiar visit from those
gentlemen bearing torches and dark lanterns, for they certainly seemed to me to put several souls to flight before they were duly prepared for it.
One happened to be the landlady of the house in which I was quartered, a woman about three score, and blind; but she was, nevertheless, as merry as a cricket, and used to amuse us over the fire-side in the evening, while "twisting her rock and her wee pickle tow," in chaunting Malbrook and other ditties equally interesting, with a voice which at one time might have had a little music in it, but had then degenerated into the squeak of a penny trumpet.
In her last evening on earth, she had treated us with her usual serenade, and seemed as likely to live a dozen years longer as any one of the group
around her; but on my return from a field.day next forenoon, I met the Padre, the sexton, and their usual accompaniments, marching out of the house to the tune of ihat grave air of theirs; and I saw that farther question was needless, for the tears of the attendant damsels told me the tale of wo.
Her sudden departure was to me most unaccountable, nor could I ever obtain an explanation beyond that she was very aged; that they had sent for the Father to comfort her, and now she was happy in the keeping of their blessed Virgin.
There was much weeping and wailing for a day or two, and her grand-daughter, a tall thin lath of a girl, about eleven or twelve years
seemed the most distressed of the group. It so happened that a few days after, an order was promulgated authorizing us to fill up our ranks with Spanish recruits, to the extent of ten men for each company, and I started off to some of the neighbouring villages, where we were well-known, in the hope of being able to pick up some good ones. On my return I was rather amused to find that the damsel already mentioned, whom I had left ten days before bat in tears, was already a blushing bride in the hands of a strapping muleteer.
While on the subject of those Spanish recruits, I may here remark that we could not persuade the countrymen to join us, and it was not until we got to Madrid that we succeeded in procuring the prescribed number for our battalion. Those we got, however, were a very inferior sample of the Spaniard, and we therefore expected little from them, but to their credit be it recorded, they turned out admirably well—they were orderly and well-behaved in quarters, and thoroughly good in the field; and they never went into action that they had not their full portion of casualties.
There were fifty of them originally, and at the close of the war, (about a year and a half after,) I think there were about seventeen remaining, and there had not been a single desertion from among them. When we were leaving the country they received some months' gratuitous pay and were discharged, taking with them our best wishes, which they richly merited.
Lord Wellington during the whole of the war kept a pack of fox-hounds, and while they contributed not a little to the amusement of whatever portion of the army happened to be within reach of head-quarters, they were to his Lordship valuable in many ways; for while he enjoyed the chase as much as any,
gave him an opportunity of seeing and conversing with the officers of the different departments, and other individuals, without attracting the notice of the enemy's emissaries; and the pursuits of that manly exercise, too, gave him a better insight into the characters of the individuals under him, than he could possibly have acquired by years of acquaintance under ordinary circumstances.
It is not unusual to meet, in the society of the present day, some old Peninsular trump, with the rank very probably of a field officer, and with a face as polished, and its upper story as well furnished as the figure-head of his sword hilt, gravely asserting that all the merit which the Duke of Wellington has acquired from his victories was due to the troops! And having plundered the Commander-in-Chief of his glory, and divided it among the followers, he, as an officer of those same followers, very complacently claims a field officer's allowance in the division of the spoil.
I would stake all I have in this world that no man ever heard such an opinion from the lips of a private soldier-I mean a thorough good service one-for the ideas of such men are beyond it; and I have ever found that their proudest stories relate to the good or gallant deeds of those above them. It is impossible, therefore, to bear such absurdities advanced by one in the rank of an officer, without marvelling by what fortuitous piece of luck he, with the military capacity of a baggage animal, had contrived to hold his commission, for he must have been deeply indebted to the clemency of those above, and takes the usual method of that class of persons, to show his sense thereof, by kicking down the ladder by which he ascended.
Our civil brethren in general are of necessity obliged to swallow a considerable portion of whatever we choose to place before them. But when they meet with such a one as I have described they may safely calculate that whenever the items of his services can be collected, it will be found that his Majesty has had a hard bargain! For, knowing, as every one does, what the best ship's crew would be afloat in the wide world of waters without a master, they may, on the same principle, bear in mind that there can no more be an efficient army without a good general, than there can be an efficient general without a good army, for the one is part and parcel of the other they cannot exist singly!
The touching on the foregoing subject naturally obliges me to wander from my narrative to indulge in a few professional observations, illustrative not only of war, but of its instruments.
Those unaccustomed to warfare, are apt to imagine that a field of battle is a scene of confusion worse confounded, but that is a mistake, for, except on par.