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Romance of War (or The Highlanders in Spain)
Chapter 39 - A Battle


In the long interval of time during which Lord Wellington's army remained cantoned on the Spanish frontier, no hostilities took place saving General Foy's fruitless attack upon Bejar, and the defeat of the French under General Frimont in the vale of Sedano, near Burgos. During the winter, supplies of every kind,—pay in some instances excepted,— arrived from Britain, to refit the army and enable it to take the field, which it did in an efficient state in the month of May, 1813.

During the long residence of the Gordon Highlanders in the valley of Banos, they had become quite domesticated among its inhabitants; and it was a daily occurrence to see them assisting in household matters,— working with the men in the gardens and vineyards, or carrying about in their arms the little children of the patrona on whom they were quartered ; and before the battalion departed, the venerable cura had wedded, for weal or woe, several of the olive-cheeked maidens of the valley to men who wore the garb of old Gaul.

On the 13th of May the corps marched from Banos, and the entire population of the secluded vale accompanied them to the end of the pass, and watched them until the notes of the war-pipes died away in the wind, and the last bayonet gave a farewell flash in the sunlight as the rear-guard descended the mountains towards the plain of Bejar, where Sir Rowland Hill mustered and reviewed the gathering brigades of his division.

The troops presented a very different appearance now from the wayworn, ragged and shoeless band which, in the close of the last year, had retired from Burgos. Fresh drafts of hale and plump British recruits had filled up the vacancies caused by wounds, starvation and disease; and a few months in quarters had restored the survivors to health and strength; the new clothing had completely renovated their appearance, and all were in high spirits and eager again to behold their old acquaintances, Messieurs the French. Sir Rowland complimented Fassifern on the appearance of his Highlanders, who cocked their plumes more gaily now than ever, as they marched past to 'the Garb of old Gaul.' Truly, new scarlet jackets, Paisley tartan, and bonnets from 'skull-cleeding Kilmarnock,' had wrought a wonderful change upon their ranks.

Although the Duke of Dalmatia and many battalions of French had been ordered into Germany, Buonaparte's army in Spain still mustered 160,000 strong. King Joseph, at the head of 70,000 men, kept his headquarters at Madrid; the rest were scattered through the eastern provinces, under Suchet and other commanders. It was determined by the British and Spanish Governments to make one grand and determined effort to drive the French across the Pyrenees, on again taking the field against them. An efficient train of pontoons was fitted out to assist in crossing those deep and rapid rivers by which Spain is so much intersected. Everything which would tend to the comfort of troops on service had been provided; and the army in the end of May, as I have before stated, commenced offensive measures against the enemy.

Lord Wellington, with the light division, moved on Salamanca; Sir Thomas Graham crossed the Douro, with orders to move on Braganza, Zamora, and Tras-os-montes, and to form a junction with the allies at Valladolid; while Sir Rowland Hill, from Estremadura, was to march on the same point by Alba de Tormes. By these movements the allies turned that position on the Douro which the French generals had resolved to defend; and so rapid was their march, that General Villatte, who occupied Salamanca with three thousand men, had barely time to effect a retreat, with a loss of two hundred, and a few pieces of artillery. The able Wellington, after placing the right and centre divisions in cantonments between the Douro and Tormes, joined Sir Thomas Graham, whose troops, after encountering many difficulties in crossing rivers, ravines, and mountains, over which they had to drag their heavy artillery and pontoons, took up a position on the left, in communication with the Spanish army of Galicia under General Castanos.

The French, who were utterly unprepared for these rapid movements, retired precipitately, destroying in their retreat the bridges at Toro and Zamora; and the combined army now directed its march in triumph on Valladolid, one of the finest cities of Old Castile, and one which might be styled a city of convents, as it contained no fewer than seventy,—one of them the palace of Philip IV. Crossing Escueva, the allies continued to press impetuously forward, and the enemy to retire unresistingly before them. Joseph abandoned Madrid, concentrated the French legions around the castle of Burgos, which he blew up on the 13th of June, and with his whole force retired under the cloud of night towards the Ebro, the passage of which his generals made every preparation to defend. But again he and they were signally baffled by the skill, talent, and penetration of Wellington, who, moving his troops by the San Andero road, crossed the river near its source at Puente de Arenas and San Martino,—a measure which so disconcerted the plans of Joseph and Marshal Jourdan, that they were again compelled to retreat, and the allied army continued its march to Vittoria.

On the 20th of June the second division encamped on the plain of Puebla, near Vittoria. The first brigade was then commanded by the Hon. William Stuart (a brother of the Earl of Galloway), a true and gallant soldier of the old school, whose valuable services received no requital from his country.

The time had now arrived when Joseph was compelled to make a final and determined stand in defence of the crown he had usurped, or behold it torn ingloriously from his brow, and on the very ground where Edward the Black Prince, on the 3rd of April, 1367, totally defeated another intruder on the Spanish soil—Henry the Bastard,—and restored Don Pedro to the crown of Castile. The time was likewise arrived when the legions of France, whose movements since the commencement of the campaign had been a series of retreats, should make a decisive effort to renew their fading laurels, or by being driven disgracefully across the Pyrenees, lose for ever that hard-earned fame which they won under the banners of the great Emperor.

Early on the morning of the 21st of June the allies were in motion. Sir William Stuart's brigade moved in front of the second division, which marched along the highroad to Vittoria. The morning was beautiful, the earth was fresh with dew, and the merry larks were soaring aloft over bright yellow fields, which were soon to be drenched with blood. The sky was clear, blue, and cloudless, and the shining current of the Zadorra flowed among thickets and fields of ripe waving corn, which often afforded concealment to the light troops during the action. Violets, cowslips, and a thousand little flowers which flourish so plentifully by the waysides in Spain, were blooming gaudily in the fresh dew; the brown partridge was whirring about, and ever and anon a fleet rabbit shot past as the troops moved into the corn-fields, treading and destroying the hopes and support of many a poor husbandman. Afar off, their hues mellowed by the distance, rose the bold and lofty ridges of the Pyrenees and other sierras, the outlines of which appeared distinctly against the pure blue beyond. Save the near tread of feet, or the distant blast of a bugle, no other sounds were borne on the morning wind but the bleating of sheep and goats, or a matin-bell tinkling in some solitary hermitage, calling its superstitious inmates to prayer for the success of the friends of Spain.

To the British it was known that the enemy were in position in front, and every heart beat high, and every fibre was thrilling with excitement, as the columns moved towards the plains in front of the town of Vittoria. Moving in close column of companies, the Highlanders matched through a field of ripened corn, which nearly overtopped the plumes of their bonnets. The other corps of the division followed and then halted for a time, during which the crop, which was all ready for the sickle, was soon trodden to mire. But 'necessity has no law.' The flints were examined, the colours uncased, and the drummers were provided with temporary litters, formed of pikes and blankets, for bearing off the wounded officers.

Fassifern's eyes kindled up with that bright and peculiar expression which they ever had when he became excited.

'Highlanders!' cried he, as the regiment again moved forward, 'in a few minutes we shall be engaged with the enemy; but I need not exhort you to do your duty, for in that you have never yet failed. Keep the strictest silence on the march, but you may shout till the mountains ring again when the pipes blow to the charge.'

'Fu' surely and brawly we'll set up a skraigh then, lads!' said his equerry, Dugald Mhor, who was the only man who dared to reply. 'But it's an unco thing for Hielandmen to keep their tongues still, whan the bonnie sheen o' steel is glintin' in their een. Troth, lads, we'll gie a roar that will mak' Buonaparte himsel shake in his shoon, if he be within hearin'.'

The soldiers began to cheer and laugh, while Dugald waved his bonnet; but the voice of the colonel arrested them.

'Silence, Dugald!' said he to that aged follower, who, with his sword drawn, stuck close to the flanks of his horse; 'silence! You always create some uproar in the ranks by your odd observations. I am ever apprehensive that you will thrust yourself needlessly into danger; and indeed it would relieve me of much anxiety, if you would remain in the rear. You know well, Dugald, how much I would regret it, should anything happen to you during the engagement to-day.'

'That depends just upon yoursel, sir: whar ye lead, I will follow,' replied the old man, whom the world would not have tempted to separate himself from Cameron, who had often insisted on many occasions that Dugald should not peril himself by coming under fire. These were injunctions which the obstinate old vassal valued not a rush; and so in these good-natured altercations the master was always overcome by the man, who seemed to regard fighting rather as a sport or a pleasant source of excitement, just as one would view a fox or a stag hunt.

While Major Campbell was boring Ronald Stuart with a painfully-accurate account of the battle of Alexandria, and the position of the French forces on that memorable occasion, the legions of Joseph Buonaparte appeared in sight. As each regiment quitted the path among the corn-fields, and entered upon the plain before Vittoria, they came in view of the whole battle-array of the enemy, occupying a strong position covering each of the three great roads, which at Vittoria concentrate in the road to Bayonne. The long lines of dark infantry appeared perfectly motionless, but their burnished arms were shining like silver in the sun ; the tricolours of the legions were fluttering in the breeze, and many of their bands struck up the gay Cà ira and Marseillaise hymn on the approach of the allies.

The right flank of Joseph's army extended northward from Vittoria, across the stream of the Zadorra, and rested on the hills above the villages of Gamarra Mayor and Abechuco, covered there by strong redoubts. Between the right and centre was a thick cork-wood, into which were thrown many corps of infantry, to keep open the line of communication. The right centre rested on a height which commanded the vale of the Zadorra, and which was strengthened by nearly one hundred pieces of artillery. Their left and centre occupied the bold ridges above the village of Subijana de Alava, with a corps de reserve posted at Gomecha, and a brigade thrown forward on the lofty and rocky mountains of Puebla, to protect their centre, which might have been outflanked by the mainroad where it crosses the Zadorra. Joseph Buonaparte in person commanded the whole, having Marshal Jourdan acting under him as lieutenant-general. The armies were pretty well matched, each mustering from 70,000 to 75,000 men, the French having the advantage in occupying a strong position, which every means had been taken to strengthen.

Each regiment of Hill's division, on its debouching from the Vittoria road, formed line from close column, and advanced in that order towards the enemy. To the latter, the view of the allied army at that hour must have presented a grand and imposing spectacle ; so many dense masses moving successively into the plain, and deploying into line by companies obliquely, with all the steadiness and regularity of a review; the bright barrels and bayonets of upwards of 70,000 muskets shining in the rays of the morning sun; the silken standards of many colours—red, buff, white, blue, and yellow—waving over them; the bright scarlet uniforms, relieved by the varied green of the landscape; and then the many warlike sounds increased the effect of the scene. The neighing of cavalry horses, the roll of tumbrels and gun-carriages, the distant yet distinct word of command, the mingling music of many bands, the trumpets of the horse, the bugles of the riflemen, and the hoarse wailing war-pipe of the Highland regiments, ever and anon swelled upon the breeze, pealing among the heights of Puebla, and dying away among the windings in the vale of Zadorra.

The prospect before them must have been one of no ordinary interest to the martial legions of France. At the moment that the distant bells of the convent of Santa Clara de Alava struck a quarter to ten, the memorable battle of Vittoria began.

'There go the Spaniards—the soldiers of old Murillo!' exclaimed Seaton, as a loud and continued discharge of musketry rang among the ridges of Puebla. The sound caused every heart to bound, for the day was big with the fate of many!

'Murillo and the Condé d'Amarante have attacked the left of the French,' said Cameron, watching the operations through his telescope; 'but they will be compelled to retire unless succoured, and that promptly, too ! The heights are becoming covered with smoke------By heavens! they are giving way.'

At that moment an aide-de-camp dashed up to the brigade, with Sir Rowland's order for the 71st Regiment to advance, and sustain the attack on the heights, in concert with the light companies of the division, while the Highlanders and 50th Regiment were to support them in turn.

'Now then, Stuart!' said Seaton, giving Ronald an unceremonious slap on the shoulder, 'see if another gold cross is to be won upon Puebla. We shall be under fire in five minutes,—forward, light bobs Forward, double quick!' Away they went in high spirits to the assistance of old Murillo, whose troops were already wavering, under the steady fire of the French. The roar of cannon and musketry had now become general along the lines, and was absolutely astounding. War on a great scale is a grand, yet a terrible thing. The whole valley of the Zadorra,—the fortified heights of Gomecha on the enemy's right, those of Puebla on their left, the dark woodlands between, the corn-fields, the hedges, and all the grassy plain below, were enveloped in smoke, streaked with continual flashes of fire. In the villages every hut had become a fortress, loop-holed and barricaded, every wall of cabbage-garden and vineyard a breastwork, for possession of which armed men contested desperately, hand to hand, and point to point.

The Honourable Colonel Cadogan commanded the 71st, and other companies, which moved up the heights to the assistance of the Spaniards on the extreme of the British right. Forming line on the hillside, they advanced with a determination and impetuosity truly admirable towards the enemy, whose close and deadly fire was thinning their numbers.

'Now, soldiers! upon them like fury! Forward, charge!' cried Cadogan, dashing spurs into his horse's sides. A loud hurrah was the reply, and simultaneously they pushed forward with the bayonet, and rushing like a torrent through clouds of smoke and sweeping volleys of shot, fell headlong upon the enemy, and all was for a time hewing with the sword and butt, or stabbing with bayonet and pike. A severe and bloody struggle ensued, but the French were driven tumultuously from the heights, after suffering immense loss, and having their commanding officer captured.

Ronald, who was then engaged in a charge for the first time, became bewildered,—almost stunned with the whirl, the din, and the wild uproar around him. The excitement of the soldiers had been raised to the utmost pitch, and they became, as it were, intoxicated with the danger, smoke, noise, blood, and death which surrounded them.

Impetuously they continued to press forward upon the foe with all the fury of uncurbed steeds, and the conflict was renewed, foot to foot, breast to breast, bayonet to bayonet, and with eyes of fire men glared at each other above their crossed weapons. When rushing forward with his company, at the moment they mingled with the enemy, Stuart encountered—or I should rather say, when half-blinded with smoke, ran violently against—a French officer, a cut from whose sabre he parried with his dirk, while at the moment, he passed his sword through his shoulder, hurling monsieur to the earth with the force of the thrust. At that instant he was stunned and laid prostrate by a blow on the back part of the head, dealt from behind by the butt end of a firelock, or truncheon of a pike. Vainly he strove to regain his feet, but reeled senseless on the sod, and the last sounds he heard were the triumphant cheers of the British, drowning the feebler cry of Vive I'Empereur! from their antagonists. Almost at the same moment the brave Colonel Cadogan fell from his horse, writhing on the grass with the agony of a mortal wound. A yell burst from his regiment, the Highland Light Infantry, as they beheld him fall; an echoing shout broke from their companions, and redoubling their efforts with the bayonet after frightful carnage, they obliged the enemy to retire precipitately down the mountains. Their left was thus completely routed and in disorder, and the British flag waved triumphantly on the bloody summits of Puebla.

Encouraged by this good fortune, Sir Rowland Hill ordered his second and third brigades to attack the heights of Subijana de Alava, which were gallantly carried after a severe and stern conflict. King Joseph, alarmed at the loss of these important positions, directed his left wing to fall back for the defence of Vittoria, and Sir Rowland, pressing forward with his usual vigour, followed up this retreating movement.

Cole and Picton attacked their centre, and after a spirited resistance the whole chain of heights was abandoned, and the French army began to retire, but in admirable order, on Vittoria. General Graham dislodged the enemy from the hills above Abechuco, and his countryman, General Robertson, without permitting his troops to fire a shot, but solely acting with the bayonet, drove them from Gamarra Mayor after great slaughter, and sustaining during the advance a tremendous fire of cannon and musketry. Towards evening Graham's division was pushed forward across the Zadorra, and ordered to secure the road leading to Bayonne. By that time Lord Wellington's centre had penetrated to Vittoria, and the enemy's right wing had totally given way. All was now lost, and the greatest confusion ensued among the foe. The court equipage of King Joseph, the baggage, the artillery, and the military chest of his army were all captured. Those columns retreating on the road to Bayonne were driven like herds of sheep back upon that which leads to Pampeluna, and then the French army became one vast mob, a disorganized and fugitive rabble. Joseph, owing his safety to the swiftness of his horse, abandoned the wreck of his troops and fled towards Pampeluna, hotly pursued by Captain Wyndham with a squadron of the 10th Hussars. In this great victory the loss of the allied army amounted to 5,000, and that of the French to 6,000 or upwards, and the defeat of the survivors was attended by every accompaniment of disgrace. A thousand prisoners were captured by the allies and of the two solitary guns, of all his immense train, which Joseph succeeded in taking off, one alone reached Pampeluna, the other being taken next day.

Lord Wellington deserves the highest admiration for the excellence of his dispositions and manoeuvres during the whole of that brilliant campaign, and most decisive victory. Every arrangement, every movement of the French generals, had been completely baffled and disconcerted by his superior skill and military talents. In four weeks he had driven them from Madrid to Vittoria, turning their strong positions on the Douro and Ebro, and at last compelling Joseph and Jourdan to show fight at a point where their army was utterly destroyed.

The battle had almost been fought and won while Ronald Stuart lay senseless among the heaps of killed and wounded on the hills of Puebla. The French, after being repulsed from the latter, detached a legion, 7,000 strong, to. recover them, which movement being perceived by General Stewart, he despatched Fassifern with his Highlanders to the assistance of the troops already there. The regiment moved quickly to the front, and after inconceivable exertions gained the summit by clambering up the steepest part of the mountains, a feat perhaps only to have been performed by Scots or Switzers. They soon reached the spot where the desperate charge had been made. Cadogan lay there drenched in his blood, and the carnage around him showed how fierce had been the conflict.

'Our light company men are lying thick here,' said Fassifern, as he looked sternly around him.

'Here is Stuart,' exclaimed Bevan. 'Poor fellow, this is his last field!' The regiment passed in open column, double-quick, beyond the place where Ronald lay, to all appearance, what his brother-officers thought him to be, dead. Close to him lay Torriano, a lieutenant of the 71st, severely wounded; but there was no time to look at them. The Highlanders moved onward to the assistance of their friends the 50th and Highland Light Infantry, who were severely handled by the enemy on the other side of the heights. There the carnage was appalling in some parts, where the ranks of friend and foe had fallen across each other in piles. Smoke and bright flashing steel were seen everywhere, and the echoes of the musketry reverberated among the deep ravines and grassy summits of La Puebla. The overwhelming legion were still advancing; they had outflanked the 71st, and cut off its communication with the 50th; and the superiority of the French numerical force was compelling these brave regiments to waver, when the cheers of their Highland comrades rang among the mountains as they descended to their assistance. As Cadogan had fallen, the command of the troops devolved on Fassifern, and, acting under his orders, the three battalions compelled the legion to retire in disgrace and disorder.

Three other attacks did they make in succession, and with greater strength, but the attempts were vain. The first brigade were resolved to hold Puebla or perish, and Cameron continually drove them back. As the Highlanders said, 'their hearts werna stoot eneuch for sae stay a brae,' and the proud Frenchmen were compelled to abandon all hopes of regaining the important position.

Ronald lay long insensible where he fell, and when life returned, the first sounds which saluted his ears were the distant roar of the musketry, and all the confused din of a great battle, which the breeze bore up from the plains to the mountains where he lay. From loss of blood and the stunning effects of the blow, he was long unable to rise, or even to speak; but his ear was intensely awake to every sound around him, and he eagerly longed to know how the tide of battle was turning in the valley below. The aching and smarting pain in his head was excessive. He placed his hand behind, and withdrew it covered with blood, and closing his. eyes, again sunk backwards on the gory turf. Although his ears were invaded by the distressing cries and hoarse groans of agony from the wounded around him, his heart wandered to that Highland home where his very soul seemed to be garnered up; and in that terrible moment he would have given the universe, were it his, for a single glance at the heather hills and the wild woods around the old gray tower of Lochisla. He thought of his white-haired sire, and of what would be his sufferings and feelings should his only son perish in the land of the stranger. Alice, too,—but the thought of her inspired him with new life and spirit. He rose and unclasped her miniature, which was clotted and covered with his blood; he restored it to his breast, and looked about him. As the noise of the battle still continued without abatement, and he heard the shouts and battle-cry of the French mingled with the cheers of the British at times, he asked a French soldier who sat near him, shot through the leg, if he knew how the day had gone. He answered, without a moment's hesitation, that the troops of the great Emperor had outflanked, beaten, and cut to pieces those of Wellington, who was on the road to Lisbon, flying as fast as his horse could carry him. Although Ronald put little dependence on this information, he resolved to satisfy himself. The Frenchman kindly bound up his head, and gave him a little brandy from his canteen; for which the Scotsman gave him his earnest thanks, being quite unable to yield more solid remuneration, not having seen a day's pay for six months. Making use of his sword as a support, he got upon his feet, and all things seemed to swim around him as he staggered forward.

Cadogan had been carried off by two soldiers of his own regiment, but his horse was lying dead upon a wounded Highlander, who had long struggled to free himself from its oppressive weight, and now called aloud to Ronald, who was unable, to yield him the slightest assistance. As he passed slowly onwards to that part of the heights whence he expected to have a view of the whole battle-field, he beheld the officer whom he had encountered lying dead, pierced with a score of bayonet wounds. A soldier of the light company lay dead across him, with his face literally dashed to pieces by a blow from the butt-end of a musket, and so much was he disfigured that it was impossible to recognise him. Close by a piper of the 71st lay dead, with his pipe under his arm; his blood had formed a black pool around him of more than a yard square. Hundreds were lying everywhere in the same condition; but further details would only prove tiresome or revolting.

With much difficulty Stuart gained the extremity of the ridge, and the whole soul-stirring display of the field of Vittoria burst at once upon his gaze, extending over a space of ground fully six miles in length. Truly, thicker than leaves in autumn the bodies of men were strewed along the whole length of the hostile armies. The warm light of the setting sun was beaming on the mountain-tops, but its lustre had long since faded on the sylvan vale of the Zadorra, where the shadows of evening were setting on the pale faces of the dead and the dying. The plains of Vittoria, too, were growing dark, but at the first view Ronald was enabled to perceive, and his heart beat proudly while he did so, that the allies had conquered, and the boastful story of the Gaul was false.

Afar off he beheld dense clouds of dust rolling along the roads which led to Pampeluna and Bayonne. There the glistening arms were flashing in the light of the western sky, as the brigades of British cavalry swept on like whirlwinds, charging and driving before them, sabre à la main, the confused masses of French infantry, who, when their position was abandoned, retired hurriedly towards the mainroads for France. He saw his own division far down the plain, driving a column like a herd of sheep along the banks of the river towards Vittoria; beyond which they pursued them, until the smoke of the conflict and the dust which marked its route were hidden by the cloud of night.

But long before this he had begun to descend the hills, and weak and weary as he was he found it no easy task to scramble among the furze, briars, and brambles with which their sides were covered. At the foot of them he found many men of his own regiment lying dead. These had been slain by the fire of a few field-pieces, which the French had brought to bear upon them while moving towards Puebla. The moon broke forth when he reached the banks of the Zadorra, which he forded, the water rising up to his waist. This drenching added greatly to his misery, as the night was cold and chilly; but he walked onward as rapidly as he could, with the hope of reaching Subijana de Alava, Vittoria, or any place where he might hope to get his wound dressed, after which he trusted that he should be able to rejoin the regiment without delay. But losing his way, he wandered across the field, where the bodies of men and horses, dead or yet rolling about, broken waggons, dismounted or abandoned cannon, encumbered him at every step.

No shrieks now saluted his ears as he passed over the plain; but groans —deep and harrowing groans of agony, and half-muttered cries for water, or pious ejaculations, were heard on every side, while the ghastly and distorted faces, the glazed and upturned eyes, the black and bloody wounds of the dead, appeared horrible, as the pale light of the moon fell on them. The vast field, although so many thousand men lay prostrate upon it, was, comparatively speaking, still; and to Ronald there seemed something sad and awful in the silence which succeeded the ear-deafening roar of the battle which had rung there the livelong day. Many a strong hand was stretched there powerless, and many a gallant heart, which had beat high with hope and bravery in the morning, lay there cold enough at night.

Little think the good folk at home,—those who for days will be haunted by the memory of some sudden death, which possibly they had witnessed in the streets,—little do these good people imagine, or perhaps care, for the mighty amount of misery accumulated on a single battle-field, and the woe it may carry into many a happy home and domestic circle. But the agony of dying men, and the tears of women, are alike forgotten and unheeded when forts fire, cities illuminate, balls are given, and mails sweep along, decorated with flags and laurels, in honour of a victory. . . .

Eager to leave the field behind him, Stuart hurried forward as well as he was able, until, stumbling over a dead cavalry-horse, he fell violently to the earth, and his wound bursting out afresh, the light faded from his eyes, and he lay in a sort of stupor across the corpse of a French soldier, in whose breast a twelve-pound shot was buried. While lying there, he became tortured with an intense thirst, which he found it impossible to alleviate, until a drizzling rain began to descend, and after exercising his patience he caught enough in the hollow of his hand to moisten his parched lips.

The sound of voices close by recalled him to himself fully, and he found that he was in imminent danger. A file of Portuguese soldiers approached, bearing a lantern to assist them in effectually plundering the dead. The knapsacks of soldiers were ripped open, and the contents carefully scanned; and the epaulettes, lace, stars, etc., were torn away from the uniforms of the officers. Stuart's blood boiled up within him to behold brother-soldiers, men in arms, engaged in an occupation so truly despicable ; but well aware of the danger incurred by encountering or threatening people so unscrupulous as death-hunters, he only grasped the hilt of his dirk, and lay perfectly still until they had passed by, which they luckily did without observing him.

Scarcely were they gone, when another wretch appeared, bent on the same disgraceful errand. He was either a robber or guerilla, and carried on the hollow of his left arm a musket, from which dangled a long leathern sling. A pewter crucifix glittered on the band of his broad-leaved hat, and the polished brass hilts of the double daggers and pistols in his Bash gleamed in the light of the moon, which at that moment shone forth with peculiar brilliancy. A new pair of large epaulettes, which Stuart had put on a few days before, attracted this worthy's attention, and he came straight towards the wearer to possess himself of them.

What were the feelings of the young Highlander to behold in the robber the abhorred Narvaez Cifuentes, the destroyer of the noble and beautiful Catalina! An electric shock seemed to pass over every fibre, and again his heart beat violently. He grasped tighter the thistle-hilt of his short weapon, and watched with an eagle eye the motions of the robber. Narvaez knew him the moment their eyes met, and uttering a short but emphatic oath, he sprung forward and leaped upon Ronald with his whole weight, and pressing a knee upon each arm, perfectly incapacitated him from making any defence, especially in his weak and wounded state.

'How now, my gay senor soldado!' said Narvaez with a chuckling laugh, after they had glared at each other in silence for a few seconds.

'Methinks we have met at last, under circumstances somewhat disadvantageous to your safety.'

Ronald's only reply was a frantic attempt to free himself from the iron grasp of the other.

'Be still,—carajo!' said the ruffian as he unsheathed a poniard; 'be still, or I may mercifully give a deep stroke at once, without having the little conversation I wish to enjoy with you, before you die.'

'Dog of a robber!—dog of a Spaniard!' gasped Ronald in a hoarse accent. 'Free but my right hand, and, weak and exhausted as I am, I will meet you------'

'Ho, Demonios! a rare request! Par Diez! no, no, mi amigo. I will have these bright epaulettes (which I beg you will not spoil by struggling so), and I will have this golden cross and other things, without either the risk or trouble of trying points with you. Hah! have you forgotten the night when we first met at Albuquerque? By our Lady of Majorga, you shall this night know that I have not! We have many odd scores to pay off, and they may as well be settled here, on the field of Vittoria, as elsewhere. Besides, Senor Valour, when your corse is found, you will be mentioned among the killed in the Gaceta de la Regencia, Hah! hah!'

'Wretch! you forget that this day my blood has been shed for Spain and Ferdinand VII !'

'You have been paid for that, I suppose,' replied the fellow, accompanying his observation, which might have suited a British Radical, with an insulting laugh, while Stuart panted with rage.

'Now, then,—what would you do were you released by me?' 'Stab you to the heart!' The robber laughed.

'Cuidado was ever my motto,' said he; 'a dead man tells no tales. Grasping and compressing Ronald's throat with his left hand, he flourished aloft his right, which held his stiletto, a sharp, short dagger, with a round blade like that instrument known as a butcher's steel. 'Now, valiente senor, compound for death, and not for life. I may prolong your tortures, giving a hundred stabs instead of one; but your dying moment shall be easy, if the lining of your pockets is tolerable. A stab for every duro! hah! hah!'

That instinctive feeling which causes every man to struggle to the utmost to preserve life, arose powerfully in the breast of Ronald Stuart at that instant, when he saw the deadly blade of the ruthless assassin gleaming above him in the moonlight. He felt that his last moment was come, and yet he resolved not to die without another gallant struggle. Exerting every energy,—straining every muscle and fibre, by one desperate effort he hurled the robber violently backwards; but before he could rise, his merciless assailant again sprung upon him with renewed ferocity, and striking blindly with his stiletto, buried it twice in the turf close by Ronald's ear. There can be little doubt that this new attack would have terminated fatally for him, had not two officers, muffled to the eyes in their cloaks, ridden hastily up, upon which the robber, without attempting to strike another blow, snatched up his rifle and fled,—but not unscathed.

'A death-hunter! He shall die, by heavens!' exclaimed one of the strangers, snatching a pistol from his holsters and firing after Cifuentes, who was seen bounding with the speed of the greyhound over the encumbered field, and the moon shone full upon him. A sharp howl of pain followed the report of the shot.

'Your shot has told, my lord,' said the other officer. 'These rascals deserve no mercy.'

'The fellow is leaping along yet. I would again fire, but for the waste of powder.'

'He was struggling with some one here.'

'Your arrival has been very fortunate,' said Ronald, in a voice which faltered from weariness and excitement. 'I have had a protracted and desperate struggle with the ruffian, and must have perished under his hands at last, as I am weak with loss of blood, and totally incapable of defending myself.'

'Put this to your mouth,' said the first speaker, 'and take a hearty pull. 'Tis cold whisky-toddy,—a beverage not often got so near the Pyrenees.'

'Thanks, sir!' said Ronald, as he put the flask to his lips, and drank gratefully of the contents. 'So we have gained the day.'

'Gloriously!' replied the other. 'But where are you wounded?'

'On the head,—by a blow from a musket-butt, or shaft of a pike. I received it on the heights of Puebla.'

'Ah, there was sharp work there, when the battle began this morning. So you belong to the fighting division—Sir Rowland's? You have wandered a long way from the heights.'

'I was endeavouring to rejoin my regiment,' replied Ronald, staggering up, and propping himself with his sword; 'I was loath to be absent while I could lift a limb. But to whom am I indebted for my safety? You are both countrymen, I believe, by your voices.'

'You are right,' replied the officer who wounded Cifuentes. 'This is Captain Ramsay of the 18th Hussars,—Ramsay of the Dyke-neuk-heid, as we call him at home; and I am Lord Dalhousie. We are riding to join the seventh division.'

'I was not aware to whom I had the honour of addressing myself,' said Ronald. 'I shall be obliged by your lordship informing me where my own regiment now is.'

'The Gordon Highlanders, I presume?'

'Exactly, my lord,—in Stuart's, late Howard's brigade.' A brave regiment, and my heart warmed at the sight of their tartans to-day. They are a long way from this, pursuing the French along the Pampeluna road, and are probably as far as Salvatierra by this time.'

'Then I can never reach them to-night,' said Stuart dejectedly.

'Here are some of the waggon-train,' said the earl. 'To their care we must consign you, and be off forthwith, as all the troops are pressing forward en route for the Pyrenees.'

As Dalhousie and his aide-de-camp rode off, the noise of wheels and cracking of whips announced the arrival of some of the Royal Waggon train. One of the cars was advancing straight towards him, but slowly, as its course was continually impeded by the dead and wounded lying across its way. An officer of the train, with an immense plume in his cocked hat, and wearing the rich uniform of this easy branch of the service, rode beside the waggon, into which they were putting those wounded men whose cries attracted their attention.

'The heights of Puebla?' said the waggon-officer, in a tone of surprise and expostulation, to another who rode beside him. 'Oh! it is quite impossible to detach any of my party so far.'

'How, sir! so far?' replied the other angrily, in the voice of Major Campbell. 'And is a brave lad to bleed to death, and have his bones picked by the corbies, because a loon like you is afraid to climb a hill? By the Lord! he shall not perish through the neglect of one like you, whose whole share of a battle is seeing the smoke and hearing the noise at a comfortable distance, and then coming in with these infernal rattle; traps to pick up the wounded when the danger is all over.'

He of the waggons was too much enraged to reply readily; and before he could speak, Ronald heard the voices of Macdonald and Evan Iverach.

'Come, major, don't quarrel about it. I am afraid that it will be a fruitless errand seeking Stuart among the heights. Poor fellow! I am too sure he was quite dead when we passed him this morning.'

'Oh, Mr. Macdonald, dinna say sae!' groaned Evan, who had been lamenting as they came along, 'dinna say sae! I have had an awfu' day o' wae and anxiety upon his account. There he is—God preserve me in my senses! No, my een dinna deceive me,—there he is!' cried Evan in a voice rising into a scream nearly, while he rushed forward as Stuart's figure, moving slowly towards them, met his view. Evan, as usual, began to caper and dance, blubber and weep with joy, while Campbell and Alister warmly shook the hand of his master.

'Ha, Stuart, my lad! I knew you were hard to kill,' said Campbell; 'and so, in spite of Alister's assertions that you were gone "to the land o,' the leal," I determined to set out in search of you as soon as the regiment halted. Old Ludovick Lisle of ours would have been buried alive, once upon a time, in Egypt, but for my interference. He had been struck down by an iron mace in some brawl with a loon of a Mameluke, and I knew that he was only stunned; so I poured a glass of brandy down his throat, and brandy never failed to bring old Ludovick to, whatever was the matter.'

Ronald objected to entering the waggon, which was already crowded, and the bottom of it was covered with blood: so it moved off, the officer telling Campbell that he should hear from him in the morning. The major replied that he should be very happy, and dismounting, gave his horse to Stuart; who, as they moved along, gave a report of his encounter with Cifuentes, and interview with Lord Dalhousie.

'He is a brave man and a good officer,' said Campbell. 'And as for Ramsay, by the Dyke-neuk-heid he is, though a Lowlander, one of the finest fellows I ever met, and the best mixer of Athole-brose and whisky-punch in the three kingdoms. But we must move forward as fast as possible. Spur up this nag, Stuart; he was a French dragoon-horse this morning, but has changed masters. My poor Rosinante, on which you ran such a rig at Almarez, was shot under me as we ascended the heights. Cameron, likewise, had his horse killed under him; and, to make the matter worse, had another killed over him, by which he was confoundedly bruised.'

'But I see, major, that your left arm is in a sling.

'I received a scratch from the sabre of a French sub, who assailed me before I could draw Andrea; but I knocked him down with my stick, disarmed, and took him prisoner.'

'Well, Alister, I rejoice to see you have escaped this time; and Evan, my trusty fellow, too.'

'A' sound and haill, sir; but I had a narrow escape frae a sharpshooter birkie, wha put three shot through my bonnet just before the regiment cam' rattling doon the brae to our assistance.'

'And how have the corps fared throughout this eventful day?' 'Easily indeed,' replied Macdonald, 'considering how our friends the 71st and the 50th have been cut up.' 'Where is the regiment?'

'Bivouacked a few miles in front of Vittoria. None of the officers are killed, but some are wounded,—Cameron by the fall of his horse, which was killed by a twelve-pound shot, and Seaton had his left arm shot through ; but the moment it was dressed he rejoined, and is probably now with his "light bobs." At the foot of the hills, we lost a sergeant and many men by the fire of the enemy's cannon, but------'

'But we had our vengeance to the full,' cried Campbell, brandishing his stick. 'They have lost as much as was ever tint at Shirramuir. Forgetting the crown of Spain, only think, Stuart, my man,—one hundred and fifty splendid pieces of ordnance, four hundred caissons laden with Lord knows what, the plunder of all Spain, perhaps! some millions of musket cartridges, the baggage of the army, the military chest, colours and drums innumerable, and the baton of Jourdan, which he dropped in his hurry or fright. But the military chest, by Jove! had you seen how free the 18th Hussars made with it,—every rascal of them stuffing his boots to the brim with gold napoleons! There will be a devil of a row kicked up about it at the Horse-Guards, you may be sure of that. We have captured I know not how many carriages, every one full of the ladies of Joseph's court : rare work we have had with them! Alister, with twenty men, gallantly stormed one vehicle at the point of the bayonet, and seized four terrified young ladies—one of whom, I believe, is the Countess de Gazan, wife of the general of the same name.'

'How horrified the poor creatures were!' said Macdonald. 'One train of court-carriages, in flying away at full gallop to escape Graham's division, which had intercepted their flight to Bayonne, came among us, and were, of course, compelled to halt. But they were treated with all due gallantry and honour.'

'Especially by Blacier's riflemen, who dragged some ladies out without ceremony, and rummaged them over like so many custom-house officers; and with their bayonets tore and ripped up the rich silk lining of the carriages, in hopes of finding concealed jewellery.'

'Germans are more proverbial for their greed than for devotion to the gentler sex. But Lord Wellington has despatched the ladies away to the rear, among the prisoners taken in the battle.'

'A knowing chield!' said the major. 'Some of these French girls are pretty enough to turn the hearts and heads of their captors. Arthur knew that, and thought them safer en route for Belem than in the midst of his army. By my word ! 'tis a devil of a thing to hear a sweet young girl, with bright black eyes, cherry lips, etc., etc., imploring you in most dulcet French to spare her life, and all that. What the deuce ! Some of these fair creatures to-day seemed to think they had got among an army of ghouls or ogres instead of honest British soldiers.'

'I forgive their terror,' answered Ronald. 'Only imagine what would be the feelings of British ladies, falling, as these did, into the hands of a foreign army, flushed and fierce with the excitement of such a battle, the blood and glory of such a victory!'

On entering the town of Vittoria, they found it filled with French and British wounded; and the numbers were increasing, as the waggons went to and fro between the field and town, which soon became converted into a hospital. Cries, groans, and thrilling exclamations of suffering rang from every house; and men were lying in ranks below the piazzas of the market-place, waiting till their wounds could be looked to; and in every street lay scores of weary and maimed soldiers, who, unable to proceed further, had sunk down bleeding and expiring, helpless as babes, without a hand to close their eyes.

Stuart's wound was of too little importance to procure immediate attendance, all the surgeons being hard at work, with their shirt-sleeves turned up, hewing off legs and arms mercilessly, as was their will and pleasure in those days. On with the tourniquet, and off with the limb, was the mode then; any attempt to reduce a fracture being considered a waste of time, and a style of cure troublesome alike to patient and physician. After searching about for some time to find a son of Esculapius unemployed, but without success, they adjourned to a cafe immediately within the Santa Clara gate.

The large drinking-room was crowded with officers, some of whom had got their scars dressed, and, in defiance of the orders of el medico, were quaffing horn after horn of the country wine, in honour of the victory. Seaton, with his arm slung, was thus employed in one corner with an officer of the 50th, whose head was wrapped in a bloody handkerchief. Many others were in the same trim ; and the conversation consisted of loud and boisterous observations and criticisms on this and that movement—the advance of one division, the retreat of another— promotion, brevet, thanks of Parliament, a medal,—and so on; and all were lavish in their animadversions on the 18th Hussars, for making so free with the military chest. Their observations were often mingled with loud and reckless military merriment, and an occasional hearty malediction on some wound which would not cease bleeding, or an exclamation of pain at the twinges it gave. Many Spanish officers were sitting over chess-tables, absorbed in their favourite national game, forgetting altogether, in the interest which it excited, the battle so recently gained, and which was of so much importance to the liberties of their country. But it has been truly remarked by some one that, give the Spaniard his cigar, his sunshine, his querido, and amusements, and it is all one to him whether Spain is ruled by a Solon or a Caligula.

In another corner of the drinking-room a Spanish colonel was sitting coolly with a napkin and brass basin under his chin, undergoing the operation of being shaved by the senior surgeon of his regiment, as it is, or was, the duty of that officer to take off the colonel's beard every morning, or whenever required. So much for the dignity of the medical profession in Spain. Enveloped in a cloud of tobacco-smoke, which left no part of him visible but his twinkling gray eyes and red snub nose, Captain Blacier occupied the opposite corner, busy in preparing a luxurious German dish, the ingredients for which he produced from the haversack of glazed canvas which he carried with his blanket on his back. A large tin trencher stood before him, and into it he was shredding a cabbage, which he had picked up when skirmishing in the neighbourhood of Salvatierra the preceding day; and after sprinkling over it pepper, salt, vinegar, and garlic, he began to eat with infinite relish.

After getting his wound dressed by the Spanish medico, and after drinking a few horns of agua y vino, Ronald procured a light forage-cap in place of his heavy plumed bonnet, and accompanied by Seaton and those who found him on the field, he set out for the regiment, which, with Hill's whole division, lay bivouacked six miles in front of Vittoria, where, after pursuing the French till past midnight, they had halted.

On being accommodated with a horse, Ronald was enabled to accompany the troops, which moved next day to drive the enemy across the Pyrenees. Acting with his usual promptitude, Wellington pushed onward with the third, fourth, and light divisions to Pampeluna, whence the ex-king Joseph, with the greater part of his shattered host, retired into France by the famous pass of Roncesvalles; while the rest, under the command of General Gazan, retired by the vale of El Bastan.

Lord Wellington surrounded Pampeluna, which was yet held by a French garrison; and Graham, who with the left wing of the allies had pursued the retreating enemy on the great road for France, came up with a corps near Tolosa, which he attacked and defeated, and driving them across the Bidassoa, boldly invested the strong fortress of San Sebastian, from the towers of which yet waved the tricolour and the standard of King Joseph.


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