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Marston, or, The soldier and statesman (Volume 3) online

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object of the rumour. He was an intelligent, high-
spirited, and straightforward man, open in language,
if the language w«ft not of the most classic order; and
bold in his conceptions, if those conceptions were not
formed on the most studied knowledge. He had at-
tained his high position, partly by public services,
partly by connexion. It was impossible to refuse
respect to his general powers, but it was equally im-
possible to deny the intellectual distinctions of his
competitor. The contrast which they presented in
the House was decisive of their talents for debate.
While the one spoke his giind with the uncultured
but forcible expressions of the moment; the other
never addressed the House but with the polished and
pointed diction of the orator.



MARSTON. 041

This man was the most accomplished of debaters,
always prepared, always pungent, often powerful.
Distinguished in early life for scholarship, he had
brought all the finer spirit of his studies into the
business of government. He was the delight of the
House; and the boundless applause which followed
his eloquence, and paid an involuntary tribute to his
mastery of public affairs, not unnaturally stimulated
his ambition to possess that leading official rank, to
which he seemed called by the right of nature. The
rivalry at length became open and declared ; it had
been felt too deeply to die away among the casual
impressions of public life ; it had been suppressed
too long, to be forgiven on either side ; and the crisis
was evidently approaching, in which it was necessary
to take a part with either of those gifted men.

I seldom spent more anxious hours, in the course
of an anxious life, than during the period of this deli-
beration. I felt all the- fascination^ of^the man of
genius. On the other hand, I respected all the solid
and manly qualities of his opponent. In a personal
view, the issue of the contest was likely to produce
evil to my own views. I was still a dependent upon
fortune. I had new ties and interests, which made
official income more important to me day by day. In
the fall of the administration I must follow the gene-
ral fate. — In making my decision with the unsuccess-
ful candidate for power, I must go down along with
him; and the claims of the competitors were so
equally balanced, and both were so distinguished, that
it was beyond all conjecture, to calculate the result.

VOL. III. M



24 2 MARSTON.

I, too^ was not without many a temptation, to per-
plex my judgment. The rivalry had at length become
public, and the friends of each were active in securing
opinions among the holders of office. The whole was
a lottery, but, with my political existence dependent
on my escaping a blank. In this dilemma I consulted
my oracle, Clotilde. Her quick intelligence decided
for me at once. " You must resign," said she. " You
value both ; you cannot side with either, without
offending their feelings, or, what I more regard, dis-
tressing your own. Both are men of intelligence and
honour, and they will understand your motives, and
respect them. — To retain office is impossible."

" But, Clotilde, how can I bear the thought of
reducing you and my infants to the discomforts of a
narrow income, and the obscurity of a life of retire-
ment?"

" A thousand times better, than you could endure
the thought of retaining office against your judgment,
or taking a part against a friend. Follow the impres-
sions of your own generous nature, and you will be
dearer than ever to Clotilde — even though it con-
demned us all to the deepest obscurity." In her heart
she was evidently less of the heroine than in her lan-
guage : the children had come playing round her feet
at the moment ; and the family picture of the reverse
in our fortunes, filled with this cluster of young faces,
unconscious of the chance which lay before them,
was too severe a trial for a mother's feelings. The
beating of her heart showed the pain of her sacrifice.
But she still persisted in her determination. As I



MARSTON. 043

took leave of her to go down to the House, her last
words, as she pressed my hand, were — " Resign, and
leave the rest to fortune."

A motion, obviously referring to the rival claims,
had been appointed for the evening ; and the premier
was to open the debate. The House was crowded at
an early hour ; and as my services were required in
the discussion, I postponed the communication of
my resolve, until the division should announce that
my labours were at an end. — But the hour passed
away in routine business. Still, the premier did not
appear. The anxiety grew excessive. At length,
whispers ran round the benches, of a rencounter
between the two distinguished individuals ; and, like
all rumours of this nature, the results were pro-
nounced to be of the most alarming kind. Then
came the announcement, that one of the combatants
remained unhurt, but that the other had received a
mortal wound. The House was speedily deserted ;
and all rushed out, to ascertain the truth of this
melancholy intelligence. Yet, nothing certain was
to be gathered among the numberless reports of the
night, and I returned home harassed almost into
fever. The morning quieted the general alarm.
The wound was dangerous, but not mortal ; and
both combatants had sent in their resignation. It
was accepted by royalty ; and before another night
fell, I was sent for by the premier, and offered one
of the vacant offices.

Such are the chances of public life. The lottery
had been drawn, and mine was a prize. With what
M 2



244 MARSTON.

feelings I returned on that night to my fireside ;
with what welcome I was received by my gentle, yet
heroic, wife ; or with what eyes I glanced upon my
infants, as they came to ask the paternal kiss and
blessing before they parted for their pillows, I leave
to those, who know the rejoicing of the heart, to
conceive.



CHAPTER XLIV.

" Nor think I bear a coward soul,
Whicli every danger can controul ;
Since all the common path must tread,
That leads the mortal to the dead.
Say, why should man's inglorious age,
Creep over youth's inactive bloom ?
Till life deserts our busy stage.
To lie inglorious in the tomb.
This strife be mine ; and Thou whose might
Can bless the issue of the fight.
Oh ! grant me thy propitious aid."

l'l.\DAR.

The first (Jlyi)i/)ic.

Those events had shaken the ministry, as dissen-
sions always have done ; and it still cost us many
a severe struggle, to resist the force of Opposition
combined with the clamours of the country. Eng-
land and France now presented a spectacle unex-
ampled in the annals of hostilities ; — engaged in a
war which seemed interminable, both determined to
conquer or perish ; both impelled by the most daring
courage ; yet neither able to inflict the slightest blow
upon the other, with but fifteen miles between.
France was nearer to Russia, nay, was nearer to the

M 3



246 MARSTON.

remotest extremity of Asia, than to England. In
the midst of the fiercest war, both preserved the atti-
tude of the most profound peace. The Hon and the
tiger, couching on the opposite sides of some im-
passable ravine, each watching the fiery eyes and
naked fangs of the other, would have been the
natural emblems of this hopeless thirst of encounter
between the two most powerful and exasperated
nations on the earth.

It is no superstition to trace those events to a
higher source than man. The conclusion of this
vast conflict was already written, in a record above
the short-sighted vision and infirm memory of our
nature. For the last five hundred years of European
annals, France has been the allotted punisher of the
Continent; and England the allotted punisher of
France. I make no presumptuous attempt to ex-
plain the reason ; but the process is incontestable.

When private profligacy combines with some
atrocious act of public guilt, to make the crimes of
the Continent intolerable ; France is sent forth, to
carry fire and sword into its boundaries, to crush its
armies in the field, to sack its cities, and to decimate
its population. — Then comes the penalty of the
punisher. The crimes of France herself demand
purgation. The strength of England is summoned
to this stern duty, and France is scourged ; her mi-
litary pride is broken ; her power is paralyzed ;
peace follows, and Europe rests for a generation.
The process has been so often renewed, and has
been completed with such irresistible regularity, that



MARSTON. 247

the principle is a law. The period for this consum-
mation was now come once more.

I was sitting in my library one evening, when a
stranger was introduced, who had brought a letter
from the officer commanding our squadron on the
Spanish coast. He was a man of noble presence, of
stately stature, and with a countenance exhibiting
all the vivid expression of the South. He was a
Spanish nobleman from the Asturias, and deputed
by the authorities to demand succours in the national
rising against the common enemy, Napoleon.

I was struck with the measureless value of re-
sistance in a country which opened to us the whole
flank of France ; but the intelligence was so wholly
unexpected, so entirely beyond calculation, and at
the same time so pregnant with the highest results
to England, that I was long incredulous. — I was
prepared to doubt the invohintary exaggeration of
men who had everything at stake ; the feverish tone
of minds embarked in the most formidable of all
struggles ; and even the passion of the southern in
every event and object, of force sufficient to arouse
him into action. But the Asturian was firm in his
assurances, clear and consistent in his views, and
there was even a candour in his confession of the
unprepared state of his country, which added largely
to my confidence. Our dialogue was, I believe, un-
precedented for the plainness of its enquiries and
replies. It was perfectly Lacedaemonian.

" What regular force can Spain bring into the
field ? "

M 4



248 MARSTON.

« None."

" What force has Napoleon in Spain at this mo-
ment?"

" At least two hundred and fifty thousand men,
and those in the highest state of equipment and
discipline."

" And yet you venture to resist ? "

" We have resisted, we shall resist, and we shall
beat them."

" In what state are your fortresses ?"

" One half of them in the hands of the French,
and the other half, without garrisons, provisions, or
even guns ; still, we shall beat them."

" Are not the French troops in possession of all
the provinces ? " «

" Yes."

" Are they not in fact masters of the country ? "

" No."

"How am I to reconcile those statements?"

" The French are masters by day ; the Spaniards
are masters by night."

" But you have none of the elements of national
government. You have lost your king."

" So much the better."

"Your princes, nobles, and court."

" So much the better."

" Even your prime minister and whole administra-
tion are in the hands of the enemy."

" Best of all ! " said the respondent, with a frown
like a thunder-cloud.

" What resource, then, have you ?"



MARSTON. 049

" The people !" exclaimed the Spaniard, in a tone
of superb defiance.

"Still — powerful as a united people are — before
you can call upon a British government to embark
in such a contest, it must be shown that the people
are capable of acting together; that they are not
separated by the jealousies which proverbially divide
your country."

" Seiior Inglese," said the Don, with a Cervantic
curl of the lip, " I see, that Spain has not been
neglected among the studies of your high station.
But Spain is not to be studied in books. She is not
to be sketched, like a fragment of a Moorish castle,
and carried off in a portfolio. Europe knows no-
thing of her. You must pass the Pyrenees, to con-
ceive her existence. She lives on principles totally
distinct from those of all other nations ; and France
will shortly find, that she never made a greater mis-
take than when she thought, that even the southern
slope of the Pyrenees was like the northern."

" But," said I, " the disunion of your provinces,
the extinction of your army, and the capture of your
executive government, must leave the country naked
to invasion. The contest may be gallant, but the
hazard must be formidable. To sustain a war against
the disciplined troops of France, and the daring
determination of its ruler, would require a new age
of miracle." The Spaniard bit his lip, and was
silent. " At all events, your proposals do honour to
the spirit of your country, and I shall not be the
man to throw obstacles in your way. Draw up a
M 5



250 MARSTON.

memoir ; state your means, your objects, and your
intentions, distinctly ; and I shall lay it before the
government without delay."

" Senor Inglese, it shall be done. — In that memoir,
I shall simply say, that Spain has six ranges of
mountains, all impregnable, and that the Spanish
people are resolved to defend them ; that the country
is one vast natural fortress ; that the Spanish soldier
can sleep on the sand, can live on the simplest food,
and the smallest quantity of that food ; that he can
march fifty miles a-day ; that he is of the same blood
with the conquerors of the Moors, and with the soldiers
of Charles V.; and that he requires only discipline and
leaders to equal the glory of his forefathers." His
fine features glanced with manly exultation.

" Still, before we can bring your case before the
country, we must be enabled to have an answer for
the objections of the legislature. — Your provinces
are scarcely less hostile to each other than they are
to the enemy. What plan can unite them in one
system of defence? and, without that union, how
can resistance be effectual ?"

" Spain stands alone," was the reply. " Her
manners, her feelings, and her people, have no ex-
amples in Europe. Her war will have as little simi-
larity to the wars of its governments. — It will be a
war, not of armies, but of the shepherd, of the arti-
ficer, the muleteer, the contrabandist ; a war of all
classes, the peasant, the priest, the noble, nay, the
beggar on the highway. But this was the war of
her ancestors, the war of the Asturias, which cleared



MARSTON. 251

the country of the Moors, and will clear it of the
French. With all Spain a mass of hostility, a living
tide of unquenchable hatred and consuming fire ; the
French battalions, pouring over the Pyrenees, will
be like battalions poured into the ocean. They will
be engulfed ; they will never return. — Our provinces
are divided, but they have one invincible bond, ab-
horrence of the French. Even their division is not
infirmity, but strength. They know so little of each
other, that even the conquest of one half of Spain
would be scarcely felt by the rest. This will be a
supreme advantage in the species of war which we
contemplate — a war of desultory but perpetual
assaults, of hostilities that cease neither night nor
day, of campaigns that know no distinction between
summer and winter — a war in which no pitched
battles will be fought, but in which every wall will
be a rampart, every hollow of the hills a camp, every
mountain a citadel, every roadside, and s^vamp, and
rivulet, the place of an ambuscade. We shall have
no battalions and brigades, we require no tactics ; our
sole science will be, to destroy the enemy wherever
he can be reached by bullet or knife ; until we make
Spain the tomb of invasion, and her very namean omen,
and a ruin, to the tyrant on the French throne."

The councils of England in this crisis were
worthy of her ancient name. It was resolved, to
forget the long injuries of which Spain had been the
instrument, during her passive submission to the ar-
rogance of her ally and master. The Spanish Bour-
bons were now gone ; the nation was disencumbered
M 6



252 MARSTON.

of that government of chamberlains, maids of honour,
and duennas. It was to be no longer stifled in the
perfumed atmosphere of court boudoirs, or to be
chilled in the damps of the cloister. Its natural
and noble proportions were to be left unfettered
and undisguised by the formal fashions of past
centuries of grave frivolity and decorous degrada-
tion. The giant was to rise refreshed. The Samson
was to resume his primal purpose ; he was no longer
to sleep in the lap- of his Delilah ; the national fame
was before him, and, breaking his manacles at one
bold effort, he was thenceforth to stand, as nature
had moulded him, powerful and prominent among
mankind.

Those were the dreams of England ; but they were
high-toned and healthy dreams — the anticipations of
a great country, accustomed to the possession of
freedom, and expecting to plant national regenera-
tion, wherever it set foot upon the soil. The cause
of Spain was universally adopted by the people, and
was welcomed by Parliament with acclamation ; the
appointment of a minister to represent the cabinet in
Spain was decided on, and this distinguished com-
mission was pressed upon my personal sense of duty
by the premier. My official rank placed me above
ambassadorships, but a service of this order had a
superior purpose. It was a mission of the country,
not of the minister. I was to be the instrument of
an imperial declaration of good-will, interest, and
alliance, to a whole people.

Within another week, the frigate which conveyed



MARSTON. 253

me was flying before the breeze, along the iron-
bound shore of Galicia ; the brightest and most
burning of skies was over my head, the most billowy
of seas was dashing and foaming round me, and my
eye was in continual admiration of the noble moun-
tain barriers which, in a thousand shapes, guard the
western coast of Spain from the ocean. At length
the bay of Corunna opened before us ; our anchor
dropped, and I made my first step on the most pic-
turesque shore, and among the most original people,
of Europe.

My destination was Madrid ; but it was essential,
that I should ascertain all the facts in my power
from the various provincial governments as I passed
along. And I thus obtained a more ample knowledge
of the people than could have fallen to the lot of the
ordinary traveller. I consulted with their juntas, I
was present at their festivals, I rode with their
hidalgos, and I marched with their troops.

One of the peculiarities which, as an Englishman,
has always interested me in foreign travel is, that it
brings us back to a period different from the existing
age at home. All descending from a common stock,
eveiy nation of Europe has made a certain advance ;
but the advance has been of different degrees. Five
hundred years ago, they were all nearly alike. In
the Netherlands, I continually felt myself carried
back to the days of the Protectorate ; I saw nearly
the same costume, the same formality of address, and
the same habits of domestic life. In Germany, I
went back a century further, and saw the English



254 MARSTON.

primitive style of existence, the same stiff architec-
ture, the same mingling of stateliness and simplicity,
not forgetting the same homage to the " divine right
of kings." In Spain, I found myself in the thir-
teenth century, and but for the language, the heat,
and the brown visages around me, could have
imagined myself in England, in the days when
" barons bold " still exercised the rights of feudalism,
when gallant archers killed the king's deer without
the king's permission, and when the priest was the
lawgiver of the land.

Day by day, I saw the pilgrim making his weary
way from shrine to shrine ; the landowner caracoling
his handsome horse over wild heaths and half-made
highways ; that horse caparisoned with as many
fantastic trappings as the charger of chivalry, and
both horse and rider forming no feeble representa-
tion of the knight bound on adventure. — I saw the
monastery of our old times, exhibiting all its ancient
solidity, sternness, and pomp ; with its hundred
brethren ; its crowd of sallow, silent domestics ; its
solemn service ; and even with its beggars crowding
and quarrelling for their daily dole at its gate. The
face of the country seemed to have been unchanged
since the first invasion of the Visigoths : — immense
commons, grown barren from the absence of all cul-
tivation ; vast, dreary sheep-walks; villages, few,
rude, and thinly peopled ; the absence of all enclo-
sures, and a general look of loneliness, which, how-
ever, I could have scarcely imagined in England, at
any period since the Heptarchy.



MARSTON. 055

Yet, those wild wastes were often interspersed with
dehcious spots; where, after toihng half the day
over a desert as wild as Arabia, the traveller suddenly
stood on the brink of some sweet and secluded
valley, in whose depths the eye rested on almost tro-
pical luxuriance— all the shrubs and blossoms which
require so much shelter in our rougher climate,
flourishing in the open air ; thickets of myrtle and
jessamine ; huge olives, and primeval vines, spread-
ing, in all the prodigality of nature, over the rocks ;
parasite plants clothing the oaks and elms with
drapery of all colours, floating in every breath of
wind ; and, most delicious of all, in the fiery centre
of Spain, streams, cool as ice and clear as crystal,
gushing and glancing away through the recesses of
the valley ; sometimes glittering in the sun, then
plunging into shade ; then winding along, seen by
starts, like silver snakes, until they were lost under
sheets of copse and foliage, unpruned by the hand of
man, and which seemed penetrable only by the bird
or the hare.

As my mission was but temporary, and might be
attended with personal hazard, T had left Clotilde in
England, much to her regret ; and travelled with as
small a retinue as possible ; in general by unfre-
quented ways, to avoid the French patroles, which
were already spread through the neighbourhood of
the high roads. But, at Burgos, the Spanish com-
mandant, on the delivery of my passport, insisted so
strongly on the necessity for an escort ; placing the
wish on a feeling of his personal responsibility, in



256 MARSTON.

case of my falling into the enemy's hands ; that, to
save the sefior's conscience, or his commission, I
consented to take a few troopers, with one of his
aides-de-camp, to see me in safety through the Sierra
Morena.

The aide-de-camp was a character ; a little, meagre
being, who, after a long life of idleness and half-pay,
was suddenly called into service, and now figured in
a staff-coat and feather. His first commission had
been in the luckless expedition of Count O'Reilly
against the Moors ; and it had probably served him
as a topic, from that time to the moment, when he
pledged his renown for my safe delivery into the
hands of the junta of Castile. He had three leading
ideas, which formed the elements of his body and
soul — his exploits in the Moorish campaign ; his
contempt for the monks ; and his value for the
talents, courage, and fame of Don Ignacio Trueno
Relampago, the illustrious appellative of the little
aide-de-camp himself.

He talked without mercy, as we rode along ; and
gave his opinions with all the easy conviction of an
"officer on the staff," and all the freedom of the
wilderness. The expedition to Africa had failed
solely for want of adopting " the tactics which he
would have advised ;" and his public services in
securing the retreat would have done honour to the
Cid, or to Alexander the Great, had not " military
jealousy refused to transmit them to the national
ear." His opinion of Spanish politics was ; that they
owed their occasional mistakes solely to the culpable



MARSTON. :257

negligence of the war-minister " in overlooking- the
gallant subalterns of the national army/' Spain he
regarded as the natural sovereign of Europe ;" and, of
course, of all mankind — its falling occasionally into
the background being satisfactorily accounted for, by
the French descent of her existing dynasty, by the
visible deterioration in the royal manufacture of cigars,
and, more than either, " by the tardiness of military
promotion." This last grievance was the sting.

" If justice had been done," exclaimed the new-
feathered warrior, rising in his stirrups, and waving
his hand, as if he was in the act of cleaving down a
Moor, " / should long since have been a general. If
I had been a general, the armies of Spain v.ould
long since have been on a very different footing.
Men of merit would have been placed in their proper
positions ', the troops Avould have emulated the ex-
ploits of their ancestors in the age of Ferdinand


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