His hopes revived and energies restored by the intelligence Luis had brought, the Count would have preferred starting without a moment's delay; but Herrera, although not less impatient, insisted on waiting till the next day. Although the principal force of the Carlists had been driven back into Western Navarre, the road to Pampeluna was not safe without a strong escort, and Herrera himself had incurred no small risk in traversing it as he had done, with only half a dozen dragoons. Count Villabuena yielded to his representations, and the following morning witnessed their departure.
Three days' marching brought the Count and Herrera to Pampeluna, whither Cordova and his victorious army had preceded them. Count Villabuena had reckoned too much upon his lately recovered strength; and, although the marches had not been long, he reached Pampeluna in a very exhausted state. It was evening when they arrived, and so crowded was the town with troops that they had some difficulty in obtaining quarters, which they at last found in the house of one of the principal tradesmen of the place. Leaving the Count to repose from his fatigues, Herrera went to visit Cordova, whom he informed of the positive certainty he had now obtained of Baltasar's culpability. The proofs of it might certainly, in a court of law, have been found insufficient, but Cordova took a military view of the case; his confidence in Herrera was great, his opinion of Baltasar, whom he had known in the service of Ferdinand, very bad; and finally, the valid arguments adduced by Luis left him no moral doubt of the prisoner's guilt. He gave the necessary orders for the admission of Herrera and Count Villabuena into the prison. The next day, however, the Count was still so fatigued and unwell from the effects of his journey, that it was found necessary to call in a physician, who forbade his leaving the house. The Count's impatience, and the pressing nature of the matter in hand, would have led him to disregard the prohibition, and at once proceed to the prison, which was at the other extremity of the town, had not Herrera, to conciliate his friend's health with the necessity for prompt measures, proposed to have the prisoner brought to him. An order to that effect was readily granted by Cordova, and, under proper escort, Don Baltasar was conducted to the Count's quarters.
It would be erroneous to suppose, that, during the late war in Spain, adherents of Don Carlos were only to be found in the districts in which his standard was openly raised. In many or most of the towns best affected to the liberal cause, devoted partisans of the Pretender continued to reside, conforming to the established order of things, and therefore unmolested. In most instances their private opinions were suspected, in some actually known; but a few of them were so skilful in concealing their political bias and partialities, as to pass for steady and conscientious favourers of the Queen's government. Here was one and no unimportant cause of the prolongation of the war; the number of spies thus harboured in the very heart of the Christino camp and councils. By these men intelligence was conveyed to the Carlists, projected enterprises were revealed, desertion amongst the soldiery and disaffection amongst the people, stimulated and promoted. Many of these secretly-working agents were priests, but there was scarcely a class of the population, from the nobleman to the peasant, and including both sexes, in which they were not to be found. Innumerable were the plans traversed by their unseen and rarely detectable influence. On many a dark night, when the band of Zurbano, El Mochuelo, or some other adventurous leader, issued noiselessly from the gates of a town, opened expressly for their egress, to accomplish the surprise of distant post or detachment, a light in some lofty window, of no suspicious appearance to the observer uninformed of its meaning, served as a beacon to the Carlists, and told them that danger was abroad. The Christinos returned empty-handed and disappointed from their fruitless expedition, cursing the treachery which, although they could not prove it, they were well assured was the cause of their failure.
One of the most active, but, at the same time, of the least suspected, of these subtle agents, was a certain Basilio Lopez, cloth-merchant in the city of Pampeluna. He was a man past the middle age, well to do in the world, married and with a family, and certainly, to all appearance, the last person to make or meddle in political intrigues of any kind, especially in such as might, by any possibility, peril his neck. Whoever had seen him, in his soberly cut coat, with his smooth-shaven, sleek, demure countenance and moderately rotund belly, leaning on the half-door of his Almacen de Panos, and witnessed his bland smile as he stepped aside to give admission to a customer or gossip, would have deemed the utmost extent of his plottings to be, how he should get his cloths a real cheaper or sell them at a real more than their market value. There was no speculation, it seemed, in that dull placid countenance, save what related to ells of cloth and steady money-getting. Beyond his business, a well-seasoned puchero and an evening game at loto, might have been supposed to fill up the waking hours and complete the occupations of the worthy cloth-dealer. His large, low-roofed, and somewhat gloomy shop was, like himself, of respectable and business-like aspect, as were also the two pale-faced, elderly clerks who busied themselves amongst innumerable rolls of cloth, the produce of French and Segovian looms. Above the shop was his dwelling-house, a strange, old-fashioned, many-roomed building, with immensely thick walls, long, winding corridors, ending and beginning with short flights of steps, apartments panneled with dark worm-eaten wood, lofty ceilings, and queer quaintly-carved balconies. It was a section of a line of building forming half the side of a street, and which, in days of yore, had been a convent of monks. Its former inmates, as the story went, had been any thing but ascetics in their practices, and at last so high ran the scandal of their evil doings, that they were fain to leave Pampeluna and establish themselves in another house of their order, south of the Ebro. Some time afterwards the convent had been subdivided into dwelling-houses, and one of these had for many years past been in the occupation of Basilio the cloth-merchant. Inside and out the houses retained much of their old conventual aspect, the only alterations that had been made consisting in the erection of partition walls, the opening of a few additional doors and windows, and the addition of balconies. One of the latter was well known to the younger portion of the officers in garrison at Pampeluna; for there, when the season permitted, the two pretty, black-eyed daughters of Master Basilio were wont to sit, plying their needles with a diligence which did not prevent their sometimes casting a furtive glance into the street, and acknowledging the salutation of some passing acquaintance or military admirer of their graces and perfections.
In this house was it that Herrera and the Count had obtained quarters, and thither, early upon the morrow of their arrival at Pampeluna, Baltasar was conducted. The passage through the streets of a Carlist prisoner, whose uniform denoted him to be of rank, had attracted a little crowd of children and of the idlers ever to be found in Spanish towns; and some of these loitered in front of the house after its door had closed behind Baltasar and his escort. The entrance of the prisoner did not pass unnoticed by Basilio Lopez, who was at his favourite post at the shop-door. His placid physiognomy testified no surprise at the appearance of such unusual visitors; and no one, uninterested in observing him, would have noticed that, as Baltasar passed him, the cloth-merchant managed to catch his eye, and made a very slight, almost an imperceptible sign. It was detected by Baltasar, and served to complete his perplexity, which had already been raised to a high pitch by the different circumstances that had occurred during his brief captivity. He had first been puzzled by Herrera's conduct at Puente de la Reyna; the importance attached by the Christino officer to the possession and identification of his pistols was unaccountable to him, never dreaming of its real motive. Then he could not understand why he was placed in a separate prison, and treated more as a criminal than as a prisoner of war, instead of sharing the captivity and usage of his brother officers. And now, to his further bewilderment, he was conducted to a dwelling-house, before entering which, a man, entirely unknown to him, made him one of the slight but significant signs by which the adherents of Don Carlos were wont to recognise each other. He had not yet recovered from this last surprise, when he was ushered into a room where three persons were assembled. One of these was an aide-de-camp of Cordova, Herrera was another, and in the third, to his unutterable astonishment and consternation, Baltasar recognized Count Villabuena.
There was a moment's silence, during which the cousins gazed at each other; the Count sternly and reproachfully, Baltasar with dilated eyeballs and all the symptoms of one who mistrusts the evidence of his senses. But Baltasar was too old an offender, too hardened in crime and obdurate in character, to be long accessible to emotion of any kind. His intense selfishness caused his own interests and safety to be ever uppermost in his thoughts, and the first momentary shock over, he regained his presence of mind, and was ready to act his part. Affecting extreme delight, he advanced with extended hand towards the Count.
"Dare I believe my eyes?" he exclaimed. "A joyful surprise, indeed, cousin."
"Silence, sir!" sternly interrupted the Count. "Dissimulation will not serve you. You are unmasked—your crimes known. Repent, and, if possible, atone them."
Baltasar recoiled with well-feigned astonishment.
"My crimes!" he indignantly repeated. "What is this, Count? Who accuses me—and of what?"
Without replying, Count Villabuena looked at Herrera, who approached the door and pronounced a name, at which Baltasar, in spite of his self-command, started and grew pale. Paco entered the apartment.
"Here," said the Count, "is one witness of your villany."
"And here, another," said Herrera, lifting a handkerchief from the table and exhibiting Baltasar's pistols.
The Carlist colonel staggered back as if he had received a blow. All that he had found inexplicable in the events of the last few days was now explained; he saw that he was entrapped, and that his offences were brought home to him. With a look of deadly hate at Herrera and the Count, he folded his arms and stood doggedly silent.
In few words Herrera now informed Baltasar of the power vested in him by Cordova, and stated the condition on which he might yet escape the punishment of his crimes. These, however, Baltasar obstinately persisted in denying; nor were any threats sufficient to extort confession, or to prevail with him to write the desired letter to the abbess. Assuming the high tone of injured innocence, he scoffed at the evidence brought against him, and swore solemnly and deliberately that he was ignorant of Rita's captivity. Paco, he said, as a deserter, was undeserving of credit, and had forged an absurd tale in hopes of reward. As to the pistols, nothing was easier than to cast a bullet to fit them, and he vehemently accused Herrera of having fabricated the account of his firing at his cousin. A violent and passionate discussion ensued, highly agitating to the Conde in his then weak and feverish state. Finding, at length, that all Herrera's menaces had no effect on Baltasar's sullen obstinacy, Count Villabuena, his heart wrung by suspense and anxiety, condescended to entreaty, and strove to touch some chord of good feeling, if, indeed, any still existed, in the bosom of his unworthy kinsman.
"Hear me, Baltasar," he said; "I would fain think the best I can of you. Let us waive the attempt on my life; no more shall be said of it. Gladly will I persuade myself that we have been mistaken; that my wound was the result of a chance shot either from you or your followers. Irregularly armed, one of them may have had pistols of the same calibre as yours. But my daughter, my dear poor Rita! Restore her, Baltasar, and let all be forgotten. On that condition you have Herrera's word and mine that you shall be the very first prisoner exchanged. Oh, Baltasar, do not drive to despair an old man, broken-hearted already! Think of days gone by, never to return; of your childhood, when I have so often held you on my knee; of your youth, when, in spite of difference of age, we were for a while companions and friends. Think of all this, Baltasar, and return not evil for good. Give me back my Rita, and receive my forgiveness, my thanks, my heartfelt gratitude. Your arm shall be stronger in the fight, your head calmer on your pillow, for the righteous and charitable act."
In the excitement of this fervent address, the Count had risen from his chair, and stood with arms extended, and eyes fixed upon the gloomy countenance of Baltasar. His lips quivering with emotion, his trembling voice, pale features, and long grey hair; above all, the subject of his entreaties—a father pleading for the restoration of his only child—and his passionate manner of urging them, rendered the scene inexpressibly touching, and must have moved any but a heart of adamant. Such a one was that of Baltasar, who stood with bent brow and a sneer upon his lip, cold, contemptuous, and relentless.
"Brave talk!" he exclaimed, in his harshest and most brutal tones; "brave talk, indeed, of old friendship and the like! Was it friendship that made you forget me in Ferdinand's time, when your interest might have advanced me? When you wanted me, I heard of you, but not before; and better for me had we never met. You lured me to join a hopeless cause, by promises broken as soon as claimed. You have ruined my prospects, treated me with studied scorn, and now you talk, forsooth, of old kindness and friendship, and sue—to me in chains—for mercy! It has come to that! The haughty Count Villabuena craves mercy at the hands of a prisoner! I answer you, I know nothing of your daughter; but I also tell you, Count, that if all yonder fellow's lies were truth, and I held the keys of her prison, I would sooner wear out my life in the foulest dungeon than give them up to you. But, pshaw! she thinks little enough about you. She has found her protector, I'll warrant you. There are smart fellows and comely amongst the king's followers, and she won't have wanted for consolation."
It seemed as if Baltasar's defenceless condition was hardly to protect him from the instant punishment of his vile insinuation. With a deep oath, Herrera half drew his sword, and made a step towards the calumniator of his mistress. But his indignation, great though it was, was checked in its expression, and entirely lost sight of, owing to a sudden outbreak of the most furious and uncontrolled anger on the part of the Count. His face, up to that moment so pale, became suffused with blood, till the veins seemed ready to burst; his temples throbbed visibly, his eyes flashed, his lips grew livid, and his teeth chattered with fury.
"Scoundrel!" he shouted, in a voice which had momentarily regained all its power—"scoundrel and liar! Assassin, with what do you reproach me? Why did I cast you off, and when? Never till your own vices compelled me. What promise did I make and not keep? Not one. Base traducer, disgrace to the name you bear! so sure as there is a God in heaven, your misdeeds shall meet their punishment here and hereafter!"
During this violent apostrophe, Baltasar, who, at Herrera's threatening movement, had glanced hurriedly around him as if seeking a weapon of defence, resumed his former attitude of indifference. Leaning against the wall, he stood with folded arms, and gazed with an air of insolent hardihood at the Count, who had advanced close up to him, and who, carried away by his anger, shook his clenched hand almost in his cousin's face. Suddenly, however, overcome and exhausted by the violence of his emotions, and by this agitating scene, the Count tottered, and would have fallen to the ground, had not Herrera and Torres hurried to his support. They placed him in his chair, into which he helplessly sank; his head fell back, the colour again left his cheeks, and his eyes closed.
"He has fainted," cried Herrera.
The Count was indeed insensible. Torres hastened to unfasten his cravat.
"Air!" exclaimed Torres; "give him air!"
Herrera ran to the window and threw it open. Water was thrown upon the Count's face, but without reviving him; and his swoon was so deathlike, that for a moment his anxious friends almost feared that life had actually departed.
"Let him lie down," said Torres, looking around for a sofa. There was none in the room.
"Let us place him on his bed," cried Herrera. And, aided by Torres and Paco, he carefully raised the Count and carried him into an adjoining room, used as a bedchamber. Baltasar remained in the same place which he had occupied during the whole time of the interview, namely, on the side of the room furthest from the windows, and with his back against the wall.
It has already been said that Baltasar de Villabuena had few friends. In all Pampeluna there was probably not one man, even amongst his former comrades of the guard, who would have moved a step out of his way to serve or save him; and certainly, in the whole city, there were scarcely half a dozen persons who, through attachment to the Carlist cause, would have incurred any amount of risk to rescue one of its defenders. Most fortunately for Baltasar, it was in the house of one of those rare but strenuous adherents of Don Carlos that he now found himself. Scarcely had the Count and his bearers passed through the doorway between the two rooms, when a slight noise close to him caused Baltasar to turn. A pannel of the chamber wall slid back, and the sleek rotund visage of the man who had exchanged signs with him as he entered the house, appeared at the aperture. His finger was on his lips, and his small grey eyes gleamed with an unusual expression of decision and vigilance. One lynx-like glance he cast into the apartment, and then grasping the arm of Baltasar, he drew, almost dragged him through the opening. The pannel closed with as little noise as it had opened.
Ten seconds elapsed, not more, and Herrera, who, in his care for the Count, had momentarily forgotten the prisoner, hurried back into the apartment. Astonished to find it empty, but not dreaming of an escape, he ran to the antechamber. The corporal and two soldiers, who had escorted Baltasar, rose from the bench whereon they had seated themselves, and carried arms.
"And the prisoner?" cried Herrera.
They had not seen him. Herrera darted back into the sitting-room.
"Where is the prisoner?" exclaimed Torres, whom he met there.
"Escaped!" cried Herrera. "The window! the window!"
They rushed to the open window. It was at the side of the house, and looked out upon a narrow street, having a dead wall for some distance along one side, and little used as a thoroughfare. At that moment not a living creature was to be seen in it. The height of the window from the ground did not exceed a dozen feet, offering an easy leap to a bold and active man, and one which, certainly, no one in Baltasar's circumstances would for a moment have hesitated to take. Herrera threw himself over the balcony, and dropping to the ground, ran off down a neighbouring lane, round the corner of which he fancied, on first reaching the window, that he saw the skirt of a man's coat disappear. Leaving the Count, who was now regaining consciousness, in charge of Paco, Torres hurried out to give the alarm and cause an immediate pursuit.
But in vain, during the whole of that day, was the most diligent search made throughout the town for the fugitive Carlist. Every place where he was likely to conceal himself, the taverns and lower class of posadas, the parts of the town inhabited by doubtful and disreputable characters, the houses of several suspected Carlists, were in turn visited, but not a trace of Baltasar could be found, and the night came without any better success. Herrera was furious, and bitterly reproached himself for his imprudence in leaving the prisoner alone even for a moment. His chief hope, a very faint one, now was, that Baltasar would be detected when endeavouring to leave the town. Strict orders were given to the sentries at the gates, to observe all persons going out of Pampeluna, and to stop any of suspicious appearance, or who could not give a satisfactory account of themselves.
The hour of noon, upon the day subsequent to Baltasar's disappearance, was near at hand, and the peasants who daily visited Pampeluna with the produce of their farms and orchards, were already preparing to depart. The presence of Cordova's army, promising them a great accession of custom, and the temporary absence from the immediate vicinity of the Carlist troops, who frequently prevented their visiting Christino towns with their merchandise, had caused an unusual concourse of country-people to Pampeluna during the few days that the Christino army had already been quartered there. Each morning, scarcely were the gates opened when parties of peasants, and still more numerous ones of short-petticoated, brown-legged peasant women, entered the town, and pausing upon the market-place, proceeded to arrange the stores of fowls, fruit, vegetables, and similar rustic produce, which they had brought on mules and donkeys, or in large heavy baskets upon their heads. Long before the sun had attained a sufficient height to cast its beams into the broad cool-looking square upon which the market was held, a multitude of stalls had been erected, and were covered with luscious fruits and other choice products of the fertile soil of Navarre. Piles of figs bursting with ripeness; melons, green and yellow, rough and smooth; tomatas; scarlet and pulpy; grapes in glorious bunches of gold and purple; cackling poultry and passive rabbits; the whole intermingled with huge heaps of vegetables, and nose-gays of beautiful flowers, were displayed in wonderful profusion to the gaze of the admiring soldiers, who soon thronged to the scene of bustle. As the morning advanced, numerous maid-servants, trim, arch-looking damsels, with small neatly-shod feet, basket on arm, and shading their complexion from the increasing heat of the sun under cotton parasols of ample dimensions, tripped along between the rows of sellers, pausing here and there to bargain for fruit or fowl, and affecting not to hear the remarks of the soldiers, who lounged in their neighbourhood, and expressed their admiration by exclamations less choice than complimentary. The day wore on; the stalls were lightened, the baskets emptying, but the market became each moment more crowded. Little parties of officers emerged from the coffee-houses where they had breakfasted, and strolled up and down, criticizing the buxom forms and pretty faces of the peasant girls; here and there a lady's mantilla appeared amongst the throng of female heads, which, for the most part, were covered only with coloured handkerchiefs, or left entirely bare, protected but by black and redundant tresses, the boast of the Navarrese maidens. Catalonian wine-sellers, their queer-shaped kegs upon their backs, bartered their liquor for the copper coin of the thirsty soldiers; pedlars displayed their wares, and sardineras vaunted their fish; ballad-singers hawked about copies of patriotic songs; mahogany-coloured gitanas executed outlandish, and not very decent, dances; whilst here and there, in a quiet nook, an itinerant gaming-table keeper had erected his board, and proved that he, of all others, best knew how to seduce the scanty and hard-earned maravedis from the pockets of the pleasure-seeking soldiery.
But, as already mentioned, the hour of noon now approached, and marketing was over for that day. The market-place, and its adjacent streets, so thronged a short time previously, became gradually deserted under the joint influence of the heat and the approaching dinner hour. The peasants, some of whom came from considerable distances, packed up their empty baskets, and, with lightened loads and heavy pockets, trudged down the streets leading to the town gates.
At one of these gates, leading out of the town in a northerly direction, several of the men on guard were assembled, amusing themselves at the expense of the departing peasantry, whose uncouth physiognomy and strange clownish appearance afforded abundant food for the quaint jokes and comical remarks of the soldiers. The market people were, for the most part, women, old men, and boys; the able-bodied men from the country around Pampeluna, having, with few exceptions, left their homes, either voluntarily or by compulsion, to take service in the Carlist ranks. Beneath the projecting portico of the guard-house, sat a sergeant, occupied, in obedience to orders given since the escape of Baltasar, in surveying the peasants as they passed with a keen and scrutinizing glance. For some time, however, this military Cerberus found no object of suspicion in any of the passers-by. Lithe active lads, greyhaired old men, and women whose broad shoulders and brawny limbs might well have belonged to disguised dragoons, but who, nevertheless, were unmistakeably of the softer sex, made up the different groups which successively rode or walked through the gate. Gradually the departures became less numerous, and the sergeant less vigilant; he yawned, stretched himself in his chair, rolled up a most delicate cigarrito between his large rough fingers, and lighting it, puffed away with an appearance of supreme beatitude.
"Small use watching," said he to a corporal. "The fellow's not likely to leave the town in broad daylight, with every body on the look-out for him."
"True," was the answer. "He'll have found a hiding-place in the house of some rascally Carlist. There are plenty in Pampeluna."
"Well," said the first speaker, "I'm tired of this, and shall punish my stomach no longer. Whilst I take my dinner, do you take my place. Stay, let yonder cabbage-carriers pass."
The peasants referred to by the sergeant, were a party of half a dozen women, and nearly as many lads and men, who just then showed themselves at the end of the street, coming towards the gate. Most of them were mounted on rough mountain ponies and jackasses, although three or four of the women trudged afoot, with pyramids of baskets balanced upon their heads, the perspiration streaming down their faces from the combined effects of the sun and their load. The last of the party was a stout man, apparently some five-and-forty years of age, dressed in a jacket and breeches of coarse brown cloth, and seated sideways on a scraggy mule, in such a position that his back was to the guard-house as he passed it. On the opposite side of the animal hung a pannier, containing cabbages and other vegetables; the unsold residue of the rider's stock in trade. The peasant's legs, naked below the knee, were tanned by the sun to the same brown hue as his face and bare throat; his feet were sandalled, and just above one of his ankles, a soiled bandage, apparently concealing a wound, was wrapped. A broad-brimmed felt hat shaded his half-closed eyes and dull stolid countenance, and the only thing that in any way distinguished him from the generality of peasants was his hair, which was cut short behind, instead of hanging, according to the usual custom of the province, in long ragged locks over the coat collar.
Occupied with his cigar and gossip, the sergeant vouchsafed but a careless and cursory glance to this party, and they were passing on without hindrance, when, from a window of the guard-house, a voice called to them to halt.
"How now, sergeant!" exclaimed the young ensign on guard. "What is the meaning of this? Why do these people pass without examination?"
The negligent sergeant rose hastily from his chair, and, assuming an attitude of respect, faltered an excuse.
"Peasants, sir; market-people."
The officer, who had been on guard since the preceding evening, had been sitting in his room, waiting the arrival of his dinner, which was to be sent to him from his quarters, and was rather behind time. The delay had put him out of temper.
"How can you tell that? You are cunning to know people without looking at then. Let them wait."
And the next moment he issued from the guard-house, and approached the peasants.
"Your name?" said he, sharply, to the first of the party.
"Jose Samaniego," was the answer. "A poor aldeano from Artica, para servir a vuestra senoria. These are my wife and daughter."
The speaker was an old, greyhaired man, with wrinkled features, and a stoop in his shoulders; and, notwithstanding a cunning twinkle in his eye, there was no mistaking him for any thing else than he asserted himself to be.
The officer turned away from him, glanced at the rest of the party, and seemed about to let them pass, when his eye fell upon the sturdy, crop-headed peasant already referred to. He immediately approached him.
"Where do you come from?" said he, eyeing him with a look of suspicion.
The sole reply was a stare of stupid surprise. The officer repeated the question.
"From Berriozar," answered the man, naming a village at a greater distance from Pampeluna than the one to which old Samaniego claimed to belong. And then, as if he supposed the officer inclined to become a customer, he reached over to his pannier and took out a basket of figs.
"Fine figs, your worship," said he, mixing execrably bad Spanish with Basque words. "Muy barato. You shall have them very cheap."
When the man mentioned his place of abode, two or three of the women exchanged a quick glance of surprise; but this escaped the notice of the officer, who now looked hard in the peasant's face, which preserved its former expression of immovable and sleepy stupidity.
"Dismount," said the ensign.
The man pointed to his bandaged ankle; but on a repetition of the order he obeyed, with a grimace of pain, and then stood on one leg, supporting himself against the mule.
"I shall detain this fellow," said the officer, after a moment's pause. "Take him into the guard-room."
Just then a respectable-looking, elderly citizen, on his return apparently from a stroll outside the fortifications, walked past on his way into the town. On perceiving the young officer, he stopped and shook hands with him.
"Welcome to Pampeluna, Don Rafael!" he exclaimed. "Your regiment I knew was here, but could not believe that you had come with it, since I had never before known you to neglect your old friends."
"No fault of mine, Senor Lopez," replied the officer. "Three days here, and not a moment's rest from guards and fatigue duty."
"Well, don't forget us; Ignacia and Dolores look for you. Ah, Blas! you here? How's your leg, poor Blas? Did you bring the birds I ordered?"
These questions were addressed to the lame peasant, who replied by a grin of recognition; and an assurance that the birds in question had been duly delivered to his worship's servant.
"Very good," said Lopez. "Good morning, Don Rafael."
The young officer stopped him.
"You know this man, then, Senor Lopez?" inquired the ensign.
"Know him? as I know you. Our poultry-man; and if you will sup with us to-night, when you come off guard, you shall eat a fowl of his fattening."
"With pleasure," replied the ensign. "You may go," he added, turning to the peasant. "Let these people pass, sergeant. May I be shot, Don Basilio, if I didn't mean to detain your worthy poulterer on suspicion of his being a better man than he looked. There has been an escape, and a sharp watch is held to keep the runaway in the town. It would have been cruel, indeed, to stop the man who brings me my supper. Ha, ha! a capital joke! Stopping my own supplies!"
"A capital joke, indeed," said Lopez, laughing heartily. "Well, good bye, Don Rafael. We shall expect you to-night."
And the cloth-merchant walked away, his usual pleasant smile upon his placid face, whilst the peasants passed through the gate; and the officer, completely restored to good-humour by the prospect of a dainty supper and pleasant flirtation with Don Basilio's pretty daughters, proceeded to the discussion of his dinner, which just then made its appearance.
Crossing the river, the party of peasants who had met with this brief delay, rode along for a mile or more without a word being spoken amongst them. Presently they came to a place where three roads branched off, and here the lame peasant, who had continued to ride in rear of the others, separated from them, with an abrupt "adios!" Old Samaniego looked round, and his shrivelled features puckered themselves into a comical smile.
"Is that your road to Berriozar, neighbour?" said he. "It is a new one, if it be."
The person addressed cast a glance over his shoulder, and muttered an inaudible reply, at the same time that he thrust his hand under the vegetables that half filled his panniers.
"If you live in Berriozar, I live in heaven," said Samaniego. "But fear nothing from us. Viva el Rey Carlos!"
He burst into a shrill laugh, echoed by his companions, and, quickening their pace, the party was presently out of sight. The lame peasant, who, as the reader will already have conjectured, was no other than Baltasar de Villabuena, rode on for some distance further, till he came to an extensive copse fringing the base of a mountain. Riding in amongst the trees, he threw away his pannier, previously taking from it a large horse pistol which had been concealed at the bottom. He then stripped the bandage from his leg, bestrode his mule, and vigorously belabouring the beast with a stick torn from a tree, galloped away in the direction of the Carlist territory.
[Footnote 3: The blockade system, as it was called, much extolled at the time, did not prevent the occurrence of various Carlist expeditions into Castile and Arragon, any more than it hindered large bodies of rebels from establishing themselves, under Cabrera and others, in Catalonia and Arragon, where they held out till after the pacification of the Basque provinces. If any hope was really entertained of starving out the Biscayan and Navarrese Carlists, or even of inconveniencing them for supplies of food, it proved utterly fallacious. Although two-thirds of Navarre, nearly the whole of Guipuzcoa, and a very large portion of Alava and Biscay Proper, consist of mountains, so great is the fertility of the valleys, that the Carlists never, during the whole struggle, experienced a want of provisions, but were, on the contrary, usually far better rationed than the Christino troops; and, strange to say, the number of sheep and cattle existing at the end of the war, in the country occupied by the Carlists, was larger than at its commencement. Money was wanting, tobacco, so necessary to the Spanish soldier, was scarce and dear, but food was abundant, although the number of mouths to be fed was much greater, and of hands to till the ground far less, than in time of peace. This, too, in one of the most thickly populated districts of Spain, and in spite of the frequent foraging and corn-burning expeditions undertaken by the Christinos into the Carlist districts, especially in the plains north of Vittoria and the valleys of southern Navarre.]
HOW THEY MANAGE MATTERS IN "THE MODEL REPUBLIC."
In the present doubtful state of our relations with the American Republic, many anxious eyes are of course being directed across the Atlantic, and much speculation excited as to the present policy and ultimate designs of that anomalous and ambitious people. Since increased facilities of communication have brought the two continents into closer union, and afforded their respective inhabitants more frequent opportunities of observing each other's political and social arrangements, it cannot, we think be said with truth, that those of the United States have risen in favour with the enlightened minds of Europe, least of all with those of England. For the obvious failings of that Republic are of a kind eminently adapted to shock minds cast in the European mould; while her virtues, however appropriate to the transatlantic soil in which they flourish, do not either so readily suggest themselves to the notice of the Old World, or, when fully realized, command a very extraordinary degree of respect. We do not very highly appreciate the liberty which appears to us license, nor the equality which brings with it neither good manners nor good morals, nor the vast material progress which occupies the energies of her people, to the exclusion of more elevating pursuits. There are moreover griefs connected with the United States which come peculiarly home to British interests and prejudices; the existence of slavery, for instance, in its most revolting form, in direct opposition to the spirit of their institutions, and to the very letter of that celebrated declaration which is the basis of all their governments; the repudiation or non-payment of debts contracted for the purposes of public works, of which they are every day reaping the advantages; and the unprincipled invasion of our Canadian frontier by their citizens during the late disturbances in that colony. Within the last few months, more particularly, they have committed many and grievous offences against their own dignity, the peace of the world, and the interests of Britain. We have heard their chief magistrate defy Christendom, and inform the world that the American continent is, for the future, to be held as in fee-simple by the United States; we have seen Texas forcibly torn from feeble Mexico, and the negotiations on the subject of Oregon brought to a close by a formal declaration, that the American title to the whole of it is "clear and unquestionable." They have displayed, in the conduct of their foreign relations during the past year, a vulgar indifference to the opinion of mankind, and an overweening estimate of their own power, which it is at once ludicrous and painful to behold. Nor is there reason to believe that these blots on the escutcheon of a nation, so young and so unembarrassed, are either deeply regretted or will be speedily effaced. We see no reaction of national virtue against national wrongdoing. For the cause of this great Republic is not, as in other countries, dependent upon the will of the one man, or the few men, who are charged with the functions of government, but on the will of the great mass of the people, deliberately and frequently expressed. The rule of the majority is in America no fiction, but a practical reality; and the folly or wisdom, the justice or injustice of her public acts, may, in ordinary times, be assumed as fair exponents of the average good sense and morals of the bulk of her citizens.
We are not of those who charge the democratic institutions of the United States as a crime upon their people, or who think that, in separating themselves from the British crown, they were guilty of a deliberate wickedness which has yet to be expiated. Whether that separation was fully justified by the circumstances of the time, is a question upon which we do not propose to enter: but having so separated, it does not appear that any course was left open to them but that which they have pursued. Through the negligence of the mother country, no pains had been taken to plant even the germs of British institutions in her American colonies, and the War of Independence found them already in possession of all, and more than all, of the democratic elements of our constitution; while the feeling of personal attachment to the sovereign had died out through distance and neglect, and the influence of the aristocracy and the church was altogether unknown. Even in Virginia, where, in consequence of the existence of domestic slavery on a large scale, and the laws of primogeniture and entail, a certain aristocratical feeling had sprung up, a jealousy of the British crown and parliament showed itself from first to last, at least as strongly as elsewhere; and the ink of the Declaration of Independence was scarcely dry, before those laws of property were repealed, and every vestige of an Established Church swept away. Nothing then remained, in the absence of Conservative principles and traditions, but to construct their government upon the broadest basis of Democracy; accordingly, the triumph of that principle was complete from the first. The genius of progressive democracy may have removed some of the slender barriers with which it has found itself accidentally embarrassed; but it has not been able to add any thing to the force of those pithy abstractions which were endorsed by the most respectable chiefs of the Revolution, and which remain to sanctify its wildest aspirations.
All men, therefore, in America—that is, all white men—are "free and equal;" and every thing that has been done in her political world for the last half century has gone to illustrate and carry out this somewhat intractable hypothesis. Upon this principle, the vote of John Jacob Astor, with his twenty-five millions of dollars, is neutralized by that of the Irish pauper just cast upon its shores. The millionaire counts one, and so does the dingy unit of Erin, though the former counts for himself, and the latter for his demagogue and his priest. The exclusion of women and negroes from this privilege remains, it is true, a hiatus valde deflendus by the choicer spirits of the democracy. It is thought, however, that the system will shortly be completed by the addition of these new constellations. At this moment, in prospect of a convention to re-tinker the constitution, two agitations are going on in the state of New York—one to secure the "Political Rights of Women;" the other to extend those which negroes, under certain grievous restrictions, already enjoy. The theory of virtual representation has been held up to these two classes of citizens with as little success as to our own Radicals. Both negroes and women throw themselves upon the broad fact of their common humanity, and indignantly demand wherefore a black skin or a gentle sex should disqualify their possessors from the exercise of the dearest privilege of freemen.
Now, however absurd this system may appear to us in the abstract, and however strongly we should resist its application to our own political case, we believe, as we said before, that the Americans have no choice in the matter but to make it work as well as possible, and that it is for the interest of the world, as well as for their own, that it should so work. The preservation of peace, and our commercial relations with the United States, are far more important to us than the triumph of an idea. We are quite content, if they will permit us, to remain on the best of terms with our transatlantic descendants, and to see them happy and prosperous in their own way. We even think it fortunate for mankind that the principle of self-government is being worked out in that remote region, and under the most favourable circumstances, in order that the civilized world may take note thereof, and guide itself accordingly. It is, we know, a favourite theme with their demagogues, that the glory and virtue and happiness of Yankee-doodle-doo have inspired the powers of the rotten Old World with the deepest jealousy and hatred, and that every crown in Europe pales before the lustre of that unparalleled confederacy. Nothing can be wider of the truth, pleasing as the illusion may be to the self-love of the most vainglorious people under the sun. The prestige which America and her institutions once undoubtedly enjoyed in many parts of Europe is rapidly fading away, as each successive post brings fresh evidence of her vices and her follies. We can, indeed, recollect a time when the example of the model Republic was held up for admiration in the most respectable quarters, and was the trump-card at every gathering of Radical reformers. But now the scene is changed—now, "none so poor to do her reverence." Even Chartist and Suffrage-men, Mr Miall and the Northern Star, have at last
—— "forgot to speak That once familiar word."
They turn from her, and pass away as gingerly as the chorus in the Greek play from the purlieus of those ominous goddesses—
[Greek: as tremomen legein chai parameibometh aderchtos aphotos]—
Mr O'Connell himself can find no room in his capacious affections for men who repudiate their debts, burn convents, "mob the finest pisantry," and keep a sixth of their population in chains in the name of liberty!
If "the great unwashed" on the other side of the Atlantic, will only consent to send men to their councils of moderately pure hearts and clean hands, they may rest assured that any conspiracy which the united powers of kings, nobles, and priests may devise against them, will take little by its motion. But they do just the reverse, as we shall presently show. The profligacy of their public men is proverbial throughout the states; and the coarse avidity with which they bid against each other for the petty spoils of office, is quite incomprehensible to an European spectator. To "make political capital," as their slang phrase goes, for themselves or party, the most obvious policy of the country is disregarded, the plainest requirements of morality and common sense set aside, and the worst impulses of the people watched, waited on, and stimulated into madness. To listen to the debates in Congress, one would think the sole object of its members in coming together, was to make themselves and their country contemptible. Owing to the rantings of this august body, and the generally unimportant character of the business brought before it, little is known of its proceedings in Europe except through the notices of some passing traveller. But its shame does not consist merely or chiefly in the occasional bowie-knife or revolver produced to clinch the argument of some ardent Western member, nor even in the unnoted interchange of compliments not usually current amongst gentlemen. Much more deplorable is the low tone of morality and taste which marks their proceedings from first to last, the ruffian-like denunciations, the puerile rants, the sanguinary sentiments poured forth day by day without check or censure. This is harsh language, but they shall be judged out of their own mouths. We have before us a file of the Congressional Globe, the official record of the debates in both Houses, extending from December 12 to January 15. During this period the Oregon question was called up nearly every day, and we propose to give some specimens, verbatim et literatim, of the spirit in which it has been discussed. We shall give notices of the speakers and their constituents as we go along, to show that the madness is not confined to one particular place or party, but is common to Whig and Democrat, to the representatives of the Atlantic as well as of the Western states. Most of our European readers will, we think, agree with us, that, considering the entire absence of provocation, and the infinitely trivial nature of the matter in dispute, these rhetorical flourishes are without parallel in the history of civilized senates.
What is commonly called Oregon, is a strip of indifferent territory betwixt the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It is separated from both the American and British possessions by an arid wilderness of great extent, or by many thousands of miles of tempestuous navigation, via Cape Horn. Since 1818, the claims of both parties to this region have been allowed to lie in abeyance under a convention of joint occupancy, if the advantages enjoyed in common by a handful of traders and trappers of both nations can be so called. The settlers from both countries are still numbered by hundreds, and the soil is very ill adapted to agricultural purposes; in short, it is the last thing in the world that a decent nation would get into a passion about. Still, as the previous administration had gained much glory by completing the robbery of Texas from Mexico, Mr Polk has thought fit to illustrate his by an attempt to squeeze and bully the sterner majesty of England. Accordingly, in his message, he boasts of having offered less favourable terms than his predecessors; and these being of course rejected, retires with dignity upon the completeness of the American title, and intimates that the time is at hand when the rights of his country must be asserted, if necessary, by the sword. All this is new light to all the parties concerned; this tempest in a tea-pot is of Mr Polk's own particular brewing; the real Oregon being a little political capital, as aforesaid, for himself. So far he has been eminently successful, for the fierce democracy howls forth its applause upon the floor of Congress, in manner and form as followeth:—
Mr Cass, Democratic senator from Michigan, an insolvent western state, opened the ball on the 12th of December. He is said to aspire to the presidential chair, and is already a full general of militia. We give him his civil title, however, because we find him so set down in the Globe, which knows best what the military one is worth. There is nothing remarkable in his speech, except the fuss which he makes about national honour. He may find it lying in the ditch, much nearer home than Oregon—
"As to receding, it is neither to be discussed nor thought of. I refer to it but to denounce it—a denunciation which will find a response in every American bosom. Nothing is ever gained by national pusillanimity. The country which seeks to purchase temporary security by yielding to unjust pretensions, buys present ease at the expense of permanent honour and safety. It sows the wind to reap the whirlwind. I have said elsewhere what I repeat here, that it is better to fight for the first inch of national territory than for the last. It is better to defend the doorsill than the hearth-stone—the porch than the altar. National character is a richer treasure than gold or silver, and exercises a moral influence in the hour of danger, which, if not power itself, is it surest ally. Thus far ours is untarnished!" &c.
This statement of the relative value of "national character" as compared with the precious metals, will be very edifying to the creditors of Michigan.
Mr Serier, Democratic senator from Arkansas, another insolvent western state, is a still richer representative of the majesty of the American senate. This state is the headquarters of the bowie-knife, revolver, and Judge Lynch regime, and Mr S.'s education in these particulars does not appear to have been neglected.
"It has been her (Great Britain's) bullying that has secured for her the respect of all Europe. She is a court-house bully; and in her bullying, in my opinion, lies all her strength. Now, she must be forced to recede; and like any of our western bullies, who, when once conquered, can be kicked by every body, from one end of the country to the other, England will, in case she do not recede from her position on this question, receive once more that salutary lesson which we have on more than one occasion already taught her." * * "I should like very much indeed to hear any one get on the stump, in my part of the country, sir, and undertake to tell us that the President had established our claims to Oregon, and made it as plain as the avenue leading to the White House; but inasmuch as there is great danger that Great Britain may capture our ships, and burn our cities and towns, it is very improper for us to give notice that we will insist upon our claim. I need hardly say that such a one, if he could be found, would be summarily treated as a traitor to his country." * * * *
No doubt of it. Furthermore, Mr Serier cannot think of arbitration, because—
"When I see such billing and cooing betwixt France and England, and when I think the Emperor of Russia may not desire to have so near his territory a set of men who read Paine's Rights of Man, and whistle 'Yankee doodle,' I feel disposed to settle the matter at once by force of gunpowder. I consider the President acted wisely—very wisely—in keeping the case in its present position, and in giving intimation of taking possession after twelve months' notice, and then to hold it. Yes, sir, to hold it by the force of that rascally influence called gunpowder. That's my opinion. These are plain common-sense observations which I have offered."
What a love of a senator! We put it to the House of Lords—have they any thing to show like unto this nobleman of the woods?—We will now, with the permission of our readers, introduce them for a few moments to the House of Representatives. Mr Douglas, a Democratic representative from Illinois, another insolvent western state, wants to know why Great Britain should not be bullied as well as Mexico.
"He did hope that there would be no dodging on this Oregon question. Yes; that there would be no dodging on the Oregon question; that there would be no delay. There was great apprehension of war here last year—but of war with Mexico instead of Great Britain; and they had found men brave, and furious in their bravery, in defying Mexico and her allies, England and France, who now had an awful horror in prospect of a war with Great Britain. He (Mr D.) had felt pretty brave last year with reference to Mexico and her allies, and he felt equally so now. He believed if we wished to avoid a war upon this Oregon question, the only way we could avoid it was preparing to give them the best fight we had on hand. The contest would be a bloodless one; we should avoid war, for the reason that Great Britain knows too well: if she had war about Oregon, farewell to her Canada."
Our next extract will be from the speech of Mr Adams, a Whig representative from, we regret to say, Massachusetts, which is in every respect the pattern state of the Union. We are willing to believe that in this single case the orator does not represent the feelings of the majority of his constituents. Mr Adams has filled the Presidential chair, and other high offices; and, while secretary of state, permitted himself to say on a public occasion, that the madness of George the Third was a divine infliction for the course that monarch had pursued towards the United States. The ruling passions of his life are said to be, hatred to England and to his southern brethren; and he thinks that war would gratify both these malignant crotchets at once, as the former would, in that contingency, lose Canada, and the latter their slaves. He urges that notice to terminate the convention of joint occupation should be given, and then observes—
"We would only say to Great Britain, after negotiating twenty odd years under that convention, we do not choose to negotiate any longer in this way. We choose to take possession of our own, and then, if we have to settle what is our own, or whether any portion belongs to you, we may negotiate. We might negotiate after taking possession. That was the military way of doing business. It was the way in which Frederick II. of Prussia had negotiated with the Emperor of Austria for Silesia. [Here Mr A. gave an account of the interview of Frederick the Great with the Austrian minister, and of the fact of Frederick having sent his troops to take possession of that province the very day that he had sent his minister to Vienna to negotiate for it.] Then we should have our elbows clear, and could do as we pleased. It did not follow as a necessary consequence that we should take possession; but he hoped it would follow as a consequence, and a very immediate one. But whether we give the notice or not, it did not necessarily draw after it hostility or war. If Great Britain chose to take it as an indication of hostility, and then to commence hostilities, why, we had been told that there would be but one heart in this country; and God Almighty grant that it might be so! If this war come—which God forbid! and of which, by the way, he had no apprehension whatever—he hoped the whole country would go into it with one heart and one mighty hand; and, if that were done, he presumed the question between us and Great Britain would not last long, neither Oregon, nor any country north of this latitude would long remain to Great Britain. Strong as was his moral aversion to war, modern war and military establishments, then, if he should have the breath of life at the time when the war commences, he hoped he should be able and willing to go as far in any sacrifices necessary to make the war successful, as any member of that house. He could say no more."
This profligate drivel is uttered by the Nestor of the commonwealth, an infirm old man, with one foot in the grave. In order, however, to make the course pursued by this gentleman and the next speaker intelligible to the English reader, we may explain that, by the annexation of Texas, the Southern States have a majority of votes in Congress; the Northern States are therefore indifferent about war for Oregon, and the abolitionists among them frantic for it, in order that their domestic balance of power may be restored. Mr Giddings, a Whig representative from Ohio, and a red-hot abolitionist, indulges in the following most wicked and treasonable remarks:—
"This policy of adding territory to our original government is the offspring of the south. They have forced it upon the northern democracy. Their objects and ends are now answered. Texas is admitted. They have now attained their object, and now require the party to face about—to stop short, and leave the power of the nation in their hands. They now see before them the black regiments of the West India islands landed on their shores. They now call to mind the declarations of British statesmen, that a war with the United States will be a war of emancipation. They now see before them servile insurrections which torment their imaginations; murder, rapine, and bloodshed, now dance before their affrighted visions. Well, sir, I say to them, this is your policy, not mine. You have prepared the cup, and I will press it to your lips till the very dregs shall be drained. Let no one misunderstand me. Let no one say I desire a slave insurrection; but, sir, I doubt not that hundreds of thousands of honest and patriotic hearts will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh. No, sir; should a servile insurrection take place, should massacre and blood mark the footsteps of those who have for ages been oppressed—my prayer to God shall be that justice—stern, unalterable justice—may be awarded to the master and the slave!" ... "A war with England in the present state of the two nations must inevitably place in our possession the Canadas, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Six states will be added to the northern portion of the union, to restore the balance of power to the Free States.... I demand of you not to leave the nation in its present state of subjugation to the south. I will vote to give you the means of doing so," &c.
We hold up the ferocious cant of this mock philanthropist to the scorn of all good men, whether in Europe or America. So, because "the domestic institution" of his happy land is not to the taste of this Giddings, thousands of white men are to imbrue their hands in each other's blood, and England, the great champion of the negro race, at her own expense, is to be driven by force of arms out of Oregon. It is consoling, however, to find at last by their own confession, that there is a weak place—and a very weak one too—in "the area of freedom."
Besides the acquisition of Canada, which is put down on all hands as a "gone 'coon," other brilliant results are to ensue from the possession of Oregon. Mr Ingersoll, (Whig,) "a drab-coloured man" from Pennsylvania—"flattered himself that two years would not elapse before the Chinese and Japanese—sober, industrious, and excellent people—would be attracted there to settle. It was only a short voyage across the Pacific Ocean. Millions of those starving workmen who, in point of sobriety, industry, and capacity, were among the best in the world—workmen from every isle in the Pacific—men able to outwork the English, would flock there."
In the same fine strain of prophecy, Mr Darragh, another "drab" of the Democratic school, observes—
"He was one of those who believed that there were men now here, who might yet live to see a continuous railroad extending from the mouth of the Columbia to the Atlantic. The country would soon be filled with a dense population, and would eventually control the China trade, and affect the whole commerce of the Pacific. He trusted in God there would be a beginning of this end. He trusted that this government would say to the despotisms of Europe—Stay on your own side of the water, and do not attempt to intermeddle with the balance of power on this continent. He believed it to be the design of God that our free institutions, or institutions like ours, should eventually cover this whole continent—a consummation which could not but affect every part of the world, and the prospect of which ought to fill with joy the heart of every philanthropic man!"
But it won't till you've paid your debts, O Darragh!
Mr Baker, (Whig,) another insolvent from Illinois, is very rich and rapacious—
"He (Mr B.) went for the whole of Oregon; for every grain of sand that sparkled in her moonlight, and every pebble on its wave-worn strand. It was ours—all ours; ours by treaty, ours by discovery.... There was such a thing as destiny for this American race—a destiny that would yet appear upon the great chart of human history. It was already fulfilling, and that was a reason why we could now refuse to Great Britain that which we had offered her in 1818 and 1824. Reasons existed now in our condition, which did not exist then. Who at that time could have divined that our boundary was to be extended to the Rio del Norte, if not to Zacatecas, to Potosi, to California? No, we had a destiny, and Mr B. felt it." ... "Cuba was the tongue which God had placed in the Gulf of Mexico to dictate commercial law to all who sought the Carribbean Sea. And England was not to be allowed to take Cuba or hold Oregon, because we, the people of the United States, had spread, were spreading, and intend to spread, and should spread, and go on to spread!" ... "Mr Speaker, if from this claim an echo shall come back, it may not come from Oregon, but it will come from the Canadas. Sir, it will be 'the last echo of a host o'erthrown.' The British power will be swept from this continent for ever, and though she may, 'like the sultan sun, struggle upon the fiery verge of heaven,' she must yield at last to the impulses of freedom, and to the touch of that destiny which shall crush her power in the western hemisphere!"
This may be considered bad to beat; yet, in our opinion, a choice spirit from Missouri, SIMS by name, does it—
"It is so common on this floor, for inexperienced members to make apologies for their embarrassment, that I will not offer any for mine. I find some difficulty in getting along with all the questions that may be raised by the north or by the south, and by lawyers, and by metaphysicians, and learned doctors who abound here, that I shall be slow in getting along. I hope, therefore, that gentlemen will keep cool, and suffer me to get through." ...
Certainly, Sims—there is no false modesty, you will observe, in this good Sims. He thus defines his position.
"I wish it to be distinctly understood what banner I fight under. It is for Oregon, all or none, now or never! Not only I myself, but all my own people whom I represent, will stand up to this motto. Around that will we rally, and for it will we fight, till the British lion shall trail in the dust. The lion has cowered before us before. Talk of whipping this nation? Though not, sir, brought up in the tented field, nor accustomed to make war an exercise, and do not so much thirst for martial renown as to desire to witness such a war, yet I cannot fear it, nor doubt its success."
A touching episode in the life of Sims!—
"When I was a boy, sir—a small boy—in 1815, I was with my father in church where he was offering his prayers to the Almighty, and it was then that the news of the victory of New Orleans was brought to the spot. I never felt so happy, sir, as at that moment. At that moment my love of country commenced, and from that hour it has increased more and more every year; and I shall be ever ready to peril every thing in my power for the good of my country. Still, I am for the whole of Oregon, and for nothing else but the whole, and in defence of it I will willingly see every river, from its mountain source to the ocean, reddened with the blood of the contest. Talk about this country being whipped! The thing is impossible! Why did not Great Britain whip us long ago, if she could?" * * * * * * "I shall lose as much as any one in a war—I do not mean in property—but I have a wife and children, and I love them with all the heart and soul that I possess. No one can love his family more than I do mine unless a stronger intellect may give him more strength of affection; and my family will be exposed to the merciless savages, who will as ever become the allies of Great Britain in any war. But still, sir, my people on the frontier will press on to the mouth of the Columbia, and fight for Oregon. I am not sure but I will go myself."
The feelings of the female Sims, and all the little Simses, on reading that last sentence! We shudder to think of it. Sims, however, has made up his mind that the exploit is no great matter after all.
"It was said that the route to Oregon was impracticable, and that it was beset with dangerous enemies, and that we could not send troops over to Oregon, nor provisions to feed them. Now, sir, we of Missouri can fit out ten thousand waggon-loads of provisions for Oregon, and ten thousand waggon-boys to drive them, who, with their waggon-whips, will beat and drive off all the British and Indians that they find in their way."
The peroration of this harangue is, perhaps, the funniest part of it all, but want of space compels us to omit it. We let Sims drop with great reluctance, and pass over several minor luminaries who are quite unworthy to follow in his wake. Now, ladies and gentlemen, we are about to introduce to you Mr Kennedy, a Democratic representative from Indiana—a very insolvent Western state, and a celebrated "British or any other lion" tamer.
"Sir, (says Mr K.,) when the British lion, or any other lion, lies down in our path, we will not travel round the world in blood and fire, but will make him leave that lair." * * * *
After this mysterious announcement, he enquires—
"Shall we pause in our career, or retrace our steps, because the British lion has chosen to place himself in our path? Has our blood already become so pale, that we should tremble at the roar of the king of beasts? We will not go out of our way to seek a conflict with him; but if he cross our path, and refuses to move at a peaceful command, he will run his nose on the talons of the American eagle, and his blood will spout as from a harpooned whale. The spectators who look on the struggle may prepare to hear a crash, as if the very ribs of nature had broke!" ...
Once more into the lion—or lioness—for it does not appear exactly which this time!
"We are one people and one country, and have one interest and one destiny, which, if we live up to, though it may not free us to follow the British lion round the world in blood and slaver, will end in her expulsion from this continent, which he rests not upon but to pollute!"
Mr Kennedy's solicitude for the rising generation is very touching—
"Where shall we find room for all our people, unless we have Oregon? What shall we do with all those little white-headed boys and girls—God bless them!—that cover the Mississippi valley, as the flowers cover the western prairies?"
In order to show the truly awful and more than Chinese populousness of this ancient State of Indiana, which was admitted into the Union so long ago as 1816, we may observe that its superficial extent is thirty-six thousand square miles, or twenty-three millions and forty thousand acres. The population in 1840, black and white all told, amounted to the astounding number of six hundred and eighty-five thousand eight hundred and sixty-six, or about one-third of that of London! The adjoining states of Illinois and Missouri are still less densely peopled.
Mr Kennedy's opinions touching the British government—
"Cannibal-like, it fed one part of its subjects upon the other. She drinks the blood and sweat, and tears the sinews of its labouring millions to feed a miserable aristocracy. England is now seen standing in the twilight of her glory; but a sharp vision may see written upon her walls, the warning that Daniel interpreted for the Babylonish king—'Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin!'"
We cannot help the confusion of genders. It's so writ down in the Globe, as are all our quotations—verbatim. Here comes a fine "death or glory" blast—
"Why is it that, after all, we should so dread the shock of war? We all have to die, whether in our beds or in the battle-field. Who of you all, when roused by the clangour of Gabriel's trump, would not rather appear in all the bloom of youth, bearing upon your front the scar of the death-wound received in defence of your country's right, than with the wrinkled front of dishonoured age?"
Hoorra!—Only one more quotation from Kennedy, and that because it permits us to take a last fond look at Sims, who re-appears, for a moment, like a meteor on the scene of his past glories!
"Was it not a burning, blistering, withering shame that the cross of St George should be found floating on American soil?" [Here Mr L. H. SIMS exclaimed, "Yes, and it will blister on our foreheads like the mark of Cain!"]
Mr Hamlin, a Democratic representative from Maine, one of the pattern New England states, is not far behind his Western brethren—
"Their progress was as certain as destiny. He could not be mistaken in the idea, that our flag was destined to shed its lustre over every hill and plain on the Pacific slope, and on every stream that mingles with the Pacific. What would monarchical institutions do—what would tyrants do—in this age of improvement—this age of steam and lightning? The still small voice in our legislative halls and seminaries of learning, would soon be re-echoed in distant lands. Should we fold our arms and refuse, under all these circumstances, to discharge our duty? No; let us march steadily up to this duty, and discharge it like men;
'And the gun of our nation's natal day At the rise and set of sun, Shall boom from the far north-east away To the vales of Oregon. And ships on the seashore luff and tack, And send the peal of triumph back.'"
Mr Stanton, a Democratic representative from the slave state of Tennessee—Polk's own—observes, that war about Oregon
"Would be another crime of fearful magnitude added to that already mountainous mass of fraud and havoc by which England has heretofore extended her power, and by which she now maintains it. Did some gentlemen say that her crimes were represented by a vast pyramid of human skulls? I say, sir, rather by a huge pyramid of human hearts, living, yet bleeding in agony, as they are torn from the reeking bosoms of the toiling, fighting millions."
Peace, this person observes, is rather nearer his heart than any thing else, but
"If she must depart, if she is destined to take her sad flight from earth to heaven again, then welcome the black tempest of war. Welcome its terrors, its privations, its wounds, its deaths! We will sternly bare our bosoms to its deadliest shock, and trust in God for the result."
After all this, our readers will be little surprised to find that a Mr Gordon, from the rich and partially civilized state of New York, whose commercial relations with us are of such magnitude and importance, makes an ass of himself with the best of them.
"The next war with Great Britain will expel her from this continent. Though a peace-loving people, we are, when aroused in defensive warfare, the most warlike race ever clad in armour. Let war come, if it will come, boldly and firmly will we meet its shock, and roll back its wave on the fast anchored isle of Britain, and dash its furious flood over those who raised the storm, but could not direct its course. In a just war, as this would be on our part, the sound of the clarion would be the sweetest music that could greet our ears!... I abhor and detest the British Government. Would to God that the British people, the Irish, the Scotch, the Welsh, and the English, would rise up in rebellion, sponge out the national debt, confiscate the land, and sell it in small parcels among the people. Never in the world will they reach the promised land of equal rights, except through a red sea of blood. Let Great Britain declare war, and I fervently hope that the British people, at least the Irish, will seize the occasion to rise and assert their independence.... I again repeat, that I abhor that government; I abhor that purse-proud and pampered aristocracy, with its bloated pension-list, which for centuries past has wrung its being from the toil, the sweat, and the blood of that people."
Mr Bunkerhoff, from Ohio, and his people—
"Would a great deal rather fight Great Britain than some other powers, for we do not love her. We hear much said about the ties of our common language, our common origin, and our common recollections, binding us together. But I say, we do not love Great Britain at all; at least my people do not, and I do not. A common language! It has been made the vehicle of an incessant torrent of abuse and misrepresentation of our men, our manners, and our institutions, and even our women—it might be vulgar to designate our plebeian girls as ladies—have not escaped it; and all this is popular, and encouraged in high places."
Mr Chipman, from Michigan, thus whistles Yankee-doodle, with the usual thorough-base accompaniment of self-conceit:—
"Reflecting that from three millions we had increased to twenty millions, we could not resist the conclusion, that Yankee enterprise and vigour—he used the term Yankee in reference to the whole country—were destined to spread our possessions and institutions over the whole country. Could any act of the government prevent this? He must be allowed to say, that wherever the Yankee slept for a night, there he would rule. What part of the globe had not been a witness of their moral power, and to the light reflected from their free institutions?" * * * *
Your Yankee proper can no more "get along" without his spice of cant, than without his chew of tobacco and his nasal twang. What follows, however, took even us by surprise:—
"Should we crouch to the British lion, because we had been thus prosperous? He remembered the time when education, the pride of the northern Whigs, was made the means of opposition to the democracy. He recollected the long agony that it cost him to relieve his mind from federal thraldom. EDUCATION WAS AN INSTRUMENT TO RIDICULE AND PUT DOWN DEMOCRACY."
What Mr Chipman would do—if—
"I appeal to high Heaven, that if a British fleet were anchored off here, in the Potomac, and demanded of us one inch of territory, or one pebble that was smoothed by the Pacific wave into a child's toy, upon penalty of an instant bombardment, I would say fire." * * * * "Now he (Mr C.) lived on the frontier. He remembered when Detroit was sacked. Then we had a Hull in Michigan; but now, thank God, we had a Lewis Cass, who would protect the border if war should come, which, in his opinion, would not come. There were millions on the lake frontier who would, in case of war, rush over into Canada—the vulnerable point that was exposed to us. He would pledge himself, that, upon a contract with the government, Michigan alone would take Canada in ninety days; and, if that would not do, they would give it up, and take it in ninety days again. The Government of the United States had only to give the frontier people leave to take Canada."
Though Michigan has the benefit of this hero's councils, he is at the pains to inform us that Vermont, a New England state, claims his birth, parentage, and education—a fact which we gladly record on the enduring page of Maga for the benefit of the future compiler of the Chipman annals. He closes an oration, scarcely, if at all, inferior to that of Sims, with a melodious tribute to the land of his nativity.
"If Great Britain went to war for Oregon, how long would it be before her starving millions would rise in infuriated masses, and overwhelm their bloated aristocracy! He would say, then, if war should come—
'Hurrah for Vermont! for the land which we till Will have some to defend her from valley and hill; Leave the harvest to rot on the field where it grows, And the reaping of wheat for the reaping of foes.
'Come Mexico, England! come tyrant, come knave, If you rule o'er our land, ye shall rule o'er our grave! Our vow is recorded—our banner unfurl'd, In the name of Vermont, we defy all the world!'"
Magnifique—superbe—pretty well! Would not the world like to know something of the resources of this unknown anthropophagous state which throws down the gauntlet so boldly? Well, in this very year of grace, the population of Vermont amounts to no less than 300,000 souls of all ages, sexes, and colours! She pays her governor the incredible sum of L150 a-year. Her exports in 1840 amounted to L60,000. Every thing about her is on the same homoeopathic scale, except her heroes!
We have by no means exhausted our file, but our patience is expended, and so we fear is that of our readers. We write this in the city of New York, in the first week of February, and the debate is still proceeding in a tone, if possible, still more outrageous and absurd. The most astounding feature of the whole is, that the "collective wisdom" of any country professing to be civilized, can come together day after day and listen to such trash, without censure—without even the poor penalty of a sneer.
The Americans complain that they have been grievously misrepresented by the British press. Mrs Trollope, Mr Dickens, and other authors, are no doubt very graphic and clever in their way; but in order to do this people full justice, they must be allowed to represent themselves. A man must go amongst them fully to realize how hopeless and deplorable a state of things is that phase of society which halts betwixt barbarism and civilization, and is curiously deficient in the virtues of both. If he wishes to form a low idea of his species, let him spend a week or two at Washington; let him go amongst the little leaders of party in that preposterous capital, watch their little tricks, the rapacity with which they clutch the meanest spoils and wonder how political profligacy grows fat upon diet so meagre and uninviting. He will come away with a conviction, already indorsed by the more respectable portion of the American community, that their government is the most corrupt under the sun; but he will not, with them, lay the flattering notion to his soul, that the people of whom such men are the chosen representatives and guides, are likely to contribute much to the aggregate of human happiness, freedom, and civilization.
As to the denunciations of Great Britain, so thickly strewn through these carmina non prius audita of the Congressional muse, we are sure they will excite no feeling in our readers but that of pity and contempt, and that comment upon them is unnecessary. The jealousy of foreign nations towards the arts and arms of his country, is no new experience to the travelled Englishman. Still, as the Americans have no reason to be particularly sore on the subject of our arms, and as they appropriate our arts, at a very small expense, to themselves, they might afford, we should think, to let the British lion alone, and glorify themselves without for ever shaking their fists in the face of that magnanimous beast. In a political point of view, however, the deep-seated hostility of this people towards the British government, is a fact neither to be concealed nor made light of. From a somewhat extended personal observation, the writer of this is convinced that war at any time, and in any cause, would be popular with a large majority of the inhabitants of the United States. It is in vain to oppose to their opinion the interests of their commerce, and the genius of their institutions, so unsuited to schemes of warlike aggrandizement. The government of the United States is in the hands of the mob, which has as little to lose there as elsewhere, by convulsion of any kind.
We are willing to believe that the person who at present fills the Presidential chair at Washington, is fully alive to the responsibilities of his situation, and would gladly allay the storm which himself and his party have heretofore formed for their own most unworthy purposes. He knows full well that the dispute is in itself of the most trumpery nature; that the course of Great Britain has been throughout moderate and conciliatory to the last degree; that the military and financial position of the United States is such as to forbid a warlike crisis; and that, if hostilities were to ensue betwixt Great Britain and his country, no time could be more favourable to the former than the present. Yet, with all these inducements to peace, we fear he will find it impossible to bring matters to a satisfactory termination. But should an opportunity occur of taking us at disadvantage—should we find ourselves, for instance, involved in war with any powerful European nation—we may lay our account to have this envious and vindictive people on our backs. We are not, therefore, called upon to anticipate the trial, and to take the course of events into our own hands; but still less ought we to make any concessions, however trifling, which may retard, but will eventually exasperate, our difficulties. Much is in our power on the continent of North America, if we are but true to our own interests and to those of mankind. We should cherish to the utmost that affectionate and loyal spirit, which at present so eminently distinguishes our flourishing colony of Canada; we should look to it, that such a form of government be established in Mexico as shall at once heal her own dissensions, and guarantee her against the further encroachments of her neighbours; and we should invite other European nations to join with us in informing the populace of the United States, that they cannot be indulged in the gratification of those predatory interests, which the public opinion of the age happily denies to the most compact despotisms and the most powerful empires.