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Several entire villages were swept away, with the loss of almost every inhabitant. Above two hundred persons are computed to have perished, and large tracts of pasture and orchard and meadow are irrecoverably lost. This dreadful event was occasioned by the overflowing of the waters of a lake in the valley of Bagnes, which is fed by the immense glacier of Tzermontane. The glacier is of enormous extent, and the waters, swollen by an unusual melting of the snow and glacier, broke the banks of the lake, and precipitated themselves down the channel of the Dranse into the valley of the Rhone. This was not the first debordement which had occurred from a similar cause and produced similar effects ; and the people now live under the certain apprehension that after the accumulation of a considerable number of years, the same affliction will revisit them.
The government of the Vallais has done what its limited means allow to relieve the sufferers, and to avert the evil for the future. A channel has been opened, by which part of the accumulations from the glacier are gradually drained off; but the remedy is very inadequate, and the costs of making it more complete are quite out of the reach of the republican government of the Vallais. Had the calamity occurred during the time when the Vallais formed a province of the French empire, Napoleon's engineers would probably have contrived a tunnel through the solid mountain, by which the debacle of the glacier might have found a regular outlet to the Rhone. The daring arm which had vanquished the rocks of the Simplon and the Rhine would (if, indeed, the safety of these mountaineers had ever interested its selfish policy) have achieved this new triumph over the forces of nature. But a war with nature and the elements is rather too costly for a poor petty republic; and the Valaisans, I believe, had much rather live in annual dread of the fury of the Dranse, than submit to the grinding oppressions of a protecting empire, and the cruelties of French soldiery.
Nothing can be more beautiful and romantic than the early part of the ascent from Martigny to the Grand St. Bernard, or more sublime and desolate than the latter part of the journey. One branch of the Dranse has its source on the Mont St. Bernard, and the torrent descends in a tempestuous and winding course of seven or eight leagues, till it joins the main stream at St. Branchier, near Martigny. The valley by which the stream descends is called the valley of Entremont; and the mule-path to the St. Bernard follows the windings of the Dranse up the wild, magnificent, and fertile scenes of the mountainvale. For about six leagues the road presents all the grand and diversified beauties of Alpine scenery, all its union of luxuriant richness with imposing sublimity-pastures of the loveliest green, forests crowning majestic heights, the spires and villages of St. Orsieres, Liddes, and St. Pierre, niched in the hollow of the green glen watered by the torrent, and high above all, the frozen and snowy heights of the Mont Velan and the St. Bernard, the clouds resting on their heads, or sometimes scudding and floating round their sides. For bold open slopes and shelving mountains of smiling fertility and careful cultivation few Alpine valleys can be compared with this of Entremont; few unite so much of grand Alpine proportions with such an exquisite succession of green and softened landscape. St. Pierre is the last village on the ascent, and three leagues from the convent of the St. Bernard : it is five thousand and four feet above the level of the sea, and nature already begins to wear a crabbed and wintry aspect. The herbage grows thin and mossy, cultivation more rare, few fields are seen except pastures, the fine beech woods have disappeared, and the firs, feathering up the sides of the mountains, have a bare branchless Norwegian character. se features are more striking as you advance; till on arriving about a league and half beyond the village, the last struggles of vegetation give way to the chilling influence of the eternal winter which here begins to reign. A few leafless fir stumps and a little coarse grass and moss cling about the rocks and stones which lie scattered on all sides. The air becomes extremely chilling and keen; and you constantly find yourself enveloped in a damp and drizzling cloud. The Dranse is now dwindled to a small but impetuous torrent, brawling over rocks almost without a regular channel. Almost the last spot of green is a small pasture of wretched grass belonging to the monks of the convent, where they feed a few cows or sheep for a few weeks in the year. One of the monks, in the costume of the order, was looking after the cattle. The wild sublimity of the scenes which we now passed was much obscured by perpetual clouds and mist. Now and then the clouds broke away, and discovered to us, for a short time, the bleak bare rocks, the impending glaciers, and gloomy crags which hemmed us in on all sides. A brown bare sterility was observable all around. The snows were not considerable, owing to the mildness of the season and the warm rains which had fallen in abundance. The reign of animal and vegetable life we had left far below us ; and with them every object of picturesque beauty had ceased. The guides conducted us to a little low hut which serves for the charnel-house of the convent. There is not sufficient earth within some miles of the convent to dig a grave; and the bodies of such unfortunate persons as perish in this dangerous Alpine pass are placed in this building, where the extreme rarity and coldness of the atmosphere prevents putrefaction. Amidst tattered remains of clothes and an accumulation of dry bones, was one shrivelled mummy-like corpse, with the garments in good preservation, which had been placed there in the preceding winter. There was no kind of effluvia, or any symptom of putrefaction. This dry dark abode of death, the only kind of building in sight, adds not a little to the dreary character of the scene, and the gloomy sensations which every object is calculated to inspire. After pursuing various narrow passes and defiles, amidst rocks and chasms in which the Dranse has worn for itself a narrow and irregular channel, we discovered at the end of a narrow gorge between the inountains, the white gable ends of the convent, surmounted by its pious emblem of the crucifix. Our mules appeared to erect their ears at the pleasing prospect; and selecting, with their unerring discretion, a safe path over the snow and rocks and up a rude sort of Aight of steps hewn in the mountain, safely landed us at the great door of the convent, where the sub-prior and another brother received us with hospitable welcome.
CAMPAIGNS OF A CORNET.
The Baron's wound, like Mercutio's, was neither " as deep as a well nor as wide as a church-door," but still it was serious enough to give him great pain and anxiety. An English surgeon belonging to another regiment declared that it was unnecessary to be under any apprehension ; but the Baron, who found a new tie to existence in the possession of the four hundred crowns, for which he had paid so dear, and who thought it was better to bear the ills he had “ than fly to others that he knew not of," betrayed considerable anxiety with regard to the consequences of the clerical admonition which he had received. We were compelled to leave our gallant commander, and proceed without him to our regiment, where in a few days afterwards he joined us. We found our corps stationed in the neighbourhood of the Ebro, within a few leagues of Saragossa. I was struck with admiration at the fine appearance and perfect appointment of the men, who, though they had been abroad many years, displayed the good discipline and martial air of veterans, with all the neatness and cleanliness which our troops are remarkable for at home. The town at which we were stationed was called Reomilines, and abounded in good provisions. Instead of the “ spare fast,” which oft with soldiers " doth diet,” I found my brothers in arms indulging at this place in all sorts of luxuries--that is to say, feasting in great plenty on very tolerable joints of mutton. The great desideratum I soon found to be bottled London porter, considered very reasonable at a dollar a bottle, a price equivalent at that time to about six and fourpence. While all the infantry of the army, and some favoured regiments of cavalry, were passing the winter amid the snows of the Pyrenees, with no other hopes of glory than what a death by starvation could furnish, we were enjoying ourselves in this peaceable part of the country, performing the regular routine of our military duties, studying the Spanish character, and visiting whatever was worthy of observation in the neighbourhood. The only incident which occurred to enliven the tedium of our residence at Reomilines, which really partook of the character of country quarters, (with the exception of falling out with the Spanish men, and in love with the Spanish women, and out of humour with the amusements of a Spanish village); the only incident, I say, which can properly claim insertion in these military commentaries, was one of rather a serious nature to the parties concerned.
In consequence of the accumulation of offences, it was determined at this time to hold what I may call a species of martial assizes-sessions of oyer and terminer of all campaigning quarrels and breaches of punctilio, and a general gaol delivery of all plundering serjeants, licentious corporals, and poor petty-larceny privates. The court was held under the warrant of the Commander of the Forces, at the head-quarters of General Lord
-, the president; and I, having been summoned to sit upon the court, was present at all the proceedings, although my services were not called for, in consequence of the requisite number of thirteen members having been already filled up. Many cases occurred which would have afforded a high relish, even to the
vitiated palates of an Old Bailey audience. The most common charge was that of plundering the peasantry, relieved occasionally by a complaint of the importunate gallantry of some Irish grenadier. The only case of which I have now any distinct recollection, was the trial of an officer, whose whole conduct appeared to be tinctured with something more than eccentricity. There were three distinct charges against him; 1st, For neglecting his duty while upon picquet, by which a portion of the baggage had been lost. 2dly, For using the troop horses for the purpose of dog-hunting, whilst at an hospital station ; and 3dly, For being intoxicated while in quarters, disobeying the orders of his commanding officer, and calling him an ass. In the language of this military indictment all these offences were laid—as unbecoming the character of an officer and a gentleman, highly subversive of all military discipline, and contrary to the articles of war and the act of parliament in that case made and provided. The judges of this august court, instead of the usual paraphernalia of wigs and gowns, were required to appear in full regimentals, with their swords, and a competent supply of ball-cartridge, in case of emergency. The court met in a spacious apartment in a neighbouring convent, which had, I believe, formerly been appropriated to similar purposes, by the holy fraternity of St. Dominick. The court only sate from eleven o'clock till three, and the trial lasted several days. I was particularly amused with the demeanour of some of the juvenile judges, who, whilst the witnesses were giving their evidence, were often busily employed in discussing the eternal and unchangeable principles of dress. The prosecutor was the commanding officer of the regiment to which the offender belonged, and was a principal witness upon all the three charges, although a great part of his evidence consisted merely of hearsay. The evidence in support of the first charge was, that the criminal on the morning when the loss took place, had been placed in a situation to prevent the enemy from intercepting our baggage, but that instead of keeping a diligent watch, he had snugly established himself under the lee of a house, and was expounding Anacreon, with a running commentary, to an admiring circle, consisting of the serjeant, corporal, trumpeter, and three of the most enlightened of his men. He was just finishing the sixth ode, elç OVU TOOLOV, to which his companions were adding a practical commentary, in their earnest attentions to their officer's flask of brandy, when one of the servants from the baggage came galloping in, followed by two French dragoons at the distance of about three hundred yards, and told the astonished philologist, with the woe-begone countenance of Priam's messenger, that “ half his baggage was ta’en.” There was no remedy for this evil, and the party was forced to make a hasty retreat. The second charge was founded on an offence which had long been committed with impunity, and which was now for the first time brought under martial cognizance. There being no fox-hunting in Spain, it was a common amusement with the officers of the army-an amusement originally introduced by a colonel of great sporting celebrity-to tie a kettle, or some other noisy appendage, to the tail of a dog, when the terrified animal scouring over the face of the country, afforded a chace which frequently led these military Nimrods a ride of twenty miles over hill and dale. It appeared that the accused had certainly partaken of the amusements which this novel style of hunting afforded; but there was no evidence to shew that he had ever ridden troop horses, a fact which only existed in the fertile imagination of his prosecutor. The accused seemed quite regardless of the evidence which was brought forward to substantiate the two first charges; but he applied himself with great earnestness to the last, vehemently denying the imputation of inebriety, and setting up the truth of the words he had spoken as a justification. To establish this part of his case, he cross-examined his prosecutor with considerable ingenuity, and at last ingenuously demanded from him, whether he did not himself think he was a fool. This was almost too much for the dignity of the court; and being considered in the light of a contempt, it certainly tended to aggravate his punishment. As the charges were not made out in the clearest manner, he was only sentenced to three months suspension, which I afterwards understood he dedicated to the Muses; and having now no baggage to lose, he gave himself up to the unrestrained delight of perusing his favourite Anacreon.
In the month of February 1813 we left our country quarters on the Ebro, and proceeded to join the army in France under the command of the Marquess of Wellington. We passed through the town of Pampeluna, and halted there on a Sunday, when a curious incident occurred. The officer of a dragoon regiment, related to a noble family, was so smitten with the charms of a pretty chambermaid at the Posada where he was staying, and so dazzled at the thought of twenty dollars, which it was understood she was possessed of, that he was determined at all events to become master of the prize. In England he might have purchased a licence, and tied the holy knot without farther trouble, but in Spain there was a preliminary ceremony to go through. The fair chambermaid was unwilling to endanger her soul by uniting herself to a heretic, so that our gallant countryman was constrained to embrace the Catholic faith, before the Catholic fair. This was done in the cathedral church of Pampeluna at
an immense concourse of Spaniards, and the two ceremonies of renunciation and union were performed by the cardinal archbishop. As may be supposed, this match did not turn out very happily. A few weeks after their marriage the parties separated ; the lady returned to her household gods, and the Neophyte to the faith of his forefathers.
The Pyrenees presented a very different aspect aš we recrossed them. On
side of us the rocks were covered to their lofty summits with snow, which contrasted finely with the clear blue sky. The depth of the snow was such that we were frequently compelled to dismount, and lead our horses through it. Descending from the higher mountains, we found a comparative summer in the valleys, and we proceeded, at the usual day's march of fifteen or twenty miles, through the towns of Tolosa, Irun, and Fontarabia, where “Charlemagne with all his peerage fell.” On the day of leaving St. Jean de Luz we passed Bayonne, which was at that time besieged by the first division of infantry under Sir John Hope. The regular road lies directly through the town, but in consequence of the siege we were forced to diverge to the left, and cross the Adige between Bayonne and the sea. Our march until we reached the river was through heavy sands. The pontoon-bridge, by which we crossed, was one of the most successful and ingenious contrivances which the engineer department had pro