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ollowed, it is necessary to explain some facts concerning the ocality. The city of Burgos, whither the French were proeeding, was distant from the venta about five leagues by the shortest route. The road, however, was exceedingly hilly, rugred, and uneven, and seldom or never employed for the transit if vehicles; though in fine weather horsemen frequently adopted t, when pressed for time, without experiencing any very extraordinary inconvenience. At the distance of a league from the renta, another road, leading to the same destination, diverged from this to the right, very far superior, and consequently much more frequently adopted, though more circuitous than the former, by fully two leagues. By this latter road the dragoons had come from Burgos two days previously; but their selection of it then might have been accounted for on the ground of their having in convoy the heavy, ammunition-wagons, to which the shorter one would have been quite impassable; whilst on the present occasion, being wholly unencumbered, they were free to adopt either route as their commander might decide.
The information now afforded by José was to the effect, that an attack on the Frenchmen, in the course of their evening march through the mountain-passes, which must be traversed in order to reach Burgos, had been determined on by the leader of a guerilla band—one as yet unknown to the French, but whose name was destined ere long to become a word of terror in the ears of every detached party of their army in the province of Old Castile, and ultimately to survive, in the grateful recollection of his countrymen, so long as the records of the war of independence shall find a place on the page of Spanish history-Juan Martin Diez, the Empecinado.
As the greatest number of followers that Diez could muster, however, so little exceeded those of the French, that their superiority in discipline, arms, and general equipment would throw the chances of success altogether in favour of the latter in case of an open attack, an ambuscade and surprise were the means which the guerilla chief sought to adopt for their destruction. But in order to effect his purpose in this way, it was absolutely necessary that he should have previous information as to which of the two lines of road already described would be adopted by his enemy. For the purpose of obtaining this information, at an early hour on the morning of that day he repaired to the venta, accompanied by two of his most trusty and intelligent followers, whom he placed in concealment in a dilapidated granary, or barn, which stood at some distance in the rear of the house, and almost hidden from view by intervening trees. José was then instructed to ascertain from the Frenchmen, as soon after their arrival, and in a manner as little pointed as possible, the route which the commander meant to pursue on resuming his march; which intelligence he was to communicate immediately to the
emissaries of Diez, as it was conceived he could absent himself for this purpose for a few minutes whilst the dragoons refreshed themselves, without attracting their attention. Having obtained the necessary information, one of the guerillas was to start immediately, keeping the wooded ground, to avoid being seen by any straggler of the French party; and Diez was to await him at the point where the two roads separated, the chief having left the remainder of his men concealed, with their horses, in a sort of natural amphitheatre, about midway between the two lines, whence they could easily gain, by mountain-paths, the most convenient spot on either long before the Frenchmen could possibly arrive. The second guerilla was still to remain secreted, lest any unforeseen occurrence, up to the moment of the departure of the French troops, should cause a change in the intentions of their officer, which he might still be able to communicate to Diez in sufficient time to enable him to alter the plans he had adopted in conformity with the information previously conveyed by the other.
José proceeded to state that he had been compelled by the threats of Diez to promise performance of the part allotted him, but that he had no real intention of engaging in any project tending to the injury of his very excellent friends the French; whilst on the other hand, unprotected as he was, and exposed at all times to the vengeance of the guerillas, he dared not go the length of making the Frenchmen acquainted with the plot, and putting them upon their guard; and that, under these circumstances, and hoping, by taking no active part in the transaction, to avoid incurring the direct hostility of either party, he had sought concealment from both for the present, as already described, leaving them to decide their quarrel among themselves as they best might.
Now, so far as the plans and movements of the Empecinado were concerned, the above statement was perfectly correct. But
their own merits modest men are dumb," there were some few particulars concerning his own share in the transaction, the mention of which José altogether omitted. He did not deem it necessary to inform Captain Dubois that, having learned from the incautious language of the sergeant the period when the troop might be expected to pass on their return, the moment they were out of sight he had despatched a messenger with the intelligence to Diez, well knowing that he would gladly seize the opportunity to waylay, and, if possible, destroy them. There, however, he conceived his part of the performance to have terminated; by no means relished the proposition of the guerilla chief, that he should undertake the risk of conveying intelligence of the Frenchmen’s intentions to his emissaries, as they lay concealed actually within pistol-shot of the troop. His habitual dread of Diez, however, left him no resource : and accordingly he gave reluctant promise of obedience, which he would no doubt have
fulfilled, had his couragę been equal to his sincerity, But though his hatred of the French was as intense as Diez himself could desire, his dread of them was, if possible, more deeply rooted still. Accordingly, whilst he awaited their appearance on that eventful day, the little stock of courage he possessed waxed each moment lower and feebler as he contemplated with increasing misgivings the hazards of the enterprise : and when at length the martial band, whose destruction he was plotting, came full in view, the loud ringing of their accoutremen and the flashing of their helmets and sabres in the sunshine, struck such terror to his heart, that he instantly resolved to abandon its prosecution altogether. In such a case, had he been possessed of ordinary nerve, his obvious course would have been to proceed to the discharge of his regular duties as landlord of the house; and he would probably have found little difficulty in persuading Diez that he had been unable to extract the desired information from the French, But alas ! that “conscience," which “doth make cowards of us all,” whispered to José his utter inability to emulate the coolness and unconcern of innocence, and at the same time avoid suspicion; and acting on its promptings, he made a precipitate retreat, and the abortive effort at concealment, which terminated as already recorded.
Having heard his recital to the close with the utmost attention, Captain Dubois inquired, “So, then, the two spies of whom you speak are at this moment concealed in the barn?”
“Si, senor. Directing him to lead the way to the building in question, whilst by a gesture he instructed a couple of his men to look sharply after him, the officer easily managed to surround the house with the dragoons ere the unfortunate men within had the slightest intimation that they had been betrayed. Even after the soldiers had passed the doorway, the devoted guerillas, probably regarding them as idle stragglers from the main body, lay stiil and silent in the place of their concealment; nor was it until-the faithless landlord having pointed out the spot- they were actually seized and dragged into the light of day, that they attempted to resist or fly. But it was then too late. One fierce struggle, which lasted but a moment, and they were overpowered, securely bound, and conducted to the venta. A brief examination followed, in which Captain Dubois exerted his persuasive powers in vain to induce the faithful fellows to furnish him with any information concerning their leader or his band. They remained silent, or answered his inquiries either with terrible maledictions on the invaders of their country, or with statements grossly and obviously wide of the truth, until their interrogator, discovering the uselessness alike of threats and promises, and recollecting the somewhat critical position he occupied, and the already advanced hour of the afternoon, ordered them to be led out into the courtyard for execution, and then inquired for the
landlord. He soon appeared, and claimed the promise given him by the captain, whilst an assumed confidence struggled for the mastery, with ill-dissembled terror in his tones and counte
“I promised not to hang you for anything you should reveal to me,” replied the captain," and that promise I shall keep; though I fancy we are indebted more to your fears than your good-will
. But there's a trifling matter you have altogether overlooked in your confession, and concerning which I feel curious to obtain a little information. The troops which march from Burgos to Valladolid generally remain there for several days; now how came this feslow Diez to know of my intention, contrary to the usual custom, to return to-day ?”
The countenance of the wretched man instantly fell. Such an inquiry he had never anticipated, and consequently was quite unprepared to meet it. He faltered out a denial of any knowledge on the subject; but his interrogator was not a man to be so easily deceived. Directing José to accompany him, he proceeded to the yard, whither the doomed guerillas had been led for execution, and inquired of them how Diez came to be acquainted with his intentions. The result answered his expectations. The Spaniards, believing the landlord to have voluntarily betrayed them, hesitated not to make an avowal which would involve the betrayer in their doom, whilst it could not possibly injure their leader or his cause. Ás if actuated by one mind, and making an effort with their pinioned arms to point to the unhappy landlord, they exclaimed together, “ He sent the information!" “ A lie !-a lie!” exclaimed the trembling wretch.
66 I knew not myself, senor, of your intention to return to-day; and how, then, could I have informed Diez ?"
“ 'Tis false !” said the sergeant, who immediately recollected the language he had used to the landlord two days before. "I myself informed you when on our march to Valladolid, and desired you to have better wine for us to-day.”
“Sergeant,” said the captain in a grave tone, “ I had intended forwarding your name with a recommendation for promotion on the next vacancy occurring; but the man who has so little discretion as to communicate to his majesty's enemies the intended movements of his troops, is scarcely a fit person to bear his commission. Seize the fellow," he cried, pointing to the landlord, “and give him a traitor's doom !" “ Your promise, senor!—your promise!" gasped the miserable
My promise was not to hang you; and though your having failed to fulfil the conditions might justify me in so doing, my word once passed, I scorn to break it, even to a dog like you! But I'll shoot you! Bind him, and place him with the others; though it's almost a pity that such a craven should fall by a soldier's
reapon, and yonder brave and faithful fellows be compelled to ie in the company of so base a hound.”
The unfortunate, but certainly treacherous innkeeper, was astantly bound, according to the command of the officer, nd, heedless of his cries, the dragoons placed him in that osition described in the opening paragraph of our narrative.
few minutes at most would have sufficed to close the tragedy, vhen the sentry posted on the road in front of the venta was leard to challenge, and another actor was unexpectedly ushered in the scene. The appearance of the new-comer was striking in he extreme. Though little above the middle height, his limbs ind body indicated the possession of gigantic strength; his road chest and brawny neck were on a perfectly colossal scale; ais features, which, though large and coarse, were far from lisagreeable, conveyed the expression of daring and decision in in eminent degree, their effect being heightened by his long coal-black hair and thick moustache, and bushy whiskers of the same colour, which met beneath his chin, whilst a broad-leafed hat threw on his naturally dark countenance a still more sombre shade. He was clad in the ordinary peasant garb. On being ushered into the yard, he gazed about him with apparently a vacant look, as if he understood not the meaning of the preparations before described. Captain Dubois, however, fancied he perceived a start of surprise on the part of the kneeling guerillas at the moment of the new-comer's appearance; and as his eye fell upon the stranger, he detected something marvellously like a mute gesture of intelligence on his side.
He whispered an order to the sergeant, and a moment after, half-adozen of the dragoons threw themselves at once upon the man, and despite the amazing strength which he put forth to shake them off, and against which a couple of ordinary men would have had little chance of success, he was soon overpowered, and bound so securely, as to set at defiance all his efforts to regain his
“Who are you?” inquired the captain, when his prisoner was secured, and stood before him.
"I am Nicolas Herastas the woodman,” replied the other; and have come to the venta
yonder fagots to Senor José for firewood. What mischief have I done, that you should seize and bind me thus ?" The appearance of an enormous bundle of fagots, which he bore on his shoulder when he entered the yard, seemed to support his assertion. “Know you this man?” inquired the captain of the kneeling "We know him not,” was the steady response. “Know you this man?” he asked of the landlord.