Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

'Tis a type, and 'tis a pledge,
Of a crowning privilege.
Careful as that lily flower,
This maid must keep her precious dower ;

Live a sainted maid, or die
Martyr to virginity.

« Oh ! rare Charles Lamb ! "

THE EVE OF SAINT SIMON, IN COLOMBIA.

The town of Achaquas, situated on ver-failing appendage of a “ Llañethe banks of the river Apure, derives ro”—the “ sombrero de pallo,” or some importance from the fact that immense-rimmed straw hat, with a it has ever been the habitual and white feather, the party emblemfavorite residence of “ El Gefe de and the massive silver spurs, attachlos Llañeros." Here the ferocious ed to the naked heel by thongs cut Paez has erected a house, which, from a bullock's hide—complete by the bare-legged natives, may be this singular but picturesque cosdeemed a specimen of architectural tume.* Thus accoutred, and mountmagnificence, as compared with the ed on one of his best-trained horses, mud-built hovels that compose the would Paez seek an encounter with residue of the town ; with the ex- the fiercest bull that could be proception, however, of the church and cured, his surprising agility and “ Caza del Cura,” which entirely consummate skill in horsemanship occupy one side of a large though enabling him to avoid the incessant irregular square. “ La Grande attacks of the furious animal, whom Plaza,” as it is called, was, during he goads into unbounded rage, by the revolutionary struggle, the the- turns pursuing and pursued, till at atre of many sanguinary scenes. length, tired of the sport, he seizes Hither were the prisoners of Paez the beast by the tail, and, with Herand his followers led, and, under culean strength, throws it upon its the scowling brow of the chief, in- back; then leaping from the saddle, humanly massacred ; and although (amid the cheering acclamations of in just retaliation, perhaps, of Spa- the spectators,) with his “cuchillo" nish cruelty, yet the refined barba- puts a speedy termination to its rity with which these reprisals were sufferings and life together. This conducted baffles description, and and cock-fighting, a sport of which would indeed be deemed apocryphal Paez is an enthusiastic admirer, by all save those who had the mis- (having an immense number of these fortune to witness them. Here, too, birds in constant training,) are the would Paez occasionally indulge principal amusements, and tend to his faithful adherents with the gra- feed the bloodthirsty propensities of tifying spectacle of a bull-fight, and this lawless militia during the temthe exhibition of his own wonderful porary suspensions of their predatoprowess. On these occasions the ry warfare. I here apply the term chieftain would appear dressed in“ militia,

"militia," such being, correctly his native garb. The large white speaking, the collective appellation, “calçonzillos,” or drawers, loose at and attributes, of those more immethe knee, and not extending below diately under Pacz's command. i-a check shirt, open at the neck, body of three hundred men, half of and confined at the waist with a red whom have the rank of officers, and or blue scarf, worn like our military form a separate corps, bearing the sashes, and which supported the denomination of “ Los bravos de la

cuchillo," or large knife, the ne- guardia de honore,Ӡ are in con

* On duty, or on the march, a blanket of different colors (red or blue, being, however, the most prevalent), with a hole cut in the centre to admit the head, is usually worn, and forms a striking and not ungraceful upper garment.

+ “ El Gefe de los Llaneros," --Chief of the inhabitants of the Plains. « Caza del cura," -Curate's house. “ La Grande Plaza,"--Great square. “ Calconzillos," -Short, loose

SO

stant attendance on the person of and privates, and even women, all the chief; and the gallant achieve- engaged in sacrificing to the blind ments which he has performed at goddess, amid the blasphemous their head, as also the individual curses of those whom Fortune befeats of intrepidity displayed by this trayed. Paez himself, perambulatsmall band, (however well they may ing the town, would frequently minbe attested,) would, to the generali- gle with one or other of these party of readers, appear incredible. In ties, and, by his

presence, sanction the event of any sudden emergency, a vice, the demoralizing effects of an intended attack upon the enemy, which eventually produced the most or the necessity of acting upon the pernicious consequences, and which defensive, (by the by, a rare occur- proved, indeed, the primary cause rence with Paez,) he could, at a of the melancholy catastrophe which very short notice, assemble three it will shortly be my painful task to thousand men, who, from the facility record. which the plains afford him of pro Ere I pursue the thread of my euring horses, form one of the most narration, however, it may prove formidable and efficient cavalry agreeable to my reader to learn forces ever embodied. Each man, something of the personal appearwhilst engaged even in the culture ance, character, and acquirements, of his small plantation of Indian corn of a chief whose present station, as and sugar-cane, keeps his docile head of the Venezuelan confederacharger ready for instant action ; cy, and opposition to the misnamed and those who might neglect this “Washington of Colombia," renprecautionary measure asto- ders an object of public interest. nishing is the power which the Lla José Antonio Paez is of robust iero has obtained by practice in the though diminutive stature : his manege-would, in the short space shoulders, of extraordinary breadth, of an hour or two, be enabled to support a short neck of unusual tame the unruly spirit of the wildest thickness (not unlike that of the enstallion, and render him fully ade- raged bull he delights in combating), quate to all the purposes of guerilla and which probably occasions those service. Paez himself has a reserve fits which any strong excitement is of five hundred horses, which follow sure to produce. This neck, in its in the rear of all his expeditions, as turn, sustains a head of dispropora remount to himself and staff; and tionate dimensions, in which small so jealous is he of his right of exclu- dark eyes of uncommon brilliance sive possession, that he has been light up a countenance where cunknown to refuse Bolivar (the then ning seems the predominant expressupreme chief of Venezuela) a sin- sion : but cruelty lies concealed in gle horse for his personal accommo- his heart. Like the tiger crouching dation !

to spring on its prey, Paez is to be In addition to the amusements most dreaded when he evinces least already described as forming the anger.

His features afford no intiprincipal recreation of the motley mation to the victim whose doom he inhabitants of the town and vicinity meditates ; and many a Spanish priof Achaquas, each leisure moment soner, lulled into fancied security was devoted to gambling ; and so by his smile, has found it but the addicted were all classes to this vi- harbinger to death. Brave even to cious enjoyment, that tables were to temerity-if the savage ferocity of be seen by day and night at the cor a wild beast may be termed couners of the different streets, round rage-he dreads no foe, and will which stood mixed groups of officers rush, unattended, into the midst of

drawers. “ Cuchillo,”—Large knife. “Llanero,”—Man of the plains. “ Sombrero de palb,"-Straw hat. “ Los bravos de la guardia de honore,"— The ' bravos ” of the guard of Egzor.

on

thousands, regardless of danger. At climate. These brave fellows had the battle of Ortez he was known, gallantly sustained the honor of the with his own hand, to have slain national character before Cumana thirty of the enemy; and his lance, and Barcelona, and, after numerous the weapon with which he perform- fatiguing marches and countered this feat, still wet with the vital marches, had arrived at Achaquas fluid, was by himself, after the ac some time prior to the truce, and tion, presented to the late General were then regarded as the most efEnglish. He is, without exception, fective and best-disciplined body at the best guerilla chieftain that ex- Paez's head-quarters. Strongly ists. With but little theoretical recommended by Bolivar to the knowledge of the art of war, he has, special protection of that general from experience, become an adept (and to whose kindness their serin its practical duties. Correct in vices alone should have proved a his judgment, decisive in his con- sufficient claim), they relied duct, and rapid in his movements, the promises made them, and hoped success generally follows the exe- to become sharers, at least, in the cution of his plans. Were his edu-, prosperity which now began to cation commensurate with his natu-' dawn upon the republic as an earral abilities, he might vie in talent nest of brighter prospect. How fallawith a Napoleon, and the southern cious, alas, were these expectations! hemisphere (according to the bias They soon discovered that an unhis ambition might then take) yet due preference was accorded by have to lament a scourge, or glory those in authority to the Creole in a benefactor.

troops : they beheld themselves the Having now endeavored to give objects of a narrow-minded prejumy reader some faint idea of the dice, considered as intruders in the merits and demerits of the redoubt- country in whose defence they had able Paez, I will request him to ac- bled, hourly insulted by the inhabitcompany me, in his “ mind's eye,” ants and rival soldiery, and desigto the little town of Achaquas, nated by the epithet of slaves purwhere we shall arrive at the period chased by the barter of hides and of the truce agreed to by Bolivar tallow! These bitter gibes and and the Spanish general Morillo. keen sarcasms were borne by the A six months' suspension of hostili- men for a long time with stoical ties had been just declared, and the fortitude, or, rather, with an apathy patriot troops throughout Venezue- uncommon to Englishmen. Their la had taken possession of their energies had been numbed, as it different cantonments, where they were, by intense suffering ; and it hoped to enjoy a short respite from seemed as though the chords of the toils and privations they had so their hearts had ceased to vibrate long and so patiently endured. This to the touch of indignity! pleasing anticipation was more par The bow-string, after rain, if too ticularly indulged in by the garrison forcibly distended, will snap ; so did of Achaquas. Here the remnant our countrymen, by degrees, begin of the “British legion,” that had to feel the strain upon their sensiarrived with General English two bilities, though they writhed not till years previous, was stationed, under that strain became tightened to the command of Colonel Blosset, agony. upon whom the charge had devolved Bolivar had directed that half-pay at the demise of the former. The should be issued monthly to the brigade now consisted of only eight“ British legion.” This advantage incomplete companies of infantry, was, however, only nominal : a base and one squadron of dismounted metal coin, slightly washed with silcavalry--a melancholy and convinc- ver (termed by the inhabitants ing proof of the insalubrity of the “chipe a chipe") was in conse

quence put in circulation. The speedily found its way to the haze tradesmen refused to receive it in ard table ; whilst the British soldier exchange for the requisite articles was not only suffered to wander of consumption until Paez threaten- about destitute and barefooted, but ed to shoot the recusant; and even otherwise literally in a state of nuthen the enhanced price of provi- dity! Such, however, was the exsions bore no comparison with the cellent discipline of the corps, that, fictitious value of the spurious coin, notwithstanding these just motives and the English were therefore still of disaffection to a cause which unable to obtain the common neces- they had been induced to espouse saries of existence.

from the most flattering anticipaMeanwhile, the good money fur- tions, the men still continued to nished from the exchequer for the perform their various military avoexpress purpose of carrying Boli- cations, if not with cheerful alacrity, var's order into effect, was by Paez at least with mechanical steadiness, (with an occasional sop in the pan until a circumstance (which I am thrown to one or two of the superior about to relate) occurred, and British officers to keep them quiet) roused their dormant feelings to an distributed amongst his tawny-co- acute sense of the degradation they lored satellites ; nor was it an unu- had so long labored under. sual sight to behold the gambling General Paez requiring some altables before alluded to covered teration to be made in part of his with doubloons and “pesos duros," dress, sent an orderly to command and of which our famished soldiers the immediate attendance of one of well knew they should have been the British regimental tailors. The the legal possessors. A pound of poor devil was in the act of mastibad beef had, for a considerable cating his hard beef when the geneperiod, been the only diurnal ration ral's mandate reached him; and not received by our brave comrades, over anxious, possibly, to work and many of the officers were re- without any chance of remuneration, duced to the necessity of parting neglected to obey quite so promptly with their wearing apparel ; the as Paez expected. The general, “ sambo,” or mulatto purchaser, irritated by what he qualified an act parading his uncomely figure, array- of insolent insubordination, desed in all the glitter of gold and sil- patched an aide-de-camp to Colonel ver embroidery, and triumphing in Blosset, directing him forthwith to the spoil, in the presence even of compliment the refractory tailor its former owner. Splendid uni- with a hundred lashes! That offiforms changed wearers with sur- cer, feeling the injustice of the orprising rapidity; and many a youth- der, lost no time in waiting upon fulpetit maitre ” was happy to Paez, and respectfully stated, that shelter himself from the scorching by the English articles of war (under rays of a tropical sun, or the furious which code the “ British legion pelting of the pitiless shower, be- had been embodied, and to which, neath the once-despised but now by Bolivar's sanction, they could be coveted blanket. A considerable alone amenable) he was prohibited quantity of clothing, boots, shoes, from inflicting corporeal punish&c. had arrived from England and ment, except by the sentence of a the United States for the use of the court martial ; but if his excellency troops. These were surreptitiously thought proper, he would immedisposed of by the "administrador»* diately summon one, and doubted to the merchant-pedlars who follow- not, according to the evidence aded the army and preyed upon its duced, the court would satisfy him vitals, and the produce of the sale by their verdict.

* " Administrador," commissary.

lips.

During this remonstrance, not a a gallop and acquire an appetite on muscle in Paez's face betrayed his the neighboring plains ! inward agitation, not a gesture in The effect which this stretch of terrupted the colonel's exordium. arbitrary power had upon the minds An indifferent spectator would have of the men may be readily surmised: inferred from his manner that he non-commissioned officers and prihad either lost all recollection of vates felt equal indignation ; murthe occurrence, or deemed it too murs of disapprobation rose into trivial to attract his further notice ; expressions of loud complaint ; all a more accurate observer, however, were alike clamorous for passports would have detected the smile of to quit the service ; and there is ineffable contempt struggling for little doubt, had an opportunity prepassage through his firmly closed sented itself, the “ British legion"

For some moments after to a man would have joined the Blosset had ceased to speak, there standard of the enemy. was a death-like pause-none dared For three days following, the to break the silence ; those who 'symptoms of discontent became so best knew him almost dreaded to generally apparent, that Paez himrespire. All this time Paez kept self began to calculate the result. his eyes intently fixed on Blosset, Not that he dreaded the irruption who (like the bird charmed by the of the volcano, or could be deterred fascinating influence of the rattle- by the burning lava it might vomit snake) involuntarily trembled : at forth from pursuing his course ; but length he raised them, as if wholly it did not suit his present policy to unconscious of the sensation he had drive things to extremity; he therecaused, and turning to an aide-de-fore adopted conciliatory measures, camp who stood near, told him to or- and by an augmentation of rations der the bugle to sound“ Turn out the (not forgetting an allowance of whole ; " then approaching Blosset, spirituous liquor), with a few newith calm, unruilled voice, address- cessary articles of clothing, he coned him thus :—“If, Sir, the uncom- trived to appease the mutinous spipromising strictness of your military rit his hard treatment had invoked. code prevents you from chastising But the flame of discord was only insolence in a soldier, by the appli- partially smothered, and needed cation of a few lashes, unless sanc- but a fresh grievance to rake it into tioned by a court-martial, mine im a fiercer blaze. The men performposes no such delicate restraints ed their wonted duties in sullen siupon my will, and I can shoot the lence, and were still evidently insubordinate object of my displea- brooding over the injuries they had sure without the aid or authority of sustained. your tribunal. Now mark me,

In this mood we will for the preColonel. Return to your brigade, sent leave them, as I am anxious to see my former orders carried into introduce to my reader's notice a prompt execution, or in ten minutes few of the officers of the “ British the man will have ceased to exist!” legion,” with whom it is necessary Blosset bowed and retired. It is he should have some acquaintance, almost needless to say, that of two in order to enable him to better unevils the least was chosen—the un- derstand the sequel of my narrative. lucky tailor received his hundred Colonel Blosset was a man of lashes. Paez on horseback re- gentlemanlike manners and appearmained on the confines of the ance. He had formerly held the “Grande Plaza” till he saw his rank of captain and brevet-major in victim tied up and receive the first the 28th foot, and served with that stripe : he then rode off, accompa- regiment in Egypt. He was consinied by a numerous staff, to enjoy dered as a brave and clever officer,

« НазадПродовжити »