The coach moves on, but too slowly for her. Leaning out of the window, and surveying the road, she calls out gaily, “Our way lies down hill, Moodie, and they tell me that mules are so sure-footed that they never stumble. Pray buy or borrow that long goad from the young gentleman in the sheep-skin jacket. By skillful use of it you might mend our pace, and bring us sooner to Elvas.”
We will leave this impatient lady to hasten on to Elvas, whether expedited or not by the use of the goad, to inquire the occasion of her journey thither.
For five years the peninsula has been one battlefield, and the present has been one of unceasing activity to the British troops. Beginning the year by suddenly crossing the frontier and investing Ciudad Rodrigo, they had taken it by storm in January, while the French were preparing to relieve it. Equally unexpectedly crossing the Tagus and the Guadiana, they had sat down before the strong fortress of Badajoz, and to save a few precious days, in which Soult and Marmont might have united their hosts to its rescue, they, in April, took it in a bloody assault, buying immediate possession at the price of more than a thousand precious lives. No sooner had the disappointed Marshals withdrawn their armies to less exhausted regions, than the forts of Almarez were surprised in May, and the direct route of communication between them cut off. The British army then invaded Spain on the side of the kingdom of Leon: the forts of Salamanca fell before them in June, and in July the battle of Salamanca crushed the French force in that quarter, and opened the road to Madrid to the British, who, driving thence the intrusive king, acquired the control of all central Spain. But, at length, in October, the castle of Burgos defied their utmost efforts, unaided by a siege-train. The French hosts from north, south and east, abandoning rich provinces and strong fortresses they had held for years, gathered around them in overwhelming numbers; and slowly, reluctantly, and with many a stubborn halt, the English general retraced his steps toward Portugal. The prostrated strength of both armies put an end to the campaign. The French gave up the pursuit, being too hungry to march further, or to fight any more; and the discipline and appetites of the British soldiers were indicated, on their march through the forests bordering the Huebra, by the fusilade opened on the herds of swine, which were fattening on the acorns there. For a moment their commander thought himself surprised, and that the country, for miles around, was the scene of one wide-spread skirmish with the foe. Even hanging a few of his men did not put a stop to the disorder. Late in November the troops were permitted to pause for rest, in the neighborhood of Ciudad Rodrigo, with their energies prostrated and their discipline relaxed through the sieges and battles, the continual marches, the exposure and the want of a campaign so long and arduous as this. Strange it seemed to them, after going so far, and doing and suffering so much, that they should end the campaign where they had begun it. Yet they had done much: wrenching the larger and richer half of Spain out of the grasp of the French, and changing their possession of the country to a mere invasion of it.