Wellington: A Personal History

By Christopher Hibbert | Go to book overview

21 St Jean de Luz 1813

'I began to believe that the finger of God is upon me.'

HEADQUARTERS were established at St Jean de Luz. It was for a time almost as though the war were already over. Officers strolled along by the Biscayan shore; church parades were held on the beach, dances at the Mairie. If campaigning in an enemy country was like this, one English officer observed, he never wanted to campaign in a friendly one again. St Jean de Luz was such a pleasant contrast to Lesaca, the town he had just left on the other side of the frontier. There the place had been full of 'wounded and prisoners and mules and muleteers innumerable, besides all the country people' who came 'to turn all they had got into money':

Noises of all sorts; aguardente being cried about; lemonade (that is dirty water and dark-brown sugar); here a large pig being killed in the street; another near it with a straw fire singeing it, and then a number of women cutting up and selling pieces of other pigs killed a few hours before. Suttlers and natives with their Don Quixote pigskins, all pouring wine to our half-boozy, weary soldiers . . . bad apples and pears, sour plums all offered for sale at the same moment.

Perpetual quarrels take place about payment for these things between the soldiers of the three allied nations and the avaricious and unreasonable civilian natives; mostly however between Spaniards and Spaniards. 1

In St Jean de Luz, on the other hand, there were 'as few quarrels as there might have been in a garrison town at home'. 2 The Commander- in-Chief could occasionally be seen riding about in the little town, sometimes in a top hat rather than the cocked hat which usually distinguished him, once or twice in the sky-blue coat of the Hatfield Hunt which Lady Salisbury had given him. Occasionally he was to be found playing whist, though not for high stakes.

-144-

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