Charles James Lever.

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That's right, my lads, make short work of it in your boots,
in your shakos anywhere for the present, only be quiet ! "

Truly they merited all my encomiums! to " stow away"
plunder I'd back them against any pair, who ever stopped a
diligence on the high road ; nor was it without some little
difficulty I could persuade them to leave any money in the
desk, as a precaution to prevent the suspicion of what had
actually occurred. As I aided them in the work of conceal-
ment, I artfully contrived to possess myself of one paper
the Havannah banker's receipt for the large deposits I had
left in his hands, and this I managed to slip within the lining
of my travelling cap. It was a last anchor of hope, if ever
I were to weather the storm around me !

Our work had scarcely been completed, and the desk re-
placed in its former situation, when the officer returned. He
briefly informed me that seals had been placed on all my
effects, that my household was placed under an arrest similar
to my own, and that when I had pointed out the various
articles of my property in the cabin, there was nothing more
for me to do, but to accompany him on shore.

As I was not suffered to take any portion of my baggage
with me, even of my clothes, I was soon in the boat and
pulling rapidly for the laud. The quays and the jetty were


crowded with people whose curiosity I at once perceived
had no other object than myself, and although some did not
scruple to exhibit towards me signs of dislike and dissatisfac-
tion, I could remark that others regarded me with a com-
passionate, and even a kindly look. All were, however,
scrupulously silent and respectful, and touched their hats in
salutation, as I ascended the stairs of the landing-place.

This feeling, to my considerable astonishment, I perceived
extended even to the soldiery, one or two of whom saluted
as I passed. In any case, thought I, it is for no insignificant
offender I am taken ; and even that is some comfort, provided
my crime be not high treason.

I was conducted straight to the " Carcel Morena," a large
sombre-looking building, which was at once fortress, prison,
and residence of the Governor, exhibiting a curious mixture
of these incongruous functions in all its details.

The apartment into which I was ushered was a large
saloon, dimly lighted by narrow windows piercing the thick
walls. The furniture had once been handsome, but from
time and neglect had become worn and disfigured. A small
table, spread with a very tolerable breakfast, stood in one of
the windows, at which I was invited to seat myself, and then
I was left alone to my own lucubrations. Hunger prevailed
over grief, I ate heartily ; and having concluded my meal,
amused myself by studying the Trojan war, which was dis-
played upon the walls in a very ancient tapestry.

I had traced the fortunes of Greeks and Trojans on the
walls till I was wcllnigh wearied. I had even gazed upon
the little patches of brown grass beneath the windows, till my
eyes grew dim with watching, but no one came to look after
me, and, in the unbroken silence around, I half feared that I
should be utterly forgotten, and left, like the old tapestry, to
die of moths and years ; but at last, as day was declining, I
heard something like the clank of arms and the tramp of
soldiery, and soon the sounds were more distinctly marked,
approacliing my door. Suddenly the two leaves of the folding
door were thrown wide, and an elderly man, in a general's
uniform, followed by two other officers, entered.

Without taking any notice of the salute I made him, he
walked towards the fire-place, and, standing with his back to
it, said to one of his aide-de-camps, " Read the ' proces verbal,'

Jose bowed, and taking from his sabretache a very lengthy
roll of paper, began to read aloud, bat with such rapidity and
such indistinctness withal, that I could only, and with the


greatest difficulty, catch a stray word here and there. The
titles of her Majesty the Queen appeared to occupy full ten
minutes, and an equal time to be passed in setting forth the
authority under whose jurisdiction I then stood. These over,
there came something about an individual who, born a Mexi-
can, or a native of Texas, had assumed the style, title, and
dignity of a Count of Spain ; such rank being taken for
purposes of deception, and the better to effect certain treason-
able designs, to be set forth hereafter. After this there came
a flourish about the duties of loyalty and fidelity to the
sovereign, whose private virtues came in by parenthesis,
together with a very energetic denunciation on all base and
wicked men, who sought to carry dissension into the bosom
of their country, and convulse with the passions of a civil war
a nation proverbially tranquil and peace-loving.

Nothing could be less interesting than the style of this
paper, except the manner of him who recited it. State
truisms, in inflated language, and wearisome platitudes about
nothing, received no additional grace from a snuffling nasal
intonation and a short cough.

I listened at first with the anxiety of a man whose fortunes
hung on the issue, then, as the vague rambling character of
the document diminished this interest, I heard with more
indifference ; and lastly, completely wearied by the monotony
of the voice, and the tiresome iterations of the style, I could
not prevent my thoughts from wandering far from the affair
in hand.

What fearful crimes were alleged against me what dire
offences I was charged with I was not to hear, since, lost in
the pleasant land of day-dreams, I fancied myself strolling in
the shade of a forest, with Donna Maria beside me, while I
poured out a most impassioned narrative of my love and
fidelity. Nor was it till the reading was concluded, and a
loud Hem ! from the General resounded through the chamber,
that I remembered whero I was.

"Prisoner! " said he, in a stern, authoritative tone, "you
have now heard the nature of the charge against you, and the
reasons of your arrest ; you will answer certain questions, the
replies to which, if not in accordance with truth, constitute
the crime of ' Traicion,' the penalty being death. What is
your name ? "

" Con Cregan."

"Native of what country?"


" What rank and position do you hold in society ? "



" A variable one as luck favours me."

" What trade or profession do you follow ?"

" Whatever seems most convenient at the moment."

" Have you served ? "

" I have."

" In the land or sea service ?"

" In both."

With what grade ?"

" Nothing very distinguished."

" Have you ever held the command of an expedition ?"

" I have."

" With what object, and where ?"

"In the prairies of South America, to shoot red

" Remember, sir," said the General, "this is no occasion for
untimely jest ; these sallies may cost you more dearly than
you think for."

" If I am to speak the truth," said I, boldly, " I must
answer as I have done. If you want fiction, I'm ready for
you at a moment's notice."

" Make a note of that, Jose ! ' says that he is perfectly
indifferent whether he tells truth or falsehood.' "

" And add, by way of parenthesis,' said I, " that the General
is precisely of my own way of thinking."

"Write down, 'insults the commission,' " said the General,
boiling with rage.

The paragraph seemed a full one, for the interrogating was
not resumed for some minutes.

" Now, sir," resumed the General, " state your object in
coming to the country."

" To get out of it as fast as I could."

" For whose use were the arms provided the horses, and
horse equipage with which you embarked ?"

"My own."

" Name the agent or agents of Don Carlos with whom
you have held correspondence ? "

" None. 1 never knew any."

" By whose hands were the large sums of money in your
possession entrusted to you ?"
" I found them."
" How, and where ? "
"In a hole."

The General's face grew purple ; and more than once I
pould see the struggle it cost him to repress his bursting in-
dignation. And, in the mutterings he let fall to his secretary,


it was easy to mark that his comments on the evidence were
not too favourable.

" Were you acquainted with Brigadier Hermose Gon-
zfflos ? "


" Nor with his brother, the Canon Gonzillos ? "


" When did you first meet Senhor Ruy Peres T' Hacho ? "

" Never saw him in my life."

" Nor held intercourse with him ?"


" Were not much in his company, nor entrusted to him the
secret details of the expedition ?"

" I know nothing of what you're talking about."

" Produce Buy Peres," said the General, and the door
opened, and the chevalier, dressed in a military uniform, and
with several decorations of foreign orders, entered.

"Do you know this gentleman ?" said the General, dryly.

" I know him for a Pole, whose name is Alexis Rad-
chofody ; at least, under such a name he once lived in Lon-
don, and is well known to the police there."

" Go on," said the General to the secretary. " On being
confronted with the Senhor Kuy Peres, the prisoner became
suddenly abashed, and at once confessed that he had known
him intimately several years before in London."

" Is that man a witness against me ? *' asked I, eagerly.

" Attend to me, sir," said the General, while he made a
sign to the chevalier to retire ; " neither subterfuge nor in-
solence will avail you here. You are perfectly well known
to us ; your early history your late intrigues your present

" With such intimate knowledge of all about me, General,"
said I, coolly, " haveu't we been wasting a great deal of
valuable time in this interrogatory ? "

" And, notwithstanding repeated admonitions, persisted in
using the most indecorous language to the commission."
These words the General dictated in a loud voice, and they
were immediately taken down by his secretary.

" Sefihor Concregan," said he, addressing me, "you stand
now committed, by virtue of a royal warrant, a copy of which,
and of the charges laid against you, will be duly transmitted
to you. Whenever the authorities have decided whether your
offence should be submitted to a civil or military tribunal,
you will be brought up for trial."

" I am an English subject, sir," said I ; " I belong to a

D D 2


nation that never permits its meanest member to be trampled
on by foreign tyranny, far less will it suffer his liberty or life
to be sacrificed to a false and infamous calumny. I claim the
protection of my ambassador, or at least of such a representa-
tive of my country as your petty locality may possess. I

desire " What I was about to demand as my birthright

was not destined to be made public on this occasion, since at
a signal from the General the door opened, and two soldiers
advancing, adjusted handcuffs on my wrists, and led me away
even before I had recovered from the surprise the whole pro-
ceeding occasioned me.

Whether it was that I enjoyed the prerogative of a State
prisoner, or that the authorities were not quite clear that
they were justified in what they were doing, I cannot eay, but
my prison discipline was of the very mildest order. I had
a most comfortable room, with a window looking seaward
over the beautiful bay of Malaga, taking a wide range along
shore, where gardens, and villas, and orange-groves extended
for miles. The furniture was neat, and with some pretensions
to luxury ; and the fare, I am bound to own, was excellent.
Books, and even newspapers, were freely supplied to me, and,
save that at certain intervals the clank of a musket and the
shuffling of feet in the corridor without, told that the sentry
of my guard was being relieved, I could have fancied myself
in some homely inn, without a restriction upon my liberty.
My handcuffs had been removed the moment I had entered
my chamber, and now the iron stanchions of my window
were the only reminders of a gaol around me.




THE first revulsion of feeling over the terrible shock of that
fall from the pinnacle of wealth and greatness to the lowly
condition of a prisoner, unfriended and destitute, I actually
began to enjoy my life, and feel something wonderfully like
happiness. 1 do not pretend to say that iny disappointment
was not most acute and painful, or that I suffered little from
the contemplation of my ruined hopes. No ! far from it ; but
my grief, like the course of a mountain torrent, soon ran off,
and left the stream of my life clear and untroubled as ever.
It is true, thought I, this is a terrible contrast to what I was
a week ago ! but still, is it not a long way in advance of what
my original condition promised ? I am a prisoner in a
Spanish fortress is not even that better than a peasant in
an Irish hovel? The very cares with which I am surrounded
bespeak a certain consequence pertaining to me ; I am one
whom ministers of state think and speak about whose name
is often on their lips whose memory haunts them in their
half- waking moments. Is not this something ? Is it not a
great deal to one, whose whole ideal was to avoid the bye-
paths of life, and take his course in its very widest and busiest

The occupations in which I passed my days greatly con-
tributed to sustain this pleasant illusion. I was eternally
writing letters, memorials, statements of facts, and what not,
of interminable narratives, to all our ministers and consuls,
invoking their aid, and protesting in the name of the British
nation against the unwarrantable tyranny of my imprison-
ment. It is quite true that these lengthy documents of mine
seemed to meet but sorry acceptance. For a length of time
no acknowledgment of their reception ever reached me, but
at last the following dry epistle informed me that my me-
morials had reached their destination :

" Sir, I am directed by the Secretary of State for Foreign
Affairs to acknowledge the receipt of your memorials, dated
the 9th, 12th, 18th, 2ord, and 25th of last month, together


with various letters bearing on the same subjects since that
time, and to state in reply, that the matter of your complaint
is at present under investigation with the authorities of the
Spanish Government.

" His lordship the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
desires me to add his regrets, that even in the event of your
liberation, he can hold out no prospect whatever that any
compensation will be made to you for the loss of property
you allege to have suffered, and which, of course, was in-
curred as one of the many risks natural to the course of such
an expedition as you were engaged in.

" I have the honour to be, Sir,
"F.O., London, "Your most obedient Servant,


" To Cornelius Cregan, Esq."

This was a sad damper ! To think that I was to lose the
immense amount of property with which I had embarked.
The gems and jewels, the rare objects of art ; the equipages ;
the beautiful horses of purest Mexican blood ! not to speak
of that far greater loss the large sum in actual money ! but,
then, what a consolation to remember, that a Secretary of
State was mingling his sorrows with my own on the subject ;
that he actually gave an official character to his grief, by
desiring the Tinder Secretary to convey " his regrets " in a
despatch ! his regrets to me, Con Cregan ! What inesti-
mable words ! That ever I should live to know that the
Right Honourable Lord Puzzleton, the adored cherub of
fashion the admired of coteries the worshipped of "the
Commons " the favoured guest of Windsor, should, under
the big seal of his office, assure me of his heartfelt sym-
pathy !

I closed my eyes as I read the paragraph, and imagined
that we were weeping together, like the " Babes in the
Wood." " How they wrong this man," thought I, " in Eng-
land what calumnies they circulate about his levity, his
heartlessness, and so forth : and see ! look at him here,
mingling in the private sorrows of an individual, and taking
part in all the private woes of Con Cregan." By this beau-
tiful artifice, I contrived to raise the aforesaid Con to a very
considerable elevation in his own esteem ; and thus, worthy
reader, by pleasant fancies and ingenious illusions wares
that every man can fashion at will- did I contrive to make


my prison at Malaga a most endurable resting-place ; and
even now to make its retrospect full of sweet memories.

Nor were my imaginings limited to such visions as these ;
for I loved to compare my condition with that of other
exalted prisoners, and fancy how my conduct would read by
the side of theirs. If I were less piously resigned less sub-
missive than Silvio Pellico assuredly I showed more dignity
in my fall than the Exile of St. Helena. I bore all the little
vexations of my lot with a haughty reserve that entirely sub-
dued every sign of a querulous nature, and seemed to say,
" My time will come yet ! "

At last it appeared, either as if my memorials were never
opened, or if opened never read. No answer came whatever!
and even the Malaga newspapers, which, in the dearth of
shipping intelligence, would often insert some little notice of
me, stating how " the ' Conde ' walked yesterday for an hour
upon ' the leads ' " " the ' Conde ' partook with an appetite
of a partridge, and conversed freely with the officer on duty,"
and so on, now they never by any chance alluded to me ; and
I seemed, for all the interest the world manifested about me,
to have suffered a species of moral disease. It was the un-
healthy season of the year, and the Consul had absented
himself, leaving his functions to his " Vice," who having also
a "constitution," had departed likewise, bequeathing the
traditions and cares of office to his Dutch colleague, who
neither spoke nor read any other tongue than that muddy
language begotten of dykes and fogs. Wearied possibly by
the daily arrival of half a quire of my remonstrances, or
curious to see the machine by which these broad sheets were
struck off with such unfailing celerity, this official arrived one
day at the prison with an order from the Governor, permitting
him to see the " Conde."

I was as usual writing away, when the turnkey announced
his Excellency (every official is Excellency if too low for
Highness), Mynheer van Hoagendrius, and a very short and
immensely fat personage, dressed in a kind of black-and-white
plaid jacket and trousers, entered. He looked like a huge
chess-board set on legs. A grunt, a snort, a thick sound like
a struggle between choking and gurgling ensued, which I
concluded to be something in Dutch, and he seated himself
opposite me.

I made my compliments to him, polyglot-wise, in French,
English, Spanish, and at last German, the last evidently
striking a spark out of the embers of his cold intelligence, for
he fixed his dull eyes upon me, and seemed as though he would


soon wake up. Animated by this hope, I proceeded in my very
best " Deutsch " to expound my sorrows to him. Fortunately
for me, my German had been acquired in the low companion-
ship of " skippers " and sailors, and consequently bore a
nearer resemblance to its half-brother of Holland than the
more cultivated tongues of professors and philosophers.

I cannot, to this hour, say whether it arose from any
interest in the narrative, or whether proceeding from the
laudable desire to come at the truth in a question of much
difficulty ; but the Mynheer now came to me each morning,
and usually stayed two hours, during which I talked and he
smoked incessantly. Often, when he left me, have I asked
myself '' what progress I had made in his good opinion ? how
far had I made him master of my case ? " but the question
remained without an answer ; for if occasionally a stray
flash of intelligence would light up his dull features, on fol-
lowing the direction of his eyes I could perceive that the
animation arose from the sight of some fishing-boat returning
loaded with turbot, or that the savoury odour of salt cod had
saluted him from the shore. I felt at length as though I were
sailing without a log-line. Nothing to mark my progress or
say in what latitude I cruised.

My Dutch friend had now been visiting me for above six
weeks ; during which, if he had not supplied himself with
every detail of my calamity, he had at least smoked all the
choice tobacco which, as a favour from the governor, I was
permitted to land for my own use, and as yet he had given
no signs of life other than the act of fumigation aforesaid. I
was half angry, half amused, at the little act of dexterity
with which he emptied the last remnant of my pure Havan-
nah into his pipe, and heard, with a kind of malicious satis-
faction, the little sigh with which he pushed the empty
canister from him.

He seemed lost for some time in the slough of his Dutch
reflections, but at length he fixed his eyes upon me, and in a
low, suffocating tone said, " Hast a file?"

"No," said I.

" There then,'' said he, giving me a small parcel tightly
tied up in paper. " Farewell ! " and he moved towards the
door before I could recover from my surprise to thank him.
As he reached it, he turned about, and in a very significant
voice said, " Der bood est hardt" a species of Plat-Deutsch
I might not have understood if unaccompanied by a gesture,
which implied that the ground was hard beneath my window,
as a caution to me in the event of a leap.


No sooner was I alone than I opened my precious packet,
which, besides two files, contained a small phial of aquafortis
and another of oil, the latter a useful adjunct to prevent the
grating noise being heard. Having concealed the imple-
ments in a rat-hole, I proceeded to examine the iron bars of
the window, which, although seemingly of great size and
strength, were in reality coated with a rust of more than
half their actual thickness. This was a most inspiriting
discovery, and at once animated me with glowing hopes
of success.

As I could only work during the night, I affected illness as
a reason for keeping my bed during the day, when I slept
profoundly and refreshingly.

The non-success of all my efforts to interest diplomacy in
my cause, was just beginning to impress me with a sense of
gloom and despondency, when this new incident occurerd to
rally my drooping courage. Life had now an object, and
that, if not always enough for happiness, is sufficient at least
to rouse those energies, which, when stagnant, produce des-
pair. How I longed for night to come that I might resume
my labour! with what resolute industry I worked on during
the dark hours, only ceasing when the change of the sentries
brought the guard close beneath my window, and even
grudging the few seconds thus wasted. With what delight
I used to measure the fissure which, at first only deep enough
for my nail, was now sufficient to cover the file ! This I used
to conceal each morning with bread coloured by the rusty
powder that fell from the filing, so that, to all seeming, every-
thing was in its usual order.

This was almost the only period of my life in which I re-
membered my father : from some similarity in our condition,
perhaps, he was now seldom out of my thoughts. I used to
wonder if he were still alive, and how situated ; whether he
was yet a convict going forth in chains to daily toil, or a
" ticket-of-leave " man, working at some settlement in the
" Bush." Did he ever think of me ? Did he ever dream of
his native land, or wish to return to it, and what prospect of
escape did fortune hold out to him ? That, after all, was
the great link Avhich bound him to my thoughts ! was there
any silent and sympathizing Dutchman to take pity oil his
captivity V

At the close of the fifth week, I had the inestimable
pleasure of " reporting the breach practicable," or, in less
sounding phrase, of assuring myself that the middle bar of
the window was removable at will, and thus a free caress was


permitted me to an extensive terrace, which, with a low para-
pet, overlooked the bay for miles. This was about five-and-
twenty feet from the ground, and was guarded beneath by a
sentry, one of a chain of sentinals, whose " watch " extended
around the entire fortress. The descent and the guard were
then the only difficulties which now remained to be overcome,
so far, at least, as mere liberation from the prison walls ex-

Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 5) → online text (page 41 of 50)