Charles James Lever.

The Confessions of Harry Lorrequer — Volume 2 online

. (page 1 of 9)
Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe Confessions of Harry Lorrequer — Volume 2 → online text (page 1 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Produced by Mary Munarin and David Widger




[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the
file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an
entire meal of them. D.W.]





THE CONFESSIONS OF HARRY LORREQUER, Volume 2

[By Charles James Lever (1806-1872)]


Dublin

MDCCCXXXIX.



Volume 2. (Chapters XI. to XVII.)


Contents:

CHAPTER XI
Cheltenham - Matrimonial Adventure - Showing how to make love for a friend

CHAPTER XII
Dublin - Tom O'Flaherty - A Reminiscence of the Peninsula

CHAPTER XIII
Dublin - The Boarding-house - Select Society

CHAPTER XIV
The Chase

CHAPTER XV
Mems Of the North Cork

CHAPTER XVI
Theatricals

CHAPTER XVI* (As here the chapter number is repeated in the print copy.)
The Wager

CHAPTER XVII
The Elopement



CHAPTER XI.

CHELTENHAM - MATRIMONIAL ADVENTURE - SHOWING HOW TO MAKE LOVE FOR A FRIEND.

It was a cold raw evening in February as I sat in the coffee-room of the
Old Plough in Cheltenham, "Lucullus c. Lucullo" - no companion save my
half-finished decanter of port. I had drawn my chair to the corner of
the ample fire-place, and in a half dreamy state was reviewing the
incidents of my early life, and like most men who, however young, have
still to lament talents misapplied, opportunities neglected, profitless
labour, and disastrous idleness. The dreary aspect of the large and
ill-lighted room - the close-curtained boxes - the unsocial look of every
thing and body about suited the habit of my soul, and I was on the verge
of becoming excessively sentimental - the unbroken silence, where several
people were present, had also its effect upon me, and I felt oppressed
and dejected. So sat I for an hour; the clock over the mantel ticked
sharply on - the old man in the brown surtout had turned in his chair,
and now snored louder - the gentleman who read the Times had got the
Chronicle, and I thought I saw him nodding over the advertisements.
The father who, with a raw son of about nineteen, had dined at six,
sat still and motionless opposite his offspring, and only breaking the
silence around by the grating of the decanter as he posted it across the
table. The only thing denoting active existence was a little, shrivelled
man, who, with spectacles on his forehead, and hotel slippers on his
feet, rapidly walked up and down, occasionally stopping at his table to
sip a little weak-looking negus, which was his moderate potation for two
hours. I have been particular in chronicling these few and apparently
trivial circumstances, for by what mere trifles are our greatest and
most important movements induced - had the near wheeler of the Umpire
been only safe on his fore legs, and while I write this I might - but let
me continue. The gloom and melancholy which beset me, momentarily
increased. But three months before, and my prospects presented every
thing that was fairest and brightest - now all the future was dark and
dismal. Then my best friends could scarcely avoid envy at my fortune
- now my reverses might almost excite compassion even in an enemy. It
was singular enough, and I should not like to acknowledge it, were not
these Confessions in their very nature intended to disclose the very
penetralia of my heart; but singular it certainly was - and so I have
always felt it since, when reflecting on it - that although much and
warmly attached to Lady Jane Callonby, and feeling most acutely what I
must call her abandonment of me, yet, the most constantly recurring idea
of my mind on the subject was, what will the mess say - what will they
think at head-quarters? - the raillery, the jesting, the half-concealed
allusion, the tone of assumed compassion, which all awaited me, as each
of my comrades took up his line of behaving towards me, was, after all,
the most difficult thing to be borne, and I absolutely dreaded to join
my regiment, more thoroughly than did ever schoolboy to return to his
labour on the expiration of his holidays. I had framed to myself all
manner of ways of avoiding this dread event; sometimes I meditated an
exchange into an African corps - sometimes to leave the army altogether.
However, I turned the affair over in my mind - innumerable difficulties
presented themselves, and I was at last reduced to that stand-still
point, in which, after continual vacillation, one only waits for the
slightest impulse of persuasion from another, to adopt any, no matter
what suggestion. In this enviable frame of mind I sat sipping my wine,
and watching the clock for that hour at which, with a safe conscience, I
might retire to my bed, when the waiter roused me by demanding if my
name was Mr. Lorrequer, for that a gentleman having seen my card in the
bar, had been making inquiry for the owner of it all through the hotel.

"Yes," said I, "such is my name; but I am not acquainted with any one
here, that I can remember."

"The gentleman has ony arrived an hour since by the London mail, sir, and
here he is."

At this moment, a tall, dashing-looking, half-swaggering fellow, in a
very sufficient envelope of box-coats, entered the coffee-room, and
unwinding a shawl from his throat, showed me the honest and manly
countenance of my friend Jack Waller, of the __th dragoons, with whom I
had served in the Peninsula.

Five minutes sufficed for Jack to tell me that he was come down on a bold
speculation at this unseasonable time for Cheltenham; that he was quite
sure his fortune was about to be made in a few weeks at farthest, and
what seemed nearly as engrossing a topic - that he was perfectly famished,
and desired a hot supper, "de suite."

Jack having despatched this agreeable meal with a traveller's appetite,
proceeded to unfold his plans to me as follows:

There resided somewhere near Cheltenham, in what direction he did not
absolutely know, an old East India colonel, who had returned from a long
career of successful staff-duties and government contracts, with the
moderate fortune of two hundred thousand. He possessed, in addition, a
son and a daughter; the former, being a rake and a gambler, he had long
since consigned to his own devices, and to the latter he had avowed his
intention of leaving all his wealth. That she was beautiful as an angel
- highly accomplished - gifted - agreeable - and all that, Jack, who had
never seen her, was firmly convinced; that she was also bent resolutely
on marrying him, or any other gentleman whose claims were principally the
want of money, he was quite ready to swear to; and, in fact, so assured
did he feel that "the whole affair was feasible," (I use his own
expression,) that he had managed a two months' leave, and was come down
express to see, make love to, and carry her off at once.

"But," said I, with difficulty interrupting him, "how long have you known
her father?"

"Known him? I never saw him."

"Well, that certainly is cool; and how do you propose making his
acquaintance. Do you intend to make him a 'particeps criminis' in the
elopement of his own daughter, for a consideration to be hereafter paid
out of his own money?"

"Now, Harry, you've touched upon the point in which, you must confess,
my genius always stood unrivalled - acknowledge, if you are not dead to
gratitude - acknowledge how often should you have gone supperless to bed
in our bivouacs in the Peninsula, had it not been for the ingenuity of
your humble servant - avow, that if mutton was to be had, and beef to be
purloined, within a circuit of twenty miles round, our mess certainly
kept no fast days. I need not remind you of the cold morning on the
retreat from Burgos, when the inexorable Lake brought five men to the
halberds for stealing turkeys, that at the same moment, I was engaged in
devising an ox-tail soup, from a heifer brought to our tent in jack-boots
the evening before, to escape detection by her foot tracks."

"True, Jack, I never questioned your Spartan talent; but this affair,
time considered, does appear rather difficult."

"And if it were not, should I have ever engaged in it? No, no, Harry. I
put all proper value upon the pretty girl, with her two hundred thousand
pounds pin-money. But I honestly own to you, the intrigue, the scheme,
has as great charm for me as any part of the transaction."

"Well, Jack, now for the plan, then!"

"The plan! oh, the plan. Why, I have several; but since I have seen you,
and talked the matter over with you, I have begun to think of a new mode
of opening the trenches."

"Why, I don't see how I can possibly have admitted a single new ray of
light upon the affair."

"There are you quite wrong. Just hear me out without interruption, and
I'll explain. I'll first discover the locale of this worthy colonel
- 'Hydrabad Cottage' he calls it; good, eh? - then I shall proceed to
make a tour of the immediate vicinity, and either be taken dangerously
ill in his grounds, within ten yards of the hall-door, or be thrown from
my gig at the gate of his avenue, and fracture my skull; I don't much
care which. Well, then, as I learn that the old gentleman is the most
kind, hospitable fellow in the world, he'll admit me at once; his
daughter will tend my sick couch - nurse - read to me; glorious fun,
Harry. I'll make fierce love to her; and now, the only point to be
decided is whether, having partaken of the colonel's hospitality so
freely, I ought to carry her off, or marry her with papa's consent.
You see there is much to be said for either line of proceeding."

"I certainly agree with you there; but since you seem to see your way so
clearly up to that point, why, I should advise you leaving that an 'open
question,' as the ministers say, when they are hard pressed for an
opinion."

"Well, Harry, I consent; it shall remain so. Now for your part, for I
have not come to that."

"Mine," said I, in amazement; "why how can I possibly have any character
assigned to me in the drama?"

"I'll tell you, Harry, you shall come with me in the gig in the capacity
of my valet."

"Your what?" said I, horror-struck at his impudence.

"Come, no nonsense, Harry, you'll have a glorious time of it - shall
choose as becoming a livery as you like - and you'll have the whole female
world below stairs dying for you; and all I ask for such an opportunity
vouchsafed to you is to puff me, your master, in every possible shape and
form, and represent me as the finest and most liberal fellow in the
world, rolling in wealth, and only striving to get rid of it."

The unparalleled effrontery of Master Jack, in assigning to me such an
office, absolutely left me unable to reply to him; while he continued to
expatiate upon the great field for exertion thus open to us both. At
last it occurred to me to benefit by an anecdote of a something similar
arrangement, of capturing, not a young lady, but a fortified town, by
retorting Jack's proposition.

"Come," said I, "I agree, with one only difference - I'll be the master
and you the man on this occasion."

To my utter confusion, and without a second's consideration, Waller
grasped my hand, and cried, "done." Of course I laughed heartily at the
utter absurdity of the whole scheme, and rallied my friend on his
prospects of Botany Bay for such an exploit; never contemplating in the
most remote degree the commission of such extravagance.

Upon this Jack, to use the expressive French phrase, "pris la parole,"
touching with a master-like delicacy on my late defeat among the
Callonbys, (which up to this instant I believed him in ignorance of;)
he expatiated upon the prospect of my repairing that misfortune, and
obtaining a fortune considerably larger; he cautiously abstained from
mentioning the personal charms of the young lady, supposing, from my
lachrymose look, that my heart had not yet recovered the shock of Lady
Jane's perfidy, and rather preferred to dwell upon the escape such a
marriage could open to me from the mockery of the mess-table, the jesting
of my brother officers, and the life-long raillery of the service,
wherever the story reached.

The fatal facility of my disposition, so often and so frankly chronicled
in these Confessions - the openness to be led whither any one might take
the trouble to conduct me - the easy indifference to assume any character
which might be pressed upon me, by chance, accident, or design, assisted
by my share of three flasks of champagne, induced me first to listen
- then to attend to - soon after to suggest - and finally, absolutely to
concur in and agree to a proposal, which, at any other moment, I must
have regarded as downright insanity. As the clock struck two, I had just
affixed my name to an agreement, for Jack Waller had so much of method in
his madness, that, fearful of my retracting in the morning, he had
committed the whole to writing, which, as a specimen of Jack's legal
talents I copy from the original document now in my posession.

"The Plough, Cheltenham, Tuesday night or morning, two o'clock - be
the same more or less. I, Harry Lorrequer, sub. in his Majesty's
__th regiment of foot, on the one part; and I, John Waller, commonly
called Jack Waller, of the __th light dragoons on the other; hereby
promise and agree, each for himself, and not one for the other, to
the following conditions, which are hereafter subjoined, to wit, the
aforesaid Jack Waller is to serve, obey, and humbly follow the
aforementioned Harry Lorrequer, for the space of one month of four
weeks; conducting himself in all respects, modes, ways, manners, as
his, the aforesaid Lorrequer's own man, skip, valet, or saucepan
- duly praising, puffing, and lauding the aforesaid Lorrequer, and in
every way facilitating his success to the hand and fortune of - "

"Shall we put in her name, Harry, here?" said Jack.

"I think not; we'll fill it up in pencil; that looks very knowing."

" - at the end of which period, if successful in his suit, the
aforesaid Harry Lorrequer is to render to the aforesaid Waller the
sum of ten thousand pounds three and a half per cent. with a
faithful discharge in writing for his services, as may be. If, on
the other hand, and which heaven forbid, the aforesaid Lorrequer
fail in obtaining the hand of _____, that he will evacuate the
territory within twelve hours, and repairing to a convenient spot
selected by the aforesaid Waller, then and there duly invest himself
with a livery chosen by the aforesaid Waller - "

"You know, each man uses his choice in this particular," said Jack.

" - and for the space of four calendar weeks, be unto the aforesaid
Waller, as his skip, or valet, receiving, in the event of success,
the like compensation, as aforesaid, each promising strictly to
maintain the terms of this agreement, and binding, by a solemn
pledge, to divest himself of every right appertaining to his former
condition, for the space of time there mentioned."

We signed and sealed it formally, and finished another flask to its
perfect ratification. This done, and after a hearty shake hands, we
parted and retired for the night.

The first thing I saw on waking the following morning was Jack Waller
standing beside my bed, evidently in excellent spirits with himself and
all the world.

"Harry, my boy, I have done it gloriously," said he. "I only remembered
on parting with you last night, that one of the most marked features in
our old colonel's character is a certain vague idea, he has somewhere
picked up, that he has been at some very remote period of his history a
most distinguished officer. This notion, it appears, haunts his mind,
and he absolutely believes he has been in every engagement from the seven
years war, down to the Battle of Waterloo. You cannot mention a siege he
did not lay down the first parallel for, nor a storming party where he
did not lead the forlorn hope; and there is not a regiment in the
service, from those that formed the fighting brigade of Picton, down to
the London trainbands, with which, to use his own phrase, he has not
fought and bled. This mania of heroism is droll enough, when one
considers that the sphere of his action was necessarily so limited; but
yet we have every reason to be thankful for the peculiarity, as you'll
say, when I inform you that this morning I despatched a hasty messenger
to his villa, with a most polite note, setting forth that a Mr.
Lorrequer - ay, Harry, all above board - there is nothing like it - 'as Mr.
Lorrequer, of the __th, was collecting for publication, such materials as
might serve to commemorate the distinguished achievements of British
officers, who have, at any time, been in command - he most respectfully
requests an interview with Colonel Kamworth, whose distinguished
services, on many gallant occasions, have called forth the unqualified
approval of his majesty's government. Mr. Lorrequer's stay is
necessarily limited to a few days, as he proceeds from this to visit Lord
Anglesey; and, therefore, would humbly suggest as early a meeting as may
suit Colonel K.'s convenience.' What think you now? Is this a
master-stroke or not?"

"Why, certainly, we are in for it now," said I, drawing a deep sigh.
"But Jack, what is all this? Why, you're in livery already."

I now, for the first time, perceived that Waller was arrayed in a very
decorous suit of dark grey, with cord shorts and boots, and looked a very
knowing style of servant for the side of a tilbury.

"You like it, don't you? Well, I should have preferred something a
little more showy myself; but as you chose this last night, I, of course,
gave way, and after all, I believe you're right, it certainly is neat."

"Did I choose it last night? I have not the slightest recollection of
it."

"Yes, you were most particular about the length of the waistcoat, and the
height of the cockade, and you see I have followed your orders tolerably
close; and now, adieu to sweet equality for the season, and I am your
most obedient servant for four weeks - see that you make the most of it."

While we were talking, the waiter entered with a note addressed to me,
which I rightly conjectured could only come from Colonel Kamworth. It
ran thus -

"Colonel Kamworth feels highly flattered by the polite attention of
Mr. Lorrequer, and will esteem it a particular favour if Mr. L. can
afford him the few days his stay in this part of the country will
permit, by spending them at Hydrabad Cottage. Any information as to
Colonel Kamworth's services in the four quarters of the globe, he
need not say, is entirely at Mr. L.'s disposal.

"Colonel K. dines at six precisely."

When Waller had read the note through, he tossed his hat up in the air,
and, with something little sort of an Indian whoop, shouted out -

"The game is won already. Harry, my man, give me the check for the ten
thousand: she is your own this minute."

Without participating entirely in Waller's exceeding delight, I could not
help feeling a growing interest in the part I was advertised to perform,
and began my rehearsal with more spirit than I thought I should have been
able to command.

That same evening, at the same hour as that in which on the preceding I
sat lone and comfortless by the coffee-room fire, I was seated opposite a
very pompous, respectable-looking old man, with a large, stiff queue of
white hair, who pressed me repeatedly to fill my glass and pass the
decanter. The room was a small library, with handsomely fitted shelves;
there were but four chairs, but each would have made at least three of
any modern one; the curtains of deep crimson cloth effectually secured
the room from draught; and the cheerful wood fire blazing on the hearth,
which was the only light in the apartment, gave a most inviting look of
comfort and snugness to every thing. This, thought I, is all excellent;
and however the adventure ends, this is certainly pleasant, and I never
tasted better Madeira.

"And so, Mr. Lorrequer, you heard of my affair at Cantantrabad, when I
took the Rajah prisoner?"

"Yes," said I; "the governor-general mentioned the gallant business the
very last time I dined at Government-House."

"Ah, did he? kind of him though. Well, sir, I received two millions of
rupees on the morning after, and a promise of ten more if I would permit
him to escape - but no - I refused flatly."

"Is it possible; and what did you do with the two millions? - sent them,
of course - ."

"No, that I didn't; the wretches know nothing of the use of money. No,
no; I have them this moment in good government security.

"I believe I never mentioned to you the storming of Java. Fill yourself
another glass, and I'll describe it all to you, for it will be of
infinite consequence that a true narrative of this meets the public eye
- they really are quire ignorant of it. Here now is Fort Cornelius, and
there is the moat, the sugar-basin is the citadel, and the tongs is the
first trench, the decanter will represent the tall tower towards the
south-west angle, and here, the wine glass - this is me. Well, it was a
little after ten at night that I got the order from the general in
command to march upon this plate of figs, which was an open space before
Fort Cornelius, and to take up my position in front of the fort, and with
four pieces of field artillery - these walnuts here - to be ready to open
my fire at a moment's warning upon the sou-west tower; but, my dear sir,
you have moved the tower; I thought you were drinking Madeira. As I said
before, to open my fire upon the sou-west tower, or if necessary protect
the sugar tongs, which I explained to you was the trench. Just at the
same time the besieged were making preparations for a sortie to occupy
this dish of almonds and raisins - the high ground to the left of my
position - put another log on the fire, if you please, sir, for I cannot
see myself - I thought I was up near the figs, and I find myself down near
the half moon."

"It is past nine," said a servant entering the room; "shall I take the
carriage for Miss Kamworth, sir?" This being the first time the name of
the young lady was mentioned since my arrival, I felt somewhat anxious to
hear more of her, in which laudable desire I was not however to be
gratified, for the colonel, feeling considerably annoyed by the
interruption, dismissed the servant by saying -

"What do you mean, sirrah, by coming in at this moment; don't you see I
am preparing for the attack on the half moon? Mr. Lorrequer, I beg your
pardon for one moment, this fellow has completely put me out; and
besides, I perceive, you have eaten the flying artillery, and in fact, my
dear sir, I shall be obliged to lay down the position again."

With this praiseworthy interest the colonel proceeded to arrange the
"materiel" of our dessert in battle array, when the door was suddenly
thrown open, and a very handsome girl, in a most becoming demi toilette,
sprung into the room, and either not noticing, or not caring, that a
stranger was present, threw herself into the old gentleman's arms, with a
degree of empressement, exceedingly vexatious for any third and
unoccupied party to witness.

"Mary, my dear," said the colonel, completely forgetting Java and Fort
Cornelius at once, "you don't perceive I have a gentleman to introduce to
you, Mr. Lorrequer, my daughter, Miss Kamworth," here the young lady
courtesied somewhat stiffly, and I bowed reverently; and we all resumed
places. I now found out that Miss Kamworth had been spending the
preceding four or five days at a friend's in the neighbourhood; and had
preferred coming home somewhat unexpectedly, to waiting for her own
carriage.

My confessions, if recorded verbatim, from the notes of that four weeks'
sojourn, would only increase the already too prolix and uninteresting
details of this chapter in my life; I need only say, that without falling
in love with Mary Kamworth, I felt prodigiously disposed thereto; she was
extremely pretty; had a foot and ancle to swear by, the most silvery
toned voice I almost ever heard, and a certain witchery and archness of
manner that by its very tantalizing uncertainty continually provoked
attention, and by suggesting a difficulty in the road to success,
imparted a more than common zest in the pursuit. She was little, a very
little blue, rather a dabbler in the "ologies," than a real disciple.
Yet she made collections of minerals, and brown beetles, and
cryptogamias, and various other homeopathic doses of the creation,
infinitessimally small in their subdivision; in none of which I felt any
interest, save in the excuse they gave for accompanying her in her


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe Confessions of Harry Lorrequer — Volume 2 → online text (page 1 of 9)