Charles James Lever.

The Confessions of Harry Lorrequer — Volume 5 online

. (page 1 of 9)
Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe Confessions of Harry Lorrequer — Volume 5 → 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, Vol. 5

[By Charles James Lever (1806-1872)]


Dublin

MDCCCXXXIX.



Volume 5. (Chapter XXIX-XLI)


Contents:

CHAPTER XXIX
Captain Trevanion's Adventure

CHAPTER XXX
Difficulties

CHAPTER XXXI
Explanation

CHAPTER XXXII
Mr O'Leary's First Love

CHAPTER XXXIII
Mr O'Leary's Second Love

CHAPTER XXXIV
The Duel

CHAPTER XXXV
Early Recollections - A First Love

CHAPTER XXXVI
Wise Resolves

CHAPTER XXXVII
The Proposal

CHAPTER XXXVIII
Thoughts upon Matrimony in general, and in the Army in particular - The
Knight of Kerry and Billy M'Cabe

CHAPTER XXXIX
A Reminiscence

CHAPTER XL
The Two Letters

CHAPTER XLI
Mr O'Leary's Capture





CHAPTER XXIX.

CAPTAIN TREVANION'S ADVENTURE.

As the day was now waning apace, and I was still unprovided with any one
who could act as my second, I set out upon a search through the various
large hotels in the neighbourhood, trusting that amid my numerous
acquaintance I should be fortunate enough to find some of them at Paris.
With a most anxious eye I scanned the lists of arrivals at the usual
haunts of my countrymen, in the Rue Rivoli, and the Place Vendome, but
without success; there were long catalogues of "Milors," with their
"couriers," &c. but not one name known to me in the number.

I repaired to Galignani's library, which, though crowded as ever with
English, did not present to me one familiar face. From thence I turned
into the Palais Royale, and at last, completely jaded by walking, and
sick from disappointment, I sat down upon a bench in the Tuilleries
Garden.

I had scarcely been there many minutes when a gentleman accosted me in
English, saying, "May I ask if this be your property?" showing, at the
same time, a pocket-book which I had inadvertently dropped in pulling out
my handkerchief. As I thanked him for his attention, and was about to
turn away, I perceived that he continued to look very steadily at me. At
length he said,

"I think I am not mistaken; I have the pleasure to see Mr. Lorrequer, who
may perhaps recollect my name, Trevanion of the 43rd. The last time we
met was at Malta."

"Oh, I remember perfectly. Indeed I should be very ungrateful if I did
not; for to your kind offices there I am indebted for my life. You must
surely recollect the street row at the 'Caserne?'"

"Yes; that was a rather brisk affair while it lasted; but, pray, how long
are you here?"

"Merely a few days; and most anxious am I to leave as soon as possible;
for, independently of pressing reasons to wish myself elsewhere, I have
had nothing but trouble and worry since my arrival, and at this instant
am involved in a duel, without the slightest cause that I can discover,
and, what is still worse, without the aid of a single friend to undertake
the requisite negociation for me."

"If my services can in any way assist - "

"Oh, my dear captain, this is really so great a favour that I cannot say
how much I thank you."

"Say nothing whatever, but rest quite assured that I am completely at
your disposal; for although we are not very old friends, yet I have heard
so much of you from some of ours, that I feel as if we had been long
acquainted."

This was an immense piece of good fortune to me; for, of all the persons
I knew, he was the most suited to aid me at this moment. In addition to
a thorough knowledge of the continent and its habits, he spoke French
fluently, and had been the most renomme authority in the duello to a
large military acquaintance; joining to a consummate tact and cleverness
in his diplomacy, a temper that never permitted itself to be ruffled, and
a most unexceptionable reputation for courage. In a word, to have had
Trevanion for your second, was not only to have secured odds in your
favour, but, still better, to have obtained the certainty that, let the
affair take what turn it might, you were sure of coming out of it with
credit. He was the only man I have ever met, who had much mixed himself
in transactions of this nature, and yet never, by any chance, had
degenerated into the fire-eater; more quiet, unassuming manners it was
impossible to meet with, and, in the various anecdotes I have heard of
him, I have always traced a degree of forbearance, that men of less known
bravery might not venture to practise. At the same time, when once
roused by any thing like premeditated insult - or pre-determined affront
- he became almost ungovernable, and it would be safer to beard the lion
in his den than cross his path. Among the many stories, and there were a
great many current in his regiment concerning him, there was one so
singularly characteristic of the man, that, as I have passingly mentioned
his name here, I may as well relate it; at the same time premising that,
as it is well known, I may only be repeating an often-heard tale to many
of my readers.

When the regiment to which Trevanion belonged became part of the army of
occupation in Paris, he was left at Versailles seriously ill from the
effects of a sabre-wound he received at Waterloo, and from which his
recovery at first was exceedingly doubtful. At the end of several weeks,
however, he became out of danger, and was able to receive the visits of
his brother officers, whenever they were fortunate enough to obtain a
day's leave of absence, to run down and see him. From them he learned
that one of his oldest friends in the regiment had fallen in a duel,
during the time of his illness, and that two other officers were
dangerously wounded - one of whom was not expected to survive. When he
inquired as to the reasons of these many disasters, he was informed that
since the entrance of the allies into Paris, the French officers, boiling
with rage and indignation at their recent defeat, and smarting under the
hourly disgrace which the presence of their conquerors suggested, sought
out, by every means in their power, opportunities of insult; but always
so artfully contrived as to render the opposite party the challenger,
thus reserving to themselves the choice of weapons. When therefore it
is borne in mind that the French are the most expert swordsmen in Europe,
little doubt can exist as to the issue of these combats; and, in fact,
scarcely a morning passed without three or four English or Prussian
officers being carried through the Barriere de l'Etoile, if not dead, at
least seriously wounded, and condemned to carry with them through life
the inflictions of a sanguinary and savage spirit of revenge.

While Trevanion listened to this sad recital, and scarcely did a day come
without adding to the long catalogue of disasters, he at once perceived
that the quiet deportment and unassuming demeanour which so strongly
characterise the English officer, were construed by their French
opponents into evidences of want of courage, and saw that to so
systematic a plan for slaughter no common remedy could be applied, and
that some "coup d'etat" was absolutely necessary, to put it down once
and for ever.

In the history of these sanguinary rencontres, one name was continually
recurring, generally as the principal, sometimes the instigator of the
quarrel. This was an officer of a chasseur regiment, who had the
reputation of being the best swordsman in the whole French army, and was
no less distinguished for his "skill at fence," than his uncompromising
hatred of the British, with whom alone, of all the allied forces, he was
ever known to come in contact. So celebrated was the "Capitaine Augustin
Gendemar" for his pursuits, that it was well known at that time in Paris
that he was the president of a duelling club, associated for the express
and avowed object of provoking to insult, and as certainly dooming to
death every English officer upon whom they could fasten a quarrel.

The Cafe Philidor, at that period in the Rue Vivienne, was the rendezvous
of this reputable faction, and here "le Capitaine" reigned supreme,
receiving accounts of the various "affairs" which were transacting
- counselling and plotting for the future. His ascendancy among his
countrymen was perfectly undisputed, and being possessed of great
muscular strength, with that peculiarly "farouche" exterior, without
which courage is nothing in France, he was in every way calculated for
the infamous leadership he assumed.

It was, unfortunately, to this same cafe, being situated in what was
called the English quarter, that the officers of the 43rd regiment were
in the habit of resorting, totally unaware of the plots by which they
were surrounded, and quite unsuspecting the tangled web of deliberate and
cold-blooded assassination in which they were involved, and here took
place the quarrel, the result of which was the death of Trevanion's
friend, a young officer of great promise, and universally beloved in his
regiment.

As Trevanion listened to these accounts, his impatience became daily
greater, that his weak state should prevent his being among his brother
officers, when his advice and assistance were so imperatively required,
and where, amid all the solicitude for his perfect recovery, he could not
but perceive they ardently wished for him.

The day at last arrived, and restored to something like his former self,
Trevanion once more appeared in the mess-room of his regiment. Amid the
many sincere and hearty congratulations on his recovered looks, were not
a few half-expressed hints that he might not go much out into the world
for some little time to come. To these friendly admonitions Trevanion
replied by a good-humoured laugh, and a ready assurance that he
understood the intended kindness, and felt in no wise disposed to be
invalided again. "In fact," said he, "I have come up here to enjoy life
a little, not to risque it; but, among the sights of your gay capital, I
must certainly have a peep at your famed captain, of whom I have heard
too much not to feel an interest in him."

Notwithstanding the many objections to this, made with a view to delay
his visit to the Philidor to a later period, it was at length agreed,
that they should all repair to the cafe that evening, but upon the
express understanding that every cause of quarrel should be strictly
avoided, and that their stay should be merely sufficient to satisfy
Trevanion's curiosity as to the personnel of the renomme captain.

It was rather before the usual hour of the cafe's filling, that a number
of English officers, among whom was Trevanion, entered the "salon" of the
"Philidor;" having determined not to attract any unusual attention, they
broke into little knots and parties of threes and fours, and dispersed
through the room, where they either sipped their coffee or played at
dominoes, then, as now, the staple resource of a French cafe.

The clock over the "comptoir" struck eight, and, at the same instant,
a waiter made his appearance, carrying a small table, which he placed
beside the fire, and, having trimmed a lamp, and placed a large fauteuil
before it, was about to withdraw, when Trevanion, whose curiosity was
roused by the singularity of these arrangements, determined upon asking
for whose comfort they were intended. The waiter stared for a moment at
the question, with an air as if doubting the seriousness of him who put
it, and at last replied - "Pour Monsieur le Capitaine, je crois," with a
certain tone of significance upon the latter words.

"Le Capitaine! but what captain?" said he, carelessly; "for I am a
captain, and that gentleman there - and there, too, is another," at the
same instant throwing himself listlessly into the well-cushioned chair,
and stretching out his legs at full length upon the hearth.

The look of horror which this quiet proceeding on his part, elicited from
the poor waiter, so astonished him that he could not help saying - "is
there any thing the matter with you, my friend; are you ill?"

"No, monsieur, not ill; nothing the matter with me; but you, sir; oh,
you, sir, pray come away."

"Me," said Trevanion; "me! why, my good man, I was never better in my
life; so now just bring me my coffee and the Moniteur, if you have it;
there, don't stare that way, but do as I bid you."

There was something in the assured tone of these few words that either
overawed or repressed every rising feeling of the waiter, for his
interrogator; for, silently handing his coffee and the newspaper, he left
the room; not, however, without bestowing a parting glance so full of
terror and dismay that our friend was obliged to smile at it. All this
was the work of a few minutes, and not until the noise of new arrivals
had attracted the attention of his brother officers, did they perceive
where he had installed himself, and to what danger he was thus, as they
supposed, unwittingly exposed.

It was now, however, too late for remonstrance; for already several
French officers had noticed the circumstance, and by their interchange of
looks and signs, openly evinced their satisfaction at it, and their
delight at the catastrophe which seemed inevitable to the luckless
Englishman.

In perfect misery at what they conceived their own fault, in not
apprising him of the sacred character of that place, they stood silently
looking at him as he continued to sip his coffee, apparently unconscious
of every thing and person about him.

There was now a more than ordinary silence in the cafe, which at all
times was remarkable for the quiet and noiseless demeanour of its
frequenters, when the door was flung open by the ready waiter, and the
Capitaine Augustin Gendemar entered. He was a large, squarely-built man,
with a most savage expression of countenance, which a bushy beard and
shaggy overhanging moustache served successfully to assist; his eyes were
shaded by deep, projecting brows, and long eyebrows slanting over them,
and increasing their look of piercing sharpness; there was in his whole
air and demeanour that certain French air of swaggering bullyism, which
ever remained in those who, having risen from the ranks, maintained the
look of ruffianly defiance which gave their early character for courage
peculiar merit.

To the friendly salutations of his countrymen he returned the slightest
and coldest acknowledgments, throwing a glance of disdain around him as
he wended his way to his accustomed place beside the fire; this he did
with as much of noise and swagger as he could well contrive; his sabre
and sabretasch clanking behind, his spurs jangling, and his heavy step,
made purposely heavier to draw upon him the notice and attention he
sought for. Trevanion alone testified no consciousness of his entrance,
and appeared totally engrossed by the columns of his newspaper, from
which he never lifted his eyes for an instant. Le Capitaine at length
reached the fire-place, when, no sooner did he behold his accustomed seat
in the possession of another, than he absolutely started back with
surprise and anger.

What might have been his first impulse it is hard to say, for, as the
blood rushed to his face and forehead, he clenched his hands firmly, and
seemed for an instant, as he eyed the stranger, like a tiger about to
spring upon its victim; this was but for a second, for turning rapidly
round towards his party, he gave them a look of peculiar meaning, showing
two rows of white teeth, with a grin which seemed to say, "I have taken
my line;" and he had done so. He now ordered the waiter, in a voice of
thunder, to bring him a chair, this he took roughly from him, and placed,
with a crash, upon the floor, exactly opposite that of Trevanion, and
still so near as scarcely to permit of his sitting down upon it. The
noisy vehemence of this action at last appeared to have roused
Trevanion's attention, for he now, for the first time, looked up from his
paper, and quietly regarded his vis-a-vis. There could not in the world
be a stronger contrast to the bland look and courteous expression of
Trevanion's handsome features, than the savage scowl of the enraged
Frenchman, in whose features the strong and ill-repressed workings of
passion were twitching and distorting every lineament and line; indeed no
words could ever convey one half so forcibly as did that look, insult
- open, palpable, deep, determined insult.

Trevanion, whose eyes had been merely for a moment lifted from his
paper, again fell, and he appeared to take no notice whatever of the
extraordinary proximity of the Frenchman, still less of the savage and
insulting character of his looks.

Le Capitaine, having thus failed to bring on the eclaircissement he
sought for, proceeded to accomplish it by other means; for, taking the
lamp, by the light of which Trevanion was still reading, he placed it at
his side of the table, and at the same instant stretching across his arm,
he plucked the newspaper from his hand, giving at the same moment a
glance of triumph towards the bystanders, as though he would say, "you
see what he must submit to." Words cannot describe the astonishment of
the British officers, as they beheld Trevanion, under this gross and open
insult, content himself by a slight smile and half bow, as if returning
a courtesy, and then throw his eyes downward, as if engaged in deep
thought, while the triumphant sneer of the French, at this unaccountable
conduct, was absolutely maddening to them to endure.

But their patience was destined to submit to stronger proof, for at this
instant le Capitaine stretched forth one enormous leg, cased in his
massive jack-boot, and with a crash deposited the heel upon the foot of
their friend Trevanion. At length he is roused, thought they, for a
slight flush of crimson flitted across his cheek, and his upper lip
trembled with a quick spasmodic twitching; but both these signs were over
in a second, and his features were as calm and unmoved as before, and his
only appearance of consciousness of the affront, was given by his drawing
back his chair and placing his legs beneath it, as for protection.

This last insult, and the tame forbearance with which it was submitted
to, produced all their opposite effects upon the by-standers, and
looks of ungovernable rage and derisive contempt were every moment
interchanging; indeed, were it not for the all-absorbing interest which
the two great actors in the scene had concentrated upon themselves, the
two parties must have come at once into open conflict.

The clock of the cafe struck nine, the hour at which Gendemar always
retired, so calling to the waiter for his petit verre of brandy, he
placed his newspaper upon the table, and putting both his elbows upon it,
and his chin upon his hands, he stared full in Trevanion's face, with a
look of the most derisive triumph, meant to crown the achievement of the
evening. To this, as to all his former insults, Trevanion appeared still
insensible, and merely regarded him with his never - changing half smile;
the petite verre arrived; le Capitaine took it in his hand, and, with a
nod of most insulting familiarity, saluted Trevanion, adding with a loud
voice, so as to be heard on every side - "a votre courage, Anglais." He
had scarcely swallowed the liqueur when Trevanion rose slowly from his
chair, displaying to the astonished gaze of the Frenchman the immense
proportions and gigantic frame of a man well known as the largest officer
in the British army; with one stride he was beside the chair of the
Frenchman, and with the speed of lightening he seized his nose by one
hand, while with the other he grasped his lower jaw, and, wrenching open
his mouth with the strength of an ogre, he spat down his throat.

So sudden was the movement, that before ten seconds had elapsed, all was
over, and the Frenchman rushed from the room, holding the fragments of
his jaw-bone, (for it was fractured!) And followed by his countrymen,
who, from that hour, deserted the Cafe Philidor, nor was there ever any
mention of the famous captain during the stay of the regiment in Paris.




CHAPTER XXX.

DIFFICULTIES.

While we walked together towards Meurice, I explained to Trevanion the
position in which I stood; and having detailed, at full length, the
fracas at the Salon, and the imprisonment of O'Leary, entreated his
assistance in behalf of him, as well as to free me from some of my many
embarrassments.

It was strange enough - though at first so pre-occupied was I with other
thoughts, that I paid but little attention to it - that no part of my
eventful evening seemed to make so strong an impression on him as my
mention of having seen my cousin Guy, and heard from him of the death of
my uncle. At this portion of my story he smiled, with so much
significance of meaning, that I could not help asking his reason.

"It is always an unpleasant task, Mr. Lorrequer, to speak in any way,
however delicately, in a tone of disparagement of a man's relatives; and,
therefore, as we are not long enough acquainted - "

"But pray," said I, "waive that consideration, and only remember the
position in which I now am. If you know any thing of this business, I
entreat you to tell me - I promise to take whatever you may be disposed to
communicate, in the same good part it is intended."

"Well, then, I believe you are right; but, first, let me ask you, how do
you know of your uncle's death; for I have reason to doubt it?"

"From Guy; he told me himself."

"When did you see him, and where?"

"Why, I have just told you; I saw him last night at the Salon."

"And you could not be mistaken?"

"Impossible! Besides, he wrote to me a note which I received this
morning - here it is."

"Hem - ha. Well, are you satisfied that this is his handwriting?" said
Trevanion, as he perused the note slowly twice over.

"Why, of course - but stop - you are right; it is not his hand, nor do I
know the writing, now that you direct my attention to it. But what can
that mean? You, surely, do not suppose that I have mistaken any one for
him; for, independent of all else, his knowledge of my family, and my
uncle's affairs, would quite disprove that."

"This is really a complex affair," said Trevanion, musingly. "How long
may it be since you saw your cousin - before last night, I mean?"

"Several years; above six, certainly."

"Oh, it is quite possible, then," said Trevanion, musingly; "do you know,
Mr. Lorrequer, this affair seems much more puzzling to me than to you,
and for this plain reason - I am disposed to think you never saw your
cousin last night."

"Why, confound it, there is one circumstance that I think may satisfy you
on that head. You will not deny that I saw some one, who very much
resembled him; and certainly, as he lent me above three thousand franks
to play with at the table, it looks rather more like his act than that of
a perfect stranger."

"Have you got the money?" asked Trevanion dryly.

"Yes," said I; "but certainly you are the most unbelieving of mortals,
and I am quite happy that I have yet in my possession two of the billets
de banque, for, I suppose, without them, you would scarcely credit me."
I here opened my pocket-book, and produced the notes.

He took them, examined them attentively for an instant, held them between
him and the light, refolded them, and, having placed them in my
pocket-book, said - "I thought as much - they are forgeries."

"Hold!" said I, "my cousin Guy, whatever wildness he may have committed,
is yet totally incapable of - "

"I never said the contrary, replied Trevanion, in the same dry tone as
before.

"Then what can you mean, for I see no alternative between that and
totally discrediting the evidence of my senses?"

"Perhaps I can suggest a middle course," said Trevanion; "lend me,
therefore, a patient hearing for a few moments, and I may be able to
throw some light upon this difficult matter. You may never have heard
that there is, in this same city of Paris, a person so extremely like
your cousin Guy, that his most intimate friends have daily mistaken one
for the other, and this mistake has the more often been made, from the
circumstances of their both being in the habit of frequenting the same
class in society, where, knowing and walking with the same people, the
difficulty of discriminating has been greatly increased. This
individual, who has too many aliases for one to know which to
particularise him by, is one of that numerous order of beings whom a
high state of civilization is always engendering and throwing up on the
surface of society; he is a man of low birth and mean connexions, but


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe Confessions of Harry Lorrequer — Volume 5 → online text (page 1 of 9)