Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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" ' Just so,' said Casey ; ' and very much at your service, any
hour after five in the morning.'

" ' Then you refuse, sir, to explain the paragraph I have just
heard you read ?'

"'Well done, old gentleman; so you have been listening to a
private conversation I held with my friend here. In that case we
had better retire to our room.' So saying, he ordered the waiter to
send a fresh bottle and glasses to No. 14, and, taking my arm, very
politely wished Mr. Mills good night, and left the coffee-room.

" Before we had reached the top of the stairs, the house was once
more in commotion. The new arrival had ordered out fresh horses,
and was hurrying every one in his impatience to get away. In ten
minutes the chaise rolled off from the door, and Casey, putting his
head out of the window, wished him a pleasant journey ; while
turning to me, he said, —

" * There's one of them out of the way for you, if we are even
obliged to fight the other.'

" The port was soon despatched, and with it went all the scruples
of conscience I had at first felt for the cruel ruse we had just prac-
tised. Scarcely was the other bottle called for, when we heard the
landlord calling out in a stentorian voice, —

" ' Two horses, for Goran Bridge, to meet Counsellor Kinshella.'

" ' That's the other fellow ?' said Casey.

"'It is,' said I.

" ' Then we must be stirring,' said he. ' Waiter, chaise and pair
in five minutes — d'ye hear? Power, my boy, I don't want you ; stay
here and study your brief. It's little trouble Counsellor Kinshella
will give you in the morning."

" All he would tell me of his plan was, that he didn't mean any
serious bodily harm to the counsellor, but that certainly he was not
likely to be heard of for twenty-four hours.

"'Meanwhile, Power, go in and win, my boy,' said he; 'such
another walk over may never occur.'

"I must not make my story longer. The next morning, the
great record of Monaghan v. M'Shean was called on, and as the
senior counsel were not present, the attorney wished a postponement
I, however, was firm ; told the court I was quite prepared, and with
such an air of assurance that I actually puzzled the attorney. The
case was accordingly opened by me in a very brilliant speech, and
the witnesses called ; but such was my unlucky ignorance -of the
whole matter, that I actually broke down the testimony of our own,
and fought like a Trojan for the credit and character of the per-
jurers against us! The judge rubbed his eyes — the jury looked


amazed — and the whole bar laughed outright. However, on I
went, blundering, floundering, and foundering at every step, and at
half-past four, amid the greatest and most uproarious mirth of the
whole court, heard the jury deliver a verdict against us just as old
Kinshella rushed into the court, covered with mud and spattered
with clay. He had been sent for twenty miles to make a will for
Mr. Daly of Daly's Mount, who was supposed to be at the point of
death, but who, on his arrival, threatened to shoot him for causing
an alarm to his family by such an imputation.

"The rest is soon told. They moved for a new trial, and I
moved out of the profession. I cut the bar, for it cut me. I joined
the gallant 14th as a volunteer, and here I am without a single
regret, I must confess, that I didn't succeed in the great record of
Monaghan v. M'Shean."

Once more the claret went briskly round, and while we canvassed
Power's story, many an anecdote of military life was told, as every
instant increased the charm of that career I longed for.

"Another cooper, Major," said Power.

" With all my heart," said the rosy little officer, as he touched
the bell behind him ; " and now let's have a song."

"Yes, Power," said three or four together, "let us have 'The
Irish Dragoon/ if it's only to convert your friend O'Malley there."

" Here goes, then," said Dick, taking off a bumper as he began the
following chant to the air of " Love is the soul of a gay Irishman :"

" Oh love is the soul of an Irish Dragoon,
In battle, in bivouac, or in saloon —

From the tip of his spur to his bright sabretasche.
With his soldierly gait and his bearing so high,
His gay laughing look, and his light speaking eye,
He frowns at his rivals, he ogles his wench,
He springs in his saddle and chasses the French —
With his jingling spur and his bright sabretasche.

" His spirits are high, and he little knows care,
Whether sipping his claret or charging a square —

With his jingling spur and his bright sabretasche.
As ready to sing or to skirmish he's found,
To take off his wine, or to take up his ground;
When the bugle may call him, how little he fears,
To charge forth in column, and beat the Mounseers —

With his jingling spur and his bright sabretasche.

"When the battle is over, he gayly rides back
To cheer every soul in the night bivouac—

With his jingling spur and his bright sabretasche.
Oh ! there you may see him in full glory crown'd,
As he sits 'mid his friends on the hardly-won ground,
And hear with what feeling the toast he will give,
As he drinks to the land where all Irishmen live —
With his jingling spur and his bright sabretasche."


It was late when we broke up ; but among all the recollections of
that pleasant evening, none clung to me so forcibly, none sunk so
deeply in my heart, as the gay and careless tone of Power's manly
voice; and as I fell asleep towards morning, the words of "The
Irish Dragoon" were floating through my mind, and followed me in
my dreams.



I HAD now been for some weeks a resident within the walls of the
University, and yet had never presented my letter of introduc-
tion to Dr. Barret. Somehow my thoughts and occupations
had left me little lebure to reflect upon my college course, and I
had not felt the necessity, suggested by my friend Sir Harry, of
having a supporter in the very learned and gifted individual to
whom I was accredited. How long I might have continued in this
state of indifference, it is hard to say, when chance brought about
my acquaintance with the Doctor.

Were I not inditing a true history in this narrative of my life, to
the events and characters of which so many are living witnesses, I
should certainly fear to attempt anything like a description of this
very remarkable man, so liable would any sketch, however faint and
imperfect, be to the accusation of caricature, when all was so singu-
lar and so eccentric.

Dr. Barret was, at the time I speak of, close upon seventy years
of age, scarcely five feet in height, and even that diminutive stature
lessened by a stoop. His face was thin, pointed, and russet-colored ;
his nose so aquiline as nearly to meet his projecting chin, and his
small gray eyes, red and bleary, peered beneath his well-worn cap,
with a glance of mingled fear and suspicion. His dress was a suit
of the rustiest black, threadbare, and patched in several places,
while a pair of large brown leather slippers, far too big for his feet,
imparted a sliding motion to his waik / that added an air of indescri-
bable meanness to his appearance ; a gown that had been worn for
twenty years, browned and coated with the learned dust of the
Fagel, covered his rusty habiliments, and completed the equipments
of a figure that it was somewhat difficult for the young student to
recognize as the Vice-Provost of the University. Such was he in
externals. Within, a greater or more profound scholar never
graced the walls of the college ; a distinguished Grecian, learned in


all the refinements of a hundred dialects ; a deep Orientalist, cun-
ning in all the varieties of Eastern languages, and able to reason
with a Moonshee or chat with a Persian ambassador. With a mind
that never ceased acquiring, he possessed a memory ridiculous for
its retentiveness even of trifles ; no character in history, no event in
chronology, was unknown to him, and he was referred to by his co-
temporaries for information in doubtful and disputed cases, as men
consult a lexicon or dictionary. With an intellect thus stored
with deep and far-sought knowledge, in the affairs of the world he
was a child. Without the walls of the college, for above forty years he
had not ventured half as many times, and knew absolutely nothing
of the busy, active world that fussed and fumed so near him ; his
farthest excursion was to the Bank of Ireland, to which he made
occasional visits to fund the ample income of his office, and add
to the wealth which already had acquired for him a well-merited
repute of being the richest man in college.

His little intercourse with the world had left him, in all his habits
and manners, in every respect exactly as when he entered the col-
lege, nearly half a century before ; and as he had literally risen
from the ranks in the University, all the peculiarities of voice,
accent, and pronunciation which distinguished him as a youth ad-
hered to him in old age. This was singular enough, and formed a
very ludicrous contrast with the learned and deep-read tone of his
conversation ; but another peculiarity, still more striking, belonged
to him. When he became a fellow, he was obliged, by the rjules of
the college, to take holy orders as a sine qua non to his holding his
fellowship. This he did as he would have assumed a red hood or a
blue one, as bachelor of laws or doctor of medicine, and thought no
more of it ; but frequently, in his moments of passionate excitement,
the venerable character with which he was invested was quite for-
gotten, and he would utter some sudden and terrific oath, more pro-
ductive of mirth to his auditors than was seemly, and for which,
once spoken, the poor Doctor felt the greatest shame and contrition.
These oaths were no less singular than forcible, and many a trick
was practised, and many a plan devised, that the learned Vice-
Provost might be entrapped into his favorite exclamation of " May
the devil admire me !" which no place or presence could restrain.

My servant Mike, who had not been long in making himself ac-
quainted with all the originals about him, was the cause of my first
meeting the Doctor, before whom I received a summons to appear,
on the very serious charge of treating with disrespect the heads of
the college.

The circumstances were shortly these: — Mike had, among the
other gossip of the place, heard frequent tales of the immense wealth


and great parsimony of the Doctor, of his anxiety to amass money
on all occasions, and the avidity with which even the smallest trifle
was added to his gains. He accordingly resolved to amuse himself
at the expense of this trait, and proceeded thus : — Boring a hole in
a halfpenny, he attached a long string to it, and having dropped it
on the Doctor's step, stationed himself on the opposite side of the
court, concealed from view by the angle of the commons wall. He
waited patiently for the chapel bell, at the first toll of which the
door opened, and the Doctor issued forth. Scarcely was his foot
upon the step, when he saw the piece of money, and as quickly
stooped to seize it ; but just as his finger had nearly touched it, it
evaded his grasp, and slowly retreated. He tried again, but with
the like success. At last, thinking he miscalculated the distance, he
knelt leisurely down, and put forth his hand ; but lo ! it again
escaped him ; on which, slowly rising from his posture, he shambled
on towards the chapel, where meeting the senior lecturer at the
door, he cried out, " H — to my soul, Wall, but I saw the halfpenny
walk away ["

For the sake of the grave character whom he addressed, I need
not recount how such a speech was received; suffice it to say,
that Mike had been seen by a college porter, who reported him as
my servant.

I was in the very act of relating the anecdote to a large party at
breakfast in my rooms, when a summons arrived requiring my im-
mediate attendance at the Board, then sitting in solemn conclave at
the examination-hall.

I accordingly assumed my academic costume as speedily as pos-
sible, and, escorted by that most august functionary, Mr. M'Alister,
presented myself before the seniors.

The members of the Board, with the Provost at their head, were
seated at a long oak table, covered with books, papers, &c, and from
the silence they maintained, as I walked up the hall, I argued that
a very solemn scene was before me.

" Mr. O'Malley," said the Dean, reading my name from a paper
he held in his hand, " you have been summoned here at the desire
of the Vice-Provost, whose questions you will reply to."

I bowed. A silence of a few minutes followed, when, at length,
the learned Doctor, hitching up his nether garments with both
hands, put his old and bleary eyes close to my face, while he croaked
out, with an accent that no hackney-coachman could have exceeded
in vulgarity,

"Eh, O'Malley; you're quartvs, I believe; a'n't you?"

" I believe not. I think I am the only person of that name now
on the books."


'* That's thrue : but there were three O'Malleys before you. God-
frey O'Malley, that construed Calve Neroni to Nero the Calvinist —
ha ! ha ! ha ! — was cautioned in 1788."

" My uncle, I believe, sir."

" More than likely, from what I hear of you — Ex uno, &c. I see
your name every day on the punishment roll. Late hours, never at
chapel, seldom at morning lecture. Here ye are, sixteen shillings,
wearing a red coat."

"Never knew any harm in that, Doctor."

"Ay, but d'ye see me, now ? ' Grave raiment,' says the statute.
And then, ye keep numerous beasts of prey, dangerous in their
habits, and unseemly to behold."

"A bull-terrier, sir, and two game-cocks, are, I assure you, the
only animals in my household."

" Well, I'll fine you for it."

" I believe, Doctor," said the Dean, interrupting, in an under
tone, " that you cannot impose a penalty in this matter."

"Ay, but I can. ' Singing-birds,' says the statute, ' are forbidden
within the walls.'

"And then, ye dazzled my eyes at commons with a bit of looking-
glass, on Friday. I saw you. May the devil — ahem ! As I

was saying, that's casting reflections on the heads of the college ; and
your servant it was, Michaelis Liber, Mickey Free — may the flames
of — ahem ! — an insolent varlet ! called me a sweep."

" You, Doctor ; impossible !" said I, with pretended horror.

"Ay, but d'ye see me, now ? It's thrue, for I looked about me at
the time, and there wasn't another sweep in the place but myself.
Hell to — I mean — God forgive me for swearing ! but I'll fine you
a pound for this."

As I saw the Doctor was getting on at such a pace, I resolved,
notwithstanding the august presence of the Board, to try the efficacy
of Sir Harry's letter of introduction, which I had taken in my
pocket, in the event of its being wanted.

" I beg your pardon, sir, if the time be an unsuitable one ; but
may I take the opportunity of presenting this letter to you ?"

" Ha ! I know the hand — Boyle's. Boyle secundus. Hem, ha,
ay ! ' My young friend ; and assist him by your advice.' To be
sure ! Oh ! of course. Eh, tell me, young man, did Boyle say
nothing to you about the copy of Erasmus, bound in vellum, that I
sold him in Trinity term, 1782?"

" I rather think not, sir," said I, doubtfully.

" Well, then he might. He owes me two-and-fourpence of the

" Oh ! I beg pardon, sir ; I now remember he desired me to repay


you that 'sum ; but he had just sealed the letter when he recol-
lected it,"

" Better late than never," said the Doctor, smiling graciously.
" Where's the money ? Ay ! half-a-crown. I haven't twopence—
never mind. Go away, young man ; the case is dismissed. Vehem-
enter miror quare hue venisti. You're more fit for anything than a
college life. Keep good hours ; mind the terms ; and dismiss Mi~

chaelis Liber. Ha, ha, ha ! May the devil ! hem ! that is, do "

So saying, the little Doctor's hand pushed me from the hall, his
mind evidently relieved of all the griefs from which he had been
suffering by the recovery of his long lost two-and-fourpence.

Such was my first and last interview with the Vice-Provost, and
it made an impression upon me that all the intervening years have
neither dimmed nor erased.



I HAD not been many weeks a resident of Old Trinity ere the
flattering reputation my chum, Mr. Francis Webber, had
acquired extended also to myself, and by universal consent we
were acknowledged the most riotous, ill-conducted, disorderly men
on the books of the University. Were the lamps of the squares
extinguished, and the college left in total darkness, we were sum-
moned before the Dean; was the Vice-Provost serenaded with a
chorus of trombones and French horns, to our taste in music was
the attention ascribed ; did a sudden alarm of fire disturb the con-
gregation at morning chapel, Messrs. Webber and O'Malley were
brought before the Board; and I must do them the justice to say
that the most trifling circumstantial evidence was ever sufficient to
bring a conviction. Reading men avoided the building where we
resided as they would have done the plague. Our doors, like those
of a certain classic precinct commemorated by a Latin writer, lay
open night and day; while moustached dragoons, knowingly dressed
four-in-hand men, fox-hunters in pink issuing forth to the Dubber,'
or returning splashed from a run with the Kildare hounds, were
everlastingly seen passing and repassing. Within, the noise and
confusion resembled rather the mess-room of a regiment towards
eleven at night than the chambers of a college student; while, with
the double object of affecting to be in ill health, and to avoid the
reflections that daylight occasionally inspires, the shutters were


never opened, but lamps and candles kept always burning. Such
was No. 2, Old Square, in the goodly days I write of. All the ter-
rors of fines and punishments fell scathless on the head of my
worthy chum. In fact, like a well-known political character, whose
pleasure and amusement it has been for some years past to drive
through acts of Parliament and deride the powers of the law, so did
Mr. Webber tread his way, serpenting through the statute-book, ever
gazing, but rarely trespassing, upon some forbidden ground, which
might involve the great punishment of expulsion. So expert, too,
had he become in his special pleadings, so dexterous in the law of
the University, that it was no easy matter to bring crime home to
him ; and even when this was done, his pleas of mitigation rarely
failed of success.

There was a sweetness of demeanor, a mild, subdued tone about
him, that constantly puzzled the worthy heads of the college how the
accusations ever brought against him could be founded on truth ;
that the pale, delicate-looking student, whose harsh, hacking cough
terrified the hearers, could be the boisterous performer upon a key-
bugle, or the terrific assailant of watchmen, was something too
absurd for belief ; and when Mr. Webber, with his hand upon his
heart, and in his most dulcet accents, assured them that the hours
he was not engaged in reading for the medal were passed in the
soothing society of a few select and intimate friends of literary
tastes and refined minds, who knowing the delicacy of his health —
. here he would cough — were kind enough to sit with him for an hour
or so in the evening, the delusion was. perfect ; and the story of the
Dean's riotous habits having got abroad, the charge was usually

Like most idle men, Webber never had a moment tc spare.
Except read, there was nothing he did not do ; training a hack for
a race in the Phoenix — arranging a rowing-match — getting up a
mock duel between two white-feather acquaintances, were his almost
daily avocations. Besides that, he was at the head of many organ-
ized societies, instituted for various benevolent purposes. One was
called "The Association for Discountenancing Watchmen ;" another
"The Board of Works," whose object was principally devoted to
the embellishment of the University, in which, to do them justice,
their labors were unceasing, and what with the assistance of some
black paint, a ladder, and a few pounds of gunpowder, they cer-
tainly contrived to effect many important changes. Upon an exam-
ination morning, some hundred luckless "jibs" might be seen
perambulating the courts, in the vain effort to discover their tutors'
chambers, the names having undergone an alteration that left all
trace of their original proprietors unattainable ; Doctor Francis


Mooney having become Doctor Full Moon — Doctor Hare being, by
the change of two letters, Doctor Ape — Eomney Robinson, Romulus
and Remus, &c. While, upon occasions like these, there could be
but little doubt of Master Frank's intentions, upon many others, so
subtle were his inventions, so well-contrived his plots, it became a
matter of considerable difficulty to say whether the mishap which
befell some luckless acquaintance were the result of design or mere
accident ; and not unfrequently well-disposed individuals were found
condoling with " Poor Frank I" upon his ignorance of some college
rule or etiquette, his breach of which had been long and deliber-
ately planned. Of this latter description was a circumstance which
occurred about this time, and which some who may throw an eye
over these pages will perhaps remember.

The Dean having heard (and, indeed, the preparations were not
intended to secure secrecy) that Webber destined to entertain a
party of his friends at dinner on a certain day, sent a most peremp-
tory order for his appearance at commons, his name being erased
from the sick list, and a pretty strong hint conveyed to him that
any evasion upon his part wOuld be certainly followed by an in-
quiry into the real reasons for his absence. What was to be done ?
That was the very day he had destined for his dinner. To be sure,
the majority of his guests were college men, who would understand
the difficulty at once ; but still there were some others, officers of
the 14th, with whom he was constantly dining, and whom he could
not so easily put off. The affair was difficult ; but still, Webber was
the man for a difficulty — in fact, he rather liked one. A very brief
consideration accordingly sufficed, and he sat down and wrote to his
friends at the Royal Barracks thus : —

" Dear Power : — I have a better plan for Tuesday than that I
had proposed. Lunch here at three — (we'll call it dinner) — in the
hall with the great guns. I can't say much for the grub, but the
company — glorious I After that we'll start for Lucan in the drag —
take our coffee, strawberries, &c, and return to No. 2 for supper at
ten. Advertise your fellows of this change, and believe me,
" Most unchangeably yours,

"Frank Webber.

" Saturday."

Accordingly, as three o'clock struck, six dashing-looking light
dragoons were seen slowly sauntering up the middle of the dining-
hall, escorted by Webber, who, in full academic costume, was leis-
urely ciceroning his friends, and expatiating upon the excellencies
of the very remarkable portraits which graced the walls.

The porters looked on with some surprise at the singular hour


selected for sight-seeing, but what was their astonishment to find
that the party, having arrived at the end of the hall, instead of
turning back again, very composedly unbuckled their belts, and,
having disposed of their sabres in a corner, took their places at the
fellows' table, and sat down amid the collective wisdom of Greek
Lecturers and Regius Professors, as though they had been mere
mortals like themselves.

Scarcely was the long Latin grace concluded, when Webber, lean-
ing forward, enjoined his friends, in a very audible whisper, that if
they intended to dine, no time was to be lost.

" We have but little ceremony here, gentlemen, and all we ask is
a fair start," said he, as he drew over the soup, and proceeded to
help himself.

The advice was not thrown away, for each man, with an alacrity
a campaign usually teaches, made himself master of some neighbor-
ing dish — a very quick interchange of good things speedily follow-
ing the appropriation. It was in vain that the Senior Lecturer
looked aghast — that the Professor of Astronomy frowned — the
whole table, indeed, were thunderstruck, even to the poor Vice-

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 12 of 80)