Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

. (page 13 of 80)
Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 13 of 80)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Provost himself, who, albeit given to the comforts of the table,
could not lift a morsel to his mouth, but muttered between his teeth,
" May the devil admire me, but they're dragoons." The first shock
of surprise over, the porters informed them that except fellows of
the University or fellow-commoners, none were admitted to the
table. Webber, however, assured them that it was a mistake, there
being nothing in the statute to exclude the 14th Light Dragoons, as
he was prepared to prove. Meanwhile dinner proceeded, Power and
his party performing with great self-satisfaction upon the sirloins
and saddles about them, regretting only, from time to time, that
there was a most unaccountable absence of wine, and suggesting
the propriety of napkins whenever they should dine there again.
Whatever chagrin these unexpected guests caused among their
entertainers of the upper table, in the lower part of the hall the
laughter was loud and unceasing, and long before the hour con-
cluded, the fellows took their departure, leaving to Master Frank
Webber the task of doing the honors alone and unassisted. When
summoned before the Board for the offence on the following morn-
ing, Webber excused himself by throwing the blame upon his
friends, with whom, he said, nothing short of a personal quarrel — a
thing for a reading man not to be thought of— could have prevented
intruding in the manner related. Nothing less than his tact could
have saved him on this occasion, and at last he carried the day ;
while, by an act of the Board, the 14th Light Dragoons were pro-
nounced the most insolent corps in the service.



122 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

Aii adventure of his, however, got wind about this time, and
served to enlighten many persons as to his real character, who had
hitherto been most lenient in their expressions about him. Our
worthy tutor, with a zeal for our welfare far more praiseworthy
than successful, was in the habit of summoning to his chambers on
certain mornings of theweek his various pupils, whom he lectured in
the books for the approaching examinations. Now, as these seances
were held at six o'clock in winter as well as summer, in a cold, fire-
less chamber, — the lecturer lying snug amid his blankets, while we
stood shivering around the walls, — the ardor of learning must, in-
deed, have proved strong that prompted a regular attendance. As
to Frank, he would as soon have thought of attending chapel as of
presenting himself on such an occasion. Not so with me. I had
not yet grown hackneyed enough to fly in the face of authority, and
I frequently left the whist-table, or broke off in a song, to hurry
over to the Doctor's chambers, and spout Homer and Hesiod. I
suffered on in patience, till at last the bore became so insupport-
able, that I told my sorrows to my friend, who listened to me out,
and promised me succor.

It so chanced that upon some evening in each week Dr. Mooney-
was in the habit of visiting some friends who resided a short dis-
tance from town, and spending the night at their house. He, of
course, did not lecture the following morning — a paper placard
announcing no lecture being affixed to the door on such occasions.
Frank waited patiently till he perceived the Doctor affixing this
announcement upon his door one evening ; and no sooner had he
left the college than he withdrew the paper and departed.

On the next morning he rose early, and, concealing himself on
the staircase, waited the arrival of the venerable damsel who acted
as servant to the Doctor. No sooner had she opened the door and
groped her way into the sitting-room, than Frank crept forward,
and, stealing gently into the bed-room, sprang into the bed, and
wrapped himself up in the blankets. The great bell boomed forth
at six o'clock, and soon after the sounds of feet were heard upon
the stairs. One by one they came along, and gradually the room
was filled with cold and shivering wretches, more than half
asleep, and trying to arouse themselves into an approach to at-
tention.

" Who's there ?" said Frank, mimicking the Doctor's voice, as he
yawned three or four times in succession, and turned in the bed.

" Collisson, O'Malley, Nesbitt," &c, said a number of voices,
anxious to have all the merit such a penance could confer.

"Where's Webber?"

" Absent, sir," chorused the whole party.



TRINITY COLLEGE— A LECTURE. 123

" Sorry for it," said the mock doctor. " Webber is a man of first-
rate capacity, and were he only to apply, I am not certain to what
eminence his abilities might raise him. Come, Collisson. Any
three angles of a triangle are equal to — are equal to — what are
they equal to?" Here he yawned as though he would dislocate
his jaw.

" Any three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles,"
said Collisson, in the usual sing-song tone of a freshman.

As he proceeded to prove the proposition, his monotonous tone
seemed to have lulled the Doctor into a doze, for in a few minutes
a deep, long-drawn snore announced from the closed curtains that
he listened no longer. After a little time, however, a short snort
from the sleeper awoke him suddenly, and he called out, —

" Go on ; I'm waiting. Do you think I can arouse at this hour
of the morning for nothing but to listen to your bungling ? Can no
one give me a free translation of the passage ?"

This digression from mathematics to classics did not surprise the
hearers, though it somewhat confused them, no one being precisely
aware what the line in question might be.

" Try it, Nesbitt — you, O'Malley — silent all. Keally, this is too
bad !" An indistinct muttering here from the crowd was followed
by an announcement from the Doctor that "the speaker was an
ass, and his head a turnip ! Not one of you capable of translating
a chorus from Euripides — ' Ou, ou, papai, papai,' &c, which, after
all, means no more than — ' Oh, whilleleu, murder, why did you
die ?' &c. What are you laughing at, gentlemen ? May I ask, does
it become a set of ignorant, ill-informed savages — yes, savages, I
repeat the word — to behave in this manner ? Webber is the only
man I have with common intellect — the only man among you
capable of distinguishing himself. But as for you — I'll bring you
before the Board — I'll write to your friends — I'll stop your college
indulgences — I'll confine you to the walls — I'll be d — , eh "

This lapse confused him. He stammered, stuttered, endeavored
to recover himself; but by this time we had approached the bed,
just at the moment when Master Frank, well knowing what he
might expect if detected, had bolted from the blankets and rushed
from the room. In an instant we were in pursuit; but he regained
his chambers, and double-locked the door before we could over-
take him, leaving us to ponder over the insolent tirade we had so
patiently submitted to.

That morning the affair got wind all over college. As for us,
we were scarcely so much laughed at as the Doctor, the world wisely
remembering, if such were the nature of our morning's orisons, we
might nearly as profitably have remained snug in our quarters.



124 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

Such was our life in Old Trinity ; and strange enough it is that
one should feel tempted to the confession; but I really must
acknowledge these were, after all, happy times, and I look back
upon them with mingled pleasure and sadness. The noble lord
who so pathetically lamented that the devil was not so strong in
him as he used to be forty years before, has an eclio in my regrets
that the student is not as young in me as when those scenes were
enacting of which I write.



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE INVITATION— THE WAGER.

I WAS sitting at breakfast with Webber, a few mornings after
the mess dinner I have spoken of, when Power came in
hastily.

"Ha, the very man !" said he. "I say, O'Malley, here's an invi-
tation for you from Sir George, to dine on Friday. He desired me
to say a thousand civil things about his not having made you out,
regrets that he was not at home when you called yesterday, and all
that. By Jove, I know nothing like the favor you stand in ; and,
as for Miss Dash wood, faith ! the fair Lucy blushed, and tore her
glove in most approved style, when the old General began his
laudation of you."

" Pooh, nonsense," said I ; " that silly affair in the west."

" Oh, very probably ; there's reason the less for your looking so
excessively conscious. But I must tell you, in all fairness, that you
have no chance ; nothing short of a dragoon will go down."

" Be assured," said I, somewhat nettled, " my pretensions do not
aspire to the fair Miss Dashwood."

" Tant mieux et tant pis, won cher. I wish to Heaven mine did ; and,
by St. Patrick, if I only played the knight-errant half as gallantly
as yourself, I would not relinquish my claims to the Secretary at
War himself."

" What the devil brought the old General down to your wild re-
gions ?" inquired Webber.

" To contest the county."

"A bright thought, truly. When a man was looking for a seat,
why not try a place where the law is occasionally heard of?"

" I am sure I can give you no information on that head ; nor have
I ever heard how Sir George came to learn that such a place as
Galway existed."



THE IN VI TA TION— THE WA GEE. 1 25

" I believe I can enlighten you," said Power. " Lady Daslrwood
'—rest her soul ! — came west of the Shannon ; she had a large prop-
erty somewhere in Mayo, and owned some hundred acres of swamp,
with some thousand starving tenantry thereupon, that people dig-
nified as an estate in Connaught. This first suggested to him the
notion of setting up for the county, probably supposing that the
people who never paid in rent might like to do so in gratitude. How
he was undeceived, O'Malley there can inform us. Indeed, I believe
the worthy General, who was confoundedly hard up when he mar-
ried, expected to have got a great fortune, and little anticipated the
three Chancery suits he succeeded to, nor the fourteen rent-charges
to his wife's relatives that made up the bulk of the dower. It was
an unlucky hit for him when he fell in with the old ' maid' at Bath ;
and had she lived, he must have gone to the colonies. But the Lord
took her one day, and Major Dashwood was himself again. The
Duke of York, the story goes, saw him at Hounslow during a re-
view — was much struck with his air and appearance — made some
inquiries — found him to be of excellent family and irreproachable
conduct — made him an aide-de-camp — and, in fact, made his for-
tune. I do not believe that, while doing so kind, he could by possi-
bility have done a more popular, thing. Every man in the army
rejoiced at his good fortune ; so that, after all, though he has had
some hard rubs, he has come well through, the only vestige of his
unfortunate matrimonial connection being a correspondence kept up
by a maiden sister of his late wife's with him. She insists upon
claiming the ties of kindred upon about twenty family eras during
the year, when she regularly writes a most loving and ill-spelled
epistle, containing the latest information from Mayo, with all
particulars of the Macan family, of which she is a worthy member.
To her constant hints of the acceptable nature of certain small re-
mittances, the poor General is never inattentive ; but to the pleasing
prospect of a visit in the flesh from Miss Judy Macan, the good
man is dead. In fact, nothing short of being broke by a general
court-martial could at all complete his sensations of horror at such
a stroke of fortune ; and I am not certain, if choice were allowed
him, that he would not prefer the latter."

"Then he has never yet seen her?" said Webber.

" Never," replied Power ; " and he hopes to leave Ireland without
that blessing, the prospect of which, however remote and unlikely,
has, I know well, more than once terrified him since his arrival."

" I say, Power, and has your worthy General sent me a card for
his ball?"

" Not through me, Master Frank."

" Well, now, I call that devilish shabby, do you know. He asks



126 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

O'Malley there from my chambers, and never notices the other man,
the superior in the firm. Eh, O'Malley, what say you ?"

" Why, I didn't know you were acquainted."

"And who said we were? It was his fault, though, entirely,
that we were not. I am, as I ever have been, the most easy fellow
in the world on that score — never give myself airs to military
people — endure anything, everything — and you see the result — hard,
ain't it?"

" But, Webber, Sir George must really be excused in this matter.
He has a daughter, a most attractive, lovely daughter, just at that
budding, unsuspecting age when the heart is most susceptible of im-
pressions ; and where, let me ask, could she run such a risk as in the
chance of a casual meeting with the redoubted lady killer, Master
Frank Webber? If he has not sought you out, then here be his
apology."

"A very strong case, certainly," said Frank ; " but, still, had he
confided his critical position to my honor and secrecy, he might
have depended on me ; now, having taken the other line "

"Well, what then?"

" Why, he must abide the consequences. I'll make fierce love to
Louisa ; isn't that the name ?"

" Lucy, so please you."

" Well, be it so — to Lucy — talk the little girl into a most deplora-
ble attachment for me."

" But how, may I ask, and when ?"

" I'll begin at the ball, man."

" Why, I thought you said you were not going?"

" There you mistake seriously. I merely said that I had not been
invited."

" Then, of course," said I, " Webber, you can't think of going,
in any case, on my account."

" My very dear friend, I go entirely upon my own. I not only
shall go, but I intend to have most particular notice and attention
paid me. I shall be prime favorite with Sir George — kiss Lucy "

" Come, come, this is too strong."

" What do you bet I don't ? There, now, I'll give you a pony a
piece, I do. Do you say, done ?"

" That you kiss Miss Dashwood, and are not kicked down stairs
for your pains; are those the terms of the wager?" inquired
Power.

" With all my heart. That I kiss Miss Dashwood, and am not
kicked down stairs for my pains."

" Then I say, done."

"And with you too, O'Malley ?"



THE BALL. 127

" I thank you," said I, coldly ; " I'm not disposed to make such a
return for Sir George Dashwood's hospitality as to make an insult to
his family the subject of a bet."

" Why, man, what are you dreaming of? Miss Dashwood will
not refuse my chaste salute. Come, Power, I'll give you the other
pony."

"Agreed !" said he. "At the same time, understand me distinctly
— that I hold myself perfectly eligible to winning the wager by my
own interference ; for, if you do kiss her, by Jove ! I'll perform the
remainder of the compact."

" So I understand the agreement," said Webber, arranging his
curls before the looking-glass. " Well, now, who's for Howth ? the
drag will be here in half an hour."

" Not I," said Power ; " I must return to the barracks."

"Nor I," said I, " for I shall take this opportunity of leaving my
card at Sir George Dashwood's."

" I have won my fifty, however," said Power, as we walked out in
the courts.

" I am not quite certain "

" Why, the devil, he would not risk a broken neck for that sum ;
besides, if he did, he loses the bet."

" He's a devilish keen fellow."

" Let him be. In any case I am determined to be on my guard
here."

So chatting, we strolled along to the Eoyal Hospital, when, hav-
ing dropped my pasteboard, I returned to the college.



CHAPTER XIX



THE BALL.



I HAVE often dressed for a storming party with less of trepida-
tion than I felt on the evening of Sir George Dashwood's ball.
Since the eventful day of the election I had never seen Miss
Dashwood ; therefore, as to what precise position I might occupy in
her favor was a matter of great doubt in my mind, and great import
to my happiness. That I myself loved her was a matter of which
all the badinage of my friends regarding her made me painfully
conscious ; but that, in our relative positions, such an attachment
was all but hopeless, I could not disguise from myself. Young as I
was, I well knew to what a heritage of debt, lawsuit, and difficulty
I was born to succeed. In my own resources and means of advance-



128 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

ment I had no confidence whatever, had even the profession to
which I was destined been more of my choice. I daily felt that it
demanded greater exertions, if not far greater abilities, than I could
command to make success at all likely ; and then, even if such a
result were in store, years, at least, must elapse before it could hap-
pen, and where would she then be, and where should I ? — where the
ardent affection I now felt and gloried in — perhaps all the more for
its desperate hopelessness — when the sanguine and buoyant spirit to
combat with difficulties which youth suggests, and which later man-
hood refuses, should have passed away ? And even if all these sur-
vived the toil and labor of anxious days and painful nights, what of
her? Alas ! I now reflected that, although only of my own age, her
manner to me had taken all that tone of superiority and patronage
which an elder assumes towards one younger, and which, in the
spirit of protection it proceeds upon, essentially bars up every inlet
to a dearer or warmer feeling — at least, when the lady plays the
former part. "What, then, is to be done?" thought I. "Forget
her? — but, how? How shall I renounce all my plans, and unweave
the web of life I have been spreading around me for many a day,
without that one golden thread that lent it more than half its bril-
liancy and all its attraction ? But then, the alternative is even
worse, if I encourage expectations and nurture hopes never to be
realized. Well, we meet to-night, after a long and eventful absence ;
let my future fate be ruled by the results of this meeting. If Lucy
Dashwood does care for me — if I can detect in her manner enough
to show me that my affection may meet a return, the whole effort of
my life shall be to make her mine ; if not — if my own feelings be all
that I have to depend upon to extort a reciprocal affection — then
shall I take my last look of her, and with it the first and brightest
dream of happiness my life has hitherto presented."

It need not be wondered at if the brilliant coup d'aeil of the ball-
room, as I entered, struck me with astonishment, accustomed as I
had hitherto been to nothing more magnificent than an evening
party of squires and their squiresses, or the annual garrison ball at
the barracks. The glare of wax-lights, the well-furnished saloons,
the glitter of uniforms, and the blaze of plumed and jewelled dames,
with the clang of military music, was a species of enchanted atmos-
phere which, breathed for the first time, rarely fails to intoxicate.
Never before had I seen so much beauty : lovely faces, dressed in all
the seductive flattery of smiles, were on every side, and, as I walked
from room to room, I felt how much more fatal to a man's peace
and heart's ease the whispered words and silent glances of those
fair damsels, than all the loud gayety and boisterous freedom of



THE BALL. 129

our country belles, who sought to take the heart by storm and es-
calade.

As yet I had seen neither Sir George nor his daughter ; and while
I looked on every side for Lucy Dash wood, it was with a beating and
anxious heart that I longed to see how she would bear comparison
with the blaze of beauty around. *

Just at this moment a very gorgeously-dressed hussar stepped
from a doorway beside me, as if to make a passage for some one,
and the next moment she appeared leaning upon the arm of ano-
ther lady. One look was all that I had time for, when she recog-
nized me.

" Ah, Mr. O'Malley — how happy — has Sir George — has my father
seen you ?"

" I have only arrived this moment ; I trust he is quite well?"

" Oh, yes, thank you "

" I beg your pardon with all humility, Miss Dashwood," said the
hussar, in a tone of the most knightly courtesy, " but they are wait-
ing for us."

" But, Captain Fortescue, you must excuse me one moment more.
Mr. Lechmere, will you do me the kindness to find out Sir George?
Mr. O'Malley — Mr. Lechmere." Here she said something in French
to her companion, but so rapidly that I could not detect what it
was, but merely heard the reply — "Pas mal!" — which, as the lady
continued to canvass me most deliberately through her eye-glass, I

supposed referred to me. " And now, Captain Fortescue " And

with a look of most courteous kindness to me, she disappeared in
the crowd.

The gentleman to whose guidance I was entrusted was one of the
aides-de-camp, and was not long in finding Sir George. No sooner
had the good old General heard my name, than he held out both
his hands and shook mine most heartily.

" At last, O'Malley — at last I am able to thank you for the great-
est service man ever rendered me. He saved Lucy, my lord — res-
cued her under circumstances where anything short of his courage
and determination must have cost her her life."

" Ah ! very pretty indeed," said the stiff old gentleman addressed,
as he bowed a most superbly-powdered scalp before me; "most
happy to make your acquaintance."

" Who is he ?" added he in nearly as loud a tone to Sir George.

"Mr. O'Malley, of O'Malley Castle."

" True, I forgot. Why is he not in uniform ?"

" Because, unfortunately, my lord, we don't own him ; he's not in
the army."

" Ha ! ha ! thought he was."
9



130 CHARLES 0' MAI LEY.

"You dance, O'Malley, I suppose? I'm sure you'd rather be
over there than hearing all my protestations of gratitude, sincere
and heartfelt as they really are.

" Lechmere, introduce my friend Mr. O'Malley. Get him a
partner."

I had not followed my new acquaintance many steps, when Power
came up to me. " I say, Charley," cried he, " I have been tormented
to death by half the ladies in the room to present you to them, and
have been in quest of you this half hour. Your brilliant exploit in
savage land has made you a regular preux chevalier; and if you don't
trade on that adventure to your most lasting profit, you deserve to
be — a lawyer. Come along here ! Lady Muckleman, the adjutant-
general's lady and chief, has four Scotch daughters you are to dance
with ; then I am to introduce you in all form to the Dean of Some-
thing's niece ; she is a good-looking girl, and has two livings in a
safe county. Then there's the town-major's wife ; and in fact I have
several engagements from this to supper-time."

" A thousand thanks for all your kindness in prospective, but I
think perhaps it were right I should ask Miss Dashwood to dance,
if only as a matter of form — you understand ?"

"And if Miss Dashwood should say, 'With pleasure, sir,' only as
a matter of form — you understand V " said a silvery voice beside
me. I turned, and saw Lucy Dashwood, who, having overheard
my very free-and-easy suggestion, replied to me in this manner.

I here blundered out my excuses. What I said, and what I did
not say, I do not now remember ; but, certainly, it was her turn
now to blush, and her arm trembled within mine as I led her to the
top of the room. In the little opportunity which our quadrille
presented for conversation, I could not help remarking that, after
the surprise of her first meeting with me, Miss Dashwood's manner
became gradually more and more reserved, and that there was an
evident struggle between her wish to appear grateful for what had
occurred and a sense of the necessity of not incurring a greater
degree of intimacy. Such was my impression, at least, and such the
conclusion which I drew from a certain quiet tone in her manner,
that went much further to wound my feelings and mar my happiness
than any other line of conduct towards me could possibly have
effected.

Our quadrille over, I was about to conduct her to a seat, when Sir
George came hurriedly up, his face greatly flushed, and betraying
every semblance of high excitement.

" Dear papa, has anything occurred ? Pray what is it?" inquired
she.

He smiled faintly, and replied, " Nothing very serious, my dear.



THE BALL. 131

that I should alarm you in this way ; but, certainly, a more dis-
agreeable contretemps could scarcely occur."

" Do tell me ; what can it be ?"

" Read this," said he, presenting a very dirty -looking note, which
bore the mark of a red wafer most infernally plain upon its out-
side.

Miss Dashwood unfolded the billet, and, after a moment's silence,



Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 13 of 80)