Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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instead of participating, as he expected, in her father's feelings of
distress, burst out a-laughing, while she said, " Why, really, papa, I
do not see why this should put you out much, after all. Aunt may
be somewhat of a character, as her note evinces, but after a few
days "

" Nonsense, child ; there's nothing in this world I have such a
dread of as that confounded woman — and to come at such a time."

" When does she speak of paying her visit ?"

" I knew you had not read the note," said Sir George, hastily ;
"she's coming here to-night — is on her way this instant, perhaps.
What js to be done ? If she forces her way in here, I shall go de-
ranged outright. O'Malley, my boy, read this note, and you will
not feel surprised if I appear in the humor you see me."

I took the billet from the hands of Miss Dashwood, and read as
follows : —

" Dear Brother : — When this reaches your hand, I'll not be far
off. I'm on my way up to town, to be under Dr. Dease for the ould
complaint. Cowley mistakes my case entirely ; he says it's nothing
but religion and wind. Father Magrath, who understands a good
deal about females, thinks otherwise ; but God knows who's right.
Expect me to tea, and, with love to Lucy, believe me yours, in

"Judith Macan.

" Let the sheets be well aired in my room ; and if you have a
spare bed, perhaps we could prevail upon Father Magrath to stop

I scarcely could contain my laughter till I got to the end of this
very free-and-easy epistle, when at last I burst forth in a hearty fit,
in which I was joined by Miss Dashwood.

From the account Power had given me in the morning, I had no
difficulty in guessing that the writer was the maiden sister of the
late Lady Dashwood, and for whose relationship Sir George had
ever testified the greatest dread, even at the distance of two hundred
miles, and for whom, in any nearer intimacy, he was in nowise pre-


" 1 say, Lucy," said he, " there's only one thing to be done. If
this horrid woman does arrive, let her be shown to her room, and
for the few days of her stay in town, we'll neither see nor be seen
by any one."

Without waiting for a reply, Sir George was turning away to give
the necessary instructions, when the door of the drawing-room was
thrown open, and the servant announced, in his loudest voice,
"Miss Macan." Never shall I forget the poor General's look of
horror as the words reached him ; for as yet he was too far off to
catch even a glimpse of its fair owner. As for me, I was already
so much interested in seeing what she was like, that I made my
way through the crowd towards the door. It is no common occur-
rence that can distract the various occupations of a crowded ball-
room, where, amid the crash of music and the din of conversation,
goes on the soft, low voice of insinuating flattery, or the light flirta-
tion of a first acquaintance ; every clique, every coterie, every little
group of three or four, has its own separate and private interests,
forming a little world of its own, and caring for and heeding
nothing that goes on around ; and even when some striking charac-
ter or illustrious personage makes his entree, the attention he
attracts is so momentary, that the buzz of conversation is scarcely,
if at all, interrupted, and the business of pleasure continues to flow
on. Not so now, however. No sooner had the servant pronounced
the magical name of Miss Macan, than all seemed to stand still.
The spell thus exercised over the luckless General seemed to have
extended to his company, for it was with difficulty that any one
could continue his train of conversation, while every eye was di-
rected towards the door. About two steps in advance of the ser-
vant, who still stood door in hand, was a tall, elderly lady, dressed
in an antique brocade silk, with enormous flowers gaudily em-
broidered upon it. Her hair was powdered, and turned back, in the
fashion of fifty years before, while her high-pointed and heeled
shoes completed a costume that had not been seen for nearly a cen-
tury. Her short, skinny arms were bare and partly covered by a
falling flower of old point lace, while on her hands she wore black
silk mittens ; a pair of green spectacles scarcely dimmed the lustre of
a most piercing pair of eyes, to whose effect a very palpable touch of
rouge on the cheeks certainly added brilliancy. There stood this
most singular apparition, holding before her a fan about the size of
a modern tea-tray, while at each repetition of her name by the ser-
vant she courtesied deeply, bestowing the while upon the gay crowd
before her a very curious look of maidenly modesty at her solitary
and unprotected position.

As no one had ever heard of the fair Judith save one or two of


Sir George's most intimate friends, the greater part of the company-
were disposed to regard Miss Macan as some one who had mistaken
the character of the invitation, and had come in a fancy dress. But
this delusion was but momentary, as Sir George, armed with the
courage of despair, forced his way through the crowd, and taking
her hand affectionately, bade her welcome to Dublin. The fair Judy
at this threw her arms about his neck, and saluted him with a
hearty smack, that was heard all over the room.

" Where's Lucy, brother ? Let me embrace my little darling,"
said the lady, in an accent that told more of Miss Macan than a
three- volume biography could have done. " There she is, I'm sure ;
kiss me, my honey."

This office Miss Dashwood performed with an effort at courtesy
really admirable ; then, taking her aunt's arm, she led her to a

It needed all the poor General's tact to get over the sensation of
this most mat a propos addition to his party ; but by degrees the
various groups renewed their occupations, although many a smile,
and more than one sarcastic glance at the sofa, betrayed that the
maiden aunt had not escaped criticism.

Power, whose propensity for fun very considerably outstripped
his sense of decorum to his commanding officer, had already made
his way towards Miss Dashwood, and succeeded in obtaining a for-
mal introduction to Miss Macan.

" I hope you will do me the favor to dance the next set with me,
Miss Macan ?"

"Keally, Captain, it's very polite of you, but you must excuse
me. I was never anything great in quadrilles ; but if a reel or a

jig "

" Oh, dear aunt, don't think of it, I beg of you."

" Or even Sir Roger de Coverley," resumed Miss Macan.

" I assure you, quite equally impossible."

" Then I'm certain you waltz," said Power.

" What do you take me for, young man ? I hope I know better.
I wish Father Magrath heard you ask me that question, and for all
your laced jacket "

" Dearest aunt, Captain Power didn't mean to offend you ; I'm
certain he "

" Well, why did he dare to— sob, sob — did he see anything light
about me, that he — sob, sob, sob — oh dear ! oh dear ! is it for this I
came up from my little peaceful place in the west ? — sob, sob, sob —
General, George, dear ; Lucy, my love, I'm taken bad. Oh dear !
oh dear ! is there any whisky negus ?"

Whatever sympathy Miss Macan's sufferings might have excited


in the crowd about her before, this last question totally routed it,
and a hearty fit of laughter broke forth from more than one of the

At length, however, she was comforted, and her pacification com-
pletely effected by Sir George setting her down to a whist-table.
From this moment I lost sight of her for above two hours. Mean-
while, I had little opportunity of following up my intimacy with
Miss Dashwood, and as I rather suspected that, on more than one
occasion, she seemed to avoid our meeting, I took especial care, on
my part, to spare her the annoyance.

For one instant only had I any opportunity of addressing her,
and then there was such an evident embarrassment in her manner,
that I readily perceived how she felt circumstanced — that the sense
of gratitude to one whose further advances she might have feared
rendered her constrained and awkward. " Too true," said I ; " she
avoids me. My being here is only a source of discomfort and pain
to her ; therefore, I'll take my leave, and, whatever it may cost me,
never to return." With this intention, resolving to wish Sir George
a very good night, I sought him out for some minutes. At length I
saw him in a corner, conversing with the old nobleman to whom he
had presented me early in the evening,

" True, upon my honor, Sir George," said he ; " I saw it myself,
and she did it just as dexterously as the oldest blackleg in Paris."

"Why, you don't mean to say that she cheated?"

" Yes, but I do, though — turned the ace every time. Lady Her-
bert said to me, ' Very extraordinary it is — four by honors again.'
So I looked, and then I perceived it — a very old trick it is ; but she
did it beautifully. What's her name?"

" Some western name ; I forget it," said the poor General, ready
to die with shame.

" Clever old woman— very !" said the old lord, taking a pinch of
snuff; " but revokes too often."

Supper was announced at this critical moment, and before I had
further thought of my determination to escape, I felt myself hurried
along in the crowd towards the staircase. The party immediately
in front.of me were Power and Miss Macan, who now appeared re-
conciled, and certainly testified most openly their mutual feelings of
good will.

" I say, Charley," whispered Power, as I came along, " it is capital
fun— never met anything equal to her; but the poor General will
never live through it, and I'm certain of ten days' arrest for this
night's proceeding."

"Any news of Webber?" I inquired.

" Oh yes, I fancy I can tell something of him ; for I heard of some


one presenting himself, and being refused the entree, so that Master
Frank has lost his money. Sit near us, I pray you, at supper. We
must take care of the dear aunt for the niece's sake, eh ?"

Not seeing the force of this reasoning, I soon separated myself
from them, and secured a corner at a side table. Every supper, on
such an occasion as this, is the same scene of soiled white muslin,
faded flowers, flushed faces, torn gloves, blushes, blanc-mange, cold
chicken, jelly, sponge cakes, spooney young gentlemen doing the
attentive, and watchful mammas calculating what precise degree of
propinquity in the crush is safe or seasonable for their daughters to
the moustached and unmarrying lovers beside them. There are
always the same set of gratified elders, like the benchers in King's
Inn, marched up to the head of the table, to eat, drink, and be
happy — removed from the more profane looks and soft speeches of
the younger part of the creation. Then there are the oi polloi of
outcasts, younger sons of younger brothers, tutors, governesses, por-
tionless cousins, and curates, all formed in a phalanx round the side
tables, whose primitive habits and simple tastes are evinced by their
all eating off the same plate and drinking from nearly the same
wine-glass, — too happy if some better-off acquaintance at the long
table invites them to " wine," though the ceremony on their part is
limited to the pantomime of drinking. To this miserable tiers 6tat
I belonged, and bore my fate with unconcern ; for, alas ! my spirits
were depressed and my heart heavy. Lucy's treatment of me was
every moment before me, contrasted with her gay and courteous
demeanor to all save myself, and I longed for the moment to get

Never had I seen her looking so beautiful ; her brilliant eyes were
lit with pleasure, and her smile was enchantment itself. What would
I not have given for one moment's explanation, as I took my leave
forever! — one brief avowal of my love, my unalterable, devoted
love ; for which I sought not nor expected return, but merely that I
might not be forgotten.

Such were my thoughts, when a dialogue quite near me aroused
me from my reverie. I was not long in detecting the speakers, who,
with their backs turned to us, were seated at the great table, discus-
sing a very liberal allowance of pigeon pie, a flask of champagne
standing between them.

" Don't, now ! don't, I tell ye ; it's little ye know Galway, or ye
wouldn't think to make up to me, squeezing my foot."

" Upon my soul, you're an angel, a regular angel. I never saw a
woman suit my fancy before."

" Oh, behave now. Father Magrath says "

"Who's he?"


"The priest; no less."

"Oh! confound him."

" Confound Father Magrath, young man ?"

" Well, then, Judy, don't be angry ; I only meant that a dragoon
knows rather more of these matters than a priest."

" Well, then, I'm not so sure of that. But anyhow, I'd have you
to remember it ain't a Widow Malone you have beside you."

" Never heard of the lady," said Power.

" Sure, it's a song — poor creature — it's a song they made about
her in the North Cork, when they were quartered down in our

" I wish to Heaven you'd sing it."

" What will you give me, then, if I do ?"

"Anything — everything — my heart, my life."

" I wouldn't give a trauneen for all of them. Give me that old
green ring on your finger, then."

" It's yours," said Power, placing it gracefully upon Miss Macan's
finger, " and now for your promise."

" Maybe my brother might not like it."

" He'd be delighted," said Power ; " he dotes on music."

" Does he, now ?"

" On my honor, he does."

" Well, mind you get up a good chorus, for the song has one, and
here it is."

" Miss Macan's song !" said Power, tapping the table with his

" Miss Macan's song !" was re-echoed on all sides ; and before the
luckless General could interfere, she had begun. How to explain
the air I know not, for I never heard its name ; bat at the end of
each verse a species of echo followed the last word, thai rendered it
irresistibly ridiculous.


" Did ye hear of the Widow Malone,

Who lived in the town of Athlone

Alone ?
Oh ! she melted the hearts
Of the swains in them parts,
So lovely the Widow Malone,

So lovely the Widow Malone.

" Of lovers she had a full score,

Or more;
And fortunes they all had galore,

In store ;


From the minister down

To the clerk of the crown,

All were courting the Widow Malone,

Ohone !
All were courting the Widow Malone.

" But so modest was Mrs. Malone,

'Twas known
No one ever could see her alone,

Ohone !
Let them ogle and sigh,
They could ne'er catch her eye,
So bashful the Widow Malone,
a Ohone !

So bashful the Widow Malone.

" Till one Mr. O'Brien from Clare,

How quare!

It's little for blushin' they care

Down there;

Put his arm round her waist,

Gave ten kisses at laste,

' Oh,' says he, ' you're my Molly Malone,
My own ;

• Oh,' says he, ' you're my Molly Malone.'

" And the widow they all thought so shy,

My eye !
Ne'er thought of a simper or sigh,

For why?
But ' Lucius,' says she,
! Since you've made now so free,
You may marry your Mary Malone,

Ohone !
You may marry your Mary Malone.'

" There's a moral contained in my song,
Not wrong,

And one comfort it's not very long,

But strong ;

If for widows you die,

Larn to kiss, not to sigh,

For they're all like sweet Mistress Malone,
Ohone !

Oh ! they're very like Mistress Malone."

Never did song create such a sensation as Miss Macan's ; and cer-
tainly her desires as to the chorus were followed to the letter, for
" The Widow Malone, ohone !" resounded from one end of the table
to the other, amid one universal shout of laughter. None could
resist the ludicrous effect of her melody ; and even poor Sir George,
sinking under the disgrace of his relationship, which she had con-
trived to make public by frequent allusions to her " dear brother the
General," yielded at last, and joined in the mirth around him.

" I insist upon a copy of ' The Widow,' Miss Macan," said Power.

" To be sure ; give me a call to-morrow — let me see — about two.


Father Magrath won't be at home," said she, with a coquettish

"Where, pray, may I pay my respects?"

" No. 22 South Anne street — very respectable lodgings. I'll write
the address in your pocket-book."

Power produced a card and pencil, while Miss Macan wrote a few
lines, saying, as she handed it, —

" There, now, don't read it here before the people ; they'll think
it mighty indelicate in me to make an appointment."

Power pocketed the card, and the next minute Miss Macan's car-
riage was announced.

Sir George Dashwood, who little flattered himself that his fair
guest had any intention of departure, became now most consider-
ately attentive — reminded her of the necessity of muffling against
the night air — hoped she would escape cold — and wished her a most
cordial good night, with a promise of seeing her early the following

Notwithstanding Power's ambition to engross the attention of the
lady, Sir George himself saw her to her carriage, and only returned
to the room as a group was collecting around the gallant Captain, to
whom he was relating some capital traits of his late conquest — for
such he dreamed she was.

" Doubt it who will," said he, " she has invited me to call on her
to-morrow — written her address on my card — told me the hour she
is certain of being alone. See here V At these words he pulled
forth the card, and handed it to Lechmere.

Scarcely were the eyes of the other thrown upon the writing, when
he said, " So, this isn't it, Power."

" To be sure it is, man," said Power. "Anne street is devilish
seedy — but that's the quarter."

" Why, confound it, man," said the other, " there's not a word of
that here."

" Head it out," said Power. " Proclaim aloud my victory."

Thus urged, Lechmere read : —

" Dear P., — Please pay to my credit — and soon, mark ye — the two
ponies lost this evening. I have done myself the pleasure of enjoy-
ing your ball, kissed the lady, quizzed the papa, and walked into the'
cunning Fred Power. Yours,

" Frank Webber.

" ' The Widow Malone, ohone !' is at your service."

Had a thunderbolt fallen at his feet, his astonishment could not
have equalled the result of this revelation. He stamped, swore,


raved, laughed, and almost went deranged. The joke was soon
spread through the room, and from Sir George to poor Lucy, now
covered with blushes at her part in the transaction, all was laughter
and astonishment.

" Who is he ? that is the question," said Sir George, who, with all
the ridicule of the affair hanging over him, felt no common relief at
the discovery of the imposition.

" A friend of O'Malley's," said Power, delighted, in his defeat, to
involve another with himself.

" Indeed I" said the General, regarding me with a look of a very
mingled cast.

" Quite true, sir," said I, replying to the accusation that his man-
ner implied ; " but equally so, that I neither knew of his plot nor
recognized him when here."

" I am perfectly sure of it, my boy," said the General ; " and, after
all, it was an excellent joke — carried a little too far, it's true ; eh,

But Lucy either heard not or affected not to hear; and, after
some little further assurance that he felt not the least -annoyed, the
General turned to converse with some other friends, while I, burn-
ing with indignation against Webber, took a cold farewell of Miss
Dashwood, and retired.



HOW I might have met Master Webber after his impersona-
tion of Miss Macan, I cannot possibly figure to myself. For-
tunately, indeed, for all parties, he left town early the next
morning, and it was some weeks ere he returned. In the mean-
while, I became a daily visitor at the General's, dined there usually
three or four times a week, rode out with Lucy constantly, and
accompanied her every evening either to the theatre or into society.
Sir George, possibly from my youth, seemed to pay little attention
to an intimacy which he perceived every hour growing closer, and
frequently gave his daughter into my charge in our morning excur-
sions on horseback. As for me, my happiness was all but perfect.
I loved, and already began to hope that I was not regarded with
indifference ; for although Lucy's manner never absolutely evinced
any decided preference towards me, yet many slight and casual cir-
cumstances served to show me that my attentions to her were nei-


ther unnoticed nor uncared for. Among the many gay and dashing
companions of our rides, I remarked that, however anxious for such
a distinction, none ever seemed to make any way in her good
graces ; and I had already gone far in my self-deception that I was
destined for good fortune, when a circumstance which occurred one
morning at length served to open my eyes to the truth, and blast,
by one fatal breath, the whole harvest of my hopes.

We were about to set out one morning on a long ride, when Sir
George's presence was required by the arrival of an officer who had
been sent from the Horse Guards on official business. After half
an hour's delay, Colonel Cameron, the officer in question, was intro-
duced, and entered into conversation with our party. He had only
landed in England from the Peninsula a few days before, and had
abundant information of the stirring events enacting there. At the
conclusion of an anecdote — I forget what — he turned suddenly
round to Miss Dashwood, who was standing beside me, and said, in
a low voice, —

" And, now, Miss Dashwood, I am reminded of a commission I
promised a »very old brother officer to perform. Can I have one
moment's conversation with you in the window ?"

As he spoke, I perceived that he crumpled beneath his glove
something like a letter.

" To me ?" said Lucy, with a look of surprise that sadly puzzled
me whether to ascribe it to coquetry or innocence — " to me ?"

" To you," said the Colonel, bowing ; " and I am sadly deceived
by my friend Hammersley "

" Captain Hammersley ?" said she, blushing deeply as she spoke.

I heard no more. She turned towards the window with the
Colonel, and all I saw was, that he handed her a letter, which, hav-
ing hastily broken open, and thrown her eyes over, she grew at first
deadly pale, then red, and, while her eyes filled with tears, I heard
her say, " How like him ! — how truly generous this is !" I listened
for no more — my brain was whirling round and my senses reeling.
I turned and left the room. In another moment I was on my horse,
galloping from the spot, despair, in all its blackness, in my heart —
and, in my broken-hearted misery, wishing for death.

I was miles away from Dublin ere I remembered well what had
occurred, and even then, not over-clearly. The fact that Lucy
Dashwood, whom I imagined to be my own in heart, loved another,
was all that I really knew. That one thought was all that my mind
was capable of, and in it my misery, my wretchedness, were centred.

Of all the grief my life has known, I have had no moments like
the long hours of that dreary night. My sorrow, in turn, took
every shape and assumed every guise. Now I remembered how the


Dashwoods had courted my intimacy and encouraged my visits ;
how Lucy herself had evinced, in a thousand ways, that she felt a
preference for me. I called to mind the many unequivocal proofs I
had given her that my feeling, at least, was no common one ; and
yet, how had she sported with my affections and jested with my
happiness ! That she loved Hammersley I had now a palpable
proof; that this affection must have been mutual, and prosecuted
at the very moment I was not only professing my own love for her,
but actually receiving all but an avowal of its return — oh ! it was
too, too base ; and in my deepest heart I cursed my folly, and vowed
never to see her more.

It was late on the next day ere I retraced my steps towards town,
my heart sad and heavy, careless what became of me for the future,
and pondering whether I should not at once give up my college
career and return to my uncle. When I reached my chambers, all
was silent and comfortless. Webber had not returned ; my servant
was from home ; and I felt myself more than ever wretched in the
solitude of what had been so oft the scene of noisy and festive
gayety. I sat some hours in a half-musing state, every sad, depress-
ing thought that blighted hopes can conjure up rising in turn before
me. A loud knocking at the door at length aroused me. I got up

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 14 of 80)