Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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experienced as himself.

One singular feature of the society at the house was, that although
the Major was as well known as the flag on Spike Island, yet, some-
how, no officer above the rank of an ensign was ever to be met there.
It was not that he had not a large acquaintance ; in fact, the "How
are you, Major?" — " How goes it, Dalrymple?" that kept everlast-
ingly going on as he walked the streets, proved the reverse ; but,

CORK. 161

Strange enough, his predilections leaned towards the newly-gazetted,
far before the bronzed and seared campaigners who had seen the
world, and knew more about it. The reasons for this line of con-
duct were two-fold. In the first place, there was not an article of
outfit, from a stock to a sword-belt, that he could not and did not
supply to the young officer ; from the gorget of the infantry, to the
shako of the grenadier, all came within his province ; not that he
actually kept a magasin of these articles, but he had so completely
interwoven his interests with those of numerous shopkeepers in
Cork, that he rarely entered a shop over whose door Dalrymple and
Co. might not have figured on the signboard. His stables were
filled with a perfect infirmary of superannuated chargers, fattened
and conditioned up to a miracle, and groomed to perfection. He
could get you — only you — about three dozen of sherry, to take out
with you as sea-store ; he knew of such a servant ; he chanced upon
such a camp-furniture yesterday in his walks ; in fact, why want
for anything ? His resources were inexhaustible — his kindness un-

Then money was no object — hang it, you could pay when you
liked — what signified it? In other words, a bill at thirty-one days,
cashed and discounted by a friend of the Major's, would always do.
While such were the unlimited advantages his acquaintance con-
ferred, the sphere of his benefits took another range. The Major
had two daughters. Matilda and Fanny were as well known in the
army as Lord Fitzroy Somerset or Picton, from the Isle of Wight to
Halifax, from Cape Coast to Chatham, from Belfast to the Bermudas.
Where was the subaltern who had not knelt at the shrine of one or the
other, if not of both, and vowed eternal love until a change of quar-
ters ? In plain words, the Major's solicitude for the service was such
that, not content with providing the young officer with all the neces-
sary outfit of his profession, he longed also to supply him with a
comforter for his woes, a charmer for his solitary hours, in the per-
son of one of his amiable daughters. Unluckily, however, the ne-
cessity for a wife is not enforced by " general orders," as is the cut
of your coat, or the length of your sabre ; consequently, the Major's
success in the home department of his diplomacy was not destined
for the same happy results that awaited it when engaged about drill
trousers and camp kettles, and the Misses Dalrymple remained
Misses through every clime and every campaign. And yet, why
was it so ? It is hard to say. What would men have ? Matilda was
a dark-haired, dark-eyed, romantic-looking girl, with a tall figure
and a slender waist, with more poetry in her head than would have
turned any ordinary brain ; always unhappy ; in need of consolation ;
never meeting with the kindred spirit that understood her ; destined


to walk the world alone, her fair thoughts smothered in the recesses
of her own heart. Devilish hard to stand this, when you began in
a kind of platonic friendship on both sides. More than one poor
fellow nearly .succumbed, particularly when she came to quote Cow-
ley, and told him with tears in her eyes, —

"There are hearts that live and love alone," &c.

I'm assured that this coup de grace rarely failed in being followed
by a downright avowal of open love, which, somehow, what between
the route coming, what with waiting for leave from home, &c, never
got further than a most tender scene, and exchange of love tokens ;
in fact, such became so often the termination, that Powers swears
Matty had to make a firm resolve about cutting off any more hair,
fearing a premature baldness during the recruiting season.

Now, Fanny had selected another arm of the service. Her hair
was fair; her eyes blue, — laughing, languishing, mischief-loving
blue — with long lashes, and a look in them that was wont to leave
its impression rather longer than you exactly knew of; then, her
figure was petite, but perfect ; her feet Canova might have copied ;
and her hand was a study for Titian ; her voice, too, was soft and
musical, but full of that gaie'te' de cosur that never fails to charm.
While her sister's style was il penseroso, hers was V allegro / every
imaginable thing, place, or person supplied food for her mirth,
and her sister's lovers all came in for their share. She hunted with
Smith Barry's hounds ; she yachted with the Cove Club ; she
coursed, practised at a mark with a pistol, and played chicken
hazard with all the cavalry ; for, let it be remarked as a physiologi-
cal fact, Matilda's admirers were almost invariably taken from the
infantry, while Fanny's adorers were as regularly dragoons. Whether
the former be the romantic arm of the service, and the latter be
more adapted to dull realities, or whether the phenomenon had
any other explanation, I leave to the curious. Now this arrange-
ment, proceeding upon that principle which has wrought such won-
ders in Manchester and Sheffield — the division of labor — was a most
wise and equitable one ; each having her one separate and distinct
field of action, interference was impossible ; not but that when, as in
the present instance, cavalry was in the ascendant, Fanny would
willingly spare a dragoon or two to her sister, who likewise would
repay the debt when occasion offered.

The mamma — for it is time I should say something of the head
of the family — was an excessively fat, coarse-looking, dark-skinned
personage of some fifty years, with a voice like a boatswain in a
quinsy. Heaven can tell, perhaps, why the worthy Major allied his
fortunes with hers, for she was evidently of a very inferior rank in

CORK. 163

society ; could never have been aught than downright ugly ; and I
never heard that she brought him any money. " Spoiled five," the
national amusement of her age and sex in Cork, scandal, the changes
in the army list, the failures in speculation of her luckless husband,
the forlorn fortunes of her daughters, kept her in occupation ; and her
days were passed in one perpetual, unceasing current of dissatisfac-
tion and ill-temper with all around, that formed a heavy counter-
poise to the fascinations of the young ladies. The repeated jiltings
to which they had been subject had blunted any delicacy upon the
score of their marriage, and if the newly-introduced cornet or ensign
was not coming forward, as became him, at the end of the requisite
number of days, he was sure of receiving a very palpable admoni-
tion from Mrs. Dalrymple. Hints, at first dimly shadowed, that
Matilda was not in spirits this morning ; that Fanny, poor child,
had a headache, — directed especially at the culprit in question, —
grew gradually into those little motherly fondnesses in mamma,
that, like the fascinations of the rattlesnake, only lure on to ruin.
The doomed man was pressed to dinner when all others were per-
mitted to take their leave ; he was treated like one of the family —
God help him ! After dinner, the Major would keep him an hour
over his wine, discussing the misery of an ill-assorted marriage ;
detailing his own happiness in marrying a woman like the Tonga
Islander I have mentioned ; hinting that girls should be brought up
not only to become companions to their husbands, but with ideas
fitting their station ; if his auditor were a military man, that none
but an old officer (like him) could know how to educate girls (like
his) ; and that, feeling he possessed two such treasures, his whole
aim in life was to guard and keep them, — a difficult task, when pro-
posals of the most flattering kind were coming constantly before
him. Then followed a fresh bottle, during which the Major would
consult his young friend upon a very delicate affair — no less than a
proposition for the hand of Miss Matilda, or Fanny, whichever he
was supposed to be soft upon. This was generally a coup de maitre ;
should he still resist, he was handed over to Mrs. Dalrymple, with
a strong indictment against him, and rarely did he escape a heavy
sentence. Now, is it not strange that two really pretty girls, with fully
enough of amiable and pleasing qualities to have excited the atten-
tion and won the affections of many a man, should have gone on for
years — for, alas ! they did so in every climate under every sun — to
waste their sweetness in this miserable career of intrigue and man-
trap, and yet nothing come of it? But so it was. The first question
a newly-landed regiment was asked, if coming where they resided,
was, " Well, how are the girls?" " Oh, gloriously. Matty is there."
"Ah, indeed! poor thing!" "Has Fan sported a new habit V


"Is it the old gray, with the hussar braiding? Confound it, that
was seedy when I saw them in Corfu. And is Mother Dal as fat
and vulgar as ever f " Dawson of ours was the last, and was called
up for sentence when we were ordered away : of course he bolted,"
&c. Such was the invariable style of question and answer con-
cerning them ; and although some few, either from good feeling or
fastidiousness, relished but little the mode in which it had become
habitual to treat them, I grieve to say that, generally, they were
pronounced fair game for every species of flirtation and love-mak-
ing, without any " intentions" for the future. I should not have
trespassed so far upon my readers' patience, were I not, in recount-
ing these traits of my friends above, narrating matters of history.
How many are there who may cast their eyes upon these pages,
that will say, "Poor Matilda, I knew her at Gibraltar. Little Fanny
was the life and soul of us all in Quebec."

" Mr. O'Malley," said the Adjutant, as I presented myself in the
afternoon of my arrival in Cork, to a short, punchy, little red-faced
gentleman, in a short jacket and ducks, " you are, I perceive, ap-
pointed to the 14th ; you will have the goodness to appear on parade

to-morrow morning The riding-school hours are . The

morning drill is ; evening drill, . Mr. Minchin,

you are a 14th man, I believe ; no, I beg your pardon, a Carbineer ;
but no matter. Mr. O'Malley — Mr. Minchin ; Captain Dounie —
Mr, O'Malley. You'll dine with us to-day, and to-morrow you
shall be entered at the mess."

" Yours are at Santarem, I believe ?" said an old weather-beaten
looking officer with one arm.

" I'm ashamed to say I know nothing whatever of them ; I re-
ceived my gazette unexpectedly enough."

"Ever in Cork before, Mr. O'Malley?"

"Never," said I.

" Glorious place !" lisped a white-eyelashed, knock-kneed Ensign ;
" splendid gals, eh ?"

" Ah, Brunton," said Minchin, " you may boast a little, but we
poor devils "

" Know the Dais ?" said the hero of the lisp, addressing me.

"I haven't that honor," I replied, scarcely able to guess whether
what he alluded to were objects of the picturesque or a private

"Introduce him, then, at once," said the Adjutant; "we'll all go
in the evening. What will the old squaw think ?"

" Not I," said Minchin. " She wrote to the Duke of York about
my helping Matilda at supper, and not having any honorable inten-
tions afterwards."


" We dine at * The George' to-day, Mr. O'Malley, sharp seven.
Until then "

So saying, the little man bustled back to his accounts, and I
took my leave with the rest, to stroll about the town till dinner-



THE Adjutant's dinner was as professional an affair as need be.
A circuit or a learned society could not have been more exclu-
sively devoted to their own separate and immediate topics
than were we. Pipeclay in all its varieties came on the tapis; the
last regulation cap — the new button — the promotions — the general
orders — the Colonel, and the Colonel's wife — stoppages, and the
mess fund, were all well and ably discussed ; and, strange enough,
while the conversation took this wide range, not a chance allusion,
not one stray hint, ever wandered to the brave fellows who were
covering the army with glory in the Peninsula, nor one souvenir of
him that was even then enjoying a fame, as a leader, second to none
in Europe. This surprised me not a little at the time ; but I have
since that learned how little interest the real services of an army
possess for the ears of certain officials, who, stationed at home quar-
ters, pass their inglorious lives in the details of drill, parade, mess-
room gossip and barrack scandal. Such, in fact, were the dons of
the present dinner. We had a Commissary-General, an inspecting
Brigade-Major of something, a Physician to the Forces, the Adju-
tant himself, and Major Dalrymple ; the oi polloi consisting of the
raw Ensign, a newly-fledged Cornet (Mr. Sparks), and myself.

The Commissary told some very pointless stories about his own
department, the Doctor read a dissertation upon Walcheren fever,
the Adjutant got very stupidly tipsy, and Major Dalrymple suc-
ceeded in engaging the three juniors of the party to tea, having
previously pledged us to purchase nothing whatever of outfit with-
out his advice, he well knowing (which he did) how young fellows
like us were cheated, and resolving to be a father to us (which he
certainly tried to be).

As we rose from the table about ten o'clock, I felt how soon a few
such dinners would succeed in disenchanting me of all my military
illusions ; for, young as I was, I saw that the Commissary was a
vulgar bore, the Doctor a humbug, the Adjutant a sot, and the
Major himself I greatly suspected to be an old rogue.


" You are coming with us, Sparks ?" said Major Dalrymple, as he
took me by one arm and the Ensign by the other. " We are going
to have a little tea with the ladies ; not five minutes' walk."

" Most happy, sir," said Mr. Sparks, with a very nattered expres-
sion of countenance.

" O'Malley, you know Sparks, and Burton too."

This served for a species of triple introduction, at which we all
bowed, simpered, and bowed again. We were very happy to have
the pleasure, &c.

" How pleasant to get away from these fellows!" said the Major;
" they are so uncommonly prosy, That Commissary, with his mess
beef, and old Pritchard, with black doses and rigors — nothing so
insufferable. Besides, in reality, a young officer never needs all that
nonsense. A little medicine chest — I'll get you one each to-morrow
for five pounds ; no, five pounds ten : the same thing — that will see
you all through the Peninsula. Kemind me of it in the morning,"
This we all promised to do, and the Major resumed : " I say, Sparks,
you've got a real prize in that gray horse ; such a trooper as he is !
O'Malley, you'll be wanting something of that kind, if we can find
it out for you."

"Many thanks, Major, but my cattle are on the way h«re
already. I've only three horses, but I think they are tolerably
good ones."

The Major now turned to Burton, and said something in a low
tone, to which the other replied, —

" Well, if you say so, I'll get it, but it's devilish dear."

" Dear ! my young friend ; cheap, dog cheap."

"Only think, O'Malley, a whole brass-bed, camp-stool, basin-
stand, all complete for sixty pounds ! If it was not that a widow
was disposing of it in great distress, one hundred could not buy it.
Here we are; come along — no ceremony. Mind the two steps;
that's it. Mrs. Dalrymple, Mr. O'Malley ; Mr. Sparks, Mr. Burton,
my daughters. Is tea over, girls ?"

" Why, papa, it's near eleven o'clock," said Fanny, as she rose to
ring the bell, displaying, in so doing, the least possible portion of a
very well-turned ankle.

Miss Matilda Dal laid down her book, but, seemingly lost in ab-
straction, did not deign to look at us. Mrs. Dalrymple, however,
did the honors with much politeness, and having, by a few adroit
and well-put queries, ascertained everything concerning our rank
and position, seemed perfectly satisfied that our intrusion was justi-

While my confrere Mr. Sparks was undergoing his examination, I
had time to look at the ladies, whom I was much surprised at find-


ing so very well-looking ; and as the Ensign had opened a conver-
sation with Fanny, I approached my chair towards the other, and
having carelessly turned over the leaves of the book she had been
reading, drew her on to talk of it. As my acquaintance with young
ladies hitherto had been limited to those who had " no soul," I felt
some difficulty at first in keeping up with the exalted tone of my
fair companion, but by letting her take the lead for some time, I got
to know more of the ground. We went on tolerably together, every
moment increasing my stock of technicals, which were all that was
needed to sustain the conversation. How often have I found the
same plan succeed, whether discussing a question of law or medi-
cine, with a learned professor of either ; or, what is still more diffi-
cult, canvassing the merits of a preacher, or a doctrine, with a seri-
ous young lady, whose " blessed privileges" were at first a little
puzzling to comprehend.

I so contrived it, too, that Miss Matilda should seem as much to
be making a convert to her views as to have found a person capable
of sympathizing with her; and thus, long before the little supper
with which it was the Major's practice to regale his friends every
evening made its appearance, we had established a perfect under-
standing together — a circumstance that, a bystander might have
remarked, was productive of a more widely-diffused satisfaction
than I could have myself seen any just cause for. Mr. Burton was
also progressing, as the Yankees say, with the sister. Sparks had
booked himself as purchaser of military stores enough to make the
campaign of the whole globe, and we were thus all evidently fulfil-
ling our various vocations, and affording perfect satisfaction to our

Then came the spatch-cock, and the sandwiches, and the negus,
which Fanny first mixed for papa, and, subsequently, with some little
pressing, for Mr. Burton; Matilda, the romantic, assisted me.
Sparks helped himself. Then we laughed and told stories ; pressed
Sparks to sing, which as he declined to do so, we only pressed
the more. How invariably, by the bye, is it the custom to show
one's appreciation of anything like a butt, by pressing him for a

The Major was in great spirits, told us anecdotes of his early life
in India, and how he once contracted to supply the troops with
milk, and made a purchase, in consequence, of some score of cattle,
which turned out to be bullocks. Matilda recited some lines from
Pope in my ear. Fanny challenged Burton to a rowing match.
Sparks listened to all around him, and Mrs. Dalrymple mixed a very
little weak punch, which Dr. Lucas had recommended to her, to
take the last thing at night — Nodes cantzque. Say what you will, these


were very jovial little reunions. The girls were decidedly very pretty.
We were in high favor, and when we took leave at the door, with a
very cordial shake hands, it was with no arrtere pens6e we promised
to see them in the morning.



WHEN we think for a moment over all the toils, all the
anxieties, all the fevered excitement of a grande passion, it
is not a little singular that love should so frequently be
elicited by a state of mere idleness ; and yet nothing, after all, is so
predisposing a cause as this. Where is the man between eighteen
and eight-and-thirty — might I not say forty ? — who, without any
very pressing duns, and having no taste for strong liquor and rouge
ct noir, can possibly lounge through the long hours of his day with-
out at least fancying himself in love ? The thousand little occupa-
tions it suggests become a necessity of existence ; its very worries
are like the wholesome opposition that purines and strengthens the
frame of a free state. Then, what is there half so sweet as the re-
flective flattery which results from our appreciation of an object who,
in return, deems us the ne plus ultra of perfection ? There it is, in
fact — that confounded bump of self-esteem does it all, and has more
imprudent matches to answer for than all the occipital protuber-
ances that ever scared poor Harriet Martineau.

Now, to apply my moralizing. I very soon, to use the mess phrase,
got " devilish spooney" about the " Dais." The morning drill, the
riding-school, and the parade, were all most fervently consigned to
a certain military character that shall be nameless, as detaining me
from some appointment made the evening before ; for, as I supped
there each night, a party of one kind or another was always planned
for the day following. Sometimes we had a boating excursion to
Cove ; sometimes a picnic at Foaty ; now a rowing party to Glan-
mire, or a ride, at which I furnished the cavalry. These doings
were all under my especial direction, and I thus became speedily
the organ of the Dalrymple family ; and the simple phrase, "It was
Mr. O'Malley's arrangement," " Mr. O'Malley wished it," was like
the "Moi le roi" of Louis XIV.

Though all this while we continued to carry on most pleasantly,
Mrs. Dalrymple, I could perceive, did not entirely sympathize with
our projects of amusement. As an experienced engineer might feel,


■when watching the course of some storming projectile — some bril-
liant congreve — flying over a besieged fortress, yet never touching
the walls, nor harming the inhabitants, so she looked on all these
demonstrations of attack with no small impatience, and wondered
when the breach would be reported practicable. Another puzzle

(also contributed its share of anxiety — which of the girls was it ? To
be sure, he spent three hours every morning with Fanny ; but, then,
he never left Matilda the whole evening. He had given his minia-
ture to one ; a locket with his hair was a present to the sister. The
Major thinks he saw his arm round Matilda's waist in the garden ;
the housemaid swears she saw him kiss Fanny in the pantry. Ma-
tilda smiles when we talk of his name with her sister's ; Fanny
laughs outright, and says, " Poor Matilda, the man never dreamed
of her." This is becoming uncomfortable ; the Major must ask his
intentions — it is certainly one or the other ; but then we have a right
to know which. Such was a very condensed view of Mrs. Dalrym-
ple's reflections on this important topic — a view taken with her
usual tact and clear-sightedness.

Matters were in this state, when Power at length arrived in Cork,
to take command of our detachment, and make the final prepara-
tions for our departure. I had been, as usual, spending the evening
at the Major's, and had just reached my quarters, when I found my
friend sitting at my fire, smoking his cigar and solacing himself
with a little brandy-and-water.

"At last," said he, as I entered — " at last I Why, where the deuce
have you been till this hour — past two o'clock? There is no ball,
no assembly going on, eh ?"

" No," said I, half blushing at the eagerness of the inquiry ; " I've
been spending the evening with a friend."

" Spending the evening ! say, rather, the night. Why, confound
you, man, what is there in Cork to keep you out of bed till near
three ?"

"Well, if you must know, I've been supping at a Major Dalrym-
ple's — a devilish good fellow — with two such daughters !"

"Ahem !" said Power, shutting one eye knowingly, and giving a
look like a Yorkshire horse-dealer. " Go on."

" Why, what do you mean?"

" Go on — continue."

" I've finished — I've nothing more to tell."

" So, they're here, are they !" said he, reflectively

"Who?" said I.

" Matilda and Fanny, to be sure."

" Why, you know them, then?"

" I should think I do."


u Where have you met them ?"

" Where have I not ? When I was in the Eifles, they were quar-
tered at Zante. Matilda was just then coming it rather strong with
Villiers, of ours, a regular greenhorn. Fanny, also, nearly did for
Harry Nesbitt, by riding a hurdle-race. They then left for Gibral-

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 17 of 80)