Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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Had poor Mr. Sparks been told to proceed incontinently up the
chimney before him, he could not have looked more aghast. Reply
was quite out of his power ; so sudden and unexpectedly was this
charge of mine made, that he could only stare vacantly from one to
the other, while I, warming with my subject, and perhaps — but I'll
not swear it — stimulated by a gentle pressure from a soft hand near
me, continued, —

" If he thinks for one moment that my attentions in this family
are in any way to be questioned by him, I can only say "

" My dear O'Malley, my dear boy !" said the Major, with the look
of a father-in-law in his eye.

" The spirit of an officer and a gentleman spoke there," said Mrs.
Dalrymple, now carried beyond all prudence, by the hope that my
attack might arouse my dormant friend into a counter declaration.


Nothing, however, was further from poor Sparks, who began to
think lie had been unconsciously drinking tea with five lunatics.

" If he supposes," sai'd I, rising from my chair, " that his silence
will pass with, me as any palliation "

" Oh dear ! oh dear ! there will be a duel. Papa, dear, why don't
you speak to Mr. O'Mallcy ?"

" There, now, 0" Malley, sit down. Don't you see he is quite in
error ?"

" Then let him say so," said I fiercely.

" Ah, yes, to be sure," said Fanny ; " do say it ; say anything he
likes, Mr. Sparks."

" I must say," said Mrs. Dalrymple, " however sorry I may feel in
my own house to condemn any one, that Mr. Sparks is very much in
the wrong."

Poor Sparks looked like a man in a dream.

"If he will tell Charles— Mr. O'Malley, I mean," said Matilda,
blushing scarlet, " that he meant nothing by what he said "

"But I never spoke — never opened my lips!" cried out the
wretched man, at length sufficiently recovered to defend himself.

"Oh, Mr. Sparks!"

" Oh, Mr. Sparks !"

" Oh, Mr. Sparks !" chorused the three ladies.

While the old Major brought up the rear with an " Oh, Sparks, I
must say "

" Then, by all the saints in the calendar, I must be mad," said
he ; " but if I have said anything to offend you, O'Malley, I am sin-
cerely sorry for it."

".That will do, sir," said I with a look of royal condescension at
the amende I considered as somewhat late in coming, and resumed
my seat.

This little intermezzo, it might be supposed, was rather calculated
to interrupt the harmony of our evening : not so, however. I had
apparently acquitted myself like a hero, and was evidently in a
white heat, in which I could be fashioned into any shape. Sparks was
humbled so far, that he would probably feel it a relief to make any
proposition ; so that by our opposite courses, we had both arrived at
a point at which all the dexterity and address of the family had been
long since aiming without success. Conversation then resumed its
flow, and in a few minutes every trace of our late fracas had disap-

By degrees I felt myself more and more disposed to turn my
attention towards Matilda, and dropping my voice into a lower tone,
opened a flirtation of a most determined kind. Fanny had, mean-
while, assumed a place beside Sparks, and, by the muttered tones


that passed between them, I could plainly perceive they were simi-
larly occupied. The Major took up the Southern Reporter, of which
he appeared deep in the contemplation, while Mrs. Dal buried her
head in her embroidery, and neither saw nor heard anything around

I know, unfortunately, but very little what passed between myself
and my fair companion : I can only say that when supper was
announced, at twelve (an hour later than usual), I was sitting upon
the sofa, with my arm round her waist, my cheek so close, that
already her lovely tresses brushed my forehead, and her breath
fanned my burning brow.

" Supper at last," said the Major, with a loud voice, to arouse us
from our trance of happiness, without taking any mean opportunity
of looking unobserved. "Supper, Sparks: O'Malley, come now —
it will be some time before we all meet this way again."

" Perhaps not so long, after all," said I, knowingly.

" Very likely not," echoed Sparks, in the same key.

" I've proposed for Fanny," said he, whispering in my ear.

"Matilda's mine," replied I, with the look of an emperor.

"A word with you, Major," said Sparks, his eye flashing with en-
thusiasm, and his cheek scarlet — " one word : I'll not detain you."

They withdrew into a corner for a few seconds, during which
Mrs. Dalrymple amused herself by wondering what the secret
could be ; why Mr. Sparks couldn't tell her ; and Fanny, meanwhile,
pretended to look for something at a side-table, and never turned
her head round.

" Then give me your hand," said the Major, a« he shook Sparks's
with a warmth of whose sincerity there could be no question.
" Bess, my love," said he, addressing his wife ; the remainder was
lost in a whisper; but whatsoever it was, it evidently redounded to
Sparks's credit, for the next moment a repetition of the hand-shaking
took place, and Sparks looked the happiest of men.

11 A mon tour" thought I, "now," as I touched the Major's arm,
and led him towards the window. What I said may be one day
matter for Major Dalrymple's memoirs, if he ever writes them ; but
for my part, I have not the least idea. I only know that, while I
was yet speaking, he called over Mrs. Dal, who, in a frenzy of joy,
seized me in her arms and embraced me. After which, I kissed her,
shook hands with the Major, kissed Matilda's hand, and laughed
prodigiously, as though I had done something confoundedly droll —
a sentiment evidently participated in by Sparks, who laughed too,
as did the others, and a merrier, happier party never sat down to

" Make your company pleased with themselves," says Mr. Walker,


in his original work upon dinner-giving, " and everything goes on
well." Now, Major Dalrymple, without having read the authority
in question, probably because it was not written at the time, under-
stood the principle fully as well as the police magistrate, and cer-
tainly was a proficient in the practice of it.

To be sure he possessed one grand requisite for success — he seemed
most perfectly happy himself. There was that air dtgag6 about him
which, when an old man puts it on among his juniors, is so very
attractive. Then the ladies, too, were evidently well pleased ; and
the usually austere mamma had relaxed her " rigid front" into a
smile, in which any habitut of the house could have read our fate.

We ate, we drank, we ogled, smiled, squeezed hands beneath the
table, and, in fact, so pleasant a party had rarely assembled round the
Major's mahogany. As for me, I made a full disclosure of the most
burning love, backed by a resolve to marry my fair neighbor, and
settle upon her a considerably larger part of my native county than
I had ever even ridden over. Sparks, on the other side, had opened
his fire more cautiously ; but whether taking courage from my bold-
ness, or perceiving with envy the greater estimation I was held in,
he was now going the pace fully as fast as myself, and had com-
menced explanations of his intentions with regard to Fanny that
evidently satisfied her friends. Meanwhile, the wine was passing
very freely, and the hints half uttered an hour before began now to
be more openly spoken and canvassed.

Sparks and I hob-nobbed across the table, and looked unspeak-
able things at each other; the girls held down their heads; Mrs. Dal
wiped her eyes ; and the Major pronounced himself the happiest
father in Europe.

It was now wearing late, or rather early ; some gray streaks of
dubious light were faintly forcing their way through the half-closed
curtains, and the dread thought of parting first presented itself. A
cavalry trumpet, too, at this moment sounded a call that aroused us
from our trance of pleasure, and warned us that our moments were
few. A dead silence crept over all, the solemn feeling which leave-
taking ever inspires was uppermost, and none spoke. The Major
was the first to break it.

" O'Malley, my friend, and you, Mr. Sparks, I must have a word
with you, boys, before we part."

" Here let it be, then, Major," said I, holding his arm as he turned
to leave the room ; " here, now ; we are all so deeply interested, no
place is so fit."

"Well, then," said the Major, "as you desire it, now that I'm to
regard you both in the light of my sons-in-law — at least, as pledged
to become so — it is only fair as respects "


" I sec — I understand perfectly," interrupted I, whose passion for
conducting the whole affair myself was gradually gaining on me.
" What you mean is, that we should make known our intentions
before some mutual friends ere we part — eh, Sparks? eh, Major?"

" Right, my boy — right on every point."

"Well, then, I thought of all that ; and if you'll just send your
servant over to my quarters for our Captain — he's the fittest person,
you know, at such a time "

" How considerate !" said Mrs. Dalrymple.

"How perfectly just his idea is!" said the Major.

" We'll, then, in his presence, avow our present and unalterable
determination as regards your fair daughters ; and as the time is
short "

Here I turned towards Matilda, who placed her arm within mine;
Sparks possessed himself of Fanny's hand, while the Major and his
wife consulted for a few seconds.

" Well, O'Malley, all you propose is perfect. Now, then, for the
Captain. Who shall he inquire for ?"

"Oh, an old friend of yours," said I, jocularly; "you'll be glad to
see him."

" Indeed !" said all together.

" Oh yes, quite a surprise, I'll warrant it."

" Who can it be ? who on earth is it ?"

"You can't guess," added I, with a very knowing look; "knew
you at Corfu. He was a very intimate friend indeed, if he tell the

A look of something like embarrassment passed around the circle
at these words, while I, wishing to end the mystery, resumed :

" Come, then, who can be so proper for all parties, at a moment
like this, as our mutual friend, Captain Power ?"

Had a shell fallen into the cold grouse pie in the midst of us,
scattering death and destruction on every side, the effect could
scarcely have been more frightful than that my last words produced.
Mrs. Dalrymple fell with a sough upon the floor, motionless as a
corpse; Fanny threw herself, screaming, upon a sofa; Matilda went
off into strong hysterics upon the hearth-rug ; while the Major, after
giving me a look a maniac might have envied, rushed from the room
in search of his pistols, with a most terrific oath to shoot somebody,
whether Sparks or myself, or both of us, on his return, I cannot say.
Fanny's sobs and Matilda's cries, assisted by a drumming process
by Mrs. Dai's heels upon the floor, made a most infernal concert,
and effectually prevented anything like thought or reflection ; and,
in all probability, so overwhelmed was I at the sudden catastrophe
I had so innocently caused, I should have waited in due patience


for the Major's return, had not Sparks seized my arm, and cried
out, —

" Eun for it, O'Malley ; cut like fun, my boy, or we're done for."

" Run — why ? — what for ? — where ?" said I, stupefied by the scene
before me.

" Here he is !" called out Sparks, as, throwing up the window, he
sprang out upon the stone sill, and leaped into the street. I followed
mechanically, and jumped after him, just as the Major had reached
the window. A ball whizzed by me, that soon determined my fur-
ther movements ; so putting on all speed. I flew down the street,
turned the corner, and regained the hotel breathless and without a
hat, while Sparks arrived a moment later, pale a* a ghost, and trem-
bling like an aspen-leaf.

" Safe, by Jove !" said Sparks, throwing himself into a "chair, and
panting for breath.

" Safe at last," said I, without well knowing why or for what.

" You've had a sharp run for it apparently," said Power, coolly,
and without any curiosity as to the cause ; " and, now, let us on
board ; there goes the trumpet again. The Skipper is a surly old
fellow, and we must not lose his tide for him." So saying, he pro-
ceeded to collect his cloaks, cane, &c, and get ready for departure.



WHEN I awoke from the long, sound sleep which succeeded
my last adventure, I had some difficulty in remembering
where I was, or how I had come there. From my narrow
berth I looked out upon the now empty cabin, and at length some
misty and confused sense of my situation crept slowly over me. I
opened the little shutter beside me, and looked out. The bold head-
lands of the southern coast were frowning, in sullen and dark
masses, about a couple of miles distant, and I perceived that we
were going fast through the water, which was beautifully calm and
still. I now looked at my watch ; it was past eight o'clock ; and
as it must evidently be evening, from the appearance of the sky, I
felt that I had slept soundly for above twelve hours.

In the hurry of departure, the cabin had not been set to rights,
and there lay every species of lumber and luggage in all imaginable
confusion. Trunks, gun-cases, baskets of eggs, umbrellas, hampers


of sea-store, cloaks, foraging-caps, maps, and sword-belts, were scat-
tered on every side — while the debris of a dinner, not over remark-
able for its propriety in table equipage, added to the ludicrous effect.
The heavy tramp of a foot overhead denoted the step of some one
taking his short walk of exercise ; while the rough voice of the
Skipper, as he gave the word to " Go about I" all convinced me that
we were at last under weigh, and off to " the wars."

The confusion our last evening on shore produced in my brain
was such, that every effort I made to remember anything about it only
increased my difficulty, and I felt myself in a web so tangled and
inextricable, that all endeavors to escape free was impossible. Some-
times I thought that I had really married Matilda Dalrymple ; then
I supposed that the father had called me out, and wounded me in a
duel ; and finally, I had some confused notion about a quarrel with
Sparks, but what for, when, and how it ended, I knew not. How
tremendously tipsy I must have been ! was the only conclusion I
could draw from all these conflicting doubts ; and, after all, it was the
only thing like fact that beamed upon my mind. How I had come
on board and reached my berth, was a matter I reserved for future
inquiry, resolving that about the real history of my last night on
shore I would ask no questions, if others were equally disposed to let
it pass in silence.

I next began to wonder if Mike had looked after all my luggage,
trunks, &c, and whether he himself had been forgotten in our hasty
departure. About this latter point I was not destined for much
doubt ; for a well known voice, from the foot of the companion-lad-
der, at once proclaimed my faithful follower, and evidenced his
feelings at his departure from his home and country.

Mr. Free was, at the time I mention, gathered up like a ball, op-
posite a small, low window, that looked upon the bluff headlands
now fast becoming dim and misty as the night approached. He was
apparently in low spirits, and hummed in a species of low, droning
voice, the following ballad, at the end of each verse of which came
an Irish chorus, which, to the erudite in such matters, will suggest
the air of Moddirederoo : —


" Then fare ye well, ould Erin dear ;
To part — my heart does ache well :
From Carrickfergus to Cape Clear,

I'll never see your equal.
And though to foreign parts we're bound,

Where cannibals may ate us,
We'll ne'er forget the holy ground
Of poteen and potatoes.

Moddirederoo aroo, aroo, &c.


" When good St. Patrick banished frogs,

And shook them from his garment,
He never thought we'd go abroad,

To live upon such varmint,
Nor quit the land where whisky grew,

To wear King George's button,
Take vinegar for mountain dew,

And toads for mountain mutton.

Moddirederoo aroo, aroo," Ac.

" I say, Mike, stop that confounded keen, and tell me where are

" Off the ould head of Kinsale, sir."

" Where is Captain Power ?"

" Smoking a cigar on deck, with the Captain, sir."

"And Mr. Sparks?"

" Mighty sick in his own state-room. Oh ! but it's himself has
enough of glory — bad luck to it ! — by this time. He'd make your
heart break to look at him."

" Who have you got on board besides ?"

" The Adjutant's here, sir, and an old gentleman they call the

"Not Major Dalrymple?" said I, starting up with terror at the
thought, " eh, Mike ?" *

"No, sir, another Major; his name is Mulroon, or Mundoon, or
something like that."

" Monsoon, you son of a lumper potato," cried out a surly, gruff
voice from a berth opposite, " Monsoon. Who's at the other side?"

" Mr. O'Malley, 14th," said I, by way of introduction. •»

" My service to you, then," said the voice. " Going to join your
regiment ?"

" Yes ; and you — are you bound on a similar errand ?"

" No, Heaven be praised ! I'm attached to the Commissariat, and
only going to Lisbon. Have you had any dinner ?"

" Not a morsel ; have you ?"

"No more than yourself; but I always lie by for three or four
days this way, till I get used to the confounded rocking and pitch-
ing ; and, with a little grog and some sleep, get over the time gayly
enough. Steward, another tumbler like the last; there — very

good — that will do. Your good health, Mr. what was it you

said ?"


" O'Malley — your good health — good night." And so ended our
brief colloquy, and in a few minutes more, a very decisive snore
pronounced my friend to be fulfilling his precept for killing the


I now made the effort to emancipate myself from my crib, and at
last succeeded in getting on the floor, where, after one chassez at a
small looking-glass opposite, followed by a very impetuous rush at
a little brass stove, in which I was interrupted by a trunk, and laid
prostrate, I finally got my clothes on, and made my way to the deck.
Little attuned as was my mind at the moment to admire anything
like scenery, it was impossible to be unmoved by the magnificent
prospect before me. It was a beautiful, evening in summer ; the sun
had set above an hour before, leaving behind him in the west one
vast arch of rich and burnished gold, stretching along the whole
horizon, and tipping all the summits of the heavy rolling sea, as it
rolled on, unbroken by foam or ripple, in vast moving mountains
from the far coast of Labrador. We were already in blue water,
though the bold cliffs that were to form* our departing point were
but a few miles to leeward. There lay the lofty bluff of Old Kin-
sale, whose crest, overhanging, peered from a summit of some hun-
dred feet into the deep water that swept its rocky base, many a
tangled lichen and straggling bough trailing in the flood beneath.
Here and there, upon the coast, a twinkling gleam proclaimed the
hut of a fisherman, whose swift hookers had more than once shot
by us, and disappeared in a moment. The wind, which began to
fall at sunset, freshened as the moon rose ; and the good ship, bend-
ing to the breeze, lay gently over, and rushed through the water with
a sound of gladness. I was alone upon the deck ; Power and the
Captain, whom I expected to have found, had disappeared somehow,
and I was, after all, not sorry to be left to my own reflections unin-

My thoughts turned once more to my home — to my first, my best,
earliest friend, whose hearth I had rendered lonely and desolate,
and my heart sunk within me as I remembered it. How deeply I
reproached myself for the selfish impetuosity with which I had ever
followed any rising fancy, any new and sudden desire, and never
thought of him whose every hope was in, whose every wish was for
me. Alas I my poor uncle! how gladly would I resign every pros-
pect my soldier's life may hold out, with all its glittering promise,
and all the flattery of success, to be once more beside you ; to feel
your warm and manly grasp; to see your smile; to hear your voice;
to be again where all our best feelings are born and nurtured, our
cares assuaged, our joys more joyed in, and our griefs more wept —
at home ! These very words have more music to my ears than all
the softest strains that ever syren sung. They bring us back to all
we have loved, by ties that are never felt but through such simple
associations. And in the earlier memories called up, our childish
feelings come back once more to visit us, like better spirits, as


we walk amid the dreary desolation that years of care and un~
easiness have spread around us.

Wretched must be he who ne'er has felt such bliss ; and thrice
happy he who, feeling it, knows that still there lives for him that
same early home, with all its loved inmates, its every dear and de-
voted object waiting his coming, and longing for his approach.

Such were my thoughts as I stood gazing at the bold line of coast
now gradually growing more and more dim while evening fell, and
we continued to stand farther out to sea. So absorbed was I all this
time in my reflections, that I never heard the voices which now sud-
denly burst upon my ears quite close beside me. I turned, and saw
for the first time that at the end of the quarter-deck stood what is
called a roundhouse, a small cabin, from which the sound in ques-
tion proceeded. I walked gently forward, and peeped in, and cer-
tainly anything more in contrast with my late reverie need not be
conceived. There sat the Skipper, a bluff, round-faced, jolly-looking
little tar, mixing a bowl of punch at the table, at which sat my
friend Power, the Adjutant, and a tall, meagre-looking Scotchman,
whom I once met in Cork, and heard that he was the doctor of some
infantry regiment. Two or three black bottles, a paper of cigars,
and a tallow candle, were all the table equipage ; but, certainly, the
party seemed not to want for spirits and fun, to judge from the
hearty bursts of laughter that every moment pealed forth, and shook
the little building that held them. Power, as usual with him,
seemed to be taking the lead, and was evidently amusing himself
with the peculiarities of his companions.

" Come, Adjutant, fill up. Here's to the campaign before us ; we,
at least, have nothing but pleasure in the anticipation, — no lovely
wife behind — no charming babes to fret, and be fretted for, eh?"

" Vara true," said the Doctor, who was mated with a tartar. " Ye
maun hae less regrets at leavin' hame ; but a married man is no'
entirely denied his ain consolations."

"Good sense in that," said the Skipper; "a wide berth and
plenty of sea-room are not bad things now and then."

" Is that your experience also?" said Power, with a knowing look.
" Come, come, Adjutant, we're not so ill off, you see ; but, by Jove,
I can't imagine how it is a man ever comes to thirty without having
at least one wife — without counting his colonial possessions, of

"Yes," said the Adjutant, with a sigh, as he drained his glass to
the bottom. "It is devilish strange — woman, lovely woman!"
Here he filled and drank again, as though he had been proposing a
toast for his own peculiar drinking.

" I say, now," resumed Power, catching at once that there was


something working in his mind — " I say, now, how happened it
that you, a right good-looking, soldier-like fellow, that always made
his way among the fair ones, with that confounded roguish eye and
slippery tongue — how the deuce did it come to pass that you never

" I've been more than once on the verge of it," said the Adjutant,
smiling blandly at the flattery.

" And nae bad notion yours just to stay there," said the Doctor,!
with a very peculiar contortion of countenance.

" No pleasing you — no contenting a fellow like you," said Power,
returning to the charge; "that's the thing; you get a certain
ascendency ; you have a kind of success that renders you, as the
French say, tele montee, and you think no woman rich enough, or
good-looking enough, or high enough."

" No ; by Jove, you're wrong," said the Adjutant, swallowing the
baifr, hook and all — " quite wrong there ; for, somehow, all my life I
was decidedly susceptible. Not that I cared much for your blush-
ing sixteen, or budding beauties in white muslin, fresh from a back-
board and a governess ; no, my taste inclined rather to the more

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 19 of 80)