Charles James Lever.

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sober charms of two or three-and-thirty — the embonpoint, a good foot
and ankle, a sensible breadth about the shoulders "

" Somewhat Dutch-like, I take it," said the Skipper, puffing out
a volume of smoke ; " a little bluff in the bows, and great stowage,

" You leaned, then, towards the widows ?" said Power.

" Exactly. I confess a widow always was my weakness. There
was something I ever liked in the notion of a woman who had got
over all the awkward girlishness of early years, and had that self-
possession which habit and knowledge of the world confer, and
knew enough of herself to understand what she really wished, and
where she would really go."

" Like the trade winds," puffed the Skipper.

" Then, as regards fortune, they have a decided superiority over
the spinster class. I defy any man breathing — let him be half
police magistrate, half chancellor-^to find out the figure of a young
lady's dower. On your first introduction to the house, some kind
friend whispers, 'Go it, old boy; forty thousand — not a penny less.'.
A few weeks later, as the siege progresses, a maiden aunt, disposed
to puffing, comes down to twenty; this diminishes again one-half;
but then ' the money is in bank stock, hard Three-and-a-Half.' You
go a little further, and as you sit one day over your wine with papa,
he certainly promulgates the fact that his daughter has five thou-
sand pounds, two of which turn out to be in Mexican bonds and
three in an Irish mortgage."


" Happy for yon," interrupted Tower, "that it be not in Oahvay,
where a proposal to foreelose would be a signal for your being called
out, and shot without benefit of clergy."

" Bad luck to it, for Gal way," said the Adjutant. " I was nearly
taken in there once to marry a girl that her brother-in-law swore
had eight hundred a year, and it came out afterwards that so she
had, but it was for one year only ; and he challenged me for doubt-
ing his word too."

" There's an old formula for finding out an Irish fortune," says
Power, " worth all the algebra they ever taught in Trinity. Take
the half of the assumed sum, and divide it by three ; the quotient
will be a flattering representative of the figure sought for."

" Not in the north," said the Adjutant firmly — " not in the north,
Power ; they are all well off there. There's a race of canny, thrifty,
half-Scotch niggers — your pardon, Doctor, they are all Irish — linen -
weaving, Presbyterian, yarn-factoring, long-nosed, hard-drinking
fellows, that lay by rather a snug thing now and then. Do you
know, I was very near it once in the north. I've half a mind to tell
you the story, though perhaps you'll laugh at me."

The whole party at once protested that nothing could induce them
to deviate so widely from the line of propriety ; and the Skipper
having mixed a fresh bowl, and filled all the glasses round, the
cigars were lighted, and the Adjutant began.



IT is now about eight, maybe ten, years since we were ordered
to march from Belfast, and take up our quarters in London-
derry. We had not been more than a few weeks altogether in
Ulster when the order came ; and as we had been for the preceding
two years doing duty in the south and west, we concluded that the
island was tolerably the same in all parts. We opened our cam-
paign in the maiden city, exactly as we had been doing with ' un-
paralleled success' in Cashel, Fermoy, Tuam, &c. — that is to say,
we announced garrison balls and private theatricals ; offered a cup
to be run for in steeple-chase ; turned out a four-in-hand drag, with
mottled grays, and brought over two Deal boats to challenge the

"The 18th found the place stupid," said his companions.

"To be sure they did ; slow fellows like them must find any place


stupid. No dinners ; but they gave none. No fun ; but they had
none in themselves, In fact, we knew better. We understood how
the thing was to be done, and resolved that as a mine of rich ore
lay unworked, it was reserved for us to produce the shining metal
that others, less discerning, had failed to discover. Little we knew
of the matter ; never was there a blunder like ours. Were you ever
in Deny?"

" Never," said the three listeners.

" Well, then, let me inform you that the place has its own pecu-
liar features. In the first place, all the large towns in the south and
west have, besides the country neighborhood that surrounds them,
a certain sprinkling of gentlefolk, who, though with small fortunes
and not much usage of the world, are still a great accession to
society, and make up the blank which, even in the most thickly-
peopled country, would be sadly felt without them. Now, in Derry
there is none of this. After the great guns — and, per Baccho ! what
great guns they are ! — you have nothing but the men engaged in com-
merce — sharp, clever, shrewd, well-informed fellows. They are deep
in flaxseed, cunning in molasses, and not to be excelled in all that
pertains to coffee, sassafras, cinnamon, gum, oakum, and elephants'
teeth. The place is a rich one, and the spirit of commerce is felt
throughout it.. Nothing is cared for, nothing is talked of, nothing
alluded to that does not bear upon this; and, in fact, if you haven't
a venture in Smyrna figs, Memel timber, Dutch dolls, or some such
commodity, you are absolutely nothing, and might as well be at a
ball with a cork leg, or go deaf to the opera !

" Now, when I've told thus much, I leave you to guess what im-
pression our triumphal entry into the city produced. Instead of the
admiring crowds that awaited us elsewhere, as we marched gayly
into quarters, here we saw nothing but grave, sober-looking, and (I
confess it) intelligent-looking faces, that scrutinized our appearance
closely enough, but evidently with no great approval, and less
enthusiasm. The men passed on hurriedly to the counting-houses
and the wharfs ; the women, with almost as little interest, peeped at
us from the windows, and walked away again. Oh, how we wished
for Galway — glorious Galway ! that paradise of the infantry, that
lies west of the Shannon. Little we knew, as we ordered the band,
in lively anticipation of the gayeties before us, to strike up ' Payne's
first set,' that, to the ears of the fair listeners in Ship Quay street,
the rumble of a sugar hogshead or the creak of a weighing crane
was more delightful music."

?! By Jove !" interrupted Power, " you are quite right. Women
are strongly imitative in their tastes. The lovely Italian, whose very
costume is a natural following of a Raphael, is no more like the


pretty Liverpool damsel than Genoa is to Glasnevin ; and yet what
the deuce have they, dear souls ! with their feet upon a soft carpet,
and their eyes upon the pages of Scott or Byron, to do with all the
cotton or dimity that ever was printed? But let us not repine:
that very plastic character is our greatest blessing."

" I'm not so sure that it always exists," said the Doctor, dubiously,
as though his own experience pointed otherwise.

" Well, go ahead !" said the Skipper, who evidently disliked the
digression thus interrupting the Adjutant's story.

" Well, we marched along, looking right and left at the pretty
faces- — and there were plenty of them, too — that a momentary curi-
osity drew to the windows ; but, although we smiled, and ogled, and
leered, as only a newly-arrived regiment can smile, ogle, or leer, by
all that's provoking, we might as well have wasted our blandish-
ments upon the Presbyterian meeting-house that frowned upon us
with its high-pitched roof and round windows.

" ' Droll people, these,' said one ; ' Kayther rum ones/ cried an-
other ; ' The black north, by Jove !' said a third : and so we went
along to the barracks, somewhat displeased to think that, though the
18th were slow, they might have met their match.

" Disappointed, as we undoubtedly felt, at the little enthusiasm
that marked our entr4e, we still resolved to persist in our original
plan, and, accordingly, early the following morning, announced our
intention of giving amateur theatricals. The Mayor, who called
upon our Colonel, was the first to learn this, and received the infor-
mation with pretty much the same kind of look the Archbishop of
Canterbury might be supposed to assume if requested by a friend to
ride ' a Derby.' The incredulous expression of the poor man's face
as he turned from one of us to the other, evidently canvassing in his
mind whether we might not, by some special dispensation of Provi-
dence, be all insane, I shall never forget.

"His visit was a very short one; whether concluding that we
were not quite safe company, or whether our notification was too
much for his nerves, I know not.

" We were not to be baulked, however ; our schemes for gayety,
long planned and conned over, were soon announced in all form ;
and though we made efforts almost superhuman in the cause, our
plays were performed to empty benches, our balls were unattended,
our picnic invitations politely declined, and, in a word, all our ad-
vances treated with a cold and chilling politeness, that plainly said,
' We'll none of you.'

" Each day brought some new discomfiture, and as we met at mess,
instead of having, as heretofore, some prospect of pleasure and
amusement to chat over, it was only to talk gloomily over our


miserable failures, and lament the dreary quarters that our fates had
doomed us to.

"Some months wore on in this fashion, and at length — what will
not time do? — we began by degrees to forget our woes. Some of us
took to late hours and brandy-and-water ; others got sentimental,
and wrote journals, and novels, and poetry ; some made acquaint-
ances among the townspeople, and cut in to a quiet rubber to pass
the evening; while another detachment, among which I was, got up
a little love affair to while away the tedious hours, and cheat the
lazy sun.

" I have already said something of my taste in beauty ; now, Mrs.
Boggs was exactly the style of woman I fancied. She was a widow ;
she had black eyes — not your jet-black, sparkling, Dutch-doll eyes,
that roll about and twinkle, but mean nothing — no; hers had a soft,
subdued, downcast, pensive look about them, and were fully as
melting a pair of orbs as any blue eyes you ever looked at.

" Then she had a short upper lip, and sweet teeth ; by Jove, they
were pearls ! and she showed them, too, pretty often. Her figure
was well rounded, plump, and what the French call nette. To com-
plete all, her instep and ankle were unexceptionable; and lastly, her
jointure was seven hundred pounds per annum, with a trifle of eight
thousand more, that the late lamented Boggs bequeathed, when, after
four months of uninterrupted bliss, he left Derry for another world.

" When chance first threw me in the way of the fair widow, some
casual coincidence of opinion happened to raise me in her estima-
tion, and I soon afterwards received an invitation to a small even-
ing party at her house, to which I alone of the regiment was asked.

"I shall not weary you with the details of my intimacy; it is
enough that I tell you I fell desperately in love. I began by visit-
ing twice or thrice a week, and in less than two months spent every
morning at her house, and rarely left it till the ' Eoast Beef an-
nounced mess.

" I soon discovered the widow's cue ; she was serious. Now, I
had conducted all manner of flirtations in my previous life, — timid
young ladies, manly young ladies, musical, artistical, poetical, and
hysterical. Bless you, I knew them all by heart ; but never before
had I to deal with a serious one, and a widow to boot. The case
was a trying one. For some weeks it was all very up-hill work ; all
the red shot of warm affection I used to pour in on other occasions
was of no use here. The language of love, in which I was no mean
proficient, availed me not. Compliments and flattery, those rare
shirmishers before the engagement, were denied me; and I verily
think that a tender squeeze of the hand would have cost me my dis-


" ' How very slow, all this !' thought I, as, at the end of two
months' siege, I found myself seated in the trenches, and not a single
breach in the fortress ; ' but, to be sure, it's the way they have in
the north, and one must be patient.'

" While thus I was in no very sanguine frame of mind as to my
prospects, in reality my progress was very considerable. Having be-
come a member of Mr. M'Phun's congregation, I was gradually
rising in the estimation of the widow and her friends, whom my con-
stant attendance at meeting, and my very serious demeanor, had so
far impressed, that very grave deliberation was held whether I should
not be made an elder at the next brevet.

" If the Widow Boggs had not been a very lovely and wealthy
widow, — had she not possessed the eyes, hips, and ankles, and joint-
ure aforesaid, — I honestly avow that neither the charms of that
sweet man Mr. MThun's eloquence, not even the flattering distinc-
tion in store for me, would have induced me to prolong my suit.
However, I was not going to despair when in sight of land. The
widow was evidently softened. A little time longer, and the most
scrupulous moralist, the most rigid advocate for employing time
wisely, could not have objected to my daily system of courtship. It
was none of your sighing, dying, ogling, hand-squeezing, waist-
pressing, oath-swearing, everlasting-adoring affairs, with an inter-
change of rings and lockets, — not a bit of it. It was confoundedly
like a controversial meeting at the Eotundo, and I myself had a
far greater resemblance to Father Tom Maguire than a gay Lo-

" After all, when mess-time came, when the ' Roast Beef played
and we assembled at dinner, and the soup and fish had gone round,
with two glasses of sherry in, my spirits rallied, and a very jolly
evening consoled me for all my fatigues and exertions, and supplied
me with energy for the morrow ; for let me observe here that I
only made love before dinner. The evenings I reserved for myself,
assuring Mrs. Boggs that my regimental duties required all my time
after mess hour, in which I was perfectly correct ; for at six we
dined ; at seven I opened the claret No. 1 ; at eight I had uncorked
my second bottle ; by half-past eight I was returning to the sherry ;
and at ten, punctual to the moment, I was repairing to my quarters
on the back of my servant, Tim Daly, who had carried me safely
for eight years, without a single mistake, as the fox-hunters say.
This was a way we had in the — th. Every man was carried away
from mess, some sooner, some later. I was always an early riser,
and went betimes.

• "Now, although I had very abundant proof, from circumstantial
evidence, that I was nightly removed from the mess-room to my bed


in the mode I mention, it would have puzzled me sorely to prove the
fact in any direct way, inasmuch as by half-past nine, as the clock
chimed and Tim entered to take me, I was very innocent of all that
was going on, and, except a vague sense of regret at leaving the de-
canter, felt nothing whatever.

" It so chanced — what mere trifles are we ruled by in our destiny !
— that just as my suit with the widow had assumed its most favor-
able footing, old General Hinks, that commanded the district, an-
nounced his coming over to inspect our regiment. Over he came
accordingly, and, to be sure, we had a day of it. We were paraded
for six mortal hours ; then we were marching and countermarching ;
moving into line ; back again into column ; now forming open
column, then into square ; till at last we began to think that the
old General was like the Flying Dutchman, and was probably con-
demned to keep on drilling us to the day of judgment. To be sure,
he enlivened the proceeding to me by pronouncing the regiment the
worst-drilled and appointed corps in the service, and the Adjutant
(me !) the stupidest dunderhead — those were his words — he had ever
met with.

" ? Never mind/ thought I ; ' a few days more, and it's little I'll
care for the eighteen manoeuvres. It's small trouble your eyes right,
or your left shoulders forward, will give me. I'll sell out, and with
the Widow Boggs and seven hundred a year — but no matter.'

" This confounded inspection lasted till half-past five in the after-
noon, so that our mess was delayed a full hour in consequence, and
it was past seven as we sat down to dinner. Our faces were grim
enough as we met together at first ; but what will not a good dinner
and good wine do for the surliest party ? By eight o'clock we began
to feel somewhat more convivially disposed ; and before nine the
decanters were performing a quickstep round the table, in a fashion
very exhilarating and very jovial to look at.

" ' No flinching to-night,' said the senior Major. ' We've had a
severe day ; let us also have a merry evening.'

" ' By Jove I Ormond,' cried another, ' we must not leave this
to-night. Confound the old humbugs and their musty whist party ;
throw them over.'

"'I say, Adjutant,' said Forbes, addressing me, ' you've nothing
particular to say to the fair widow this evening ? You'll not bolt,
I hope ?'

" ' That he shan't,' said one near me ; ' he must make up for his
absence to-morrow, for to-night we all stand fast.'

" ' Besides,' said another, ' she's at meeting by this. Old — what-
d'ye-call-him ? — is at fourteenthly before now.'

" 'A note for you, sir,' said the mess waiter, presenting me with a


rose-colored three-cornered billet. It was from la chlre Boggs her-
self, and ran thus : —

" ' Dear Sir : — Mr. M'Phun and a few friends are coming to tea
at my house after meeting ; perhaps you will also favor us with your
company. Yours truly,

"'Eliza Boggs.'

" What was to be done? Quit the mess — leave a jolly party just
at the jolliest moment — exchange Lafitte and red hermitage for a
soiree of elders, presided over by that sweet man, Mr. M'Phun ! It
was too bad ! But then, how much was in the scale? What would
the widow say if I declined ? What would she think ? I well knew
that the invitation meant nothing less than a full-dress parade of
me before her friends, and that to decline was perhaps to forfeit all
my hopes in that quarter forever.

" 'Any answer, sir ?' said the waiter.

" ' Yes/ said I, in a half- whisper, ' I'll go — tell the servant I'll

"At this moment my tender epistle was subtracted from before
me, and, ere I had turned round, had made the tour of half the
table. I never perceived the circumstance, however, and filling my
glass, professed my resolve to sit to the last, with a mental reserve
to take my departure at the very first opportunity. Ormond and the
Paymaster quitted the room for a moment, as if to give orders for a
broil at twelve, and now all seemed to promise a very convivial and
well-sustained party for the night.

" ' Is that all arranged ?' inquired the Major, as Ormond entered.

" 'All right,' said he ; ' and now let us have a bumper and a song.
Adjutant, old boy, give us a chant.'

'"What shall it be, then?' inquired I, anxious to cover my in-
tended retreat by an appearance of joviality.

" ' Give us —

4 When I was in the Fusiliers
Some fourteen years ago.' "

a (

No, no ; confound it ! I've heard nothing else since I joined
the regiment. Let us have the " Paymaster's Daughter." '

" 'Ah ! that's pathetic ; I like that,' lisped a young ensign.

" ' If I'm to have a vote/ grunted out the senior Major, ' I pro-
nounce for " West India Quarters." '

" ' Yes, yes/ said half a dozen voices together ; ' let's have " West
India Quarters." Come, give him a glass of sherry, and let him

" I had scarcely finished off my glass, and cleared my throat for


my song, when the clock on the chimney-piece chimed half-past
nine, and the same instant I felt a heavy hand fall upon my shoulder.
I turned, and beheld my servant, Tim. This, as I have already
mentioned, was the hour at which Tim was in the habit of taking
me home to my quarters ; and though we had dined an hour later,
he took no notice of the circumstance, but, true to his custom, he
was behind my chair. A very cursory glance at my l familiar' was
quite sufficient to show me that we had somehow changed sides ; for
Tim, who was habitually the most sober of mankind, was on the
present occasion exceedingly drunk, while I, a full hour before that
consummation, was perfectly sober.

" ' What d'ye want, sir ?' inquired I, with something of severity in
my manner.

" ' Come home,' said Tim, with a hiccup that set the whole table
in a roar.

" ' Leave the room this instant,' said I, feeling wrath at being thus
made a butt for his offences. ' Leave the room, or I'll kick you out
of it.' Now, this, let me add, in a parenthesis, was somewhat of a
boast, for Tim was six feet three, and strong in proportion, and, when
in liquor, fearless as a tiger.

" ' You'll kick me out of the room — eh ! will you ? Try — only try
it, that's all.' Here a new roar of laughter burst forth, while Tim,
again placing an enormous paw upon my shoulder, continued, ' Don't
be sitting there, making a baste of yourself, when you've got enough.
Don't you see you're drunk ?'

" I sprang to my legs on this, and made a rush to the fireplace, to
secure the poker ; but Tim was beforehand with me, and seizing me
by the waist with both hands, flung me across his shoulder, as though
I were a baby, saying, at the same time, ' I'll take you away at half-
past eight to-morrow, av you're as rampageous again.' I kicked, I
plunged, I swore, I threatened, I even begged and implored to be
set down ; but whether my voice was lost in the uproar around me,
or that Tim only regarded my denunciations in the light of cursing,
I know not, but he carried me bodily down the stairs, steadying him-
self by one hand on the banisters, while with the other he held me
as in a vice. I had but one consolation all this while ; it was this,
that, as my quarters lay immediately behind the mess-room, Tim's
excursion would soon come to an end, and I should be free once
more; but guess my terror to find that the drunken scoundrel, in-
stead of going, as usual, to the left, turned short to the right hand,
and marched boldly into Ship Quay street. Every window in the
mess-room was filled with our fellows, absolutely shouting with
laughter. \ Go it, Tim !— that's the fellow !— hold him tight !— never
let go !' cried a dozen voices ; while the wretch, with the tenacity of


drunkenness, gripped me still harder, and took his way down the
middle of the street.

" It was a beautiful evening in July, a soft summer night, as I
made this pleasing excursion down the most frequented thoroughfare
in the maiden city; my struggles every moment exciting- roars of
laughter from an increasing crowd of spectators, who seemed scarcely
less amused than puzzled at the exhibition. In the midst of a tor-
rent of imprecations against my torturer, a loud noise attracted me.
I turned my head, and saw — horror of horrors ! — the door of the
meeting-house just flung open, and the congregation issuing forth
en masse. Is it any wonder if I remember no more? There I was,
the chosen one of the Widow Boggs — the elder elect — the favored
friend and admired associate of Mr. MThun, taking an airing on a
summer's evening on the back of a drunken Irishman. Oh ! the
thought was horrible ; and, certainly, the short and pithy epithets
by which I was characterized in the crowd neither improved my
temper nor assuaged my wrath ; and I feel bound to confess that
my own language was neither serious nor becoming. Tim, however,
cared little for all this, and pursued the even tenor of his way
through the whole crowd, nor stopped till, having made half the
circuit of the wall, he deposited me safe at my own door, adding, as
he set me down, ' Oh ! av you're as throublesome every evening, it's
a wheelbarrow I'll be obleeged to bring for you.'

" The next day I obtained a short leave of absence, and ere a
fortnight expired, exchanged into the — th, preferring Halifax itself
to the ridicule that awaited me in Londonderry."



THE lazy hours of the long summer day crept slowly over. The

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 20 of 80)