Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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" Who is not ?" said Monsoon, who now appeared in his old blue
frock covered with tarnished braiding, and a cocked hat that might
have roofed a pagoda. " Who is not, my old boy ? Is not every
man amongst us delighted with the prospect of fresh prog, cool
wine, and a bed somewhat longer than four feet six ? I say, O'Malley,
Sparks ! where's the Adjutant ? Ah, there he is. We'll not mind
the Doctor; he's a very jovial little fellow, but an infernal bore;
entre nous; and we'll have a cosy little supper at the Eua di Toledo.
I know the place well. Whew, now ! Get away, boy. Sit steady.
Sparks ; she's only a cockle-shell. There — that's the Plaza de la
Regna — there, to the left. There's the great cathedral — you can't
see it now. Another seventy-four ! why, there's a whole fleet here I
I wish old Power joy of his afternoon with old Douglas."

"Do you know him, then, Major?"

" Do I !— I should rather think I do. He was going to put me in
irons here in this river once. A great shame it was ; but I'll tell
you the story another time. There — gently now ; that's it. Thank
God ! once more upon land. How I do hate a ship ! Upon my life,
a sauce-boat is the only boat endurable in this world."

We edged our way with difficulty through the dense crowd, and
at last reached the Plaza. . Here the numbers were still greater, but
of a different class. Several pretty and well-dressed women, with
their dark eyes twinkling above their black mantillas, as they held
them across their faces, watched with an intense curiosity one of the
streets that opened upon the square.

In a few moments the band of a regiment was heard, and very
shortly after the regular tramp of troops followed, as the 87th
marched into the Plaza, and formed a line.

The music ceased ; the drums rolled along the line ; the next mo-


ment all was still. It was really an inspiriting sight, to one whose
heart was interested in the career, to see those gallant fellows as,
with their bronzed faces and stalwart frames, they stood motionless
as a rock. All continued to look; the band marched into the
square, and struck up "Garryowen." Scarcely was the first part
played, when a tremendous cheer burst from the troop-ship in the
river. The welcome notes had reached the poor fellows there ; the
well-known sounds, that told of home and country, met their ears,
and the loud cry of recognition bespoke their hearts' fullness.

" There they go. Your wild countrymen have heard their Ranz
des vaches, it seems. Lord, how they frightened the poor Portuguese !
Look how they're running !"

Such was actually the case. The loud cheer uttered from the
river was taken up by others straggling on shore, and one universal
shout betokened that fully one-third of the red-coats around came
from the dear island, and in their enthusiasm had terrified the
natives to no small extent.

" Is not that Ferguson there ?" cried the Major, as an officer
passed us with his arm in a sling. " I say, Joe — Ferguson ! Oh !
knew it was."

"Monsoon, my hearty, how goes it? — only just arrived, I see.
Delighted to meet you out here once more. Why, we've been dull
as a veteran battalion without you. These your friends ? Pray
present me." The ceremony of introduction over, the Major invited
Ferguson to join our party at supper. "No, not to-night, Major,"
said he ; " you must be my guests this evening. My quarters are
not five minutes' walk from this. I shall not promise you very
luxurious fare."

"A carbonade of olives, a roast duck, a bowl of bishop, and, if you
will, a few bottles of Burgundy," said the Major; "don't put your-
self out for us — soldier's fare, eh ?"

I could not help smiling at the naive notion of simplicity so cun-
ningly suggested by old Monsoon. As I followed the party through
the streets, my step was light, my heart not less so ; for what sensa-
tions are more delightful than those of landing after a voyage ? — the
escape from the durance vile of shipboard, with its monotonous days
and dreary nights, its ill-regulated appointments, its cramped ac-
commodations, its uncertain duration, its eternal round of unchang-
ing amusements, for the freedom of the shore, with a land breeze,
and a firm footing to tread upon ; and, certainly, not least of all, the
sight of that brightest part of creation, whose soft eyes and tight
ankles are, perhaps, the greatest of all imaginable pleasures to him
who has been the dweller on blue water for several weeks long.

" Here we arc," cried out Ferguson, as we stopped at the door of a


large and handsome house. We followed up a spacious stair into an
ample room, sparingly but not uncomfortably furnished. Plans of
sieges, maps of the seat of war, pistols, sabres, and belts, decorated
the white walls, and a few books and a stray army-list betokened
the habits of the occupant.

While Ferguson disappeared to make some preparations for sup-
per, Monsoon commenced a congratulation to the party upon the
good fortune that had befallen them. " Capital fellow is Joe — never
without something good, and a rare one to pass the bottle. Oh ! here
he comes. Be alive there, Sparks ; take a corner of the cloth. How
deliciously juicy that ham looks ! Pass the Madeira down there ;
what's under that cover — stewed kidneys ? While Monsoon went on
thus, we took our places at table, and set to with an appetite which
only a newly-landed traveller ever knows.

"Another spoonful of tlie gravy? Thank you. And so they say
we've not been faring over well latterly?" said the Major.

"No truth in the report. Our people have not been engaged.
The only thing lately was a smart brush we had at the Tamega.
Poor Patrick, a countryman of ours, and myself were serving with
the Portuguese brigade, when Laborde drove us back upon the town,
and actually routed us. The Portuguese general, caring for little
or anything save his own safety, was making at once for the moun-
tains, when Patrick called upon his battalion to face about and
charge ; and nobly they did it, too. Down they came upon the ad-
vancing masses of the French, and literally hurled them back upon
the main body. The other regiments, seeing this gallant stand,
wheeled about, and poured in a volley, and then, fixing bayonets,
stormed a little mount beside the hedge, which commanded the
whole suburb of Villa Real. The French, who soon recovered their
order, now prepared for a second attack, and came on in two dense
columns, when Patrick, who had little confidence in the steadiness
of his people for any lengthened resistance, resolved upon once more
charging with the bayonet. The order was scarcely given when the
French were upon us, their flank defended by some of La Houssaye's
heavy dragoons. For an instant the conflict was doubtful, until poor
Patrick fell mortally wounded upon the parapet ; when the men, no
longer hearing his bold cheer, nor seeing his noble figure in the ad-
vance, turned and fled, pell-mell, back upon the town. As for me,
blocked up amid the mass, I was cut down from the shoulder to the
elbow by a young fellow of about sixteen, who galloped about like a
schoolboy on a holiday. The wound was only dangerous from the
loss of blood, and so I contrived to reach Amacante without much
difficulty, from whence, with three or four others, I was ordered here
until fit for service. "


" But what news from our own head-quarters?" inquired I.

"All imaginable kind of rumors are afloat. Some say that Crad-
dock is retiring ; others, that a part of the army is in motion upon

" Then we are not going to have a very long sojourn here after all,
eh, Major ? Donna Maria de Tonnes will be inconsolable. By the
bye, their house is just opposite us. Have you never heard Mon-
soon mention his friends there ?"

" Come, come, Joe, how can you be so foolish ?"

"But, Major, my dear friend, what signifies your modesty? there
is not a man in the service does not know it, save those in the last

" Indeed, Joe, I am very angry with you."

" Well, then, by Jove ! I must tell it myself; though, faith, lads,
you lose not a little for want of Monsoon's tact in the narrative."

"Anything is better than trusting to such a biographer," cried the
Major ; "so here goes :

"When I was Acting Commissary-General to the Portuguese
forces, some few years ago, I obtained great experience of the habits
of the people; for though naturally of an unsuspecting tempera-
ment myself, I generally contrive to pick out the little foibles of
my associates, even upon a short acquaintance. Now, my appoint-
ment pleased me very much on this score ; it gave me little oppor-
tunities of examining the world. ' The greatest study of mankind
is man, — Sparks would say woman — but no matter.

" Now, I soon discovered that our ancient and very excellent
allies, the Portuguese, with a beautiful climate, delicious wines, and
very delightful wives and daughters, were the most infernal rogues
and scoundrels ever met with. 'Make yourself thoroughly ac-
quainted with the leading features of the natives,' said old Sir
Harry to me, in a despatch from head-quarters ; and, faith, it was
not difficult ; such open, palpable, undisguised rascals never were
heard of. I thought I knew a thing or two myself, when I landed;
but, Lord love you ! I was a babe ; I was an infant in swaddling
clothes compared with them ; and they humbugged me, — ay, me ! —
till 1 began to suspect that I was only walking in my sleep.

"'Why, Monsoon,' said the General, 'they told me you were a
sharp fellow, and yet the people here seem to work round you every
day. This will never do. You must brighten up a little, or I shall
be obliged to send you back.'

" ' General,' said I, ' they used to call me no fool in England, but,
somehow, here '

" ' I understand/ said he, ' you don't know the Portuguese ; there's
but one way with them — strike quickly, and strike home. Never


give them time for roguery ; for, if they have a moment's reflection,
they'll cheat the devil himself; but when you see the plot working,
come slap down and decide the thing your own way.'

" Well, now, there never was anything so true as this advice, and,
for the eighteen months I acted upon it, I never knew it fail.

'MI want a thousand measures of wheat.'

" - Senhor Excellenza, the crops have been miserably deficient,
and *

" - Sergeant-major,' I would say, ' these poor people have no corn ;
it's a wine country ; let them make up the rations that way.'

"The wheat came in that evening.

" ' One hundred and twenty bullocks wanted for the reserve.'

" ' The cattle are all up the mountains.'

" ' Let the alcalde catch them before night, or I'll catch him.'

"Lord bless you! I had beef enough to feed the Peninsula. And
in this way, while the forces were eating short allowance and half-
rations elsewhere, our brigade were plump as aldermen.

" When we lay in Andalusia, this was easy enough. What a coun-
try, to be sure ! Such vineyards, such gardens, such delicious valleys,
waving with corn, and fat with olives ; actually it seemed a kind of
dispensation of Providence to make war in. There was everything
you could desire ; and, then, the people, like all your wealthy ones,
were so timid, and so easily frightened, you could get what you
pleased out of them by a little terror. My scouts managed this very

" ' He's coming,' they would say, ' after to-morrow.'

" l Madre de Bios V

" * I hope he won't burn the village.'

" 'Questos infernales Ingleses! how wicked they are.'

" ' You'd better try what a sack of moidores or doubloons might
do with him ; he may refuse them, but make the effort.'

"Ha!" said the Major, with a long-drawn sigh, "those were
pleasant times ; alas ! that they should ever come to an end. Well,
among the old hidalgos I met there was one Don Emanuel Selvio de
Tormes, an awful old miser, rich as Croesus, and suspicious as the
arch-fiend himself. Lord, how I melted him down ! I quartered
two squadrons of horse and a troop of flying artillery upon him.
How the fellows did eat ! Such a consumption of wines was never
heard of; and as they began to slacken a little, I took care to re-
place them by fresh arrivals — fellows from the mountains — cagadores
they call them. At last my friend Don Emanuel could stand it no
longer, and he sent me a diplomatic envoy to negotiate terms, which,
upon the whole, I must say were fair enough. In a few days after,
the cagadores were withdrawn, and I took up my quarters at the


chateau. I have had various chances and changes in this wicked
world, but I am free to confess that I never passed a more agreeable
time than the seven weeks I spent there. Don Emanuel, when pro-
perly managed, became a very pleasant little fellow. Donna Maria,
his wife, was a sweet creature. You need not be winking that way.
Upon my life she was ; rather fat, to be sure, and her age something
verging upon the fifties ; but she had such eyes, black as sloes, and
luscious as ripe grapes ; and she was always smiling, and ogling,
and looking so sweet. Confound me, if I think she wasn't the most
enchanting being in this world, with about ten thousand pounds'
worth of jewels upon her fingers and in her ears. I have her before
me at this instant, as she used to sit in the little arbor in the gar-
den, with a Manilla cigar in her mouth, and a little brandy-and-
water — quite weak, you know — beside her.

" ' Ah ! General/ she used to say,— she always called me Gene-
ral, — ' what a glorious career yours is ! A soldier is indeed a man.'

" Then she would look at poor Emanuel, who used to sit in a cor-
ner, holding his hand to his face for hours, calculating interest and
cent, per cent, till he fell asleep.

" Now, he labored under a very singular malady — not that I ever
knew it at the time — a kind of luxation of the lower jaw, which,
when it came on, happened somehow to press upon some vital nerve
or other, and left him perfectly paralyzed till it was restored to its
proper place. In fact, during the time the agony lasted, he was like
one in a trance ; for though he could see and hear, he could neither
speak nor move, and looked as if he had done with both for many a
day to come.

" Well, as I was saying, I knew nothing of all this, till a slight
circumstance made it known to me. I was sitting one evening in
the little arbor I mentioned with Donna Maria, There was a little
table before us, covered with wines and fruits, a dish of olives, some
Castile oranges, and a fresh pine. I remember it well. My eye
roved over the little dessert, set out in old-fashioned, rich silver
dishes, then turned towards the lady herself, with rings, brooches, ear-
rings, and chains enough to reward one for sacking a town ; and I
said to myself, ' Monsoon, Monsoon, this is better than long marches
in the Pyrenees, with a cork-tree for a bed-curtain and wet grass for
a mattress. How pleasantly one might jog on in this world with
this little country-house for his abode, and Donna Maria for a com-
panion !'

" I tasted the port — it was delicious. Now, I knew very little
Portuguese, but I made some effort to ask if there was much of it in
the cellar.

" She smiled, and said, ' Oh ! yes.'


" ' What a luxurious life one might lead here P thought I ; ' and,
after all, perhaps Providence might remove Don Emanuel.'

" I finished the bottle as I thus meditated. The next was, if pos-
sible, more crusty.

" ' This is a delicious retreat,' said I, soliloquizing.

" Donna Maria seemed to know what was passing in my mind, for
she smiled too.

"'Yes/ said I, in broken Portuguese, 'one ought to be very
happy here, Donna Maria.'

" She blushed, and I continued :

" ' What can one want for more in this life ?— all the charms that
rendered Paradise what it was' — I took her hand here — ' and made
Adam blessed.'

" ' Ah, General !' said she, with a sigh, ' you are such a flatterer.'

" \ Who could flatter,' said I, with enthusiasm, ' when there are
not words enough to express what he feels ?' This was true, for my
Portuguese was fast failing me. ' But if ever I was happy, it is

" I took another pull at the port.

" * If I only thought,' said I, ' that my presence here was not
thought unwelcome '

" ' Fie, General,' said she, ' how could you say such a thing ?'

" ' If I only thought I was not hated,' said I, tremblingly.

" ■ Oh !' said she again.

" ' Despised.'

" ' Oh !'

" ' Loathed.'

" She pressed my hand — I kissed hers ; she hurriedly snatched it
from me, and pointed towards a lime-tree near, beneath which, in
the cool enjoyment of his cigar, sate the spare and detested figure of
Don Emanuel.

" ' Yes,' thought I, ' there he is — the only bar to my good fortune.
Were it not for him, I should not bs long before I became possessor
of this excellent old chateau, with a most indiscretionary power over
the cellar. Don Mauricius Monsoon would speedily assume his
place among the grandees of Portugal.'

" I know not how long my reverie lasted, nor, indeed, how the
evening passed ; but I remember well the moon was up, and a sky
bright with a thousand stars was shining, as I sat beside the fair
Donna Maria, endeavoring, with such Portuguese as it had pleased
fate to bestow on me, to instruct her touching my warlike services
and deeds of arms. The fourth bottle of port was ebbing beneath
my eloquence, as responsively her heart beat, when I heard a slight
rustle in the branches near. I looked, and, heavens ! what a sight


did I behold. There was little Don Emanuel stretched upon tlve
grass, with his mouth wide open, his face pale as death, his arms
stretched out at either side, aud his legs stiffened straight out. I ran
over and asked if he were ill, but no answer came. I lifted up an
arm, but it fell heavily upon the ground as I let it go ; the leg did
likewise. I touched his nose — it was cold.

" ' Hallo/ thought I, ' is it so ? This comes of mixing water with
your sherry. I saw where it would end.

" Now, upon my life, I felt sorry for the little fellow ; but, some-
how, one gets so familiarized with this sort of thing in a campaign,
that one only half feels in a case like this.

" ' Yes,' said I, ' man is but grass ; but I, for one, must make hay
when the sun shines. Now for the Donna Maria/ for the poor
thing was asleep in the arbor all this while.

" ■ Donna/ said I, shaking her by the elbow, — ' Donna, don't be
shocked at what I'm going to say.'

" ' Ah ! General/ said she, with a sigh, f say no more ; I must not
listen to you.'

" ' You don't know that/ said I, with a knowing look, — ' you don't
know that.'

" ' Why, what can you mean ?'

" ' The little fellow is done for.' The port was working strong
now, and destroyed all my fine sensibility. ' Yes, Donna/ said I,
1 you are free/ — here I threw myself upon my knees, — ' free to make
me the happiest of commissaries, and the jolliest grandee of Por-
tugal that ever '

"'But Don Emanuel?'

" ' Bun out — dry — empty/ inverting a finished decanter, to typify
my words as I spoke.

" ' He is not dead ?' said she, with a scream.

" ' Even so/ said I, with a hiccup ; ' ordered for service in a better
world, where there are neither inspections nor arrears.'

" Before the words were well out, she sprang from the bench and
rushed over to the spot where the little Don lay. What she said or
did I know not, but the next moment he sat bolt upright on the
grass, and, as he held his jaw with one hand and supported himself
on the other, vented such a torrent of abuse and insult at me, that,
for want of Portuguese enough to reply, I rejoined in English, in
which I swore pretty roundly for five minutes. Meanwhile the
Donna had summoned the -servants, who removed Don Emanuel to
the house, where on my return I found my luggage displayed before
the door, with a civil hint to deploy in orderly time, and take
ground elsewhere.

" In a few days, however, his anger cooled down, and I received a


polite note from Donna Maria that the Don at length began to
understand the joke, and begged that I would return to the chateau,
and that he would expect me at dinner the same day."

" With which, of course, you complied ?"

" Which of course I did. Forgive your enemies, my dear boy ;
it is only Christian-like ; and, really, we lived very happily ever
after. The Donna was a mighty clever woman, and a dear good
soul besides."

If was late when the Major concluded his story ; so after wishing
Ferguson a good night, we took our leave, and retired for the night
to our quarters.



THE tramp of horses' feet and the sound of voices beneath my
window roused me from a deep sleep. I sprang up, and drew
aside the curtain. What a strange confusion beset me as I
looked forth ! Before me lay a broad and tranquil river, whose oppo-
site shore, deeply wooded, and studded with villas and cottages, rose
abruptly from the water's edge ; vessels of war lay tranquilly in
the stream, their pennants trailing in the tide. The loud boom of
a morning gun rolled along the surface, awaking a hundred echoes
as it passed, and the lazy smoke rested for some minutes on the
glassy water as it blended with the thin air of the morning.

" Where am I ?" was my first question to myself, as I continued
to look from side to side, unable to collect my scattered senses.

One word sufficed to recall me to myself, as I heard Power's voice
from without, call out, —

" Charley ! O'Malley, I say ! Come down here !"

I hurriedly threw on my clothes, and went to the door.

" Well, Charley ! I've been put in harness rather sooner than I
expected. Here's old Douglas has been sitting up all night, writing
despatches ; and I must hasten on to head-quarters without a
moment's delay. There's work before us — that's certain ; but when,
where, and how, of that I know nothing. You may expect the route
every moment ; the French are still advancing. Meanwhile, I have
a couple of commissions for you to execute. First, here's a packet
for Hammersley ; you are sure to meet him with the regiment, in a
day or two. I have some scruples about asking you this — but, con-
found it ! — you're too sensible a fellow to care "

Here he hesitated, and, as I colored to the eyes, for some minutes


he seemed uncertain how to proceed. At length, recovering himself,
he went on :

** Now for the other. This is a most loving epistle from a poor
devil of a midshipman, written last night, by a tallow candle, in the
cockpit, containing vows of eternal adoration and a lock of hair. I
promised faithfully to deliver it myself: for the Thunderer sails for
Gibraltar next tide, and he cannot go ashore for an instant. How-
ever, as Sir Arthur's billet may be of more importance than the
reefer's, I must entrust its safe keeping to your hands. Now, then,
don't look so devilish sleepy, but seem to understand what I am
saying. This is the address : — ' La Senhora Inez da Silviero, Eua
Nuova, opposite the barber's ;' you'll not neglect it. So now, my
dear boy, till our next meeting, adios /"

"Stop! for heaven's sake, not so fast, I pray. Where's the

"The Eua Nuova. Eemember Figaro, my boy. Cinque per-

" But what am I to do ?"

" To do I what a question ! Anything — everything. Be a good
diplomate; speak of the torturing agony of the lover, for which I can
vouch (the boy is only fifteen) ; swear that he is to return in a month
first lieutenant of the Thunder Bomb, with intentions that even
Madame Dalrymple would approve."

" What nonsense," said I, blushing to the eyes.

"And if that suffice not, I know of but one resource."

" Which is— "

" Make love to her yourself. Ay, even so. Don't look so con-
foundedly vinegar ; the girl, I hear, is a devilish pretty one, the
house pleasant, and I sincerely wish I could exchange duties with
you, leaving you to make your bows to his Excellency the C. 0. F.,
and myself free to make mine to la Senhora. And now, push
along, old red cap."

So saying, he made a significant cut of his whip at the Portuguese
guide, and in another moment was out of sight.

My first thought was one of regret at Power's departure. For
some time past we had been inseparable companions ; and, notwith-
standing the reckless and wild gayety of his conduct, I had ever
found him ready to assist me in every difficulty, and that with an
address and dexterity a more* calculating adviser might not have

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 26 of 80)