Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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blue-veined and dimpled, played amid the long tresses of her hair,
that, as if in the wantonness of beauty, fell carelessly upon her

It was some time before I could tear myself away from the fasci-
nation of so much beauty, and it needed no common effort to leave
the spot. As I made a short dttour in the garden before approach-
ing the arbor, she saw me as I came forward) and kissing her hand
gayly, made room for me beside her.

" I have been fortunate in finding you alone, Senhora," said I, as
I seated myself by her side, " for I am the bearer of a letter to you..
How far it may interest you I know not, but to the writer's feelings
I am bound to testify."

" A letter to me ? You jest, surely ?"

"That I am in earnest, this will show," said I, producing the

She took it from my hands, turned it about and about, examined
the seal, while, half-doubtingly, she said, —

" The name is mine ; but still "


" You fear to open it ; is it not so ? But, after all, you need not
be surprised if it's from Howard ; that's his name, I think."

" Howard ! from little Howard !" exclaimed she, enthusiastically,
and tearing open the letter, she pressed it to her lips, her eyes spark-
ling with pleasure, and her cheek glowing as she read. I watched
her as she ran rapidly over the lines ; and I confess that more than
once a pang of discontent shot through my heart that the midship-
man's letter could have called up such interest; not that I was in
love with her myself, but yet, I know not how it was, I had fancied
her affections unengaged, and, without asking myself wherefor, I
wished as much.

"Poor, dear boy !" said she, as she came to the end.

How these few and simple words sank into my heart as I remem-
bered how they had once been uttered to myself, and in perhaps no
very dissimilar circumstances.

" But where is the souvenir he speaks of?" said she.

" The souvenir ! I'm not aware " ■

" Oh, I hope you have not lost the lock of hair he sent me !"

I was quite dumbfounded at this, and could not remember
whether I had received it from Power or not ; so I answered at ran-
dom, —

" Yes ; I must have left it on my table."

" Promise me, then, to bring it to-morrow with you ?"

" Certainly," said I, with something of pique in my manner.
" If I find such a means of making my visit an agreeable one, I
shall certainly not omit it."

" You are quite right," said she, either not noticing or not caring
for the tone of my reply ; " you will, indeed, be a welcome messen-
ger. Do you know he was one of my lovers ?"

" One of them ! Indeed ! Then pray how many do you number
at this moment ?"

" What a question ! as if I could possibly count them. Besides,
there are so many absent; some on leave, some deserters, perhaps,
that I might be reckoning among my troops, but who possibly
form part of the forces of the enemy. Do you know little How-

" I cannot say that we are personally acquainted, but I am ena-
bled, through the medium of a friend, to sa^ that his sentiments are
not strange to me. Besides, I have really pledged myself to support
the prayer of his petition."

" How very good of you ! For which reason you've forgotten, if
not lost, the lock of hair."

" That you shall have to-morrow," said I, pressing my hand sol-
emnly to my heart.


"Well, then, don't forget it. But hush! here comes Captain
Trevyllian. So you say Lisbon really pleases you ?" said she, in a
tone of voice totally changed, as the dragoon of the preceding even-
ing approached.

" Mr. O'Malley, Captain Trevyllian."

We bowed stiffly and haughtily to each other, as two men salute
who are unavoidably obliged to bow, with every wish on either side
to avoid acquaintance. So, at least, I construed his bow ; so I cer-
tainly intended my own.

It requires no common tact to give conversation the appearance
of unconstraint and ease when it is evident that each person oppo-
site is laboring under excited feelings ; so that, notwithstanding the
Senhora's efforts to engage our attention by the commonplaces of
the day, we remained almost silent, and after a few observations of
no interest, took our several leaves. Here again a new source of
awkwardness arose ; for as we walked together towards the house,
where our horses stood, neither party seemed disposed to speak.

" You are probably returning to Lisbon ?" said he, coldly.

I assented by a bow ; upon which, drawing his bridle within his
arm, he bowed once more, and turned away in an opposite direction ;
while I, glad to be relieved of an unsought-for companionship, re-
turned alone to the town.



IT was with no peculiar pleasure that I dressed for our dinner
party. Major O'Shaughnessy, our host, was one of that class of
my countrymen I cared least for, — a riotous, good-natured,
noisy, loud-swearing, punch-drinking western ; full of stories of
impossible fox-hunts, and unimaginable duels, which all were acted
either by himself or some member of his family. The company
consisted of the Adjutant, Monsoon, Ferguson, Trevyllian, and some
eight or ten officers with whom I was unacquainted. As is usual on
such occasions, the wine circulated freely, and, amid the din and
clamor of excited conversation, the fumes of Burgundy, and the
'vapor of cigar smoke, we most of us became speedily mystified. As
for me, my evil destiny would have it that I was placed exactly op-
posite Trevyllian, with whom, upon more than one occasion, I hap-
pened to differ in opinion ; the question was in itself some trivial
and unimportant one, yet the tone which he assumed, and of which


I, too, could not divest myself in reply, boded anything rather than
an amicable feeling between us. The noise and turmoil about pre-
vented the others remarking the circumstance ; but I could perceive
in his manner what I deemed a studied determination to provoke a
quarrel, while I felt within myself a most unchristian-like desire to
indulge his fancy.

" Worse fellows at passing the bottle than Trevyllian and O'Mal-
ley, there, 1 have rarely sojourned with," cried the Major ; " look,
if they haven't got eight decanters between them, and here we are
in a state of African thirst."

"How can you expect him to think of thirst when such per-
fumed billets as that come showering upon him ?" said the Adjutant,
alluding to a rose-colored epistle a servant had placed within my

" Eight miles of a stone-wall country in fifteen minutes ! — devil a
lie in it !" said O'Shaughnessy, striking the table with his clenched
fist ; " show me the man would deny it !"

"Why, my dear fellow "

" Don't be dearing me. Is it no you'll be saying to me ?"

" Listen, now : there's O'Eeilly, there "

"Where is he?"

" He's under the table !"

" Well, it's the same thing. His mother had a fox — bad luck to
you, don't scald me with the jug ! — his mother had a fox-cover in

When O'Shaughnessy had got thus far in his narrative, I had the
opportunity of opening my note, which merely contained the fol-
lowing words : " Come to the ball at the Casino, and bring the
cadeau you promised."

I had scarcely read this over once, when a roar of laughter at
something said attracted my attention. I looked up, and perceived
Trevyllian's eyes bent upon me with the fierceness of a tiger ; the
veins in his forehead were swollen and distorted, and the whole ex-
pression of his face betokened rage and passion. Resolved no longer
to submit to such evident determination to insult, I was rising from
my place at table, when, as if anticipating my intention, he pushed
back his chair, and left the room. Fearful of attracting attention
by immediately following him, I affected to join in the conversation
around me, while my temples throbbed, and my hands tingled with
impatience to get away.

" Poor M'Manus !" said O'Shaughnessy — " rest his soul ! — he'd
have puzzled the bench of bishops for hard words. Upon my con-
science, I believe he spent his mornings looking for them in the Old
Testament. Sure ye might have heard what happened to him at


Banagher, when he commanded the Kilkennys, — ye never heard the
story ? well, then, ye shall. Push the sherry along first, though —
old Monsoon, there, always keeps it lingering beside his left arm !

" Well, when Peter was Lieutenant-Colonel of the Kilkennys, —
who, I may remark, en passant, as the French say, were the seediest-
looking devils in the whole service, — he never let them alone from
morning till night, drilling and pipeclaying, and polishing them up.
1 Nothing will make soldiers of you/ said Peter ; ' but by the rock of
Cashel, I'll keep you as clean as a new musket !' Now, poor Peter
himself was not a very warlike figure ; he measured five feet one in
his tallest boots ; but certainly, if Nature denied him length of
stature, she compensated for it in another way, by giving him a
taste for the longest words in the language. An extra syllable or so
in a word was always a strong recommendation ; and whenever he
could not find one to his mind, he'd take some quaint outlandish
one, that more than once led to very awkward results. Well, the
regiment was one day drawn up for parade in the town of Banagher,
and as M'Manus came down the lines, he stopped opposite one of
the men, whose face, hands, and accoutrements exhibited a most
woeful contempt of his orders. The fellow looked more like a turf-
stack than a light-company man !

" 'Stand out, sir !' cried M'Manus, in a boiling passion. 'Sergeant
O'Toolc, inspect this individual.' Now, the sergeant was rather a
favorite with Mac ; for he always pretended to understand his phrase-
ology, and, in consequence, was pronounced by the colonel a very
superior man for his station in life. ' Sergeant,' said he, ■ we shall
make an exemplary illustration of our system here.'

" ' Yes, sir,' said the sergeant, sorely puzzled at the meaning of
what he spoke.

" ' Bear him to the Shannon, and lave him there !' This he said in
a kind of Coriolanus tone, with a toss up of his head, and a wave of
his right arm, signs, whenever he made them, incontestably showing
that further parley was out of the question, and that he had summed
up, and charged the jury for good and all.

" 'Lave him in the river?' said O'Toole, his eyes starting from the
sockets, and his whole face working in strong anxiety ; * is it lave
him in the river, yer honor means?'

" ' I have spoken !' said the little man, bending an ominous frown
upon the sergeant, which, whatever construction he might have put
upon his words, there was no mistaking.

" ' Well, well, av it's God's will he's drowned, it will not be on my
head,' says O'Toole, as he marched the fellow away, between two
rank and file.

" The parade was nearly over, when Mac happened to sec the


sergeant coming up, all splashed with water, and looking quite

" ' Have you obeyed my orders ?' said he.

" ' Yes, yer honor ; and tough work we had of it, for he struggled

" ' And where is he now ?'

" i Oh, troth, he's there safe ! Divil a fear he'll get out !'

" ' Where ?' said Mac.

" ' In the river, yer honor.'

" ' What have you done, you scoundrel V

" ' Didn't I do as you bid me ?' says he ; ' didn't I throw him in, and
lave [leave] him there V

"And faith so they did ; and if he wasn't a good swimmer, and
get over to Moystown, there's little doubt but he'd have been
drowned, and all because Peter M'Manus could not express himself
like a Christian."

In the laughter which followed O'Shaughnessy's story, I took the
opportunity of making my escape from the party, and succeeded in
gaining the street unobserved. Though the note I had just read was
not signed, I had no doubt from whom it came ; so I hastened at
once to my quarters, to make search for the lock of Ned Howard's
hair, to which the Senhora alluded. What was my mortification,
however, to discover that no such thing could be found anywhere !
I searched all my drawers ; I tossed about my papers and letters ; I
hunted every likely, every unlikely spot I could think of, but in
vain ; now cursing my carelessness for having lost it ; now swearing
most solemnly to myself that I never could have received it. What
was to be done ? It was already late ; my only thought was how to
replace it. If I only knew the color, any other lock of hair would
doubtless do just as well. The chances were, as Howard was young,
and an Englishman, that his hair was light — light-brown, probably;
something like my own. Of course it was I why didn't that thought
occur to me before? how stupid I was. So saying, I seized a pair of
scissors, and cut a long lock beside my temple; this in a calm mo-
ment I might have hesitated about. "Yes," thought I, "she'll
never discover the cheat ; and, besides, I do feel — I know not exactly
why — rather gratified to think that I shall have left this souvenir
behind me, even though it call up other recollections than of me."
So thinking, I wrapped my cloak about me, and hastened towards
the Casino.




I HAD scarcely gone a hundred yards from my quarters, when a
great tramp of horses' feet attracted my attention. I stopped to
listen, and soon heard the jingle of dragoon accoutrements, as
the noise came nearer. The night was dark, but perfectly still ; and
before I stood many minutes I heard the tones of a voice which I
well knew could belong to but one, and that Fred Power.

" Fred Power !" said I, shouting at the same time at the top of my
voice — " Power I"

"Ah, Charley, is that you? come along to the Adjutant-General's
quarters. I'm charged with some important despatches, and can't
stop till I've delivered them. Come along, I've glorious news for
you !" So saying, he dashed spurs to his horse, and, followed by
two mounted dragoons, galloped past. Power's few and hurried
words had so excited my curiosity, that I turned at once to follow
him, questioning myself, as I walked along, to what he could possi-
bly allude. He knew of my attachment to Lucy Dashwood — could
he mean anything of her? But what could I expect there? by what
flattery could I picture to myself any chance of success in that quar-
ter? and yet, what other news could I care for or value than what
bore upon her fate upon whom my own depended? Thus ruminat-
ing, I reached the door of the spacious building in which the Adju-
tant-General had taken up his abode, and soon found myself among
a crowd of persons whom the rumor of some important event had
assembled there, though no one could tell what had occurred. Be-
fore many minutes the door opened, and Power came out ; bowing
hurriedly to a few, and whispering a word or two as he passed down
the steps, he seized me by the arm and led me across the street.
"Charley," said he, "the curtain's rising; the piece is about to
begin ; a new commander-in-chief is sent out ; Sir Arthur Welles-
ley, my boy, the finest fellow in England, is to lead us on, and we
march to-morrow. There's news for you !" A raw boy, unread, un-
informed as I was, I knew but little of his career whose name hud
even then shed such lustre upon our army ; but the buoyant tone of
Power as he spoke, the kindling energy of his voice, roused me, and
I felt every inch a soldier. As I grasped his hand, in delightful
enthusiasm, I lost all memory of my disappointment, and, in the
beating throb that shook my head, I felt how deeply slept the ardor of
military glory that first led me from my home to see a battle-field.

"There goes the news !" said Frederick, pointing, as he spoke, to
a rocket that shot up into the sky, and, as it broke into ten thousand


stars, illuminated the broad stream where the ships of war lay darkly
resting. In another moment the whole air shone with similar fires,
while the deep roll of the drum sounded along the silent streets, and
the city, so lately sunk in sleep, became, as if by magic, thronged
with crowds of people ; the sharp clang of the cavalry trumpet
blended with the gay carol of the light-infantry bugle, and the heavy
tramp of the march was heard in the distance. All was excitement,
all bustle ; but in the joyous tone of every voice was spoken the
longing anxiety to meet the enemy. The gay, reckless tone of an
Irish song would occasionally reach us, as some Connaught Ranger,
or some 78th man, passed, his knapsack on his back ; or the low
monotonous pibroch of the Highlander, swelling into a war-cry, as
some kilted corps drew up their ranks together. We turned to re-
gain our quarters, when, at the corner of a street, we came suddenly
upon a merry party, seated around a table before a little inn ; a large
street lamp, unhung for the occasion, had been placed in the midst
of them, and showed us the figures of several soldiers in undress; at
the end, and raised a little above his compeers, sat one whom, by
the unfair proportion he assumed of the conversation, not less than
by the musical intonation of his voice, I soon recognized as my man
Mickey Free.

" I'll be hanged if that's not your fellow there, Charley," said
Power, as he came to a dead stop a few yards off. ?? What an imper-
tinent varlet he is : only to think of him there, presiding among a
set of fellows that have fought all the battles in the Peninsular war.
At this moment, I'll be hanged if he is not going to sing."

Here a tremendous thumping upon the table announced the fact,
and after a few preliminary observations from Mike, illustrative of
his respect for the service in which he had so often distinguished
himself, he began, to the air of the " Young May Moon," a ditty of
which I only recollect the following verses :

" The pickets are fast retreating, boys,
The last tattoo is beating, boys;

So let every man

Finish his can,
And drink to our next merry meeting, boys !

" The colonel so gayly prancing, boys,
Has a wonderful trick of advancing, boys ;

When he sings out so large,

' Fix bayonets and charge,'
He sets all the Frenchmen a-dancing, boys !

" Let Mounseer look ever so big, my boys,
Who cares for fighting a fig, my boys ?
When we play Garryowen,
He'd rather go home ;
For somehow, he's no taste for a jig, my boys!"


This admirable lyric seemed to be a perfect success, if one were
only to judge from the thundering of voices, hands, and drinking
vessels which followed ; while a venerable gray-haired sergeant rose
to propose Mr. Free's health, and speedy promotion to him.

We stood for several minutes in admiration of the party, when
the loud roll of the drums beating to arms awakened us to the
thought that our moments were numbered.

" Good-night, Charley !" said Power, as he shook my hand warmly;
'good-night! It will be your last night under a curtain for some
months to come ; make the most of it ! Adieu !"

So saying, we parted : he to his quarters, and I to all the confu-
sion of my baggage, which lay in most admired disorder about my



THE preparations for the march occupied me till near morning ;
and, indeed, had I been disposed to sleep, the din and clamor
of the world without would have totally prevented it. Before
daybreak the advanced guard was already in motion, and some
squadrons of heavy cavalry had begun their march.

I looked around my now dismantled room, as one does usually for
the last time ere leaving, and bethought me if I had not forgotten
anything. Apparently all was remembered ; but stay — what is this ?
To be sure, how forgetful I had become ! It was the packet I des-
tined for Donna Inez, and which, in the confusion of the night
before, I had omitted to take to the Casino.

I immediately despatched Mike to the Commissary with my lug-
gage, and orders to ascertain when we were expected to march. He
soon returned, with the intelligence that our corps was not to move
before noon ; so that I had yet some hours to spare, and make my
adieux to the Senhora.

I cannot exactly explain the reason, but I certainly did bestow a
more than common attention upon my toilette that morning. The
Senhora was nothing to me. It is true she had, as she lately most
candidly informed me, a score of admirers, among whom I was not
even reckoned. She was evidently a coquette, whose greatest plea-
sure was to sport and amuse herself with the passions she excited
in others. And even if she were not — if her heart were to be won
to-morrow — what claims, what right, had I to seek it? My affec-


tions wore already pledged ; promised, it is true, to one who gave
nothing in return, and who, perhaps, even loved another. Ah !
there was the rub : that one confounded suspicion, lurking in the
rear, chilled my courage and wounded my spirit.

If there be anything more disheartening to an Irishman, in his
little affaires de cceur, than another, it is the sense of rivalry. The
obstinacy of fathers, the ill will of mothers, the coldness, the indif-
ference of the lovely object herself, — obstacles though they be, — he
has tact, spirit, and perseverance to overcome them ; but when a
more successful candidate for the fair presents himself; when the
eye that remains downcast at his suit lights up with animation at
another's coming ; when the features whose cold and chilling apathy
to him have blended in one smile of welcome to another, — it is all
up with him : he sees the game lost, and throws his cards upon the
table. And yet, why is this? why is it that he, whose birthright it
would seem to be sanguine when others despond, — to be confident
when all else are hopeless, — should find his courage fail him here ?
The reason is, simply But, in good sooth, I am ashamed to con-
fess it !

Having jogged on so far with my reader, in all the sober serious-
ness which the matter-of-fact material of these memoirs demands, I
fear lest a seeming paradox may cause me to lose my good name for
veracity, and that, while merely maintaining a national trait of my
country, I may appear to be asserting some unheard-of and absurd
proposition; so far have mere vulgar prejudices gone to sap our
character as a people.

The reason, then, is this, — for I have gone too far to retreat, — the
Irishman is essentially bashful. Well, laugh if you wish, for I con-
clude that by this time you have given way to a most immoderate
excess of risibility; but still, when you have perfectly recovered
your composure, I beg to repeat, the Irishman is essentially a bash-
ful man !

Do not for a moment fancy that I would by this imply that in any
new or unexpected situation — that from any unforeseen conjuncture
of events — the Irishman would feel confused or abashed, more than
any other ; far from it. The cold and habitual reserve of the
Englishman; the studied caution of the North Tweeder himself,!
would exhibit far stronger evidences of awkwardness in such circum-
stances as these. But, on the other hand, when measuring his
capacity, his means of success, his probabilities of being preferred,
with those of the natives of any other country, I back the Irishman
against the world for distrust of his own powers, for an under-esti-
mate of his real merits ; in one word, for his bashfulness. But let
us return to Donna Inez.


As I rode up to the villa, I found the family assembled at break-
fast. Several officers were also present, among whom I was not
sorry to recognize my friend Monsoon.

" Ah, Charley !" cried he, as I seated myself beside him, " what a
pity all our fun is so soon to have an end ! Here's this confounded
Soult won't be quiet and peaceable ; but he must march upon Oporto,
and Heaven knows where besides, just as we were really beginning
to enjoy life. I had got such a contract for blankets! and now
they've ordered me to join Beresford's corps in the mountains; and
you," — here he dropped his voice, — " and you were getting on so
devilish well in this quarter ; upon my life, I think you'd have
carried the day; old Don Emanuel — you know he's a friend of
mines — likes you very much. And then, there's Sparks "

" Ay, Major, what of him ? I have not seen him for some days."

" Why, they've been frightening the poor devil out of his life,
O'Shaughnessy and a set of them. They tried him by court-martial
yesterday, and sentenced him to mount guard with a wooden sword
and a shooting jacket, which he did. Old Colbourne, it seems, saw
him ; and faith, there would be the devil to pay if the route had not

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 28 of 80)