Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

. (page 29 of 80)
Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 29 of 80)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


come. Some of them would certainly have got a long leave to see
their friends."

" Why is not the Senhora here, Major? I don't see her at table."

"A cold; a sore throat; a wet-feet affair of last night, I believe.
Pass that cold pie down here. Sherry, if you please. You didn't
see Power to-day ?"

" No : we parted late last night ; I have not been to bed."

" Very bad preparation for a march. Take some burnt brandy in
your coffee."

" Then you don't thmk the Senhora will appear?"

" Very unlikely. But stay, you know her room — the small draw-
ing-room that looks out upon the flower-garden ; she usually passes
the morning there. Leap the little wooden paling round the corner,
and the chances are ten to one you find Her."

I saw from the occupied air of Don Emanuel that there was little
fear of interruption on his part; so, taking an early moment to
escape unobserved, I rose and left the room. When I sprang over
the oak fence, I found myself in a delicious little garden, where
roses, grown to a height never seen in our colder climate, formed a
deep bower of rich blossom.

The Major was right. The Senhora was in the room, and in one
moment I was beside her.

" Nothing but my fears of not bidding you farewell could palliate
my thus intruding, Donna Inez ; but as we are ordered away "

" When ? not so soon, surely ?"



THE FAREWELL. 275

" Even so ; to-day, this very hour. But you see that, even in the
hurry of departure, I have not forgotten my trust ; this is the packet
I promised you."

So saying, I placed the paper with the lock of hair within her
hand, and bending downwards, pressed my lips upon her taper
fingers. She hurriedly snatched her hand away, and tearing
open the enclosure, took out the lock. She looked steadily for a
moment at it, then at me, and again at it, and, at length, bursting
into a fit of laughter, threw herself upon a chair in a very ecstasy of
mirth.

" Why you don't mean to impose this auburn ringlet upon me for
one of poor Howard's jetty curls? What downright folly to think
of it ! and then, with how little taste the deception was practised —
upon your very temples, too! One comfort is, you are utterly
spoiled by it."

Here she again relapsed into a fit of laughter, leaving me per-
fectly puzzled what to think of her, as she resumed :

" Well, tell me now, am I to reckon this as a pledge of your own
allegiance, or am I still to believe it to be Edward Howard's?
Speak, and truly."

" Of my own, most certainly," said I, " if it will be accepted."

" Why, after such treachery, perhaps it ought not ; but, still, as
you have already done yourself such injury, and look so very silly
withal "

" That you are even resolved to give me cause to look more so,"
added I.

" Exactly," said she ; " for here, now, I reinstate you among my
true and faithful admirers. Kneel down, sir knight ! in token of
which you will wear this scarf "

A sudden start which the Donna gave at these words brought me
to my feet. She was pale as death and trembling.

" What means this ?" said I. " What has happened ?"

She pointed with her finger towards the garden ; but though her
lips moved, no voice came forth. I sprang through the open win-
dow. I rushed into the copse, the only one which might afford
concealment for a figure, but no one was there. After a few minutes'
vain endeavor to discover any trace of an intruder, I returned to
the chamber. The Donna was there still; but how changed!
Her gayety and animation were gone ; her pale cheek and trem-
bling lip bespoke fear and suffering, and her cold hand lay heavily
beside her.

" I thought — perhaps it was merely fancy, but I thought I saw
Trevyllian beside the window."

" Impossible !" said I. " I have searched every walk and alley.



276 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

It was nothing but imagination — believe me, no more. There, be
assured ; think no more of it."

While I endeavored thus to reassure her, I was very far from
feeling perfectly at ease myself; the whole bearing and conduct of
this man had inspired me with a growing dislike of him, and I felt
already half-convinced that he had established himself as a spy upon
my actions.

"Then you really believe I was mistaken?" said the Donna, as
she placed her hand within mine.

" Of course I do ; but speak no more of it. You must not forget
how few my moments are here. Already I have heard the tramp
of horses without. Ah ! there they are. In a moment more I shall

be missed ; so, once more, fairest Inez Nay, I beg pardon if I

have dared to call you thus ; but think, if it be the first, it may also
be the last time I shall ever speak it."

Her head gently drooped as I said these words, till it sunk upon
my shoulder, her long and heavy hair falling upon my neck and
across my bosom. I felt her heart almost beat against my side. I
muttered some words, I know not what ; I felt them like a prayer.
I pressed her cold forehead to my lips', rushed from the room,
cleared the fence at a spring, and was far upon the road to Lisbon
ere I could sufficiently collect my senses to know whither I was
going. Of little else was I conscious ; my heart was full to bursting,
and, in the confusion of my excited brain, fiction and reality were
so inextricably mingled as to defy every endeavor at discrimination.
But little time had I for reflection ; as I reached the city, the brig-
ade to which I was attached was already under arms, and Mike im-
patiently waiting my arrival with the horses.



CHAPTEE XLIII.

THE MARCH.

WHAT a strange spectacle did the road to Oliveira present
upon the morning of the 7th of Mav ! A hurried or incau-
tious observer might at first sight have pronounced the
long line of troops which wended their way through the valley as
the remains of a broken and routed army, had not the ardent ex-
pression and bright eye that beamed on every side assured him that
men who looked thus could not be beaten ones. Horse, foot, bag-
gage, artillery, dismounted dragoons, even the pale and scarcoly-re-



THE MARCH. 277

covered inhabitants of the hospital, might have been seen hurrying
on ; for the order, " Forward I" had been given at Lisbon, and those
whose wounds did not permit their joining were more pitied for
their loss than its cause. More than one officer was seen at the head
of his troop with an arm in a sling, or a bandaged forehead; while
among the men similar evidences of devotion were not unfrequent.
As for me, long years and many reverses have not obliterated—
scarcely blunted — the impression that sight made on me. The
splendid spectacle of a review had often excited and delighted me ;
but here there was the glorious reality of war,— the bronzed faces,
the worn uniforms, the well-tattered flags, the roll of the heavy
guns mingling with the wild pibroch of the Highlander, or scarcely
less wild recklessness of the Irish quickstep; while the 'long line of
cavalry, their helmets and accoutrements shining in the morning
sun, brought back one's boyish dreams of joust and tournament,
and made the heart beat high 'with chivalrous enthusiasm.

" Yes," said I, half aloud, " this is indeed a realization of what
I longed and thirsted for," the clang of the music and the tramp
of the cavalry responding to my throbbing pulses as we moved
along.

" Close up there, — trot !" cried out a deep and manly voice,
and immediately a general officer rode by, followed by an aide-
de-camp.

"There goes Cotton," said Power; "you may feel easy in your
mind now, Charley ; there's some work before us."

"You have not heard our destination ?" said I.

" Nothing is yet known for certain. The report goes that Soult
is advancing upon Oporto, and the chances are that Sir Arthur in-
tends to hasten on to its relief. Our fellows are at Ovar, with
General Murray."

" I say, Charley, old Monsoon is in a devil of a flurry. He ex-
pected to have been peaceably settled down in Lisbon for the next
six months, and he has received orders to set out for Beresford's
head-quarters immediately; and from what I hear, they have no
idle time."

, "Well, Sparks, how goes it, man? Better fun this than the
cook's galley, eh ?"

" Why, do you know, these hurried movements put me out con-
foundedly. I found Lisbon very interesting, the little I could see
of it last night."

"Ah! my dear fellow, think of the lovely Andalusian lasses,
with their brown transparent skins and liquid eyes ; why, you'd
have been over head and ears in love in twenty-four hours more,
had we staved."



278 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

" Are they really so pretty?"

" Pretty ! — downright lovely, man. Why, they have a way of
looking at you, over their fans — -just one glance, short and fleeting,

but so melting, by Jove . Then their walk — if it be not profane

to call that springing, elastic gesture by such a name — why, it's
regular witchcraft. Sparks, my man, I tremble for you. Do you
know, by the bye that same pace of theirs is a devilish hard thing
to learn ? I never could come it; and yet, somehow, I was formerly
rather a crack fellow at a ballet. Old Alberto used to select me for
a pas de zephyr among a host ; but there's a kind of a hop, and a
slide, and a spring — in fact, you must have been wearing petticoats
for eighteen years, and have an Andalusian instep, and an india-
rubber sole to your foot, or it's no use trying it. How I used to
make them laugh at the old San Josef convent, formerly, by my
efforts in the cause !"

" Why, how did it ever occur to you to practise it?"

" Many a man's legs have saved his head, Charley, and I put it to
mine to do a similar office for me."

" True ; but I never heard of a man that performed a pas seul
before the enemy."

" Not exactly ; but still you're not very wide of the mark. If
you'll only wait till we reach Portalegre, I'll tell you the story; not
that it is worth the delay, but talking at this brisk pace I don't ad-
mire."

" You leave a detachment here, Captain Power," said an aide-de-
camp, riding hastily up ; " and General Cotton requests you will
send a subaltern and two sergeants forward towards Berar, to recon-
noitre the pass. Franchesca's cavalry are reported in that quarter."
So speaking, he dashed spurs to his horse, and was out of sight in
an instant.

Power at the same moment wheeled to the rear, from which he
returned in an instant, accompanied by three well-mounted light
dragoons. " Sparks," said he, " now for an occasion of distinguish-
ing yourself. You heard the order — lose no time; and as your
horse is an able one, and fresh, lose not a second, but forward."

No sooner was Sparks despatched on what it was evident he felt
to be anything but a pleasant duty, than I turned towards Power,
and said, with some tinge of disappointment in the tone, "Well, if
you really felt there was anything worth doing there — I flattered
myself — that "

" Speak out, man. That I should have sent you, eh — is it not
so?"

" Yes, you've hit it."

" Well, Charley, my peace is easily made on this head. Why, I



THE MARCH. 279

selected Sparks simply to spare you one of the most unpleasant
duties that can be imposed upon a man — a duty which, let him dis-
charge it to the uttermost, will never be acknowledged, and the
slightest failure in which will be remembered for many days against
him, besides the pleasant and very probable prospect of being se-
lected as a bull's eye for a French rifle, or carried off a prisoner ; eh,
Charley ? there's no glory in that, devil a ray of it ! Come, come,
old fellow, Fred Power's not the man to keep his friend out of the
mdee if only anything can be made by being in it. Poor Sparks, I'd
swear, is as little satisfied with the arrangement as yourself, if one
knew but all."

" I say, Power," said a tall, dashing-looking man of about five-
and forty, with a Portuguese order on his breast — " I say, Power,
dine with us at the halt."

" With pleasure, if I may bring my young friend here."

" Of course ; pray introduce us."

" Major Hixley, Mr. O'Malley,— a 14th man, Hixley."

" Delighted to make your acquaintance, Mr. O'Malley. Knew a
famous fellow in Ireland of your name, a certain Godfrey O'Malley,
member for some county or other."

" My uncle," said I, blushing deeply, with a pleasurable feeling
at even this slight praise of my oldest friend.

" Your uncle ! give me your hand ! By Jove, his nephew has a
right to good treatment at my hands ; he saved my life in the year
'98. And how is old Godfrey ?"

" Quite well, when I left him some months ago ; a little gout now
and then."

" To be sure he has ; no man deserves it better ; but it's a gentle-
manlike gout, that merely jogs his memory in the morning of the
good wine he has drunk over night. By the bye, what became of a
friend of his, a devilish eccentric fellow, who held a command in
the Austrian service ?"

" Oh, Considine— the Count ?"

" The same."

"As eccentric as ever ; I left him on a visit with my uncle. And
Boyle — did you know Sir Harry Boyle ?"

" To be sure I did ; shall I ever forget him, and his capital blun-
ders, that kept me laughing the whole time I spent in Ireland. I
was in the house when he concluded a panegyric upon a friend,
by calling him ' the father to the poor, and uncle to Lord Don-
oughmore.' n

" He was the only man who could render by a bull what it was
impossible to convey more correctly," said Power. " You've heard
of his duel with Dick Toler?"



280 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

" Never ; let's hear it."

"It was a bull from beginning to end. Boyle took it into his
head that Dick was a person with whom he had a serious row in
Cork. Dick, on the other hand, mistook Boyle for Old Caples,
whom he had been pursuing with horse-whipping intentions for
some months ; they met in Kildare street Club, and very little col-
loquy satisfied them that they were right in their conjectures, each
party being so eagerly ready to meet the views of the other. It
never was a difficult matter to find a friend in Dublin ; and to do
them justice, Irish seconds, generally speaking, are perfectly free
from any imputation upon the score of mere delay. No men have
less impertinent curiosity as to the cause of the quarrel ; wisely sup-
posing that the principals know their own affairs best, they cau-
tiously abstain from indulging any prying spirit, but proceed to
discharge their functions as best they may. Accordingly, Sir Harry
and Dick were ' set up/ as the phrase is, at twelve paces, and, to use
Boyle's own words, for I have heard him relate the story, —

" ' We blazed away, sir, for three rounds. I put two in his hat,
and one in his neckcloth ; his shots went all through the skirt of my
coat.'

" ' We'll spend the day here/ says Considine, ' at this rate.
Couldn't you put them closer?'

" 'And give us a little more time in the word/ says I.

" ' Exactly/ said Dick.

" Well, they moved us forward two paces, and set to loading the
pistols again.

" By this time we were so near, that we had full opportunity to
scan each other's faces ; well, sir, I stared at him, and he at me.

" ' What !' said I.

"'Eh!' said he.

" ' How's this V said I.

" ' You're not Billy Caples?' said he.

" ' Devil a bit/ said I, ' nor I don't think you're Archy Devine /
and, faith, sir, so it appeared we were fighting away all the morning
for nothing ; for, somehow, it turned out it was neither of us /"

What amused me most in this anecdote was the hearing it at such
a time and place. That poor Sir Harry's eccentricities should turn
up for discussion on a march in Portugal was singular enough ; but,
after all, life is full of such incongruous incidents. I remember
once supping with King Calzoo on the Blue Mountains, in Jamaica.
By way of entertaining his guests, some English officers, he ordered
one of his suite to sing. We were of course pleased at the oppor-
tunity of hearing an Indian war-chant, with a skull and thigh-bone
accompaniment; but what was our astonishment to hear the Indian —



THE MARCH. 281

a ferocious-looking dog, with an awful scalp-lock, and two streaks
of red paint across his chest — clear his voice well for a few seconds,
and then begin, without discomposing a muscle of his gravity, "The
Laird of Cockpen !" I need not say that the " Great Racoon" was
a Dumfries man, who had quitted Scotland forty years before, and,
with characteristic prosperity, had attained his present rank in a
foreign service.

"Halt, halt!" cried a deep-toned, manly voice in the leading
column, and the word was repeated from mouth to mouth to the
rear.

We dismounted, and picketing our horses beneath the broad-leaved
foliage of the cork-trees, stretched ourselves out at full length upon
the grass, while our messmen prepared the dinner. Our party at
first consisted of Hixley, Power, the Adjutant, and myself; but our
number was soon increased by three officers of the 6th Foot, about
to join their regiment.

" Barring the ladies, — God bless them !" — said Power, " there's no
such picnics as campaigning presents ; the charms of the scenery
are greatly enhanced by their coming unexpectedly on you. Your
chance good fortune in the prog has an interest that no ham-and-
cold-chicken affair, prepared by your servants beforehand, and got
ready with a degree of fuss and worry that converts the whole party
into an assembly of cooks, can ever afford ; and, lastly, the excite-
ment that this same life of ours is never without, gives a zest "

" There you've hit it," cried Hixley ; " it's that same feeling of un-
certainty that those who meet now may never do so again, full as it
is of sorrowful reflection, that still teaches us, as we become inured
to war, to economize our pleasures, and to be happy when we may.
Your health, O'Malley, and your uncle Godfrey's, too."

"A little more of the pastry?"

" What a capital guinea fowl this is J"

u That's some of old Monsoon's old particular port."

"Pass it round here; really this is pleasant."

" My blessing on the man who left that vista yonder ; see what a
glorious valley stretches out there, undulating in its richness ; and
look at those dark trees, where just one streak of soft sunlight is
kissing their tops, giving them one chaste good night "

" Well done, Power !"

"Confound you, you've pulled me short, and I was about becom-
ing downright pastoral. A propos of kissing, I understand Sir
Arthur won't allow the convents to be occupied by troops."

" And ct propos of convents," said I, " let's hear your story ; you
promised it a while ago."

" My dear Charley, it's far too early in the evening for a story ; I



282 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

should rather indulge my poetic fancies here, under the shade of
melancholy boughs. And, besides, I am not half screwed up yet !"

" Come, Adjutant, let's have a song."

" I'll sing you a Portuguese serenade when the next bottle comes
in. What capital port ! Have you much of it ?"

" Only three dozen. We got it late last night ; forged an order
from the commanding officer, and sent it up to old Monsoon — ' for
hospital use.' He gave it with a tear in his eye, saying, as the ser-
geant marched away, ' Only think of such wine for fellows that may
be in the next world before morning. It's a downright sin !' "

" I say, Power, there's something going on there."

At this instant the trumpet sounded " boot and saddle," and, like
one man, the whole mass rose up, when the scene, late so tranquil,
became one of excited bustle and confusion. An aide-de-camp
galloped past towards the river, followed by two orderly sergeants,
and the next moment Sparks rode up, his whole equipment giving
evidence of a hurried ride, while his cheek was deadly pale and
haggard.

Power presented to him a goblet of sherry, which having emptied
at a draught, he drew a long breath and said, —

"They are coming — coming in force."

" Who are coming V said Power. " Take time, man, and collect
yourself."

" The French ! I saw them a devilish deal closer than I liked ;
they wounded one of the orderlies and took the other prisoner."

"Forward!" cried out a hoarse voice in the front. "March —
trot!"

. Before we could obtain any further information from Sparks,
whose faculties seemed to have received a terrific shock, we were
once more in the saddle, and moving onward at a brisk pace.

Sparks had barely time to tell us that a large body of French
cavalry occupied the pass of Berar, when he was sent for by General
Cotton to finish his report.

"How frightened the fellow is!" said Hixley.

" I don't think the worse of poor Sparks for all that," said Power;
" he saw these fellows for the first time, and no bird's-eye view of
them either."

" Then we are in for a skirmish, at least," said I.

" It would appear not from that," said Hixley, pointing to the
head of the column, which, leaving the high road upon the left,
entered the forest by a deep cleft that opened upon a valley tra-
versed by a broad river.

"That looks very like taking up a position, though," said
Power.



THE BIVOUAC. 283

" Look — look down yonder !" cried Hixley, pointing to a dip in
the plain beside the river ; H is there not a cavalry picket there?"

" Eight, by Jove ! I say, Fitzroy," said Power to an aide-de-camp
as he passed ; " what's going on ?"

" Soult has carried Oporto," cried he, " and Franchesca's cavalry
have escaped."

" And who are these fellows in the valley ?"

" Our own people coming up."

In less than half an hour's brisk trotting we reached the stream,
the banks of which were occupied by two cavalry regiments, ad-
vancing to the main army ; and what was my delight to find that
one of them was our own corps, the 14th Light Dragoons.

" Hurrah !" cried Power, waving his cap as he came up. " How
are you, Sedgwick? Baker, my hearty, how goes it? How are
Hampton and the Colonel ?"

In an instant we were surrounded by our brother officers, who all
shook me cordially by the hand, and welcomed me to the regiment
with most gratifying warmth.

" One of us," said Power, with a knowing look, as he introduced
me, and the freemasonry of these few words secured me a hearty
greeting.

" Halt ! halt ! Dismount !" sounded again from front ' to rear ;
and in a few minutes we were once more stretched upon the grass,
beneath the deep and mellow moonlight, while the bright stream
ran placidly beside us, reflecting on its calm surface the varied
groups as they lounged or sat around the blazing fires of the
bivouac.



CHAPTER XLIV.

THE BIVOUAC.

WHEN I contrasted the gay and lively tone of the conversa-
tion which ran on around our bivouac fire with the dry
monotony and prosaic tediousness of my first military dinner
at Cork, I felt how much the spirit and adventure of a soldier's life
can impart of chivalrous* enthusiasm to even the dullest and least
susceptible. I saw even many who under common circumstances
would have possessed no interest, nor excited any curiosity, but now,
connected as they were with the great events occurring around
them, absolutely became heroes ; and it was with a strange, wild
throbbing of excitement that I listened to the details of movements



284 CHARLES 0' MALLET.

and marches, whose objects I knew not, but in which the magical
words Corunna, Vimeira, were mixed up, and gave to the circum-
stances an interest of the highest character. How proud, too, I felt
to be the companions in arms of such fellows ! Here they sat, the
tried and proved soldiers of a hundred fights, treating me as their
brother and their equal. Who need wonder if I felt a sense of ex-
cited pleasure? Had 1 needed such a stimulant, that night beneath
the cork-trees had been enough to arouse a passion for the army in
my heart, and an irrepressible determination to seek for a soldier's
glory.

" Fourteenth !" called out a voice from the wood behind, and in a
moment after the aide-de-camp appeared with a mounted orderly.

"Colonel Merivale?" said he, touching his cap to the stalwart,
soldier-like figure before him.

The Colonel bowed.

"Sir Stapleton Cotton desires me to request that at an early hour
to-morrow you will occupy the pass, and cover the march of the
troops. It is his wish that all the reinforcements should arrive at
Oporto by noon. I need scarcely add that we expect to be engaged
with the enemy."

These few words were spoken hurriedly, and, again saluting our
party, he turned his horse's head and continued his way towards
the rear.

*' There's news for you, Charley," said Power, slapping me on the
shoulder. " Lucy Dashwood or Westminster Abbey !"

" The regiment never was in finer condition, that's certain," said
the Colonel, " and most eager for a brush with the enemy."



Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 29 of 80)