Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

. (page 30 of 80)
Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 30 of 80)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


" How your old friend the Count would have liked this work "
said Hixley ; " gallant fellow he was."

" Come," cried Power, " here's a fresh bowl coming. Let's drink
to the ladies, wherever they be ; we most of us have some soft spot
on that score."

" Yes," said the Adjutant, singing :

" ' Here's to the maiden of blushing fifteen,
Here's to the damsel that's merry,
Here's to the flaunting, extravagant quean n

" And," said Power, interrupting, —

" Here's to the ' Widow of Deny.' "

" Come, come, Fred, no more quizzing on that score. It's the
only thing ever gives me a distaste to the service, the souvenir of
that adventure. When I reflect what I might have been, and
think what I am, — when I contrast a Brussels carpet with wet



THE BIVOUAC. 285

grass, silk hangings with a canvas tent, Sneyd's claret with ration
brandy, and Sir Arthur for a Commander-in-Chief vice Boggs, a
widow "

" Stop there," cried Hixley ; "without disparaging the fair widow,
there's nothing beats campaigning, after all : eh, Fred ?"

"And to prove it," said the Colonel, " Power will sing us a song."

Power took his pencil from his pocket, and, placing the back of a
letter across his shako, commenced inditing his lyric ; saying, as he
did so, —

"I'm your man in five minutes: just fill my glass in the mean-
time."

"That fellow beats Dibdin hollow," whispered the Adjutant.
" I'll be hanged if he'll not knock you off a song like lightning."

" I understand," said Hixley, " th^y have some intention at the
Horse Guards of having all the general orders set to popular tunes,
and sung at every mess in the service. You've heard that, I suppose,
Sparks ?"

" I confess I had not before." *

" It will certainly come very hard upon the subalterns," continued
Hixley, with much gravity ; " they'll have to brush up their sol, mi,
fas/ all the solos are to be their part."

" What rhymes with slaughter?" said Power.

" Brandy-and-water," said the Adjutant.

" Now, then," said Power, " are you all ready ?"

" Ready !"

" You must chorus, mind ; and, mark me, take care you give the
hip, hip, hurrah ! well, as that's the whole force of the chant. Take
the time from me. Now for it. Air, ' Garryowen,' with spirit, but
not too quick : —

" Now that we've pledged each eye of blue,
And every maiden fair and true,
And our green island home — to you

The ocean's waves adorning,
Let's give one hip, hip, hip, hurrah !
And drink e'en to the coming day,
When, squadron square,
We'll all he there,
To meet the French in the morning.

" May his bright laurels never fade,
Who leads our fighting fifth brigade,
Those lads so true in heart and blade,

And famed for danger scorning:
So join me in one hip, hurrah !
And drink e'en to the coming day,
When, squadron square,
We'll all be there,
To meet the French in the morning.



286 CHARLES 0' MALLET.

" And, when with years and honors crowned,
You sit some homeward hearth around,
And hear no more the stirring sound

That spoke the trumpet's warning, —
You'll till, and drink, one hip, hurrah !
And pledge the memory of the day,
When, squadron square,
They all were there,
To meet the French in the morning."

" Gloriously done, Fred I" cried Hixley. " If I ever get my
deserts in this world, I'll make you Laureate to the Forces, with
a hogshead of your own native whisky for every victory of the
army."

"A devilish good chant," said Merivale ; " but the air surpasses
anything I ever heard : thoroughly Irish, I take it."

" Irish ! upon my conscience, I believe you !" shouted O'Shaugh-
nessy, with an energy of voice and manner that created a hearty
laugh on all sides. " It's few people ever mistook it for a Venetian
nrelody. Hand over the punch — the sherry I mean. When I was
in the Clare militia, we always went in to dinner to ' Tatter Jack
Walsh,' a sweet air, and had ' Garryowen' for a quickstep. Ould
M'Manus, when he got the regiment, wanted to change ; he said
they were d — vulgar tunes, and wanted to have 'Kule Britannia,'
or the ' Hundredth Psalm ;' but we would not stand it ; there would
have been a mutiny in the corps."

" The same fellow, wasn't he, that you told the story of, the other
evening, in Lisbon?" said I.

"The same. Well, what a character he was ! As pompous and
conceited a little fellow as ever you met with ; and then, he was so
bullied by his wife, he always came down to revenge it on the regi-
ment. She was a fine, showy, vulgar woman, with a most cherishing
affection for all the good things in this life, except her husband,
whom she certainly held in due contempt. 'Ye little crayture,'
she'd say to him with a sneer, ' it ill becomes you to drink and sing,
and be making a man of yourself. If you were like O'Shaughnessy

there, six foot three in his stockings ' Well, well, it looks like

boasting ; but no matter : here's her health, anyway "

" I knew you were tender in that quarter," said Power, " I heard
it when quartered in Limerick."

" Maybe you heard, too, how I paid off Mac, when he came down
on a visit to that county."

" Never ; let's hear it now."

"Ay, O'Shaughnessy, now's your time ; the fire's a good one, the
night fine, the liquor plenty."

" I'm convenient" said O'Shaughnessy, as, depositing his enormous



THE BIVOUAC. 287

legs on each side of the burning fagots, and placing a bottle between
his knees, he began his story : —

" It was a cold rainy night in January, in the year '98, I took my
place in the Limerick mail, to go down for a few days to the west
country. As the waiter of the Hibernian came to the door with a
lantern, I just caught a glimpse of the other insides, none of whom
were known to me, except Colonel M'Manus, that I met once in a
boarding-house in Molesworth street. I did not at the time think
him a very agreeable companion ; but, when morning broke, and we
began to pay our respects to each other in the coach, I leaned over,
and said, ' I hope you're well, Colonel M'Manus,' just by way of
civility like. He didn't hear me at first ; so that I said it again, a
little louder.

" I wish you saw the look he gave me ; he drew himself up to the
height of his cotton umbrella, put his chin inside his cravat, pursed
up his dry, shrivelled lips, and, with a voice he meant to be awful,
replied, —

" ' You appear to have the advantage of me.'

" ' Upon my conscience, you're right,' said I, looking down at
myself, and then over at him, at which the other travellers burst out
a-laughing — ' I think there's few will dispute that point.' When the
laugh was over, I resumed — for I was determined not to let him off
so easily. I Sure I met you at -Mrs. Cayle's,' said I ; ' and by the
same token — it was a Friday, I remember it well, — maybe you didn't
pitch into the salt cod? I hope it didn't disagree with you ?'

" ' I beg to repeat, sir, that you are under a mistake,' said he.

" ' Maybe so, indeed,' said I ' Maybe you're not Colonel M'Manus
at all ; maybe you wasn't in a passion for losing seven-and-six-pence
at loo with Mrs. Moriarty ; maybe you didn't break the lamp in the
hall with your umbrella, pretending you touched it with your head,
and wasn't within three foot of it ; maybe Counsellor Brady wasn't
going to put you in the box of the Foundling Hospital, if you
wouldn't behave quietly in the streets '

" Well, with this the others laughed so heartily that I could not
go on ; and the next stage the bold Colonel got outside with the
guard, and never came in till we reached Limerick. I'll never forget
his face, as he got down at Swinburne's Hotel. - Good-bye, Colonel,'
said I ; but he wouldn't take the least notice of my politeness, but,
with a frown of utter defiance, he turned on his heel and walked
away.

" ' I haven't done with you yet/ says I ; and, faith, I kept my
word.

"I hadn't gone ten yards down the street, when I met my old
friend Darby O'Grady.



288 CHARLES O'MALLEY.

" ' Shaugh, my boy/ says he, — he called me that way for short-
ness, — ' dine with me to-day at Mosey's : a green goose and goose-
berries ; six to a minute.'

" ' Who have you ?' says I.

"'Tom Keane and the Wallers, a counsellor or two, and one
\TManus, from Dublin.'

"'The Colonel?'

" - The same,' said he.

" ' I'm there, Darby !' said I ; 'but mind, you never saw me before.'

"'What!' said he.

" ' You never set eyes on me before ; mind that.'

" ' I understand,' said Darby, with a wink ; and we parted.

" I certainly was never very particular about dressing for dinner,
but on this day I spent a considerable time at my toilette, and when
I looked in my glass at its completion, was well satisfied that I had
done myself justice. A waistcoat of brown rabbit-skin with flaps,
a red worsted comforter round my neck, an old gray shooting-jacket,
with a brown patch on the arm, corduroys and leather gaiters, with
a tremendous oak cudgel in my hand, made me a most presentable
figure for a dinner-party.

'"Will I do, Darby?' says I, as he came into my room before
dinner.

" ' If it's for robbing the mail you are,' says he, ' nothing could
be better. Your father wouldn't know you !'

" ' Would I be the better of a wig?'

"'Leave your hair alone,' said he. 'It's painting the lily to
alter it.'

" ' Well, God's will be done,' said I, ' so come now.'

" Well, just as the clock struck six I saw the Colonel come out of
his room, in a suit of most accurate sable, stockings, and pumps.
Down stairs he went, and I heard the waiter announce him.

" ' Now's my time,' thought I, as I followed slowly after.

" When I reached the door, I heard several voices within, among
which I recognized some ladies. Darby had not told me about
them ; ' but no matter,' said I ; ' it's all as well ;' so I gave a gentle
tap at the door with my knuckles.

" ' Come in,' said Darby.

" I opened the door slowly, and putting in only my head and
shoulders, took a cautious look round the room.

" ' I beg pardon, gentlemen,' said I, ' but I was only looking for
one Colonel M'Manus, and as he is not here '

" ' Pray walk in, sir,' said O'Grady, with a polite bow. ' Colonel
M'Manus is here. There's no intrusion whatever. I say, Colonel,'
said he, turning round, ' a gentleman here desires to '



THE BIVOUAC. 289

'''Never mind it now,' said I, as I stepped cautiously into the
room ; ' he's going to dinner ; another time will do just as well.'

" ' Pray come in.'

" ' I could not think of intruding '

"'I must protest,' said M'Manus, coloring up, 'that I cannot
understand this gentleman's visit.'

" I It's a little affair I have to settle with him/ said I, with a fierce
look, that I saw produced its effect.

" ' Then perhaps you would do me the very great favor to join him
at dinner,' said O'Grady. 'Any friend of Colonel M'Manus '

" ' You are really too good,' said I ; ' but as an utter stranger '

" ' Never think of that for a moment. My friend's friend, as the
adage says.'

" ' Upon my conscience, a good saying,' said I, ' but' you see
there's another difficulty. I've ordered a chop and potatoes up in
No. 5.'

" ' Let that be no obstacle/ said O'Grady. ' The waiter shall put
it in my bill, if you will only do me the pleasure.'

" ' You're a trump/ said I. ' What's your name ?'

" ' O'Grady, at your service.'

"'Any relation of the counsellor?' said I. 'They're all one
family, the O'Gradys. I'm Mr. O'Shaughnessy, from Ennis ; won't
you introduce me to the ladies ?'

" While the ceremony of presentation was going on, I caught one
glance at M'Manus, and had hard work not to roar out laughing.
Such an expression of surprise, amazement, indignation, rage, and
misery, never was mixed up in one face before. Speak he could
not ; and I saw that, except for myself, he had neither eyes, ears,
nor senses for anything around him. Just at this moment dinner
was announced, and in we went. I never was in such spirits in my
life ; the trick upon M'Manus had succeeded perfectly ; he believed
in his heart that I had never met O'Grady in my life before, and
that, uponjbhe faith of our friendship, I had received my invitation.
As for me, I spared him but little. I kept up a running fire of droll
stories ; had the ladies in fits of laughing, made everlasting allu-
sions to the Colonel ; in a word, ere the soup had disappeared,
except himself, the company were entirely with me.

" ' O'Grady/ said I, ' forgive the freedom, but I feel as if we were
old acquaintances.'

" 'As Colonel M'Manus's friend/ said he, ' you can take no liberty
here to which you are not perfectly welcome.'

" ' Just what I expected/ said I. ' Mac and I/— I wish you saw
his face when I called him Mac — ' Mac and I were schoolfellows five-
and-thirty years ago ; though he forgets me, I don't forget him ; to
19



290 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

be sure it would be hard for me. I'm just thinking of the day Bishop
Oulahan came over to visit the college. Mac was coming in at the
door of the refectory as the Bishop was going out. ' Take off your
caubeen, you young scoundrel, and kneel down for his reverence to
bless you," said one of the masters, giving his hat a blow at the
same moment that sent it flying to the other end of the room, and
with it about twenty ripe pears that Mac had just stolen in the
orchard, and had in his hat. I wish you only saw the Bishop ; and
Mac himself he was a picture. Well, well, you forget it all now,
but I remember it as if it was only yesterday. Any champagne,
Mr. O'Grady ? I'm mighty dry.'

" ' Of course,' said Darby. l Waiter, some champagne here.'

" 'Ah-, it's himself was the boy for every kind of fun and devil-
ment, quiet and demure as he looks over there. Mac, your health.
It's not every day of the week we get champagne.'

" He laid down his knife and fork as I said this : his face and
temples grew deep purple, his eyes started as if they would spring
from his head, and he put both his hands to his forehead, as if try-
ing to assure himself that it was not some horrid dream.

" 'A little slice more of the turkey/ said I, ' and then, O'Grady,
I'll try your hock. It's a wine I'm mighty fond of, and so is Mac
there. Oh I it's seldom, to tell you the truth, it troubles us. There,
fill up the glass ; that's it. Here now, Darby — that's your name, I
think — you'll not think I'm taking a liberty in giving a toast.
Here, then, I'll give M'Manus's health, with all the honors ; though
it's early yet, to be sure, but we'll do it again, by-and-by, when the
whisky comes. Here's M'Manus's good health! and, though his
wife, they say, does not treat him well, and keeps him down '

" The roar of laughing that interrupted me here was produced by
the expression of poor Mac's face. He had started up from the
table, and, leaning with both his hands upon it, stared round upon
the company like a maniac — his mouth and eyes wide open, and his
hair actually bristling with amazement. Thus he remained for a
full minute, gasping like a fish in a landing-net. It seemed a hard
struggle for him to believe he was not deranged. At last his eyes
fell upon me ; he uttered a deep groan, and with a voice tremulous
with rage, thundered out :

" ' The scoundrel ! I never saw him before.'

"He rushed from the room and gained the street. Before our roar
of laughter was over he had secured post-horses, and was galloping
towards Ennis at the top speed of his cattle.

" He exchanged at once into the line ; but they say that he caught
a glimpse of my name in the army list, and sold out the next morn-
ing ; be that as it may, we never met since."



THE DOURO. 291

I have related O'Shaughnessy's story here, rather from the mem-
ory I have of how we all laughed at it at the time, than from any
feeling as to its real desert ; but when I think of the voice, look,
accent, and gesture of the narrator, I can scarcely keep myself from
again giving way to laughter.



CHAPTEE XLV.

THE DOTJRO.

NEVER did the morning break more beautifully than on the
12th of May, 1809. Huge masses of fog-like vapor had suc-
ceeded to the starry, cloudless night, but one by one they
moved onwards towards the sea, disclosing, as they passed, long
tracts of lovely country, bathed in a rich golden glow. The broad
Douro, with its transparent current, shone out like a bright-colored
ribbon, meandering through the deep garment of fairest green ; the
darkly-shadowed mountains, which closed the background, loomed
even larger than they were, while the summits were tipped with
the yellow glory of the morning. The air was calm and still, and
the very smoke that arose from the peasant's cot labored as it
ascended through the perfumed air, and, save the ripple of the
stream, all was silent as the grave.

The squadron of the 14th with which I was had diverged from the
road beside the river, and, in order to obtain a shorter path, had
entered the skirts of a dark pine wood. Our pace was a sharp one ;
an orderly had been already despatched to hasten our arrival, and
we pressed on at a brisk trot. In less than an hour we reached the
verge of the wood, and as we rode out upon the plain, what a spec-
tacle met our eyes ! Before us, in a narrow valley, separated from
the river by a low ridge, were picketed three cavalry regiments,
their noiseless gestures and perfect stillness bespeaking at once that
they were intended for a surprise party. Farther down the stream,
and upon the opposite side, rose the massive towers and tall spires
of Oporto, displaying from their summits the broad ensign of
France ; while, far as the eye could reach, the broad dark masses of
troops might be seen, the intervals between the columns glittering
with the bright equipments of their cavalry, whose steel caps and
lances were sparkling in the sunbeams. The bivouac fires were still
smouldering, marking where some part of the army had passed the
night ; for, early as it was, it was evident that their position had
been changed ; and even now the dark masses of infantry might be



292 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

seen moving from place to place, while the long line of the road to
Vallonga was marked with a vast cloud of dust. The French drum
and the light infantry bugle told from time to time that orders were
passing among the troops, while the glittering uniform of a staff
officer, as he galloped from the town, bespoke the note of prepa-
ration.

" Dismount ! Steady — quietly, my lads," said the Colonel, as he
alighted upon the grass. " Let the men have their breakfast."

The little amphitheatre we occupied hid us entirely from all
observation on the part of the enemy, but equally so excluded us
from perceiving their movements. It may readily be supposed, then,
with what impatience we waited here, while the din and clangor of
the French force,- as they marched and countermarched so near us,
were clearly audible. The orders were, however, strict that none
should approach the bank of the river, and we lay anxiously await-
ing the moment when this inactivity should cease. More than one
orderly had arrived among us, bearing despatches from head-quar-
ters ; but where our main body was, or what the nature of the
orders, no one could guess. As for me, my excitement was at its
height, and I could not speak for the very tension of my nerves.
The officers stood in little groups of two and three, whispering
anxiously together; but all I could collect was, that Soult had
already begun his retreat upon Amarante, and that, with the broad
stream of the Douro between us, he defied our pursuit.

" Well, Charley," said Power, laying his arm upon my shoulder,
" the French have given us the slip this time. They are already on
the march, and even if we dared force a passage in the face of such
an enemy, it seems there is not a boat to be found. I have just seen
Hammersley."

" Indeed ! Where is he ?" said I.

"He's gone back to Villa de Conde; he asked after you most
particularly. Don't blush, man ; I'd rather have your chance than
his, notwithstanding the long letter that Lucy sends him. Poor
fellow! he has been badly wounded, but it seems declines going
back to England."

" Captain Power," said an orderly, touching his cap, " General
Murray desires to see you."

Power hastened away, but returned in a few moments.

" I say, Charley, there's something in the wind here. I have just
been ordered to try where the stream is fordable. I've mentioned
your name to the General, and I think you'll be sent for soon.
Good-bye."

I buckled on my sword, and, looking to my girths, stood watching
the groups around me, when suddenly a dragoon pulled his horse



THE DOURO. 293

short up, and asked a man standing near me if Mr. O'Malley was
there.

" Yes ; I am he."

" Orders from General Murray, sir," said the man, and rode off at
a canter.

I opened and saw that the despatch was addressed to Sir Arthur
t Wellesley, with the mere words " With haste!" on the envelope.

Now, which way to turn I knew not. Springing into the saddle,
I galloped to where Colonel Merivale was standing talking to the
colonel of a heavy dragoon regiment.

" May I ask, sir, by which road I am to proceed with this des-
patch?"

"Along the river, sir," said a heavy, large, dark-browed man,
with a most forbidding look. " You'll soon see the troops. You'd
better stir yourself, sir, or Sir Arthur is not very likely to be pleased
with you."

Without venturing a reply to what I felt a somewhat unnecessary
taunt, I dashed spurs into my horse, and turned towards the river.
I had not gained the bank above a minute, when the loud ringing
of a rifle struck upon my ear. Bang went another and another.
I hurried on, however, at the top of my speed, thinking only of my
mission, and its pressing haste. As I turned an angle of the stream,
the vast column of the British came in sight, and scarcely had my
eye rested upon them when my horse staggered forward, plunged
twice with his head nearly to the earth, and then, rearing madly up,
fell backward upon the ground. Crushed and bruised as I felt by
my fall, I was soon aroused to the necessity of exertion ; for as I
disengaged myself from the poor beast, I discovered that he had
been killed by a bullet in the counter ; and scarcely had I recovered
my legs, when a shot struck my shako and grazed my temples. I
quickly threw myself to the ground, and creeping on for some yards,
reached at last some rising ground, from which I rolled gently
downward into a little declivity, sheltered by the bank from the
French fire.

When I arrived at head-quarters, I was dreadfully fatigued and
heated ; but, resolving not to rest till I had delivered my despatches,
I hastened towards the convent of La Sierra, where I was told the
Commander-in-Chief was.

As I came into the court of the convent, filled with general offi-
cers and people of the staff, I was turning to ask how I should pro-
ceed, when Hixley caught my eye.

" Well, O'Malley, what brings you here?"

" Despatches from General Murray."

" Indeed ; oh ! follow me."



294 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

He hurried me rapidly through the buzzing crowd, and ascending
a large gloomy stair, introduced me into a room, where about a
dozen persons in uniform were writing at a long deal table.

"Captain Gordon," said he, addressing one of them, "des-
patches requiring -immediate attention have just been brought by
this officer."

Before the sentence was- finished, the door opened, and a short,
slight man, in a gray undress coat, with a white cravat and a
cocked hat, entered. The dead silence that ensued was not neces-
sary to assure me that he was one in authority. The look of com-
mand his bold and stern features presented, the sharp, piercing eye,
the compressed lip, the impressive expression of the whole face,
told plainly that he was one who held equally himself and others in
mastery.

" Send General Sherbrooke here," said he to an aide-de-camp.
"Let the light brigade march into position;" and then, turning
suddenly to me, " Whose despatches are these?"

" General Murray's, sir."

I needed no more than that look to assure me that this was he of
whom I had heard so much, and of whom the world was still to
hear so much more.

He opened them quickly, and glancing his eye across the contents,
crushed the paper in his hand. Just as he did so, a spot of blood
upon the envelope attracted his attention.

" How's this — are you wounded?"

" No, sir ; my horse was killed "

" Very well, sir ; join your brigade. But stay, I shall have orders
for you. Well, Waters, what news?"

This question was addressed to an officer in a staff uniform, who
entered at the moment, followed by the short and bulky figure of a
monk, his shaven crown and large cassock strongly contrasting with



Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 30 of 80)