Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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of muskets as they were raised to the shoulder, announced that the
troops were under arms, and the review begun.

" Have you seen the general order this morning, Power?" inquired
an old officer beside me.

" No ; they say, however, that ours are mentioned."

" Harvey is going on favorably," cried a young cornet, as he gal-
loped up to our party.

" Take ground to the left !" sung out the clear voice of the Colonel,
as he rode along in front. " Fourteenth I 1 am happy to inform you
that your conduct has met approval in the highest quarter. I have
just received the general orders, in which this occurs: —

" * The timely passage of the Douro, and subsequent movements
upon the enemy's flank, by Lieutenant-General Sherbroke with the
Guards and 29th Eegiment, and the bravery of the two squadrons
of the 14th Light Dragoons under the command of Major Harvey,
and led by the Honorable Brigadier-General Charles Stewart, ob-
tained the victory' — Mark that, my lads ! — obtained the victory —
' which has contributed so much to the honor of the troops on this
day.' "

The words were hardly spoken, when a tremendous cheer burst
from the whole line at once.

" Steady, Fourteenth ! steady, lads !" said the gallant old Colonel,
as he raised his hand gently ; " the staff is approaching."

At the same moment, the white plumes appeared rising above the
brow of the hill. On they came, glittering, in all the splendor of
aiguillettes and orders ; all, save one. He rode foremost, upon a
small compact black horse ; his dress, a plain gray frock, fastened at
the waist by a red sash. His cocked-hat alone bespoke, in its plume,
the general officer. He galloped rapidly on till he came to the centre
of the line : then, turning short round, he scanned the ranks from
end to end with an eagle glance.

" Colonel Merivale, you have made known to your regiment my
opinion of them, as expressed in general orders?"

The Colonel bowed low in acquiescence.

" Fitzroy, you have got the memorandum, I hope ?"


The aide-de-camp here presented to Sir Arthur a slip of paper,
which he continued to regard attentively for some minutes.

" Captain Powel — Power, I mean. Captain Power !"

Power rode out from the line.

" Your very distinguished conduct yesterday has been reported to
me. I shall have sincere pleasure in forwarding your name for the
vacant majority."

" You have forgotten, Colonel Merivale, to send in the name of
the officer who saved General Laborde's life."

" I believe I have mentioned it, Sir Arthur. Mr. O'Malley."

" True, I beg pardon ; so you have— Mr. O'Malley ; a very young
officer indeed— ha, an Irishman ! the south of Ireland, eh ?"

" No, sir, the west."

" Oh ! yes. Well, Mr. O'Malley, you are promoted. You have
the lieutenancy in your own regiment. By the bye, Merivale," —
here his voice changed into a half-laughing tone, — " ere I forget it,
pray let me beg of you to look into this honest fellow's claim ; he
has given me no peace the entire morning."

As he spoke, I turned my eyes in the direction he pointed, and, to
my utter consternation, beheld my man Mickey Free standing
among the staff; the position he occupied, and the presence he stood
in, having no more perceptible effect upon his nerves than if he were
assisting at an Irish wake ; but so completely was I overwhelmed
with shame at the moment, that the staff were already far down the
lines ere I recovered my .self-possession, to which, certainly, I was
in some degree recalled by Master Mike's addressing me in a some-
what imploring voice :

"Arrah, spake for me, Master Charles, alanah ; sure they might
do something for me now, av it was only to make me a gauger."

Mickey's ideas of promotion, thus insinuatingly put forward, threw
the whole party around into one burst of laughter.

" I have him down there," said he, pointing as he spoke to a thick
grove of cork-trees at a little distance.

" Who have you got there, Mike ?" inquired Power.

" Divil a one o' me knows his name," replied he ; " maybe it's
Bony himself."

"And how do you know he's there still ?"

" How do I know, is it? Didn't I tie him last night?"

Curiosity to find out what Mickey could possibly allud* to, induced
Power and myself to follow him down the slope to the clump of trees
I have mentioned. As we came near, the very distinct denunciations
that issued from the thicket proved pretty clearly the nature of the
affair. It was nothing less than a French officer of cavalry, that
Mike had unhorsed in the m$l6e } and wishing, probably, to preserve


some testimony of his prowess, had made prisoner, and tied fast to
a cork-tree, the preceding evening.

"Sacrebleu !" said the poor Frenchman, as we approached, " ce
sont des sauvages I"

" Av it's making your sowl ye are," said Mike, " you're right ; for
maybe they won't let me keep you alive."

Mike's idea of a tame prisoner threw me into a fit of laughing,
while Power asked, —

"And what do you want to do with him, Mickey?"

" The sorra one o' me knows, for he spakes no dacent tongue.
Thighum thu," said he, addressing the prisoner, with a poke in the
ribs at the same moment; "but sure, Master Charles, he might
tache me French."

There was something so irresistibly ludicrous in his tone and look
as he said these words, that both Power and myself absolutely roared
with laughter. We began, however, to feel not a little ashamed of
our position in the business, and explained to the Frenchman that
our worthy countryman had but little experience in the usages of
war, while we proceeded to unbind him, and liberate him from his
miserable bondage.

" It's letting him loose you are, Captain I Master Charles, take
care ; be-gorra, av you had as much trouble in catching him as I had,
you'd think twice about letting him out. Listen to me now," — here
he placed his closed fist within an inch of the poor prisoner's nose, —
" listen to me ; av you say peas, by the morteal, I'll not lave a whole
bone in your skin."

With some difficulty we persuaded Mike that his conduct, so far
from leading to his promotion, might, if known in another quarter,
procure him an acquaintance with the Provost-Marshal, — a fact
which, it was plain to perceive, gave him but a very poor impression
of military gratitude.

" Oh, then, if they were in swarms forninst me, divil resave the
prisoner I'll take again."

So saying, he slowly returned to the regiment, while Power and I,
having conducted the Frenchman to the rear, cantered towards the
town to learn the news of the day.

The city on that day presented a most singular aspect. The streets
filled with the town's-people and the soldiery, were decorated with
flags and garlands ; the cafes were crowded with merry groups, and
the sounds of music and laughter resounded on all sides. The
houses seemed to be quite inadequate to afford accommodation to
the numerous guests, and, in consequence, bullock cars and forage
wagons were converted into temporary hotels, and many a jovial
party was collected in both. Military music, church bells, drinking


choruses, were all commingled in the din and turmoil ; processions
in honor of " Our Lady of Succor" were jammed up among bacchan-
alian orgies, and their very chant half-drowned in the cries of the
wounded, as they passed on to the hospitals. With difficulty we
pushed our way through the dense mob, as we turned our steps
towards the seminary. We both felt naturally curious to see the
place where our first detachment landed, and to examine the oppor-
tunities of defence it presented. The building itself was a large and
# irregular one, of an oblong form, surrounded by a high wall of solid
masonry, the only entrance being by a heavy iron gate.

At this spot the battle appeared to have raged with violence;
one side of the massive gate was torn from its hinges, and lay flat
upon the ground ; the walls were breached in many places ; and
pieces of torn uniforms, broken bayonets, and bruised shakos, attested
that the conflict was a close one. The seminary itself was in a fall-
ing state; the roof, from which Paget had given his orders, and
where he was wounded, had fallen in. The French cannon had fis-
sured the building from top to bottom, and it seemed only awaiting
the slightest impulse to crumble into ruin. When we regarded the
spot, and examined the narrow doorway which, opening upon a
flight of a few steps to the river, admitted our first party, we could
not help feeling struck anew with the gallantry of that mere hand-
ful of brave fellows who thus threw themselves amid the overwhelm-
ing legions of the enemy, and at once, without waiting for a single re-
inforcement, opened a fire upon their ranks. Bold as the enterprise
unquestionably was, we still felt with what consummate judgment it
had been planned ; — a bend of the river concealed entirely the pas-
sage of the troops, the guns of the Sierra covered their landing, and
completely swept one approach to the seminary. The French, being
thus obliged to attack by the gate, were compelled to make a con-
siderable detour before they reached it, all of which gave time for
our divisions to cross ; while the brigade of Guards, under General
Sherbroke, profiting by the confusion, passed the river below the
town, and took the enemy unexpectedly in the rear.

Brief as was the struggle within the town, it must have been a
terrific one. The artillery were firing at musket-range ; cavalry and
infantry were fighting hand to hand in the narrow streets, a destruc-
tive musketry pouring all the while from window and house-tops.

At the Amarante gate, where the French defiled, the carnage was
also great ; their light artillery unlimbered some guns here to cover
the columns as they deployed ; but Murray's cavalry having carried
these, the flank of the infantry became entirely exposed to the gall-
ing fire of small-arms from the seminary, and the far more destruc-
tive shower of grape that poured unceasingly from the Sierra.


Our brigade did the rest ; and in less than one hour from the
landing of the first man, the French were in full retreat upon Val-

" A glorious thing, Charley/' said Power, after a pause, " and a
proud souvenir for hereafter."

A truth I felt deeply at the time, and one my heart responds
to not less fully as I am writing.



ON" the evening of the 12th, orders were received for the Ger-
man brigade and three squadrons of our regiment to pursue
the French upon the Terracinthe road by daybreak on the fol-
lowing morning.

I was busily occupied in my preparations for a hurried march,
when Mike came up to say that an officer desired to speak with me;
and the moment after Captain Hammersley appeared. A sudden
flush colored his pale and sickly features, as he held out his hand,
and said, —

" I've come to wish you joy, O'Malley. I just this instant heard of
your promotion. I am sincerely glad of it; pray tell me the whole

" That is the very thing I am unable to do. I have some very
vague, indistinct remembrance of warding off a sabre-cut from the
head of a wounded and unhorsed officer in the meUe of yesterday ;
but more I know not. In fact, it was my first day under fire ; I've
a tolerably clear recollection of all the events of the morning, but
the word ' Charge !' once given, I remember very little more. But
you, where have you been ? How have we not met before ?"

" I've exchanged into a heavy dragoon regiment, and am now em-
ployed upon the staff."

" You are aware that I have letters for you ?"

" Power hinted, I think, something of the kind. I saw him very

These words were spoken with an effort at nonchalance that evi-
dently cost him much.

As for me, my agitation was scarcely less, as, fumbling for some
seconds in my portmanteau, I drew forth the long destined packet.
As I placed it in his hands he grew deadly pale, and a slight spas-
modic twitch in his upper lip bespoke some unnatural struggle. He


broke the seal suddenly, and as he did so, the morocco case of a
miniature fell upon the ground ; his eyes fell rapidly across the
letter ; the livid color of his lips, as the blood forced itself to them,
added to the corpse-like hue of his countenance.

"You probably are aware of the contents of this letter, Mr.
O'Malley ?" said he, in an altered voice, whose tones, half in anger,
half in suppressed irony, cut to my very heart.

" I am in complete ignorance of them," said I, calmly.

" Indeed, sir !" replied he, with a sarcastic curl of his mouth as he
spoke. " Then, perhaps, you will tell me, too, that your very suc-
cess is a secret to you ?"

" I'm really not aware "

" You probably think, sir, that the pastime is an amusing one, to
interfere where the affections of others are concerned. I've heard
of you, sir. Your conduct at Lisbon is known to me; and though
Captain Trevyllian may bear "

" Stop, Captain Hammersley !" said I, with a tremendous effort to
becalm; "stop; you have said enough, quite enough, to convince
me of what your object was in seeking me here to-day. You shall
not be disappointed. I trust that assurance will save you from any
further display of temper."

" I thank you ; most humbly I thank you for the quickness of
your apprehension ; and I shall now take my leave. Good evening,
Mr. O'Malley. I wish you much joy ; you have my very fullest con-
gratulations upon all your good fortune."

The sneering emphasis the last words were spoken with remained
fixed in my mind long after he took his departure ; and, indeed, so
completely did the whole seem like a dream to me, that were it not
for the fragments of the miniature that lay upon the ground, where
he had crushed them with his heel, I could scarcely credit myself
that I was awake.

My first impulse was to seek Power, upon whose judgment and
discretion I could with confidence rely.

I had not long to wait ; for scarcely had I thrown my cloak around
me, when he rode up. He had ju3t seen Hammersley, and learned
something of our interview.

" Why, Charley, my dear fellow, what is this ? How have you
treated poor Hammersley ?"

" Treated him ! say, rather, how has he treated me."

I here entered into a short but accurate account of our meeting,
during which Power listened with great composure, while I could
perceive, from the questions he asked, that some very different im-
pression had been previously made upon his mind.

" And this was all that passed?"



" But what of the business at Lisbon ?"

" I don't understand."

" Why, he speaks — he has heard some foolish account of your
having made some ridiculous speech there about your successful
rivalry of him in Ireland — Lucy Dashwood, I suppose, is referred
to. Some one has been good-natured enough to repeat the thing
to him."

" But it never occurred. I never did."

" Are you sure, Charley ?"

" I am sure ; I know I never did."

" The poor fellow, he has been duped ! Come, Charley, you must
not take it ill. Poor Hammersley has never recovered from a sabre-
wound he received some months since upon the head ; his intellects
are really affected by it. Leave it all to me. Promise not to
leave your quarters till I return, and I'll put everything right

I gave the required pledge, while Power, springing into the
saddle, left me to my own reflections.

My frame of mind as Power left me was by no means an enviable
one. A quarrel is rarely a happy incident in a man's life, still less
is it so when the difference arises with one we are disposed to like
and respect. Such was Hammersley. His manly, straightforward
character had won my esteem and regard, and it was with no common
scrutiny I taxed my memory to think what could have given rise to
the impression he labored under of my having injured him. His
chance mention of Trevyllian suggested to me some suspicion that
his dislike of me, wherefore arising I knew not, might have its share
in the matter. In this state of doubt and uncertainty I paced
impatiently up and down, anxiously watching for Power's return,
in the hope of at length getting some real insight into the diffi-

My patience was fast ebbing ; Power had been absent above an
hour, and no appearance of him could I detect, when suddenly the
tramp of a horse came rapidly up the hill. I looked out, and saw a
rider coming forward at a very fast pace. Before I had time for
even a guess as to who it was, he drew up, and I recognized Captain
Trevyllian. There was a certain look of easy impertinence and half-
smiling satisfaction about his features I had never seen before, as he
touched his cap in salute, and said, —

" May I have the honor of a few moments' conversation with

I bowed silently, while he dismounted, and passing his bridle
beneath his arm, walked on beside me.


" My friend Captain Hammersley has commissioned me to wait
upon you about this unpleasant affair "

" I beg pardon for the interruption, Captain Trevyllian, but as I
have yet to learn to what you and your friend allude, perhaps it may
facilitate matters if you will explicitly state your meaning."

He grew crimson on the cheek as I said this, while, with a voice
perfectly unmoved, he continued —

"I am not sufficiently in my friend's confidence to know the
whole of the affair in question, nor have I his permission to enter
into any of it, he probably presuming, as I certainly did myself,
that your sense of honor would have deemed further parley and
discussion both unnecessary and unseasonable."

" In fact, then, if I understand, it is expected that I should meet
Captain Hammersley for some reason unknown "

" He certainly desires a meeting with you," was the dry reply.

" And as certainly I shall not give it before understanding upon
what grounds."

" And such I am to report as your answer ?" said he, looking at
me at the moment with an expression of ill-repressed triumph as he

There was something in these few words, as well as in the tone in
which they were spoken, that sunk deeply in my heart. Was it that
by some trick of diplomacy he was endeavoring to compromise my
honor and character? Was it possible that my refusal might be
construed into any other than the real cause ? I was too young, too
inexperienced in the world, to decide the question for myself, and
no time was allowed me to seek another's counsel. What a trying
moment was that for me! My temples throbbed, my heart beat
almost audibly, and I stood afraid to speak, dreading, on the one
hand, lest my compliance might involve me in an act to embitter
my life forever, and fearful, on the other, that my refusal might be
reported as a trait of cowardice.

He saw, he read my difficulty at a glance, and, with a smile of
most supercilious expression, repeated coolly his former question. In
an instant all thought of Hammersley was forgotten. I remembered
no more. I saw him before me, he who had, since my first meeting,
continually contrived to pass some inappreciable slight upon me. My
eyes flashed, my hands tingled with ill-repressed rage, as I said,—

"With Captain Hammersley I am conscious of no quarrel, nor
have I ever shown by any act or look an intention to provoke one.
Indeed, such demonstrations are not always successful. There are
persons most rigidly scrupulous for a friend's honor little disposed
to guard their own."

" You mistake," said he, interrupting me, — as I spoke these words


with a look as insulting as I could make it, — " you mistake. I have
sworn a solemn oath never to send a challenge."

The emphasis upon the word " send" explained fully his mean-
ing, when I said, —

" But you will not decline "

"Most certainly not," said he, again interrupting, while with
sparkling eye and elated look he drew himself up to his full height.

" Your friend is "

" Captain Power ; and yours "

" Sir Harry Beaufort. I may observe that, as the troops are in
marching order, the matter had better not be delayed."

" There shall be none on my part."

"Nor mine," said he, as, with a low bow, and a look of most in-
effable triumph, he sprang into his saddle ; then, " Au revoir, Mr.
O'Malley," said he, gathering up his reins. "Beaufort is on the
staff, and quartered at Oporto." So saying, he cantered easily down
the slope, and once more I was alone.



I WAS leisurely examining my pistols — poor Oonsidine's last
present to me on leaving home — when an orderly sergeant
rode rapidly up, and delivered into my hands the following
order : —

" Lieutenant O'Malley will hold himself in immediate readiness
to proceed on a particular service. By order of his Excellency the
Commander of the Forces.

" S. Gordon, Military Secretary."

" What can this mean ?" thought I. " It is not possible that any
rumor of my intended meeting could have got abroad, and that my
present destination could be intended as a punishment?"

I walked hurriedly to the door of the little hut which formed my
quarters. Below me, in the plain, all was activity and preparation ;
the infantry were drawn up in marching order; baggage wagons,
ordnance stores and artillery seemed all in active preparation ; and
some cavalry squadrons might be already seen, with forage allow-
ances behind the saddle, as if only waiting the order to set out. I
strained my eyes to see if Power was coming, but no horseman ap-


proached in the direction. I stood, and I hesitated whether I should
not rather seek him at once, than continue to wait on in ray present
uncertainty. But then, what if I should miss him ? and I had
pledged myself to remain till he returned.

While I deliberated thus with myself, weighing the various chances
for and against each plan, I saw two mounted officers coming towards
me at a brisk trot. As they came nearer, I recognized one as my
Colonel ; the other was an officer of the staff.

Supposing that their mission had some relation to the order I had
so lately received, and which until now I had forgotten, I hastily
returned, and ordered Mike to my presence.

"How are the horses, Mike?" said I.

" Never better, sir. Badger was wounded slightly by a spent shot
in the counter, but he's never the worse this morning, and the black
horse is capering like a filly."

" Get ready my pack, feed the cattle, and be prepared to set out at
a moment's warning."

" Good advice, O'Malley," said the Colonel, as he overheard the
last direction to my servant. " I hope the nags are in condition."

" Why, yes, sir, I believe they are."

"All the better ; you've a sharp ride before you. Meanwhile, let
me introduce my friend ; Captain Beaumont — Mr. O'Malley. I
think we had better be seated."

" These are your instructions, Mr. O'Malley," said Captain Beau-
mont, unfolding a map as he spoke. " You will proceed from this,
with half* a troop of your regiment, by forced marches, towards the
frontier, passing through the town of Calenco, and Guarda, and the
Estrella pass. On arriving at the head-quarters of the Lusitanian
Legion, which you will find there, you are to put yourself under
the orders of Major Monsoon, commanding that force. Any Portu-
guese cavalry he may have with him will be attached to yours, and
under your command ; your rank, for the time, being that of captain.
You will, as far as possible, acquaint yourself with the habits and
capabilities of the native cavalry, and make such report as you judge
necessary thereupon to his Excellency the Commander of the Forces.
I think it only fair to add that you are indebted to my friend Colonel
Merivale for the very flattering position thus opened to your skill
and enterprise."

" My dear Colonel, let me assure you "

"Not a word, my boy. I knew the thing would suit you, and I
am sure I can count upon your not disappointing my expectations
of you. Sir Arthur perfectly remembers your name. He only asked
two questions —

" ' Is he well mounted V


" 'Admirably,' was my answer.
" ' Can you depend upon his promptitude V
" ' He'll leave in half an hour.'

" So you see, O'Malley, I have already pledged myself for you.
And now I must say adieu ; the regiments are about to take up a
more advanced position, so good-bye. I hope you will have a pleas-
ant time of it till we meet again."

" It is now twelve o'clock, Mr. O'Malley," said Beaumont ; " we
may rely upon your immediate departure. Your written instruc-
tions and despatches will be here within a quarter of an hour."

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 32 of 80)