Charles James Lever.

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and following rapidly up with cavalry, they took a few prisoners,'
and killed old Alphonzo ; he ran like a man, they say, but they
caught him in the rear.'

" You needn't put that in, if you don't like.

" ' I now directed a charge of the cavalry brigade under Don As-
turias Y'Hajos, that cut them up in fine style. Our artillery, posted
on the heights, mowed away at their columns like fun.

" ' Victor didn't like this, and got into a wood, when we all went
to dinner : it was about two o'clock then.

" ' After dinner, the Portuguese light corps, under Silva da Onorha,
having made an attack upon the enemy's left, without my orders,
got devilishly well trounced, and served them right ; but, coming up
to their assistance, with the heavy brigade of guns, and the cavalry,
we drove back the French, and took several prisoners, none of whom
we put to death/

" Dash that — Sir Arthur likes respect for the usages of war. — Lord,
how dry I'm getting !

" ' The French were soon seen to retire their heavy guns, and
speedily afterwards retreated. We pursued them for some time, but
they showed fight ; and as it was getting dark, I drew off my forces,
and came here to supper. Your Excellency will perceive, by the en-
closed return, that our loss has been considerable.


" ' I send this despatch by Don Emmanuel Forgales, whose ser-
vices '

" I back him for mutton hash with onions against the whole regi-

" 'Have been of the most distinguished nature, and beg to recom-
mend him to your Excellency's favor.

" ' I have the honor, &c.'

" Is it finished, Charley ? Egad, I'm glad of it, for here comes

The door opened as he spoke, and displayed a tempting tray of
smoking viands, flanked by several bottles; an officer of the Major's
staff accompanied it, and showed, by his attentions to the etiquette
of the table, and the proper arrangement of the meal, that his func-
tions in his superior's household were more than military.

We were speedily joined by two others in rich uniform, whose
names I now forget, but to whom the Major presented me in all form,
introducing me, as well as I could interpret his Spanish, as his most
illustrious ally and friend, Don Carlos O'Malley.



I HAVE often partaken of more luxurious cookery and rarer
wines ; but never do I remember enjoying a more welcome sup-
per than on this occasion.

Our Portuguese guests left us soon, and the Major and myself
were once more tete-a-tete beside a cheerful fire ; a well-chosen array
of bottles guaranteeing that, for some time at least, no necessity of
leave-taking should arise from any deficiency of wine.

" That sherry is very near the thing, Charley ; a little, a very little
sharp, but the after-taste perfect. And now, my boy, how have you
been doing since we parted ?"

" Not so badly, Major. I have already got a step in promotion.
The affair at the Douro gave me a lieutenancy."

" I wish you joy with all my heart. I'll call you Captain always
while you're with me. Upon my life I will. Why, man, they style
me your Excellency here. Bless your heart! we are great folk
among the Portuguese, and no bad service after all."

"I should think not, Major. You seem to have always made a
good thing of it."


"No, Charley; no, my boy. They overlook us greatly in general
orders and despatches. Had the brilliant action of to-day been
fought by the British — but no matter; they may behave well in
England, after all ; and, when I'm called to the Upper House as
Baron Monsoon of the Tagus is that better than Lord Alcan-

" I prefer the latter."

" Well, then, I'll have it. Lord ! what a treaty I'll move for with
Portugal, to let us have wine cheap. Wine, you know, as David
says, gives us a pleasant countenance ; and oil, I forget what oil
does, — p a s S over the decanter. And how is Sir Arthur, Charley?
A fine fellow, but sadly deficient "in the knowledge of supplies —
Never would have made any character in the commissariat. Bless
your heart, he pays for everything here, as if he were in Cheap-

" How absurd, to be sure !"

" Isn't it, though ? That was not my way, when I was commis-
sary-general about a year or two ago. To be sure, how I did puzzle
them ! They tried to audit my accounts ; and what do you think I
did ? I brought them in three thousand pounds in my debt. They
never tried on that game any more. ' No ! no !' said the Junta ;
' Beresford and Monsoon are great men, and must be treated with
respect.' Do you think we'd let them search our pockets ? But the
rogues doubled on us, after all ; they sent us to the northward, — a
poor country "

" So that, except a little commonplace pillage of the convents and
nunneries, you had little or nothing?"

" Exactly so ; and then I got a great shock about that time, that
affected my spirits for a considerable while."

" Indeed, Major ! some illness ?"

" No, I was quite well ; but — Lord ! how thirsty it makes me to
think of it ! my throat is absolutely parched, — I was near being
hanged !"


" Yes. Upon my life it's true — very horrible, ain't it ? It had a
great effect upon my nervous system ; and they never thought of
any little pension to me, as a recompense for my sufferings."

"And who was barbarous enough to think of such a thing,

" Sir Arthur Wellesley himself; none other, Charley."

"Oh, it was a mistake, Major, or a joke."

" It was devilish near being a practical one, though. I'll tell you
how it occurred. After the battle of Vimeira, the brigade to which
I was attached had their head-quarters at San Pietro, a large con-


vent where all the church plate for miles around was stored up for
safety. A sergeant's guard was accordingly stationed over the re-
fectory, and every precaution taken to prevent pillage, Sir Arthur
himself having given particular orders on the subject. Well, some -
how, — I never could find out how, — but in leaving the place all the
wagons of our brigade had got some trifling articles of small value
scattered, as it might be, among their stores — gold cups, silver-candle-
sticks, Virgin Marys, ivory crucifixes, saints' eyes set in topazes,
and martyrs' toes in silver filigree, and a hundred other similar

" One of these confounded bullock-cars broke down just at the
angle of the road where the Commander-in-Chief was standing with
his staff to watch the troops defile, and out rolled, among bread
rations and salt beef, a whole avalanche of precious relics and
church ornaments. Every one stood aghast ! Never was there
such a misfortune. No one endeavored to repair the mishap, but
all looked on in terrified amazement as to what was to follow.

" ' Who has command of this detachment?' shouted out Sir Arthur,
in a voice that made more than one of us tremble.

" ' Monsoon, your Excellency — Major Monsoon, of the Portuguese

" ' The d — old rogue! — I know him.' Upon my life that's what
he said. ' Hang him up on the spot,' pointing with his finger as he
spoke ; ? we shall see if this practice cannot be put a stop to.' And
with these words he rode leisurely away, as if he had been merely
ordering dinner for a small party.

" When I came up to the place, the halberts were fixed, and
Gronow, with a company of the Fusiliers, under arms beside them.

" ' Devilish sorry for it, Major,' said he. ' It's confoundedly un-
pleasant, but it can't be helped. We've got orders to see you
hanged !'

" Faith it was just so he said it, tapping his snuff-box as he spoke,
and looking carelessly about him. Now had it not been for the
fixed halberts and the Provost-Marshal, I'd not have believed him ;
but one glance at them, and another at the bullock-cart with all the
holy images, told me at once what had happened.

" ' He only means to frighten me a little. Isn't that all, Gronow ¥
cried I, in a supplicating voice.

" ' Very possibly, Major,' said he ; ' but I must execute my

"' You'll surely not ' Before I could finish, up came Dan

Mackinnon, cantering smartly. l Going to hang old Monsoon, eh,
Gronow ? What fun !'

" ' Ain't it, though ?' said I, half blubbering.


" ' Well, if you're a good Catholic, you may have your choice of a
saint, for, by Jupiter ! there's a strong muster of them here.' This
cruel allusion was made in reference to the gold and silver effigies
that lay scattered about the highway.

" ' Dan,' said I, in a whisper, ' intercede for me — do, like a good,
kind fellow. You have influence with Sir Arthur.'

" ' You old sinner,' said he, ' it's useless.'

" ' Dan, I'll forgive you the fifteen pounds.'

" ' That you owe me, 1 said Dan, laughing.

"'Who'll ever be the father to you I have been ? Who'll mix
your punch with burnt Madeira, when I'm gone ?' said I.

" ' Well, really, I am sorry for you, Monsoon. I say, Gronow,
don't tuck him up for a few minutes ; I'll speak for the old villain,
and if I succeed, I'll wave my handkerchief.'

" Well, away went Dan at a full gallop. Gronow sat down on a
bank, and I fidgeted about in no very enviable frame of mind, the
confounded Provost-Marshal eyeing me all the while.

" ' I can only give you five minutes more, Major,' said Gronow,
placing his watch beside him on the grass. I tried to pray a little,
and said three or four of Solomon's proverbs, when he again called
out, — ' There, you see it won't do ! Sir Arthur is shaking his head.'

" ' What's that waving yonder ?

" ' The colors of the Sixth Foot. Come, Major, off with your

" ' Where is Dan now — what is he doing ?' — for I could see
nothing myself.

" ' He's riding beside Sir Arthur. They all seem laughing.'

" ' God forgive them ! What an awful retrospect this will prove
to some of them.'

" \ Time's up !' said Gronow, jumping up and replacing his watch
in his pocket.

" ' Provost-Marshal, be quick now '

"'Eh? what's that? — there, I see it waving! — there's a shout,
too !'

" ' Ay, by Jove ! so it is. Well, you're saved this time, Major, —
that's the signal.'

" So saying, Gronow formed his fellows in line and resumed his
march quite coolly, leaving me alone on the roadside, to meditate
over martial law and my pernicious taste for relics.

"Well, Charley, this gave me a great shock, and I think, too, it
must have had a great effect upon Sir Arthur himself; but, upon
my life, he has wonderful nerves. I met him one day afterwards at
dinner in Lisbon; he looked at me very hard for a few seconds — ■
'Eh, Monsoon ! Major Monsoon, I think ?'


" ' Yes, your Excellency,' said I, briefly, thinking how painful it
must be for him to meet me.

" ' Thought I had hanged you — know I intended it. No matter —
a glass of wine with you ?'

" Upon my life, that was all. How easily some people can for-
give themselves. But, Charley, my hearty, we are getting on slowly
with the tipple. Are they all empty ? So they are ! Let us make
a sortie on the cellar. Bring a candle with you, and come along."

We had scarcely proceeded a few steps from the door, when a most
vociferous sound of mirth, arising from a neighboring apartment,
arrested our progress.

" Are the Dons so convivial, Major ?" said I, as a hearty burst of
laughter broke forth at the moment.

" Upon my life, they surprise me ; I begin to fear they have taken
some of our wine."

We now perceived that the sounds of merriment came from the
kitchen, which opened upon a little court-yard. Into this we crept
stealthily, and approaching noiselessly to the window, obtained a
peep at the scene within.

Around a blazing fire, over which hung by a chain a massive iron
pot, sat a goodly party of some half-dozen people. One group lay
in dark shadow, but the others were brilliantly lighted up by the
cheerful blaze, and showed us a portly Dominican friar, with a
beard down to his waist ; a buxom, dark-eyed girl of some eighteen
years ; and between the two, most comfortably leaning back, with an
arm round each, no less a person than my trusty man, Mickey Free.

It was evident from the alternate motion of his head that his
attentions were evenly divided between the Church and the fair sex ;
although, to confess the truth, they seemed much more favorably
received by the latter than the former— a brown earthen flagon
appearing to absorb all the worthy monk's thoughts that he could
spare from the contemplation of heavenly objects.

" Mary, my darlin', don't be looking at me that way, through the
corner of your eye. I know you're fond of me — but the girls always
was. You think I'm joking, but troth I wouldn't say a lie before
the holy man beside me ; sure I wouldn't, father."

The friar grunted out something in reply, not very unlike, in
sound at least, a hearty anathema,

" Ah, then, isn't it yourself has the illigant time of it, father
dear!" said he, tapping him familiarly upon his ample paunch,
" and nothing to trouble you ; the best of divarsion wherever you
go, and whether it's Badahos or Ballykilruddery, it's all one ; the
women is fond of ye. Father Murphy, the coadjutor in Scariff, was
just such another as yourself, and he'd coax the birds off the trees


with the tongue of him. Give us a pull at the pipkin before it's all
gone, and I'll give you a chant."

With this he seized the jar, and drained it to the bottom — the
smack of his lips as he concluded, and the disappointed look of the
friar, as he peered into the vessel, throwing the others once more
into a loud burst of laughter.

" And now, your rev'rance, a good chorus is all I'll ask, and you'll
not refuse it for the honor of the Church."

So saying, he turned a look of most droll expression upon the
monk, and began the following ditty, to the air of " St. Patrick was
a gentleman."

" What an illigant life a friar leads,

With a fat round paunch before him ;
He mutters a prayer and counts his beads,

And all the women adore him.
It's little he's troubled to work or to think,

Wherever devotion leads him ;
A ' pater' pays for his dinner and drink,

For the Church— good luck to her ! — feeds him.

" From the cow in the field to the pig in the sty,

From the maid to the lady in satin,
They tremble wherever he turns an eye ;

He can talk of the devil in Latin !
He's mighty severe to the ugly and ould,

And curses like mad when he's near 'em ;
But one beautiful trait of him I've been tould,

The innocent craytures don't fear him.

"It's little for spirits or ghosts he cares ;

For 'tis true as the world supposes,
With an ave he'd make them march down stairs,

Av they dared to show their noses.
The devil himself s afraid, 'tis said,

And dares not to deride him ;
For ' angels make each night his bed,

And then— lie down beside him.' "

A perfect burst of laughter from Monsoon prevented my hearing
how Mike's minstrelsy succeeded within doors, but when I looked
again, I found that the friar had decamped, leaving the field open
to his rival — a circumstance, I could plainly perceive, not disliked
by either party.

"Come back, Charley; that villain of yours has given me the
cramp, standing here on the cold pavement. We'll have a little
warm posset — very small and thin, as they say in ' Tom Jones,' —
and then to bed."

Notwithstanding the abstemious intentions of the Major it was
daybreak ere we separated, neither party being in a condition for
performing upon the tight-rope.




MY services while with the Legion were of no very distinguished
character, and require no lengthened chronicle. Their great
feat of arms, the repulse of an advanced guard of Victor's
corps, had taken place the very morning I had joined them, and the
ensuing month was passed in soft repose upon their laurels.

For the first few days, indeed, a multiplicity of cares beset the
worthy Major. There was a despatch to be written to Beresford,
another to the Supreme Junta, a letter to Wilson, at that time with
a corps of observation to the eastward. There were some wounded
to be looked after, a speech to be made to the conquering heroes
themselves, and, lastly, a few prisoners were taken, whose fate
seemed certainly to partake of the most uncertain of war's prover-
bial chances.

The despatches gave little trouble ; with some very slight altera-
tions, the great original, already sent forward to Sir Arthur, served
as a basis for the rest. The wounded were forwarded to Alcantara,
with a medical staff, to whom Monsoon, at parting, pleasantly
hinted that he expected to see all the sick at their duty by an early
day, or he would be compelled to report the doctors. The speech,
which was intended as a kind of general order, he deferred for some
favorable afternoon, when he could get up his Portuguese; and,
lastly, came to the prisoners, by far the most difficult of all his cares.
As for the few common soldiers taken, they gave him little uneasi-
ness ; as Sir John has it, they were " mortal men, and food for pow-
der;" but there was a staff officer among them, aiguilletted and
epauletted. The very decorations he wore were no common temp-
tation. Now, the Major deliberated a long time with himself
whether the usages of modern war might not admit of the ancient,
time-honored practice of ransom. The battle, save in glory, had
been singularly unproductive; plunder there was none; the few
ammunition-wagons and gun-carriages were worth little or nothing;
so that, save the prisoners, nothing remained. It was late in the
evening — the mellow hour of the Major's meditations — when he
ventured to open his heart to me upon the matter.

" I was just thinking, Charley, how very superior they were in olden
time to us moderns, in many matters, and nothing more than in
their treatment of prisoners. They never took them away from
their friends and country ; they always ransomed them — if they had
wherewithal to pay their way. So good-natured— upon my life it
was a most excellent custom. They took any little valuables they


found about them, and then put them up at auction. Moses and
Eleazar, a priest, we are told, took every piece of gold, and their
wrought jewels — meaning their watches and earrings. You needn't
laugh ; they all wore earrings, those fellows did. Now, why shouldn't
I profit by their good example ? I have taken Agag, the king of the
Amalekites — no, but, upon my life, I have got a French Major, and
I'd let him go for fifty doubloons."

It was not without much laughing and some eloquence that I
could persuade Monsoon that Sir Arthur's military notions might
not accept of even the authority of Moses ; and, as our head-quar-
ters were at no great distance, the danger of such a step as he medi-
tated was too considerable at such a moment.

As for ourselves, no fatiguing drills, no harassing field-days, and
no provoking inspections, interfered with the easy current of our
lives. Foraging parties there were, it is true, and some occasional
outpost duty was performed ; but the officers for both were selected
with a tact that proved the Major's appreciation of character; for
while the gay, joyous fellow that sung a jovial song and loved his
liquor was- certain of being entertained at head-quarters, the less
gifted and less congenial spirit had the happiness of scouring the
country for forage, and presenting himself as a target to a French

My own endeavors to fulfil my instructions met with but little
encouragement or support ; and although I labored hard at my task,
I must confess that the soil was a most ungrateful one. The cav-
alry were, it is true, composed mostly of young fellows well ap-
pointed, and in most cases well mounted ; but a more disorderly,
careless, undisciplined set of good-humored fellows never formed a
corps in the world.

Monsoon's opinions were felt in every branch of the service, from
the adjutant to the drummer-boy — the same reckless, indolent, plun-
der-loving spirit prevailed everywhere. And although under fire
they showed no lack of gallantry or courage, the moment of danger
past, discipline departed with it, and their only conception of bene-
fiting by a victory consisted in the amount of pillage that resulted
from it.

From time to time the rumors of great events reached us. We
heard that Soult, having succeeded in reorganizing his beaten army,
was, in conjunction with Ney's corps, returning from the North ;
that the Marshals were consolidating their forces in the neighbor-
hood of Talavera, and that King Joseph himself, at the head of a
large army, had marched for Madrid.

Menacing as such an aspect of affairs was, it had little disturbed
the Major's equanimity ; and when our advanced posts reported


daily the intelligence that the French were in retreat, he cared little
with what object of concentrating they retired, provided the interval
between us grew gradually wider. His speculations upon the future
were singularly prophetic. " You'll see, Charley, what will happen ;
old Cuesta will pursue them and get thrashed. The English will
come up, and perhaps get thrashed too ; ' but we— God bless us ! are
only a small force, partially organized and ill to depend on; we'll
go up the mountains till all is over !" Thus did the Major's discre-
tion not only extend to the avoidance of danger, but he actually
disqualified himself from even making its acquaintance.

Meanwhile, our operations consisted in making easy marches to
Almarez, halting wherever the commissariat reported a well-stocked
cellar or well-furnished hen-roost ; taking the primrose path in life,
and being, in the words of the Major, " contented and grateful, even
amid great perils I"



ON the morning of the 10th July, a despatch reached us an-
nouncing that Sir Arthur Wellesley had taken up his head-
quarters at Placentia, for the purpose of communicating with
Cuesta, then at Casa del Puerto, and ordering me immediately to
repair to the Spanish head-quarters, and await Sir Arthur's arrival,
to make my report upon the effective state of our corps. As for me, I
was heartily tired of the inaction of my present life, and, much as
I relished the eccentricities of my friend the Major, longed ardently
for a different sphere of action.

Not so Monsoon ; the prospect of active employment, and the
thoughts of being left once more alone, — for his Portuguese staff
afforded him little society, — depressed him greatly, and, as the hour
of my departure drew near, he appeared lower in spirits than I had
ever seen him.

" I shall be very lonely without you, Charley," said he, with a
sigh, as we sat the last evening together beside our cheerful wood
fire. " I have little intercourse with the Dons ; for my Portuguese
is none of the best, and only comes when the evening is far ad-
vanced ; and, besides, the villains, I fear, may remember the sherry
affair. Two of my present staff were with me then."

" Is that the story Power so often alluded to, Major, the King of
Spain's ?"


"There, Charley, hush — be cautious, my boy. I'd rather not
speak about that till we get amongst our own fellows."

" Just as you like, Major ; but, do you know, I have a strong curi-
osity to hear the narrative ?"

" If I'm not mistaken, there is some one listening at the door —
gently — that's it, eh ?"

" No, we are perfectly alone ; the night's early — who knows when
we shall have as quiet an hour again together ? Let me hear it by
all means."

" Well, I don't care. The thing, Heaven knows ! is tolerably
well known ; so, if you'll amuse yourself making a devil of the
turkey's legs there, I'll tell you the story. It's very short, Charley,
and there's no moral ; so you're not likely to repeat it."

So saying, the Major filled up his glass, drew a little closer to the
fire, and began : —

" When the French troops under Laborde were marching upon
Alcobaca, in concert with Loison's corps, I was ordered to convey a
very valuable present of sherry the Due d' Albuquerque was making
to the Supreme Junta — no less than ten hogsheads of the best sherry
the royal cellars of Madrid had formerly contained.

" It was stored in the San Vincente convent ; and the Junta,
knowing a little about monkish tastes and the wants of the Church,
prudently thought it would be quite as well at Lisbon. I was ac-
cordingly ordered with a sufficient force to provide for its safe-con-
duct and secure arrival, and set out upon my march one lovely
morning in April with my precious convoy.

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 35 of 80)