Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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vyllian's speaking very hardly of you, and they all say here you
must come back — no matter how — and put matters to rights. Fred
has placed the matter in my hands, and I'm thinking we'd better
call out the ' heavies' by turns ; for most of them stand by Trevyl-
lian. Maurice Quill and myself sat up considering it last night ;
but, somehow, we don't clearly remember to-day a beautiful plan
we hit upon. However, we'll have at it again this evening. Mean-
while, come over here, and let us be doing something. We hear
that old Monsoon has blown up a town, abridge, and a big convent.
They must have been hiding the plunder very closely, or he'd never
have been reduced to such extremities. We'll have a brush with
the French soon. Yours most eagerly,

"D. O'Shaughnessy."

My first thought, as I ran my eyes over these lines, was to seek
for Power's note, written on the morning we parted. I opened it,
and to my horror found that it only related to my quarrel with Ham-
in ersley. My meeting with Trevyllian had been during Fred's
absence; and when he assured me that all was satisfactorily ar-


ranged and a full explanation tendered — that nothing interfered
with my departure — I utterly forgot that he was only aware of one
half my troubles, and in the haste and bustle of my departure, had
not a moment left me to collect myself and think calmly on the
matter. The two letters lay before me, and as I thought over the
stain upon my character thus unwittingly incurred, — the blast I had
thrown upon my reputation, the wound of my poor friend, who
exposed himself for my sake, — I grew sick at heart, and the bitter
tears of agony burst from my eyes.

That weary night passed slowly over ; the blight of all my pros-
pects, when they seemed fairest and brightest, presented itself to me
in a hundred shapes ; and when, overcome by fatigue and exhaus-
tion, I closed my eyes to sleep, it was only to follow up in my dreams
my waking thoughts. Morning came at length, but its bright sun-
shine and balmy air brought no comfort to me. I absolutely dreaded
to meet my brother officers ; I felt that, in such a position as I
stood, no half or partial explanation could suffice to set me right in
their estimation; and yet, what opportunity had I for aught else?
Irresolute how to act, I sat leaning my head upon my hands, when
I heard a footstep approach. I looked up, and saw before me no
other than my poor friend Sparks, from whom I had been separated
so long. Any other adviser at such a moment would, I acknowledge,
have been more welcome, for the poor fellow knew but little of the
world, and still less of the service. However, one glance convinced
me that his heart at least was true, and I shook his outstretched
hand with delight. In a few words he informed me that Merivale
had secretly commissioned him to come over, in the hope of meeting
me ; that although all the 14th men were persuaded that I was not
to blame in what had occurred, yet that reports so injurious had
gone abroad, so many partial and imperfect statements were circu-
lated, that nothing but my return to head-quarters would avail, and
that I must not lose a moment in having Trevyllian out, with whom
all the misrepresentations had originated.

" This, of course," said Sparks, " is to be a secret ; Merivale, being
our Colonel "

" Of course," said I, " he cannot countenance, much less counsel,
such a proceeding. Now, then, for the road."

" Yes ; but you cannot leave before making your report. Gordon
expects to see you at eleven ; he told me so last night."

" I cannot help it ; I shall not wait ; my mind is made up. My
career here matters but little in comparison with this horrid charge.
I shall be broken, but I shall be avenged."

" Come, come, O'Malley ; you are in our hands now, and you
must be guided. You shall wait: you shall see Gordon. Half an


hour will make your report, and I have relays of horses along the
road, and we shall reach Placentia by nightfall."

There was a tone of firmness in this so unlike anything I ever
looked for in the speaker, and withal so much of foresight and pre-
caution, that I could scarcely credit my senses as he spoke. Having
at length agreed to his proposal, Sparks left me to think over my
return to the Legion, promising that immediately after my inter-
view with the Military Secretary, we should start together for head-



THIS is Major O'Shaughnessy's quarters, sir, said a sergeant, as
he stopped short at the door of a small low house in the midst
of an olive plantation. An Irish wolf-dog — the well-known
companion of the Major — lay stretched across the entrance, watch-
ing with eager and bloodshot eyes the process of cutting up a bul-
lock, which two soldiers in undress jackets were performing within
a few yards of the spot.

Stepping cautiously across the savage-looking sentinel, I entered
the little hall, and, finding no one near, passed into a small room,
the door of which lay half open.

A very palpable odor of cigars and brandy proclaimed, even
without his presence, that this was O'Shaughnessy's sitting-room ;
so I sat myself down upon an old-fashioned sofa to wait patiently
for his return, which I heard would be immediately after the evening
parade. Sparks had become knocked up during our ride, so that
for the last three leagues I was alone ; and, like most men in such
circumstances, pressed on only the harder. Completely worn out
for want of rest, I had scarcely placed myself on the sofa when I
fell sound asleep. When I awoke, all was dark around me, save the
faint flickering of the wood embers on the hearth, and for some
moments I could not remember where I was. By degrees recollec-
tion came, and as I thought over my position and its possible con-
sequences, I was again nearly dropping asleep, when the door
suddenly opened, and a heavy step sounded on the floor.

I lay still and spoke not, as a large figure in a cloak approached
the fireplace, and stooping down, endeavored to light a candle at
the fast expiring fire.

I had little difficulty in detecting the Major even by the half-


light ; a muttered execration upon the candle, given with an energy
that only an Irishman ever bestows upon slight matters, soon satis-
fied me on this head.

" May the devil fly away with the commissary and the chandler
to the forces ! Ah ! you've lit at last."

With these words he stood up, and his eyes falling on me at the
moment, he sprang a yard or two backward, exclaiming, as he did
so, " The blessed Virgin be near us, what's this ?" a most energetic
crossing of himself accompanying his words. My pale and haggard
face, thus suddenly presented, having suggested to the worthy
Major the impression of a supernatural visitor, a hearty burst of
laughter, which I could not resist, was my only answer ; and the
next moment O'Shaughnessy was wrenching my hand in a grasp
like a steel vice.

" Upon my conscience, I thought it was your ghost ; and if you
kept quiet a little longer, I was going to promise you Christian
burial, and as many masses for your soul as my uncle the bishop
could say between this and Easter. How are you, my boy ? — a little
thin and something paler, I think, than when you left us."

Having assured him that fatigue and hunger were in a great
measure the cause of my sickly looks, the Major proceeded to place
before me the remains of his day's dinner, with a sufficiency of
bottles to satisfy a mess-table, keeping up as he went a running fire
of conversation.

" I'm as glad as if the Lord took the senior Major to see you here
this night. With the blessing of Providence we'll shoot Trevyllian
in the morning, and any more of the heavies that like it. You are
an ill-treated man, that's what it is, and Dan O'Shaughnessy says
it. Help yourself, my boy : crusty old port in that bottle as ever
you touched your lips to. Power's getting all right ; it was con-
tract powder, warranted not to kill. Bad luck to the commissaries
once more ! With such ammunition Sir Arthur does right to trust
most to the bayonet. And how is Monsoon, the old rogue ?"

" Gloriously ; living in the midst of wine and olives."

" No fear of him, the old sinner ; but he is a fine fellow, after all.
Charley, you are eating nothing, boy."

" To tell you the truth, I'm far more anxious to talk with you at
this moment than aught else."

" So you shall — the night's young. Meanwhile, I had better not
delay matters. You want to have Trevyllian out — is not that so ?"

" Of course ; you are aware how it happened?"

" I know everything. Go on with your supper, and don't mind
me ; I'll be back in twenty minutes or less."

Without waiting for any reply, he threw his cloak around him,


and strode out of the room. Once more I was alone ; but already
my frame of mind was altered. The cheering tone of my reckless,
gallant countryman had raised my spirits, and I felt animated by
his very manner.

An hour elapsed before the Major returned, and when he did
come, his appearance and gestures bespoke anger and disappoint-
ment. He threw himself hurriedly into a seat, and for some minutes
never spoke.

"The world's beautifully changed, anyhow, since I began it,
O'Malley— when you thanked a man civilly that asked you to fight
him. The devil take the cowards ! say I."

" What has happened ? Tell me, I beseech you !"

" He won't fight," said the Major> blurting out the words as if
they would choke him.

" He'll not fight ! And why ?"

The Major was silent: he seemed confused and embarrassed; he
turned from the fire to the table, from the table to the fire, filled out
a glass of wine, drank it hastily off, and, springing from his chair,
paced the room with long, impatient strides.

" My dear O'Shaughnessy, explain, I beg of you. Does he refuse
to meet me for any reason "

" He does," said the Major, turning on me a look of deep feeling
as he spoke ; " and he does it to ruin you, my boy ; but, as sure as
my name is Dan, he'll fail this time. He was sitting with his friend
Beaufort when I reached his quarters, and received me with all the
ceremonious politeness he well knows how to assume. I told him
in a few words the object of my visit ; upon which Trevyllian, stand-
ing up, referred me to his friend for a reply, and left the room. I
thought that all was right, and sat down to discuss, as I believed,
preliminaries, when the cool puppy, with his back to the fire, care-
lessly lisped out, ' It can't be, Major: your friend is too late.'

" ' Too late ! too late !' said I.

" ' Yes, precisely so. Not up to time ; the affair should have come
off some weeks since. We won't meet him now/

" ' This is really your answer ?'

v ( This is really my answer ; and not only so, but the decision of
our mess.'

"What I said after this he may remember. Devil take me if 1
can ; but I have a vague recollection of saying something that the
aforesaid mess will never petition the Horse Guards to put on their
regimental colors : and here I am "

With these words the Major gulped down a full goblet of wine,
and once more resumed his walk through the room. I shall not
attempt to record the feelings which agitated me during the Major's


recital. In one rapid glance I saw the aim of my vindictive enemy.
My honor, not my life, was the object he sought for ; and ten thou-
sand times more than ever did I pant for the opportunity to confront
him in a deadly combat.

" Charley," said O'Shaughnessy, at length, placing his hand upon
my shoulder, " you must get to bed now — nothing more can be done
to-night in any way. Be assured of one thing, my boy — I'll not
desert you ; and if that assurance can give you a sound sleep, you'll
not need a lullaby."



I AWOKE refreshed on the following morning, and came down
to breakfast with a lighter heart than I had even hoped for ; a
secret feeling that all would go well had somehow taken posses-
sion of me, and I longed for O'Shaughnessy's coming, trusting that
he might be able to confirm my hopes. His servant informed me
that the Major had been absent since daybreak, and left orders that
he was not to be waited for at breakfast.

I was not destined, however, to pass a solitary time in his absence,
for every moment brought some new arrival to visit me, and during
the morning the Colonel and every officer of the regiment not on
actual duty came over. I soon learned that the feeling respecting
Trevyllian's conduct was one of unmixed condemnation among my
corps; but a kind of party spirit, which had subsisted for some
months between the regiment he belonged to and the 14th, had
given a graver character to the affair, and induced many men to
take up his views of the transaction ; and although I heard of none
who attributed my absence to any dislike to a meeting, yet there
were several who conceived that, by my not going at the time, I had
forfeited all claim to satisfaction at his hands.

" Now that Merivale is gone," said an officer to me, as the Colonel
left the room, " I may confess to you that he sees nothing to blame
in your conduct throughout ; and, even had you been aware of how
matters were circumstanced, your duty was too imperative to have
preferred your personal consideration to it !"

" Does any one know where Conyers is?" said Baker.

" The story goes that Conyers can assist us here. Conyers is at
Zarza la Mayor, with the 28th ; but what can he do ?"

" That I'm not able to tell you ! but I know O'Shaughnessy heard


something at parade this morning, and has set off in search of him
on every side."

" Was Conyers ever out with Trevyllian ?"

" Not as a principal, I believe. The report is, however, that he
knows more about him than other people, as Tom certainly does of

"It is rather a new thing for Trevyllian to refuse a meeting.
They say, O'Malley, he has heard of your shooting !" i

" No, no," said another, " he cares very little for any man's pis-
tol. If the story be true, he fires a second or two before his adver-
sary ; at least, it was in that way he killed Carysfort."

" Here comes the great O'Shaughnessy !" cried some one at the
window ; and the next moment the heavy gallop of a horse was
heard along the causeway.

In an instant we all rushed to the door to receive him.

" It's all right, lads," cried he, as he came up : " we have him this

"How? when? why? in what way have you managed?" fell from
a dozen voices, as the Major elbowed his way through the crowd to
the sitting-room.

" In the first place," said O'Shaughnessy, drawing a long breath,
"I have promised secrecy as to the steps of this transaction;
secondly, if I hadn't, it would puzzle me to break it, for I'll be
hanged if I know more than yourselves. Tom Conyers wrote me a
few lines for Trevyllian, and Trevyllian pledges himself to meet our
friend ; and that's all we need know or care for."

" Then you have seen Trevyllian this morning ?"

" No ; Beaufort met me at the village ; but even now it seems this
affair is never to come off. Trevyllian has been sent with a forage
party towards Lesco ; however, that can't be a long absence. But,
for Heaven's sake! let me have some breakfast."

While O'Shaughnessy proceeded to the attack of the viands before
him, the others chatted about in little groups ; but all wore the
pleased and happy looks of men who had rescued their friend from
a menaced danger. As for myself, my heart swelled with gratitude
to the kind fellows around me.

" How has Conyers assisted us at this juncture ?" was my first
question to O'Shaughnessy, when we were once more alone.

"I am not at liberty to speak on that subject, Charley. But be
satisfied the reasons for which Trevyllian meets you are fair and

" I am content."

11 The only thing now to be done is, to have the meeting as soon


" We are all agreed upon that point," said I ; " and the more so
as the matter had better be decided before Sir Arthur's return."

"Quite true; and now, O'Malley, you had better join your people
as soon as may be, and it will put a stop to all talking about the

The advice was good, and I lost no time in complying with it.
»When I joined the regiment that day at mess, it was with a light
heart and a cheerful spirit ; for, come what might of the affair, of
one thing I was certain — my character was now put above any
reach of aspersion, and my reputation beyond attack.



SOME days after coming back to head-quarters, I was returning
from a visit I had been making to a friend at one of the out-
posts, when an officer, whom I knew slightly, overtook me and
informed me that Major O'Shaughnessy had been to my quarters in
search of me, and had sent persons in different directions to find me.

Suspecting the object of the Major's haste, I hurried on at once.
As I rode up to the spot, I found him in the midst of a group of
officers, engaged, to all appearance, in most eager conversation. " Oh,
here he comes !" cried he, as I cantered up. " Come, my boy, doff
the blue frock, as soon as you can, and turn out in your best fitting
black. Everything has been settled for this evening at seven o'clock,
and we have no time to lose."

"I understand you," said I, "and shall not keep you waiting."
So saying, I sprang from my saddle and hastened to my quarters.
As I entered the room, I was followed by O'Shaughnessy, who closed
the door after him as he came in, and having turned the key in it,
sat down beside the table, and, folding his arms, seemed buried in
reflection. As I proceeded with my toilet, he returned no answers
to the numerous questions I put to him, either as to the time of
Trevyllian's return, the place of the meeting, or any other part of
the transaction.

His attention seemed to wander far from all around and about
him; and as he muttered indistinctly to himself, the few words
I could catch bore not in the remotest degree upon the matter be-
fore us.

"I have written a letter or two here, Major," said I, opening my


writing-desk ; " in case anything happens, you will look to a few
things I have mentioned here. Somehow, I could not write to poor
Fred Power ; but you must tell him from me that his rude conduct
towards me was the last thing I spoke of."

"What confounded nonsense you are talking!" said O'Shaugh-
nessy, springing from his seat and crossing the room with tremen-
dous strides ; " croaking away there as if the bullet was in your
thorax. Hang it, man, bear up !"

"But, Major, my dear friend, what the deuce are you thinking of?
The few things I mentioned "

"The devil! you are not going over it all again, are you?" said
he, in a voice of no measured tone.

I now began to feel irritated in turn, and really looked at him for
some seconds in considerable amazement. That he should have
mistaken the directions I was giving him, and attributed them to
any cowardice, was too insulting a thought to bear; and yet how
otherwise was I to understand the very coarse style of his inter-
ruption ?

At length my temper got the victory, and, with a voice of most
measured calmness, I said, "Major O'Shaughnessy, I am grateful,
most deeply grateful, for the part you have acted towards me in
this difficult business ; at the same time, as you now appear to dis-
approve of my conduct and bearing, when I am most firmly deter-
mined to alter nothing, I shall beg to relieve you of the unpleasant
office of my friend."

" Heaven grant that you could do so !" said he, interrupting me,
while his clasped hands and eager look attested the vehemence of
the wish. He paused for a moment; then, springing from his chair,
rushed towards me, and threw his arms around me. "No, my boy,
I can't do it — I can't do it. I have tried to bully myself into insen-
sibility for this evening's work — I have endeavored to be rude to
you, that you might insult me, and steel my heart against what
might happen ; but it won't do, Charley — it won't do."

With these words the big tears rolled down his stern cheeks, and
his voice became thick with emotion.

"But for me, all this need not have happened. I know it — I feel
it. I hurried on this meeting. Your character stood fair and un-
blemished without that — at least- they tell me so now ; and I still

have to assure you "

"Come, my dear, kind friend, don't give way in this fashion.
You have stood manfully by me through every step of the road ;

don't desert me on the threshold of "

"The grave, O'Malley ?"

" I don't think so, Major ; but see, it is now half-past six ! Look


to these pistols for me. Are they likely to object to hair- trig-
gers ?"

A knocking at the door turned off our attention, and the next
moment Baker's voice was heard.

" O'Malley, you'll be close run for time ; the meeting-place is full
three miles from this."

I seized the key and opened the door. At the same instant,
O'Shaughnessy rose and turned towards the window, holding one
of the pistols in his hand.

" Look at that, Baker, — what a sweet tool it is !" said he, in a
voice that actually made me start. Not a trace of his late excite-
ment remained; his usually dry, half-humorous manner had re-
turned, and his droll features were as full of their own easy, devil-
may-care fun as ever.

" Here comes the drag," said Baker. " We can drive nearly all
the way, unless you prefer riding."

" Of course not. Keep your hand steady, Charley, and if you
don't bring him down with that saw-handle, you're not your uncle's

With these words we mounted into the tax-cart, and set off for
the meeting-place.



A SMALL and narrow ravine between two furze-covered dells
led to the open space where the meeting had been arranged
for. As we reached this, therefore, we were obliged to des-
cend from the drag, and proceed the remainder of the way afoot.
We had not gone many yards when a step was heard approaching,
and the next moment Beaufort appeared. His usually easy and
dtyagt air was certainly tinged with somewhat of constraint, and
though his soft voice and half smile were as perfect as ever, a
slightly flurried expression about the lip, and a quick and nervous
motion of his eyebrow, bespoke a heart not completely at ease. He
lifted his foraging-cap most ceremoniously to salute us as we came
up, and casting an anxious look to see if any others were following,
stood quite still.

" I think it right to mention, Major O'Shaughnessy," said he, in
a voice of most dulcet sweetness, "that I am the only friend of
Captain Trevyllian on the ground; and though I have not the


slightest objection to Captain Baker being present, I hope you will
see the propriety of limiting the witnesses to the three persons now

"Upon my conscience, as far as I am concerned, or my friend
either, we are perfectly indifferent if we 'fight before three or three
thousand. In Ireland we rather like a crowd."

" Of course, then, as you see no objection to my proposition, I may
count upon your co-operation in the event of any intrusion ; I mean
that while we upon our sides will not permit any of our friends to
come forward, you will equally exert yourself with yours."

" Here we are — Baker and myself — neither more nor less. We
expect no one, and want no one, so that I humbly conceive all the
preliminaries you are talking of will never be required."

Beaufort tried to smile, and bit his lips, while a small red spot
upon his cheek spoke that some deeper feeling of irritation than the
mere careless manner of the Major could account for still rankled
in his bosom. We now walked on without speaking, except when
occasionally some passing observation of Beaufort upon the fine-
ness of the evening, or the rugged nature of the road, broke the
silence. As we emerged from the little mountain pass into the
open meadow land, the tall and soldier-like figure of Trevyllian was
the first object that presented itself. He was standing beside a little
stone cross that stood above a holy well, and seemed occupied in
deciphering the inscription. He turned at the noise of our ap-
proach, and calmly awaited our coming. His eye glanced quickly
from the features of O'Shaughnessy to those of Baker ; but, seem-
ingly rapidly reassured as he walked forward, his face at once
recovered its usual severity, and its cold, impassive look of stern-

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 37 of 80)