Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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" All right !" said Beaufort in a whisper, the tones of which I
overheard as he drew near to his friend. Trevyllian smiled in re-
turn, but did not speak. During the few moments which passed in
conversation between the seconds, I turned from the spot with
Baker, and had scarcely time to address a question to him, when
O'Shaughnessy called out, " Hallo, Baker ! — come here a moment !"
The three seemed now in eager discussion for some minutes, when
Baker walked towards Trevyllian, and saying something, appeared
to wait for his reply. This being obtained, he joined the others,
and the moment afterwards came to where I was standing. " You
are to toss for first shot, O'Malley. O'Shaughnessy has made that
proposition, and the others agree that, with two crack marksmen, it
is perhaps the fairest way. I suppose you have no objection ?"

" Of course, I shall make none. Whatever O'Shaughnessy decides
for me I am ready to abide by."


" Well, then, as to the distance," said Beaufort, loud enough to be
heard by me where I was standing. O'Shaughnessy's reply I could
not catch, but it was evident, from the tone of both parties, that
some difference existed on the point.

" Captain Baker shall decide between us," said Beaufort at length,
and they all walked away to some distance. During all the while I
could perceive that Trevyllian's uneasiness and impatience seemed
extreme ; he looked from the speakers to the little mountain pass,
and strained his eyes in every direction. It was clear that he
dreaded some interruption. At last, unable any longer to control
his feeling, he called out, " Beaufort, I say, what the devil are we
waiting for now ?"

" Nothing at present," said Beaufort, as he came forward with a
dollar in his hand. " Come, Major O'Shaughnessy, you shall call
for your friend."

As he spoke, he pitched the piece of money high into the air, and
watched it as it fell on the soft grass beneath.

" Head ! for a thousand," cried O'Shaughnessy, running over and
stooping down ; " and head it is !"

" You've won the first shot," whispered Baker ; " for Heaven's
sake be cool !"

Beaufort grew deadly pale as he bent over the crown piece, and
seemed scarcely to have courage to look his friend in the face. Not
so Trevyllian ; he pulled off his gloves without the slightest sem-
blance of emotion, buttoned up his well-fitting black frock to the
throat, and, throwing a rapid glance around, seemed only eager to
begin the combat.

" Fifteen paces, and the words ' One — two.'

" Exactly. My cane shall mark the spot."

" Devilish long paces you make them," said O'Shaughnessy, who
did not seem to approve of the distance. " They have some con-
founded advantage in this, depend upon it," said the Major in a
whisper to Baker.

" Are you ready ?" inquired Beaufort.

" Beady — quite ready !"

"Take your ground, then !"

As Trevyllian moved forward to his place, he muttered something
to his friend. I did not hear the first part, but the latter words
which met me were ominous enough, — " for as I intend to shoot
him, 'tis just as well as it is."

Whether this was intended to be overheard and intimidate me I
knew not ; but its effect proved directly opposite. My firm resolu-
tion to hit my antagonist was now confirmed, and no compunctious
visiting unnerved my arm. As we took our places, some .little


delay again took place, the flint of my pistol having fallen ; and
thus we remained full ten or twelve seconds steadily regarding each
other. At length O'Shaughnessy came forward, and, putting my
weapon in my hand, whispered low, " Remember, you have but one

" You are both ready ?" cried Beaufort.


"Then, One— two "

The last word was lost in the report of my pistol, which went off
at the instant. For a second, the flash and smoke obstructed my
view ; but the moment after I saw Trevyllian stretched upon the
ground, with his friend kneeling beside him. My first impulse was
to rush over, for now all feeling of enmity was buried in most
heartfelt anxiety for his fate; but as I was stepping forward,
O'Shaughnessy called out, " Stand fast, boy, he's only wounded !"
and the same moment he rose slowly from the ground, with the
assistance of his friend, and looked with the same wild gaze around
him. Such a look ! I shall never forget it ; there was that intense
expression of searching anxiety, as if he sought to trace the outlines
of some visionary spirit as it receded before him. Quickly reas-
sured, as it seemed by the glance he threw on all sides, his counten-
ance lighted up, not with pleasure, but with a fiendish expression of
revengeful triumph, which even his voice evinced as he called out,
" It's my turn now."

I felt the words in their full force, as I stood silently awaiting my
death wound. The pause was a long one. Twice did he interrupt
his friend, as he was about to give the word, by an expression of
suffering, pressing his hand upon his side, and seeming to writhe
with torture ; and yet this was mere counterfeit.

O'Shaughnessy was now coming forward to interfere and prevent
these interruptions, when Trevyllian called out in a firm tone, " I
am ready !" The words " One — two !" the pistol slowly rose, his
dark eye measured me coolly, steadily ; his lip curled, and just as I
felt that my last moment of life had arrived, the heavy sound of a
horse galloping along the rocky causeway seemed to take off his
attention. His frame trembled, his hand shook, and jerking up-
ward his weapon, the ball passed high above my head.

" You bear me witness I fired in the air," said Trevyllian, while
the large drops of perspiration rolled from his forehead, and his
features worked as if in a fit.

"You saw it, sir; and you, Beaufort, my friend, — you also.
Speak ! Why will you not speak ?"

"Be calm, Trevyllian; be calm, for Heaven's sake! What's the
matter with you ?"


" The affair is then ended," said Baker, " and most happily so.
You are, I hope, not dangerously wounded."

As he spoke, Trevyllian's features grew deadly livid ; his half-open
mouth quivered slightly ; his eyes became fixed, and his arm
dropped heavily beside him, and with a low moan he fell fainting
to the ground.

As we bent over him, I perceived that another person had joined
our party ; he was a short, determined-looking man of about forty f
with black eyes and aquiline features. Before I had time to guess who
it might be, I heard O'Shaughnessy address him as Colonel Conyers.

"He is dying!" said Beaufort, still stooping over his friend, whose
cold hand he grasped within his own. " Poor, poor fellow I"

" He fired in the air," said Baker, as he spoke in reply to a ques-
tion from Conyers.

What he answered I heard not, but Baker rejoined, —

" Yes, I am certain of it. We all saw it."

" Had you not better examine his wounds ?" said Conyers, in a
tone of sarcastic irony I could almost have struck him for. " Is
your friend not hit? Perhaps he is bleeding."

" Yes," said O'Shaughnessy, " let us look to the poor fellow now."
So saying, with Beaufort's aid he unbuttoned his frock, and suc-
ceeded in opening the waistcoat. There was no trace of blood any-
where, and the idea of internal hemorrhage at once occurred to us ;
when Conyers, stooping down, pushed me aside, saying at the same
time, " Your fears for his safety need not distress you much — look
here !" As he spoke, he tore open his shirt, and disclosed to our
almost doubting senses a vest of chain mail armor fitting close next
the skin and completely pistol proof.

I cannot describe the effect this sight produced upon us. Beaufort
sprang to his feet with a bound as he screamed out, rather than
spoke, " No man believes me to have been aware "

" No, no, Beaufort ; your reputation is very far removed from such
a stain," said Conyers.

O'Shaughnessy was perfectly speechless. He looked from one to
the other, as though some unexplained mystery still remained, and
only seemed restored to any sense of consciousness as Baker said,
" I can feel no pulse at his wrist — his heart, too, doe3 not beat."
Conyers placed his hand upon his bosom, then felt along his throat,
lifted up an arm, and, letting it fall heavily upon the ground, he
muttered, " He is dead !"

It was true. No wound had pierced him — the pistol bullet was
found within his clothes. Some tremendous conflict of the spirit
within had snapped the cords of life, and the strong man had per-
ished in his agony.




I HAVE but a vague and most imperfect recollection of the
events which followed this dreadful scene. For some days my
faculties seemed stunned and paralyzed, and my thoughts clung
to the minute detail of the ground — the persons about — the moun-
tain path — and, most . of all, the half-stifled cry that spoke the
broken heart, with a tenacity that verged upon madness.

A court-martial was appointed to inquire into the affair; and
although I have been since told that my deportment was calm, and
my answers were firm and collected, yet I remember nothing of the

The inquiry, through a feeling of delicacy for the friends of him
who was no more, was made as brief and as private as possible.
Beaufort proved the facts which exonerated me from any imputation
in the matter ; and upon the same day the court delivered the de-
cision, " that Lieutenant O'Malley was not guilty of the charges
preferred against him, and that he should be released from arrest
and join his regiment."

Nothing could be more kind and considerate than the conduct of
my brother officers ; a hundred little plans and devices for making
me forget the late unhappy event were suggested and practised ; and
I look back to that melancholy period, marked, as it was, by the
saddest circumstance of my life, as one in which I received more of
truly friendly companionship than even my palmiest days of pros-
perity boasted.

While, therefore, I deeply felt the good part my friends were per-
forming towards me, I was still totally unsuited to join in the happy
current of their daily pleasures and amusements. The gay and
unreflecting character of O'Shaughnessy — the careless merriment of
my brother officers — jarred upon my nerves, and rendered me irri-
table and excited ; and I sought, in lonely rides and unfrequented
walks, the peace of spirit that calm reflection, and a firm purpose
for the future, rarely fail to lead to.

There is in deep sorrow a touch of the prophetic. It is at seasons
when the heart is bowed down with grief, and the spirit wasted with
suffering, that the veil which conceals the future seems to be re-
moved, and a glance, short and fleeting as the lightning flash, is per-
mitted us into the gloomy valley before us.

Misfortunes, too, come not singly — the seared heart is not suffered
to heal from one affliction ere another succeeds it ; and this antici-
pation of the coming evil is perhaps one of the most poignant feat-


ures of grief — the ever watchful apprehension — the ever rising ques-
tion, " What next ?" is a torture that never sleeps.

This was the frame of my mind for several days after I returned
to my duty — a morbid sense of some threatened danger being my
last thought at night and my first on awakening. I had not heard
from home since my arrival in the Peninsula. A thousand vague
fancies haunted me now that some brooding misfortune awaited me.
My poor uncle never left my thoughts. Was he well, — was he
happy ? Was he, as he ever used to be, surrounded by the friends
he loved, — the old familiar faces, around the hospitable hearth his
kindliness had hallowed in my memory as something sacred? Oh !
could I but see his manly smile, or hear his voice ! Could I but feel
his hand upon my head, as he was wont to press it, while words of
comfort fell from his lips, and sunk into my heart !

Such were my thoughts one morning as I sauntered unaccompa-
nied frorn my quarters. I had not gone far, when my attention was
aroused by the noise of a mule-cart, whose jingling bells and clatter-
ing timbers announced its approach by the road I was walking.
Another turn of the way brought it into view ; and I saw from the gay
costume of the driver, as well as a small orange flag which decorated
the conveyance, that it was the mail-cart, with letters from Lisbon.

Full as my mind was with the thoughts of home, I turned hastily
back, and retraced my steps towards the camp. When I reached
the Adjutant-General's quarters, I found a considerable number of
officers assembled ; the report that the post had come was a rumor of
interest to all, and, accordingly, every moment brought fresh arrivals,
pouring in from all sides, and eagerly inquiring " if the bag had
been opened?" The scene of riot, confusion, and excitement, when
that event did take place, exceeded all belief, each man reading his
letter half aloud, as if his private affairs and domestic concerns must
interest his neighbors, amid a volley of exclamations of surprise,
pleasure, or occasionally anger, as the intelligence severally sug-
gested, — the disappointed expectants cursing their idle correspond-
ents, bemoaning their fate about remittances that never arrived, or
drafts never honored ; while here and there some public benefactor,
with an outspread Times or Chronicle, was retailing the narrative of
our own exploits in the Peninsula, or the more novel changes in the
world of politics, since we left England. A cross-fire of news and
London gossip ringing on every side, made up a perfect Babel, most
difficult to form an idea of. The jargon partook of every accent and
intonation the empire boasts of, and, from the sharp precision of the
North Tweeder to the broad Doric of Kerry, every portion, almost
every county, of Great Britain had its representative. Here was a
Scotch Paymaster, in a lugubrious tone, detailing to his friend the


apparently not over-welcome news that Mistress M'Elwain had just
been safely delivered of twins, which, with their mother, were doing
^.s well as possible. Here an eager Irishman, turning over the pages
rather than reading his letter, while he exclaimed to his friend,

" Oh, the devil a rap she's sent me. The old story about runaway
tenants and distress notices — sorrow else tenants seem to do in Ire-
land than run away every half year."

A little apart some sentimental-looking cockney was devouring a
very crossed epistle, which he pressed to his lips whenever any one
looked at him ; while a host of others satisfied themselves by read-
ing in a kind of buzzing undertone, every now and then interrupting
themselves with some broken exclamation as commentary — such as
"Of course she will !"— " Never knew him better!"— "That's the
girl for my money!" — " Fifty per cent. — the devil !" — and so on. At
last I was beginning to weary of the scene, and finding that there
appeared to be nothing for me, was turning to leave the place, when
I saw a group of two or three endeavoring to spell out the address of
a letter.

" That's an Irish post-mark, I'll swear," said one ; " but who can
make anything of the name ? It's devilish like Otaheite — isn't it ?"

" I wish my tailor wrote as illegibly," said another ; " I'd keep up
a most animated correspondence with him."

" Here, O'Shaughnessy, you know something of savage life — spell
us this word here."

" Show it here — what nonsense — it's as plain as the nose on my
face ! — ' Master Charles O'Malley, in foreign parts !' "

A roar of laughter followed this announcement, which, at any
other time, perhaps, I should have joined in, but which now grated
sadly on my ruffled feelings.

" Here, Charley, this is for you," said the Major ; and added in a
whisper — " and upon my conscience, between ourselves, your friend,
whoever he is, has a strong action against his writing-master — devil
such a fist ever I looked at !"

One glance satisfied me as to my correspondent. It was from
Father Rush, my old tutor. I hurried eagerly from the spot. Re-
gaining my quarters, I locked the door, and with a beating heart
broke the seal and began, as well as I was able, to decipher his
letter. The hand was cramped and stiffened with age, and the bold
upright letters were gnarled and twisted like a rustic fence, and de-
manded great patience and much time in unravelling. It ran thus :

The Priory, Lady-day, 1809.

" My Dear Master Charles : — Your uncle's feet are so big and
so uneasy that he can't write, and I am obliged to take up the pen


myself, to tell you how we are doing here since you left us. And,
first of all, the master lost the lawsuit in Dublin, all for the want of
a Galway jury; but they don't go up to town for strong reasons they
had ; and the Curranolick property is gone to Ned M'Manus, and -
may the devil do him good with it ! Peggy Maher left this on Tues-
day ; she was complaining of a weakness; she's gone to consult the
doctors. I'm sorry for poor Peggy.

" Owen M'Neil beat the Slatterys out of Portumna on Saturday,
and Jem, they say, is fractured. I trust it's true, for he never was
good, root nor branch, and we've strong reasons to suspect him for
drawing the river with a net at night. Sir Harry Boyle sprained
his wrist, breaking open his bed-room, that he locked when he was
inside. The Count and the master were laughing all the evening at
him. Matters are going very hard in the country ; the people pay-
ing their rents regularly, and not caring half as much as they used
about the real gentry and the old families.

" We kept your birthday at the Castle in great style, had the
militia band from the town, and all the tenants. Mr. James Daly
danced with your old friend Mary Green, and sang a beautiful song,
and was going to raise the devil, but I interfered ; he burnt down
half the blue drawing-room the last night with his tricks; not that
your uncle cares, — God preserve him to us! — it's little anything like
that would fret him. The Count quarrelled with a young gentle-
man in the course of the evening, but found out that he was only an
attorney from Dublin, so he didn't shoot him, but he was ducked in
the pond by the people, and your uncle says he hopes they have a
true copy of him at home, as they'll never know the original.

" Peter died soon after you went away, but Tim hunts the dogs
just as well ; they had a beautiful run last Wednesday, and the
Lord* sent for him and gave him a five-pound note ; but he says
he'd rather see yourself back again than twice as much. They killed
near the big turnip field, and all went down to see where you leaped
Badger over the sunk fence ; they call it ' Hammersley's Nose' ever
since. Bodkin was at Ballinasloe the last fair, limping about with a
stick ; he's twice as quiet as he used to be, and never beat any one
since that morning.

" Nelly Guire, at the cross-roads, wants to send you four pair of
stockings she knitted for you ; and I have a keg of potteen of Bar-
ney's own making this two months, not knowing how to send it ;
may be Sir Arthur himself would like a taste ; he's an Irishman
himself, and one we're proud of too ! The Maynooth chaps are
flying all about the country, and making us all uncomfortable —

* To excuse Father Rush for any apparent impiety, I must add, that by the "Lord,"
he means " Lord Clanricarde."


God's will be done, but we used to think ourselves good enough !
Your foster sister, Kitty Doolan, had a fine boy ; it's to be called
after you, and your uncle's to give a christening. He bids me tell
you to draw on him when you want money, and that there's £400
ready for you now somewhere in Dublin, I forget the name, and as
he's asleep I don't like asking him. There was a droll devil down
here in the summer that knew you well — a Mr. Webber. The
master treated him like the Lord Lieutenant ; had dinner parties
for him, and gave him Oliver Cromwell to ride over to Meelish.
He is expected again for the cock-shooting, for the master likes
him greatly. I'm done at last, for my paper is finished and the
candle just out ; so with every good wish and every good thought,
remember your old friend,

"Peter Rush.

" P.S. — It's Smart and Sykes, Fleet street, who has the money.
Father O'Shaughnessy, of Ennis, bids me ask if you ever met his
nephew. If you do, make him sing ' Larry M'Hale.' I hear it's a

" How is Mickey Free going on ? There are three decent young
women in the parish he promised to marry, and I suppose he's pur-
suing the same game with the Portuguese. But he was never re-
markable for minding his duties. Tell him I am keeping my eye
on him.

"P. R."

Here concluded this long epistle, and though there were many
parts I could not help smiling at, yet upon the whole, I felt sad and
disappointed. What I had long foreseen and anticipated was gradu-
ally being accomplished — the wreck of an old and honored house — the
fall of a name once the watchword for all that was benevolent and
hospitable in the land. The termination of the lawsuit I knew
must have been a heavy blow to my poor uncle, who, every consid-
eration of money apart, felt in a legal combat all the enthusiasm
and excitement of a personal conflict. With him there was less a
question of to whom the broad acres reverted, so much as whether
that " scoundrel Tom Bassett, the attorney at Athlone, should tri-
umph over us ;" or " M'Manus live in the house as master, where
his father had officiated as butler." It was at this his Irish pride
took offence ; and straitened circumstances and narrowed fortunes
bore little upon him in comparison with this feeling.

I could see, too, that with breaking fortunes, bad health was making
heavy inroads upon him ; and while, with the reckless desperation
of ruin, he still kept open house, I could picture to myself his cheer-


ful eye and handsome smile, but ill concealing the slow but certain
march of a broken heart.

My position was doubly painful ; for my advice, had I been cal-
culated to give it, would have seemed an act of indelicate interfer-
ence from one who was to benefit by his own counsel ; and although
I had been reared and educated as my uncle's heir, I had no title
nor pretension to succeed him other than his kind feelings respect-
ing me. I could therefore only look on in silence, and watch the
painful progress of our downfall, without a power to arrest it.

These were sad thoughts, and came when my heart was already
bowed down with its affliction. That my poor uncle might be spared
the misery which sooner or later seemed inevitable, was now my only
wish ; that he might go down to the grave without the embittering
feelings which a ruined fortune and a fallen house bring home to
the heart, was all my prayer. Let him but close his eyes in the old
wainscoted bedroom, beneath the old roof where his fathers and
grandfathers have done so for centuries. Let the faithful followers
he has known since his childhood stand round his bed, while his
fast-failing sight recognizes each old and well -remembered object,
and the same bell which rang its farewell to the spirit of his ances-
tors, toll for him, the last of his race. As for me, there was the
wide world before me, and a narrow resting-place would suffice for
a soldier's sepulchre.

As the mail-cart was returning the next day to Lisbon, I imme-
diately sat down and replied to the worthy Father's letter, speaking
as encouragingly as I could of my own prospects. I dwelt much
upon what was nearest my heart, and begged of the good priest to
watch over my uncle's health, to cheer his spirits, and support his
courage ; and that I trusted the day was not far distant when I
should be once more amongst them, with many a story of fray and
battle-field to enliven their firesides. Pressing him to write fre-
quently to me, I closed my hurried letter ; and, having despatched
it, sat sorrowfully down to muse over my fortunes.




THE events of the last few days had impressed me with the
weight of years. The awful circumstances of that evening
lay heavily at my heart, and though guiltless of Trevyllian's
blood, the reproach that conscience ever carries when one has been
involved in a death-scene never left my thoughts. For some time
previously I had been depressed and dispirited, and the awful shock
I had sustained broke my nerve and unmanned me greatly.

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 38 of 80)