Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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of black velvet and a silk glove were thrown upon a chair. It was
clear the desertion had been most recent ; and everything indicated
that no time had been given to the fugitives to prepare for flight.
What a sad picture of war was there 1 To think of those whose
home, endeared to them by all the refinements of cultivated life,
and all the associations of years of happiness, sent out upon the wide
world — wanderers and houseless ; while their hearth, sacred by every
tie that binds us to our kindred, was to be desecrated by the ruth-
less and savage hands of a ruffian soldiery. I thought of them.
Perhaps at that very hour their thoughts were clinging round the
old walls; remembering each well-beloved spot, while they took
their lonely path through mountain and through valley ; and I felt
ashamed and abashed at my own intrusion there. While thus my
reverie ran on, I had not perceived that Mike, whose views were
very practical upon all occasions, had lighted a most cheerful fire
upon the hearth, and disposing a large sofa before it, had carefully
closed the curtains, and was, in fact, making himself and his master
as much at home as though he had spent his life there.


"Isn't it a beautiful place, Misther Charles? and this little
room, doesn't it remind you of the blue bedroom in O'Malley Cas-
tle, barrin' the illigant view out upon the Shannon and the moun-
tain of Scariff?"

Nothing short of Mike's patriotism could forgive such a compar-
ison ; but, however, I did not contradict him, as he ran on :

" Faith, I knew well there was luck in store for us this evening ;
and ye see the handful of prayers I threw away outside wasn't lost.
Jose's making the beasts comfortable in the stable, and I'm thinking
we'll none of us complain of our quarters. But you're not eating
your supper ; and the beautiful hare pie that I stole this morning,
won't you taste it ? Well, a glass of Malaga ? — not a glass of Malaga?
Oh, mother of Moses ! what's this for ?"

Unfortunately, the fever produced by the long and toilsome jour-
ney had gained considerably on me, and except copious libations of
cold water, I could touch nothing ; my arm, too, was much more
painful than before. Mike soon perceived that rest and quietness
were most important to me at the moment, and having with diffi-
culty been prevailed upon to swallow a few hurried mouthfuls, the
poor fellow disposed cushions around me in every imaginable form
for comfort ; and then, placing my wounded limb in its easiest
position, he extinguished the lamp, and sat silently down beside the
hearth, without speaking another word.

Fatigue and exhaustion, more powerful than pain, soon produced
their effects upon me, and I fell asleep, but it was no refreshing
slumber which visited my heavy eyelids ; the slow fever of suffer-
ing had been hour by hour increasing, and my dreams presented
nothing but scenes of agony and torture. Now I thought that, un-
horsed and wounded, I was trampled beneath the clanging hoofs of
charging cavalry ; now, I felt the sharp steel piercing my flesh, and
heard the loud cry of a victorious enemy ; then methought I was
stretched upon a litter, covered by gore and mangled by a grape-
shot. I thought I saw my brother officers approach and look sadly
upon me, while one, whose face I could not remember, muttered,
" I should not have known him." The dreadful hospital of Tala-
vera, and all its scenes of agony, came up before me, and I thought
that I lay waiting my turn for amputation. This last impression,
more horrible to me than all the rest, made me spring from my
couch, and I awoke ; the cold drops of perspiration stood upon my
brow, my mouth was parched and open, and my temples throbbed
so, that I could count their beatings; for some seconds I could not
throw off the frightful illusion I labored under, and it was only by
degrees I recovered consciousness, and remembered where I was.
Before me, and on one side of the bright wood fire, sat Mike, who,


apparently deep in thought, gazed fixedly at the blaze ; the start I
gave on awaking had not attracted his attention, and I could see, as
the flickering glare fell upon his features, that he was pale and
ghastly, while his eyes were riveted upon the fire ; his lips moved
rapidly, as if in prayer, and his locked hands were pressed firmly
upon his bosom ; his voice, at first inaudible, I could gradually dis-
tinguish, and at length heard the following muttered sentences :

" Oh, mother of mercy ! so far from his home and his people, and
so young, to die in a strange land — there it is again," Here he ap-
peared listening to some sounds without. " Oh, wirra, wirra, I know
it well ! — the winding-sheet, the winding-sheet ! there it is, my own
eyes saw it I" The tears coursed fast down his pale cheeks, and his
voice grew almost inaudible, as, rocking to and fro, for some time he
seemed in a very stupor of grief; when at last, in a faint, subdued
tone, he broke into one of those sad and plaintive airs of his coun-
try, which only need the moment of depression to make them wring
the very heart in agony.

His song was that to which Moore has appended the beautiful
lines, " Come, rest on this bosom." The following imperfect trans-
lation may serve to convey some impression of the words, which in
Mike's version were Irish :

" The day was declining,

The dark night drew near,
And the old lord grew sadder,

And paler with fear :

' Come listen, my daughter,

Come nearer — oh ! near.

Is't the wind or the water

That sighs in my ear ?'

" Not the wind nor the water

Now stirr'd the night air ;
But a warning far sadder —

The banshee was there!
Now rising, now swelling,

On the night wind it bore,
One cadence, still telling, —

' I want thee, Rossmore !'

" And then fast came his breath,

And more fix'd grew his eye ;
And the shadow of death

Told his last hour was nigh.
Ere the dawn of that morning

The struggle was o'er,
For when thrice came the warning,

A corpse was Rossmore !"

The plaintive air to which these words were sung fell heavily
upon my heart, and it needed but the low and nervous condition I


was in to make me feel their application to myself. But so it is ;
the very superstition your reason rejects and your sense spurns has,
from old association, from habit, and from mere nationality too, a
hold upon your hopes and fears, that demands more firmness and
courage than a sick-bed possesses to combat with success; and I now
listened with an eager ear to mark if the banshee cried, rather than
sought to fortify myself by any recurrence to my own convictions.
Meanwhile, Mike's attitude became one of listening attention. Not a
finger moved ; he scarce seemed even to breathe ; the state of suspense
I suffered from was maddening ; and at last, unable to bear it longer,
I was about to speak, when suddenly, from the floor beneath us, one
long-sustained note swelled upon the air and died away again, and
immediately after, to the cheerful sounds of a guitar, we heard the
husky voice of our Portuguese guide, indulging himself in a love-

Ashamed of myself for my fears, I kept silent ; but Mike, who felt
only one sensation — that of unmixed satisfaction at his mistake —
rubbed his hands pleasantly, filled up his glass, drank it, and refilled ;
while with an accent of reassured courage he briefly remarked :

" Well, Mr. Jose, if that be singing, upon my conscience I wonder
what crying is like !"

I could not forbear a laugh at the criticism, and in a moment the
poor fellow, who up to that moment believed me sleeping, was be-
side me. I saw from his manner that he dreaded lest I had been
listening to his melancholy song, and had overheard any of his
gloomy forebodings; and as he cheered my spirits and spoke encour-
agingly, I could remark that he had made more than usual endeavors
to appear light-hearted and at ease. Determined, however, not to
let him escape so easily, I questioned him about his belief in ghosts
and spirits, at which he endeavored, as he ever did when the subject
was an unpleasant one, to avoid the discussion; but rather perceiv-
ing that I indulged in no irreverent disrespect of these matters, he
grew gradually more open, treating the affair with that strange mix-
ture of credulity and mockery which formed his estimate of most
things — now seeming to suppose that any palpable rejection of them
might entail sad consequences in future, now half ashamed to go the
whole length in his credulity.

" And so, Mike, you never saw a ghost yourself? — that you ac-
knowledge ?"

" No, sir, I never saw a real ghost: but sure there's many a thing
I never saw ; but Mrs. Moore, the housekeeper, seen two. And your
grandfather that's gone — the Lord be good to him ! — used to walk
once a year in Lurra Abbey ; and sure you know the story about
Tim Clinchy, that was seen every Saturday night coming out of the


cellar with a candle and a mug of wine, and a pipe in his mouth, till
Mr. Barry laid him. It cost his honor your uncle ten pounds in
masses to make him easy, not to speak of a new lock and two bolts
on the cellar door."

" I have heard all about that; but as you never yourself saw any
of these things "

" But sure my father did, and that's the same, any day. My father
seen the greatest ghost that ever was seen in the county Cork, and
spent the evening with him, that's more."

" Spent the evening with him ! — what do you mean ?"

" Just that, devil a more nor less. If your honor wasn't so weak,
and the story wasn't a trying one, I'd like to tell it to you."

" Out with it, by all means, Mike ; I am not disposed to sleep ; and
now that we are upon these matters, my curiosity is strongly excited
by your worthy father's experience."

Thus encouraged, having trimmed the fire, and re-seated himself
beside the blaze, Mike began ; but as a ghost is no every-day person-
age in our history, I must give him a chapter to himself.



WELL, I believe your honor heard me tell long ago how my
father left the army, and the way that he took to another
line of life that was more to his liking. And so it was, he
was happy as the day was long ; he drove a hearse for Mr. Callaghan
of Cork, for many years, and a pleasant place it was ; for, ye see, my
father was a 'cute man, and knew something of the world ; and
though he was a droll devil, and could sing a funny song when he
was among the boys, no sooner had he the big black cloak on him
and the weepers, and he seated on the high box with the six long-
tailed blacks before him, you'd really think it was his own mother
was inside, he looked so melancholy and miserable. The sexton
and gravedigger was nothing to my father; and he had a look about
his eye — to be sure there was a reason for it — that you'd think he
was up all night crying ; though it's little indulgence he took that

" Well, of all Mr. Callaghan's men, there was none so great a
favorite as my father. The neighbors were all fond of him.

" ' A kind crayture, every inch of him !' the women would say.
'Did ye see his face at Mrs. Delany's funeral?'


" ' True for you/ another would remark ; ' he mistook the road
with grief, and stopped at a shebeen house instead of Kilmurry

" I need say no more, only one thing : that it was principally
among the farmers and the country people my father was liked so
much. The great people and the quality — I ax your pardon ; but
sure isn't it true, Misther Charles ? — they don't fret so much after
their fathers and brothers, and they care little who's driving them,
whether it was a decent, respectable man like my father, or a chap
with a grin on him like a rat-trap. And so it happened that my
father used to travel half the county, going here and there wherever
there was trade stirring; and, faix, a man didn't think himself
rightly buried if my father wasn't there ; for, ye see, he knew all
about it ; he could tell to a quart of spirits what would be wanting
for a wake ; he knew all the good criers for miles round ; and I've
heard it was a beautiful sight to see him standing on a hill, arrang-
ing the procession, as they walked into the churchyard, and giving
the word like a captain.

"'Come on, the stifF— now the friends of the stiff— now the

" That's what he used to say, and troth he was always repeating it
when he was a little gone in drink — for that's the time his spirits
would rise — and he'd think he was burying half Munster.

"And sure it was a rale pleasure and a pride to be buried in them
times ; for av it was only a small farmer with a potato garden, my
father would come down with the black cloak on him, and three
yards of crape behind his hat, and set all the children crying and
yelling for half a mile round ; and then the way he'd walk before
them with a spade on his shoulder, and sticking it down in the
ground, clap his hat on the top of it, to make it look like a chief
mourner. It was a beautiful sight !"

" But, Mike, if you indulge much longer in this flattering recol-
lection of your father, I'm afraid we shall lose sight of the ghost en-

" No fear in life, your honor ; I'm coming to him now. Well,
it was this way it happened : In the winter of the great frost, about
forty -two or forty -three years ago, the ould priest of Tulloughmur-
ray took ill and died ; he was sixty years priest of the parish, and
mightily beloved by all the people ; and good reason for it — a plea-
santer man, and a more social crayture, never lived. 'Twas himself
was the life of the whole country-side. A wedding or a christening
wasn't lucky av he wasn't there, sitting at the top of the table, with
maybe his arm round the bride herself, or the baby on his lap, a
smoking jug of punch before him, and as much kindness in his eye


as would make the fortunes of twenty hypocrites if they had it
among them. And then he was so good to the poor; the Priory was
always full of ould men and ould women sitting around the big fire
in the kitchen, that the cook could hardly get near it. There they
were, eating their meals and burning their shins, till they were
speckled like a trout's back, and grumbling all the time; but
Father Dwyer liked them, and he would have them.

" ' Where have they to go,' he'd say, ' av it wasn't to me? Give
Molly Kinshela a lock of that bacon. Tim, it's a could morning ;
will ye have a taste of the dew V

" Ah ! that's the way he'd spake to them ; but sure goodness is no
warrant for living any more than devilment, and so he got could in
his feet at a station, and he rode home in the heavy snow without
his big coat — for he gave it away to a blind man on the road. In
three days he was dead.

"I see you're getting impatient, so I'll not stop to say what
grief was in the parish when it was known ; but, troth, there never
was seen the like before — not a crayture would lift a spade for two
days, and there was more whisky sold in that time than at the old
spring fair. Well, on the third day the funeral set out, and never
was the equal of it in them parts. First, there was my father — he
came special from Cork with the six horses all in new black, and
plumes like little poplar trees ; then came Father Dwyer, followed
by the two coadjutors in beautiful surplices, walking bare-headed,
with the little boys of the Priory school, two and two."

" Well, Mike, I'm sure it was very fine ; but, for Heaven's sake,
spare me all these descriptions,. and get on to the ghost."

" 'Faith, your honor's in a great hurry for the ghost — maybe ye
won't like him when ye have him ; but I'll go faster, av you plase.
Well, Father Dwyer, ye see, was born at Aghan-lish, of an ould
family, and he left it in his will that he was to be buried in the
family vault ; and as Aghan-lish was eighteen miles up the moun-
tains, it was getting late when they drew near. By that time the
great procession was all broke up and gone home. The coadjutors
stopped to dine at the ' Blue Bellows,' at the cross-roads. The little
boys took to pelting snowballs, there was a fight or two on the way
besides, and, in fact, except an ould deaf fellow that my father took
to mind the horses, he was quite alone. Not that he minded that
same; for when the crowd was gone, my father began to sing a droll
song, and tould the deaf chap that it was a lamentation. At last
they came in sight of Aghan-lish. It was a lonesome, melancholy-
looking place, with nothing near it except two or three ould fir-
trees, and a small slated house with one window, where the sexton
lived, and even that was shut up, and had a padlock on the door.


Well, my father was not over-much pleased with the look of mat-
ters, but as he was never hard put to what to do, he managed to get
the coffin into the vestry; and then, when he unharnessed the
horses, he sent the deaf fellow with them down to the village, to
tell the priest that the corpse was there, and to come up early in the
morning and perform mass. The next thing to do was to make him-
self comfortable for the night ; and then he made a roaring fire on
the ould hearth, — for there was plenty of bog-fir there, — closed the
windows with the black cloaks, and, wrapping two round himself, he
sat down to cook a little supper he brought with him in case of need.

"Well, you may think it was melancholy enough to pass the
night up there alone, with a corpse in an old ruined church in the
middle of the mountains, the wind howling about on every side and
the snowdrift beating against the walls ; but as the fire burned
brightly, and the little plate of rashers and eggs smoked temptingly
before him, my father mixed a jug of the strongest punch, and sat
down as happy as a king. As long as he was eating away, he had
no time to be thinking of anything else ; but when all was done, and
he looked about him, he began to feel very low and melancholy in
his heart. There was the great black coffin on three chairs in one
corner ; and then the mourning cloaks that he had stuck up against
the windows moved backward and forward like living things ; and,
outside, the wild cry of the plover as he flew past, and the night-
owl sitting in a nook of the old church. ' I wish it was morning,
anyhow,' said my father, ' for this is a lonesome place to be in ; and,
faix, he'll be a cunning fellow that catches me passing the night
this way again.' Now, there was one thing distressed him most
of all, — my father used always to make fun of the ghosts and
sperits the neighbors would tell of, pretending there was no such
thing ; and now the thought came to him, ' Maybe they'll revenge
themselves on me to-night when they have me up here alone ;' and
with that he made a jug stronger than the first, and tried to remem-
ber a few prayers in case of need, but somehow his mind was not
too clear, and he said afterwards he was always mixing up ould
songs and toasts with the prayers, and when he thought he had just
got hold of a beautiful psalm, it would turn out to be ' Tatter Jack
Welsh,' or ' Limping James,' or something like that. The storm,
meanwhile, was rising every moment, and parts of the old abbey
were falling, as the wind shook the ruin, and my father's spirits,
notwithstanding the punch, were lower than ever.

" ' I made it too weak,' said he, as he set to work on a new jorum;
and, troth, this time that was not the fault of it, for the first sup
nearly choked him.

" 'Ah !' said he now, ' I knew what it was ; this is like the thing ;


and, Mr. Free, you are beginning to feel easy and comfortable. Pass
the jug. Your very good health and song. I'm a little hoarse, it's
true, but if the company will excuse '

"And then he began knocking on the table with his knuckles as
if there was a room full of people asking him to sing. In short, my
father was drunk as a fiddler ; the last brew finished him ; and he
began roaring away all kinds of droll songs, and telling all manner
of stories, as if he was at a great party.

" While he was capering this way about the room, he knocked
down his hat, and with it a pack of cards he put into it before leav-
ing home, for he was mighty fond of a game.

" ' Will ye take a hand, Mr. Free ?' said he, as he gathered them
up and sat down beside the fire.

" ' I'm convanient,' said he, and began dealing out as if there was
a partner forninst him.

"When my father used to get this far in the story, he became very
confused. He says that once or twice he mistook the liquor, and
took a pull at the bottle of potteen instead of the punch ; and the
last thing he remembers was asking poor Father Dwyer if he would
draw near to the fire, and not be lying there near the door.

" With that he slipped down on the ground and fell fast asleep.
How long he lay that way he could never tell. When he awoke
and looked up, his hair nearly stood on an end with fright. What
do you think he seen forninst him, sitting at the other side of the
fire, but Father Dwyer himself. There he was, divil a lie in it,
wrapped up in one of the mourning cloaks, trying to warm his hands
at the fire.

" 'Salve hoc nomine patriP said my father, crossing himself; ' av it's
your ghost, God presarve me !'

" ' Good evening t'ye, Mr. Free,' said the ghost; 'and av I might
be bould, what's in the jug V — for ye see my father had it under his
arm fast, and never let it go when he was asleep.

" 'Pater nosier qui es in — potteen, sir,' said my father ; for the ghost
didn't look pleased at his talking Latin.

" ' Ye might have had the politeness to ax if one had a mouth on
him, then,' says the ghost.

" ' Sure, I didn't think the like of you would taste sperits.'

" ' Try me,' says the ghost ; and with that he filled out a glass and
tossed it off like a Christian.

" ' Beamish !' says the ghost, smacking his lips.

" 'The same,' says my father; 'and sure what's happened you has
not spoiled your taste.'

" ' If you'd mix a little hot,' says the ghost, ' I'm thinking it would
be better •; the night is mighty sevare.'


• "'Anything that your reverance plases,' says my father; as he
began to blow up a good fire to boil the water.

" 'And what news is stirring ?' says the ghost.

" ' Devil a word, your reverance : your own funeral was the only
thing doing last week ; times is bad ; except the measles, there's
nothing in our parts.'

" 'And we're quite dead hereabouts, too,' says the ghost.

" ' There's some of us so, anyhow,' says my father, with a sly look.
' Taste that, your reverance.'

" ' Pleasant and refreshing,' says the ghost. 'And now, Mr. Free,
what do you say to a little spoilt five, or beggar my neighbor ?'

"'What will we play for?' says my father; for a thought just
struck him — ' maybe it's some trick of the devil to catch my soul.'

" 'A pint of Beamish,' says the ghost.

" ' Done !' says my father ; \ cut for deal ; the ace of clubs ; you
have it.'

" Now, the whole time the ghost was dealing the cards my father
never took his eyes off of him, for he wasn't quite asy in his mind
at all ; but when he saw him turn up the trump, and take a strong
drink afterwards, he got more at ease, and began the game.

" How long they played it was never rightly known ; but one
thing is sure, they drank a cruel deal of sperits ; three quart bot-
tles my father brought with him were all finished, and by that time
his brain was so confused with the liquor, and all he lost — for
somehow he never won a game — that he was getting very quarrel-

" • You have your own luck to it,' says he, at last.

" ' True for you ; and, besides, we play a great deal where I come

" ' I've heard so,' says my father. ' I lead the knave, sir; spades!
Bad cess to it, lost again !'

"Now it was really very distressing; for by this time, though
they only began for a pint of Beamish, my father went on betting
till he lost the hearse and all the six horses, mourning cloaks,
plumes, and everything.

" ' Are you tired, Mr. Free? Maybe you'd like to stop?'

" ' Stop ! faith it's a nice time to stop ; of course not.'

" ' Well, what will ye play for now V

" The way he said these words brought a trembling all over my
father, and his blood curdled in his heart. ' Oh, murther !' says he
to himself, ' it's my sowl he is wanting all the time.'

" ■ I've mighty little left/ says my father, looking at him keenly,
while he kept shuffling the cards quick as lightning.

" ' Mighty little ; no matter, we'll give you plenty of time to pay ;

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 45 of 80)