Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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to my face and temples, and the next I was cold and pale as death.
As for her, I cannot guess at what passed in her mind. She curt-
seyed deeply to me, and with a half-smile of scarce recognition
passed by me, and walked towards a window.

"Comme vous Sies aimableV said the lively Portuguese, who com-
prehended little of this dumb show; "here have I been flattering
myself what friends you'd be the very moment you met, and now
you'll not even look at each other."

What was to be done? The situation was every instant growing
more and more embarrassing; nothing but downright effrontery
could get through with it now ; and never did a man's heart more
fail him than did mine at this conjuncture. I made the effort, how-
ever, and stammered out certain unmeaning commonplaces. Inez
replied, and I felt myself conversing with the headlong recklessness
of one marching to a scaffold, a coward's fear at his heart, while he
essayed to seem careless and indifferent.

Anxious to reach what I estimated safe ground, I gladly adverted
to the campaign ; and at last, hurried on by the impulse to cover
my embarrassment, was describing some skirmish with a French
outpost. Without intending, I had succeeding in exciting the Sen-
hora's interest, and she listened with sparkling eye and parted lips
to the description of a sweeping charge in which a square was bro-
ken, and several prisoners carried off. Warming with the eager



452 CHARLES O'MALLEY.

avidity of her attention, I grew myself more excited, when just as
my narrative reached its climax, Miss Dashwood walked gently
towards the bell, rang it, and ordered her carriage. The tone of
perfect nonchalance of the whole proceeding struck me dumb. I
faltered, stammered, hesitated, and was silent. Donna Inez turned
from one to the other of us with a look of unfeigned astonishment,
and I heard her mutter to herself something like a reflection upon
" national eccentricities." Happily, however, her attention was now
exclusively turned towards her friend, and while assisting her to
shawl, and extorting innumerable promises of an early visit, I got a
momentary reprieve ; the carriage drew up also, and as the gravel
flew right and left beneath the horses' feet, the very noise and bustle
relieved me.

"Actios !" then said Inez, as she kissed her for the last time, while
she motioned to me to escort her to her carriage. I advanced —
stopped — made another step forward, and again grew irresolute;
but Miss Dashwood speedily terminated the difficulty ; for, making
me a formal curtsey, she declined my scarce-proffered attention, and
left the room.

As she did so, I perceived that, on passing the table, her eyes fell
upon the paper I had been scribbling over so long, and I thought
that for an instant an expression of ineffable scorn seemed to pass
across her features, save which— and perhaps even in this I was
mistaken — her manner was perfectly calm, easy, and indifferent.

Scarce had the carriage rolled from the door, when the Senhora,
throwing herself upon a chair, clapped her hands in childish ecstasy,
while she fell into a fit of laughing that I thought would never have
an end. " Such a scene !" cried she ; " I would not have lost it for
the world ; what cordiality ! what empressement to form an acquaint-
ance ! I shall never forget it, Monsieur le Chevalier ; your national
customs seem to run sadly in extremes. One would have thought
you deadly enemies ; and poor me ! after a thousand delightful plans
about you both."

As she ran on thus, scarce able to control her mirth at each sen-
tence, I walked the room with impatient strides; now resolving to
hasten after the carriage, stop it, explain in a few words how all had
happened, and then fly from her forever ; then, the remembrance of
her cold, impassive look crossed me, and I thought that one bold
leap into the Tagus might be the shortest and easiest solution to all
my miseries ; perfect abasement, thorough self-contempt, had bro-
ken all my courage, and I could have cried like a child. What I
said, or how I comforted myself after, I know not ; but my first con-
sciousness came to me as I found myself running at the top of my
speed far upon the road towards Lisbon.



THE DINNER. 453



CHAPTER XIII.

THE DINNER.

IT may be easily imagined that I had little inclination to keep
my promise of dining that day with Sir George Dash wood.
However, there was nothing else for it; the die was cast— my
prospects as regarded Lucy were ruined forever. We were not, we
never could be, anything to each other 5 and as for me, the sooner
I braved my altered fortunes the better ; and, after all, why should
I call them altered ? She evidently never had cared for me ; and
even supposing that my fervent declaration of attachment had inter-
ested her, the apparent duplicity and falseness of my late conduct
could only fall the more heavily upon me.

I endeavored to philosophize myself into calmness and indiffer-
ence. One by one, I exhausted every argument for my defence,
which, however ingeniously put forward, brought no comfort to my
own conscience. I pleaded the unerring devotion of my heart — the
uprightness of my motives — and when called on for the proofs —
alas ! except the blue scarf I wore in memory of another, and my
absurd conduct at the villa, I had none. From the current gossip
of Lisbon, down to my own disgraceful folly, all — all was against
me.

Honesty of intention, rectitude of purpose, may be, doubtless they
are, admirable supports to a rightly-constituted mind ; but even then
they must come supported by such claims to probability as make
the injured man feel that he has not lost the sympathy of all his
fellows. Now, I had none of these, had even my temperament, bro-
ken by sickness and harassed by unlucky conjectures, permitted my
appreciating them.

I endeavored to call my wounded pride to my aid, and thought
over the glance of haughty disdain she gave me as she passed on to
her carriage; but even this turned against me, and a humiliating
sense of my own degraded position sank deeply into my heart.
" This impression at least," thought I, " must be effaced. I cannot
permit her to believe- "

" His Excellency is waiting dinner, sir," said a lacquey, intro-
ducing a finely-powdered head gently within the door. I looked at
my watch — it was eight o'clock ; snatching my sabre, and shocked
at my delay, I hastily followed the servant down stairs, and thus at
once cut short my deliberations.

The man must be but little observant, or deeply sunk in his own
reveries, who, arriving half an hour too late for dinner, fails to de-
tect in the faces of the assembled and expectant guests a very pal-



454 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

pable expression of discontent and displeasure. It is truly a moment
of awkwardness, and one in which few are found to manage with
success ; the blushing, hesitating, blundering apology of the absent
man, is scarcely better than the ill-affected surprise of the more
practised offender. The bashfulness of the one is as distasteful as
the cool impertinence of the other ; both are thoroughly out of
place, for we are thinking of neither ; our thoughts are wandering
to cold soups and rechauffed pates, and we neither care for nor esti-
mate the cause, but satisfy our spleen by cursing the offender.

Happily for me, I was clad in a triple insensibility to such feel-
ings, and, with an air of most perfect unconstraint and compo-
sure, walked into a drawing-room where about twenty persons were
busily discussing what peculiar amiability in my character would
compensate for my present conduct.

"At last, O'Malley, at last!" said Sir George. "Why, my dear
boy, how very late you are !"

I muttered something about a long walk — distance from Lisbon,
&c.

"Ah ! that was it. I was right, you see !" said an old lady in a
spangled turban, as she whispered something to her friend beside
her, who appeared excessively shocked at the information conveyed;
while a fat, round-faced little general, after eyeing me steadily
through his glass, expressed a sotto voce wish that I was upon his staff.
I felt my cheek reddening at the moment, and stared around me
like one whose trials were becoming downright insufferable, when
happily dinner was announced, and terminated my embarrassment.

As the party filed past, I perceived that Miss Dashwood was not
amongst them ; and, with a heart relieved for the moment by the
circumstance, and inventing a hundred conjectures to account for
it, I followed with the aides-de-camp and the staff to the dinner-
room.

The temperament is very Irish, I believe, which renders a man so
elastic that from the extreme of depression to the very climax of
high spirits there is but one spring. To this I myself plead guilty,
and thus scarcely was I freed from the embarrassment which a meet-
ing with Lucy Dashwood must have caused, when my heart bounded
with lightness.

When the ladies withdrew, the events of the campaign became the
subject of conversation, and upon these, very much to my astonish-
ment, I found myself consulted as an authority. The Douro, from
some fortunate circumstance, had given me a reputation I never
dreamed of, and I heard my opinions quoted upon topics of which
my standing as an officer and my rank in the service could not
imply a very extended observation. Power was absent on duty;



THE DINNER. 455

and, happily for my supremacy, the company consisted entirely of
generals in the commissariat, or new arrivals from England, all of
whom knew still less than myself.

What will not iced champagne and flattery do ? Singly, they are
strong impulses; combined, their power is irresistible. I now heard
for the first time that our great leader had been elevated to the peer-
age by the title of Lord Wellington, and I sincerely believe — how-
ever now I may smile at the confession — that at the moment I felt
more elation at the circumstance than he did. The glorious sensa-
tion of being in any way, no matter how remotely, linked with the
career of those whose path is a high one, and whose destinies are
cast for great events, thrilled through me ; and, in all the warmth of
my admiration and pride for our great captain, a secret pleasure
stirred within me as I whispered to myself, " And I, too, am a sol-
dier !"

I fear me that very little flattery is sufficient to turn the head of
a young man of eighteen ; and if I yielded to the " pleasant incense,"
let my apology be, that I was not used to it ; and, lastly, let me
avow, if I did get tipsy — I liked the liquor. And why not? It is
the only tipple I know of that leaves no headache the next morning
to punish you for the glories of the past night. It may, like all
other strong potations, induce you to make a fool of yourself when
under its influence ; but, like the nitrous oxide gas, its effects are
passing, and as the pleasure is an ecstasy for the time, and your
constitution none the worse when it is over, I really see no harm
in it.

Then the benefits are manifest ; for while he who gives becomes
never the poorer for his benevolence, the receiver is made rich
indeed. It matters little that some dear, kind friend is ready with
his bitter draught to remedy what he is pleased to call its unwhole-
some sweetness ; you betake yourself with only the more pleasure to
the " blessed elixir," whose fascinations neither the poverty of your
pocket nor the penury of your brain can withstand, and by the
magic of whose spell you are great and gifted. " Vive la bagatelle I"
saith the Frenchman. "Long live Flattery!" say I, come from
what quarter it will ; the only wealth of the poor man, — the only re-
ward of the unknown one ; the arm that supports us in failure, —
the hand that crowns us in success ; the comforter in our affliction,
— the gay companion in our hours of pleasure ; the lullaby of the
infant, — the staff of old age ; the secret treasure we lock up in our
own hearts, and which ever grows greater as we count it over. Let
me not be told that the coin is fictitious, and the gold not genuine ;
its clink is as musical to the ear as though it bore the last impression
of the mint, and I'm not the man to cast an aspersion upon its value.



456 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

This little digression, however seemingly out of place, may serve
to illustrate what it might be difficult to convey in other words,
namely, that if Charles O'Malley became in his own estimation a
very considerable personage that day at dinner, the fault lay not en-
tirely with himself, but with his friends, who told him he was such.
In fact, my good reader, I was the lion of the party, — the man who
saved Laborde, — who charged through a brigade of guns, — who per-
formed feats which newspapers quoted, though he never heard of
them himself. At no time is a man so successful in society as when
his reputation heralds him, and it needs but little conversational elo-
quence to talk well, if you have but a willing and ready auditory.
Of mine, I could certainly not complain ; and as, drinking deeply,
I poured forth a whole tide of campaigning recital, I saw the old
colonels of recruiting districts exchanging looks of wonder and ad-
miration with officers of the ordnance, while Sir George himself,
evidently pleased at my dSut, went back to an early period of our
acquaintance, and related the rescue of his daughter in Galway.

In an instant the whole current of my thoughts was changed. My
first meeting with Lucy, my boyhood's dream of ambition, my
plighted faith, my thoughts of our last parting in Dublin, when, in
a moment of excited madness, I told my tale of love. I remembered
her downcast look, as, her cheek now flushing, now growing pale,
she trembled while I spoke. I thought of her as in the crash of
battle her image flashed across my brain, and made me feel a rush
of chivalrous enthusiasm to win her heart by " doughty deeds."

I forgot all around and about me. My head reeled ; the wine, the
excitement, my long previous illness, all pressed upon me ; and, as
my temples throbbed loudly and painfully, a chaotic rush of discor-
dant, ill-connected ideas flitted across my mind. There seemed some
stir and confusion in the room, but why or wherefore I could not
think, nor could I recall my scattered senses, till Sir George Dash-
wood's voice roused me once again to consciousness.

" We are going to have some coffee, O'Malley. Miss Dashwood
expects us in the drawing-room. You have not seen her yet?"

I know not my reply ; but he continued :

" She lias some letters for you, I think."

I muttered something, and suffered him to pass on ; no sooner had
he done so, however, than I turned towards the door, and rushed
into the street. The cold night air suddenly recalled me to myself,
and I stood for a moment, endeavoring to collect myself; as I did so
a servant stopped, and, saluting me, presented me with a letter. For
a second, a cold chill came over me ; I knew not what fear beset me.
The letter I at last remembered must be that one alluded to by Sir
George, so I took it in silence, and walked on.



THE LETTER. 457



CHAPTER XIV.



THE LETTER.



HURRYING to my quarters, I made a hundred guesses from
whom the letter could have come ; a kind of presentiment
told me that it bore in some measure upon the present crisis
of my life, and I burned with anxiety to read it.

No sooner had I reached the light than all my hopes on this head
vanished ; the envelope bore, the well-known name of my old college
chum, Frank Webber, and none could at the moment have more
completely dispelled all chance of interesting me. I threw it
from me with disappointment, and sat moodily down to brood over
my fate.

At length, however, and almost without knowing it, I drew the
lamp towards me, and broke the seal. The reader being already
acquainted with my amiable friend, there is the less indiscretion in
communicating the contents, which ran thus :

" Trinity College, Dublin, No. 2.
" Oct. 5, 1810.

" My Dear O'Malley : — Nothing but your death and burial,
with or without military honors, can possibly excuse your very dis-
graceful neglect of your old friends here. Nesbitt has never heard
of you, neither has Smith. Ottley swears never to have seen your
handwriting, save on the back of a protested bill. You have totally
forgotten me, and the Dean informs me that you have never conde-
scended a single line to him ; which latter inquiry on my part nearly
cost me a rustication.

" A hundred conjectures to account for your silence — a new feature
in you since you were here — are afloat. Some assert that your sol-
diering has turned your head, and that you are above corresponding
with civilians. Your friends, however, who know you better, and
value your worth, think otherwise ; and having seen a paragraph
about a certain O'Malley being tried by court-martial for stealing a
goose, and maltreating the woman that owned it, ascribe your not
writing to other motives. Do, in any case, relieve our minds ; say,
is it yourself, or only a relative that's mentioned ?

" Herbert came over from London with a long story about your
doing wonderful things — capturing cannon and general officers by
scores — but devil a word of it is extant ; and if you have really
committed these acts, they have 'misused the king's press infernally,'
for neither in the Times nor the Post are you heard of. Answer this
point, and say also if you have got promotion ; for what precise sign
you are algebraically expressed by at this writing may serve Fitz-



458 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

gerald for a fellowship question. And for us, we are jogging along,
semper eadem — that is, worse and worse. Dear Cecil Cavendish, our
gifted friend, slight of limb and soft of voice, has been rusticated for
immersing four bricklayers in that green receptacle of stagnant
water and duckweed, yclept the ' Haha.' Roper, equally unlucky,
has taken to reading for honors, and obtained a medal, I fancy — at
least his friends shy him, and it must be something of that kind.
Belson — poor Belson (fortunately for him he was born in the nine-
teenth, not the sixteenth century, or he'd be most likely ornamenting
a pile of fagots) — ventured upon soma stray excursions into the
Hebrew verbs — the professor himself never having transgressed be-
yond the declensions — and the consequence is, he is in disgrace
among the seniors. And as for me, a heavy charge hangs over my
devoted head, even while I write. The Senior Lecturer, it appears,
has been for some time instituting some very singular researches
into the original state of our goodly college at its founding. Plans
and specifications showing its extent and magnificence have been
continually before the board for the last month ; and in such repute
have been a smashed door-sill or an old arch, that freshmen have
now abandoned conic sections for crowbars, and instead of the
' Principia' have taken up the pickaxe. You know, my dear fellow,
with what enthusiasm I enter into any scheme for the aggrandize-
ment of our Alma Mater, so I need not tell you how ardently I ad-
ventured into the career now opened to me. My time was com-
pletely devoted to the matter ; neither means nor health did I spare,
and in my search for antiquarian lore, I have actually undermined
the old wall of the fellows' garden, and am each morning in expec-
tation of hearing that the big bell near the commons-hall has
descended from its lofty and noisy eminence, and is snugly repos-
ing in the mud. Meanwhile, accident put me in possession of a
most singular and remarkable discovery. Our chambers — I call
them ours for old association sake — are, you may remember, in the
Old Square. Well, I have been fortunate enough, within the very
precincts of my own dwelling, to contribute a very wonderful fact to
the history of the University; alone — unassisted — unaided, I labored
at my discovery. Few can estimate the pleasure I felt — the fame
and reputation I anticipated. I drew up a little memoir for the
board, most respectfully and civilly worded, having for its title the
following :

' Account

Of a remarkable Subterranean Passage lately discovered in the

Old Building of Trinity College, Dublin :

With Observations upon its Extent, Antiquity, and Probable Use.

By F. Webbek, Senior Freshman.'



THE LETTER. 459

" My dear O'Malley, I'll not dwell upon the pride I felt in my new
character of antiquarian ; it is enough to state that my very remark-
able tract was well considered and received, and a commission
appointed to investigate the discovery, consisting of the Vice-Pro-
vost, the Senior Lecturer, old Woodhouse, the Sub-Dean, and a few
more.

" On Tuesday last they came accordingly in full academic cos-
tume, I being habited most accurately in the like manner, and con-
ducting them with all form into my bed-room, where a large screen
concealed from view the entrance to the tunnel alluded to. Assum-
ing a very John Kembleish attitude, I struck this down with one
hand, pointing with the other to the wall, as I exclaimed, ' There !
look there !'

" I need only quote Barret's exclamation to enlighten you upon my
discovery, as drawing in his breath with a strong effort, he burst out :

" * May the devil admire me, but it's a rat hole !'

" I fear, Charley, he's right, and, what's more, that the board will
think so, for this moment a very warm discussion is going on among
that amiable and learned body whether I shall any longer remain an
ornament to the University. In fact, the terror with which they fled
from my chambers, overturning each other in the passage, seemed to
imply that they thought me mad ; and I do believe my voice, look,
and attitude w r ould not have disgraced a blue cotton dressing-gown
and a cell in ' Swifts'. Be this as it may, few men have done more
for college than I have. The sun never stood still for Joshua with
more resolution than I have rested in my career of freshman ; and
if I have contributed little to the fame, I have done much for the
funds of the University ; and when they come to compute the various
sums I have paid in, for fines, penalties, and what they call properly
1 impositions,' if they don't place a portrait of me in the examina-
tion-hall, between Archbishop Usher and Flood, then do I say there
is no gratitude in mankind ; not to mention the impulse I have given
to the various artisans whose business it is to repair lamps, windows,
chimneys, iron railings, and watchmen, all of which I have devoted
myself to with an enthusiasm for political economy well known, and
registered in the College-street police office.

11 After all, Charley, I miss you greatly. Your second in a ballad
is not to be replaced ; besides, Carlisle Bridge has got low ; medical
students and young attorneys affect minstrelsy, and actually frequent
haunts sacred to our muse.

" Dublin is, upon the whole, I think, worse ; though one scarcely
ever gets tired laughing at the small celebrities "

Master Frank here gets indiscreet, so I shall skip.



4G0 CHARLES O'MALLEY.

" And so the Dash woods are going too ; this will make mine a
pitiable condition, for I really did begin to feel tenderly in that
quarter. You may have heard that she refused me ; this, however,
is not correct, though I have little doubt it might have been — had I
asked her.

" Hammersley has, you know, got his dismissal. I wonder how
the poor fellow took it, when Power gave him back his letters and
his picture. How you are to be treated remains to be seen ; in any
case, you certainly stand first favorite."

I laid down the letter at this passage, unable to read further.
Here, then, was the solution of the whole chaos of mystery — here
the full explanation of what had puzzled my aching brain for many
a night long. These were the very letters I had myself delivered
into Hammersley's hands ; this the picture he had trodden to dust
beneath his heel the morning of our meeting. I now felt the reason
of his taunting allusion to my " success," his cutting sarcasm, his
intemperate passion. A flood of light poured at once across all the
dark passages of my history ; and Lucy, too — dare I think of her ?
A rapid thought shot through my brain. What if she had really
cared for me ! What if for me she had rejected another's love !
What if, trusting to my faith — my pledged and sworn faith — she had
given me her heart! Oh! the bitter agony of that thought, to
think that all my hopes were shipwrecked, with the very land in
sight.

I sprang to my feet with some sudden impulse, but as I did so,
the blood rushed madly to my face and temples, which beat vio-



Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 47 of 80)