Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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lently ; a parched and swollen feeling came about my throat ; I en-
deavored to open my collar and undo my stock, but my disabled arm
prevented me. I tried to call my servant, but my utterance was
thick, and my words would not come ; a frightful suspicion crossed
me that my reason was tottering. I made towards the door, but, as
I did so, the objects around me became confused and mingled, my
limbs trembled, and I fell heavily upon the floor ; a pang of dreadful
pain shot through me as I fell— my arm was rebroken. After this,
I knew no more ! All the accumulated excitement of the evening
bore down with one fell swoop upon my brain. Ere day broke, I
was delirious.

I have a vague and indistinct remembrance of hurried and anx-
ious faces around my bed, of whispered words and sorrowful looks ;
but my own thoughts careered over the bold hill of the far west as
I trod them in my boyhood, free and high of heart, or recurred to
the din and crash of the battle-field, with the mad bounding of the
war-horse, and the loud clang of the trumpet ; perhaps the acute
pain of my swollen and suffering arm gave the character to my


mental aberration ; for I have more than once observed among the
wounded in battle that, even when torn and mangled by grape from
a howitzer, their ravings have partaken of a high feature of enthu-
siasm, shouts of triumph, and exclamations of pleasure; even songs
have I heard — but never once the low muttering of despair, or the
half-stifled cry of sorrow and affliction.

Such were the few gleams of consciousness which visited me, and
even to such as these I soon became insensible.

Few like to chronicle, fewer still to read, the sad history of a sick-
bed. Of mine, I know but little. The throbbing pulses of the erring
brain, the wild fancies of lunacy, take no note of time. There is no
past nor future — a dreadful present, full of its hurried and confused
impressions, is all that the mind beholds; and even when some
gleams of returning reason flash upon the mad confusion of the
brain, they come like sunbeams through a cloud, dimmed, darkened,
and perverted.

It is the restless activity of the mind in fever that constitutes its
most painful anguish ; the fast-flitting thoughts that rush ever on-
ward, crowding sensation on sensation, an endless train of exciting
images, without purpose or repose ; or even worse, the straining
effort to pursue some vague and shadowy conception, which evades
us ever as we follow, but which mingles with all around and about
us — haunting us at midnight as in the noontime.

Of this nature was a vision which came constantly before me, till
at length, by its very recurrence, it assumed a kind of real and pal-
pable existence ; and as I watched it, my heart thrilled with the
high ardor of enthusiasm and delight, or sunk into the dark abyss
of sorrow and despair. " The dawning of morning, the daylight
sinking," brought no other image to my aching sight ; and of this
alone, of all the impressions of the period, has my mind retained
any consciousness.

Methought I stood within an old and venerable cathedral, where
the dim yellow light fell with a rich but solemn glow upon the
fretted capitals, or the grotesque tracings of the oaken carvings,
lighting up the faded gildings of the stately monuments, and tinting
the varied hues of time-worn banners. The mellow notes of a deep
organ filled the air, and seemed to attune the sense to all the awe
and reverence of the place, where the very footfall, magnified by its
many echoes, seemed half a profanation. I stood before an altar,
beside me a young and lovely girl, whose bright brown tresses waved
in loose masses upon a neck of snowy whiteness ; her hand, cold and
pale, rested within my own ; we knelt together, not in prayer, but a
feeling of deep reverence stole over my heart, as she repeated some
few half-uttered words after me ; I knew that she was mine. Oh !


the ecstasy of that moment, as, springing to my feet, I darted for-
ward to press her to my heart ! when suddenly, an arm was inter-
posed between us, while a low but solemn voice rung in my ears,
" Stir not, for thou art false and traitorous, thy vow a perjury, and
thy heart a lie I" Slowly and silently the fair form of my loved
Lucy — for it was she — receded from my sight. One look, one last
look of sorrow — it was scarce reproach — fell upon me, and I sank
back upon the cold pavement broken-hearted and forsaken.

This dream came with daybreak, and with the calm repose of
evening ; the still hours of the waking night brought no other image
to my eyes ; and when its sad influence had spread a gloom and des-
olation over my wounded heart, a secret hope crept over me that
again the bright moment of happiness would return, and once
more beside that ancient altar I'd kneel, beside my bride, and call
her mine.

*****. ***

For the rest, my memory retains but little ; the kind looks which
came around my bedside brought but a brief pleasure, for in their
affectionate beaming I could read the gloomy prestige of my fate.
The hurried but cautious step, the whispered sentences, the averted
gaze of those who sorrowed for me, sank far deeper into my heart
than my friends then thought of. Little do they think, who min-
ister to the sick or dying, how each passing word, each flitting
glance is noted, and how the pale and stilly figure, which lies all
but lifeless before them, counts over the hours he has to live by the
smiles or tears around him.

Hours, days, weeks rolled over, and still my fate hung in the
balance ; and while in the wild enthusiasm of my erring faculties I
wandered far in spirit from my bed of suffering and pain, some
well-remembered voice beside me would strike upon my ear, bring-
ing me back, as if by magic, to all the realities of life, and invest-
ing my almost unconscious state with all the hopes and fears about

One by one, at length, these fancies fled from me, and to the de-
lirium of fever succeeded the sad and helpless consciousness of
illness, far, far more depressing; for as the conviction of sense came
back, the sorrowful aspect of a dreary future came with it.

THE VILLA. i 463



THE gentle twilight of an autumnal evening, calm, serene and
mellow, was falling, as I opened my eyes to consciousness of
life and being, and looked around me. I lay in a large and
handsomely-furnished apartment, in which the hand of taste was
as evident in all the decorations as the unsparing employment of
wealth ; the silk draperies of my bed, the inlaid tables, the ormolu
ornaments which glittered upon the chimney, were one by one so
many puzzles to my erring senses, and I opened and shut my eyes
again and again, and essayed by every means in my power to ascer-
tain if they were not the visionary creations of a fevered mind. I
stretched out my hands to feel the objects ; and even while holding
freshly-plucked flowers in my grasp, I could scarce persuade myself
that they were real. A thrill of pain at this instant recalled me to
other thoughts, and I turned my eyes upon my wounded arm, which,
swollen and stiffened, lay motionless beside me. Gradually, my
memory came back, and to my weak faculties some passages of my
former life were presented, not collectedly it is true, nor in any
order, but scattered, isolated scenes. While such thoughts flew past,
my ever rising question to myself was, " Where am I now ?" The
vague feeling which illness leaves upon the mind whispered to me
of kind looks and soft voices ; and I had a dreamy consciousness
about me of being watched and cared for, but wherefore, or by whom,
I knew not.

From a partly-open door, which led into a garden, a mild and
balmy air fanned my temples, and soothed my heated brow ; and as
the light curtain waved to and fro with the breeze, the odor of the
rose and the orange-tree filled the apartment.

There is something in the feeling of weakness which succeeds to
long illness of the most delicious and refined enjoyment. The
spirit, emerging as it were from the thraldom of its grosser prison,
rises high and triumphant above the meaner thoughts and more
petty ambitions of daily life. Purer feelings, more ennobling hopes,
succeed ; and gleams of our childhood, mingling with promises for
the future, make up an ideal existence, in which the low passions and
cares of ordinary life enter not or are forgotten. 'Tis then we learn
to hold converse with ourselves ; 'tis then we ask, how has our
manhood performed the promises of its youth ? or, have our ripened
prospects borne out the pledges of our boyhood ? 'Tis then, in the
Calm justice of our lonely hearts, we learn how our failures are but
another name for our faults, and that what we looked on as the


vicissitudes of fortune are but the fruits of our own vices. Alas !
how short-lived are such intervals ! Like the fitful sunshine in the
wintry sky, they throw one bright and joyous tint over the dark
landscape; for a moment the valley and the mountain-top are
bathed in a ruddy glow ; the leafless tree and the dark moss seem to
feel a touch of spring; but the next instant it is past; the lowering
clouds and dark shadows intervene, and the cold blast, the moaning
wind, and the dreary waste are once more before us.

I endeavored to recall the latest events of my career, but in vain ;
the real and the visionary were inextricably mingled; and the
scenes of my campaign were blended with hopes, and fears, and
doubts, which had no existence save in my dreams. My curiosity
to know where I was grew now my strongest feeling, and I raised
myself with one arm to look around me. In the room all was still
and silent, but nothing seemed to intimate what I sought for. As I
looked, however, the wind blew back the curtain which half con-
cealed the sash-door, and disclosed to me the figure of a man seated
at a table ; his back was towards me, but his broad sombrero hat
and brown mantle bespoke his nation. The light blue curl of smoke
which wreathed gently upward, and the ample display of long-
necked, straw-wrapped flasks, also attested that he was enjoying
himself with the true Peninsular gusto, having probably partaken
of a long siesta.

It was a perfect picture in its way of the indolent luxury of the
South. The rich and perfumed flowers, half closing to the night
air, but sighing forth a perfumed " buonas noches" as they betook
themselves to rest; the slender shadows of the tall shrubs, stretching
motionless across the walks ; the very attitude of the figure him-
self, was in keeping, as, supported by easy-chairs, he lounged at
full length, raising his head ever and anon, as if to watch the wreath
of eddying smoke as it rose upward from his cigar, and melted away
in the distance.

" Yes," thought I, as I looked for some time, " such is the very
type of his nation. Surrounded by every luxury of climate, blessed
with all that earth can offer of its best and fairest, and yet only
using such gifts as mere sensual gratifications." Starting with this
theme, I wove a whole story for the unknown personage, whom, in
my wandering fancy, I began by creating a grandee of Portugal,
invested with rank, honors, and riches, but who, effeminated by the
habits and usages of his country, had become the mere idle volup-
tuary, living a life of easy and inglorious indolence. My further
musings were interrupted at this moment, for the individual to
whom I had been so complimentary in my reverie slowly arose
from his recumbent position, flung his loose mantle carelessly across


his left shoulder, and pushing open the sash-door, entered my
chamber. Directing his steps to a large mirror, he stood for some
minutes contemplating himself with what, from his attitude, I
judged to be no small satisfaction. Though his back was still
towards me, and the dim twilight of the room too uncertain to see
much, yet I could perceive that he was evidently admiring himself
in the glass. Of this fact I had soon the most complete proof, for
as I looked, he slowly raised his broad-leafed Spanish hat with
an air of most imposing pretension, and bowed reverently to him-

" Comesta vostra senoria ?" said he.

The whole gesture and style of this proceeding struck me as so
ridiculous, that, in spite of all my efforts, I could scarcely repress a
laugh. He turned quickly round, and approached the bed. The
deep shadow of the sombrero darkened the upper part of his fea-
tures, but I could distinguish a pair of fierce-looking moustaches
beneath, which curled upward towards his eyes, while a stiff pointed
beard stuck straight from his chin. Fearing lest my rude interrup-
tion had been overheard, I was framing some polite speech in Por-
tuguese, when he opened the dialogue by asking in that language
how I did.

I replied, and was about to ask some questions relative to where
and under whose protection I then was, when my grave-looking
friend, giving a pirouette upon one leg, sent his hat flying into the
air, and cried out in a voice that not even my memory could fail to
recognize, —

" By the rock of Cashel he's cured, he's cured ! — the fever's over.
Oh, Master Charles, dear ! oh, master, darling ! and you ain't mad,
after all?"

" Mad ! no, faith ! but I shrewdly suspect you must be."

" Oh, devil a taste I But spake to me, honey — spake to me,

" Where am I ? Whose house is this ? What do you mean by
that disguise — that beard "

" Whisht ! I'll tell you all, av you have patience. But are you
cured ? — tell me that first. Sure they was going to cut the arm of!
you, till you got out of bed, and with your pistols sent them flying,
one out of the w 7 indow and the other down stairs ; and I myself
bate the little chap with the saw till he couldn't know himself in the

While Mike ran on at this rate, I never took my eyes from him, and

it was all my poor faculties were equal to, to convince myself that

the whole scene was not some vision of a wandering intellect.

Gradually, however, the well-known features recalled me to myself,



and as my doubts gave way at length, I laughed long and heartily
at the masquerade absurdity of his appearance.

Mike, meanwhile, whose face expressed no small mistrust at the
sincerity of my mirth, having uncloaked himself, proceeded to lay
aside his beard and moustaches, saying, as he did so, —

"There now, darlin' ! there now, master dear! Don't be grinnin'
that way ; I'll not be a Portigee any more av you'll be quiet and
listen to reason."

" But, Mike, where am I ? Answer me that question."

" You're at home, dear ; where else would you be ?"

" At home," said I, with a start, as my eye ranged over the vari-
ous articles of luxury and elegance around, so unlike the more sim-
ple and unpretending features of my uncle's house — " at home !"

" Ay, just so ; sure, isn't it the same thing ? It's ould Don
Emanuel that owns it ; and won't it be your own when you're mar-
ried to that lovely crayture herself?"

I started up, and placing my hand upon my throbbing temple,
asked myself if I were really awake, or if some flight of fancy had
not carried me away beyond the bounds of reason and sense. " Go
on, go on !" said I, at length, in a hollow voice, anxious to gather
from his words something like a clue to this mystery. "How did
this happen ?"

"Av ye mean how you came here, faith, it was just this way :
After you got the fever, and bate the doctors, devil a one would go
near you but myself and the Major."

"The Major — Major Monsoon ?"

" No ; Major Power himself. Well, he tould your friends up here
how it was going very hard with you, and that you were like to die,
and the same evening they sent down a beautiful litter, as like a
hearse as two peas, for you, and brought you up here in state ;
devil a thing was wanting but a few people to raise the cry to make
it as fine a funeral as ever I seen ; and sure I set up a whillilew my-
self in the Black Horse square, and the devils only laughed at me.

" Well, you see they put you into a beautiful, elegant bed, and the
young lady herself sat down beside you, between times fanning you
with a big fan, and then drying her eyes, for she was weeping like a
waterfall. 'Don Miguel,' says she to me, — for, ye see, I put your
cloak on by mistake when I was leaving the quarters, — 'Don
Miguel, questa hidalgo e vostros amigo V

" * My most particular friend,' says I ; * God spare him many
years to be so.'

" ' Then take up your quarters here,' said she, ' and don't leave
him ; we'll do everything in our power to make him comfortable. ,

" ' I'm not particular,' says I ; ' the run of the house ' "


"Then this is the Villa Nuova?" said I, with a faint sigh.

" The same," replied Mike ; " and a sweet place it is for eating
and drinking — for wine in bucketfuls, av ye axed for it, — for dancing
and singing every evening, with as pretty craytures as ever I set eyes
upon. Upon my conscience, ii's as good as Galway ; and good man-
ners it is they have. What's more, none of your liberties nor fami-
liarities with strangers, but it's Don Miguel, devil a less. ' Don
Miguel, av it's plazing to you to take a drop of Xeres before your
meat?' — or, 'Would you have a shaugh of a pipe or cigar when
you're done?' That's the way of it."

"And Sir George Dashwood," said I, "has he been here? has he
inquired for me ?"

" Every day, either himself or one of the staff comes galloping up
at luncheon-time to ask after you; and then they have a bit of
tender discourse with the Senhora herself. Oh ! devil a bit need ye
fear them, she's true blue; and it isn't the Major's fault, — upon my
conscience it isn't ; for he does be coming the blarney over her in
beautiful style."

" Does Miss Dashwood ever visit here ?" said I, with a voice fal-
tering and uncertain enough to have awakened suspicion in a more
practised observer.

" Never once ; and that's what I call unnatural behavior, after
you saving her life ; and if she wasn't "

" Be silent, I say."

" Well — well, there ; I won't say any more ; and sure it's time for
me to be putting on my beard again. I'm going to the Casino with
Catrina, and sure it's with real ladies I might be going av it wasn't
for Major Power, that told them I wasn't an officer ; but it's all
right again. I gave them a great history of the Frees, from the
time of Cuila na Toole, that was one of the family, and a cousin of
Moses, I believe ! and they behave well to one that comes from the
ould stock."

" Don Miguel ! Don Miguel !" said a voice from the garden.

" I'm coming, my angel ! I'm coming, my turtle-dove !" said Mike,
arranging his moustache and beard with amazing dexterity. " Ah,
but it would do your heart good av you could take a peep at ua
about twelve o'clock, dancing ' Dirty James' for a bolero, and just
see Miss Catrina, the lady's maid, doing ' Cover the Buckle' as neat
as nature. There, now, there's the lemonade near your hand, and
I'll leave you the lamp, and you may go asleep as soon as you please,
for Miss Inez won't come in to-night to play the guitar, for the
doctor said it might do you harm now."

So saying, and before I could summon presence of mind to ask
another question, Don Miguel wrapped himself in the broad folds of


his Spanish cloak, and strode from the room with the air of an

I slept little that night ; a full tide of memory rushing in upon
me, brought back the hour of my return to Lisbon and the wreck of
all my hopes, which, from the narrative of my servant, I now per-
ceived to be complete. I dare not venture upon recording how
many plans suggested themselves to my troubled spirit, and were in
turn rejected.- To meet Lucy Dash wood — to make a full and can-
did declaration — to acknowledge that flirtation alone with Donna
Inez — a mere passing, boyish flirtation — had given the coloring to
my innocent passion, and that in heart and soul I was hers and hers
only — this was my first resolve ; but, alas ! if I had not courage to
sustain a common interview, to meet her in the careless crowd of
a drawing-room, what could I do under circumstances like these ?
Besides, the matter would be cut very short by her coolly declaring
that she had neither right nor inclination to listen to such a decla-
ration. The recollection of her look as she passed me to her car-
riage came flashing across my brain, and decided this point. No,
no! I'll' not encounter that; however appearances for the moment
had been against me, she should not have treated me thus coldly
and disdainfully. It was quite clear she had never cared for me ;
wounded pride had been her only feeling. As I reasoned, I ended
by satisfying myself that in that quarter all was at an end forever.

Now, then, for dilemma number two, I thought. The Sen bora — ■
my first impulse was one of anything but gratitude to her, by whose
kind, tender care my hours of pain and suffering had been soothed
and alleviated. But for her, I should have been spared all my
present embarrassment — all my shipwrecked fortunes ; but for her, I
should now be the aide-de-camp residing in Sir George Dashwood's
own house, meeting with Lucy every hour of the day, dining
beside her, riding out with her, pressing my suit by every means
and with every advantage of my position ; but for her and her dark
eyes — and, by-the-by, what eyes they are ! — how full of brilliancy,
yet how teeming with an expression of soft and melting sweetness ;
and her mouth, too, how perfectly chiselled those full lips — how
different from the cold, unbending firmness of Miss Dashwood's —
not but I have seen Lucy smile too, and what a sweet smile ! — how
it lighted up her fair cheek, and made her blue eyes darken and
deepen till they looked like heaven's own vault. Yes, there is more
poetry in a blue eye. But still Inez is a very lovely girl, and her
foot never was surpassed ; she is a coquette, too, about that foot and
ankle — I rather like a woman to be so. What a sensation she would
make in England — how she would be the rage ! And then I thought
of home and Galway, and the astonishment of some, the admiration


of others, as I presented her as my wife ; the congratulations of my
friends, the wonder of the men, the tempered envy of the women.
Methought I saw my uncle, as he pressed her in his arms, say,
"Yes, Charley, this. is a prize worth campaigning for."

The stray sounds of a guitar which came from the garden broke
in upon my musings at this moment. It seemed as if a finger was
straying heedlessly across the strings. I started up, and to my sur-
prise perceived it was Inez. Before I had time to collect myself, a
gentle tap at the window aroused me ; it opened softly, while from
an unseen hand a bouquet of fresh flowers was thrown upon my
bed ; before I could collect myself to speak, the sash closed again
and I was alone.



M 1

"IKE'S performances at the masquerade had doubtless been of
the most distinguished character, and demanded a compen-
sating period of repose, for he did not make his appearance
the entire morning. Towards noon, however, the door from the
garden gently opened, and I heard a step upon the stone terrace, and
something which sounded to my ears like the clank of a sabre. I
lifted my head, and saw Fred Power beside me.

I shall spare my readers the recital of my friend, which, however
full and explanatory of past events, contained in reality little more
than Mickey Free had already told me. In fine, he informed me
that our army, by a succession of retreating movements, had deserted
the northern provinces, and now occupied the entrenched lines of
Torres Vedras. Massena, with a powerful force, was still in march,
reinforcements pouring in upon him, and every expectation point-
ing to the probability that he would attempt to storm our position.

" The wise-heads," remarked Power, " talk of our speedy embark-
ation — the sanguine and the hot-brained rave of a great victory, and
the retreat of Massena; but I was up at head-quarters last week
with despatches, and saw Lord Wellington myself."

" Well, what did you make out ? Did he drop any hint of his
own views ?"

" Faith, I can't say he did. He asked me some questions about
the troops just landed — he spoke a little of the commissary depart-
ment — cursed the blankets — said that the green forage was bad for
the artillery horses — sent me an English paper to read about the

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 48 of 80)