Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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O. P. riots, said the harriers would throw off about six o'clock, and
that he hoped to see me at dinner."

I could not restrain a laugh at Power's catalogue of his lordship's
topics. u So," said I, " he at least does not take any gloomy views
of our present situation."

" Who can tell what he thinks ? He's ready to fight, if fighting
will do anything — and to retreat, if that be better. But that he'll
sleep an hour less, or drink a glass of claret more — come what will
of it — I'll believe from no man living.

" We've lost one gallant thing in any case, Charley," resumed
Power. " Busaco was, I'm told, a glorious day, and our people were
in the heat of it. So that if we do leave the Peninsula now, that
will be a confounded chagrin. Not for you, my poor fellow, for you
could not stir ; but I was so cursed foolish to take the staff appoint-
ment : thus one folly ever entails another."

There was a tone of bitterness in which these words were uttered
that left no doubt upon my mind some arrive penste remained lurk-
ing behind them. My eyes met his — he bit his lip, colored deeply,
rose from the chair, and walked towards the window.

The chance allusion of my man Mike flashed upon me at the mo-
ment, and I dared not trust myself to break silence. I now thought
I could trace in my friend's manner less of that gay and careless
buoyancy which ever marked him. There was a tone, it seemed, of
more grave and sombre character, and even when he jested, the smile
his features bore was not his usual frank and happy one, and speed-
ily gave way to an expression I had never before remarked. Our
silence, which had now lasted for some minutes, was becoming em-
barrassing — that strange consciousness that, to a certain extent, we
were reading each other's thoughts, made us both cautious of break-
ing it; and when, at length, turning abruptly round, he asked,
" When I hoped to be up and about again ?" I felt my heart relieved
from what I knew not well what load of doubt and difficulty that
oppressed it. We chatted on for some little time longer, the news
of Lisbon and the daily gossip finishing our topics.

" Plenty of gayety, Charley ! dinners and balls to no end ! so get
well, my boy, and make the most of it."

" Yes," I replied, " I'll do my best ; but be assured the first use
I'll make of health will be to join the regiment. I am heartily
ashamed of myself for all I have lost already — though not altogether
my fault."

"And will you really join at once?" said Power, with a look of
eager anxiety I could not possibly account for.

" Of course I will ; what have I, what can I have, to detain me


What reply he was about to make at this moment I know not, but
the door opened, and Mike announced Sir George Dashwood.

" Gently ! my worthy man, not so loud, if you please !" said the
mild voice of the General, as he stepped noiselessly across the room,
evidently shocked at the indiscreet tone of my follower. "Ah,
Power, you here ! and our poor friend, how is he ?"

"Able to answer for himself at last, Sir George," said I, grasping
his proffered hand.

" My poor lad ! you've had a long bout of it ; but you've saved
your arm, and that's well worth the lost time. Well, I've come to
bring you good news ; there's been a very sharp cavalry affair, and
our fellows have been the conquerors."

" There again, Power — listen to that ! We are losing everything!"

"Not so, not so, my boy," said Sir George, smiling blandly, but
archly. "There are conquests to be won here as well as there,
and, in your present state, I rather think you better fitted for such
as these."

Power's brow grew clouded ; he essayed a smile, but it failed, and
he rose and hurried towards the window.

As for me, my confusion must have led to a very erroneous im-
pression of my real feelings, and I perceived Sir George anxious to
turn the channel of the conversation.

" You see but little of your host, O'Malley," he resumed ; " he is
ever from home ; but I believe nothing could be kinder than his
arrangements for you. You are aware that he kidnapped you from
us? I had sent Forbes over to bring you to us, your room was pre-
pared, everything in readiness, when we met your man Mike, setting
forth upon a mule, who told us you had just taken your departure
for the villa. We both had a claim upon you, and, I believe, pretty
much on the same score. By the bye, you have not seen Lucy since
your arrival. I never knew it till yesterday, when I asked if she did
not find you altered,"

I blundered out some absurd reply, blushed, corrected myself, and
got confused. Sir George, attributing this, doubtless, to my weak
state, rose soon after, and, taking Power along with him, remarked,
as he left the room,

" We are too much for him yet, I see that ; so we'll leave him
quiet some time longer."

Thanking him in my heart for his true appreciation of my state,
I sank back upon my pillow to think over all I had heard and seen.
" Well, Mister Charles," said Mike, as he came forward with a
smile, "I suppose you heard the news? The 14th bate the French
down at Merca there, and took seventy prisoners ; but, sure, it's
little good it'll do, after all."


"And why not, Mike ?"

"Muska! isn't Boney coming himself? He's bringing all the
Roossians down with him, and going to destroy us entirely."

" Not at all, man ; you mistake. He's nothing to do with Eussia,
and has quite enough on his hands at this moment."

" God grant it was truth you were talking ! But, you see, I read
it myself in the papers, — or Sergeant Haggarty did, which is the
same thing, — that he's coming with the Cusacks."

"With who?— with what?"

"With the Cusacks."

"What the devil do you mean? Who are they?"

" Oh, Tower of Ivory ! did you never hear of the Cusacks, with
the red beards, and the red breeches, and long poles with pike-heads
on them, that does all the devilment on horseback — piking and
spitting the people like larks."

" The Cossacks is it, you mean ? The Cossacks ?"

"Ay, just so, the Cusacks. They're from Clare Island, and there-
abouts ; and there's more of them in Meath. They're my mother's
people, and always was real devils for fighting."

I burst out into an immoderate fit of laughing at Mike's etymol-
ogy, which thus converted Hetman Platoff into a Galway man.

" Oh, murder ! isn't it cruel to hear you laugh that way! There
now, alanna ! be aisy, and I'll tell you more news. We've the house
to ourselves to-day. The ould gentleman's down at Behlem, and the
daughter's in Lisbon, making great preparations for a grand ball
they're to give when you are quite well."

" I hope I shall be with the army in a few days, Mike ; and
certainly, if I'm able to move about, I'll not remain longer in

"Arrah! don't say so now ! When was you ever so comfortable?
Upon my conscience, it's more like Paradise than anything else.
If ye see the dinner we set down to every day ! and, as for drink —
if it wasn't that I sleep on the ground-floor, I'd seldom see a

" Well, certainly, Mike, I agree with you, these are hard things
to tear ourselves away from."

"Aren't they now, sir? And then Miss Catherine, I'm taching
her Irish !"

" Teaching her Irish ! for Heaven's sake, what use can she make
of Irish?"

"Ah, the crayture, she doesn't know better; and as she was
always bothering me to learn her English, I promised one day to
do it ; but ye see, somehow, I never was very proficient in strange
tongues ; so I thought to myself Irish will do as well. So, you


perceive, we're taking a coorse of Irish literature, as Mr. Lynch says
in Athlone ; and, upon my conscience, she's an apt scholar."

" ' Good-morning to you, Katey,' says Mr. Power to her the other
day, as he passed through the hall. ' Good-morning, my dear ! I
hear you speak English perfectly now ?'

" 'Honia mon diaoul,' says she, making a curtsey.

" Be the powers, I thought he'd die with the laughing.

" ' Well, my dear, I hope you don't mean it — do you know what
you're saying?'

" ' Honor bright, Major !' says I — ' honor bright !' and I gave him
a wink at the same time.

" ' Oh, that's it !' said he, ' is it ?' and so he went off holding his
hands to his sides with the bare laughing ; and your honor knows it
wasn't a blessing she wished him for all that."



WHAT a strange position this of mine !" thought I, a few morn-
ings after the events detailed in the last chapter. " How
very fascinating in some respects, how full of all the charm
of romance, and how confoundedly difficult to see one's way through."

To understand my cogitation right, figurez vous, my dear reader, a
large and splendidly-furnished drawing-room, from one end of
which an orangery in full blossom opens ; from the other is seen a
delicious little boudoir, where books, bronzes, pictures and statues,
in all the artistic disorder of a lady's sanctum, are bathed in a deep
purple light from a stained-glass window of the seventeenth century.

At a small table beside the wood fire, whose mellow light is flirt-
ing with the sunbeams upon the carpet, stands an antique silver
breakfast service, which none but the hand of Benvenuto could have
chiselled ; beside it sits a girl, young and beautiful ; her dark eyes, .
beaming beneath their long lashes, are fixed with an expression of
watchful interest upon a pale and sickly youth, who, lounging upon
a sofa opposite, is carelessly turning over the leaves of a new journal,
or gazing steadfastly on the fretted gothic of the ceiling, while his
thoughts are travelling many a mile away, — the lady being the
Senhora Inez ; the nonchalant invalid, your unworthy acquaintance,
Charles O'Malley.

What a very strange position, to be sure !


"Then you are not equal to this ball to-night?" said she, after a
pause of some minutes.

I turned as she spoke ; her words had struck audibly upon my ear,
but, lost in my reverie, I could but repeat my own fixed thought —
how strange to be so situated !

" You are really very tiresome, Signor ; I assure you, you are. I
have been giving you a most elegant description of the Casino fete,
and the beautiful costumes of our Lisbon belles, but I can get
nothing from you but this muttered something, which may be very
shocking, for aught I know. I'm sure your friend Major Power
would be much more attentive to me ; that is," added she, archly,
" if Miss Dashwood were not present."

" What — why — you don't mean that there is anything there — that
Power is paying attention to "

"Madre divina, how that seems to interest you, and how red you
are ! If it were not that you never met her before, and that your
acquaintance did not seem to make rapid progress, then I should say
you are in love with her yourself."

I had to laugh at this, but felt my face flushing more. "And so,"
said I, affecting a careless and indifferent tone, " the gay Fred Power
is smitten at last !"

" Was it so very difficult a thing to accomplish ?" said she, slyly.

" He seems to say so, at least. And the lady, how does she appear
to receive his attentions?"

" Oh, I should say with evident pleasure and satisfaction, as all
girls do the advances of men they don't care for, nor intend to care

" Indeed," said I, slowly ; " indeed, Senhora ?" looking into her
eyes as I spoke, as if to read if the lesson were destined for my

" There, don't stare so ! — every one knows that."

" So you don't think, then, that Lucy — I mean Miss Dashwood, —
why are you laughing so ?"

" How can I help it ? your calling her Lucy is so good, I wish she
heard it ; she's the very proudest girl I ever knew."

" But to come back ; you really think she does not care for him ?"

" Not more than for you; and I may be pardoned for the simile,
having seen your meeting. But let me give you the news of our own
fete. Saturday is the day fixed ; and you must be quite well — I in-
sist upon it. Miss Dashwood has promised to come — no small con-
cession ; for, after all, she has never once been here since the day
you frightened her. I can't help laughing at my blunder — the two
people I had promised myself should fall desperately in love with
each other, and who will scarcely meet."


" But I trusted," said I, pettishly, " that you were not disposed to
resign your own interest in me ?"

" Neither was I," said she, with an easy smile, " except that I
have so mairV admirers. I might even spare you to my friends ;
though, after all, I should be sorry to lose you — I like you."

" Yes," said I, half bitterly, " as girls do those they never intend
to care for ; is it not so ?"

" Perhaps yes, and perhaps But is it going to rain ? How pro-
voking ! and I have ordered my horse. Well, Signor Carlos, I leave
you to your delightful newspaper, and all the magnificent descrip-
tions of battles, and sieges, and skirmishes for which you seem
doomed to pine without ceasing. There, don't kiss my hand twice ;
that's not right."

" Well, let me begin again "

" I shall not breakfast with you any more ; but, tell me, am I to
order a costume for you in Lisbon ; or will you arrange all that your-
self? You must come to the fete, you know."

" If you would be so very kind."

" I will, then, be so very kind ; and, once more, adios." So say-
ing, with a slight motion of her hand, she smiled a good-bye, and
left me.

" What a lovely girl !" thought I, as I rose and walked to the win-
dow, muttering to myself Othello's line, —

" When I love thee not, chaos is come again."

In fact, it was the perfect expression of my feeling — the only solu-
tion to all the difficulties surrounding me, being to fall desperately,
irretrievably in love with the fair Senhora, which, all things con-
sidered, was not a very desperate resource for a gentleman in trouble.
As I thought over the hopelessness of one attachment, I turned
calmly to consider the favorable points of the other. She was truly
beautiful, attractive in every sense ; her manner most fascinating,
and her disposition, so far as I could pronounce, perfectly amiable.
I felt already something more than interest about her; how very
easy would be the transition to a stronger feeling ! There was an
tclat, too, about being her accepted lover that had its charm. She
was the belle par excellence of Lisbon ; and then a sense of pique
crossed my mind as I reflected, what would Lucy say of him whom
she had slighted and insulted, when he became the husband of the
beautiful and millionaire Senhora Inez?

As my meditations had reached thus far, the door opened stealth-
ily, and Catherine appeared, her finger upon her lips, and her ges-
ture indicating caution. She carried on her arm a mass of drapery
covered by a large mantle, which throwing off as she entered, she


displayed before me a rich blue domino with silver embroidery. It
was large and loose in its folds, so as thoroughly to conceal the fig-
ure of any wearer. This she held up before me for an instant with-
out speaking ; when at length, seeing my curiosity fully excited,
she said, —

" This is the Senhora's domino. I should be ruined if she knew
I showed it ; but I promised — that is, I told "

" Yes, yes, I understand," relieving her embarrassment about the
source of her civilities ; " go on."

" Well, there are several others like it, but with this small differ-
ence, instead of a carnation, which all the others have embroidered
upon the cuff, I have made it a rose — you perceive ? La Senhora
knows nothing of this — no one save yourself knows it. I'm sure I
may trust you with the secret."

"Fear not in the least, Catherine ; you have rendered me a great
service. Let me look at it once more ; ah ! there's no difficulty in
detecting it. And you are certain she is unaware of it ?"

" Perfectly so ; she has several other costumes, but in this one I
know she intends some surprise, so be upon your guard."

With these words, once more carefully concealing the rich dress
beneath the mantle, she withdrew, while I strolled forth to wonder
what mystery might lie beneath this scheme, and speculate how far
I myself was included in the plot she spoke of.


For the few days which succeeded, I passed my time much alo/ie.
The Senhora was but seldom at home, and I remarked that Power
rarely came to see me. A strange feeling of half-coolness had lat-
terly grown between us, and instead of the open confidence we for-
merly indulged in when together, we appeared now rather to chat
over things of mere every-day interest than of our own immediate
plans and prospects. There was a kind of pre-occupation, too, in his
manner that struck me; his mind seemed ever straying from the
topics he talked of to something remote, and, altogether, he was
no longer the frank and reckless dragoon I had ever known him.
What could be the meaning of this change ? Had he found out by
any accident that I was to blame in my conduct towards Lucy — had
any erroneous impression of my interview with her reached his
ears? This was most improbable; besides, there was nothing in
that to draw down his censure or condemnation, however repre-
sented ; or was it that he was himself in love with her — that, de-
voted heart and soul to Lucy, he regarded me as a successful rival,
preferred before him ! Oh, how could I have so long blinded myself
to the fact ! This was the true solution of the whole difficulty. I had
more than once suspected this to be so ; now all the circumstances


of proof poured in upon me. I called to mind his agitated manner
the night of my arrival in Lisbon — his thousand questions concerning
the reasons of my furlough ; and then, lately, the look of unfeigned
pleasure with which he heard me resolve to join my regiment the
moment I was sufficiently recovered. I also remembered how
assiduously he pressed his intimacy with the Senhora, Lucy's dear-
est friend here ; his continual visits at the villa ; those long walks
in the garden, where his very look betokened some confidential mis-
sion of the heart. Yes, there was no doubt of it — he loved Lucy
Dashwood ! Alas ! there seemed to be no end to the complication
of my misfortunes ; one by one, I appeared fated to lose whatever
had a hold upon my affections, and to stand alone, unloved and un-
cared for in the world. My thoughts turned towards the Senhora,
but I could not deceive myself into any hope there. My own feel-
ings were untouched, and hers I felt to be equally so. Young as I
was, there was no mistaking the easy smile of coquetry, the merry
laugh of flattered vanity, for a deeper and holier feeling. And then
I did not wish it otherwise. One only had taught me to feel how
ennobling, how elevating, in all its impulses can be a deep-rooted
passion for a young and beautiful girl ! From her eyes alone had I
caught the inspiration — that made me pant for glory and distinc-
tion. I could not transfer the allegiance of my heart, since it had
taught that very heart to beat high and proudly. Lucy, lost to me
forever as she must be, was still more than any other woman ever
could be. All the past clung to her memory, all the prestige of the
future must point to it also.

And Power, why had he not trusted — why had he not confided in
me ? Was this like my old and tried friend ? Alas I I was forget-
ting that in his eyes I was the favored rival, and not the despised,
rejected suitor.

" It is past now," thought I, as I rose and walked into the gar-
den ; " the dream that made life a fairy tale is dispelled ; the cold
reality of the world is before me, and my path lies a lonely and
solitary one." My first resolution was to see Power, and relieve his
mind of any uneasiness as regarded my pretensions ; they existed no
longer. As for me, I was no obstacle to his happiness ; it was, then,
but fair and honorable that I should tell him so ; this done, I should
leave Lisbon at once. The cavalry had for the most part been
ordered to the rear ; still there was always something going forward
at the outposts.

The idea of active service, the excitement of a campaigning life,
cheered me, and I advanced along the dark alley of the garden with
a lighter and a freer heart. My resolves were not destined to meet
delay. As I turned the angle of a walk, Power was before me. He


was leaning against a tree, his hands crossed upon his bosom, his
head bowed forward, and his whole air and attitude betokening
deep reflection.

He started as I came up, and seemed almost to change color.

"Well, Charley," said he, after a moment's pause; "you look
better this morning. How goes the arm ?"

" The arm is ready for service again, and its owner most anxious
for it. Do you know, Fred, I'm thoroughly weary of this life."

" They're little better, however, at the lines. The French are in
position, but never venture a movement ; and, except some few
affairs at the pickets, there is really nothing to do."

" No matter ; remaining here can never serve one's interests ; and
besides, I have accomplished what I came for "

I was about to add, " the restoration of my health," when he sud-
denly interrupted me, eyeing me fixedly as he spoke.

"Indeed ! indeed ! Is that so ?"

" Yes," said I, half puzzled at the tone and manner of the speech ;
"I can join now when I please; meanwhile, Fred, I have been
thinking of you. Yes, don't be surprised ; at the very moment we
met, you were in my thoughts."

I took his arm as I said this, and led him down the alley.

" We are too old, and, I trust, too true friends, Fred, to have
secrets from each other, and yet we have been playing this silly
game for some weeks past. Now, my dear fellow, I have yours, and
it is only fair justice you should have mine, and, faith, I feel you'd
have discovered it long since, had your thoughts been as free as I
have known them to be. Fred, you are in love. There, don't
wince, man — I know it ; but hear me out. You believe me to be
so also ; nay, more, you think that my chances of success are better,
stronger than your own. Learn, then, that I have none— absolutely
none. Don't interrupt me now, for this avowal cuts me deeply ; my
own heart alone knows what I suffer as I record my wrecked for-
tunes. But I repeat it, my hopes are at an end forever ; but, Fred,
my boy, I cannot lose my friend too. If I have been the obstacle
to your path, I am so no more. Ask me not why ; it is enough that
I speak in all truth and sincerity. Ere three days I shall leave this,
and with it all the hopes that once beamed upon my fortunes, and
all the happiness, — nay, not all, my boy, for I feel some thrill at my
heart yet, as I think that I have been true to you."

I know not what more I spoke, nor how he replied to me. I felt
the warm grasp of his hand, I saw his delighted smile ; the words of
grateful acknowledgment his lips uttered conveyed but an imper-
fect meaning to my ear, and I remembered no more.

The courage which sustained me for the moment sank gradually


as I meditated over my avowal, and I could scarce help accusing
Power of a breach of friendship for exacting a confession which, in
reality, I had volunteered to give him. How Lucy herself would
think of my conduct was ever recurring to my thoughts, and I feit,
as I ruminated upon the conjectures it might give rise to, how
much more likely a favorable opinion might now be formed of
me than when such an estimation could have crowned me with

" Yes," thought I ; " she will at last learn to know him who loved
her with truth and with devoted affection ; and when the blight of
all his hopes is accomplished, the fair fame of his fidelity will be
proved. The march, the bivouac, the battle-field, are now all to me,
and the campaign alone presents a prospect which may fill up the
aching void that disappointed and ruined hopes have left behind

How I longed for the loud call of the trumpet, the clash of the
steel, the tramp of the war-horse, though the proud distinction of a
soldier's life was less to me in the distance than the mad and
whirlwind passion of a charge, and the loud din of the rolling

It was only some hours after, as I sat alone in my chamber, that
all the circumstances of our meeting came back clearly to my
memory, and I could not help muttering to myself: "It is indeed a
hard lot, that to cheer the heart of my friend, I must bear witness
to the despair that sheds darkness on my own."

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 49 of 80)