Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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and cordiality, for any deficiency of elegance ; and as she disposed
her ample proportions upon the sofa, and looked around upon the
company, she appeared the very impersonation of hospitality.

After several openings and shuttings of the drawing-room door,
accompanied by the appearance of old Simon the butler, who
counted the party at least five times before he was certain that the
score was correct, dinner was at length announced. Now came a
moment of difficulty, and one which, as testing Mr. Blake's tact, he
would gladly have seen devolve upon some other shoulders ; for he
well knew that the marshalling a room full of mandarins, blue,
green, and yellow, was " cakes and gingerbread" to ushering a Gal-
way party in to dinner.

First, then, was Mr. Miles Bodkin, whose grandfather would have
been a lord if Cromwell had not hanged him one fine morning.
Then Mrs. Mosey Blake's first husband was promised the title of
Kilmacud if it was ever restored, whereas Mrs. French of Knock-
tumnor's mother was then at law for a title ; and, lastly, Mrs. Joe
Burke was fourth cousin to Lord Clanricarde, as is or will be every
Burke from this to the day of judgment. Now, luckily for her pros-
pects, the lord was alive ; and Mr. Blake, remembering a very sage
adage about " dead lions," &c, solved the difficulty at once by
gracefully tucking the lady under his arm and leading the way. The
others soon followed, the priest of Portumna and my unworthy self
bringing up the rear.

When, many a year afterwards, the hard ground of a mountain
bivouac, with its pitiful portion of pickled cork-tree, yclept mess-
beef, and that pyroligneous aquafortis they call corn-brandy, have
been my hard fare, I often looked back to that day's dinner with a
most heart-yearning sensation : a turbot as big as the Waterloo
shield — a sirloin that seemed cut from the sides of a rhinoceros — a
sauce-boat that contained an oyster-bed. There was a turkey which
singly would have formed the main army of a French dinner, doing
mere outpost duty, flanked by a picket of ham and a detached
squadron of chickens, carefully ambushed in a forest of greens ;
potatoes, not disguised d la maitre tfhotel and tortured to resemble
bad macaroni, but piled like shot in an ordnance-yard, were posted
at different quarters ; while massive decanters of port and sherry
stood proudly up like standard-bearers amid the goodly array. This
was none of your austere "great dinners," where a cold and chilling


plateau of artificial nonsense cuts off one-half of the table from in-
tercourse with the other — when whispered sentences constitute the
conversation, and all the friendly recognition of wine-drinking,
which renews acquaintance and cements an intimacy, is replaced by
the ceremonious filling of your glass by a lacquey — where smiles go
current in lieu of kind speeches, and epigram and smartness form
the substitute for the broad jest and merry story. Far from it.
Here the company ate, drank, talked, laughed, did all but sing, and
certainly enjoyed themselves heartily. As for me, I was little more
than a listener, and such was the crash of plates, the jingle of
glasses, and the clatter of voices, that fragments only of what was
passing around reached me, giving to the conversation of the party
a character occasionally somewhat incongruous. Thus such sen-
tences as the following ran foul of each other every instant :

" No better land in Galway" — " where could you find such facili-
ties" — " for shooting Mr. Jones on his way home" — " the truth, the
whole truth, and nothing but the truth" — " kiss" — " Miss Blake,
she's the girl with the foot and ankle" — " Daly has never had wool
on his sheep" — " how could he" — " what does he pay for the moun-
tain" — " four and tenpence a yard" — " not a penny less" — " all the
cabbage-stalks and potato-skins" — "with some bog stuff through it"
— " that's the thing to" — " make soup, with a red herring in it in-
stead of salt" — " and when he proposed for my niece, ma'am, says
he" — " mix a strong tumbler, and I'll make a shake-down for you on
the floor" — " and may the Lord have mercy on your soul" — " and
now, down the middle and up again" — " Captain Magan, my dear,
he is the man" — " to shave a pig properly" — V it's not money I'm
looking for, says he, the girl of my heart" — " if she had not a wind-
gall and two spavins" — " I'd have given her the rites of the Church,
of coorse," said Father Eoach, bringing up the rear of this ill-as-
sorted jargon.

Such were the scattered links of conversation I was condemned to
listen to, till a general rise on the part of the ladies left us alone to
discuss our wine, and enter in good earnest upon the more serious
duties of the evening.

Scarcely was the door closed when one of the company, seizing
the bell-rope, said, " With your leave, Blake, we'll have the ' dew'

" Good claret — no better," said another ; " but it sits mighty cold
on the stomach."

"There's nothing like the groceries, after all — eh, Sir George?"
said an old Galway squire to the English general, who acceded to
the fact, which he understood in a very different sense.

" Oh, punch, you are my darlin'," hummed another, as a large


square half-gallon decanter of whisky was placed on the table, the
various decanters of wine being now ignominiously sent down to
the end of the board, without any evidence of regret on any face
save Sir George Dash wood's, who mixed his tumbler with a very
rebellious conscience.

Whatever were the noise and clamor of the company before, they
were nothing to what now ensued. As one party was discussing
the approaching contest, another was planning a steeple-chase ;
while two individuals, unhappily removed from each other the
entire length of the table, were what is called " challenging each
other's effects" in a very remarkable manner, the process so styled
being an exchange of property, when each party, setting an imag-
inary value upon some article, barters it for another, the amount of
boot paid and received being determined by a third person, who is
the umpire. Thus a gold breastpin was swopped, as the phrase is,
against a horse ; then a pair of boots, a Kerry bull, &c. — every
imaginable species of property coming into the market. Sometimes,
as matters of very dubious value turned up, great laughter was the
result. In this very national pastime, a Mr. Miles Bodkin, a noted
fire-eater of the west, was a great proficient, and, it is said, once so
completely succeeded in despoiling an uninitiated hand, that after
winning in succession his horse, gig, harness, &c, he proceeded
seriatim to his watch, ring, clothes, and portmanteau, and actually
concluded by winning all he possessed, and kindly lent him a card-
cloth to cover him on his way to the hotel. His success on the
present occasion was considerable, and his spirits proportionate.
The decanter had thrice been replenished, and the flushed faces and
thickened utterances of the guests evinced that from the cold prop-
erties of the claret there was but little to dread. As for Mr. Bodkin,
his manner was incapable of any higher flight, when under the in-
fluence of whisky, than what it evinced on common occasions ; and
as he sat at the end of the table, fronting Mr. Blake, he assumed all
the dignity of the ruler of the feast, with an energy no one seemed
disposed to question. In answer to some observations of Sir George,
he was led into something like an oration upon the peculiar excel-
lencies of his native country, which ended in a declaration that
there was nothing like Galway.

" Why don't you give us a song, Miles ? and maybe the general
would learn more from it than all your speech-making."

" To be sure," cried out several voices together ; " to be sure.
Let us hear ' The Man for Galway !' "

Sir George having joined most warmly in the request, Mr. Bodkin
filled up his glass to the brim, bespoke a chorus to his chant, and,
clearing his voice with a deep hem, began the following ditty, to the


air which Moore has since rendered immortal, by the beautiful
song, " Wreathe the Bowl," &c. And although the words are well
known in the west, for the information of less favored regions, I
here transcribe


" To drink a toast,
A proctor roast,

Or bailiff as the case is,
To kiss your wife,
Or take your life

At ten or fifteen paces ;
To keep game cocks — to hunt the fox,

To drink in punch the Solway,
With debts galore, but fun far more ;

Oh, that's 'the man for Galway.'

"Chorus— With debts, &c.

"The King of Oude
Is mighty proud,

And so were onst the Caysars — (Caesars)
But ould Giles Eyre
Would make them stare,

Av he had them with the Blazers.
To the devil I fling ould Runjeet Sing,

He's only a prince in a small way,
And knows nothing at all of a six-foot wall ;

Oh, he'd never ' do for Galway.'

" Chorus— With debts, &c.

"Ye think the Blakes
Are no ' great shakes ;'

They're all his blood relations,
And the Bodkins sneeze
At the grim Chinese,

For they came from the Phenaycians.
So fill the brim, and here's to him

Who'd drink in punch the Solway ;
With debts galore, but fun far more ;

Oh ! that's ' the man for Galway.'

" Chorus— With debts," &c.

I much fear that the reception of this very classic ode would not
be as favorable in general companies as it was on the occasion I
first heard it, for certainly the applause was almost deafening ; and
even Sir George, the defects of whose English education left some
of the allusions out of his reach, was highly amused and laughed

The conversation once more reverted to the election, and although
I was too far from those who seemed best informed on the matter to
hear much, I could catch enough to discover that the feeling was a
confident one. This was gratifying to me, as I had some scruple
about my so long neglecting my uncle's cause.


" We have ScarifF to a man," said Bodkin.

"And Mosey's tenantry," said another. " I swear, though there's
not a freehold registered on the estate, that they'll vote, every
mother's son of them, or devil a stone of the Court-house they'll
leave standing on another."

"And may the Lord look to the returning officer !" said a third,
throwing up his eyes.

" Mosey's tenantry are droll boys, and, like their landlord — more
by token — they never pay any rent."

"And what for shouldn't they vote ?" said a dry-looking little old
fellow in a red waistcoat. " When I was the dead agent "

" The dead agent !" interrupted Sir George, with a start.

" Just so," said the old fellow, pulling down his spectacles from
his forehead, and casting a half-angry look at Sir George, for what
he had suspected to be a doubt of his veracity.

" The General does not know, maybe, what that is," said some

" It is the dead agent," said Mr. Blake, " who always provides
substitutes for any voters that may have died since the last election.
A very important fact in statistics may thus be gathered from the
poll-books of this county, which proves it to be the healthiest
part of Europe — a freeholder has not died in it for the last fifty

"The 'Kiltopher boys' won't come this time — they say there's
no use trying to vote when so many were transported last assizes
for perjury."

" They're poor-spirited creatures," said another.

" Not they — they are as decent boys as any we have — they're wil-
ling to wreck the town for fifty shillings' worth of spirits; besides,
if they don't vote for the county they will for the borough."

This declaration seemed to restore these interesting individuals to
favor, and now all attention was turned towards Bodkin, who was
detailing the plan of a grand attack upon the polling-booths, to be
headed by himself. By this time all the prudence and guardedness
of the party had given way — whisky was in the ascendant, and
every bold stroke of election policy, every cunning artifice, every
ingenious device, was detailed and applauded in a manner which
proved that self-respect was not the inevitable gift of " mountain

The mirth and fun grew momentarily more boisterous, and Miles
Bodkin, who had twice before been prevented proposing some toast
by a telegraphic signal from the other end of the table, now swore
that nothing should prevent him any longer, and rising with a
smoking tumbler in his hand, delivered himself as follows :


" No, no, Phil Blake, ye needn't be winkiri' at me that way — it's
little I care for the spawn of the ould serpent." [Here great cheers
greeted the speaker, in which, without well knowing why, I hear-
tily joined.] " I'm going to give a toast, boys — a real good toast —
none of your sentimental things about wall-flowers, or the vernal
equinox, or that kind of thing, but a sensible, patriotic, manly, in-
trepid toast — a toast you must drink in the most universal, laborious,
and awful manner — do ye see now ? [Loud cheers.] " If any man
of you here present doesn't drain this toast to the bottom — (here the
speaker looked fixedly at me, as did the rest of the company) — then,
by the great gun of Athlone, I'll make him eat the decanter, glass
stopper and all, for the good of his digestion — d'ye see now ?"

The cheering at this mild determination prevented my hearing
what followed ; but the peroration consisted in a very glowing eulogy
upon some person unknown, and a speedy return to him as member
for Galway. Amid all the noise and tumult at this critical moment,
nearly every eye at the table was turned upon me ; and as I con-
cluded that they had been drinking my uncle's health, I thundered
away at the mahogany with all my energy. At length, the hip,
hipping over, and comparative quiet restored, I rose from my seat to
return thanks. But, strange enough, Sir George Dashwood did so
likewise ; and there we both stood amid an uproar that might well
have shaken the courage of more practised orators ; while from every
side came cries of "Hear, hear" — " Go on, Sir George" — "Speak
out, General" — "Sit down, Charley" — "Confound the boy" —
" Knock the legs from under him," &c. Not understanding why
Sir George should interfere with what I regarded as my peculiar
duty, I resolved not to give way, and avowed this determination in
no very equivocal terms. " In that case," said the General, " I am
to suppose that the young gentleman moves an amendment to your
proposition ; and, as the etiquette is in his favor, I yield." Here he
resumed his place, amid a most terrific scene of noise and tumult,
while several humane proposals as to my treatment were made
around me, and a kind suggestion thrown out to break my neck, by
a near neighbor. Mr. Blake at length prevailed upon the party to
hear what I had to say — for he was certain I should not detain them
above a minute. The commotion having in some measure subsided,
I began : " Gentlemen — as the adopted son of the worthy man whose

health you have just drunk " Heaven knows how I should have

continued — but here my eloquence was met by such a roar of laugh-
ing as I never before listened to ; from one end of the board to the
other it was one continued shout, and went on, too, as if all the
spare lungs of the party had been kept in reserve for the occasion.
I turned from one to the other — I tried to smile, and seemed to par-


tieipate in the joke, but failed; I frowned — I looked savagely about
where I could see enough to turn my wrath thitherward ; and, as it
chanced, not in vain ; for Mr. Miles Bodkin, with an intuitive per-
ception of my wishes, most suddenly ceased his mirth, and assuming
a look of frowning defiance that had done him good service upon
many former occasions, rose and said :

"Well, sir, I hope you're proud of yourself — you've made a nice
beginning of it, and a pretty story you'll have for your uncle.
But if you'd like to break the news by a letter, the General will
have great pleasure in franking it for you ; for, by the rock of
Cashel, we'll carry him in against all the O'Malleys that ever
cheated the sheriff."

Scarcely were the words uttered, when I seized my wine-glass, and
hurled it with all my force at his head. So sudden was the act, and
so true the aim, that Mr. Bodkin measured his length upon the floor
ere his friends could appreciate his late eloquent eifusion. The scene
now became terrific ; for though the redoubted Miles was hors de
combat, his friends made a tremendous rush at, and would infallibly
have succeeded in capturing me, had not Blake and four or five
others interposed. Amid a desperate struggle, which lasted for
some minutes, I was torn from the spot, carried bodily up stairs, and
pitched headlong into my own room, where, having doubly locked
the door on the outside, they left me to my own cool and not over-
agreeable reflections.



IT was by one of those sudden and inexplicable revulsions which
occasionally restore to sense and intellect the maniac of years'
standing, that I was no sooner left alone in my chamber than I
became perfectly sober. The fumes of the wine — and I had drunk
deeply — were dissipated at once ; my head, which but a moment
before was half wild with excitement, was now cool, calm, and col-
lected ; and, stranger than all, I, who had only an hour since en-
tered the dining-room with all the unsuspecting freshness of boyhood,
became, by a mighty bound, a man — a man in all my feelings and
responsibility, a man who, repelling an insult by an outrage, had
resolved to stake his life upon the chance. In an instant a new era
in life had opened before me ; the light-headed gayety which fear-
lessness and youth impart was replaced by one absorbing thought — ■


one all-engrossing, all-pervading impression, that if I did not follow
up my quarrel with Bodkin, I was dishonored and disgraced : my
little knowledge of such matters not being sufficient to assure me
that I was now the aggressor, and that any further steps in the affair
should come from his side.

So thoroughly did my own griefs occupy me, that I had no
thought for the disappointment my poor uncle was destined to meet
with in hearing that the Blake interest was lost to him, and the
former breach between the families irreparably widened by the
events of the evening. Escape was my first thought ; but how to
accomplish it? The door, a solid one of Irish oak, doubly locked
and bolted, defied all my efforts to break it open ; the window was
at least five-and-twenty feet from the ground, and not a tree near to
swing into. I shouted, I called aloud, I opened the sash, and tried
if any one outside were within hearing ; but in vain. Weary and
exhausted, I sat down upon my bed and ruminated over my for-
tunes. Vengeance — quick, entire, decisive vengeance — I thirsted
and panted for; and every moment I lived under the insult inflicted
on me, seemed an age of torturing and maddening agony. I rose
with a leap ; a thought had just occurred to me. I drew the bed
towards the window, and fastening the sheet to one of the posts with
a firm knot, I twisted it into a rope, and let myself down to within
about twelve feet of the ground, when I let go my hold, and dropped
upon the grass beneath, safe and uninjured. A thin misty rain was
falling, and I now perceived for the first time that in my haste I had
forgotten my hat ; this thought, however, gave me little uneasiness,
and I took my way towards the stable, resolving, if I could, to
saddle my horse, and get off before any intimation of my escape
reached the family.

When I gained the yard all was quiet and deserted ; the servants
were doubtless enjoying themselves below stairs ; and I met no one
in the way. I entered the stable, threw the saddle upon Badger, and
before five minutes from my descent from the window, was gallop-
ing towards O'Malley Castle at a pace that defied pursuit, had any
one thought of it.

It was about five o'clock on a dark wintry morning as I led my
horse through the well-known defile of out-houses and stables which
formed the long line of offices to my uncle's house. As yet no one
was stirring ; and as I wished to have my arrival a secret from the
family, after providing for the wants of my gallant gray, I lifted the
latch of the kitchen door — no other fastening being ever thought
necessary, even at night — and gently groped my way towards the
stairs. All was perfectly still, and the silence now recalled me to
reflection as to what course I should pursue. It was all-important


that my uncle should know nothing of my quarrel, otherwise he
would inevitably make it his own, and, by treating me like a boy in
the matter, give the whole affair the turn I most dreaded. Then, as
to Sir Harry Boyle, he would most certainly turn the whole thing
into ridicule, make a good story, perhaps a song out of it, and laugh
at my notions of demanding satisfaction. Considine, I knew, was
my man ; but then he was at Athlone — at least so my uncle's letter
mentioned ; perhaps he might have returned ; if not, to Athlone I
should set off at once. So resolving, I stole noiselessly up stairs,
and reached the door of the^ Count's chamber. I opened it gently,
and entered ; and though my step was almost imperceptible to my-
self, it was quite sufficient to alarm the watchful occupant of the
room, who, springing up in his bed, demanded gruffly "Who's
there ?"

" Charles, sir," said I, shutting the door carefully, and approach-
ing his bedside. " Charles O'Malley, sir. I'm come to have a bit
of your advice ; and as the affair won't keep, I have been obliged to
disturb you."

" Never mind, Charley," said the Count ; " sit down ; there's a
chair somewhere near the bed — have you found it ? There ; well
now, what is it? What news of Blake?"

" Very bad ; no worse. But it is not exactly that I came about ;
I've got into a scrape, sir."

" Eun off with one of the daughters ?" said Considine. " By jingo,
I knew what those artful devils would be after."

" Not so bad as that," said I, laughing. " It's just a row, a kind
of squabble ; something that must come "

"Ay, ay," said the Count, brightening up; "say you so, Charley?
Begad, the young ones will beat us all out of the field. Who is it
with — not old Blake himself — how was it? Tell me all."

I immediately detailed the whole events of the preceding chap-
ter, as well as his frequent interruptions would permit, and con-
cluded by asking what further step was now to be taken, as I was
resolved the matter should be concluded before it came to my
uncle's ears.

" There you are all right — quite correct, my boy. But there are
many points I should have wished otherwise in the conduct of the
affair hitherto."

Conceiving he was displeased at my petulance and boldness, I
was about to commence a kind of defence, when he added, —

" Because, you see," said he, assuming an oracular tone of voice,
"throwing a wine-glass, with or without wine, in a man's face, is
merely, as you may observe, a mark of denial and displeasure at
some observation he may have made, not in anywise intended to


injure him, further than in the wound to his honor at being so in-
sulted, for which, of course, he must subsequently call you out.
Whereas, Charley, in the present case, the view I take is different;
the expression of Mr. Bodkin as regards your uncle was insulting to
a degree — gratuitously offensive, and warranting a blow. Therefore,
my boy, you should, under such circumstances, have preferred aim-
ing at him with a decanter — a cut-glass decanter, well aimed and
low, I have seen do effective service. However, as you remark it
was your first thing of the kind, I am pleased with you — very much
pleased with you. Now, then, for the next step." So saying, he
arose from his bed, and striking a light with a tinder-box, pro-
ceeded to dress himself as leisurely as if for a dinner party, talking
all the while.

" I will just take Godfrey's tax-cart and the roan mare on to
Meelish ; put them up at the little inn — it is not above a mile from
Bodkin's — and I'll go over and settle the thing for you. You must
stay quiet until I come back, and not leave the house on any ac-
count. I've got a case of old- broad barrels there that will answer
you beautifully ; if you were anything of a shot, I'd give you my

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 5 of 80)