Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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ALTHOUGH I felt my heart relieved of a heavy load by the
confession I had made to Power, yet still I shrank from meet-
ing him for some days after; a kind of fear lest he should in
any way recur to our conversation continually beset me, and I felt
that the courage which bore me up for my first effort would desert
me on the next occasion.

My determination to join my regiment was now made up, and I
sent forward a resignation of my appointment to Sir George Dash-
wood's staff, which I had never been in health to fulfil, and com-
menced with energy all my preparations for a speedy departure.
The reply to my rather formal letter was a most kind note written


by himself. He regretted the unhappy cause which had so long
separated us, and though wishing, as he expressed it, to have me
near him, perfectly approved of my resolution.

"Active service alone, my dear boy, can ever place you in the
position you ought to occupy, and I rejoice the more at your decision
in this matter, as I feared the truth of certain reports here, which
attributed to you other plans than those which a campaign suggests.
My mind is now easy on this score, and I pray you forgive me if my
congratulations are mal d propos."

After some hints for my future management, and a promise of
some letters to his friends at head-quarters, he concluded : —

"As this climate does not seem to suit my daughter, I have ap-
plied for a change, and am in daily hope of obtaining it. Before
going, however, I must beg your acceptance of the charger which
my groom w T ill deliver to your servant with this. I was so struck
with his figure and action, that I purchased him before leaving Eng-
land, without well knowing why or wherefore. Pray let him see
some service under your auspices, which he is most unlikely to do
under mine. He has plenty of bone to be a weight-carrier, and they
tell me also that he has speed enough for anything."

Mike's voice in the lawn beneath interrupted my reading further,
and on looking out I perceived him and Sir George Dashwood's
servant standing beside a large and striking-looking horse, which
they were both examining with all the critical accuracy of adepts.

"Arrah, isn't he a darling, a real beauty, every inch of him?"

" That 'ere splint don't signify nothing, he aren't the worse of it,"
said the English groom.

" Of coorse it doesn't," replied Mike. " What a forehand ! and
the legs, clean as a whip."

" There's the best of him, though," interrupted the other, patting
the strong hind-quarters with his hand. " There's the stuff to push
him along through heavy ground and carry him over timber."

" Or a stone wall," said Mike, thinking of Gal way.

My own impatience to survey my present had now brought me
into the conclave, and before many minutes were over I had him
saddled, and was cantering around the lawn with a spirit and energy
I had not felt for months long. Some small fences lay before me,
and over these he carried me with all the ease and freedom of a
trained hunter. My courage mounted with the excitement, and I
looked eagerly around for some more bold and dashing leap.

" You may take him over the avenue gate," said the English
groom, divining with a jockey's readiness what I looked for ; " he'll
do it, never fear him."

Strange as my equipment was, with an undress jacket flying


loosely open, and a bare head, away I went. The gate which the
groom spoke of was a strongly barred one of oak timber, nearly five
feet high — its difficulty as a leap only consisted in the winding ap-
proach, and the fact that it opened upon a hard road beyond it.

In a second or two a kind of half fear came across me. My long
illness had unnerved me, and my limbs felt weak and yielding ; but
as I pressed into the canter, that secret sympathy between the horse
and his rider shot suddenly through me, I pressed my spurs to his
flanks, and dashed him at it.

Unaccustomed to such treatment, the noble animal bounded
madly forward ; with two tremendous plunges he sprang wildly in
the air, and shaking his long mane with passion, stretched out at
the gallop.

My own blood boiled now as tempestuously as his ; and, with a
shout of reckless triumph, I rose him at the gate. Just at the
instant two figures appeared before it — the copse had concealed
their approach hitherto — but they stood now, as if transfixed ; the
wild attitude of the horse, the not less wild cry of its rider, had de-
prived them for a time of all energy ; and, overcome by the sudden
danger, they seemed rooted to the ground. What I said, spoke,
begged, or imprecated, Heaven knows — not I. But they stirred not!
One moment more and they must lie trampled beneath my horse's
hoofs — he was already on his haunches for the bound ; when, wheel-
ing half aside, I faced him at the wall. It was at least a foot higher,
and of solid stone masonry, and as I did so, I felt I was perilling my
life to save theirs. One vigorous dash of the spur I gave him, as I
lifted him to the leap — he bounded beneath it quick as lightning —
still, with a spring like a rocket, he rose into the air, cleared the
wall, and stood trembling and frightened on the road outside.

" Safe, by Jupiter ! and splendidly done too," cried a voice near
me, that I immediately recognized as Sir George Dashwood's.

" Lucy, my love, look up — Lucy, my dear, there's no danger now.
She has fainted. O'Malley, fetch some water — fast. Poor fellow —
your own nerves seem shaken. Why, you've let your horse go !
Come here, for Heaven's sake ! — support her for an instant. I'll
fetch some water."

It appeared to me like a dream — I leaned against the pillar of the
gate — the cold and death -like features of Lucy Dashwood lay mo-
tionless upon my arm — her hand, falling heavily upon my shoulder,
touched my cheek— the tramp of my horse, as he galloped onward,
was the only sound that broke the silence, as I stood there, gazing
steadfastly upon the pale brow and paler cheek, down which a soli-
tary tear was slowly stealing. I knew not how the minutes passed —
my memory took no note of time ; but at length a gentle tremor


thrilled her frame, a slight, scarce-perceptible blush colored her fair
face, her lips slightly parted, and heaving a deep sigh, she looked
around her. Gradually her eyes turned and met mine. Oh, the
bliss unutterable of that moment. It was no longer the look of cold
scorn she had given me last — the expression was one of soft and
speaking gratitude. She seemed to read my very heart, and know
its truth ; there was a tone of deep and compassionate interest in
the glance; and forgetting all— everything that had passed— all
save my unaltered, unalterable love, I kneeled beside her, and, in
words burning as my own heart burned, poured out my tale of min-
gled sorrow and affection with all the eloquence of passion. I vin-
dicated my unshaken faith — reconciling the conflicting evidences
with the proofs I proffered of my attachment. If my moments were
measured, I spent them not idly ; I called to witness how every
action of my soldier's life emanated from her — how her few and
chance words had decided the character of my fate— if aught of fame
or honor were my portion, to her I owed it. As, hurried onward
by my ardent hopes, I forgot Power and all about him — a step up
the gravel walk came rapidly nearer, and I had but time to assume
my former attitude beside Lucy as her father came up.

" Well, Charley, is she better? Oh, I see she is. Here we have
the whole household at our heels." So saying, he pointed to a
string of servants pressing eagerly forward with every species of
restorative that Portuguese ingenuity has invented.

The next moment we were joined by the Senhora, who, pale with
fear, seemed scarcely less in need of assistance than her friend.

Amid questions innumerable — explanations sought for on all
sides — mistakes and misconceptions as to the whole occurrence — we
took our way towards the villa, Lucy walking between Sir George
and Donna Inez, while I followed, leaning upon Power's arm.

"They've caught him again, O'Malley," said the General, turn-
ing half round to me ; he, too, seemed as much frightened as any
of us.

" It is time, Sir George, I should think of thanking you. I never
was so mounted in my life "

" A splendid charger, by Jove !" said Power ; " but, Charley, my
lad, no more feats of this nature, if you love me. No girl's heart
will stand such continued assaults as your winning horsemanship
submits it to."

I was about making some half-angry reply, when he continued :

"There, don't look sulky ; I have news for you. Quill has just
arrived ; I met him at Lisbon. He has got leave of absence for a
few days, and is coming to our masquerade here this evening."

" This evening !" said I, in amazement ; "why, is it so soon ?"


" Of course it is. Have you not got all your trappings ready ?
The Dashwoods came out here on purpose to spend the day. But
come, I'll drive you into town. My tilbury is ready, and we'll both
look out for our costumes." So saying, he led me along towards
the house, when, after a rapid change of my toilet, we set out for



IT seemed a conceded matter between Power and myself that
we should never recur to the conversation we held in the gar-
den, and so, although we dined tete a tete that day, neither of us
ventured, by any allusion the most distant, to what it was equally
evident was uppermost in the minds of both.

All our endeavors, therefore, to seem easy and unconcerned were
in vain ; a restless anxiety to seem interested about things and per-
sons we were totally indifferent to pervaded all our essays at con-
versation. By degrees we grew weary of the parts we were acting,
and each relapsed into a moody silence, thinking over his plans and
projects, and totally forgetting the existence of the other.

The decanter was passed across the table without speaking, a
half nod intimated that the bottle was standing, and except an oc-
casional malediction upon an intractable cigar, nothing was heard.

Such was the agreeable occupation we were engaged in, when,
towards nine o'clock, the door opened, and the great Maurice him-
self stood before us.

"Pleasant fellows, upon my conscience, and jovial over their
liquor ! Confound your smoking ! That may do very well in a
bivouac. Let us have something warm !"

Quill's interruption was a most welcome one to both parties, and
we rejoiced with a sincere pleasure at his coming.

"What shall it be, Maurice? Port or sherry mulled, and an
anchovy ?"

" Or what say you to a bowl of bishop ?" said I.

" Hurrah for the Church, Charley ! Let us have the bishop ; and
not to disparage Fred's taste, we'll be eating the anchovy while the
liquor's concocting."

"Well, Maurice, and now for the news. How are matters at
Torres Vedras ? Anything like movement in that quarter?"

"Nothing very remarkable. Massena made a reconnaissance


some days since, and one of our batteries threw a shower of grape
among the staff, which spoiled the procession, and sent them back
in very disorderly time. Then we've had a few skirmishes to the
front, with no great results, a few. courts-martial, bad grub, and
plenty of grumbling."

" Why, what would they have ? It's a great thing to hold the
French army in check within a few marches of Lisbon."

" Charley, my man, who cares twopence for the French army, or
Lisbon, or the Portuguese, or the Junta, or anything about it ? —
every man is pondering over his own affairs. One fellow wants to get
home again and be sent upon some recruiting station. Another wishes
to get a step or two in promotion, to come to Torres Vedras, where
even the grande arm6e can't. Then some of us are in love, and some
of us are in debt. There is neither glory nor profit to be had. But
here's the bishop, smoking and steaming with an odor of nectar !"

" And our fellows, have you seen them lately ?"

" I dined with yours on Tuesday. — Was it Tuesday ? Yes ; I
dined with them. By the bye, Sparks was taken prisoner that

" Sparks taken prisoner ! Poor fellow ! I am sincerely sorry.
How did it happen, Maurice ?"

" Very simply. Sparks had a forage patrol towards Vieda, and set
out early in the morning with his party. It seemed that they suc-
ceeded perfectly, and were returning to the lines, when poor
Sparks, always susceptible where the sex are concerned, saw, or
thought he saw, a lattice gently open as he rode from the village,
and a very taper finger make a signal to him. Dropping a little
behind the rest, he waited till the men had debouched upon the
road, when, riding quietly up, he coughed a couple of times to
attract the fair unknown ; a handkerchief waved from the lattice in
reply, which was speedily closed, and our valiant Cornet accord-
ingly dismounted and entered the house.

" The remainder of the adventure is soon told, for in a few
seconds after, two men mounted on one horse were seen galloping
at top speed towards the French lines, — the foremost being a
French officer of the 4th Cuirassiers — the gentleman with his face
to the tail, our friend Sparks. The lovely unknown was a vieille
moustache of Loison's corps, who had been wounded in a skirmish
some days before, and lay waiting an opportunity of rejoining his
party. One of our prisoners knew the fellow well ; he had been
promoted from the ranks, and was an Hercules for feats of strength;
so that, after all, Sparks could not help himself."

" Well, I'm really sorry ; but, as you say, Sparks's tender nature
is always the ruin of him."


" Of him ! ay, and of you, and of Power, and of myself — of all of
us. Isn't it the sweet creatures that make fools of us from Father
Adam down to Maurice Quill, neither sparing age nor rank in the
service, half-pay, nor the Veteran Battalion — it's all one ? Pass the
jug, there. O'Shaughnessy "

" Ah, by the bye, how's the Major ?"

" Charmingly ; only a little bit in a scrape just now. Sir Arthur—*
Lord Wellington, I mean — had him up for his fellows being caught
pillaging, and gave him a devil of a rowing a few days ago.

" ' Very disorderly corps yours, Major O'Shaughnessy,' said the
General ; ' more men up for punishment than any regiment in the

" Shaugh muttered something ; but his voice was lost in a loud
cock-a-doo-do-doo, that some bold chanticleer set up at the

" ' If the officers do their duty, Major O'Shaughnessy, these acts
of insubordination do not occur.'

" ' Cock-a-doo-do-doo,' was the reply. Some of the staff found it
hard not to laugh ; but the General went on :

" ' If, therefore, the practice does not cease, I'll draft the men
into West India regiments.'

" ■ Cock-a-doo-do-doo.'

" ' And if any articles pillaged from the inhabitants are detected
in the quarters, or about the person of the troops "

" ' Cock-a-doo-do-doo,' screamed louder here than ever.

" ' D— that cock. Where is it ?'

" There was a general look around on all sides, which seemed in
vain, when a tremendous repetition of the cry resounded from
O'Shaughnessy 's coat pocket, thus detecting the valiant Major him-*
self in the very practice of his corps. There was no standing this.
Every one burst out into a peal of laughing, and Lord Wellington
himself could not resist, but turned away, muttering to himself as
he went, ' D — robbers, every man of them !' while a final war-note
from the ^Major's pocket closed the interview."

"Confound you, Maurice, you've always some villainous narrative
or other. You never crossed a street for shelter without making
something out of it."

" True this time, as sure as my name's Maurice ; but the bowl is

" Never mind ; here comes its successor. How long can you stay
amongst us ?"

" A few days at most. Just took a run off to see the sights. I was
all over Lisbon this morning; saw the Inquisition and the cells,
and the place where they tried the fellows — the kind of grand jury


room, with the great picture of Adam and Eve at the end of it.
What a beautiful creature she is ! hair down to her waist ; and such
eyes ! ' Ah, ye darling !' said I to myself, ' small blame to him for
what he did. Wouldn't I ate every crab in the garden, if ye asked
me V "

" I must certainly go see her, Maurice. Is she very Portuguese
in her style ?"

" Devil a bit of it. She might be a Limerick woman, with elegant
brown hair, and blue eyes, and a skin like snow."

" Come, come, they've pretty girls in Lisbon too, Doctor."

" Yes, faith," said Power, " that they have."

" Nothing like Ireland, boys — not a bit of it ; they're the girls for
my money ; and where's the man can resist them? From St. Pat-
rick, that had to go and live in the Wicklow mountains "

" St. Kevin, you mean, Doctor."

" Sure it's all the same, they were twins. I made a little song
about them one evening last week — the women, I mean."

" Let us have it, Maurice ; let us have it, old fellow. What's the
measure ?"

" Short measure ; four little verses — devil a more."

" But the time, I mean ?"

"Whenever you like to sing it; here it is. The air is 'Teddy ye


* You may talk, if you please,

Of the brown Portuguese,
But, wherever you roam, wherever you roam,

You nothing will meet

Half so lovely or sweet
As the girls at home, the girls at home.

" Their eyes are not sloes,

Nor so long is their nose,
But, between me and you, between me and you,

They are just as alarming,

And ten times more charming,
With hazel and blue, with hazel and blue.

" They don't ogle a man,

O'er the top of their fan,
'Till his heart's in a flame, his heart's in a flame ;

But though bashful and shy,

They've a look in their eye,
That just comes to the same, just comes to the same.

" No mantillas they sport,

But a petticoat short
Shows an ankle the best, an ankle the best,

And a leg — but, O murther !

I dare not go further,
So here's to the West : so here's to the West."


" Now that really is a sweet little thing. Moore's, isn't it."

" Not a bit of it ; my own muse, every word of it."

"And the music?" said I.

" My own, too. Too much spice in that bowl ; that's an invariable
error in your devisers of drink, to suppose that the tipple you start
with can please your palate to the last ; they forget that as we ad-
vance either in years or lush, our tastes simplify."

"Nous revenons d nos premieres amours. Isn't that it ?"

"No, not exactly, for we go even further; for if you mark the
progression of a sensible man's fluids, you'll find what an emblem
of life it presents to you. What is his initiatory glass of ' Chublis'
that he throws down with his oysters but the budding expectancy of
boyhood — the appetizing sense of pleasure to come; then follows
the sherry with his soup, that warming glow which strength and
vigor in all their consciousness impart, as a glimpse of life is opening
before him. Then youth succeeds — buoyant, wild, tempestuous
youth — foaming and sparkling, like the bright champagne, whose
stormy surface subsides into a myriad of bright stars."

"(Eil deperdrix"

" Not a bit of it ; woman's own eye ; brilliant, sparkling, and life-
giving "

" Devil take the fellow, he's getting poetical."

" Ah, Fred ! if that could only last ; but one must come to the
burgundies with his maturer years. Your first glass of hermitage is
the algebraic sign for five-and-thirty — the glorious burst is over ; the
pace is still good, to be sure, but the great enthusiasm is past. You
can afford to look forward, but, confound it, you've a long way to
look back also."

"I say, Charley, our friend has contrived to finish the bishop
during his disquisition ; the bowl's quite empty."

" You don't say so, Fred. To be sure, how a man does forget
himself in abstract speculations ; but let us have a little more — I've
not concluded my homily."

" Not a glass, Maurice ; it's already past nine ; we are all pledged
to the masquerade ; before we've dressed and got there, 'twill be late."

" But I'm not disguised yet, my boy, nor half."

" Well, they must take you au naturel, as our countrymen do their

" Yes, Doctor, Fred's right ; we had better start."

" Well, I can't help it ; I've recorded my opposition to the motion,
but I must submit ; and now that I'm on my legs, explain to me
what's that very dull-looking old lamp up there ?"

" That's the moon, man — the full moon."

"Well, I've no objection; I'm full too; so come along, lads."




TO form one's impression of a masked ball from the attempts at
this mode of entertainment in our country, is but to conceive
a most imperfect and erroneous notion. With us the first coup
d'ceil is everything ; the nuns, the shepherdesses, the Turks, sailors,
eastern princes, watchmen, moonshees, milestones, devils, and
Quakers, are all very well in their way as they pass in the review
before us, but when we come to mix in the crowd, we discover that
except the turban and the cowl, the crook and the broad-brim, no
further disguise is attempted or thought of. The nun, forgetting
her vow and her vestments, is flirting with the devil ; the watchman,
a very fastidious elegant, is ogling the fishwomen through his glass,
while the Quaker is performing a pas seul Alberti might be proud of
in a quadrille of riotous Turks and half-tipsy Hindoos ; in fact, the
whole wit of the scene consists in absurd associations. Apart from
this, the actors have rarely any claims upon your attention ; for even
supposing a person clever enough to sustain his character, whatever
it be, you must also supply the other personages of the drama, or, in
stage phrase, he'll have nothing to " play up to." What would be
Bardolph without Pistol? what Sir Lucius O'Trigger without Acres?
It is the relief which throws out the disparities and contradictions
of life that afford us most amusement ; hence it is that one swallow
can no more make a summer than one well-sustained character can
give life to a masquerade. Without such sympathies, such points of
contact, all the leading features of the individual, making him act
and be acted upon, are lost; the characters being mere parallel
lines, which, however near they approach, never bisect or cross each

This is not the case abroad. The domino, which serves for mere
concealment, is almost the only dress assumed, and the real disguise
is therefore thrown from necessity upon the talents, whatever they
be, of the wearer. It is no longer a question of a beard or a spangled
mantle, a Polish dress or a pasteboard nose ; the mutation of voice,
the assumption of a different manner, walk, gesture, and mode of
expression, are all necessary, and no small tact is required to effect
this successfully.

I may be pardoned this little digression, as it serves to explain in
some measure how I felt on entering the splendidly lit-up salons of
the villa, crowded with hundreds of figures in all the varied cos-
tumes of a carnival. The sounds of laughter, mingled with the crash
of the music ; the hurrying hither and thither of servants with re-


freshments ; the crowds gathered around fortune-tellers, whose pre-
dictions threw the parties at each moment into shouts of merriment;
the eager following of some disappointed domino, interrogating every-
one to find out a lost mask. For some time I stood an astonished
spectator at the kind of secret intelligence which seemed to pervade
the whole assemblage, when suddenly a mask, who for some time
had been standing beside me, whispered in French, —

" If you pass your time in this manner, you must not feel sur
prised if your place be occupied."

I turned hastily round, but she was gone. She, I say, for the
voice was clearly a woman's ; her pink domino could be no guide,
for hundreds of the same color passed me every instant ; the mean-
ing of the allusion I had little doubt of. I turned to speak to
Power, but he was gone ; and for the first moment of my life the
bitterness of rivalry crossed my mind. It was true I had resigned
all pretensions in his favor ; my last meeting with Lucy had been
merely to justify my own character against an impression that
weighed heavily on me ; still I thought he might have waited ; an-
other day and I should be far away, neither to witness nor grieve

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 50 of 80)