Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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over his successes.

"You still hesitate," whispered some one near me.

I wheeled round suddenly, but could not detect the speaker, and
was again relapsing into my own musings, when the same voice
repeated, —

" The white domino with the blue cape. Adieu."

Without waiting to reflect upon the singularity of the occurrence,
I now hurried along through the dense crowd, searching on every
side for the domino.

" Isn't that O'Malley?" said an Englishman to his friend.

" Yes," replied the other ; " the very man we want. O'Malley,
find a partner ; we have been searching a vis-a-vis this ten min-

The speaker was an officer I had met at Sir George Dashwood's.

" How did you discover me ?" said I, suddenly.

" Not a very difficult thing, if you carry your mask in your hand
that way," was the answer.

And now I perceived that in the abstraction of my thoughts I
had been carrying my mask in this manner since my coming into
the room.

" There now, what say you to the blue domino ? I saw her foot,
and a girl with such an instep must be a waltzer."

I looked round, a confused effort at memory passing across my
mind ; my eyes fell at the instant upon the embroidered sleeve of
the domino, where a rosebud worked in silver at once reminded me


of Catrina's secret. "Ah !" thought I, " la Senhora herself!" She
was leaning upon the arm of a tall and portly figure in black ; who
this was I knew not, nor sought to discover, but at once advancing
towards Donna Inez, asked her to waltz.

Without replying to me, she turned towards her companion, who
seemed, as it were, to press her acceptance of my offer ; she hesi-
tated, however, for an instant, and, curtseying deeply, declined it.
" Well," thought I, " she at least has not recognized me."

"And yet, Senhora," said I, half jestingly, " I have seen you join
a bolero before now."

" You evidently mistake me," was the reply, but in a voice so
well feigned as almost to convince me she was right.

" Nay, more," said I, " under your own fair auspices did I myself
first adventure one."

" Still in error, believe me ; I am not known to you."

"And yet I have a talisman to refresh your memory, should you
dare me further."

At this instant my hand was grasped warmly by a passing mask.
I turned round rapidly, and Power whispered in my ear, —

"Yours forever, Charley; you've made my fortune."

As he hurried on, I could perceive that he supported a lady on his
arm, and that she wore a loose white domino with a deep blue cape.
In a second all thought of Inez was forgotten, and anxious only to
conceal my emotion, I turned away and mingled with the crowd.
Lost to all around me, I wandered carelessly, heedlessly on, neither
noticing the glittering throng around, nor feeling a thought in com-
mon with the gay and joyous spirits that flitted by. The night wore
on, my melancholy and depression growing ever deeper; yet so
spell-bound was I that I could not leave the place. A secret sense
that it was the last time we were to meet had gained entire posses-
sion of me, and I longed to speak a few words ere we parted for-

I was leaning at a window which looked out upon the court-yard,
when suddenly the tramp of horses attracted my attention, and I
saw by the clear moonlight a group of mounted men, whose long
cloaks and tall helmets announced dragoons, standing around the
porch. At the same moment the door of the saloon opened, and an
officer in undress, splashed and travel-stained, entered. Making his
way rapidly through the crowd, he followed the servant who intro-
duced him towards the supper-room. Thither the dense mass now
pressed to learn the meaning of the singular apparition, while my
own curiosity, not less excited, led me towards the door; as I crossed
the hall, however, my progress was interrupted by a group of per-
sons, among whom I saw an aide-de-camp of Lord Wellington's


staff, narrating, as it were, some piece of newly-arrived intelligence.
I had no time for further inquiry, when a door opened near me, and
Sir George Dashwood, accompanied by several general officers, came
forth, the officer I had first seen enter the ball-room along with them.
Every one was by this unmasked, and eagerly looking to hear what
had occurred.

" Then, Dashwood, you'll send off an orderly at once ?" said an
old general officer beside me.

"This instant, my lord. I'll despatch an aide-de-camp. The
troops shall be in marching order before noon. Oh, here's the man I
want! O'Malley, come here. Mount your horse and dash into
town. Send for Brotherton and McGregor to quarters, and announce
the news as quickly as possible."

" But what am I to announce, Sir George ?"

" That the French are in retreat — Massena in retreat, my lad."

A tremendous cheer at this instant burst from the hundreds in the
salon, who now heard the glorious tidings. Another cheer and an-
other followed — ten thousand vivas rose amid the crash of the band,
as it broke into a patriotic war chant. Such a scene of enthusiasm
and excitment I had never witnessed. Some wept for joy. Others
threw themselves into their friends' arms.

"They're all mad, every mother's son of them!" said Maurice
Quill, as he elbowed his way through the mass ; " and here's an old
vestal won't leave my arm. She has already embraced me three
times, and we've finished a flask of Malaga between us."

" Come, O'Malley, are you ready for the road ?"

My horse was by this time standing saddled at the front. I sprang
at once to the saddle, and, without waiting for a second order, set
out for Lisbon. Ten minutes had scarce elapsed — the very shouts
of joy of the delighted city were still ringing in my ears — when I
was once again back at the villa. As I mounted the steps into the
hall, a carriage drew up ; it was Sir George Dashwood's ; he came
forward — his daughter leaning upon his arm.

" Why, O'Malley, I thought you had gone."

" I have returned, Sir George. Colonel Brotherton is in waiting,
and the staff also. I have received orders to set out for Benejos,
where the 14th are stationed, and have merely delayed to say

"Adieu, my dear boy, and God bless you !" said the warm-hearted
old man, as he pressed my hand between both his. " Lucy, here's
your old friend about to leave ; come and say good-bye."

Miss Dashwood had stopped behind to adjust her shawl. I flew
to her assistance. "Adieu, Miss Dashwood, and forever !" said I, in
a broken voice, as I took her hand in mine. " This is not your


domino," said I eagerly, as a blue silk one peeped from beneath her
mantle ; " and the sleeve, too — did you wear this ?" She blushed
slightly, and assented.

" I changed with the Senhora, who wore mine all the evening."

" And Power, then, was not your partner ?"

" I should think not — for I never danced."

" Lucy, my love, are you ready ? Come, be quick."

"Good-bye, Mr. O'Malley, and au revoir, n' est-ce pas f"

I drew her glove from her hand as she spoke, and, pressing my
lips upon her ringers, placed her within the carriage. "Adieu, and
au revoir!" said I ; the carriage turned away, and a white glove was
all that remained to me of Lucy Dashwood !

The carriage had turned the angle of the road, and its retiring
sounds were growing gradually fainter, ere I recovered myself suffi-
ciently to know where I stood. One absorbing thought alone pos-
sessed me. Lucy was not lost to me forever ; Power was not my
rival in that quarter — that was enough for me. I needed no more
to nerve my arm and steel my heart. As I reflected thus, the long
loud blast of a trumpet broke upon the silence of the night, and
admonished me to depart. I hurried to my room to make my few
preparations for the road, but Mike had already anticipated every-
thing here, and all was in readiness.

But one thing now remained — to make my adieu to the Senhora.
With this intent, I descended a narrow winding stair which led
from my dressing-room, and opened by a little terrace upon the
flower-garden beside her apartments.

As I crossed the gravelled alley, I could not but think of the last
time I had been there. It was on the eve of departure for the
Douro. I recalled the few and fleeting moments of our leave-
taking, and a thought flashed upon me — what if she cared for me!
— what if, half in coquetry, half in reality, her heart was mixed up
in those passages which daily associations give rise to ?

I could not altogether acquit myself of all desire to make her
believe me her admirer ; nay, more, with the indolent abandon of
my country, I had fallen into a thousand little schemes to cheat the
long hours away, which having no other object than the happiness
of the moment, might yet color all her after-life with sorrow.

Let no one rashly pronounce me a coxcomb, vain and pretentious,
for all this. In my inmost heart I had no feeling of selfishness
mingled with the consideration. It was from no sense of my own
merits, no calculation of my own chances of success, that I thought
thus. Fortunately, at eighteen one's heart is uncontaminated with
such an alloy of vanity. The first emotions of youth are pure and
holy things, tempering our fiercer passions, and calming the rude


effervescence of our boyish spirit ; and when we strive to please, and
hope to win affection, we insensibly fashion ourselves to nobler and
higher thoughts, catching from the source of our devotion a portion
of that charm that idealizes daily life, and makes our path in it a
glorious and a bright one.

Who would not exchange all the triumph of his later days, the
proudest moments of successful ambition, the richest trophies of
hard-won daring, for the short and vivid flash that first shot through
his heart and told him he was loved? It is the opening conscious-
ness of life, the first sense of power, that makes of the mere boy a
man — a man in all his daring and his pride — and hence it is that
in early life we feel ever prone to indulge those fancied attachments
which elevate and raise us in our own esteem. Such was the frame
of my mind as I entered the little boudoir, where once before I had
ventured on a similar errand.

As I closed the sash-door behind me, the gray dawn of breaking
day scarcely permitted my seeing anything around me, and I felt
my way towards the door of an adjoining room, where I supposed it
was likely I should find the Senhora. As I proceeded thus with
cautious step and beating heart, I thought I heard a sound near me.
I stopped and listened, and was again about to move on, when a
half-stifled sob fell upon my ear. Slowly and silently guiding my
steps towards the sounds, I reached a sofa, when, my eyes growing
by degrees more accustomed to the faint light, I could detect a
figure which, at a glance, I recognized as Donna Inez. A cashmere
shawl was loosely thrown round her, and her face was buried in her
hands. As she lay, to all seeming, still and insensible before me,
her beautiful hair fell heavily upon her back and across her arm,
and her whole attitude denoted the very abandonment of grief. A
short convulsive shudder which slightly shook her frame alone gave
evidence of life, except when a sob, barely audible, in the death-
like silence, escaped her.

I knelt silently down beside her, and, gently withdrawing her
hand, placed it within mine. A dreadful feeling of self-condemna-
tion shot through me as I felt the gentle pressure of her taper
fingers, which rested without a struggle in my grasp. My tears fell
hot and fast upon that pale hand, as I bent in sadness over it,
unable to utter a word. A rush of conflicting thoughts passed
through my brain, and I knew not what to do. I now had no doubt
Upon my mind that she loved me, and that her present affliction
was caused by my approaching departure.

"Dearest Inez!" I stammered out at length, as I pressed her
hands to my lips; "dearest Inez!" — a faint sob, and a slight pres-
sure of her hand, was the only reply. " I have come to say good-


bye," continued I, gaining a little courage as I spoke; "a long
good-bye, too, in all likelihood. You have heard that we are
ordered away, — there, don't sob, dearest, and, believe me, I had
wished ere we parted to have spoken to you calmly and openly ;
but alas ! I cannot, — I scarcely know what I say."

" You will not forget me ?" said she, in a low voice, that sank into
my very heart. " You will not forget me ?" As she spoke, her
hand dropped heavily upon my shoulder, and her rich luxuriant
hair fell upon my cheek. What a devil of a thing is proximity to
a downy cheek and a black eyelash, more especially when they be-
long to one whom you are disposed to believe not indifferent to you !
What I did at this precise moment there is no necessity for record-
ing, even had not an adage interdicted such confessions, nor can I
now remember what I said ; but I can well recollect how, gradually
warming with my subject, I entered into a kind of half-declaration
of attachment, intended most honestly to be a mere expose of my
own unworthiness to win her favor, and my resolution to leave
Lisbon and its neighborhood forever.

Let not any one blame me rashly if he has not experienced the
difficulty of my position. The impetus of love-making is like the
ardor of a fox-hunt. You care little that the six-bar gate before
you is the boundary of another gentleman's preserves or the fence
of his pleasure-ground. You go slap along at a smashing pace, with
your head up, and your hand low, clearing all before you, the oppo-
sing difficulties to your progress giving half the zest, because all the
danger, to your career. So it is with love. The gambling spirit
urges one ever onward, and the chance of failure is a reason for
pursuit, where no other argument exists.

"And you do love me?" said the Senhora, with a soft, low whisper,
that most unaccountably suggested anything but comfort to me.

" Love you, Inez ? By this kiss — I'm in an infernal scrape !" said
I, muttering this last half of my sentence to myself.

"And you'll never be jealous again?"

" Never, by all that's lovely ! — your own sweet lips. That's the
very last thing to reproach me with."

"And you promise me not to mind that foolish boy? For, after
all, you know it was mere flirtation — if even that."

" I'll never think of him again," said I, while my brain was
burning to make out her meaning. " But, dearest, there goes the
trumpet-call "

" And, as for Pedro Mascarenhas, I never liked him."

"Are you quite sure, Inez?"

" I swear it ! — so no more of him. Gonzales Cordenza — I've broke
with him long since. So that you see, dearest Frederic "


* Frederic I" said I, starting almost to my feet with amazement,
while she continued : —

" I'm your own — all your own !"

"Oh! the coquette, the heartless jilt!" groaned I, half aloud.
" And O'Malley, Inez, poor Charley I — what of him ?"

"Poor thing! I can't help him. But he's such a puppy, the
lesson may do him good."

" But perhaps he loved you, Inez ?"

" To be sure he did ; I wished him to do so, — I can't bear not to be
loved. But, Frederic, tell me, may I trust you — will you keep faith-
ful to me ?"

" Sweetest Inez ! by this last kiss I swear, that such as I kneel
before you now, you'll ever find me."

A foot upon the gravel-walk without now called me to my feet. I
sprang towards the door, and before Inez had lifted her head from
the sofa, I had reached the garden. A figure muffled in a cavalry
cloak passed near me, but without noticing me, and the next mo-
ment I had cleared the paling, and was hurrying towards the stable,
where I had ordered Mike to be in waiting.

The faint streak of dull pink which announces the coming day,
stretched beneath the dark clouds of the night, and the chill air of
the morning was already stirring in the leaves.

As I passed along by a low beech hedge which skirted the avenue,
I was struck by the sound of voices near me. I stopped to listen,
and soon detected in one of the speakers my friend Mickey Free ;
of the other I was not long in ignorance.

" Love you, is it — bathershin ? It's worship you — adore you, my
darling — that's the word — there, acushla, don't cry — dry your eyes —
oh, murther ! it's a cruel thing to tear one's self away from the best
of living, with the run of the house in drink and kissing. Bad luck
to it for campaigning, anyway, I. never liked it!"

Catrina's reply,— for it was she— I could not gather j but Mike
resumed : —

"Ay, J us t so, sore bones and wet grass, accadente and half rations.
Oh, that I ever saw the day when I took to it ! Listen to me now,
honey ; here it is, on my knees I am before you, and throth it's not
more nor three, maybe four, young women I'd say the like to ; bad
scran to me if I wouldn't marry you out of a face this blessed morn-
ing just as soon as I'd look at ye. Arrah, there now, don't be
screeching and bawling ; what'll the neighbors think of us, and my
own heart's destroyed with grief entirely."

Poor Catrina's voice returned an inaudible answer, and not wishing
any longer to play the eavesdropper, I continued my path towards
the stable. The distant noises from the city announced a state of


movement and preparation, and more than one orderly passed the
road near me at a gallop. As I turned into the wide court-yard,
Mike, breathless and flurried with running, overtook me.

"Are the horses ready, Mike?" said I; "we must start this

" They've just finished a peck of oats apiece, and faix that same
may be a stranger to them this day six months."

" And the baggage, too ?"

" On the cars, with the staff and the light brigade. It was down
there I was now, to see all was right."

" Oh, I'm quite aware ; and now bring out the cattle. I hope
Catrina received your little consolations well. That seems a very
sad affair."

" Murder, real murder, devil a less ! It's no matter where you go,
from Clonmel to Chayney, it's all one ; they've a way of getting
round you. Upon my soul, it's like the pigs they are."

" Like pigs, Mike ? That appears a strange compliment you've
selected to pay them."

" Ay, just like the pigs, no less. Maybe you never heard what
happened to myself up at Moronha ?"

" Look to that girth there. Well, go on."

" I was coming along one morning just as day was beginning to
break, when I sees a slip of a pig trotting before me > with nobody
near him ; but as the road was lonely, and myself rather down in
heart, I thought, Musha ! but yer fine company, anyhow, av a body
could only keep you with him. But, ye see, a pig — saving your
presence — is a baste not easily flattered, so I didn't waste time and
blarney upon him, but I took off my belt and put it round its neck
as neat as need be ; but as the devil's luck would have it, I didn't go
half an hour when a horse came galloping up behind me. I turned
round, and by the blessed light, it was Sir Dinny himself was on it!"

"Sir Dennis Pack?"

" Yes, bad luck to his hook nose. ' What are you doing there, my
fine fellow V says he. ' What's that you have dragging there behind
you V

" ' A boneen, sir,' says I. ' Isn't he a fine crayture ? — av he wasn't
so troublesome.'

" ' Troublesome, troublesome — what do you mean?'

" ' Just so,' says I. 'Isn't he parsecuting the life out of me the
whole mornin', following me about everywhere I go? Contrary
bastes they always was.'

" ' I advise you to try and part company, my friend, notwith~
standing,' says he ; 'or maybe it's the same end you'll be coming to,,
and not long either.' And, faix, I took his advice ; and ye see ?


Mister Charles, it's just as I was saying, they're like the women, the
least thing in life is enough to bring them after us, av ye only put
the ' comether' upon them."

" And now adieu to the Villa Nuova," said I, as I rode slowly down
the avenue, turning ever and anon in my saddle to look back on
each well-known spot.

A heavy sigh from Mike responded to my words.

" A long, a last farewell !" said I, waving my hand towards the
trellised walls, now half hidden by the trees ; and as I spoke, that
heaviness of the heart came over me that seems inseparable from
leave-taking. The hour of parting seems like a warning to us
that all our enjoyments and pleasures here are destined to a short
and merely fleeting existence ; and, as each scene of life passes away
never to return, we are made to feel that youth and hope are passing
with them ; and that, although the fair world be as bright, and its
pleasures as rich in abundance, our capacity of enjoyment is daily,
hourly diminishing ; and while all around us smiles in beauty and
happiness, that we, alas ! are not what we were.

Such was the tenor of my thoughts as I reached the road, when
they were suddenly interrupted by my man Mike, whose medita-
tions were following a somewhat similar channel, though at last
inclining to different conclusions. He coughed a couple of times,
as if to attract my attention, and then, as it were half thinking
aloud, he muttered : —

" I wonder if we treated the young ladies well> anyhow, Mister
Charles, for, faix, I've my doubts on it."



WHEN we reached Lescas, we found that an officer of Lord
Wellington's staff had just arrived from the lines, and was
occupied in making known the general order from head-
quarters ; this set forth, with customary brevity, that the French
armies, under the command of Massena, had retired from their posi-
tion, and were in full retreat ; the second and third corps which had
been stationed at Villa Franca, having marched during the night of
the 15th, in the direction of Manal. The officers in command of
divisions were ordered to repair instantly to Pero Negro to consult
upon a forward movement, Admiral Berkeley being written to to pro-


vide launches to pass over General Hill's, or any other corps which
might be selected, to the left bank of the Tagus. All was now ex-
citement, heightened by the unexpected nature of an occurrence
which not even speculation had calculated upon. It was but a few
days before, and the news had reached Torres Vedras that a power-
ful reinforcement was in march to join Massena's army, and their
advanced guard had actually reached Santarem. The confident
expectation was, therefore, that an attack upon the lines was medi-
tated. Now, however, this prospect existed no longer ; for scarcely
had the heavy mists of the lowering day disappeared, when the vast
plain, so lately peopled by the thickened ranks and dark masses' of
a great army, was seen in its whole extent deserted and untenanted.

The smouldering fires of the pickets alone marked where the
troops had been posted, but not a man of that immense force was to
be seen. General Fane, who had been despatched with a brigade of
Portuguese cavalry and, some artillery, hung upon the rear of the
retiring army, and from him we learned that the enemy were con-
tinuing their retreat northward, having occupied Santarem with a
strong force to cover the movement. Craufurd was ordered to the
front with the light division, the whole army following in the same
direction, except Hill's corps, which, crossing the river at Velada,
was intended to harass the enemy's flank, and assist our future

Such, in brief, was the state of affairs when I reached Villa Franca
towards noon, and received orders to join my regiment, then form-
ing part of Sir Stapleton Cotton's brigade.

It must be felt, to be thoroughly appreciated, the enthusiastic
pleasure with which one greets his old corps after some months of
separation ; the bounding ecstasy with which the weary eye rests
on the old familiar faces, dear by every association of affection and
brotherhood ; the anxious look for this one, and for that; the thrill
of delight sent through the heart as the well-remembered march
swells upon the ear ; the very notes of that rough voice which we
have heard amid the crash of battle and the rolling of artillery,
speaks softly to our senses, like a father's welcome ; from the well-
tattered flag that waves above us, to the proud steed of the war-worn
trlimpeter — each has a niche in our affections.

If ever there was a corps calculated to increase and foster these
sentiments, the 14th Light Dragoons was such. The warm affection,
the truly heartfelt regard, which existed among my brother officers
made of our mess a happy home. Our veteran Colonel, grown gray

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 51 of 80)