Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

. (page 53 of 80)
Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 53 of 80)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


though I confess not for a long time."

" If I might be so bold," cried Maurice, " how long ?"

" Half an hour, by a stop-watch," said the other, pulling up his
stock ; " and I had quite enough of it in that time.

"Pray give us your experiences," cried out Bob Mahon. "They
should be interesting, considering your opportunities."

" You are right," said the Cornet ; " they were so ; and as they
illustrate a feature in your amiable country, you shall have them."

A general knocking upon the table announced the impatience of
the company, and when silence was restored, the Cornet began :

" When the Bermuda transport sailed from Portsmouth for Lisbon,
I happened to make one of some four hundred interesting individ-
uals who, before they became food for powder, were destined to try
their constitutions on pickled pork. The second day after our sail-
ing, the winds became adverse ; it blew a hurricane from every corner
of the compass but the one it ought, and the good ship, that should
have been standing straight for the Bay of Biscay, was scudding
away under a double-reefed topsail towards the coast of Labrador.
For six days we experienced every sea-manceuvre that usually pre-
ludes a shipwreck, and at length, when from sea-sickness and fear,
we had become utterly indifferent to the result, the storm abated,
the sea went down, and we found ourselves lying comfortably in the
harbor of Cork, with a strange suspicion on our minds that the
frightful scenes of the past week had been nothing but a dream.

" ' Come Mr. Medlicot/ said the Skipper to me, 'we shall be here



PATRICK'S DA Y IN THE PENINSULA. 509

for a couple of days to refit ; had you not better go ashore and see
the country?'

" I sprang to my legs with delight ; visions of cowslips, larks,
daisies, and mutton chops floated before my excited imagination,
and in ten minutes I found myself standing at that pleasant little
inn at Cove which, opposite Spike Island, rejoices in the name of the
' Goat and Garters.'

" ' Breakfast, waiter,' said I ; ' a beefsteak — fresh beef, mark ye ;
fresh eggs, bread, milk, and butter, all fresh. — No more hard tack,'
thought I ; ' no salt butter, but a genuine land breakfast.'

" ' Up stairs, No. 4, sir/ said the waiter, as he flourished a dirty
napkin, indicating the way.

" Up stairs I went, and in due time the appetizing little meal made
its appearance. Never did a minor's eye revel over his broad acres
with more complacent enjoyment than did mine skim over the beef-
steak and the muffin, the teapot, the trout, and the devilled kidney,
so invitingly spread out before me. ' Yes,' thought I, as I smacked
my lips, ' this is the reward of virtue ! pickled pork is a probationary
state that admirably fits us for future enjoyments.' I arranged my
napkin upon my knee, seized my knife and fork, and proceeded with
most critical acumen to bisect a beefsteak. Scarcely, however, had
I touched it, when with a loud crash, the plate smashed beneath it,
and the gravy ran piteously across the cloth. Before I had time to
account for the phenomenon, the door opened hastily, and the waiter
rushed into the room, his face beaming with smiles, while he rubbed
his hands in an ecstasy of delight.

" ' It's all over, sir,' said he ; ' glory be to God I it's all done.'

" ' What's over ? what's done ?' inquired I, with impatience.

" ' Mr. M'Mahon is satisfied,' replied he, ' and so is the other gen-
tleman.'

" ' Who and what the devil do you mean V

" ' It's over, sir, I say,' replied the waiter again ; ' he fired in the
air.'

" ' Fired in the air ! Was there a duel in the room below stairs?'

" ' Yes, sir,' said the waiter, with a benign smile.

" ' That will do,' said I, as, seizing my hat, I rushed out of the
house, and, hurrying to the beach, took a boat for the ship. Exactly
half an hour had elapsed since my landing, but even those short
thirty minutes had fully as many reasons that, although there may
be few more amusing, there are some safer places to live in than the
Green Isle."

A general burst of laughter followed the Cornet's story, which
was heightened in its effect by the gravity with which he told it.

"And, after all,"' said Maurice Quill, " now that people have given



510 CHARLES O'MALLEY.

up making fortunes for the insurance companies, by living to the
age of Methuselah, there's nothing like being an Irishman. In what
other part of the habitable globe can you cram so much of adventure
into one year ? Where can you be so often in love, in liquor, or in
debt? and where can you get so merrily out of the three? Where
are promises to marry and promises to pay treated with the same
gentlemanlike forbearance? and where, when you have lost your
heart and your fortune, are people found so ready to comfort you in
your reverses? Yes," said Maurice, as he filled his glass up to the
brim, and eyed it lusciously for a moment — "yes, darling, here's
your health ; the only girl I ever loved — in that part of the country,
I mean. Give her a bumper, lads, and I'll give you a chant !"

" Name ! name I name 1" shouted several voices from different parts
of the table.

" Mary Draper I" said Maurice, filling his glass once more, while
the name was re-echoed by every lip at table.

" The song ! the song !"

" Faith, I hope I haven't forgotten it," quoth Maurice. " No ;
here it is."

So saying, after a couple of efforts to assure the pitch of his voice,
the worthy Doctor began the following words to that very popular
melody, " Nancy Dawson :"

"MARY DRAPER."

" Don't talk to me of London dames,
Nor rave about your foreign flames,
That never lived, — except in drames,

Nor shone, except on paper ;
I'll sing you 'bout a girl I knew,
Who lived in Ballywhacmacrew,
And, let me tell you, mighty few

Could equal Mary Draper.

" Her cheeks were red, her eyes were blue,
Her hair was brown, of deepest hue,
Her foot was small, and neat to view,

Her waist was slight and taper ;
Her voice was music to your ear,
A lovely brogue, so rich and clear,
Oh, the like I ne'er again shall hear,
As from sweet Mary Draper.

" She'd ride a wall, she'd drive a team,
Or with a fly she'd whip a stream,
Or may be sing you ' Rousseau's Dream,'

For nothing could escape her ;
I've seen her, too — upon my word —
At sixty yards bring down her bird.
Oh ! she charmed all the Forty-third,
Did lovely Mary Draper.



PATRICK'S DA Y IN THE PENINSULA. 511

" And at the spring assizes' ball,
The junior bar would oneand all
For all her fav'rite dances call,

And Harry Deane would caper ;
Lord Clare would then forget his lore,
King's Counsel, voting law a bore,
"Were proud to figure on the floor,

For love of Mary Draper.

" The parson, priest, sub-sheriff too,
"Were all her slaves, and so would you,
If you had only but one view

Of such a face and shape, or
Her pretty ankles — but, ohone,
It's only west of old Athlone
Such girls were found— and now they're gone—

So here's to Mary Draper !"

" So here's to Mary Draper !" sang out every voice, in such efforts
to catch the tune as pleased the taste of the motley assembly.

" For Mary Draper and Co., I thank you," said Maurice. " Quill
drinks to Dennis," added he, in a grave tone, as he nodded to
O'Shaughnessy. "Yes, Shaugh, few men better than ourselves
know these matters ; and few have had more experience of the three
perils of Irishmen — love, liquor, and the law of arrest."

" It's little the latter has ever troubled my father's son," replied
O'Shaughnessy ; " our family have been writ proof for centuries,
and he'd have been a bold man who would have ventured with an
original or a true copy within the precincts of Killinahoula."

" Your father had a touch of Larry M'Hale in him," said I, " ap-
parently."

" Exactly so," replied Dennis ; " not but they caught him at last;
and a scurvy trick it was, and well worthy of him who did it ! Yes,"
said he, with a sigh, " it is only another among the many instances
where the better features of our nationality have been used by our
enemies as instruments for our destruction ; and should we seek for
the causes of unhappiness in our wretched country, we should find
them rather in our virtues than in our vices, and in the bright
rather than in the darker phases of our character."

"Metaphysics, by Jove!" cried Quill; "but all true at the same
time. There was a messmate of mine in the Roscommon, who never
paid car-hire in his life. ' Head or Harp, Paddy !' he would cry.
1 Two tenpennies, or nothing. Harp ! for the honor of ould Ireland,'
was the invariable response, and my friend was equally sure to
make head come uppermost; and, upon my soul, they seem to know
the trick at the Home Office."

" That must have been the same fellow that took my father,"
cried O'Shaughnessy, with energy.



612 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

" Let us hear the story, Dennis," said I.

" Yes," said Maurice, " for the benefit of self and fellows, let us
hear the stratagem !"

" The way of it was this," resumed O'Shauglmessy ; " my lather,
who, for reasons registered in the King's Bench, spent a great many
years of his life in that part of Ireland geographically known as
lying west of the law, was obliged for certain reasons of family to
come up to Dublin. This he proceeded to do with due caution.
Two trusty servants formed an advanced guard, and patrolled the
country for at least five miles in advance; after them came a skir-
mishing body of a few tenants, who, for the consideration of never
paying rent, would have charged the whole Court of Chancery, if
needful. My father himself, in an old chaise victualled like a fort-
ress, brought up the rear ; and, as I said before, he was a bold man
who would have attempted to have laid siege to him. As the column
advanced into the enemy's country, they assumed a closer order, the
patrol and the picket falling back upon the main body ; and in this
way they reached that most interesting city called Kilbeggan. "What
a fortunate thing it is for us in Ireland that we can see so much of
the world without foreign travel, and that any gentleman for six-
and-eightpence can leave Dublin in the morning and visit Tim-
buctoo against dinner-time ! Don't stare ! it's truth I'm telling ; for
dirt, misery, smoke, unaffected behavior, and black faces, I'll back
Kilbeggan against all Africa. Free-and-easy, pleasant people ye
are, with a skin as begrimed and as rugged as your own potatoes !
But, to resume. The sun was just rising in a delicious morning of
June, when my father — whose loyal antipathies I have mentioned
made him also an early riser — was preparing for the road. A stout
escort of his followers were as usual under arms to see him safe in
the chaise, the passage to and from which every day being the crit-
ical moment of my father's life.

" ' It's all right, your honor,' said his own man, as, armed with a
blunderbuss, he opened the bedroom door.

"'Time enough, Tim,' said my father; 'close the door, for I
haven't finished my breakfast/

"Now, the real truth was, that my father's attention was at that
moment withdrawn from his own concerns, by a scene which was
taking place in a field beneath his window.

" But a few minutes before, a hack-chaise had stopped upon the
road-side, out of which sprang three gentlemen, who, proceeding
into the field, seemed bent upon something, which, whether a sur-
vey or a duel, my father could not make out. He was not long,
however, to remain in ignorance. One, with an easy, lounging gait,
strode towards a distant corner; another took an opposite direction;



PATRICK'S DA Y IN THE PENINSULA. 513

while a third, a short, pursy gentleman, in a red handkerchief and
rabbit-skin waistcoat, proceeded to open a mahogany box, which, to
the critical eyes of my respected father, was agreeably suggestive of
bloodshed and murder.

" 'A duel, by Jupiter !' said my father, rubbing his hands. 'What
a heavenly morning the scoundrels have ! not a leaf stirring, and a
sod like a billiard-table !'

"Meanwhile, the little man who officiated as second, it would
appear, to both parties, bustled about with an activity little conge-
nial to his shape ; and, what between snapping the pistols, examin-
ing the flints, and ramming down the charges, had got himself into
a sufficient perspiration before he commenced to measure out the
ground.

" ' Short distance and no quarter !' shouted one of the combatants,
from the corner of the field.

" 'Across a handkerchief, if you like !' roared the other.

" l Gentlemen, every inch of them !' responded my father.

" ' Twelve paces !' cried the little man. ' No more and no less.
Don't forget that I am alone in this business.'

" 'A very true remark V observed my father ; f and an awkward
predicament yours will be if they are not both shot !'

" By this time the combatants had taken their places, and the
little man, having delivered the pistols, was leisurely retiring to give
the word. My .^ather, however, whose critical eye was never at fault,
detected a circumstance which promised an immense advantage to
one at the expense of the other ; in fact, one of the parties was so
placed with his back to the sun, that his shadow extended in a
straight line to the very foot of his antagonist.

" ' Unfair, unfair !' cried my father, opening the window as he
spoke, and addressing himself to him of the rabbit-skin. 'I crave
your pardon for the interruption/ said he ; - but I feel bound to
observe that that gentleman's shadow is likely to make a shade of
him.'

" 'And so it is/ observed the short man ; ' a thousand thanks for
your kindness ; but the truth is, I am totally unaccustomed to this
kind of thing, and the affair will not admit of delay.'

" " Not an hour !' said one.

" ' Not five minutes !' growled the other of the combatants.

" ' Put them up north and south !' said my father,

"'Is it thus?'

" ' Exactly so. But now again, the gentleman in the brown coat
is covered with the ash-tree.'

" 'And so he is !' said rabbit-skin, wiping his forehead with agita-
tion.

33



514 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.



" ' Move them a little to the left,' said he.

That brings me upon an eminence,' said the gentleman in blue.



'I'll be d— if I'll be made a cock-shot of!'

What an awkward little thief it is in the hairy waistcoat !' said
my father; ' he's lucky if he don't get shot himself!'

" ' May I never, if I'm not sick of you both !' ejaculated rabbit-
skin, in a passion. ' I've moved you round every point of the com-
pass, and devil a nearer we are than ever.'

" ' Give us the word,' said one.

"' The word!'

" ' Downright murder,' said my father.

" ' I don't care,' cried the little man ; ' we shall be here till
doomsday.'

" ' I can't permit this,' said my father ; ' allow me.' So saying,
he stepped upon the window-sill, and leaped down into the field.

" ' Before I can accept of your politeness,' said he of the rabbit-
skin, 'may I beg to know your name and position in society ?'

" ' Nothing more reasonable,' said my father. ' I'm Miles
O'Shaughnessy, Colonel of the Eoyal Easpers ; here is my card.'

" The piece of pasteboard was complacently handed from one to
the other of the party, who saluted my father with a smile of most
courteous benignity.

" ' Colonel O'Shaughnessy,' said one.

" \ Miles O'Shaughnessy,' said the other.

" ' Of Killinahoula Castle,' said the third.

" 'At your service,' said my father, bowing as he presented his
snuff-box; 'and now to business, if you please; for my time also
js limited.'

( " Very true,' observed he of the rabbit-skin, 'and, as you ob-
serve, now to business ; in virtue of which, Colonel Miles O'Shaugh-
nessy, J hereby arrest you in the King's name. Here is the writ :
it's at the suit of Barnaby Kelly, of Loughrea, for the sum of
£1,482 19s, 7J£, which '

" Before he could conclude the sentence, my father discharged one
obligation, by implanting his closed knuckles in his face. The blow,
well aimed and well intentioned, sent the little fellow summerset-
ting like a sugar hogshead. But, alas J it was no use ; the others,-
strong and able-bodied, fell both upon him, and after a desperate
Struggle succeeded in getting him down. To tie his hands and
convey him to a chaise was the work of a few moments ; and, as my
father drove by the inn, the last object which caught his view was a
bloody encounter between his own people and the myrmidons of the
law, who, in great numbers, had laid siege to the house during his
capture. Thus was my father taken ; and thus, in reward for yield-



PATRICK'S DA Y IN THE PENINSULA. 515

ing to a virtuous weakness in his character, was he consigned to the
ignominious durance of a prison. Was I not right, then, in saying
that such is the melancholy position of our country, the most
beautiful traits in our character are converted into the elements of
our ruin ?"

"I dinna think ye hae made out your case, Major," said the
Scotch Doctor, who felt sorely puzzled at my friend's logic. " If
your faither had nae gi'en the bond "

" There is no saying what he wouldn't have done to the bailiffs,"
interrupted Dennis, who was following up a very different train of
reasoning.

"I fear me, Doctor," observed Quill, "you are much behind us
in Scotland. Not but that some of your chieftains are respectable
men, and wouldn't get on badly even in Gal way."

" I thank ye muckle for the compliment," said the Doctor, dryly ;
" but I hae my doubts they'd think it ane, and they're crusty carles
that's no' ower safe to meddle wi'."

" I'd as soon propose a hand of spoiled five to the Pope of Rome,
as a joke to one of them," returned Maurice.

" Maybe ye are na wrang there, Maister Quell."

" Well," cried Hampden, " if I may be allowed an opinion, I can
safely aver I know no quarters like Scotland. Edinburgh beyond
anything or anywhere I was ever placed in."

"Always after Dublin," interposed Maurice, while a general
chorus of voices re-echoed the sentiment.

" You are certainly a strong majority," said my friend, " against
me; but still I recant not my original opinion. Edinburgh before
the world. For a hospitality that never tires ; for pleasant fellows
that improve every day of your acquaintance ; for pretty girls that
make you long for a repeal of the canon about being only singly,
blessed, and lead you to long for a score of them, Edinburgh, I say
again, before the world."

" Their ankles are devilish thick," whispered Maurice.

"A calumny, a base calumny!"

"And then they drink "

"Oh "

" Yes ; they drink very strong tea."

"Shall we hae a glass o' sherry together, Hampden?" said the
Scotch Doctor, willing to acknowledge his defence of Auld Reekie.

" And we'll take O'Malley in," said Hampden ; " he looks im-
ploringly."

"And now to return to the charge," quoth Maurice. "In what
particular dare ye contend the palm with Dublin? We'll not speak
of beauty. I can't suffer any such profane turn in the conversation



516 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

as to dispute the superiority of Irishwomen's lips, eyes, noses, and
eyebrows, to anything under heaven. We'll not talk of gay fellows;
egad, we needn't. I'll give you the garrison — a decent present ; and
I'll back the Irish bar for more genuine drollery, more wit, more
epigram, more ready, sparkling fun, than the whole rest of the
empire — ay, and all her colonies — can boast of."

" They are nae remarkable for passing the bottle, if they resemble
their gifted advocate," observed the Scotchman.

" But they are for filling and emptying both, making its current,
as it glides by, like a rich stream glittering in the sunbeams with the
sparkling lustre of their wit. Lord, how I'm blown ! Fill my pan-
nikin, Charley. There's no subduing a Scot. Talk with him, drink
with him, fight with him, and he'll always have the last of it:
there's only one way of concluding the treaty "

" And that is "

" Blarney him. Lord bless you ! he can't stand it. Tell him
Holyrood's like Versailles, and the Trossachs finer than Mont
Blanc; that Geordie Buchanan was Homer, and the Canongate,
Herculaneum, — then ye have him on the hip. Now, ye can never
humbug an Irishman that way; he'll know you're quizzing him
when you praise his country."

" Ye are right, Hampden," said the Scotch Doctor, in reply to
some observation. " We are vara primitive in the Hielands, and we
keep to our ain national customs in dress and everything ; and we
are vara slow to learn ; and even when we try, we are nae ower suc-
cessful' in our imitations, which sometimes cost us dearly enough.
Ye may have heard, maybe, of the M'Nab o' that ilk, and what
happened him with the King's equerry ?"

" I am not quite certain," said Hampden, " if I ever heard the
.story."

" It's nae muckle of a story ; but the way of it was this : — When
Montrose came back from London, he brought with him a few Eng-
lishes to show them the Hielands, and let them see something of
deer-stalking; among the rest, a certain Sir George Sowerby, an
aide-de-camp or an equerry of the Prince. He was a vara fine
gentleman, that never loaded his ain gun, and a'most thought it too
much trouble to pull the trigger. He went out every morning to
shoot with his hair curled like a woman, and dressed like a dancing-
master. Now, there happened to be at the same time at the castle
the Laird o' M'Nab; he was a kind of cousin of the Montrose,'and
a rough old tyke of the true Hieland breed, wha thought that the
head of a clan was fully equal to any king or prince. He sat oppo-
site to Sir George at dinner the day of his arrival, and could not
conceal his surprise at the many new-fangled ways of feeding him-



PATRICK'S DAY IN THE PENINSULA. 517

self the Englisher adopted. He ate his saumon wi' his fork in ae
hand and a bittock of bread in the other; he wouldna touch the
whisky; helped himself to a cutlet wi' his fingers; but, what was
maist extraordinary of all, he wore a pair of braw white gloves
during the whole time o' dinner ; and when they came to tak' away
the cloth, he drew them off with a great air, and threw them into
the middle of it, and then, leisurely-taking another pair off a silver
salver which his ain man presented, he pat them on for the dessert.
The M'Nab, who, although an auld-fashioned carle, was aye fond of
bringing something new home to his friends, remarked the Eng-
lisher's proceeding with great care, and the next day he appeared at
dinner wi' a huge pair of Hieland mittens, which he wore, to the
astonishment of all and the amusement of most, through the whole
three courses, and exactly as the Englishman changed his gloves, the
M'Nab produced a fresh pair of goat's wool, four times as large as
the first, which drawing on with prodigious gravity, he threw the
others into the middle of the cloth, remarking as he did so, —

" ' Ye see, Captain, we are never ower auld to learn/

" All propriety was now at an end, and a hearty burst of laughter
from one end of the table to the other convulsed the whole com-
pany ; the M'Nab and the Englishman being the only two persons
who did not join in it, but sat glowering at each other like twa
tigers ; and, indeed, it needed a' the Montrose's interferences that
they hadna quarrelled upon it in the morning."

" The M'Nab was a man after my own heart," said Maurice ;
" there was something very Irish in the lesson he gave the English-
man."

" I'd rather ye'd told him that than me," said the Doctor, dryly;
"he wouldna hae thanked ye for mistaking him for ane of your
countrymen."

"Come, Doctor!" said Dennis, "could ye not give us a stave?
Have ye nothing that smacks of the brown fern and the blue lakes
in your memory ?"

"I havena a sang in my mind just noo except Johnny Cope;
which, maybe, might no' be ower pleasant for the Englishers to
listen to."

" I never heard a Scotch song worth sixpence," quoth Maurice,
who seemed bent on provoking the Doctor's ire. "They contain
nothing save some puling sentimentality about lasses with lint-
white locks, or some absurd laudations of the barley bree."

"Hear till him — hear till him!" said the Doctor, reddening with
impatience.

"Show me anything," said Maurice, "like the 'Cruiskeen Lawn' or
the ' Jug of Punch ;' but who can blame them, after all ? You can't



518 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

expect much from a people with an imagination as naked as their
own knees."

"Maurice! Maurice!" cried O'Shaughnessy, reprovingly, who
saw that he was pushing the other's endurance beyond all bounds.

'* I mind weel," said the Scotchman, " what happened to ane o'
your countrymen wha took upon him to jest as you are doing now.
It was to Laurie Cameron he did it."



Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 53 of 80)