Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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for I must set out at once."

" Nothing serious, I hope, O'Malley ?"

" Oh, no ! nothing of consequence. A most absurd blunder of my
rascally servant."


" The Irish fellow yonder?"

" The same."

" He seems to take it easily, however."

" Oh, confound him ! he does not know what trouble he has in-
volved me in ; not that he'll care much when he does."

" Why, he does not seem to be of a very desponding temperament.
Listen to the fellow ! I'll be hanged if he's not singing !"

" I'm devilishly disposed to spoil his mirth. They tell me, how-
ever, he always keeps the troop in good humor; and see, the fellows
are actually cleaning his horses for him, while he is sitting on the
bank !"

" Faith, O'Malley, that fellow knows the world. Just hear him."

Mr. Free was, as described, most leisurely reposing on a bank, a
mug of something drinkable beside him, and a pipe of that curtailed
proportion which an Irishman loves held daintily between his fin-
gers. He appeared to be giving his directions to some soldiers of
the troop, who were busily cleaning his horses and accoutrements
for him.

" That's it, Jim ! Rub 'em down along the hocks ; he won't kick;
it's only play. Scrub away, honey ; that's the devil's own carbine to
get clean."

" Well, I say, Mr. Free, are you going to give us that ere song ?"

" Yes ; I'll be hanged if I burnish your sabre if you don't sing."

" Tear an' ages ! ain't I composin' it ? Av I was Tommy Moore
I couldn't be quicker."

" Well, come along, my hearty ; let's hear it."

" Oh, murther," said Mike, draining the pot to its last few drops,
which he poured pathetically upon the grass before him, and then
having emptied the ashes from his pipe, he heaved a deep sigh, as
though to say, life had no pleasures in store for him. A brief pause
followed, after which, to the evident delight of his expectant audi-
ence, he began the following song, to the popular air of " Paddy


" Bad luck to this marching,

Pipeclaying and starching,
How neat one must be to be killed by the French !

I'm sick of parading,

Th rough wet and cowld wading,
Or standing all night to be shot in a trench.

To the tune of a fife

They dispose of your life,
You surrender your soul to some illigant lilt ;

Now, I like Garryowen,

When I hear it at home,
But it's not half so sweet when you're going to be kilt.


" Then though up late and early,

Our pay comes so rarely
The devil a farthing we've ever to spare ;

They say some disaster

Befell the paymaster ;
On my conscience I think that the money's not there !

And, just think, what a blunder,

They won't let us plunder,
While the convents invite us to rob them, 'tis clear.

Though there isn't a village

But cries, ' Come and pillage,'
Yet we leave all the mutton behind for Mounseer.

" Like a sailor that's nigh land,

I long for that island
Where even the kisses we steal if we please ;

Where it is no disgrace

If you don't wash your face,
And you've nothing to do but to stand at your ease.

With no sergeant t' abuse us,

We fight to amuse us,
Sure it's better bate Christians than kick a baboon.

How I'd dance like a fairy,

To see ould Dunleary,
And think twice ere I'd leave it to be a dragoon !"

" There's a sweet little bit for you," said Mike, as he concluded,
"thrown off as aisy as a game at football."

" I say, Mr. Free, the Captain's looking for you ; he's just re-
ceived despatches from the camp, and wants his horses."

" In that case, gentlemen, I must take my leave of you, with the
more regret, too, that I was thinking of treating you to a supper
this evening. You needn't be laughing — it's in earnest I am.
Coming, sir — coming !" shouted he, in a louder tone, answering
some imaginary call, as an excuse for his exit.

When he appeared before me, an air of most business-like alacrity
had succeeded to his late appearance, and having taken my orders
to get the horses in readiness, he left me at once, and in less than
half an hour we were upon the road.




RIDING along towards Fuentes d'Onoro, I could not help
feeling provoked at the absurd circumstances in which I was
involved. To be made the subject of laughter for a whole
army was by no means a pleasant consideration ; but what I felt far
worse was, the possibility that the mention of my name in connec-
tion with a reprimand might reach the ears of those who knew
nothing of the cause.

Mr. Free himself seemed little under the influence of similar feel-
ings, for when, after two hours' silence, I turned suddenly towards
him with a half-angry look, and remarked, " You see, sir, what your
confounded blundering has done," his cool reply was, —

" Ah ! then, won't Mrs. M'Gra be frightened out of her life when
she reads all about the killed and wounded in your honor's report ?
I wonder if they ever had the manners to send my own letter after-
wards, when they found out their mistake !"

" Their mistake, do you say ? — rather yours! You appear to have
a happy knack of shifting blame from your own shoulders. Do you
fancy that they've nothing else to do than to trouble their heads
about your absurd letters ?"

" Faith, it's easily seen you never saw my letter, or you wouldn't
be saying that ; and sure it's not much trouble it would give Colonel
Fitzroy, or any o' the staff that write a good hand, just to put in a
line to Mrs. M'Gra, to prevent her feeling alarmed about that mur-
thering paper. Well, well, it's God's blessing ! I don't think
there's anybody of the name of Mickey Free high up in the army
but myself, so that the family won't be going into mourning for me
on a false alarm."

I had not patience to participate in this view of the case, so that
I continued my journey without speaking. We had jogged along
for some time after dark, when the distant twinkle of the watch-
fires announced our approach to the camp. A detachment of the
14th formed the advanced post, and from the officer in command I
learned that Power was quartered at a small mill about half a mile
distant. Thither I accordingly turned my steps, but finding that
the path which led abruptly down to it was broken and cut up in
many places, I sent Mike back with the horses, and continued my
way alone on foot.

The night was deliciously calm, and as I approached the little
rustic mill, I could not help feeling struck with Power's taste in a


A little vine-clad cottage, built close against a rock, nearly con-
cealed by the dense foliage around it, stood beside a clear rivulet
whose eddying current supplied water to the mill, and rose in a
dew-like spray, which sparkled like gems in the pale moonlight.
All was still within, but as I came nearer, I thought I could detect
the chords of a guitar. "Can it be," thought I, "that Master Fred
has given himself up to minstrelsy ! or is it some little dress re-
hearsal for a serenade ? But no," thought I, " that certainly is not
Power's voice." I crept stealthily down the little path, and ap-
proached the window; the lattice lay open, and, as the curtain
waved to and fro with the night air, I could see plainly all who
were in the room.

Close beside the window sat a large, dark-featured Spaniard, his
hands crossed upon his bosom, and his head inclined heavily for-
ward, the attitude perfectly denoting deep sleep, even had not his
cigar, which remained passively between his lips, ceased to give
forth its blue smoke-wreath. At a little distance from him sat a
young girl, who, by the uncertain light, I could perceive was pos-
sessed of all that delicacy of form and gracefulness of carriage which
characterize her nation.

Her pale features — paler still from the contrast with her jet-black
hair and dark costume — were lit up with an expression of animation
and enthusiasm, as her fingers swept rapidly and boldly across the
strings of a guitar.

" And you're not tired of it yet ?" said she, bending her head
downward towards one whom I now for the first time perceived.

Eeclining carelessly at her feet, his arm leaning upon her chair,
whilst his hand occasionally touched her taper fingers, lay my good
friend, Master Fred Power. An undress jacket thrown loosely open,
and a black neckcloth negligently knotted, bespoke the easy noncha-
lance with which he prosecuted his courtship.

" Do sing it again ?" said he, pressing her fingers to his lips.

What she replied I could not catch ; but Fred resumed : " No, no,
he never wakes ; the infernal clatter of that mill is his lullaby."

" But your friend will be here soon," said she. " Is it not so ?"

" Oh, poor Charley ! I'd almost forgotten him ; by the bye, you
musn't fall in love with him, There now, do not look angry. I
only meant that, as I knew he'd be desperately smitten, you
shouldn't let him fancy he got any encouragement."

" What would you have me do?" said she, artlessly.

" I have been thinking over that, too. In the first place, you'd
better never let him hear you sing ; scarcely ever smile ; and, as far
as possible, keep out of his sight."

" One would think, Senhor, that all these precautions were to be


taken more on my account than his. Is he so very dangerous,
then ?"

" Not a bit of it ! Good-looking enough he is, but — only a boy ;
at the same time a devilish bold one ! and he'd think no more of
springing through that window, and throwing his arms around your
neck, the very first moment of his arrival, than I should of whis-
pering how much I love you."

" How very odd he must be ! I'm sure I should like him."

" Many thanks to both for your kind hints ; and now to take ad-
vantage of them." So saying, I stepped lightly upon the window-
sill, cleared the miller with one spring, and before Power could
recover his legs, or Margeritta her astonishment, I clasped her in my
arms, and kissed her on either cheek,

" Charley ! Charley ! that won't do!" cried Fred ; while the young
lady, evidently more amused at his discomfiture than affronted at
the liberty, threw herself into a seat and laughed immoderately.

"Ha! Hilloa there! What is't?" shouted the miller, rousing
himself from his nap, and looking eagerly around. "Are they
coming? Are the French coming?"

A hearty^ renewal of his daughter's laughter was the only reply,
while Power relieved his anxiety by saying, —

" No, no, Pedrillo, not the French ; a mere marauding party —
nothing more. I say, Charley," continued he, in a lower tone,
" you had better lose no time in reporting yourself at head -quarters.
We'll walk up together. Devilish awkward scrape yours."

" Never fear, Fred ; time enough for all that. For the present,
if you permit me, I'll follow up my acquaintance with our fair
friend here."

" Gently, gently !" said he, with a look of most imposing serious-
ness. " Don't mistake her ; she's not a mere country girl : you
understand? — been bred in a convent here— rather superior kind of

" Come, come, Fred, I'm not the man to interfere with you for a

" Good night, Senhor," said the old miller, who had been waiting
patiently all this time to pay his respects before going.

" Yes, that's it," said Power, eagerly. " Good-night, Pedrillo."

"Bvonos noches" lisped out Margeritta, with a slight curtsey.

I sprang forward to acknowledge her salutation, when Power
coolly interposed between us, and closing the door after them,
placed his back against it.

" Master Charley, I must read you a lesson "

" You inveterate hypocrite, don't attempt this nonsense with me.
But come, tell me how long you have been here ?"


" Just twenty-four of the shortest hours I ever passed at an out-
post. Bv.t listen — do you know that voice ? Isn't it O'Shaugh-
nessy ?"

" To be sure it is. Hear the fellow's song ?"

" My father cared little for shot or shell,

He laughed at death and dangers ;

And he'd storm the very gates of hell

With a company of the ' Rangers.'

So sing tow, row, row, row, row," &c.

"Ah then, Mister Power, it's twice I'd think of returning your
visit, if I knew the state of your avenue. If there's a grand jury in
Spain, they might give you a presentment for this bit of road. My
knees are as bare as a commissary's conscience, and I've knocked
as much flesh off my shin-bones as would make a cornet in the Hus-
sars !"

A regular roar of laughter from both of us apprised Dennis of our

"And it's laughing ye are? Wouldn't it be as polite just to hold
a candle or lantern for me in this confounded watercourse ?"

" How goes it, Major V cried I, extending my hand to him through
the window.

" Charley — Charley O'Malley, my son ! I'm glad to see you. It's
a hearty laugh you gave us this morning. My friend Mickey's a
pleasant fellow for a secretary-at-war. But it's all settled now;
Craufurd arranged it for you this afternoon."

" You don't say so ! Pray tell me all about it."

" That's just what I won't ; for, ye see, I don't know it ; but I
believe old Monsoon's affair has put everything out of their heads."

"Monsoon's affair! what is that? Out with it, Dennis."

" Faith, I'll be just as discreet about that as your own business.
All I can tell you is, that they brought him up to head-quarters this
evening with a sergeant's guard, and they say he's to be tried by
court-martial ; and Picton is in a blessed humor about it."

"What could it possibly have been? Some plundering affair,
depend on it."

" Faith, you may swear it wasn't for his little charities, as Dr.
Pangloss calls them, they've pulled him up," cried Power.

" Maurice is in high feather about it," said Dennis. " There are
five of them up at Fuentes, making a list of the charges to send to
Monsoon ; for Bob Mahon, it seems, heard of the old fellow's doings
up the mountains."

" What glorious fun !" said Power. " Let's haste and join them,

"Agreed," said I. " Is it far from this ?"


"Another stage. When we've got something to eat," said the
Major, " if Power has any intentions that way "

" Well, I really did begin to fear Fred's memory was lapsing ;
but somehow, poor fellow, smiles have been more in his way than
sandwiches lately."

An admonishing look from Power was his only reply, as he walked
towards the door. Bent upon" teasing him, however, I continued,

" My only fear is, he may do something silly."

" Who? Monsoon, is it ?"

" No, no. Not Monsoon ; another friend of ours."

" Faith, I scarcely thought your fears of old Monsoon were called
for. He's a fox — the devil a less."

" No, no, Dennis. I wasn't thinking of him. My anxieties were
for a most soft-hearted young gentleman — one Fred Power."

" Charley, Charley !" said Fred, from the door where he had been
giving directions to his servant about supper. "A man can scarce
do a more silly thing than marry in the army ; all the disagreeables
of married life, with none of its better features."

"Marry — marry!" shouted O'Shaughnessy ; "upon my con-
science, it's incomprehensible to me how a man can be guilty of it.
To be sure, I don't mean to say that there are not circumstances —
such as half-pay, old age, infirmity, the loss of your limbs, and the
like ; but that, with good health and a small balance at your bank-
er's, you should be led into such an embarrassment "

"Men will flirt," said I, interrupting; "men will press taper
fingers, look into bright eyes, and feel their witchery ; and, although
the fair owners be only quizzing them half the time, and amusing
themselves the other, and though they be hackneyed coquettes "

" Did you ever meet the Dalrymple girls, Dennis ?" said Fred,
with a look I shall never forget.

What the reply was I cannot tell. My shame and confusion were
overwhelming, and Power's victory complete.

" Here comes the prog," cried Dennis, as Power's servant entered
with a very plausible-looking tray, while Fred proceeded to place
before us a strong army of decanters.

Our supper was excellent, and we were enjoying ourselves to the
utmost, when an orderly sergeant suddenly opened the door, and
raising his hand to his cap, asked if Major Power was there.

" A letter for you, sir."

" Monsoon's writing, by Jove ! Come, boys, let us see what it
means. What a hand the old fellow writes! The letters look
all crazy, and are tumbling against each other on every side. Did
you ever see anything half so tipsy as the crossing of that t ?"

" Read it ! Read it out, Fred !"


" ' Tuesday Evening.

" ' Dear Power, — I'm in such a scrape ! Come up and see me
at once ; bring a little sherry with you, and we'll talk over what's to
be done.

" ' Yours ever,

"'B. Monsoon.

" ' Quarters-General.' "

We resolved to finish our evening with the Major ; so that, each
having armed himself with a bottle or two ; and the remnants of our
supper, we set out towards his quarters, under the guidance of the
orderly. After a sharp walk of half an hour, we reached a small
hut, where two sentries of the 88th were posted at the door.

O'Shaughnessy procured admittance for us, and in we went. At
a small table, lighted by a thin tallow candle, sat old Monsoon, who,
the weather being hot, had neither coat nor wig on ; an old cracked
china teapot, in which, as we found afterwards, he had mixed a
little grog, stood before him, and a large mass of papers lay scattered
around on every side ; he himself being occupied in poring over
their contents, and taking occasional draughts from his uncouth

As we entered noiselessly, he never perceived us, but continued to
mumble over, in a low tone, from the documents before him :

" Upon my life, it's like a dream to me ! What infernal stuff this
brandy is !

" ' Charge No. 8. — For conduct highly unbecoming an officer
and a gentleman, in forcing the cellar of the San Nicholas convent
at Banos, taking large quantities of wine therefrom, and subse-
quently compelling the Prior to dance a bolero, thus creating a riot,
and tending to destroy the harmony between the British and the
Portuguese, so strongly inculcated to be preserved by the general

" Destroying the harmony ! Bless their hearts ! How little they
know of it ! I've never passed a jollier night in the Peninsula !
The Prior's a trump, and, as for the bolero, he would dance it. I
hope they say nothing about my hornpipe.

" ' Charge No. 9. — For a gross violation of his duty as an officer,
in sending a part of his brigade to attack and pillage the Alcalde of
Banos, thereby endangering the public peace of the town, being a
flagrant breach of discipline and direct violation of the articles of

" Well, I'm afraid I was rather sharp on the Alcalde, but we did
no harm except the fright. What sherry the old fellow had ! 'twould
have been a sin to let it fall into the hands of the French.

" ' Charge No. 10. — For threatening, on or about the night of


the 3d, to place the town of Banos under contribution, and subse-
quently forcing the authorities to walk in procession before him, in
absurd and ridiculous costumes.'

" Lord, how good it was ! I shall never forget the old Alcalde !
One of my fellows fastened a dead lamb round his neck, and told
him it was the golden fleece. The Commander-in-Chief would have
laughed himself if he had been there. Picton is much too grave —
never likes a joke.

"'Charge No. 11. — For insubordination and disobedience, in
refusing to give up his sword, and rendering it necessary for the
Portuguese guard to take it by force, thereby placing himself in a
situation highly degrading to a British officer.'

" Didn't I lay about me before they got iti — Who's that ? — Who's
laughing there ? — Ah, boys ! I'm glad to see you. — How are you,
Fred ? — Well, Charley, I've heard of your scrape ; very sad thing
for so young a fellow as you are ; I don't think you'll be broke ; I'll
do what I can — I'll see what I can do with Picton ; we are very old
friends — were at Eton together."

" Many thanks, Major ; but I hear your own affairs are not flour-
ishing. What's all this court-martial about?"

"A mere trifle ; some little insubordination in the Legion. Those
Portuguese are sad dogs. How very good of you, Fred, to think of
that little supper."

While the Major was speaking, his servant, with a dexterity
the fruit of long habit, had garnished the table with the contents
of our baskets, and Monsoon, apologizing for not putting on his
wig, sat down amongst us with a face as cheerful as though the
floor was not covered with the charges of the court-martial to be
held on him.

As we chatted away over the campaign and its chances, Monsoon
seemed little disposed to recur to his own fortunes. In fact, he
appeared to suffer much more from what he termed my unlucky pre-
dicament than from his own mishaps. At the same time, as the
evening wore on, and the sherry began to tell upon him, his heart
expanded into its habitual moral tendency, and by an easy tran-
sition he was led from the religious association of convents to the
pleasures of pillaging them.

" What wine they have in their old cellars ! It's such fun drink-
ing it out of great silver vessels as old as Methuselah. ' There's
much treasure in the house of the righteous,' as David says; and
any one who has ever sacked a nunnery knows that."

" I should like to have seen that prior dancing the bolero," said

" Wasn't it good, though ! He grew jealous of me, for I performed


a hornpipe. Very good fellow the Prior; not like the Alcalde —
there was no fun in him. Lord bless him ! he'll never forget me."

" What did you do with him, Major !"

" Well, I'll tell you ; but you musn't let it be known, for I see
they have not put it in the court-martial. Is there no more sherry
there? There, that will do; I'm always contented. 'Better a dry
morsel with quietness,' as Moses says. Ay, Charley, never forget
that ' a merry heart is just like medicine.' Job found out that, you

"Well, but the Alcalde, Major."

" Oh ! the Alcalde, to be sure, these pious meditations make me
forget earthly matters."

" This old Alcalde at Banos, I found out was quite spoiled by Lord
Wellington. He used to read all the general orders, and got an
absurd notion in his head that, because we were his allies, we were
not allowed to plunder. Only think, he used to snap his fingers at
Beresford ; didn't care twopence about the Legion ; and laughed out-
right at Wilson. So, when I was ordered down there, I took another
way with him ; I waited till nightfall, ordered two squadrons to turn
their jackets, and sent forward one of my aides-de-camp with a few
troopers to the Alcalde's house. They galloped into the courtyard,
blowing trumpets and making an infernal hubbub. Down came the
Alcalde in a passion. — - Prepare quarters quickly, and rations for
eight hundred men/

" ' Who dares to issue such an order ?' said he.

"The aide-de-camp whispered one word in his ear, and the old
fellow grew pale as death. 'Is he here? — Is he coming? — Is he
coming?' said he, trembling from head to foot.

" I rode in myself at this moment, looking thus

" ' Ow est le malheureux ? 7 said I, in French ; you know I speak
French like Portuguese."

" Devilish like, I've no doubt," muttered Power.

" ' Pardon, gracias eccellenza /' said the Alcalde, on his knees."

"Who the deuce did he take you for, Major?"

"You shall hear: you'll never guess, though. Lord! I shall
never forget it. He thought I was Marmont : my aide-de-camp told
him so."

One loud burst of laughter interrupted the Major at this moment,
and it was some considerable time before he could continue his

"And do you really mean," said I, " that you personated the Duke
de Raguse ?"

" Did I not, though? If you had only seen me with a pair of
great moustaches, and a drawn sabre in my hand, pacing the room


up and down in the presence of the assembled authorities. Napoleon
himself might have been deceived. My first order was to cut off all
their heads; but I commuted the sentence to a heavy fine. Ah,
boys ! if they only understood at headquarters how to carry on a war
in the Peninsula, they'd never have to grumble in England about
increased taxation. ,How I'd mulct the nunneries! How I'd grind
the corporate towns ! How I'd inundate the country with exchequer
bills ; I'd sell the priors so much a head, and put the nuns up to

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 58 of 80)