Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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auction by the dozen."

"You sacrilegious old villain ! But continue the account of your

" Faith, I remember little more. After dinner I grew somewhat
mellow, and a kind of moral bewilderment which usually steals over
me about eleven o'clock induced me to invite the Alcalde and all
the aldermen to come and sup. Apparently we had a merry night
of it, and when morning broke, we were not quite clear in our intel-
lects. Hence came that infernal procession ; for when the Alcalde
rode round the town with a paper cap, and all the aldermen after
him, the inhabitants felt offended, it seems, and sent for a large
Guerilla force, who captured me and my staff, after a very vigorous
resistance. The Alcalde fought like a trump for us, for I promised
to make him Prefect of the Seine ; but we were overpowered, dis-
armed, and carried off. The remainder you can read in the court-
martial, for you may think that, after sacking the town, drinking
all night, and fighting in the morning, my memory was none of the

" Did you not explain that you were not the Marshal-General?"

" No, faith — I knew better than that ; they'd have murdered me
had they known their mistake. They brought me to head-quarters,
in the hope of a great reward, and it was only when they reached
this that they found out I was not the Duke de Raguse ; so you see,
boys, it's a very complicated business."

" 'Gad, and so it is," said Power, "and an awkward one too."

"He'll be hanged, as sure as my name's Dennis!" vociferated
O'Shaughnessy, with an energy that made the Major jump from his
chair. " Picton will hang him !" v

" I'm not afraid," said Monsoon ; " they know me so well. Lord
bless you, Beresford couldn't get on without me."

" Well, Major," said I, " in any case, you certainly take no gloomy
nor desponding view of your case."

" Not I, boy. You know what Jeremiah says, — ' A merry heart
is a continual feast ;' and so it is. I may die of repletion, but they'll
never find me starved with sorrow."

"And, faith, it's a strange thing!" muttered O'Shaughnessy,


thinking aloud — "a most extraordinary thing! An honest fellow
would be sure to be hanged ; and there's that old rogue, that's been
melting down more saints and blessed Virgins than the whole army-
together, he'll escape. Ye'll see he will !"

" There goes the patrol," said Fred ; " we must start.''

" Leave the sherry, boys ; you'll be back again. I'll have it put
up carefully."

We could scarcely resist a roar of laughter as we said " Good-

"Adieu, Major," said I ; " we shall meet soon."

So saying, I followed Power and O'Shaughnessy towards their

" Maurice has done it beautifully !" said Power. " Pleasant reve-
lations the old fellow will make on the court-martial, if he only
remembers what we've heard to-night ! But here we are, Charley ;
so good-night ; and remember, you breakfast with me to-morrow."



I HAVE changed the venue, Charley," said Power, as he came
into my room the following morning. " I've changed the venue,
and come to breakfast with you."
I could not help smiling, as a certain suspicion crossed my mind,

perceiving which, he quickly added,

" No, no, boy I I guess what you're thinking of. I'm not a bit

jealous in that quarter. The fact is, you know one cannot be too


"Nor too suspicious of one's friends," apparently."

"A truce with quizzing. I say, have you reported yourself?"

"Yes; and received this moment a most kind note from the

General. But it appears that I am not destined to have a long

sojourn amongst you, for I'm desired to hold myself in readiness for

a journey this very day."

" Where the deuce are they going to send you now ?"

" I'm not certain of my destination. I rather suspect there are

despatches for Badajos. Just tell Mike to get breakfast, and I'll

join you immediately."

When I walked into the little room which served as my salon, I

found Power pacing up and down, apparently rapt in meditation.


"I've been thinking, Charley," said he, after a pause of about
ten minutes, — " I've been thinking over our adventures in Lisbon.
Devilish strange girl that Senhora! When you resigned in my
favor, I took it for granted that all difficulty was removed. Con-
found it I I no sooner began to profit by your absence, in pressing
my suit, than she turned short round, treated me with marked cold-
ness, exhibited a hundred wilful and capricious fancies, and con-
cluded one day by quietly confessing to me — you were the only man
she cared for."

" You are not serious in all this, Fred ?" said I.

" Ain't I, though, by Jove ! I wish to heaven I were not ! My
dear Charley, the girl is an inveterate flirt — a decided coquette.
Whether she has a particle of heart or not, I can't say ; but cer-
tainly her greatest pleasure is to trifle with that of another. Some
absurd suspicion that you were in love with Lucy Dash wood piqued
her vanity, and the anxiety to recover a lapsing allegiance led her
to suppose herself attached to you, and made her treat all my ad-
vances with the most frigid indifference or wayward caprice — the
more provoking," continued he, with a kind of bitterness in his
tone, " as her father was disposed to take the thing favorably ; and,
if I must say it, I felt devilish spoony about her myself.

" It was only two days before I left, that, in a conversation with
Don Emanuel, he consented to receive my addresses to his daughter
on my becoming lieutenant-colonel. I hastened back with delight
to bring her the intelligence, and found her with a lock of hair on
the book before her, over which she was weeping. Confound me,
if it was not yours ! I don't know what I said, nor what she replied ;
but when we parted, it was with a perfect understanding that we
were never to meet again. Strange girl ! She came that evening,
put her arm within mine as I was walking alone in the garden, and
half in jest, half in earnest, talked me out of all my suspicions, and
left me fifty times more in love with her than ever. Egad ! I thought
I used to know something about women, but here is a chapter I've
yet to read. Come now, Charley, be frank with me; tell me all
you know."

" My poor Fred ! if you were not head and ears in love, you would
see as plainly as I do that your affairs prosper. And after all, how
invariable is it that the man who has been the veriest flirt with
women — sighing, serenading, sonneteering, flinging himself at the
feet of every pretty girl he meets with — should become the most
thorough dupe to his own feelings when his heart is really touched.
Your man of eight-and-thirty is always the greatest fool about

" Confound your impertinence ! How the devil can a fellow with


a moustache not stronger than a Circassian's eyebrow read such a
lecture to me ?"

" Just for the very reason you've mentioned. You glide into an
attachment at my time of life ; you fall in love at yours."

" Yes," said Power, musingly, " there is some truth in that. This
flirting is sad work. It is just like sparring with a friend ; you put
on the gloves in perfect good humor, with the most friendly in-
tentions of exchanging a few amicable blows; you find yourself
insensibly warm with the enthusiasm of the conflict, and some un-
lucky hard knock decides the matter, and it ends in a downright fight.

" Few men, believe me, are regular seducers ; and among those
who behave * vilely' (as they call it), three-fourths of the number
have been more sinned against than sinning. You adventure upon
love as upon a voyage to India. Leaving the cold northern lati-
tudes of first acquaintance behind you, you gradually glide into the
warmer and more genial climate of intimacy. Each day you travel
southward shortens the miles and the hours of your existence : so
tranquil is the passage, and so easy the transition, you suffer no
shock by the change of temperature about you. Happy were it for
us that in our courtship, as in our voyage, there were some certain
Rubicon to remind us of the miles we have journeyed ! Well were
it if there were some meridian in love !"

" I'm not sure, Fred, that there is not that same shaving process
they practice on the line occasionally performed for us by parents
and guardians at home ; and I'm not certain that the iron hoop of
old Neptune is not a pleasanter acquaintance than the hair-trigger
of some indignant and fire-eating brother. But come, Fred, you
have not told me the most important point — how fare your fortunes
now? or, in other words, what are your present prospects as re-
gards the Senhora ?"

" What a question to ask me ! Why not request me to tell you
where Soult will fight us next, and when Marmont will cross the
frontier ? My dear boy> I have not seen her for a week, an entire
week — seven full days and nights, each with their twenty-four
hours of change and vacillation."

" Well, then, give me the last bulletin from the seat of war ; that,
at least, you can do. Tell me how you parted."

" Strangely enough. You must know we had a grand dinner at
the villa the day before I left ; arid % when we adjourned for our
coffee to the garden, my spirits were at the top of their bent. Inez
never looked so beautiful — never was half so gracious ; and as she
leaned upon my arm, instead of following the others towards the
little summer-house, I turned, as if inadvertently, into a narrow
dark alley that skirts the lake."


" I know it well ; continue."

Power reddened slightly, and went on :

" ' Why are we taking this path?' said Donna Inez ; ' this is surely
not a short way?'

" ' Oh ! I — wished to make my adieux to my old friends the
swans. You know I go to-morrow.'

" ' Ah ! that's true/ said she. ' I'd quite forgotten it.'

" This speech was not very encouraging ; but as I felt myself in
for the battle, I was not going to retreat at the skirmish. ' Now or
never,' thought I. I'll not tell you what I said. I couldn't if I
would. It is only with a pretty woman upon one's arm — it is only
when stealing a glance at her bright eyes, as you bend beyond the
border of her bonnet — that you know what it is to be eloquent.
Watching the changeful color of her cheek with a more anxious
heart than ever did mariner gaze upon the fitful sky above him, you
pour out your whole soul in love. You leave no time for doubt, —
no space for reply ; the difficulties that shoot across her mind you
reply to ere she is well conscious of them; and when you feel her
hand tremble, or see her eyelid fall, like the leader of a storming
party when the guns slacken in their fire, you spring boldly forward
in the breach, and, blind to every danger around you, rush madly
on, and plant your standard upon the walls."

" I hope you allow the vanquished the honors of war," said I, in-

Without noticing my observation, he continued :

" I was on my knees before her, her hand passively resting in
mine, her eyes bent upon me softly and tearfully "

"The game was your own, in fact."

" You shall hear.

" ' Have we stood long enough thus, Senhor ?' said she, bursting
into a fit of laughter.

" I sprang to my legs in anger and indignation.

" ' There, don't be passionate ; it is so tiresome. What do you
call that tree there ?'

" ' It is a tulip-tree,' said I, coldly.

" ' Then, to put your gallantry to the test, do climb up there and
pluck me that flower. No, the far one. If you fall into the lake
and are drowned, why, it would put an end to this foolish inter-

"' And if not?' said I.

' l Oh, then I shall take twelve hours to consider of it ; and if my
decision be in your favor, I'll give you the flower ere you leave to-

"It's somewhat about thirty years since I went bird-nesting — and


hang me if a tight jacket and spurs are the best equipment for
climbing a tree! — but up I went, and, amid a running fire of
laughter and quizzing, reached the branch, and brought it down

" Inez took especial care to avoid me the rest of the evening. We
did not meet until breakfast the following morning. I perceived
then that she wore the flower in her belt ; but, alas ! I knew her too
well to augur favorably from that ; besides, instead of any trace of
sorrow or depression at my approaching departure, she was in high
spirits, and the life of the party. ' How can I manage to speak
with her?' said I to myself; 'but one word — I already anticipate
what it must be. But let the blow fall — anything is better than
this uncertainty.'

" ' The General and the staff have passed the gate, sir/ said my
servant at this moment.

" ' Are my horses ready ?'

" ' At the door, sir, and the baggage gone forward.'

" I gave Inez one look.

" ' Did you say more coffee ?' said she, smiling.

" I bowed coldly, and rose from the table. They all assembled
upon the terrace to see me ride away.

" ' You'll let us hear from you ?' said Don Emanuel.

" ' And pray don't forget the letter to my brother,' cried old
Madame Forjas.

" Twenty similar injunctions burst from the party, but not a word
said Inez.

" ' Adieu, then !' said I. ' Farewell !'

" ' Adios ! Go with God !' chorused the party.

" ' Good-bye, Senhora !' said I. ' Have you nothing to tell me ere
we part ?'

" ' Not that I remember,' said she, carelessly. ' I hope you'll have
good weather.'

" ' There is a storm threatening,' said I, gloomily.

" \ Well, a soldier cares little for a wet jacket.'

" ' Adieu !' said I, sharply, darting at her a look that spoke my

" ' Farewell !' repeated she, curtseying slightly, and giving one of
her sweetest smiles.

" I drove the spurs into my horse's flanks, but holding him firmly
on the curb at the same moment, instead of dashing forward, he
bounded madly in the air.

" ' What a pretty creature !' said she, as she turned towards the
house ; then, stopping carelessly, she looked round.

" ' Should you like this bouquet ?' she asked.


" Before I could reply, she disengaged it from her belt, and threw
it towards me. The door closed behind her as she spoke. I galloped
on to overtake the staff— et voild tout. Now, Charley, read my fate
for me, and tell me what this portends."

" I confess I only see one thing certain in the whole."

" And that is ?" said Power.

" That Master Fred Power is more irretrievably in love than any
gentleman on full pay I ever met with."

" By Jove I I half fear as much ! Is that orderly waiting for you,
Charley ? Whom do you want, my man ?"

" Captain O'Malley, sir. General Craufurd desires to see you at
head-quarters immediately."

" Come, Charley, I'm going towards Fuentes. Take your cap ;
we'll walk down together."

So saying, we cantered towards the village, where we separated —
Power to join some 14th men stationed there on duty, and I to the
General's quarters to receive my orders.



SOON after this the army broke up from Caja, and went into
cantonments along the Tagus, the head-quarters being at Por-
talegre. We were here joined by four regiments of infantry
lately arrived from England, and the 12th Light Dragoons. I shall
not readily forget the first impression created among our reinforce-
ments by the habits of our life at this period.

Brimful of expectation, they had landed at Lisbon, their minds
filled with all the glorious expectancy of a brilliant campaign.
Sieges, storming, and battle-fields floated before their excited imagi-
nation. Scarcely, however, had they reached the camp, when these
illusions were dissipated. Breakfasts, dinners, private theatricals,
pigeon matches, formed our daily occupation. Lord Wellington's
hounds threw off regularly twice a week, and here might be seen every
imaginable species of equipment, from that of the artillery officer,
mounted on his heavy troop horse, to the infantry subaltern on a
Spanish jennet. Never was anything more ludicrous than our turn-
out. Every quadruped in the army was put into requisition ; and
even those who rolled not from their saddles from sheer necessity,
were most likely to do so from laughing at their neighbors. The


pace may not have equalled Melton, nor the fences have been as
stubborn as in Leicestershire, but I'll be sworn there was more
laughter, more fun, and more merriment, in one day with us than
in a whole season with the best-organized pack in England. With
a lively trust that the country was open and the le^aps easy, every
man took the field ; indeed, the only anxiety evinced at all was to
appear at the meeting in something like jockey fashion, and I must
confess that this feeling was particularly conspicuous among the
infantry. Happy the man whose kit boasted a pair of cords, or
buckskins ; thrice happy he who sported a pair of tops. I myself
was in that enviable position, and well remember with what pride
of heart I cantered up to cover in all the superior tclat of my cos-
tume, though, if truth were to be spoken, I doubt if I should have
passed muster among my friends of the " Blazers." A round cav-
alry jacket, and a foraging cap with a hanging tassel, were the
strange accompaniments of my more befitting nether garments.
Whatever our costumes, the scene was a most animated one. Here,
the shell-jacket of a heavy dragoon was seen storming the fence of
a vineyard ; there, the dark green of a rifleman was going the pace
over the plain. The unsportsman-like figure of a staff officer might
be observed emerging from a drain, ^while some neck-or-nothing
Irishman, with light infantry wings, was flying at every fence
before him, and overturning all in his way. The rules and regula-
tions of the service prevailed not here ; the starred and gartered
general, the plumed and aiguilletted colonel, obtained but little
deference, and less mercy, from his more humble subaltern. In fact,
I am half disposed to think that many an old grudge of rigid dis-
cipline, or severe duty, met with its retribution here. More than
once have I heard the muttered sentences around me which boded
like this :

" Go the pace, Harry ! never flinch it ! There's old Colquhoun —
take him in the haunches — roll him over !"

" See here, boys— watch how I'll scatter the staff— beg your par-
don, General, hope I haven't hurt you. Turn about is fair play— I
have taught you to take up a position now."

I need scarcely say there was one whose person was sacred from
all such attacks; he was well mounted upon a strong half-bred
horse; rode always foremost, following the hounds with the same
steady pertinacity with which he would have followed the enemy ;
his compressed lip rarely opening for a laugh, when even the most
ludicrous misadventure was enacting before him; and when, by
chance, he would give way, the short ha ! ha ! was over in a mo-
ment, and the cold stern features were as fixed and impassive a«


All the excitement, all the enthusiasm of a hunting-field, seemed
powerless to turn his mind from the pre-occupation which the
mighty interests he presided over exacted. I remember an incident
which, however trivial in itself, is worth recording, as illustrative
of what I mean. We were going along at a topping pace ; the
hounds, a few fields in advance, were hidden from our view by a
small beech copse ; the party consisted of not more than six per-
sons, one of whom was Lord Wellington himself. Our run had
been a splendid one, and as we were pursuing the fox to earth, every
man of us pushed his horse to his full stride in the hot enthusiasm
of such a moment.

"This way, my lord — this way," said Colonel Conyers, an old
Melton man,' who led the way. " The hounds are in the valley —
keep to the left." As no reply was made, after a few moments'
pause, Conyers repeated his admonition. "You are wrong, my
lord ; the hounds are hunting yonder."

" I know it !" was the brief answer, given with a shortness that
almost savored of asperity ; for a second or two not a word was

" How far is Niza, Gordon ?" inquired Lord Wellington.

"About five leagues, my ^ord," replied the astonished aide-de-

"That's the direction, is it not?"

"Yes, my lord."

" Let's go over and inspect the wounded."

No more was said, and before a second was given for considera-
tion, away went his lordship, followed by his aide-de-camp, his pace
the same stretching gallop, and apparently feeling as much excite-
ment, as he dashed onward towards the hospital, as though following
in all the headlong enthusiasm of a fox-chase.

Thus passed our summer ; a life of happy ease and recreation
succeeding to the harassing fatigues and severe privations of the
preceding campaign. Such are the lights and shadows of a soldier's
life — such the chequered surface of his fortune — constituting by
their very change that buoyant temperament, that happy indiffer-
ence, which enables him to derive its full enjoyment from each pass-
ing incident of his career.

While thus we indulged in all the fascinations of a life of pleas-
ure, the rigid discipline of the army was never for a moment for-
gotten. Eeviews, parades, and inspections, were of daily occurrence,
and even a superficial observer could not fail to detect that under
this apparent devotion to amusement and enjoyment our Comman-
der-in-Chief concealed a deep stroke of his policy.

The spirits of both men and officers, broken in spite of their sue-


cesses by the incessant privations they had endured, imperatively
demanded this period of rest and repose. The infantry, many of
whom had served in the ill-fated campaign of Walcheren, were still
suffering from the effects of the intermittent fever. The cavalry,
from deficient forage, severe marches, and unremitting service, were
in great part unfit for duty. To take the, field under circumstances
like these was therefore impossible ; and, with the double object of
restoring their wonted spirit to his troops, and checking the ravages
which sickness and the casualties of war had made with his ranks,
Lord Wellington embraced the opportunity of the enemy's inaction
to take up his present position on the Tagus.

Meanwhile that we enjoyed all the pleasures of a country life,
enhanced tenfold by daily association with gay and cheerful com-
panions, the master-mind, whose reach extended from the profound-
est calculations of strategy to the minutest details of military
organization, was never idle. Foreseeing that a period of inaction
like the present must only be like the solemn calm that preludes
the storm, he prepared for the future by those bold conceptions and
unrivalled combinations which we're to guide him through many a
field of battle and of danger, to end his career of glory in the liber-
ation of the Peninsula.

The failure of the attack upon Badajos had neither damped his
ardor nor changed his views ; and he proceeded to the investment
of Ciudad Rodrigo with the same intense determination of uproot-
ing the French occupation in Spain, by destroying their strongholds
and cutting off their resources. Carrying aggressive war in one
hand, he turned the other towards the maintenance of those de-
fences which in the event of disaster or defeat must prove the refuge
of the army.

To the lines of Torres Vedras he once more directed his attention.
Engineer officers were despatched thither ; the fortresses were put
into repair ; the bridges broken or injured during the French inva-
sion were restored; the batteries upon the Tagus were rendered
more effective, and furnaces for heating shot were added to them.

The inactivity and apathy of the Portuguese government but ill
corresponded with his unwearied exertions; and, despite of con-
tinual remonstrances and unceasing representations, the bridges
over the Leira and Alva were left unrepaired, and the roads leading
to them so broken as to be almost impassable, might seriously have
endangered the retreat of the army, should such a movement be
deemed necessary.

It was in the first week of September I was sent with despatches
for the engineer officer in command at the lines, and during the
fortnight of my absence was enabled for the first time to examine


those extraordinary defences which, for the space of thirty miles,
extended over a country undulating in hill and valley, and present-
ing, by a succession of natural and artificial resources, the strongest
and most impregnable barrier that has ever been presented against

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 59 of 80)