Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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were rather tipsy in joining, and having engaged in a skirmish with
old M'Calister, tying his red uniform over his head, the moment of
attack was precipitated, and we moved to the trenches by half-past
nine o'clock.

" Nothing could be more orderly, nothing more perfect, than the
march of the troops. As we approached the corner of the commons'-
hall, a skirmish on the rear apprised us that our intentions had be-
come known; and I soon learned from my aide-de-camp, Bob
Moore, that the attack was made by a strong column of the enemy,
under the command of old Fitzgerald.


" Perpendicular (as your lordship is aware he is styled by the
army) came on in a determined manner, and before many minutes
had elapsed had taken several prisoners, among others Tom Drum-
mond — Long Tom — who, having fallen on all fours, was mistaken
for a long eighteen. The success, however, was but momentary ;
Nesbitt's brigade attacked them in flank, rescued the prisoners, ex-
tinguished the Dean's lantern, and, having beaten back the heavy
porters, took Perpendicular himself prisoner.

"An express from the left informed me that the attack upon the
Provost's house had proved equally successful : there wasn't a whole
pane of glass in the front, and from a footman who deserted, it was
learned that Mrs. Hutchinson was in hysterics.

" While I was reading this despatch, a strong feeling of the line
towards the right announced that something was taking place in
that direction. Bob Moore, who rode by on Drummond's back,
hurriedly informed me that Williams had put the lighted end of his
cigar to one of the fuses, but the powder, being wet, did not explode,
notwithstanding his efforts to effect it. Upon this, I hastened to the
front, where I found the individual in question kneeling upon the
ground, and endeavoring, as far as punch would permit him, to
kindle a flame at the port-fire. Before I could interfere, the spark
had caught ; a loud, hissing noise followed ; the different magazines
successively became ignited, and the fire reached the great four-
pound charge.

" I cannot convey to your lordship, by any words of mine, an idea
of this terrible explosion ; the blazing splinters were hurled into
the air and fell in fiery masses on every side from the Park to King
William ; Ivey, the bell-ringer, was precipitated from the scaffold
beside the bell, and fell headlong into the mud beneath ; the sur-
rounding buildings trembled at the shock; the windows were
shattered, and, in fact, a scene of perfect devastation ensued on all

" When the smoke cleared away, I rose from my recumbent
position, and perceived with delight that not a vestige of the
pump remained. The old iron handle was imbedded in the wall
of the dining-hall, and its round knob stood out like the end of a

" Our loss was, of course, considerable. Ordering the wounded
to the rear, I proceeded to make an orderly and regular retreat. At
this time, however, the enemy had assembled in force. Two bat-
talions of porters, led on by Doctor Dobbin, charged us on the
flank ; a heavy brigade poured down upon us from the battery, and
but for the exertions of Harry Nesbitt, our communication with our
reserves must have been cut off. Cecil Cavendish also came up ; for,


although beaten in his great attack, the forces under his command
had penetrated by the kitchen windows, and carried off a considera-
ble quantity of cold meat.

" Concentrating the different corps, I made an echelon movement
upon the chapel, to admit of the light division coining up. This
they did in a few moments, informing me that they had left Per-
pendicular in the haha, which, as your lordship is aware, is a fosse
of the very greenest and most stagnant nature. We now made good
our retreat upon number ' 2,' carrying our wounded with 'us. The
plunder we also secured, but we kicked the prisoners and suffered
them to escape.

" Thus terminated, my lord, one of the brightest achievements
of the under-graduate career. I enclose a list of the wounded, as
also an account of the various articles returned in the Commissary-
General's list.

Harry Nesbitt : severely wounded ; no coat nor hat ; a black
eye ; left shoe missing.

Cecil Cavendish : face severely scratched ; supposed to have re-
ceived his wound in the attack upon the kitchen.

" Tom Drummond : not recognizable by his friends ; his features
resembling a transparency disfigured by the smoke of the preceding
night's illumination.

" Bob Moore : slightly wounded.

" I would beg particularly to recommend all these officers to your
lordship's notice; indeed, the conduct of Moore, in kicking the
Dean's lantern out of the porter's hand, was marked by great
promptitude and decision. This officer will present to H. R. H.
the following trophies, taken from the enemy : The Dean's cap and
tassel; the key of his chambers; Dr. Dobbin's wig and bands; four
porters' helmets, and a book on the cellar.

" I have the honor to remain, my lord, &c,

"Francis Webber.
"G. O.

" The Commander of the Forces returns his thanks to the various
officers and soldiers employed in the late assault, for their perse-
vering gallantry and courage. The splendor of the achievement can
only be equalled by the humanity and good conduct of the troops.
It only remains for him to add, that the less they say about the
transaction, and the sooner they are severally confined to their beds
with symptoms of contagious fever, the better.

"Meanwhile, to concert upon the future measures of the cam-
paign, the army will sup to-night at Morrison's."

Here ended this precious epistle, rendering one fact sufficiently


evident— that however my worthy friend had advanced in years, he-
had not grown in wisdom.

While ruminating upon the strange infatuation which could per-
suade a gifted and an able man to lavish upon dissipation and reck-
less absurdity the talents that might, if well directed, raise him to
eminence and distinction, a few lines of a newspaper paragraph fell
from the paper I was reading. It ran thus :


" We have great pleasure in stating that the serious disturbance
which took place within the walls of our University a few evenings
since was in nowise attributable to the conduct of the students. A
party of ill-disposed townspeople were, it would appear, the insti-
gators and perpetrators of the outrage. That their object was the
total destruction of our venerated University there can be but little
doubt. Fortunately, however, they did not calculate upon the esprit
de corps of the students, a body of whom, under the direction of Mr.
Webber, successfully opposed the assailants, and finally drove them
from the walls.

" It is, we understand, the intention of the board to confer some
mark of approbation upon Mr. Webber, who, independently of this,
has strong claims upon their notice, Kis collegiate success pointing
him out as the most extraordinary man of his day."

" This, my dear Charley, will give you some faint conception of
one of the most brilliant exploits of modern days. The bulletin,
believe me, is not Napoleonized into any bombastic extravagance
of success. The thing was splendid ; from the brilliant firework of
the old pump itself to the figure of Perpendicular dripping with
duckweed, like an insane river-god, it was unequalled. Our fellows
behaved like trumps ; and, to do them justice, so did the enemy.
But unfortunately, notwithstanding this, and the plausible para-
graphs of the morning papers, I have been summoned before the
board for Tuesday next.

" Meanwhile, I employ myself in throwing off a shower of small
squibs for the journals, so that if the board deal not mercifully with
me, I may meet with sympathy from the public. I have just de-
spatched a little editorial bit for the Times, calling, in terms of
parental tenderness, upon the University to say —

"'How long will the extraordinary excesses of a learned func-
tionary be suffered to disgrace college ? Is Doctor ■ to be per-
mitted to exhibit an example of more riotous insubordination than
would be endured in an under-graduate ? More on this subject


"'Saunders' News Letter. — Doctor Barret appeared at the head
police-office, before Alderman Darley, to make oath that neither
he nor Catty were concerned in the late outrage upon the pump/
&c, &c.

" Paragraphs like these are flying about in every provincial paper
of the empire. People shake their heads when they speak of the
University, and respectable females rather cross over by King Wil-
liam and the Bank than pass near its precincts.

"Tuesday Evening.

" Would you believe it, they've expelled me ! Address your next
letter as usual, for they haven't got rid of me yet. Yours,

" F. W."

"So I shall find him in his old quarters," thought I, "and evi-
dently not much altered since we parted." It was not without a
feeling of (I trust pardonable) pride that I thought over my own
career in the interval. My three years of campaigning life had
given me some insight into the world, and some knowledge of my-
self, and conferred upon me a boon of which I know not the equal
— that, while yet young, and upon the very threshold of life, I
should have tasted the enthusiastic pleasures of a soldier's fortune
and braved the dangers and difficulties of a campaign at a time
when, under other auspices, I might have wasted my years in un-
profitable idleness or careless dissipation.



TWELVE hours after my arrival in England I entered London.
I cannot attempt to record the sensations which thronged my
mind as the din and tumult of that mighty city awoke me
from a sound sleep I had fallen into in the corner of the chaise-
The seemingly interminable lines of lamplight, the crash of carri-
ages, the glare of the shops, the buzz of voices, made up a chaotic
mass of sights and sounds, leaving my efforts at thought vain and

Obedient to my instructions, I lost not a moment in my prepara-
tions to deliver my despatches. Having dressed myself in the full


uniform of my corps, I drove to the Horse Guards. It was now
nine o'clock, and I learned that his Royal Highness had gone to
dinner at Carlton House. In a few words which I spoke with the
aide-de-camp, I discovered that no information of the fall of Ciudad
Eodrigo had yet reached England. The greatest anxiety prevailed
as to the events of the Peninsula, from which no despatches had
been received for several weeks past.

To Carlton House I accordingly bent my steps, without any pre-
cise determination how I should proceed when there, nor knowing
how far etiquette might be an obstacle to the accomplishment of my
mission. The news of which I was the bearer was, however, of too
important a character to permit me to hesitate, and I presented my-
self to the aide-de-camp in waiting, simply stating that I was en-
trusted with important letters to his Royal Highness, the purport
of which did not admit of delay.

" They have not gone to dinner yet," lisped out the aide-de-camp,
" and if you would permit me to deliver the letters "

" Mine are despatches," said I, somewhat proudly, and in nowise
disposed to cede to another the honor of personally delivering them
into the hands of the Duke.

" Then you had better present yourself at the levee to-morrow
morning," replied he, carelessly, while he turned into one of the
window recesses, and resumed the conversation with one of the
gentlemen in waiting.

I stood for some moments uncertain and undecided, reluctant on
the one part to relinquish my claim as the bearer of despatches, and
equally unwilling to defer their delivery till the following day.

Adopting the former alternative, I took my papers from my
sabretasche, and was about to place them in the hands of the aide-
de-camp, when the folding doors at the end of the apartment sud-
denly flew open, and a large and handsome man, with a high, bald
forehead, entered hastily.

The different persons in waiting sprang from their lounging atti-
tudes upon the sofas, and bowed respectfully as he passed on towards
another door. His dress was a plain blue coat, buttoned to the
collar, and his only decoration a brilliant star upon the breast.
There was that air, however, of high birth and bearing about him
that left no doubt upon my mind that he was of the blood royal.

As the aide-de-camp to whom I had been speaking opened the
door for him to pass out, I could hear some words in a low voice,
in which the phrases "letters of importance" and "your Royal
Highness" occurred. The individual addressed turned suddenly
about, and casting a rapid glance around the room, without deign-
ing a word in reply, walked straight up to where I was standing.


" Despatches for me, sir ?" said he, shortly, taking the packet
from my hand as he spoke.

" For his Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief," said I, bow-
ing respectfully, and still uncertain in whose presence I was stand-
ing. He broke the seal without answering, and, as his eye caught
the first lines of the despatch, broke out into an exclamation of —

" Ha ! Peninsular news ! When did you arrive, sir ?"

" An hour since, sir."

" And these letters are from "

" General Picton, your Eoyal Highness."

" How glorious !— how splendidly done !" muttered he to himself,
as he ran his eyes rapidly over the letter. "Are you Captain
O'Malley, whose name is mentioned here so favorably ?"

I bowed deeply in reply.

"You are most highly spoken of, and it will give me sincere
pleasure to recommend you to the notice of the Prince Eegent. But
stay a moment." So saying, he hurriedly passed from the room,
leaving me overwhelmed at the suddenness of the incident, and a
mark of no small astonishment to the different persons in waiting,
who had hitherto no other idea but that my despatches were from
Hounslow or Knightsbridge.

" Captain O'Malley," said an officer covered with decorations, and
whose slightly foreign accent bespoke the Hanoverian, " his Royal
Highness requests you will accompany me." The door opened as
he spoke, and I found myself in a most splendidly lit-up apartment,
the walls covered with pictures, and the ceiling divided into panels,
resplendent with the richest gilding. A group of persons, in court
dresses, were conversing in a low tone as we entered, but suddenly
ceased, and, saluting my conductor respectfully, made way for us to
pass on. The folding-doors again opened as we approached, and we
found ourselves in a long gallery, whose sumptuous furniture and
costly decorations shone beneath the rich tints of a massive lustre
of ruby glass, diffusing a glow resembling the most gorgeous sun-
set. Here also some persons in handsome uniform were conversing
one of whom accosted my companion by the title of " Baron." Nod-
ding familiarly as he muttered a few words in German, he passed
forward, and the next moment the doors were thrown suddenly
wide, and we entered the drawing-room.

The buzz of voices and the sound of laughter reassured me as I
came forward, and before I had time to think where and why I was
there, the Duke of York advanced towards me with a smile of pecu-
liar sweetness in its expression, and said, as he turned towards one
side, —

" Your Royal Highness — Captain O'Malley."


As he spoke, the Prince moved forward, and bowed slightly.

" You've brought us capital news, Mr. O'Malley. May I beg, if
you're not too much tired, you'll join us at dinner? I am most
anxious to learn the particulars of the assault."

As I bowed my acknowledgments to the gracious invitation, he
continued, —

" Are you acquainted with my friend here ? — but of course you
can scarcely be — you began too early as a soldier. So let me pre-
sent you to my friend, Mr. Tierney,"— a middle-aged man, whose'
broad, white forehead and deep-set eyes gave a character to features
that were otherwise not remarkable in expression, and who bowed
rather stiffly.

Before he had concluded a somewhat labored compliment to me,
we were joined by a third person, whose strikingly-handsome fea-
tures were lit up with an expression of the most animated kind. He
accosted the Prince with an air of easy familiarity, and while he led
him from the group, appeared to be relating some anecdote, which
actually convulsed his Royal Highness with laughter.

Before I had time or opportunity to inquire who the individual
could be, dinner was announced, and the wide folding-doors being
thrown open, displayed the magnificent dining-room of Carlton
House, in all the blaze and splendor of its magnificence.

The sudden change from the rough vicissitudes of campaigning
life to all the luxury and voluptuous elegance of a brilliant court,
created too much confusion in my mind to permit of my impressions
being the most accurate or most collected. The splendor of the
scene, the rank, but even more the talent, of the individuals by
whom I was surrounded, had all their full effect upon me; and
although I found, from the tone of the conversation about, how im-
measurably I was their inferior, yet by a delicate and courteous
interest in the scene of which I had lately partaken, they took away
the awkwardness which, in some degree, was inseparable from the
novelty of my position among them.

Conversing about the Peninsula with a degree of knowledge
which I could in nowise comprehend from those not engaged in the
war, they appeared perfectly acquainted with all the details of the
campaign ; and I heard on every side of me anecdotes and stories
which I scarcely believed known beyond the precincts of a regi-
ment. The Prince himself — the grace and charm of whose narra-
tive talents have seldom been excelled — was particularly conspicu-
ous, and I could not help feeling struck with his admirable imita-
tions of voice and manner. The most accomplished actor could not
have personated the cannie, calculating spirit of the Scot, or the
rollicking recklessness of the Irishman, with more tact and finesse.


But far above all this shone the person whom I have already alluded
to as speaking to his Royal Highness in the drawing-room. Com-
bining the happiest conversational eloquence with a quick, ready,
and brilliant fancy, he threw from him, in all the careless profusion
of boundless resource, a shower of pointed and epigrammatic witti-
cisms — now illustrating a really difficult subject by one happy
touch, as the blaze of the lightning will light up the whole surface
of the dark landscape beneath it; now turning the force of an
adversary's argument by some fallacious but unanswerable jest,
accompanying the whole by those fascinations of voice, look, gesture,
and manner, which have made those who once have seen never able
to forget Brinsley Sheridan.

I am not able, were I even disposed, to record more particularly
the details of that most brilliant evening of my life. On every side
of me I heard the names of those whose fame as statesmen, or whose
repute as men of letters, was ringing throughout Europe. They
were then, too, not in the easy indolence of ordinary life, but dis-
playing with their utmost effort those powers of wit, fancy, imagina-
tion, and eloquence which had won for them elsewhere their high
and exalted position. The masculine understanding and powerful
intellect of Tierney vied with the brilliant and dazzling conceptions
of Sheridan. The easy bonhomie and English heartiness of Fox con-
trasted with the keen sarcasm and sharp raillery of O'Kelly. While
contesting the palm with each, the Prince evinced powers of mind
and eloquent facilities of expression that in any walk of life must
have made their possessor a most distinguished man. Politics, war,
women, literature, the turf, the navy, the opposition, architecture,
and the drama, were all discussed with a degree of information and
knowledge that proved to me how much of real acquirements can
be obtained by those whose exalted station surrounds them with the
collective intellect of a nation. As for myself, the time flew past
unconsciously. So brilliant a display of all that was courtly and
fascinating in manner, and all that was brightest in genius, was so
new to me, that I really felt like one entranced. To this hour, my
impression, however confused in details, is as though that evening
were but yesternight; and although since that period I have enjoyed
numerous opportunities of meeting with the great and the gifted,
yet I treasure the memory of that evening as by far the most excit-
ing of my whole life.

While I abstain from any mention of the many incidents of the
evening, I cannot pass over one which, occurring to myself, is valu-
able but as showing, by one slight and passing trait, the amiable
and kind feeling of one whose memory is hallowed in the service.

A little lower than myself, on the opposite side of the table, I


perceived an old military acquaintance whom I had first met in
Lisbon ; he was then on Sir Charles Stewart's staff, and we met
almost daily. Wishing to commend myself to his recollection, I
endeavored for some time to catch his eye, but in vain ; but at last,
when I thought I had succeeded, I called to him, —

" I say, Fred, a glass of wine with you."

When suddenly, the Duke of York, who was speaking to Lord
Hertford, turned quickly round, and, taking the decanter in his
hand, replied, —

" With pleasure, O'Malley ; what shall it be, my boy?"

I shall never forget the manly good-humor of his look as he sat
waiting for my answer. He had taken my speech as addressed to
himself, and concluding that, from fatigue, the novelty of the scene,
my youth, &c, I was not over collected, vouchsafed in this kind way
to receive it.

" So," said he, as I stammered out my explanation, " I was de-
ceived ; however, don't cheat me out of my glass of wine. Let us
have it now."

With this little anecdote, whose truth I vouch for, I shall con-
clude. More than one now living was a witness to it, and my only
regret in the mention of it is my inability to convey the readiness
with which he seized the moment of apparent difficulty to throw the
protection of his kind and warm-hearted nature over the apparent
folly of a boy.

It was late when the party broke up, and as I took my leave of the
Prince, he once more expressed himself in gracious terms towards
me, and gave me personally an invitation to a breakfast at Houns-
low on the following Saturday.



ON the morning after my dinner at Carlton House, I found my
breakfast-table covered with cards and invitations. The
news of the storming of Ciudad Rodrigo was published in
all the morning papers, and my own humble name in letters of three
feet long, was exhibited in placards throughout the city. Less to
this circumstance, however, than to the kind and gracious notice of
the Prince, was I indebted for the attentions which were shown me
by every one ; and, indeed, so flattering was the reception I met


with, and so overwhelming the civility showered on me from all
sides, that it required no small effort on my part not to believe my-
self as much a hero as they would make me. An eternal round of
dinners, balls, breakfasts, and entertainments, filled up the entire
week. I was included in every invitation to Carlton House, and
never appeared without receiving from his Royal Highness the most
striking marks of attention. Captivating as all this undoubtediy
was, and fascinated as I felt at being the lion of London, the
courted and sought after by the high, the titled, and talented of the
great city of the universe, yet, amid all the splendor and seduction
of that new world, my heart instinctively turned from the glare and
brilliancy of gorgeous saloons — from the soft looks and softer voice
of beauty — from the words of praise, as they fell from the lips of
those whose notice was fame itself-— to my humble home amid the
mountains of the west. Delighted and charmed as I felt by that
tribute of flattery which associated my name with one of the most
brilliant actions of my country, yet hitherto I had experienced no
touch of home or fatherland. England was to me as the high and
powerful head of my house whose greatness and whose glory shed a
halo far and near, from the proudest to the humblest of those that
call themselves Britons ; but Ireland was the land of my birth —
the land of my earliest ties, my dearest associations — the kind

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 64 of 80)