Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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Mine were indeed of the gloomiest, and the selfishness alone of
the thought prevented me from wishing that, like many another, I
had fallen by a soldier's death on the plains of the Peninsula !

As the night wore on, I wrapped myself in my cloak and lay
down beneath the bulwark. The whole of my past life came in
review before me. I thought over my first meeting with Lucy
Dashwood ; the thrill of boyish admiration gliding into love — the
hopes, the fears, that stirred my heart ; the firm resolve to merit her
affection, which made me a soldier. Alas ! how little thought she
of him to whose life she had been a guide-star and a beacon ! As
I thought over the hard-fought fields, the long, fatiguing marches,
the nights around the watch-fires, and felt how, in the whirl and
enthusiasm of a soldier's life, the cares and sorrows of every-day
existence are forgotten, I shuddered to reflect upon the career that
might now open before me, — to abandon, perhaps forever, the glo-
rious path I had been pursuing for a life of indolence and weari-
ness, while my name, that had already, by the chance of some for-
tunate circumstances, begun to be mentioned with a testimony of
approval, should be lost in oblivion, or remembered but as that of
one whose early promise was not borne out by the deeds of his
manhood.

As day broke, overcome by watching, I slept, but was soon awoke
by the stir and bustle around me. The breeze had freshened, and
we were running under a reefed mainsail and foresail ; and as the
little craft bounded above the blue water, the white foam crested
above her prow, and ran along in boiling rivulets towards the after-
deck. The tramp of the seamen, the hoarse voice of the captain,
the shrill cry of the sea-birds, betokened, however, nothing of dread
or danger ; listlessly I leant upon my elbow, and asked what was
going forward.

" Nothing, sir ; only making ready to drop our anchor."

" Are we so near shore, then ?" said I.

" You've only to round that point to windward, and have a clear
run into Cork harbor."

I sprang at once to my legs ; the land-fog prevented my seeing
anything whatever, but I thought that in the breeze, fresh and
balmy as it blew, I could feel the wind off shore.

" At last," said I — " at last !" as I stepped into the little wherry
which shot alongside of us, and we glided into the still basin of
Cove. How I remember every white-walled cottage, and the beet-
ling cliffs, and that bold headland beside which the valley opens,
with its dark green woods ; and then Spike Island. And what a stir



IRELAND. 635

is yonder, early as it is. The men-of-war tenders seem alive with
people, while still the little village is sunk in slumbers, not a smoke-
wreath rising from its silent hearths. Every plash of the oars in
the calm water, as I neared the land, every chance word of the
bronzed and hardy fishermen, told upon my heart. I felt it was my
home.

"Isn't it beautiful, sir? — isn't it illigant?" said a voice behind
me, which there could be little doubt in my detecting, although I
had not seen the individual since I left England.

" Is not what beautiful ?" replied I, rather harshly, at the inter-
ruption of my own thoughts.

" Ireland, to be sure ; and long life to her !" cried he with a
cheer, that soon found its responsive echoes in the hearts of our
sailors, who seconded the sentiment with all their energy.

" How am I to get up to Cork, lads ?" said I. " I am pressed for
time, and must get forward."

" We'll row your honor the whole way, av it's plazin' to you."

" Why, thank you ; I'd rather find some quicker mode of pro-
ceeding."

"Maybe you'd have a chaise, sir; there's an illigant one at
M'Cassidy's."

" Sure the blind mare's in foal," said the bow oar ; "the divil a step
she can go out of a walk ; so, your honor, take Tim Biley's car, and
you'll get up cheap. Not that you care for money ; but he's going
up at eight o'clock with two young ladies."

" Oh ! be-gorra," said the other, " and so he is ; and faix he might
do worse — they're nice craytures."

"Well," said I, "your advice seems good; but perhaps they
might object to my company."

" I've no fear ; they're always with the officers. Sure the Miss
Dalrymples "

" The Miss Dalrymples !— Push ahead, boys ; it must be later
than I thought ; we must get the chaise ; I can't wait."

Ten minutes more brought us to land.

My arrangements were soon made, and as my impatience to press
forward became greater the nearer I drew to my destination, I lost
not a moment.

The yellow chaise — sole glory of Cove — was brought forth at my
request ; and, by good fortune, four posters which had been down
the preceding evening from Cork to some gentleman's seat near
were about to return. These were also pressed into my service ; and
just as the first early riser of the little village was drawing his cur-
tain to take a half-closed eye glance upon the breaking morning,



636 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

I rattled forth upon my journey at a pace which, could I only
have secured its continuance, must soon have terminated my weary
way.

Beautiful as the whole line of country is, I was totally uncon-
scious of it ; and even Mike's conversational powers, divided as
they were between myself and the two ppstilions, were fruitless in
arousing me from*the deep preoccupation of my mind by thoughts
of home.

It was, then, with some astonishment I heard the boy upon the
wheeler ask whither he should drive me to.

" Tell his honor to wake up, we're in Cork now."
" In Cork ! impossible already."
" Faith, maybe so — but it's Cork sure enough."
" Drive to the ' George f it's not far from the Commander-in-
Chiefs quarters."

" "lis five minutes' walk, sir ; you'll be there before they're put to
again."

" Horses for Fermoy !" shouted out the postilions, as we tore up
to the door in a gallop. I sprang out, and, by the assistance of the
waiter, discovered Sir Henry Howard's quarters, to whom my des-
patches were addressed. Having delivered them into the hands of
an aide-de-camp, who sat bolt upright in his bed, rubbing his eyes
to appear awake, I again hurried down stairs, and throwing myself
into the chaise, continued my journey.

" Them's beautiful streets anyhow !" said Mike, " av they wasn't
kept so dirty, and the houses so dark, and the pavement bad. That's
Mr. Beamish's — that fine house there, with the brass rapper and the
green lamp beside it : and there's the hospital ; faix ! and there's
the place we beat the police, when I was here before ; and the house
with the sign of the Highlander is thrown down — and what's the
big building with the stone posts at the door ?"

" The bank, sir," said the postilion, with a most deferential air, as
Mike addressed him.
"What bank, acushla?"

" Not a one of me knows, sir ; but they call it the bank, though
it's only an empty house."

" Cary and Moore's Bank, perhaps ?" said I, having heard that
in days long past some such names had failed in Cork for a large
amount.

" So it is ; your honor's right," cried the postilion ; while Mike,
standing up on the box, and menacing the house with his clenched
fist, shouted out at the very top of his voice, —

" Oh, bad luck to your cobwebbed windows and iron railings !
sure it's my father's son ought to hate the sight of you."



IRELAND. 637

" I hope your father never trusted his property in such hands?"

" I don't suspect he did, your honor ; he never put much belief in
the banks ; but the house cost him dear enough without that."

As I could not help feeling some curiosity in this matter, I pressed
Mickey for an explanation.

" But maybe it's not Cary and Moore's, after all ; and I'm maybe
cursing dacent people."

Having reassured his mind, by telling him that the reservation he
made by the doubt would tell in their favor should he prove mis-
taken, he afforded me the following information : —

" When my father — the heavens be his bed ! — was in the - Cork/
they put him one night on guard at that same big house you just
passed — av it was the same ; but, if it wasn't that, it was another ;
and it was a beautiful fine night in August, and the moon up, and
plenty of people walking about, and all kinds of fun and devilment
going on — drinking and dancing, and everything.

" Well, my father was stuck up there, with his musket, to walk up
and down, and not say, ' God save you kindly,' or the time of day,
or anything, but just march as if he was in the barrack-yard ; and
by reason of his being the man he was, he didn't like it half, but
kept cursing and swearing to himself like mad when he saw pleas-
ant fellows and pretty girls going by, laughing and joking.

" ' Good-evening, Mickey,' Says one ; ■ fine sport ye have all to
yourself, with your long feather in your cap.'

" 'Arrah, look how proud he is,' says another, * with his head up
as if he didn't see a body.'

" ' Shoulder hoo !' cried a drunken chap, with a shovel in his hand.
They all began laughing away at my father.

" ' Let the dacent man alone,' said an ould fellow in a wig ; ' isn't
he guarding the bank, wid all the money in it?'

" ' Faix he isn't,' says another, ' for there's none left.'

" ' What's that you're saying?' says my father.

" ' Just that the bank's broke, devil a more,' says he.

" 'And there's no goold in it V says my father.

" ' Divil a guinea.'

" ' Nor silver ?'

" ' No, nor silver, nor as much as sixpence, either.'

" ' Didn't ye hear that all day yesterday, when the people was
coming in with their notes, the chaps there were heating the guineas
in a frying-pan, pretending that they were making them as fast as
they could 5 and sure, when they had a batch red-hot they spread
them out to cool ; and what between the heating and the cooling,
and the burning the fingers counting them, they kept the bank open
to three o'clock, and then they ran away.'



638 CHARLES 0> MALLET.

" ' Is it truth yer telling ?' says my father.

"'Sorra word o' lie in it! myself had two-and-fourpence of their
notes.'

" 'And so they're broke,' says my father, ? and nothing left ?'

" • Not a brass farden.'

u 'And what am I staying here for, I wonder, if there's nothing to
guard ?'

" • Faix, if it isn't for the pride of the thing '

" ' Oh, sorra taste.'

" ' Well, maybe for divarsion.'

" ' Nor that either.'

" ' Faix ! then, you're a droll man, to spend the evening that way,'
says he ; and all the crowd — for there was a crowd — said the same.
So with that my father unscrewed his bayonet, and put his piece on
his shoulder, and walked off to his bed in the barrack as peaceable
as need be. But well, when they came to relieve him, wasn't there
a raal commotion ? and faith, you see, it went mighty hard with my
father the next morning ; for the bank was open just as usual, and
my father was sintinced to fifty lashes, but got off with a week in
prison, and three more rowling a big stone in the barrack-yard."

Thus chatting away, the time passed over, until we arrived at
Fermoy. Here there was some little delay in procuring horses ; and
during the negotiation, Mike, who usually made himself master of
the circumstances of every place through which he passed, discov-
ered that the grocer's shop of the village was kept by a namesake,
and possibly a relation of his own.

" I always had a notion, Mr. Charles, that I came from a good
stock ; and sure enough, here's ' Mary Free' over the door there, and
a beautiful place inside ; full of tay and sugar, and gingerbread, and
glue, and coffee, and bran, pickled herrings, soap, and many other
commodities."

" Perhaps you'd like to claim kindred, Mike," said I, interrupt-
ing ; " I'm sure she'd feel flattered to discover a relative in a Penin-
sular hero."

"It's just what I'm thinking; av we were going to pass the
evening here, I'd try if I couldn't make her out a second cousin at
least."

Fortune upon this occasion seconded Mike's wishes, for when the
horses made their appearance, I learned to my surprise that the near
side one would not bear a saddle, and the off-sider could only run on
his own side. In this conjuncture, the postilion was obliged to drive
from what, Hibernicl speaking, is called the perch — no ill-applied
denomination to a piece of wood which, about the thickness of one's
arm, is hung between the two fore-springs, and serves as a resting-



IRELAND. 639

place, in which the luckless wight, weary of the saddle, is not sorry
to repose himself.

" What's to be done ?" cried I. " There's no room within ; my
traps barely leave space for myself amongst them."

"Sure, sir," said the postilion, "the other gentleman can follow
in the morning coach ; and if any accident happens to yourself
on the road, by reason of a breakdown, he'll be there as soon as
yourself."

This, at least, was an agreeable suggestion, and, as I saw it
chimed with Mike's notions, I acceded at once ; he came running
up at the moment.

" I had a peep at her through the window, Mister Charles, and,
faix, she has a great look of the family."

" Well, Mickey, I'll leave you twenty-four hours to cultivate the
acquaintance; and to a man like you, I know the time is ample.
Follow me by the morning's coach. Till then, good-bye."

Away we rattled once more, and soon left the town behind us.
The wild mountain tract which stretched on either side of the road
presented one bleak and brown surface, unrelieved by any trace of
tillage or habitation ; an apparently endless succession of fern-clad
hills lay on every side ; above, the gloomy sky of leaden, louring
aspect frowned darkly ; the sad and wailing cry of the pewit or the
plover was the only sound that broke the stillness, and far as the
eye could reach, a dreary waste extended. The air, too, was cold
and chilly ; it was one of those days which, in our springs, seemed
to cast a retrospective glance towards the winter they have left be-
hind them. The prospect was no cheering one ; from heaven above
or earth below there came no sight nor sound of gladness. The rich
glow of the Peninsular landscape was still fresh in my memory —
the luxurious verdure — the olive, the citron, and the vine — the fair
valleys teeming with abundance— the mountains terraced with their
vineyards — the blue transparent sky spreading o'er all— while the
very air was rife with the cheering song of birds that peopled every
grove. What a contrast was here ! We travelled on for miles, but
no village nor one human face did we see. Far in the distance a
thin wreath of smoke curled upward ; but it came from no hearth ;
it arose from one of those field-fires by which spendthrift husbandry
cultivates the ground. It was indeed sad ; and yet, I know not how,
it spoke more home to my heart than all the brilliant display and
all the voluptuous splendor I had witnessed in London. By degrees
some traces of wood made their appearance, and, as we descended
the mountain towards Cahir, the country assumed a more cultivated
and cheerful look ; patches of corn or of meadow-land stretched on
either side, and the voice of children, and the lowing of oxen, min-



640 CHARLES O'MALLEY.

gled with the cawing of the rooks, as in dense clouds they followed
the ploughman's track. The changed features of the prospect re-
sembled the alternate phases of temperament of the dweller in the
soil — the gloomy determination — the smiling carelessness — the dark
spirit of boding — the recklessjollity — the almost savage ferocity of
purpose, followed by a child-like docility and a womanly softness —
the grave, the gay, the resolute, the fickle — the firm, the yielding,
the unsparing, and the tender-hearted, blending their contrarieties
into one nature, of whose capabilities one cannot predicate the
bounds, but to whom, by some luckless fatality of fortune, the great
rewards of life have been generally withheld, until one begins to
feel that the curse of Swift was less the sarcasm wrung from indig-
nant failures than the cold and stern prophecy of the moralist.

But how have I fallen into this strain ? Let me rather turn my
eyes forward towards my home. How shall I find all there ? Have
his altered fortunes damped the warm ardor of my poor uncle's
heart? Is his smile sicklied over by sorrow? Or shall I hear his
merry laugh, and his cheerful voice, as in days of yore? How I
longed to take my place beside that hearth, and, in the same oak-
chair where I have sat telling the bold adventures of a fox-chase
or some long day upon the moors, speak of the scenes of my cam-
paigning life, and make known to him those gallant fellows by
whose side I have charged in battle or sat in the bivouac ! How
will he glory in the soldier-like spirit and daring energy of Fred
Power ! How will he chuckle over the blundering earnestness and
Irish warmth of O'Shaughnessy ! How will he laugh at the quaint
stories and quainter jests of Maurice Quill ! And how often will
he wish once more to be young in hand as in heart to mingle with
such gay fellows, with no other care, no other sorrow to depress him,
save the passing fortune of a soldier's life !



CHAPTER XLIV,



THE RETURN.



1 1 J HILE lying asleep in the corner of the chaise, a rude shock
V V awoke me ; a shout followed, and the next moment the door

* * was torn open, and I heard the postilion's voice crying :

"Spring out! jump out quickly, sir!"

A whole battery of kicks upon the front panel drowned the rest
of his speech ; but before I could obey his injunction, he was pitched



THE RETURN. 641

upon the road, the chaise rolled over, and the pole snapped short in
the middle, while the two horses belabored the carriage and each
other with all their might. Managing as well as I was able to ex-
tricate myself, I leaped out upon the road, and by the aid of a knife,
and at the cost of some bruises, succeeded in freeing the horses from
their tackle. The postboy, who had escaped without any serious
injury, labored manfully to aid me, blubbering the whole time
upon the consequences his misfortune would bring down upon his
head.

" Bad luck to ye !" cried he, apostrophizing the off-horse, a tall,
raw-boned beast, with a Roman nose, a dipped back, and a tail
ragged and jagged like a hand-saw. " Bad luck to ye ! there never
was a good one of your color !"

This, for the information of the "unjockeyed," I may add, was a
species of brindled gray.

" How did it happen, Patsey — how did it happen, my lad ?"

" It was the heap o' stones they left in the road since last autumn ;
and though I riz him at it fairly, he dragged the ould mare over it
and broke the pole. Oh, wirra, wirra !" cried he, wringing his hands
in an agony of grief, " sure there's neither luck nor grace to be had
with ye since the day ye drew the judge down to the last assizes !"

" Well ! what's to be done ?"

"Sorra a bit o' me knows ; the shay's ruined intirely, and the old
devil there knows he's conquered us. Look at him there, listening
to every word we're saying! You eternal thief! maybe its plough-
ing you'd like better."

" Come, come," said I, " this will never get us forward. What
part of the country are we in ?"

" We left Banagher about four miles behind us ; that's Killimur
you see with the smoke there in the hollow."

Now, although I did not see Killimur (for the gray mist of the
morning prevented me recognizing any object a few hundred yards
distant), yet, from the direction in which he pointed, and from the
course of the Shannon, which I could trace indistinctly, I obtained
a pretty accurate notion of where we were.

"Then, we are not very far from Portumna?"

" Just a pleasant walk before your breakfast." ' }

"And is there not a short cut to O'Malley Castle over that moun-
tain?"

" Faix and so there is ; and ye can be no stranger to these parts
if ye know that."

"I have travelled it before now. Just tell me, is the wooden
bridge standing over the little stream ? It used to be carried away
every winter, in my time."
41



642 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

" It's just the same now. You'll have to pass by the upper ford ;
but it comes to the same, for that will bring you to the back gate
of the demesne, and one way is just as short as the other."

" I know it, I know it ; so now, do you follow me with my lug-
gage to the castle, and I'll set out on foot."

So saying, I threw off my cloak, and prepared myself for a sharp
walk of some eight miles over the mountain. As I reached the little
knoll of land, which, overlooking the Shannon, affords a view of
several miles in every direction, I stopped to gaze upon the scene,
where every object around was familiar to me from infancy. The
broad, majestic river, sweeping in bold curves between the wild
mountains of Connaught and the wooded hills and cultivated slopes
of the more fertile Munster — the tall chimneys of many a house rose
above the dense woods, where in my boyhood I had spent hours and
days of happiness. One last look I turned towards the scene of my
late catastrophe, ere I began to descend the mountain. The post-
boy, with the happy fatalism of his country, and a firm trust in the
future, had established himself in the interior of the chaise, from
which a blue curl of smoke wreathed upward from his pipe; the
horses grazed contentedly by the roadside, and were I to judge from
the evidence before me, I should say that I was the only member of
the party inconvenienced by the accident. A thin sleeting of rain
began to fall, the wind blew sharply in my face, and the dark clouds,
collecting in masses above, seemed to threaten a storm. Without
stopping for even a passing look at the many well-known spots
about, I pressed rapidly on. My old experience upon the moors
had taught me that sling trot in which, jumping from hillock to
hillock, over the boggy surface, you succeed in accomplishing your
journey not only with considerable speed, but perfectly dryshod.

By the lonely path which I travelled, it was unlikely I should
meet any one ; it was rarely traversed except by the foot of the
sportsman, or some stray messenger from the castle to the town of
Banagher. Its solitude, however, was in nowise distasteful to me ;
my heart was full to bursting. Each moment as I walked, some new
feature of my home presented itself before me. Now, it was all
happiness and cornfort j the scene of its ancient hospitable board,
its warm hearth, its happy faces, and its ready welcome, were all
before me, and I increased my speed to the utmost, when suddenly
a sense of sad and sorrowing foreboding would draw around me, and
the image of my uncle's sick bed, his worn features, his pallid look,
his broken voice, would strike upon my heart, and all the changes
that poverty, desertion, and decay can bring to pass, would fall upon
my heart, and, weak and trembling, I would stand for some moments
unable to proceed.



THE RETURN. 643

Oh ! how many a reproachful thought came home to me at what
I scrupled not to call to myself the desertion of my home. Oh ! how
nmny a prayer I uttered, in all the fervor of devotion, that my selfish
waywardness, and my yearning for ambition, might not bring upon
me in after-life years of unavailing regret ! As I thought thus, I
reached the brow of a little mountain ridge, beneath which, at the
distance of scarcely more than a mile, the dark woods of O'Malley
Castle stretched before me. The house itself was not visible, for it
was situated in a valley beside the river ; but there lay the whole
scene of my boyhood — there the little creek where my boat was kept,
and where I landed on the morning after my duel with Bodkin ;
there stretched, for many a mile, the large, callow meadows, where
I trained my horses, and schooled them for the coming season ; and
far in the distance, the brown and rugged peak of Old Scariff was
lost in the clouds. The rain by this time had ceased, the wind had
fallen, and an almost unnatural stillness prevailed around. But yet
the heavy masses of vapor frowned ominously, and the leaden hue
of land and water wore a gloomy and depressing aspect. My impa-
tience to get on increased every moment. Descending the mountain
at the top of my speed, I at length reached the little oak paling that
skirted the wood, opened the little wicket, and entered the path. It
was the selfsame one I had trod in reverie and meditation, the night
before I left my home. I remember, too, sitting down beside the
little well which, enclosed in a frame of rock, ran trickling across
the path, to be lost among the gnarled roots and fallen leaves around.
Yes, this was the very spot.

Overcome for the instant by my exertion and my emotion, I sat



Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 66 of 80)