Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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feeling their humanizing influence upon him. Thus gradually new
impressions and new duties succeeded ; and ere four months elapsed,



AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE. 653

the quiet monotony of my daily life healed up' the wounds of my
suffering. In the calm current of my present existence, a sense
of content, if not of happiness, crept gently over me, and I ceased
to long for the clash of arms and the loud blast of the trumpet.

Unlike all my former habits, I quickly abandoned the sports of
the field. He who had participated in them with me was no longer
there ; and the very sight of the tackle itself suggested sad and de-
pressing thoughts.

My horses I took but little pleasure in. To gratify the good and
kind people about, I would walk through the stables, and make
some passing remark, as if to show some interest ; but I felt it not.
No : it was only by the total change of all the ordinary channels of
my ideas that I could bear up ; and now my days were passed in the
fields, either listlessly strolling along, or in watching the laborers
as they worked. Of my neighbors I saw nothing ; returning their
calls, when they called upon me, was the extent of our intercourse ;
and I had no desire for any further. As Considine had left me to
visit some friends in the south, I was quite alone ; and, for the first
time in my life, felt how soothing can be such- solitude. In each
happy face, in every grateful look around me, I felt that I was ful-
filling my uncle's last behest ; and the sense of duty, so strong when
it falls upon the heart accompanied by the sense of power, made my
days pass rapidly away.

It was towards the close of autumn, when I one morning received
a letter from London, informing me that my troop had been sold
and the purchase-money — above four thousand pounds — lodged to
my credit at my banker's.

As Mr. Blake had merely answered my former note by a civil
message that the matter in question was by no means pressing, I
lost not a moment, when this news reached me, to despatch Mike to
Gurt-na-Morra with a few lines, expressing my anxious desire to
finish the transaction, and begging of Mr. Blake to appoint a day
for the purpose.

To this application Mr. Blake's reply was that he would do him-
self the honor of waiting upon me the following day, when the
arrangements I desired could be agreed upon. Now this was ex-
actly what I wished, if possible, to avoid. Of all my neighbors, he
was the one I predetermined to have no intercourse with. I had
not forgotten my last evening at his house, nor had I forgiven his
conduct to my uncle. However, there was nothing for it but sub-
mission; the interview need not be long, and it should be a last
one. Thus resolving, I waited in patience for the morrow.

I was seated at my breakfast the next morning, conning between
whiles the columns of the last paper, and feeding my spaniel, who



654 CHARLES O'MALLEY.

sat upon a large chair beside me, when the door opened, and the
servant announced " Mr. Blake ;" and the instant after that gentle-
man bustled in, holding out both his hands with all evidences of
most friendly warmth, and calling out,

" Charley O'Malley, my lad I I'm delighted to see you at last !"

Now, although the distance from the door to the table at which
I sat was not many paces, yet was it quite sufficient to chill down
all my respectable relative's ardor before he approached ; his rapid
pace became gradually a shuffle, a slide, and finally a dead stop ;
his extended arms were reduced to one hand, barely advanced be-
yond his waistcoat; his voice, losing the easy confidence of its
former tone, got husky and dry, and broke into a cough ; and all
these changes were indebted to the mere fact of my reception of
him consisting in a cold and distant bow, as I told the servant to
place a chair and leave the room.

Without any preliminary whatever, I opened the subject of our
negotiation, expressed my regret that it should have waited so long,
and my desire to complete it.

Whether it was that the firm and resolute tone I assumed had its
effect at once, or that, disappointed at the mode in which I received
his advances, he wished to conclude our interview as soon as need
be, I know not ; but he speedily withdrew from a capacious pocket
a document in parchment, which having spread at large upon the
table, and having leisurely put on his spectacles, he began to hum
over its contents to himself in an undertone.

"Yes, sir, here it is," said he. "' Deed of conveyance between
Godfrey O'Malley, of O'Malley Castle, Esq., on the one part' — per-
haps you'd like your solicitor to examine it, — ' and Blake, of Gurt' —
because there is no hurry, Captain O'Malley, — ' on the other.' In
fact, after all, it is a mere matter of form between relatives," said
he, as I declined the intervention of a lawyer. " I'm not in want
of the money — S all the lands and tenements adjoining, in trust, for
the payment of the said three thousand' — thank God, Captain, the
sum is a trifle that does not inconvenience me. The boys are pro-
vided for; and the girls — the pickpockets, as I call them, — ha, ha,
ha ! — not ill off neither ; — ' with rights of turbary on the said pre-
mises' — who are most anxious to have the pleasure of seeing you.
Indeed, I could scarcely keep Jane from coming over to-day. • Sure
he's my cousin/ says she ; ' and what harm would it be if I went to
see him?' Wild, good-natured girls, Captain ! And your old friend
Matthew— you haven't forgot Matthew? — has been keeping three
coveys of partridge for you this fortnight. ' Charley,' says he— they
call you Charley still, Captain—' shall have them, and no one else.'
And poor Mary — she was a child when you were here — Mary i3



AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE. 655

working a sash for you. But I'm forgetting — I know you have so
much business on your hands "

"Pray, Mr. Blake, be seated. I know nothing of any more im-
portance than the matter before us. If you will permit me to give
you a check for this money. The papers, I'm sure, are perfectly
correct."

" If I only thought it did not inconvenience you "

" Nothing of the kind, I assure you. Shall I say at sight, or in
ten days hence ?"

" Whenever you please, Captain. But it's sorry I am to come
troubling you about such things, when I know you're thinking of
other matters. And, as I said before, the money does not signify
to me ; the times, thank God, are good, and I've never been very
improvident."

" I think you'll find that correct."

" Oh, to be sure it is ! Well, well ; I'm going away without say-
ing half what I intended."

" Pray do not hurry yourself. I have not asked have you break-
fasted, for I remember Galway habits too well for that. But if I
might offer you a glass of sherry and water after your ride ?"

" Will you think me a beast if I say yes, Captain ? Time was
when I didn't care for a canter of ten or fifteen miles in the morn-
ing no more than yourself; and that's no small boast. God forgive
me, but I never see that clover-field where you pounded the Eng-
lishman, without swearing there never was a leap made before or
since. Is this Mickey, Captain? Faith, and it's a fine, brown,
hearty-looking chap you're grown, Mickey. That's mighty pleasant
sherry ! but where would there be good wine if it wasn't here ? Oh !
I remember now what it was I wanted. Peter — my son Peter, a slip
of a boy — he's only sixteen — well, d'ye see, he's downright deranged
about the army : he used to see your name in the papers every day,
and that terrible business at — what's the name of the place ? — where
you rode on the chap's back up the breach."

" Ciudad Rodrigo, perhaps," said I, scarcely able to suppress a
laugh.

" Well, sir, since that, he'll hear of nothing but going into the
army ; ay, and into the dragoons too. Now, Captain, isn't it mighty
expensive in the dragoons ?"

" Why, no, not particularly so — at least in the regiment I served
with."

"I promised him I'd ask you; the boy's mad, that's the fact. I
wish, Captain, you'd just reason with him a little; he'll mind what
you say — there's no fear of that ; and you see, though I'd like to do
what's fair, I'm not going to cut off the girls for the sake of the boys;



656 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

with the blessing of Providence they'll never be able to reproach me
for that. What I say is this : treat me well, and I'll treat you the
same. Marry the man my choice would pick out for you, and it's
not a matter of a thousand or two I'll care for. There's Bodkin —
you remember him ?" said he with a grin ; " he proposed for Mary,
but since the quarrel with you, she could never bear the sight of him,
and Alley wouldn't come down to dinner if he was in the house.
Mary's greatly altered. I wish you heard her sing ' I'd mourn the
hopes that leave me ;' queer girl she is ; she was little more than a
child when you were here, and she remembers you just as if it was
yesterday."

While Mr. Blake ran on at this rate, now dilating upon my own
manifold virtues and accomplishments, now expatiating upon the
more congenial theme — the fascinations of his fair daughters, and
the various merits of his sons — I could not help feeling how changed
our relative position was since our last meeting ; the tone of cool
and vulgar patronage he then assumed towards the unformed coun-
try lad was now converted into an air of fawning and deferential
submission, still more distasteful.

Young as I was, however, I had already seen a good deal of the
world ; my soldiering had at least taught me something of men, and
I had far less difficulty in deciphering the intentions and objects of
my worthy relative than I should have had in the enigmatical mazes
of the parchment bond of which he was the bearer. After all, to
how very narrow an extent in life are we fashioned by our own esti-
mate of ourselves ! My changed condition affected me but little
until I saw how it affected others ; that the position I occupied
should seem better, now that life had lost the great stimulus of am-
bition, was somewhat strange; and that flattery should pay its
homage to the mourning coat which it would have refused to my
soldier's garb, somewhat surprised me ; still my bettered fortunes
shone only brightly by reflected light ; for in my own heart I was
sad, spiritless, and oppressed.

Feeling somewhat ashamed at the coldness with which I treated a
man so much my elder, I gradually assumed towards Mr. Blake a
manner less reserved. He quickly availed himself of the change,
and launched out into an eloquent expose of my advantages and
capabilities, the only immediate effect of which was to convince
me that my property and my prospects must have been very accu-
rately conned over and considered by that worthy gentleman
before he could speak of the one or the other with such perfect
knowledge.

" When you get rid of these little encumbrances, your rent-roll
will be close on four thousand a year. There's Basset, sure, by only



AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE. 657

reducing his interest from ten to five per cent., will give you a clear
eight hundred per annum; let him refuse, and I'll advance the
money. And, besides, look at Freney's farm; there's two hundred
acres let for one-third of the value, and you must look to these
things ; for, you see, Captain, we'll want you to go into Parliament ;
you can't help coming forward at the next election, and by the great
gun of Athlone, we'll return you."

Here Mr. Blake swallowed a full bumper of sherry, and, getting
up a little false enthusiasm for the moment, grasped me by both
hands and shook me violently; this done, like a skilful general,
who, having fired the last shot of his artillery, takes care to secure
his retreat, he retired towards the door, where his hat and coat were
lying.

" I've a hundred apologies to make for encroaching upon your
time ; but, upon my soul, Captain, you are so agreeable, and the

hours have passed away so pleasantly May I never, if it is not

one o'clock ! — but you must forgive me."

My sense of justice, which showed me that the agreeability had
been all on Mr. Blake's side, prevented me from acknowledging this
compliment as it deserved; so I merely bowed stiffly without speak-
ing. By this time he had succeeded in putting on his greatcoat,
but still, by some mischance or other, the moment of his leave-taking
was deferred ; one time he buttoned it awry, and had to undo it all
again ; then, when it was properly adjusted, he discovered that his
pocket-handkerchief was not available, being left in the inner coat
pocket ; to this succeeded a doubt as to the safety of the check,
which instituted another search, and it was full ten minutes before
he was completely caparisoned and ready for the road.

" Good-bye, Captain ; good-bye !" said he, warmly, yet warily, not
knowing at what precise temperature the metal of my heart was
fusible. At a mild heat I had been evidently unsinged, and the
white glow of his flattery seemed only to harden me. The interview
was now over, and, as I thought sufficient had been done to convince
my friend that the terms of distant acquaintance were to be the limits
of our future intercourse, I assumed a little show of friendliness, and
shook his hand warmly.

" Good-bye, Mr. Blake ; pray present my respectful compliments
to your friends. Allow me to ring for your horse ; you are not going
to have a shower, I hope."

" No, no, Captain, only a passing cloud," said he, warming up
perceptibly under the influence of my advances, " nothing more.
Why, what is it I'm forgetting now ! Oh, I have it ! Maybe I'm
too bold ; but sure an old friend and relation may take a liberty
sometimes. It was just a little request of Mrs. Blake, as I was
42



658 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

leaving the house." He stopped here as if to take soundings, and
perceiving no change in my countenance, continued, " It was just to
beg that, in a kind and friendly way, you'd come over and eat your
dinner with us on Sunday — nobody but the family, not a soul —
Mrs. Blake and the girls — a boiled leg of mutton — Matthew — a fresh
trout if we can catch one — plain and homely — but a hearty welcome,
and a bottle of old claret, maybe, too — ah ! ah! ah !"

Before the cadence of Mr. Blake's laugh had died away, I po-
litely but resolutely declined the proffered invitation, and, by way
of setting the question at rest forever, gave him to understand that,
from impaired health and other causes, I had resolved upon strictly
confining myself to the limits of my own house and grounds, at
least for the present.

Mr. Blake then saluted me for the last time, and left the room.
As he mounted his hackney, I could not help overhearing an abor-
tive effort he made to draw Mike into something like conversation ;
but it proved an utter failure, and it was evident he deemed the man
as incorrigible as the master.

"A very fine young man the Captain is — remarkable ! — and it's
proud I am to have him for a nephew !"

So saying, he cantered down the avenue, while Mickey, as he
looked after him, muttered between his teeth, "And faix, it's prouder
you'd be av he was your son-in-law !"

Mike's soliloquy seemed to show me, in a new light, the meaning
of my relative's manner. It was for the first time in my life that
such a thought had occurred to me, and it was not without a sense
of shame that I now admitted it.

If there be something which elevates and exalts us in our esteem,
tinging our hearts with heroism and our souls with pride, in the
love and attachment of some fair and beautiful girl, there is some-
thing equally humiliating in being the object of cold and speculat-
ive calculation to a match-making family. Your character studied,
your pursuits watched, your tastes conned over, your very tempera-
ment inquired into, — surrounded by snares, environed by practised
attentions — one eye fixed upon- the registered testament of your
relative, the other riveted upon your own caprices ; and then those
thousand little cares and kindnesses which come so pleasurably
upon the heart when the offspring of true affection, perverted as
they are by base views and sordid interest, are so many shocks to
the feelings and understanding. Like the Eastern sirocco, which
seems to breathe of freshness and of health, and yet bears but pesti-
lence and death upon its breezes, so these calculated and well-con-
sidered traits of affection only render callous and harden the heart
which has responded warmly, openly, and abundantly to the true



A SURPRISE. 659

outpourings of affection. At how many a previously happy hearth
has the seed of this fatal passion planted its discord ! How many a
fair and lovely girl, with beauty and attractions sufficient to win all
that her heart could wish of fondness and devotion, has by this per-
nicious passion become a cold, heartless, worldly coquette, weighing
men's characters by the adventitious circumstances of their birth
and fortune, and scrutinizing the eligibility of a match with the
practised acumen with which a notary investigates the solvency of
a creditor. How do the traits of beauty, gesture, voice, and manner
become converted into the commonplace and distasteful trickery of
the world ! The very hospitality of the house becomes suspect —
their friendship is but fictitious. Those rare and goodly gifts of
fondness and sisterly affection which grow up in happier circum-
stances, are here but rivalry, envy, and ill-conceived hatred. The
very accomplishments which cultivate and adorn life, that light but
graceful frieze which gilds the temple of homely happiness, are here
but the meditated and well-considered occasions of display. All the
bright features of womanhood, all the freshness of youth, and all its
fascinations, are but like those richly-colored and beautiful fruits,
seductive to the eye and fair to look upon, but which within contain
nothing but a core of rottenness and decay.

No, no ; unblessed by all which makes a hearth a home, I may
travel on my weary way through life ; but such a one as this I will
not make the partner of my sorrow and my joys, come what will
of it !



CHAPTER XLVII.

A SURPRISE.

FROM the hour of Mr. Blake's departure, my life was no longer
molested. My declaration, which had evidently, under his
auspices, been made the subject of conversation through the
country, was at least so far successful, as it permitted me to spend
my time in the way I liked best, and without the necessity of main-
taining a show of intercourse, when in reality I kept up none, with
the neighborhood. While thus, therefore, my life passed on equably
and tranquilly, many months glided over, and I found myself
already a year at home, without it appearing more than a few
weeks. Nothing seems so short in retrospect as monotony. The
number, the variety, the interest of the events which occupy us,
making our hours pass glibly and flowingly, will still suggest to the



660 CHARLES O'MALLEY.

mind the impressions of a longer period than when the daily rou-
tine of our occupations assumes a character of continued uni-
formity. It seems to be the amende made by hours of weariness and
tedium, that, in looking back upon them, they appear to have passed
rapidly over. Not that my life, at the period I speak of, was devoid
of interest ; on the contrary, devoting myself with zeal and earnest-
ness to the new duties of my station, I made myself thoroughly
acquainted with the condition of my property, the interests of my
tenantry, their prospects, their hopes, their objects. Investigating
them as only he can who is the owner of the soil, I endeavored to
remedy the ancient vices of the land — the habits of careless, reck-
less waste, of indifference for the morrow ; and, by instilling a fea-
ture of prudent foresight into that boundless confidence in the
future upon which every Irishman, of every rank, lives and trusts,
I succeeded at last in so far ameliorating their situation, that a walk
through my property, instead of presenting — as it at first did — a
crowd of eager and anxious suppliants, entreating for abatements in
rent, succor for their sick, and sometimes even food itself, showed
me now a happy and industrious people, confident in themselves,
and firmly relying on their own resources.

Another spring was now opening, and a feeling of calm and tran-
quil happiness, the result of my successful management of my
estate, made my days pass pleasantly along. I was sitting at a late
breakfast in my little library ; the open window afforded a far and
wide prospect of the country, blooming in all the promise of the
season, while the drops of the passing shower still lingered upon the
grass, and were sparkling like jewels under the bright sunshine.
Masses of white and billowy cloud moved swiftly through the air,
coloring the broad river with many a shadow as they passed. The
birds sang merrily, the trees shook their leaves in concert, and there
was that sense of movement in everything in earth and sky which
gives to spring its character of lightness and exhilaration. The
youth of the year, like the youth of our own existence, is beautiful
in the restless activity which marks it. The tender flower, that
seems to open as we look upon it ; the grass, that springs before our
eyes,— all speak of promise. The changing phases of the sky, like
the smiles and tears of infancy, excite without weariness, and while
they engage our sympathies, they fatigue not our compassion.

Partly lost in thought as I looked upon the fair and varied scene
before me, now turning to the pages of the book upon the breakfast-
table, the hours of the morning passed quickly over, and it was
already beyond noon. I was startled from my reverie by sounds
which I could scarcely trust my ears to believe real. I listened
again, and I thought I could detect them distinctly. It seemed as



A SURPRISE. 661

though some one were rapidly running over the keys of a piano-
forte, essaying with the voice to follow the notes, and sometimes
striking two or three bold and successive chords — then a merry
laugh would follow, and drown all other sounds. " What can it be?"
thought I. " There is, to be sure, a pianoforte in the large draw-
ing-room ; but then, who would venture upon such a liberty as this?
Besides, who is capable of it ? There ! it can be no inexperienced
performer gave that shake ; my worthy housekeeper never accom-
plished that." So saying, I jumped from the breakfast-table, and
set off in the direction of the sound. A small drawing-room and
billiard-room lay between me and the large drawing-room, and as I
traversed them, the music grew gradually louder. Conjecturing
that, whoever it might be, the performance would cease on my
entrance, I listened for a few moments before opening the door.
Nothing could be more singular, nothing more strange, than the
effect of those unaccustomed sounds in that silent and deserted
place. The character of the music, too, contributed not a little to
this. Eapidly passing from grave to gay — from the melting soft-
ness of some plaintive air to the reckless hurry and confusion of an
Irish jig — the player seemed, as it were, to run wild through all the
floating fancies of his memory. Now breaking suddenly off in the
saddest cadence of a song, the notes would change into some quaint,
old-fashioned crone, in which the singer seemed so much at home,
and gave the queer drollery of the words that expression of arch-
ness so eminently the character of certain Irish airs. " But what
the deuce is this ?" said I, as, rattling over the keys with a flowing
but brilliant finger, she — for it was unquestionably a woman — with
a clear and sweet voice, broken by laughter, began to sing the
words of Mr. Bodkin's song, " The Man for Galway." When she
had finished the last verse, her hand strayed, as it were, carelessly
across the instrument, while she herself gave way to a free burst
of merriment ; and then, suddenly resuming the air, she chanted
forth the following words, with a spirit and effect I can convey no
idea of: —

"To live at home,

And never roam ',
To pass his days in sighing,

To wear sad looks,

Read stupid books,
And look half dead or dying :

Not show his face,

Nor join the chase,
But dwell a hermit alway :

Oh ! Charley dear !

To me 'tis clear,
You're not the man for Galway !"



662 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

" You're not the man for Galway I" repeated she once more, while
she closed the piano with a loud bang.

" And why not, my dear, — why not the man for Galway ?" said I,
as, bursting open the door, I sprang into the room.



Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 68 of 80)