Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

. (page 7 of 80)
Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 7 of 80)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

were sunken and bloodshot, and all told of some dreadful conflict
within ; the wild ferocity of his look fascinated my gaze, and amid
all the terrors of the scene I could not look from him. As I gazed,
a second and more awful squall struck the boat, the mast bent over,
and with a loud report like a pistol-shot, smashed at the thwart, and
fell over, trailing the sail along the milky sea behind us. Mean-
while, the water rushed clean over us, and the boat seemed settling.
At this dreadful moment the sailor's eye was bent upon me, his lips
parted, and he muttered, as if to himself, " This it is to go to sea
with a murderer." God! the agony of that moment — the heart-
felt and accusing conscience that I was judged and doomed — that
the brand of Cain was upon my brow — that my fellow-men had
ceased forever to regard me as a brother — that I was an outcast and a
wanderer forever. I bent forward till my forehead fell upon my knees,
and I wept. Meanwhile, the boat flew through the water, and Con-


sidine, who alone among us seemed not to lose his presence of mind,
cut away the mast, and sent it overboard. The storm now began to
abate, and as the black mass of cloud broke from around us, we
beheld the other boat, also dismasted, far behind us, while all on
board of her were employed in bailing out the water with which she
seemed almost sinking. The curtain of mist which had hidden us
from each other no sooner broke than they ceased their labors for
a moment, and looking towards us, burst forth into a yell so wild,
so savage, and so dreadful, my very heart quailed as its cadence fell
upon my ear.

" Safe, my boy," said Considine, clapping me on the shoulder, as
he steered the boat forth from its narrow path of danger, and once
more reached the broad Shannon — " safe, Charley, though we had
a brush for it." In a minute more we reached the land, and
drawing our gallant little craft on shore, set out for O'Malley



O'MALLEY Castle lay about four miles from the spot we
landed at, and thither accordingly we bent our steps without
loss of time. We had not, however, proceeded far, when,
before us on the road, we perceived a mixed assemblage of horse
and foot, hurrying along at a tremendous rate. The mob, which
consisted of some hundred courrtry people, were armed with sticks,
scythes, and pitchforks, and although not preserving any very
military aspect in their order of march, were still a force quite for-
midable enough to make us call a halt, and deliberate upon what we
were to do.

"They've outflanked us, Charley," said Considine; "however,
all is not yet lost. But see, they've got sight of us — here they

At these words the vast mass before us came pouring along,
splashing the mud on every side, and huzzaing like so many In-
dians. In the front ran a bare-legged boy, waving his cap to en-
courage the rest, who followed him about fifty yards behind.

" Leave that fellow for me," said the Count, coolly examining the
lock of his pistol ; " I'll pick him out, and load again in time for
his friends' arrival. Charley, is that a gentleman I see far back in
the crowd? Yes, to be sure it is. He is on a large horse — now he's
pressing forward, so let — no — oh — ay — it's Godfrey O'Malley him-


self, and these are our own people." Scarcely were the words out
when a tremendous cheer arose from the multitude, who, recognizing
us at the same instant, sprung from their horses and ran forward to
welcome us. Among the foremost was the scarecrow leader, whom
I at once recognized to be poor Patsey, who, escaping in the morn-
ing, had returned at full speed to O'Malley Castle, and raised the
whole country to my rescue. Before I could address one word to
my faithful followers, I was in my uncle's arms.

" Safe, my boy, quite safe?"

" Quite safe, sir."

" No scratch anywhere?"

" Nothing but a hat the worse, sir," said I, showing the two bullet
holes in my headpiece.

His lip quivered as he turned and whispered something into Con-
sidine's ear which I heard not ; but the Count's reply was, " Devil a
bit, — as cool as you see him this minute."

"And Bodkin, what of him ?"

"This day's work's his last," said Considine; "the ball entered
here ; but come along, Godfrey ; Charley's new at this kind of thing,
and we had better discuss matters in the house."

Half an hour's brisk trot — for we were soon supplied with horses
— brought us back to the Castle, much to the disappointment of our
cortege, who had been promised a scrimmage, and went back in very
ill humor at the breach of contract.

The breakfast-room, as we entered, was filled with my uncle's
supporters, all busily engaged over poll-books and booth-tallies, in
preparation for the eventful day of battle. These, however, were
immediately thrown aside to hasten round me, and inquire all the
details of my duel. Considine, happily for me, however, assumed
all the dignity of an historian, and recounted the events of the
morning so much to my honor and glory, that I, who only a little
before felt crushed and bowed down by the misery of my late duel,
began, amid the warm congratulations and eulogiums about me, to
think I was no small hero, and, in fact, something very much re-
sembling " the man for Galway." To this feeling a circumstance
that followed assisted in contributing. While we were eagerly dis-
cussing the various results likely to arise from the meeting, a horse
galloped rapidly to the door, and a loud voice called out, " I can't
get off, but tell him to come here." We rushed out and beheld
Captain Malowney, Mr. Bodkin's second, covered with mud from
head to foot, and his horse reeking with foam and sweat. " I am
hurrying on to Athlone for another doctor ; but I've called to tell
you*that the wound is not supposed to be mortal — he may recover
yet." Without waiting for another word, he dashed spurs into his


nag and rattled down the avenue at full gallop. Mr. Bodkin's dear-
est friend on earth could not have received the intelligence with
more delight, and I now began to listen to the congratulations of
my friends with a more tranquil spirit. My uncle, too, seemed
much relieved by the information, and heard with great good tem-
per my narrative of the few days at Gurt-na-Morra. " So, then,"
said he, as I concluded, " my opponent is at least a gentleman ; that
is a comfort."

" Sir George Dashwood," said I, " from all I have seen, is a re-
markably nice person, and I am certain you will meet with only the
fair and legitimate opposition of an opposing candidate in him — no
mean or unmanly subterfuge."

"All right, Charley. Well, now, your affair of this morning must
keep you quiet here for a few days, come what will ; by Monday
next, when the election takes place, Bodkin's fate will be pretty
clear, one way or the other, and if matters go well, you can come
into town ; otherwise, I have arranged with Considine to take you
over to the Continent for a year or so ; but we'll discuss all this in
the evening. Now, I must start on a canvass. Boyle expects to
meet you at dinner to-day ; he is coming from Athlone on purpose.
Now, good-bye !"

When my uncle had gone I sank into a chair, and fell into a
musing fit over all the changes a few N hours had wrought in me.
From a mere boy, whose most serious employment was stocking the
house with game, or inspecting the kennel, I had sprung at once
into man's estate, was complimented for my coolness, praised for
my prowess, lauded for my discretion, by those who were my seniors
by nearly half a century! talked to in a tone of confidential inti-
macy by my uncle, and, in a word, treated in all respects as an equal
— and such was all the work of a few hours. But so it is ; the eras
in life are separated by a narrow boundary : — some trifling accident,
some casual rencontre impels us across the Kubicon, and we pass
from infancy to youth — from youth to manhood — from manhood to
age — less by the slow and imperceptible step of time than by some
one decisive act or passion, which, occurring at a critical moment,
elicits a long latent feeling, and impresses our existence with a
color that tinges it for many a long year. As for me, I had cut the
tie which bound me to the careless gayety of boyhood with a rude
gash. In three short days I had fallen deeply, desperately in love,
and had wounded, if not killed, an antagonist in a duel. As I medi-
tated on these things, I was aroused by the noise of horses' feet in
the yard beneath. I opened the window, and beheld no less a person
than Captain Hammersley. He was handing a card to a servant,
which he was accompanying by a verbal message. The impression


of something like hostility on the part of the Captain had never
left my mind, and I hastened down stairs just in time to catch him
as he turned from the door.

"Ah, Mr. O'Malley !" said he, in a most courteous tone ; " they
told me you were not at home."

I apologized for the blunder, and begged of him to alight and
come in.

" I thank you very much ; but, in fact, my hours are now num-
bered here. I have just received an order to join my regiment; we
have been ordered for service, and Sir George has most kindly per-
mitted my giving up my staff appointment. I could not, however,
leave the country without shaking hands with you. I owe you a
lesson in horsemanship, and I'm only sorry that we are not to have
another day together."

" Then you are going out to the Peninsula?" said I.

" Why, we hope so; the Commander-in-Chief, they say, is in great
want of cavalry, and we scarcely less in want of something to do. I'm
sorry you are not coining with us."

" Would to Heaven I were !" said I, with an earnestness that
almost made my brain start.

"Then, why not?"

" Unfortunately, I am peculiarly situated. My worthy uncle, who
is all to me in this world, would be quite alone if I were to leave
him ; and although he has never said so, I know he dreads the pos-
sibility of my suggesting such a thing to him, so that between his
fears and mine, the matter is never broached by either party, nor do
I think ever can be."

"Devilish hard — but I believe you are right; something, how-
ever, may turn up yet to alter his mind, and, if so, and if you do
take to dragooning, don't forget George Hammersley will be
always most delighted to meet you; and so good-bye, O'Malley,

He turned his horse's head and was already some paces off, when
he returned to my side, and, in a lower tone of voice, said, —

" I ought to mention to you that there has been much discussion
on your affair at Blake's table, and only one opinion on the matter
among all parties — that you acted perfectly right. Sir George
Dash wood — no mean judge of such things — quite approves of your
conduct, and I believe wishes you to know as much ; and now, once
more good-bye."




THE important morning at length arrived, and as I looked
from my bedroom window at daybreak, the crowd of carriages
of all sorts and shapes, decorated with banners and placards ;
lie incessant bustle ; the hurrying hither and thither ; the cheering
as each new detachment of voters came up, mounted on jaunting-
cars, or on horses whose whole caparison consisted in a straw rope
for a bridle, and a saddle of the same frail material — all informed
me that the election day was come. I lost no further time, but pro-
ceeded to dress with all possible despatch. When I appeared in the
oreakfast-room, it was already filled with some seventy or eighty
nersons of all ranks and ages, mingled confusedly together, and
enjoying the hospitable fare of my uncle's house, while they dis-
cussed all the details and prospects of the election. In the hall, the
library, the large drawing-room, too, similar parties were also as-
sembled, and, as new comers arrived, the servants were busy in
preparing tables before the door and up the large terrace that ran
the entire length of the building. Nothing could be more amusing
than the incongruous mixture of the guests, who, with every variety
of eatable that chance or inclination provided, were thus thrown
into close contact, having only this in common — the success of the
cause they were engaged in. Here was the old Galway squire, with
an ancestry that reached to Noah, sitting side by side with the poor
cottier, whose whole earthly possession was what, in Irish phrase,
is called a " potato garden," meaning the exactly smallest possible
patch of ground out of which a very India-rubber conscience could
presume to vote. Here sat the old simple-minded, farmer-like man,
in close conversation with a little white-foreheaded, keen-eyed per-
sonage, in a black coat and eye-glass — a flash attorney from Dublin,
learned in flaws of the registry, and deep in the subtleties of election
law. There was an Athlone horse-dealer, whose habitual daily
practices in imposing the halt, the lame, and the blind upon the
unsuspecting for beasts of blood and mettle, well qualified him for
the trickery of a county contest. Then there were scores of squireen
gentry, easily recognized on common occasions by a green coat,
brass buttons, dirty cords, and dirtier top-boots, a lashwhip, and a
half-bred fox-hound; but now, fresh-washed for the day, they pre-
sented something of the appearance of a swell mob, adjusted to the
meridian of Galway. A mass of frieze-coated, brown-faced, "bullet-
headed peasantry filled up the large spaces, dotted here and there
with a sleek, roguish-eyed priest, or some low electioneering agent,


detailing, for the amusement of the company, some of those cunning
practices of former times, which, if known to the proper -authorities,
would in all likelihood cause the talented narrator to be improving
the soil of Sydney, or fishing on the banks of the Swan River ; while
at the head and foot of each table sat some personal friend of my
uncle, whose ready tongue, and still readier pistol, made him a per-
sonage of some consequence, not more to his own people than to
the enemy. While of such material were the company, the fare
before them was no less varied. Here some rubicund squire was
deep in amalgamating the contents of a venison pasty with some of
Sneyd's oldest claret ; his neighbor, less ambitious, and less erudite
in such matters, was devouring rashers of bacon, with liberal pota-
tions of potteen ; some pale-cheeked scion of the law, with all the
dust of the Four Courts in his throat, was sipping his humble bev-
erage of black tea beside four sturdy cattle-dealers from Ballinasloe,
who were discussing hot whisky punch and spoleaion (boiled beef)
at the very primitive hour of eight in the morning. Amid the clank
of decanters, the clash of knives* and plates, the jingling of glasses,
the laughter and voices of the guests were audibly increasing, and
the various modes of " running a buck" (Anglice, substituting a
vote), or hunting a badger, were talked over on all sides, while the
price of a veal (a calf) or a voter was disputed with all the energy
of debate.

Refusing many an offered place, I went through the different
rooms in search of Considine, to whom circumstances of late had
somehow greatly attached me.

"Here, Charley," cried a voice I was very familiar with — "here's
a place I've been keeping for you."

"Ah, Sir Harry, how do you do ? Any of that grouse-pie to spare?"

"Abundance, my boy; but I'm afraid I can't say as much for the
liquor ; I have been shouting for claret this half-hour in vain ; do
get us some nutriment down here, and the Lord will reward you.
What a pity it is," he added, in a lower tone, to his neighbor —
" what a pity a quart bottle won't hold a quart ; but I'll bring it
before the house one of these days." That he kept his word in this
respect, a motion on the books of the Honorable House will bear
me witness.

" Is this it ?" said he, turning towards a farmer-like old man, who
had put some question to him across the table ; " is it the apple-pie
you'll have ?"

" Many thanks to your honor — I'd like it, av it was wholesome."

"And why shouldn't it be wholesome?" said Sir Harry.

"Troth, then, myself does not know ; but my father, I heerd tell,
died of an apple-plexy, and I'm afeerd of it."


I at length found Considine, and learned that, as a very good
account of Bodkin had arrived, there was no reason why I should
not proceed to the hustings ; but I was secretly charged not to take
any prominent part in the day's proceedings. My uncle I only saw
for an instant ; he begged me to be careful, avoid all scrapes, and
not to quit'Considine. It was past ten o'clock when our formidable
procession got under way, and headed towards the town of Gal way.
The road was for miles crowded with our followers ; banners flying
and music playing, we presented something of the spectacle of a very
ragged army on its march. At every cross-road a mountain-path
reinforcement awaited us, and, as we wended along, our numbers
were momentarily increasing ; here and there along the line, some
energetic and not over-sober adherent was regaling his auditory
with a speech in laudation of the O'Malleys since the days of Moses,
and more than one priest was heard threatening the terrors of his
Church in aid of a cause to whose success he was pledged and
bound. I rode beside the Count, who, surrounded by a group of
choice spirits, recounted the various happy inventions by which
he had on divers occasions substituted a personal quarrel for a
contest. Boyle also contributed his share of election anecdote,
and one incident he related which I remember amused me much at
the time.

" Do you remember Billy Calvert, that came down to contest Kil-
kenny ?" inquired Sir Harry.

"What! ever forget him!" said Considine, " with his well-pow-
dered wig, and his hessians. There never was his equal for lace
ruffles and rings."

'• You never heard, maybe, how he lost the election?"

" He resigned, I believe, or something of that sort."

" No, no," said another ; " he never came forward at all ; there's
some secret in it, for Tom Butler was elected without a contest."

" Jack, I'll tell you how it happened. I was on my way up from
Cork, having finished my own business, and just carried the day,
not without a push for it. When we reached — Lady Mary was
with me — when we reached Kilkenny, the night before the election,
I was not ten minutes in town till Butler heard of it, and sent off
express to see me ; I was at my dinner when the messenger came,
and promised to go over when I'd done ; but, faith, Tom didn't wait,
but came rushing up stairs himself, and dashed into the room in the
greatest hurry.

" ' Harry,' says he, ' I'm done for ; the corporation of free smiths,
that were always above bribery, having voted for myself and my
father before, for four pounds ten a man, won't come forward under
six guineas and whisky. Calvert has the money; they know it.


The devil a farthing we have ; and we've been paying for all our
fellows that can't read in Hennesy's notes, and you know the bank's
broke these three weeks.'

" On he went, giving me a most disastrous picture of his cause,
and concluded by asking if I could suggest anything under the

" ' You couldn't get a decent mob and clear the poll ?'

"'lam afraid not,' said he, despondingly.

" ' Then I don't see what's to be done, if you can't pick a fight
With himself. Will he go out?'

" ' Lord knows ; they say he's so afraid of that, that it has pre-
vented him coming down till the very day. But he is arrived
now ; he came in the evening, and is stopping at Walsh's in Pat-
rick street.'

" ' Then I'll see what can be done,' said I.

" ' Is that Calvert the little man that blushes when the Lady-
Lieutenant speaks to him ?' said Lady Mary.

" ' The very man.'

" ' Would it be of any use to you if he could not come on the
hustings to-morrow ?' said she again.

" ' 'Twould gain us the day ; half the voters don't believe he's
here at all, and his chief agent cheated all the people on the last
election, and if Calvert didn't appear, he wouldn't have ten votes to
register. But why do you ask ?'

" ' Why, that, if you like, I'll bet you a pair of diamond earrings
he shan't show.'

" ' Done,' said Butler ; ' and I promise a necklace into the bargain,
if you win ; but I'm afraid you're only quizzing me.'

" * Here's my hand on it,' said she ; ' and now let's talk of some-
thing else.'

"As Lady Mary never asked my assistance, and as I knew she
was very well able to perform whatever she undertook, you may be
sure I gave myself very little trouble about the whole affair, and
when they came, I went off to breakfast with Tom's committee, not
knowing anything that was to be done.

" Calvert had given orders that he was to be called at eight
o'clock, and so a few minutes before that time a gentle knock came
to the door.

" ' Come in,' said he, thinking it was the waiter, and covering
himself up in the clothes, — for he was the most bashful creature
ever was seen, — * come in.'

" The door opened, and what was his horror to find that a lady
entered the room in her dressing-gown, her hair on her shoulders,
very much tossed and dishevelled ! The moment she came in she


closed the door, and locked it, and then sat leisurely down upon a

" Billy's teeth chattered, and his limbs trembled, for this was an
adventure of a very novel kind for him. At last he took courage
to speak.

" ' I am afraid, madam,' said he, ' that you are under some un-
happy mistake, and that you suppose this chamber is '

' " ' Mr. Calvert's,' said the lady, with a solemn voice, ' is it not?'

" ' Yes, madam, I am that person.'

" ' Thank God,' said the lady, with a very impressive tone ; ' here I
am safe.'

" Billy grew very much puzzled at these words ; but hoping that,
by his silence, the lady would proceed to some explanation, he said
no more. She, however, seemed to think that nothing further was
necessary, and sat still and motionless, with her hands before her
and her eyes fixed on Billy.

" ' You seem to forget me, sir ?' said she, with a faint smile.

" ' I do, indeed, madam ; the half-light, the novelty of your cos-
tume, and the strangeness of the circumstance altogether, must plead
for me — if I appear rude enough.'

" ' I am Lady Mary Boyle,' said she.

" • I do remember you, madam ; but may I ask ?'

" ' Yes, yes, I know what you would ask ; you would say, why are
you here ? how comes it that you have so far outstepped the pro-
priety of which your whole life is an example, that alone, at such a
time, you appear in the chamber of a man whose character for gal-
lantry ?'

" ' Oh, indeed — indeed, my lady, nothing of the kind/

" 'Ah, alas ! poor defenceless women learn too late how constantly
associated is the retiring modesty which decries with the pleasing
powers which ensure success '

" Here she sobbed, Billy blushed, and the clock struck nine.

" ' May I then beg, madam '

" ' Yes, yes, you shall hear it all ; but my poor scattered faculties
will not be the clearer by your hurrying me. You know, perhaps/
continued she, 'that my maiden name was Kogers?' He of the
blankets bowed, and she resumed. ' It is now eighteen years since
that a young, unsuspecting, fond creature, reared in all the care and
fondness of doting parents, tempted her first step in life, and trusted
her fate to another's keeping. I am that unhappy person ; the other,
that monster in human guise that smiled but to betray, that won
but to ruin and destroy, is he whom you know as Sir Harry Boyle'

" Here she sobbed for some minutes, wiped her eyes, and resumed
her narrative. Beginning at the period of her marriage, she de-


tailed a number of circumstances, which poor Calvert, in all his
anxiety to come au fond at matters, could never perceive bore upon
the question in any way ; but as she recounted them all with great
force and precision, entreating him to bear in mind certain circum-
stances to which she should recur by-and-by, his attention was kept
on the stretch, and it was only when the clock struck ten that he
was fully aware how his morning was passing, and what surmises
his absence might originate.

" • May I interrupt you for a moment, dear madam ? Was it nine
or ten o'clock which struck last ?'

" ' How should I know ?' said she, frantically. ' What are hours
and minutes to her who has passed long years of misery ?'

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 7 of 80)