Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

. (page 73 of 80)
Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 73 of 80)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


proached the casement, I managed to creep on the window-sill and
look into the room.

There the scene was certainly a curious one. Around a large table
sat a party of some twenty persons, the singularity of whose appear-
ance may be conjectured when I mention that all those who ap-
peared to be British officers were dressed in the robes of the tchevins
(or aldermen) of the village ; while some others, whose looks bespoke
them as sturdy Flemings, sported the cocked hats and cavalry hel-
mets of their associates. He who appeared the ruler of the feast sat
with his back towards me, and wore, in addition to the dress of bur-
gomaster, a herald's tabard, which gave him something the air of a
grotesque screen at its potations. A huge fire blazed upon the
ample hearth, before which were spread several staff uniforms, whose
drabbled and soaked appearance denoted the reason of the party's
change of habiliments. Every imaginable species of drinking- vessel
figured upon the board, from the rich flagon of chased silver to the
humble cruche we see in a Teniers picture. As well as I could hear,
the language of the company seemed to be French, or, at least, such
an imitation of that language as served as a species of neutral terri-
tory for both parties to meet in.

He of the tabard spoke louder than the others, and although, from
the execrable endeavors he made to express himself in French, his
natural voice was much altered, there was yet something in his ac-
cents which seemed perfectly familiar to me.

"Mosheer V Abbey" said he, placing his arm familiarly on the
shoulder of a portly personage, whose shaven crown strangely con-
trasted with a pair of corked moustaches — "Mosheer V Abbey, nous
sommes frercs, et moi, savez-vous, suis iveque, — 'pon my life it's true; I
might have been Bishop of Saragossa, if I had only consented to
leave the 23d. J6 suis bong Catholique. Lord bless you, if you saw
how I loved the nunneries of Spain ! J'ai tres jolly souvenirs of
those nunneries — a goodly company of little silver saints ; and this



AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE. 701

waistcoat you see — rnong gilet — was a satin petticoat of our Lady of
Loretto."

Need I say that before this speech was concluded, I had recog-
nized in the speaker nobody but that inveterate old villain, Monsoon
himself?

" Permettez, voire Excellence" said a hale, jolly-looking personage
on his left, as he filled the Major's goblet with obsequious politeness.

"Bong engfong" replied Monsoon, tapping him familiarly on the
head. " Burgomaster, you are a trump ; and when I get my pro-
motion, I'll make you prefect in a wine district. Pass the lush, and
don't look sleepy ! * Drowsiness,' says Solomon, ' clothes a man in
rags ;' and no marl knew the world better than Solomon. Don't you
be laughing, you raw boys. Never mind them, Abbey ; Us sont petits
gargongs — fags from Eton and Harrow ; better judges of mutton
broth than sherry negus."

" I say, Major, you are forgetting the song you promised us."

" Yes, yes," said several voices together ; " the song, Major ! the
song !"

" Time enough for that ; we're doing very well as it is. Upon my
life, though, they hold a deal of wine. I thought we'd liave had
them fit to bargain with before ten ; and see, it's near midnight ;
and I must have my forage accounts ready for the Commissary-
General by to-morrow morning."

This speech having informed me the reason of the Major's pre-
sence there, I resolved to wait no longer a mere spectator of their
proceedings ; so, dismounting from my position, I commenced a
vigorous attack upon the door.

It was some time before I was heard ; but at length the door was
opened, and I was accosted by an Englishman, who, in a strange
compound of French and English, asked " what the devil I meant
by all that uproar?" Determining to startle my old friend the
major, I replied that " I was an aide-de-camp to General Picton,
and had come down on very unpleasant business." By this time the
noise of the party within had completely subsided, and, from a few
whispered sentences, and their thickened breathing, I perceived that
they were listening.

"May I ask, sir," continued I, "if Major Monsoon is here?"

" Yes," stammered the Ensign, for such he was.

" Sorry for it, for his sake," said I ; " but my orders are peremp-
tory."

A deep groan from within, and a muttered request to pass down
the sherry, nearly overcame my gravity ; but I resumed, —

" If you will permit me, I will make the affair as short as possible.
The Major, I presume, is here?"



702 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

So saying, I pushed forward into the room, where now a slight
scuffling noise and murmur of voices had succeeded silence. Brief
us was the interval of our colloquy, the scene within had, notwith-
standing, undergone considerable change. The English officers,
hastily throwing off their aldermanic robes, were busily arraying
themselves in their uniforms, while Monsoon himself, with a huge
basin of water before him, was endeavoring to wash the cork from
his countenance in the corner of his. tabard.

" Very hard upon me, all this ; upon my life, so it is. Picton is
always at me, just as if we had not been school-fellows. The service
is getting worse every day. Regardezmoi y Curey, mong face est propref
Eh ? There, thank you. Good fellow the Curey is, but takes a deal
of fluid. Oh, Burgomaster ! I fear it is all up with me ! No more
fun, no more jollification, no more plunder — and how I did do it I
Nothing like watching one's little chances! 'The poor is hated
even by his neighbor.' Oui, Curey, it is Solomon says that, and
they must have had a heavy poor-rate in his day to make him say
so. Another glass of sherry ?"

By this time I approached the back of his chair, and, slapping
him heartily on the shoulder, called out, —
" Major! old boy, how goes it?"

" Eh ?— what?— how ?— who is this ? It can't be— egad, sure.it is,
though. Charley ! Charley O'Malley, you scapegrace, where have
you been ? When did you join ?"

"A week ago, Major. I could resist it no longer. I did my best
to be a -country gentleman, and behave respectably, but the old
temptation was too strong for me. Fred Power and yourself, Major,
had ruined my education ; and here I am once more amongst you."
" And so Picton, and the arrest, and all that, was nothing but a
joke?" said the old fellow, rolling his wicked eyes with a most cun-
ning expression. „■

"Nothing more, Major; set your heart at rest."
" What a scamp you are," said he, with another grin. " 77 est mon
fils—il est mon fils, Curey ," presenting me, as he spoke, while the
Burgomaster, in whose eyes the Major seemed no inconsiderable
personage, saluted me with profound respect.

Turning at once towards this functionary, T explained that I was
the bearer of important despatches, and that my horse— I was
ashamed to say my mule— having fallen lame, I was unable to
proceed.

"Can you procure me a remount, monsieur?" said I, "for I must
hasten on to Courtrai."

" In half an hour you shall be provided, as well as with a mounted
guide for the road. Lefils de son Excellence," said he, with emphasis,



AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE. 703

bowing to the Major as he spoke, who, in his turn, repaid the cour-
tesy with a still lower obeisance.

" Sit down, Charley ; here is a clean glass. I am delighted to see
you, my boy ! They tell me you have got a capital estate, and plenty
of ready. Lord ! we so wanted you, as there's scarcely a fellow with
sixpence among us. Give me the lad that can do a bit of paper at
.three months, and always be ready for a renewal ! You haven't got
a twenty-pound note ?" This was said sotto voce. " Never mind, ten
will do ; you will give me the remainder at Brussels. Strange, is it
not, I have not seen a bit of clean bank paper like this for above a
twelvemonth !" This was said as he thrust his hand into his pocket,
with one of those peculiar leers upon his countenance which, un-
fortunately, betrayed more satisfaction at his success than gratitude
for the service. " You are looking fat — too fat, I think," said he,
scrutinizing me from head to foot ; " but the life we are leading just
now will soon take that off. The slave-trade is luxurious indolence
compared to it. Post haste to Nivelle one day ; down to Ghent the
next ; forty miles over a paved road in a hand-gallop, and an aide-
de-camp with a watch in his hand at the end of it, to report if you
are ten minutes too'late. And there is Wellington has his eye every-
where ; there is not a truss of hay served to the cavalry, nor a pair
of shoes half-soled in the regiment, that he don't know of. I've got
it over the knuckles already."

" How so, Major? — how was that?"

" Why, he ordered me to picket two squadrons of the 7th, and a
supper was waiting. I didn't like to leave my quarters, so I took up
my telescope and pitched upon a sweet little spot of ground on a
hill — rather difficult to get up, to be sure, but a beautiful view when
you're on it. ' There is your ground, Captain/ said I, * as I sent one
of my people to mark the spot.' He did not like it much ; however,
he was obliged to go. And, would you believe it ? — so much for bad
luck ! — there turned out to be no water within two miles of it — not
a drop, Charley ; and so, about eleven at night, the two squadrons
moved down into Grammont to wet their Jips, and, what is worse,
to report me to the commanding officer. And, only think, they put
me under arrest because Providence did not make a river run up a
mountain !"

Just as the Major finished speaking, the distant clatter of horses'
feet and the clank of cavalry was heard approaching. We all rushed
eagerly to the door ; and scarcely had we done so, when a squadron
of dragoons. came riding up the street at a fast trot.

u I say, good people," cried the officer, in French, " where does
the Burgomaster live here?"

" Fred Power, 'pon my life !" shouted the Major.



704 en a in. E8 (j' ma li, i: y.

" Kli, Morr-oon I that y-ii ' mbler of wine, old boy ;

you are lure to bar* nd I am (to blows/ 1

"Got down, I '"I, gel down; we bare an old friend here*"
''Who the donee d'ye mean?" -aid he, u throwing bimeell from
addle, he -trode into the room. "Charley O'Mallerl by nil

that', gioriouel"

! red, my (,'allant fellow!" I*id I.

" It mm but tibia morning, Charley, that f ■-.<> iriehed for you bore.
The FrcBoh are advancing, my lad; they havecroeaed the frontier;
Ziethen'i dorne bawe i>< m attacked, and driven In ; lil urix r ie falling

buck upon Li(/ny; anrj the MtUpkigD M Opened. But I rnunf

forward; the regiment hi cloaa behind me, and we are ordered to
pa i. i',r Btuaaek in all bnato/ 1
" 'i ben aatchea," mid I, lowing my packet, " 'tin mine*

CCfuary to proceed with ?"

"Quite o. Oct into tii'- -addle, and dame bach with uh."
The Bnrgemj kef bed kept bit word with mej eo, mounted upon
aatrong backney, J set out with Power on the "' ; "i to BruaeeU, I

ion more, than once to ask pardon of my reader for

the prolixity of my narrative, ko I H.ha.11 not tr him here

by the dataH of our eonver-ation ■ we jogged alone-. Of me and

'! v< ill ur< Ml he tain ady known enouj/h perhapH too much. My

friend Potrer'i career, abounding a- it did In striking incidenta, and

all the light and shadow of a soldier'.-; life, yet not, bearing upon any

of the ohnraekera I have pr es en ted to your acquaintance, except in
ope Inatanoe, of that only thai] I ip
"And the Benbora, Fred, how go<* your fortune in that quarterf 1

" (iloriou.-.ly, Charley ! I am every day expecting the promotion

in my regiment which is to make bar mine."

" You bate heard from her lately, then?"

u Heard from berl Why, man, ihi to hi BrnaaeW^

" [a Brneeebf"

"To be sure. Don Emanuel in in hie-h favor with the Duke, and

m (lomm'r ary < << nera.1 with the, a.rmy ; arid the Henhora, in the
fojfc of the l!in; koyale, or, at leant, it'rt a divided 'y 00-

n h< r and Lucy DartliWOOd* And now, Charley, let m<

what of her? There there, don't blush, man; there, is quite
enough moonlight to show how tender you an- in that quart
"Once for all, Fred, pray space me on that subject, You bare

been far tOO fortunate in your offakrt dt '•'/"/, and I too mueh the
'•, tO permit mueh -ympafhy betwe. n .

" Do you not visit, then J or is it a eut between you ?"
" I have DOrer met her sinee (,| 1( ; [light uf tin; masquerade of the

Villa -at least, to Hpcak to "



AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE. 70. r >

"Well, I inn I COIlfc :■:-; you seem to 111:1 nage you f own affairs much
worse Mi:i.ii your friend,'; not hut that in ho doing you an- «-.\hih
iliii!' a very Irish f<:iliire of your character*, hi :my < :. ..«•, ymi will
come I" thobali? limy, will be delighted to see you ; mid I havegdt

over all my jealousy."

u What bail ? I never beard of it."

u Never beard of it! Why, the Duchess of Richmond's, of course.

Pooh, pooh! man ; not invited? — of course you are invited; the
staff arc never left out on Hiieh occasions. You will find your card
at your hotel when you return.

" in any case, Fred "

" I shall insist upon your going. I liuve no urrure fmtii about
B reconciliation with the Daub woods- no subtle scheme, on my
honor; hut simply I feel that you will never give yourself fair

ehancei Ld the world by Indulging your hahit of shrinking from
every embarrassment, Doo't be offended, hoy ; I know you have

pluck enough to Storm a battery; I have seen you under lire before
now. What avails your eour:i;'e in the. held it you have not pn :.<n.-.-
of mind in the drawing room.'' I. crything else out of the

question, it i;- :i. breach of eti.pietfc towards your chief to decline

such an Invitation."

"You think so?"

" Think so ?— No ; I am sure of it."
"Then, as to uniform, Fred?"

"Oh, as to that, easily managed. And, now I think of It, they
have sent me an unattached uniform, which you can have ; hut re
member, my hoy, if I put you in my COat, I don'! want you to
Stand in my shoes. Don't forget, also, tin.!, I am your debtor Ifl
horse flesh, and fortunately able to repay you. I have ;<ot ml, a

charger; your own favorite color, darl chestnut, and, except one
white: leg, noi a spot about bin ; can carry i Ixteen stone overa five

foot fence, and an steady as a rock under fire."

" r.ut, h'red, how are you ?"

"Oh, never mind me; I havesix in my;!:.!,!.-, .and intend to ,|, : , re
with you. Xhe fact is, I have been traofn red from one sfafflo ;,n

other for the hist six months, and lour of my number are presents,

Is Mike, with you? Ah! r lad to bear it: you will never get on
without that fellow. Hesidcs, it is a capital tiling to have such u
connecting link with one's nationality. No fear of your evei I - ,
getting Ireland with Mr. ffroe In your company, You are not aware

1 1,:Lt wr li:iv <' l "'*» <<"'■• pond, nls? :,. f.,,-1, I :i ,,, \f,|. ( .

wrote me two letters; ami such I. !!,r; liny Vferel The I

Jeremiad over your decline and fail, with a very ominous picture of
a certain Miss Baby Blal
i..



706 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

" Confound the rascal !"

" By Jove, though, Charley, you were coming it rather strong
with Baby. Inez saw the letter, and as well as she could decipher
Mike's hieroglyphics, saw there was something in it; but the name
Baby puzzled her immensely, and she set the whole thing down to
your great love of children. I don't think that Lucy quite agreed
with her."

" Did she tell it to Miss Dashwood ?" I inquired, with fear and
trembling.

" Oh, that she did ; in fact Inez never ceases talking of you to Lucy.
But come, don't look so grave ; let's have another brush with the
enemy ; capture a battery of their guns ; carry off a French Marshal
or two ; get the Bath for your services, and be thanked in general
orders, and I will wager all my chateaux en Espagne that everything
goes well."

Thus chatting away, sometimes over the past, of our former
friends and gay companions, of our days of storm and sunshine ;
sometimes indulging in prospects for the future, we trotted along,
and, as the day was breaking, mounted the ridge of low hills from
whence, at the distance of a couple of leagues, the city of Brussels
came into view.



CHAPTER LIII.

THE DUCHESS OF RICHMOND'S BALL.

WHETHER we regard the illustrious and distinguished per-
sonages who thronged around, or we think of the porten-
tous moment in which it was given, the Duchess of
Richmond's ball, on the night of the 15th of June, 1815, was not
only one of the most memorable, but, in its interest, the most
exciting entertainment that the memory of any one now living can
compass.

There is always something of no common interest in seeing the
bronzed and war-worn soldier mixing in the crowd of light-hearted
and brilliant beauty. To watch the eye whose proud glance has
flashed o'er the mail-clad squadrons, now bending meekly beneath
the look of some timid girl ; tohear the voice that, high above the
battle or the breeze, has shouted the hoarse word " Charge !" now
subdued into the low, soft murmur of flattery or compliment, — this,
at any time, is a picture full of its own charm ; but when we see



THE DUCHESS OF RICHMOND'S BALL. 707

these heroes of a hundred fights ; when we look upon these hardy
veterans, upon whose brow the whitened locks of time are telling,
indulging themselves in the careless gayety of a moment snatched,
as it were, from the arduous career of their existence, while the
tramp of the advancing enemy shakes the very soil they stand on,
and where it may be doubted whether each aide-de-camp who enters
comes a new votary of pleasure or the bearer, of tidings that the
troops of the foe are advancing, and already the work of death has
begun, — this is, indeed, a scene to make the heart throb and the
pulse beat high ; this is a moment second in its proud excitement
only to the very crash and din of battle itself; and into this en-
trancing whirlwind of passion and of pleasure, of brilliant beauty
and ennobled greatness, of all that is lovely in woman and all that
is chivalrous and heroic in man, I brought a heart which, young in
years, was yet tempered by disappointment ; still, such was the fas-
cination, such the brilliancy of the spectacle, that scarcely had I
entered, than I felt a change come over me. The old spirit of my
boyish ardor — that high-wrought enthusiasm to do something — to
be something which men may speak of— shot suddenly through me,
and I felt my cheek tingle, and my temples throb, as name after
name of starred and titled officers was announced, to think that to
me, also, the path of glorious enterprise was opening.

" Come along, come along," said Power, catching me by the arm ;
" you've not been presented to the Duchess ; I know her, I'll do it
for you — or perhaps it is better Sir Thomas Picton should. In any
case, 'JHez' after me, for the dark-eyed Senhora is surely expecting
us. There, do you see that dark, intelligent-looking fellow leaning
over the end of the sofa? that is Alava. And there, you know who
that is — that beau ideal of a hussar ? Look how jauntily he carries
himself; see the careless but graceful sling with which he edges
through the crowd ; and look ! mark his bow ! Did you see that,
Charley ? — did you catch the quick glance he shot yonder, and the
soft smile that showed his white teeth ? Depend upon it, boy, some
fair heart is not the better nor the easier for that look."

"Who is it?" said I.

" Lord Uxbridge, to be sure, — the handsomest fellow in the ser-
vice. And there goes Vandeleur, talking with Vivian ; the other, to
the left, is Ponsonby."

" But stay, Fred, tell me who that is ?" For a moment or two I
had some difficulty in directing his attention to the quarter I de-
sired. The individual I pointed out was somewhat above the mid-
dle size; his uniform, of blue and gold, though singularly plain,
had a look of richness about it ; besides that, among the orders
which covered his breast, he wore one star of great brilliancy and



708 CHABLES (VM ALLEY.

size. This, however, was his least distinction; for although sur-
rounded on every side by those who might be deemed the very
types and pictures of their caste, there was something in the easy
but upright carriage of his head, the intrepid character of his fea-
tures, the bold and vigorous flashing of his deep blue eye, that
marked him as no common man. He was talking with an old and
prosy-looking personage, in civilian dress ; and while I could detect
an anxiety to get free from a tiresome companion, there was an air
of deferential and even kind attention in his manner absolutely
captivating.

" A thorough gentleman, Fred, whoever he be," said I.

" I should think so," replied Power, dryly ; " and as our country-
men would say, ' The devil thank him for it !' That is the Prince
of Orange ; but see, look at him now ; his features have learned
another fashion." And true it was. With a smile of the most win-
ning softness, and with a voice whose slightly foreign accent took
nothing from its interest, I heard him engaging a partner for a
waltz.

There was a flutter of excitement in the circle as the lady rose to
take his arm, and a muttered sound of "How very beautiful!
quelle est belle ! c'est un ange /" on all sides. I leaned forward to
catch a glance as she passed — it was Lucy Dashwood. Beautiful
beyond anything I had ever seen her, her lovely features lit
up with pleasure and with pride, she looked in every way worthy
to lean upon the arm of royalty. The graceful majesty of her walk,
the placid loveliness of her gentle smile, struck every one as she
passed on. As for me, totally forgetting all else, not seeing or hear-
ing aught around me, I followed her with my eye until she was lost
amongst the crowd, and then, with an impulse of which I was not
master, followed in her steps.

" This way, this way," said Power ; " I see the Senhora." So say-
ing, we entered a little boudoir, where a party was playing at cards.
Leaning on the back of a chair, Inez was endeavoring, with that
mixture of coquetry and half malice she possessed, to distract the
attention of the player. As Power came near, she scarcely turned
her head to give him a kind of saucy smile, while, seeing me, she
held out her hand with friendly warmth, and seemed quite happy
to meet me.

" Do, pray, take her away ; get her to dance, to eat ice, or flirt
with you, for Heaven's sake !" said the half-laughing voice of her
victim. "I have revoked twice, and misdealt four times, since she
has been here. Believe me, I shall take it as the greatest favor if
if you'll "

As he got thus far, he turned round towards me, and I perceived



THE DUCHESS OF RICHMOND'S BALL. 709

it was Sir George Dashwood. The meeting was as awkward for him
as for me, and while a deep blush covered my face, he muttered
some unintelligible apology, and Inez burst into a fit of laughter at
the ludicrous contretemps of our situation.

" I will dance with you now, if you like," said she, " and that will
be punishing all three. Eh, Master Fred ?"

So saying, she took my arm, as I led her towards the ball-room.

"And so you really are not friends with the Dashwoods? How
very provoking, and how foolish too ! But really, chevalier, I must
say you treat ladies very ill. I don't forget your conduct to me.
Dear me, I wish we could move forward ; there is some one pushing
me dreadfully !"

" Get on, ma'am, get on !" said a sharp, decided voice behind me.
I turned, half smiling, to see the speaker. It was the Duke of Wel-
lington himself, who, with his eye fixed upon some person at a dis-
tance, seemed to care very little for any intervening obstruction.
As I made way for him to pass between us, he looked hardly at me,
while he said, in a short, quick way,

" Know your face very well — how d'ye do ?" With this brief
recognition he passed on, leaving me to console Inez for her crushed
sleeve, by informing her who had done it.

The ball was now at its height. The waltzers whirled past in the
wild excitement of the dance. The inspiriting strains of the music,
the sounds of laughter, the din, the tumult, all made up that strange
medley which, reacting upon the minds of those who cause it, in-
creases the feeling of pleasurable abandonment, making the old feel
young, and the young intoxicated with delight.

As the Senhora leaned upon me, fatigued with waltzing, I was
endeavoring to sustain a conversation with her, while my thoughts
were wandering with my eyes to where I had last seen Lucy Dash-



Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 73 of 80)