Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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" Ha P? he cried at last, " I have sought you out the entire day,
but in vain. It is not yet too late. Give me your hand, boy. You
once called on me to follow you, and I did not refuse ; I trust you'll
do the like by me. Is it not so?"

A terrible perception of his meaning shot through my mind as I
clasped his clay-cold hand in mine, and for a moment I did not

"I had hoped for better than this," said he, bitterly, and a
glance of withering scorn flashed from his eye. " I did trust that he
who was preferred before me was at least not a coward."

As the word fell from his lips I nearly leaped from my saddle, and
mechanically raised my sabre to cleave him on the spot.

"Then follow me!" shouted he, pointing with his sword to the
glistening ranks before us.

" Come on !" said I, with a voice hoarse with passion, while, bury-
ing my spurs in my horse's flanks, I sprang on a full length before
him, and bore down upon the enemy. A loud shout, a deafening
volley, the agonizing cry of the wounded and the dying, were all I
heard, as my horse, rearing madly upwards, plunged twice into the


air. and then fell dead upon the earth, crushing me beneath his cum-
brous weight, lifeless and insensible.

The day was breaking; the cold, gray light of the morning was
struggling through the misty darkness, when I once more recovered
my consciousness. There are moments in life when memory can so
suddenly conjure up the whole past before us, that there is scarcely
time for a doubt ere the disputed reality is palpable to our senses.
Such was this to me. One hurried glance upon the wide, bleak plain
before me, and every circumstance of the battle-field was present to
my recollection. The dismounted guns, the broken wagons, the
heaps of dead or dying, the straggling parties who on foot or horse-
back traversed the field, and the dark litters which carried the
wounded, all betokened the sad evidences of the preceding day's

Close around me where I lay, the ground was marked with the
bodies of our cavalry, intermixed with the soldiers of the Old
Guard. The broad brow and the stalwart chest of the Saxon lay
bleaching beside the bronzed and bearded warrior of Gaul, while the
torn-up ground attested the desperation of that struggle which closed
the day.

As my eye ranged over this harrowing spectacle, a dreadful anx-
iety shot through me as I asked myself whose had been the victory.
A certain confused impression of flight and pursuit remained in my
mind; but, at the moment, the circumstances of my own position
in the early part of the day increased the difficulty of reflection,
and left me in a state of intense and agonizing uncertainty. Al-
though not wounded, I had been so crushed by my fall that it was
not without pain I got upon my legs. I soon perceived that the
spot around me had not yet been visited by those vultures of the
battle-field who strip alike the dead and dying. The distance of the
place from where the great conflict of the battle had occurred was
probably the reason ; and now, as the straggling sunbeams fell upon
the earth, I could trace the helmet of the Enniskilleners, or the tall
bearskin of the Scotch Greys, lying in thick confusion where the
steel cuirass and long sword of the French dragoons showed the
fight had been hottest. As I turned my eyes hither and thither, I
could see no living thing near me. In every attitude of struggling
agony they lay around ; some buried beneath their horses, some
bathed in blood, some, with clenched hands and darting eye-balls,
seemed struggling even in death. But all was still— not a word, not
a sigh, not a groan was there. I was turning to leave the spot, and,
uncertain which way to direct my steps, looked once more around,
when my glance rested upon the pale and marble features of one


who, even in that moment of doubt and difficulty, there was no mis-
taking. His coat, torn widely open, was grasped in either hand,
while his breast was shattered with balls, and bathed in gore.
Gashed and mutilated as he lay, still the features bore no trace of
suffering; cold, pale, motionless, but with the tranquil look of sleep,
his eyelids were closed, and his half-parted lips seemed to quiver in
life. I knelt down beside him ; I took his hand in mine ; I bent over
and whispered his name ; I placed my hand upon his heart, where
even still the life-blood was warm — but he was dead. Poor Ham-
mersley ! His was a gallant soul ; and, as I looked upon his blood-
stained corpse, my tears fell fast and hot upon his brow to think how
far I had myself been the cause of a life blighted in its hope, and a
death like his.



ONCE more I would entreat my reader's indulgence for the
prolixity of a narrative which has grown beneath my hands
to a length I had never intended. This shall, however, be
the last time for either the offence or the apology. My story is now
soon concluded.

After wandering about for some time, uncertain which way to
take, I at length reached the Charleroi road, now blocked by car-
riages and wagons conveying the wounded towards Brussels. Here
I learned for the first time that we had gained the battle, and heard
of the total annihilation of the French army, and the downfall of
the Emperor. On arriving at the farm-house of Mont St. Jean, I
found a number of officers, whose wounds prevented their accom-
panying the army in its forward movement. One of them, with
whom I was slightly acquainted, informed me that General Dash-
wood had spent the greater part of the night upon the field in search
of me, and that my servant Mike was in a state of distraction at
my absence that bordered on insanity. While he was speaking, a
burst of laughter and the tones of a well-remembered voice behind
attracted my attention.

" Made a very good thing of it, upon my life. A dressing-case —
not gold, you know, but silver-gilt — a dozen knives, with blood-stone
handles, and a little coffee-pot, with the imperial arms — not to speak
of three hundred naps in a green silk purse — Lord ! it reminds m»


of the Peninsula. Do you know, those Prussians are mere bar-
barians — haven't a notion of civilized war. Bless your heart, my
fellows in the Legion would have ransacked the whole coach, from
the boot to the sword-case, in half the time they took to cut down
the coachman."

" The Major I as I live," said I. " How goes it, Major?"

" Eh, Charley ! when did you turn up ? Delighted to see you.
They told me you were badly wounded, or killed, or something of (
that kind ; but I should have paid the little debt to your executors
all the same."

"All the same, no doubt, Major; but where, in Heaven's name,
did you fall upon that mine of pillage you have just been talk-
ing of?"

" In the Emperor's carriage, to be sure, boy. While the Duke
was watching all day the advance of Ney's columns, and keeping
an anxious look-out for the Prussians, I sat in a window in this old
farm-house, and never took my eye off the garden at Planchenoit.
I saw the imperial carriage there in the morning — it was there also
at noon — and they never put the horses to it till past seven in the
evening. The roads were very heavy, and the crowd was great. I
judged the pace couldn't be a fast one ; and with four of the Ennis-
killeners I charged it like a man. The Prussians, however, had the
start of us ; and if they hadn't thought, from my seat on horseback
and my general appearance, that I was Lord Uxbridge, I should
have got but a younger son's portion. However, I got in first, filled
my pockets with a few little souvenirs of the Emperor, and then, lay-
ing my hands upon what was readiest, got out in time to escape
being shot ; for two of Blucher's hussars, thinking I must be the
Emperor, fired at me through the window."

" What an escape you had !"

" Hadn't I, though ? Fortunate, too, my Enniskilleners saw the
whole thing ; for I intend to make the circumstance the ground of
an application for a pension. Harkye, Charley, don't say anything
about the coffee-pot and the knives. The Duke, you know, has
strange notions of his own on these matters. But isn't that your
fellow fighting his way yonder ?"

"Tear an' ages! don't howld me — that's himself — devil a one

This exclamation came from Mickey Free, who, with his dress
torn and dishevelled, his eyes bloodshot and strained, was upsetting
and elbowing all before him, as he made his way towards me through
the crowd.

" Take that fellow to the guard-house ! Lay hold of him, sergeant.
Knock him down ! Who is the scoundrel?"


Such were the greetings he met with on every side. Regardless of
everything and everybody, he burst his way through the dense mass.

" Oh, murther I oh, Mary ! oh, Moses ! Is he safe here after all?"

The poor fellow could say no more, but burst into a torrent of
tears. A roar of laughter around him soon, however, turned the
current of his emotions; when, dashing the scalding drops from his
eyelids, he glared fiercely like a tiger on every side.

"You're laughing at me, are ye?" cried he, "bekase I love the
hand that fed me, and the master that stood to me. But let us see
now which of us two has the stoutest heart; you with your grin on
you, or myself with the salt tears on my face."

As he spoke, he sprang upon them like a madman, striking right
and left at everything before him. Down they went beneath his
blows, levelled with the united strength of energy and passion, till
at length, rushing upon him in numbers, he was overpowered and
thrown to the ground. It was with some difficulty I accomplished
his rescue ; for his enemies felt by no means assured how far his
amicable propensities for the future could be relied upon ; and, in-
deed, Mike himself had a most constitutional antipathy to binding
himself by any pledge. With some persuasion, however, I recon-
ciled all parties ; and having, by the kindness of a brother officer,
provided myself with a couple of troop horses, I mounted, and set
out for Brussels, followed by Mickey, who had effectually cured his
auditory of any tendency to laughter at his cost. •

As I rode up to the Belle Vue, I saw Sir George Dashwood in the
window. He was speaking to the Ambassador, Lord Clancarty ; but
the moment he caught my eye, hurried down to meet me.

" Charley, safe — safe, my boy ! Now am I really happy. The
glorious day had been one of sorrow to me for the rest of my life
had anything happened to you. Come up with me at once; I have
more than one friend here who longs to thank you."

So saying, he hurried me along; and, before I could well re-
member where I was, introduced me to a number of persons in the

"Ah! very happy to know you, sir," said Lord Clancarty; "per-
haps we had better walk this way. My friend Dashwood has ex-
plained to me the very pressing reasons there are for this step ; and
I, for my part, see no objection."

"What, in Heaven's name, can he mean !" thought I, as he stopped
short, expecting me to say something, while, in utter confusion, I
smiled, simpered, and muttered some commonplaces.

"Love and war, sir," resumed the Ambassador, "very admirable
associates, and you certainly have contrived to couple them most
closely together. A long attachment, I believe ?"


" Yes, sir, a very long attachment," stammered I, not knowing
which of us was about to become insane.

"A very charming person, indeed; I have seen the lady," replied
his lordship, as he opened the door of a small room, and beckoned
me to follow. The table was covered with paper and materials for
writing ; but, before I had time to ask for any explanation of this
unaccountable mystery, he added, " Oh, I was forgetting ; this must
be witnessed : wait one moment."

With these words he left the room, while I, amazed and thunder-
struck, vacillating between fear and hope, trembling lest the delusive
glimmering of happiness should give way at every moment, and yet
totally unable to explain by any possible supposition how fortune
could so far have favored me.

While yet I stood hesitating and uncertain, the door opened, and
the Senhora entered. She looked a little pale, though not less
beautiful than ever ; and her features wore a slight trace of serious-
ness, which rather heightened than took from the character of her

" I heard you had come, Chevalier," said she, " and so I ran down
to shake hands with you. We may not meet again for some time."

"How so, Senhora? You are not going to leave us, I trust?"

"Then you have not seen Fred? Oh, I forgot, you know nothing
of our plans."

" Here we are at last," said the Ambassador, as he came in, fol-
lowed by Sir George, Power, and two other officers. "Ah, ma belle,
how fortunate to find you here ! I assure you it is a matter of no
small difficulty to get people together at such a time as this."

"Charley, my dear friend," cried Power, "I scarcely hoped to
have had a shake hands with you ere I left."

" Do, Fred, tell me what all this means ? I am in a maze of doubt
and difficulty, and cannot comprehend a word I hear about me.".

"Faith, my boy, I have little time for explanation. The man
who was at Waterloo yesterday, is to be married to-morrow, and to
sail for India in a week, has quite enough upon his hands."

" Colonel Power, will you please to put your signature here," said
Lord Clancarty, addressing himself to me.

" If you will allow me," said Fred, " I had rather represent my-

" Is not this the Colonel, then ? Why, confound it, I have been
wishing him joy the last quarter of an hour."

A burst of laughter from the whole party, in which it was pretty
evident I took no part, followed this announcement.

"And so you are not Colonel Power? Nor going to be married


I stammered out something, while, overwhelmed with confusion,
I stooped down to sign the paper. Scarcely had I done so, when a
renewed burst of laughter broke from the party.

" Nothing but blunders, upon my soul," said the Ambassador, as
he handed the paper from one to another.

What was my confusion to discover that, instead of Charles
O'Malley, I had written the name of Lucy Dashwood. I could
bear no more. The laughing and raillery of my friends came upon
my wounded and irritated feelings like the most poignant sarcasm.
I seized my cap, and rushed from the room. Desirous of escaping
from all that knew me, anxious to bury my agitated and distracted
thoughts in solitude and quiet, I opened the first door before me,
and, seeing it an empty and unoccupied room, threw myself upon
a sofa, and buried my head within my hands. Oh, how often had
the phantom of happiness passed within my reach, but still glided
from my grasp ! How often had I beheld the goal I aimed at, as it
were before me, and the next moment all the bleak reality of my
evil fortune was louring around me !

"Oh Lucy, Lucy!" I exclaimed aloud, "but for you and a few
words carelessly spoken, I had never trod that path of ambition
whose end has been the wreck of all my happiness. But for you, I
had never loved so fondly ; I had never filled my mind with one
image which, excluding every other thought, leaves no pleasure but
in it alone. Yes, Lucy, but for you I should have gone tranquilly
down the stream of life with naught of grief or care, save such as
are inseparable from the passing chances of mortality ; loved, per-
haps, and cared for by some one who would have deemed it no dis-
grace to have linked her fortune to my own. But for you, and I
had never been "

"A soldier, you would say," whispered a soft voice, as a light
hand gently touched my shoulder. " I had come," continued she,
"to thank you for a gift no gratitude can repay, — my father's life;
but, truly, I did not think to hear the words you have spoken ; nor,
having heard them, can I feel their justice. No, Mr. O'Malley,
deeply grateful as I am to you for the service you once rendered
myself, bound as I am, by every tie of thankfulness, by the greater
one to my father, yet do I feel that in the impulse I have given to
your life, if so be that to me you owe it, I have done more to repay
my debt to you than by all the friendship, all the esteem, I owe
you ; if, indeed, by my means, you became a soldier, if my few and
random words raised within your breast that fire of ambition which
has been your beacon-light to honor and to glory, then am I indeed

" Alas ! alas ! Lucy— Miss Dashwood, I would say— forgive jne if


I know not the very words I utter. How has my career fulfilled
the promise that gave it birth? For you, and you only, to gain
your affection, to win your heart, I became a soldier; hardship,
danger, even death itself were courted by me, supported by the one
thought that you had cared for or had pitied me; and now, and
now "

"And now," said she, while her eyes beamed upon me with a very
flood of tenderness, " is it nothing that in my woman's heart I have
glowed with pride at triumphs I could read of but dared not share
in ? Is it nothing that you have lent to my hours of solitude and
of musing the fervor of that career, the maddening enthusiasms of
that glorious path my sex denied me ? I have followed you in my
thoughts across the burning plains of the Peninsula, through the
long hours of the march in the dreary nights even to the battle-
field. I have thought of you; I have dreamed of you; I have
prayed for you."

" Alas ! Lucy, but not loved me."

The very words, as I spoke them, sank with a despairing cadence
upon my heart. Her hand, which had fallen upon mine, trembled
violently. I pressed my lips upon it, but she moved it not. I dared
to look up. Her head was turned away, but her heaving bosom
betrayed her emotion.

"No, no, Lucy," cried I passionately, "I will not deceive myself;
I ask for more than you can give me. Farewell !"

Now, and for the last time, I pressed her hand once more to my
lips ; my hot tears fell fast upon it. I turned to go, and threw one
last look upon her. Our eyes met. I cannot say what it was, but
in a moment the whole current of my thoughts was changed ; her
look was bent upon me, beaming with softness and affection ; her
hand gently pressed my own, and her lips murmured my name.

The door burst open at this moment, and Sir George Dashwood
appeared. Lucy turned one fleeting look upon her father, and fell
fainting into my arms.

" God bless you, my boy !" said the old General, as he hurriedly
wiped a tear from his eye ; " I am now, indeed, a happy father."





THE sun had set about half an hour. Already were the dusky
shadows blending with the faint twilight, as on a lovely June
evening we entered the little village of Portumna, — we, I say,
for Lucy was beside me. For the last few miles of the way I had
spoken little. Thoughts of the many times I had travelled that
same road, in how many moods, occupied my mind ; and although,
as we flew rapidly along, some well-known face would every now
and then present itself, I had but time for the recognition ere we
were past. Arousing myself from my reverie, I was pointing out to
Lucy certain well-known spots in the landscape, and directing her
attention to places with the names of which she had been for some
time familiar, when suddenly a loud shout rent the air, and the
next moment the carriage was surrounded by hundreds of country
people, some of whom brandished blazing pine torches ; others car-
ried rude banners in their hands ; but all testified the most fervent
joy as they bade us welcome. The horses were speedily unhar-
nessed, and their places occupied by a crowd of every age and sex,
who hurried us along through the straggling street of the village,
now a perfect blaze of bonfires.

Mounds of turf, bog-fir, and tar-barrels sent up their ruddy blaze,
while hundreds of wild but happy faces flitted around and through
them, — now dancing merrily in chorus, now plunging madly into
the midst of the fire, and scattering the red embers on every side.
Pipers were there, too, mounted upon cars or turf-kishes ; even the
very roof-tops rang out their merry notes ; the ensigns of the little
fishing-craft waved in the breeze, and seemed to feel the general joy
around them ; while over the door of the village inn stood a bril-
liantly-lighted transparency, representing the head of the O'Malleys
holding a very scantily-robed young lady by the tips of the fingers ;
but whether this damsel was intended to represent the genius of the
west or my wife, I did not venture to inquire.

If the welcome were rude, assuredly it was a hearty one. Kind
wishes and blessings poured in on every side, and even our own
happiness took a brighter coloring from the beaming looks around
us. The scene was wild. The lurid glare of the rod torchlight, the
frantic gestures, the maddening shouts, the forked flames rising
amidst the dark shadows of the little hamlet, had something strange
and almost unearthly in their effect ; but Lucy showed no touch of
fear. It is true she grasped my hand a little closer, but her fail


cheek glowed with pleasure, and her eye brightened as she looked ;
and as the rich light fell upon her beauteous features, how many a
blessing, heartfelt and deep, how many a word of fervent praise, was

'Ah ! then, the Lord be good to you ; it's yourself has the dar-
iin' blue eyes. Look at them, Mary ; ain't they like the blossoms
on a peacock's tail ? Musha, may sorrow never put a crease on that
beautiful cheek ! The saints watch over you ! for your mouth is
like a moss-rose. Be good to her, yer honor, for she's a raal gem.
Devil fear you, Mr. Charles, but you'd have a beauty."

We wended our way slowly, the crowd ever thickening around us,
until we reached the market-place. Here the procession came to a
stand, and I could perceive, by certain efforts around me, that some
endeavor was making to enforce silence.

" Whist there ! howld your prate ; be still, Paddy. Tear an' ages,
Molly Blake, don't be howldin' me that way ; let us hear his rive-
rence. Put him up on the barrel. Haven't you got a chair for the
priest? Pun and bring a table out of Mat Haley's. Here, father, —
here, your riverence; take care, will you? — you'll have the holy
man in the blaze 1"

By this time I could perceive that my worthy old friend Father
Push was in the midst of the mob, with what appeared to be a
written oration, as long as the tail of a kite, between his hands.

" Be aisy, there, ye savages ; who's tearin' the back of my neck ?
Howld me up straight — steady, now — hem !"

"Take the laste taste in life of this to wet your lips, your
riverence," said a friendly voice, while at the same moment a
smoking tumbler of what seemed to be punch appeared on the heads
of the crowd.

"Thank you, Judy," said the father, as he drained the cup.
" Howld the light up higher ; I can't read my speech. There, now ;
be quiet, will ye ? Here goes. Peter, stand to me now, and give
me the word."

This admonition was addressed to a figure on a barrel behind the
priest, who, as well as the imperfect light would permit me to des-
cry, was the coadjutor of the parish, Peter Nolan. Silence being
perfectly established, Father Push began :—

" When Mars, the god of war on high,
Of battles first did think,
» He girt his sword upon his thigh,

And— what is't, Peter?"

" And mixed a drop of drink."


" And mixed a drop of drink," quoth Father Kush, with great
emphasis. Scarcely were the words spoken, than a loud shout of
laughter showed him his mistake, and he overturned upon the luck-
less curate the full vial of his wrath.

" What is it that you mean, Father Peter ? I'm ashamed of ye ;
faith, it's maybe yourself, not Mars, you are speaking of."

The roar of merriment around prevented my hearing what passed ;
but I could see by Peter's gestures — for it was too dark to see his
face — that he was expressing deep sorrow for the mistake. After a
little time, order was again established, and Father Kush resumed :

" But love drove battles from his head,
And sick of wounds and scars,
To Venus bright he knelt, and said

And said — and said ; what the blazes did he say ?"

" I'll make you Mrs. Mars,"

shouted Peter, loud enough to be heard.

" Bad luck to you, Peter Nolan, it's yourself's the ruin of me this
blessed night. Here have I come four miles with my speech in my
pocket, 'per imbres et ignes.'' " Here the crowd crossed themselves

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 78 of 80)