Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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« * Very true — very true,' replied he timidly, and rather fearing
for the intellects of his fair companion.

" She continued.

"The narrative, however, so far from becoming clearer, grew
gradually more confused and intricate, and as frequent references
were made by the lady to some previous statement, Calvert was
more than once rebuked for forgetful ness and inattention, where,
in reality, nothing less than shorthand could have borne him

" ' Was it in '93 I said Sir Harry left me at Tuam V

" ' Upon my life, madam, I am afraid to aver ; but it strikes
me '

" ' Gracious powers I and this is he whom I fondly trusted to make
the depository of my woes — cruel, cruel man.' Here she sobbed
considerably for several minutes, and spoke not.

"A loud cheer of ' Butler for ever 1' from the mob without now
burst upon their hearing, and recalled poor Calvert at once to the
thought that the hours were speeding fast, and no prospect of the
everlasting tale coming to an end.

" ' I am deeply, most deeply grieved, my dear madam,' said the
little man, sitting up in a pyramid of blankets, 'but hours, minutes,
are most precious to me this morning. I am about to be proposed
as member for Kilkenny.'

"At these words the lady straightened her figure out, threw her
arms at either side, and burst into a fit of laughter, which poor Cal-
vert knew at once to be hysterics. Here was a pretty situation.
The bell-rope lay against the opposite wall, and even if it did not,
would he be exactly warranted in pulling it ?

" • May the devil and all his angels take Sir Harry Boyle and his
whole connection to the fifth generation/ was his sincere prayer, as
he sat, like a Chinese juggler, under his canopy.

"At length the violence of the paroxysm seemed to subside, the


sobs became less frequent, the kicking less forcible, and the lady's
eyes closed, and she appeared to have fallen asleep.

" ' Now is the moment,' said Billy ; -if I could only get as far as
my dressing-gown.' So saying, he worked himself down noiselessly
to the foot of his bed, looked fixedly at the fallen lids of the sleep-
ing lady, and essayed one leg from the blankets. ' Now or never,'
said he, pushing aside the curtain, and preparing for a spring. One
more look he cast at his companion, and then leaped forth ; but just
as he lit upon the floor, she again roused herself, screaming with
horror. Billy fell upon the bed, and, rolling himself in the bed-
clothes, vowed never to rise again till she was out of the visible

" ' What is all this? what do you mean, sir?' said the lady, red-
dening with indignation.

"'Nothing, upon my soul, madam; it was only my dressing-
gown !'

" * Your dressing-gown !' said she, with an emphasis worthy of
Siddons ; ' a likely story for Sir Harry to believe, sir. Fie, fie, sir.'

" This last allusion seemed a settler, for the luckless Calvert
heaved a profound sigh, and sunk down as if all hope had left him.
' Butler for ever !' roared the mob ; ' Calvert for ever !' cried a boy's
voice from without. ■ Three groans for the runaway !' answered this
announcement ; and a very tender inquiry of, ' Where is he ?' was
raised by some hundred mouths.

" ' Madam,' said the almost frantic listener — ' madam, I must get
up ; I must dress. I beg of you to permit me.'

" ' I have nothing to refuse, sir. Alas ! disdain has long been my
only portion. Get up, if you will.'

" \ But,' said the astonished man, who was well-nigh deranged
at the coolness of this reply — • but how am I to do so if you sit
there ?'

" ' Sorry for any inconvenience I may cause you ; but, in the
crowded state of the hotel, I hope you see the impropriety of my
walking about the passages in this costume?'

" ' And, great God ! madam, why did you come out in it?'

"A cheer from the mob prevented her reply being audible. One
o'clock tolled out from the great bell of the cathedral.

" ' There's one o'clock, as I live.'

" ' I heard it,' said the lady.

" ' The shouts are increasing. What is that I hear? Butler is in.
Gracious mercy, is the election over ?'

" The lady stepped to the window, drew aside the curtain, and
said, ' Indeed it would appear so. The mob are cheering Mr. But-
ler.' [ A deafening shout burst from the street, j ' Perhaps you'd


like to see the fun, so I'll not detain you any longer. So, good-bye,
Mr. Calvert ; and as your breakfast will be cold, in all likelihood,
come down to No. 4, for Sir Harry is a late man, and will be glad
to see you.' "



WHILE thus we lightened our way with chatting, the in-
creasing concourse of people, and the greater throng of
carriages that filled the road, announced that we had
nearly reached our destination.

" Considine," said my uncle, riding up to where we were, " I have
just got a few lines from Davern. It seems Bodkin's people are
afraid to come in ; they know what they must expect, and if so,
more than half of that barony is lost to our opponent."

"Then he has no chance whatever."

" He never had, in my opinion," said Sir Harry.

" We'll see soon," said my uncle, cheerfully, and rode to the

The remainder of the way was occupied in discussing the various
possibilities of the election, into which I was rejoiced to find that
defeat never entered.

In the goodly days I speak of, a county contest was a very differ-
ent thing indeed from the tame and insipid farce that now passes
under that name;, where a briefless barrister, bullied by both sides,
sits as assessor — a few drunken voters — a radical O'Connellite gro-
cer — a demagogue priest — a deputy grand purple something from
the Trinity College lodge, with some half-dozen followers, shouting,
" To the devil with Peel !" or " Down with Dens !" form the whole
corps de ballet. No, no ; in the times I refer to, the voters were some
thousands in number, and the adverse parties took the field, far less
dependent for success upon previous pledge or promise made them
than upon the actual stratagem of the day. Each went forth, like
a general to battle, surrounded by a numerous and well-chosen staff;
one party of friends, acting as commissariat, attended to the vic-
tualing of the voters, — that they obtained a due, or rather undue,
allowance of liquor, and came properly drunk to the poll ; others,
again, broke into skirmishing parties, and, scattered over the coun-
try, cut off the enemy's supplies, breaking down their post-chaises,
upsetting their jaunting-cars, stealing their poll-books, and kidnap-
ping their agents. Then there were secret service people, bribing


the enemy and enticing them to desert ; and lastly, there was a
species of sapper-and-miner force, who invented false documents,
denied the identity of the opposite party's people, and, when hard
pushed, provided persons who took bribes from the enemy, and gave
evidence afterwards on a petition. Amid all these encounters of
wit and ingenuity, the personal friends of the candidate formed a
species of rifle brigade, picking out the enemy's officers, and doing
sore damage to their tactics by shooting a proposer, or wounding a
seconder — a considerable portion of every leading agent's fee being
intended as compensation for the duels he might, could, would,
should, or ought to fight during the election. Such, in brief, was a
contest in the olden time ; and when it is taken into consideration
that it usually lasted a fortnight or three weeks, that a considerable
military force was always engaged (for our Irish law permits this),
and which, when nothing pressing was doing, was regularly assailed
by both parties, — that far more dependence was placed in a blud-
geon than a pistol, — and that the man who registered a vote without
a cracked pate was regarded as a kind of natural phenomenon,
some faint idea may be formed how much such a scene must have
contributed to the peace of the county, and the happiness and
welfare of all concerned in it.

As we rode along, a loud cheer from a road that ran parallel to
the one we were pursuing attracted our attention, and we perceived
that a cortege of the opposite party was hastening on to the hust-
ings. I could distinguish the Blake girls on horseback among a
crowd of officers in undress, and saw something like a bonnet in the
carriage-and-four which headed the procession, and which I judged
to be that of Sir George Dashwood. My heart beat strongly as I
strained my eyes to see if Miss Dashwood w r as there ; but I could
not discern her, and it was with a sense of relief that I reflected on
the possibility of our not meeting under circumstances wherein our
feelings and interests were so completely opposed. While I was
engaged in making this survey, I had accidentally dropped behind
my companions ; my eyes were firmly fixed upon that carriage, and
in the faint hope that it contained the object of all my wishes, I
forgot everything else. At length the cortege entered the town,
and, passing beneath a heavy stone gateway, was lost to my view.
I w T as still lost in reverie, when an under-agent of my uncle's
rode up.

"Oh! Master Charles," said he, "what's to be done? They've
forgotten Mr. Holmes at Woodford, and we haven't a carriage,
chaise, or even a car left to send for him."

" Have you told Mr. Considine?" inquired I.

"And sure you know yourself how little Mr. Considine thinks of


a lawyer. It's small comfort he'd give me if I went to tell him. If
it was a case of pistols or a bullet mould, he'd ride back the whole
way himself for them."

" Try Sir Harry Boyle, then."

" He's making a speech this minute before the Court-house."

This had sufficed to show me how far behind my companions I
had been loitering, when a cheer from the distant road again turned
my eyes in that direction ; it was the Dashwood carriage returning
after leaving Sir George at the hustings. The head of the britska,
before thrown open, was now closed, and I could not make out if
any one were inside.

" Devil a doubt of it," said the agent, in answer to some question
of a farmer who rode beside him ; " will you stand to me?"

" Troth, to be sure I will."

" Here goes, then," said he, gathering up his reins and turning
his horse towards the fence at the roadside ; " follow me now, boys."

The order was well obeyed, for when he had cleared the ditch, a
dozen stout country fellows, well mounted, were beside him. Away
they went at a hunting pace, taking every leap before them, and
heading towards the road before us.

Without thinking further of the matter, I was laughing at the
droll effect the line of frieze coats presented as they rode side by
side, over the stone walls, when an observation near me aroused my

"Ah, then, av they know anything of Tim Finucane, they'll give
it up peaceably; it's little he'd think of taking the coach from under
the judge himself."

" What are they about, boys ?" said I.

" Goin' to take the chaise-and-four forninst ye, yer honor," said
the man.

I waited not to hear more, but darting spurs into my horse's sides,
cleared the fence in one bound. My horse, a strong-knit half-bred,
was as fast as a racer for a short distance ; so that when the agent
and his party had come up with the carriage, I was only a few hun-
dred yards behind. I shouted out with all my might, but they
either heard not or heeded not, for scarcely was the first man over
the fence into the road, when the postilion on the leader was felled
to the ground, and his place supplied by his slayer ; the boy on the
wheeler shared the same fate, and in an instant, so well managed
was the attack, the carriage was in possession of the assailants.
Four stout fellows had climbed into the box and the rumble, and
six others were climbing to the interior, regardless of the aid of
steps. By this time the Dashwood party had got the alarm, and
returned in full force— not, however, before the other had laid whip


to the horses, and set out in full gallop ; and now commenced the
most terrific race I ever witnessed.

The four carriage-horses, which were the property of Sir George,
were English thorough-breds of great value, and, totally unaccus-
tomed to the treatment they experienced, dashed forward at a pace
that threatened annihilation to the carriage at every bound. The
pursuers, though well mounted, were speedily distanced, but fol-
lowed at a pace that in the end was certain to overtake the carriage.
As for myself, I rode on beside the road, at the full speed of my
horse, shouting, cursing, imploring, execrating, and beseeching at
turns, but all in vain ; the yells and shouts of the pursuers and
pursued drowned all other sounds, except when the thundering
crash of the horses' feet rose above all. The road, like most west-
ern Irish roads until the present century, lay straight as an arrow
for miles, regardless of every opposing barrier, and in the instance
in question crossed a mountain at its very highest point. Towards
this pinnacle the pace had been tremendous; but, owing to the
higher breeding of the cattle, the carriage party had still the ad-
vance, and when they reached the top, they proclaimed the victory
by a cheer of triumph and derision. The carriage disappeared be-
neath the crest of the mountain, and the pursuers halted, as if dis-
posed to relinquish the chase.

" Come on, boys. Never give up," cried I, springing over into
the road, and heading the party to which by every right I was

It was no time for deliberation, and they followed me with a
hearty cheer that convinced me I was unknown. The next instant
we were on the mountain top, and beheld the carriage half way down
beneath us, still galloping at full stretch.

" We have them now," said a voice behind me ; " they'll never
turn Lurra Bridge, if we only press on."

The speaker was right. The road at the mountain foot turned at
a perfect right angle, and then crossed a lofty one-arched bridge,
over a mountain torrent that ran deep and boisterously beneath.
On we went, gaining at every stride, for the fellows who rode pos-
tilion well knew what was before them, and slackened their pace to
secure a safe turning. A yell of victory arose from the pursuers,
but was answered by the others with a cheer of defiance. The space
was now scarcely two hundred yards between us, when the head of
the britska was flung down, and a figure that I at once recognized
as the redoubted Tim Finucane, one of the boldest and most reck-
less fellows in the county, was seen standing on the seat, holding —
gracious heavens ! it was true — holding in his arms the apparently
lifeless figure of Miss Dashwood.


" Hold in !" shouted the ruffian, with a voice that rose high above
all the other sounds. " Hold in ! or, by the Eternal, I'll throw her,
body and bones, into the Lurra Gash !" for such was the torrent
called that boiled and foamed a few yards before us.

He had by this time got firmly planted on the hind seat, and
held the drooping form on one arm, with all the ease of a giant's

"For the love of God !" said I, "pull up. I know him well —
he'll do it to a certainty if you press on."

"And we know you too," said a ruffianly fellow, with a dark
whisker meeting beneath his chin, " and have some scores to settle
ere we part "

But I heard no more. With one tremendous effort I dashed my
horse forward. The carriage turned an angle of the road — for an
instant was out of sight — another moment I was behind it.

" Stop !" I shouted, with a last effort, but in vain. The horses,
maddened and infuriated, sprang forward, and, heedless of all efforts
to turn them, the leaders sprang over the low parapet of the bridge,
and hanging for a second by the traces, fell with a crash into the
swollen torrent beneath. By this time I was beside the carriage.
Finucane had now clambered to the box, and, regardless of the
death and ruin around, bent upon his murderous object, he lifted
the light and girlish form above his head, bent backwards, as if to
give greater impulse to his effort, when, twining my lash around my
wrist, I levelled my heavy and loaded hunting whip at his head ;
the weighted ball of lead struck him exactly beneath his hat, he
staggered, his hands relaxed, and he fell lifeless to the ground. The
same instant I was felled to the earth by a blow from behind, and
saw no more.



NEARLY three weeks followed the event I have just narrated
ere I again was restored to consciousness. The blow by
which I was felled — from what hand coming it was never
afterwards discovered — had brought on concussion of the brain,
and for several days my life was despaired of. As by slow steps I
advanced towards recovery, I learned from Considine that Miss
Dashwood, whose life was saved by my interference, had testified
her gratitude in the warmest manner, and that Sir George had, up


to the period of his leaving the country, never omitted a single day
to ride over and inquire for me.

" You know, of course," said the Count, supposing such news was
the most likely to interest me — " you know we beat them V

" No, pray tell me all. They've not let me hear anything hither-
to I"

" One day finished the whole affair. We polled man for man till
past two o'clock, when our fellows lost all patience, and beat their
tallies out of the town. The police came up, but they beat the
police ; then they got soldiers, but begad they were too strong for
them too. Sir George witnessed it all, and knowing, besides, how
little chance he had of success, deemed it best to give in ; so that a
little before five o'clock he resigned. I must say no man could
behave better. He came across the hustings and shook hands with
Godfrey ; and, as the news of the scrimmage with his daughter had
just arrived, said that he was sorry his prospect of success had not
been greater, that, in resigning, he might testify how deeply he felt
the debt the O'Malleys had laid him under."

" And my uncle, how did he receive his advances ?"

"Like his own honest self; grasped his hand firmly; and upon
my soul I think he was half sorry that he gained the day. Do you
know, he took a mighty fancy to that blue-eyed daughter of the old
General's. Faith, Charley, if he was some twenty years younger, I
would not say but Come, come, I didn't mean to hurt your feel-
ings ; but I have been staying here too long. I'll send up Mickey
to sit with you. Mind and don't be talking too much to him."

So saying, the worthy Count left the room, fully impressed that,
in hinting at the possibility of my uncle's marrying again, he had
said something to ruffle my temper.

For the next two or three weeks my life was one of the most tire-
some monotony. Strict injunctions had been given by the doctors
to avoid exciting me ; and, consequently, every one that came in
walked on tiptoe, spoke in whispers, and left me in five minutes.
Reading was absolutely forbidden ; and, with a sombre half-light to
sit in, and chicken broth to support nature, I dragged out as dreary
an existence as any gentleman west of Athlone.

Whenever my uncle or Considine was not in the room, my compan-
ion was my own servant, Michael, or, as he was better known, " Mickey
Free." Now, had Mickey been left to bis own free and unrestricted
devices, the time would not have hung so heavily ; for, among Mike's
manifold gifts, he was possessed of a very great flow of gossiping
conversation ; he knew all that was doing in the county, and never
was barren in his information wherever his imagination could come
into play. Mickey was the best hurler in the barony, no mean per-


former on the violin, could dance the national bolero of " Tatter
Jack Walsh" in a way that charmed more than one soft heart be-
neath a red woolsey bodice, and had, withal, the peculiar free-and-
easy devil-may-care kind of off-hand Irish way that never deserted
him in the midst of his wiliest and most subtle moments, giving to
a very deep and cunning fellow all the apparent frankness and open-
ness of a country lad.

He had attached himself to me as a kind of sporting companion ;
and, growing daily more and more useful, had been gradually ad-
mitted to the honors of the kitchen and the prerogatives of cast
clothes, without ever having been actually engaged as a servant ;
and while thus no warrant officer, as, in fact, he discharged all his
duties well and punctually, was rated among the ship's company,
though no one could say at what precise period he changed his cater-
pillar existence and became the gay butterfly, with cords and tops,
a striped vest, and a most knowing jerry hat, who stalked about the
stable yard and bullied the helpers. Such was Mike. He had made
his fortune, such as it was, and had a most becoming pride in the
fact that he made himself indispensable to an establishment which
before he entered it never knew the want of him. As for me, he
was everything to me. Mike informed me what horse was strong,
why the chestnut mare couldn't go out, and why the black horse
could. He knew the arrival of a new covey of partridges quicker
than the Morning Post does of a noble family from the Continent,
and could tell their whereabouts twice as accurately ; but his talents
took a wider range than field sports afford, and he was the faithful
chronicler of every wake, station, wedding, or christening for miles
round; and as I took no small pleasure in those very national pas-
times, the information was of great value to me. To conclude this
brief sketch, Mike was a devout Catholic, in the same sense that he
was enthusiastic about anything ; that is, he believed and obeyed
exactly as far as suited his own peculiar notions of comfort and hap-
piness. Beyond that, his skepticism stepped in and saved him from
inconvenience ; and though he might have been somewhat puzzled
to reduce his faith to a rubric, still it answered his purpose, and
that was all he wanted. Such, in short, was my valet, Mickey Free,
who, had not heavy injunctions been laid on him as to silence and
discretion, would well have lightened my weary hours.

"Ah! then, Misther Charles," said he, with a half-suppressed
yawn at the long period of probation his tongue had been under-
going in silence — " ah ! then, but you were mighty near it."

"Near what?" said I.

" Faith, then, myself doesn't well know. Some say it's purga-
thory ; but it's hard to tell."


" I thought you were too good a Catholic, Mickey, to show any
doubts on the matter?"

" Maybe I am — maybe I ain't," was the cautious reply.

" Wouldn't Father Eoach explain any of your difficulties for you,
if you went over to him ?"

" Faix, it's little I'd mind his explainings."

" And why not ?"

" Easy enough. If you ax ould Miles there, without, what does
he be doing with all the powther and shot, wouldn't he tell you he's
shooting the rooks, and the magpies, and some other varmint? but
myself knows he sells it to Widow Casey, at two-and-fourpence a
pound ; so belikes Father Roach may be shooting away at the poor
souls in purgathory, that all this time are enjoying the hoith of fine
living in heaven, ye understand."

" And you think that's the way of it, Mickey ?"

" Troth, it's likely. Anyhow, I know it's not the place they make
it out."

" Why, how do you mean?"

"Well, then, I'll tell you, Misther Charles; but you must not be
saying anything about it afther ; for I don't like to talk about these
kind of things."

Having pledged myself to the requisite silence and secrecy, Mickey
began :

" Maybe you heard tell of the way my father — rest his soul, wher-
ever he is — came to his end. Well, I needn't mind particulars, but,
in short, he was murdered in Ballinasloe one night, when he was
batin' the whole town with a blackthorn stick he had, more by
token, a piece of scythe was stuck at the end of it ; a nate weapon,
and one he was mighty partial to ; but these murdering thieves, the
cattle dealers, that never cared for divarsion of any kind, fell on him
and broke his skull.

" Well, we had a very agreeable wake, and plenty of the best of
everything, and to spare, and I thought it was all over ; but some-
how, though I paid Father Roach fifteen shillings, and made him
mighty drunk, he always gave me a black look whenever I met him,
and when I took off my hat, he'd turn away his head displeased like.

"' Murder and ages,' says I, 'what's this for?' but as I've a light
heart, I bore up, and didn't think more about it. One day, however,

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 8 of 80)