Charles James Lever.

Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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I was coming home" from Athlone market, by myself on the road,
when Father Roach overtook me. ' Devil a one o' me 'ill take any
notice of you now,' says I, ' and we'll see what'll come out of it.' So
the priest rid up, and looked me straight in the face.

" ' Mickey/ says he — ' Mickey.'

" ' Father,' says I.


" ' Is it that way you salute your clargy/ says he, ' with your cau-
been on your head ?'

" ' Faix,' says I, ' it's little ye mind whether it's an or aff, for you
never take the trouble to say, "By your leave," or "Damn your
soul," or any other politeness, when we meet.'

" ' You're an ungrateful creature,' says he ; * and if you only knew
you'd be trembling in your skin before me, this minute.'

" ' Devil a tremble,' says I, ' after walking six miles this way."

" ' You're an obstinate, hard-hearted sinner,' says he, ' and it's no
use in telling you.'

" * Telling me what ?' says I, for I was getting curious to make out
what he meant.

" ' Mickey,' says he, changing his voice, and putting his head down
close to me — ' Mickey, I saw your father last night.'

" ' The saints be merciful to us I' says I ; ' did ye ?'

" ' I did,' says he.

" ' Tear an ages/ says I ; ' did he tell you what he did with the
new corduroys he bought in the fair ?'

" ' Oh ! then you are a could-hearted creature/ says he, ' and I'll
not lose time with you.' "With that he was going to ride away, when
I took hold of the bridle.

" ' Father, darling/ says I, ' God pardon me, but them breeches is
goin' between me an' my night's rest; but tell me about my father?'

" ' Oh ! then he's in a melancholy state !'

" ' Whereabouts is he ?' says I.

" ' In purgathory/ says he ; 'but he won't be there long.'

"' Well/ says I, 'that's a comfort, anyhow.'

" ' I'm glad you think so/ says he ; ' but there's more of the other

"'What's that?' says I.

"'That hell's worse.'

" ' Oh ! melia-murther/ says I ; ' is that it?'

" ' Ay, that's it.'

" Well, I was so terrified and frightened, I said nothing for some
time, but trotted along beside the priest's horse.

" ' Father/ says I, ' how long will it be before they send him
where you know ?'

" ' It will not be long now/ says he, ' for they're tired entirely with
him ; they've no peace night or day/ says he. 'Mickey, your father
is a mighty hard man.'

" ' True for you, Father Eoach/ says I to myself; ' av he had only
the ould stick with the scythe in it, I wish them joy of his company.'

'"Mickey/ says he, 'I see you're grieved, and I don't wonder;
sure it's a great disgrace to a decent family.'


" ' Troth, it is/ says I, \ but my father always liked low company.
Could nothing be done for him now, Father Roach ?' says I, looking
up in the priest's face.

" ' I'm greatly afraid, Mickey ; he was a bad man — a very bad

" 'And ye think he'll go there ?' says I.

" ' Indeed, Mickey, I have my fears.'

" ' Upon my conscience,' says I, ' I believe you're right ; he was
always a restless crayture.'

" ' But it doesn't depind on him/ says the priest, crossly.

" ' And, then, who then ?' says I.

" ' Upon yourself, Mickey Free/ says he ; ' God pardon you for it,

" ' Upon me?' says I.

" ' Troth, no less/ says he ; ' how many masses was said for your
father's soul? — how many aves? — how many paters? — answer

" ' Devil a one of me knows ! — maybe twenty.'

" ' Twenty, twenty — no, nor one.'

" 'And why not?' says I ; 'what for wouldn't ye be helping a poor
crayture out of trouble, when it wouldn't cost you more nor a hand-
ful of prayers ?'

" ' Mickey, I see/ says he, in a solemn tone, ' you're worse nor a
haythen : but ye couldn't be other ; ye never come to yer duties.'

" ' Well, father/ says I, looking very penitent, ' how many masses
would get him out ?'

" ' Now you talk like a sensible man/ says he. ■ Now, Mickey,
I've hopes for you. Let me see' — here he went countin' upon his
fingers, and numberin' to himself for five minutes — ' Mickey/ says
he, ' I've a batch coming out on Tuesday week, and if you were to
make great exertions, perhaps your father could come with them ;
that is, av they have made no objections.'

" 'And what for would they ?' says I ; ' he was always the hoith
of company, and av singing's allowed in them parts '

" ' God forgive you, Mickey, but yer in a benighted state/ says he,

" ' Well/ says I, ' how'll we get him out on Tuesday week ? for
that's bringing things to a focus.'

" i Two masses in the morning, fastin'/ says Father Roach, half
aloud, ' is two, and two in the afternoon is four, and two at vespers
is six/ says he ; ' six masses a day for nine days is close by sixty
masses — say sixty/ says he ; ' and they'll cost you — mind, Mickey,
and don't be telling it again, for it's only to yourself I'd make them
so cheap — a matter of three pounds.'


" ' Three pounds !' says I ; ' be-gorra ye might as well ax me to
g;ive you the rock of Cashel.'

" ' I'm sorry for ye, Mickey/ says he, gatherin' up the reins to ride
off—' I'm sorry for ye ; and the time will come when the neglect of
your poor father will be a sore stroke agin yourself.'

" ' Wait a bit, your riverence,' says I — ' wait a bit. Would forty
shillings get him out?'

" 'Av course it wouldn't,' says he.

" ' Maybe,' says I, coaxing — ' maybe, av you said that his son
was a poor boy that lived by his indhustry, and the times was
bad '

" ' Not the least use,' says he.

" ' Arrah, but it's hard-hearted they are,' says I. 'Well, see now,
I'll give you the money, but I can't afford it all at onst ; but I'll pay
five shillings a week — will that do ?'

" ' I'll do my enday vors,' says Father Roach ; ' and I'll speak to
them to treat him peaceably in the meantime.'

" ' Long life to yer riverence, and do. Well, here now, here's five
hogs to begin with ; and, musha, but I never thought I'd be spend-
ing my loose change that way.'

" Father Roach put the six tinpinnies in the pocket of his black
leather breeches, said something in Latin, bid me good morning,
and rode off.

" Well, to make my story short, I worked late and early to pay
the five shillings a week, and I did do it for three weeks regular ;
then I brought four and fourpence — then it came down to one and
tenpence half penny — then ninepence — and, at last, I had nothing
at all to bring.

" ' Mickey Free,' says the priest, ■ ye must stir yourself; your
father is mighty displeased at the way you've been doing of late ;
and av ye kept yer word, he'd be near out by this time.'

" ' Troth,' says I, ' it's a very expensive place.'

" - By coorse it is,' says he ; • sure all the quality of the land's
there. But, Mickey, my man, with a little exertion, your father's
business is easily done. What are you jingling in your pocket
there ?'

" ' It's ten shillings, your riverence, I have to buy seed potatoes.'

" ' Hand it here, my son. Isn't it better your father would be
enjoying himself in Paradise than if ye were to have all the po-
tatoes in Ireland ?'

" 'And how do ye know,' says I, ' he's so near out?'

" ' How do I know — how do I know, is it ?— ^didn't I see him ?'

" ' See him ! Tear an' ages ! was you down there again ?'

" ' I was,' says he ; ' I was down there for three-quarters of an


hour yesterday evening, getting out Luke Kennedy's mother. De-
cent people the Kennedys — never spared expense.'

" 'And ye seen my father?' says I.

" ' I did,' says he ; ' he had an ould flannel waistcoat on, and a
pipe sticking out of the pocket av it.'

" ' That's him,' says I. ' Had he a hairy cap ?'

" ' I didn't mind the cap,' says he ; ' but av coorse he wouldn't
have it on his head in that place.'

" ' Thrue for you,' says I. ' Did he speak to you V

" ' He did,' says Father Eoach ; ' he spoke very hard about the
way he was treated down there, that they was always jibin' and
jeerin' him about drink, and fightin', and the course he led up here,
and that it was a queer thing, for the matter of ten shillings, he was
to be kept there so long.'

" ' Well,' says I, taking out the ten shillings and counting it with
one hand, ' we must do our best, anyhow ; and ye think this'll get
him out surely ?'

" ' I know it will/ says he ; * for when Luke's mother was leaving
the place, and yer father saw the door open, he made a rush at it,
and, be-gorra, before it was shut he got his head and one shoulder
outside of it, so that, ye see, a thrifle more'll do it.'

" ' Faix, and yer riverence/ says I, * you've lightened my heart
this morning.' And I put my money back again into my pocket.

" ' Why, what do you mean ?' says he, growing very red, for he
was angry.

" • Just this/ says T, * that I've saved my money ; for av it was my
father you seen, and he'd got his head and one shoulder outside the
door, oh, then, by the powers !' says I, ' the devil a gaol or gaoler
from hell to Connaught 'ud hould him; so, Father Koacb, I wish you
the top of the morning.' And I went away laughing ; and from that
day to this I never heard more of purgathory ; and ye see, Master
Charles, I think I was right."

Scarcely had Mike concluded when my door was suddenly burst
open, and Sir Harry Boyle, without assuming any of his usual pre-
cautions respecting silence and quiet, rushed into the room, a broad
grin upon his honest features, and his eyes twinkling in a way that
evidently showed me something had occurred to amuse him.

" By Jove, Charley, I musn't keep it from you, it's too good a
thing not to tell you ; do you remember that very essenced young
gentleman who accompanied Sir George Dashwood from Dublin, as
a kind of electioneering friend?"

"Do you mean Mr. Prettyman?"

" The very man ; he was, you are aware, an under-secretary in
some government department. Well, it seems that he had come


down among us poor savages as much from motives of learned re-
search and scientific inquiry, as though we had been South Sea
Islanders; report had gifted us humble Galwayans with some very
peculiar traits, and this gifted individual resolved to record them.
Whether the election week might have sufficed his appetite for
wonders I know not, but he was peaceably taking his departure from
the west on Saturday last, when Phil Macnamara met him, and
pressed him to dine that day with a few friends at his house. You
know Phil ; so that when I tell you Sam Burke, of Greenmount, and
Koger Doolan were of the party, I need not say that the English
traveller was not left to his own unassisted imagination for his facts;
such anecdotes of our habits and customs as they crammed him with,
it would appear, never were heard before — nothing was too hot or
too heavy for the luckless Cockney, who, when not sipping his
claret, was faithfully recording in his tablet the mems. for a very
brilliant and very original work on Ireland.

"'Fine country — splendid country — glorious people — gifted —
brave — intelligent — but not happy — alas! Mr. Macnamara, not
happy. But we don't know you, gentlemen — we don't, indeed, at
the other side of the Channel ; our notions regarding you are far,
very far from just.'

" * I hope and trust,' said old Burke, ' you'll help them to a better
understanding ere long.'

" f Such, my dear sir, will be the proudest task of my life. The
facts I have heard here this evening have made so profound an im-
pression upon me, that I burn for the moment when I can make
them known to the world at large. To think — -just to think, that a
portion of this beautiful island should be steeped in poverty — that
the people not only live upon mere potatoes, but are absolutely
obliged to wear the skins for raiment, as Mr. Doolan has just men-
tioned to me.'

"'Which accounts for our cultivation of lumpers,' added Mr.
Doolan ; - they being the largest species of the root, and best adapted
for wearing apparel.'

" \ I should deem myself culpable, indeed I should, did I not
inform my countrymen upon the real condition of this great country.'

"'Why, after your great opportunities forjudging,' said Phil,
' you ought to speak out. You've seen us in a way, I may fairly
affirm, few Englishmen have, and heard more.'

" ' That's it — that's the very thing, Mr. Macnamara. I've looked
at you more closely, I've watched you more narrowly, I have wit-
nessed what the French call your vie intimeJ

" ' Begad you have,' said old Burke, with a grin, ' and profited by
it to the utmost.'


" ' I've been a spectator of your election contests — I've partaken
of your hospitality — I've witnesssd your popular and natural sports
— I've been present at your weddings, your fairs, your wakes ; but
no, I was forgetting, I never saw a wake.'

"'Never saw a wake?' repeated each of the company in turn,
as though the gentleman was uttering a sentiment of very dubious

" 'Never,' said Mr. Prettyman, rather abashed at this proof of his
incapacity to instruct his English friends upon all matters of Irish

" ' Well, then,' said Macnamara, ' with a blessing, we'll show you
one. Lord forbid that we shouldn't do the honors of our poor coun-
try to an intelligent foreigner when he's good enough to come
amongst us.'

" ■ Peter,' said he, turning to the servant behind him, ' who's dead
hereabouts ?'

" ' Sorra one, yer honor. Since the scrimmage at Portumna the
place is peaceable.'

" ' Who died lately in the neighborhood ?'

" ' The widow Macbride, yer honor.'

" ' Couldn't they take her up again, Peter ? My friend here never
saw a wake.'

" ' I'm afeerd not, for it was the boys roasted her, and she
wouldn't be a decent corpse for to show a stranger,' said Peter, in
a whisper.

" Mr. Prettyman shuddered at these peaceful indications of the
neighborhood, and said nothing.

" ' Well, then, Peter, tell Jemmy Divine to take the old musket
in my bedroom, and go over to the Clunagh bog — he can't go wrong
— there's twelve families there that never pay a halfpenny rent, and
when it's done, let him give notice to the neighborhood, and we'll
have a rousing wake.'

" ' You don't mean, Mr. Macnamara — you don't mean to say- '

stammered out the Cockney, with a face like a ghost.

" ' I only mean to say,' said Phil, laughing, ' that you're keeping
the decanter very long at your right hand.'

"Burke contrived to interpose before the Englishman could
ask any explanation of what he had just heard — and for some
minutes he could only wait in impatient anxiety — when a loud
report of a gun close beside the house attracted the attention of the
guests; the next moment old Peter entered, his face radiant with

" ' Well, what's that?' said Macnamara.

" ' 'Twas Jimmy, yer honor. As the evening was rainy, he said


he'd take one of the neighbors, and he hadn't to go far, for Andy-
Moore was going home, and he brought him down at once.'

" ' Did he shoot him ?' said Mr. Prettyman, while cold perspira-
tion* broke over his forehead. • Did he murder the man ?'

" Sorra murder,' said Peter, disdainfully ; ' but why wouldn't he
shoot him when the master bid him V

"I needn't tell you more, Charley; but in ten minutes after,
feigning some excuse to leave the room, the terrified Cockney took
flight, and offering twenty guineas for a horse to convey him to
Athlone, he left Galway, fully convinced ' that they don't yet know
us on the other side of the Channel.' "



THE election concluded, the turmoil and excitement of the con-
test over, all was fast resuming its accustomed routine around
us, when one morning my uncle informed me that I was at
length to leave my native county, and enter upon the great world as
a student of Trinity College, Dublin. Although long since in ex-
pectation of this eventful change, it was with no slight feeling of
emotion that I contemplated the step, which, removing me at once
from all my early friends and associations, was to surround me with
new companions and new influences, and place before me very differ-
ent objects of ambition from those I had hitherto been regarding.

My destiny had been long ago decided ; the army had had its
share of the family, who brought little more back with them from
the wars than a short allowance of members and shattered consti-
tutions ; the navy had proved, on more than one occasion, that the
fate of the O'Malleys did not incline to hanging ; so that, in Irish
estimation, but one alternative remained, and that was the bar.
Besides, as my uncle remarked, with great truth and foresight,
" Charley will be tolerably independent of the public, at all events;
for, even if they never send him a brief, there's law enough in the
family to last his time" — a rather novel reason, by the bye, for
making a man a lawyer, and which induced Sir Harry, with his
usual clearness, to observe to me, —

"Upon my conscience, boy, you are in luck. If there had
been a Bible in the house, I firmly believe he'd have made you a

Considine alone, of all my uncle's advisers, did not concur in this


determination respecting me. He set forth, with an eloquence that
certainly converted me, that my head was better calculated for
bearing hard knocks than unravelling knotty points ; that a shako
would become it infinitely better than a wig ; and declared, roundly,
that a boy who began so well, and had such very pretty notions
about shooting, was positively thrown away in the Four Courts.
My uncle, however, was firm, and, as old Sir Harry supported him,
the day was decided against us, Considine murmuring, as he left the
room, something that did not seem quite a brilliant anticipation of
the success awaiting me in my legal career. As for myself, though only
a silent spectator of the debate, all my wishes were with the Count.
From my earliest boyhood a military life had been my strongest
desire ; the roll of the drum, and the shrill pipe that played through
the little village, with its ragged troop of recruits following, had
charms for me I cannot describe ; and had a choice been allowed
me, I would infinitely rather have been a sergeant in the dragoons
than one of his Majesty's learned in the law. If, then, such had
been the cherished feeling of many a year, how much more strongly
were my aspirations heightened by the events of the last few days.
The tone of superiority I had witnessed in Hammersley, whose con-
duct to me at parting had placed him high in my esteem — the quiet
contempt of civilians, implied in a thousand sly ways — the exalted
estimate of his own profession, at once wounded my pride and stim-
ulated my ambition ; and, lastly, more than all, the avowed prefer-
ence that Lucy Dashwood evinced for a military life, were stronger
allies than my own conviction needed to make me long for the army.
So completely did the thought possess me, that I felt if I were not a
soldier, I cared not what became of me. Life had no other object
of ambition for me than military renown, no other success for which
I cared to struggle, or would value when obtained. "Aut Ccesar, aut
nullus" thought I ; and when my uncle determined I should be a
lawyer, I neither murmured nor objected, but hugged myself in the
prophecy of Considine, that hinted pretty broadly, "the devil a
stupider fellow ever opened a brief; but he'd have made a slashing
light dragoon."

The preliminaries were not long in arranging. It was settled
that I should be immediately despatched to Dublin, to the care of
Doctor Mooney, then a junior fellow in the University, who would
take me into his especial charge, while Sir Harry was to furnish me
with a letter to his old friend Dr. Barret, whose advice and assist-
ance he estimated at a very high price. Provided with such docu-
ments, I was informed that the gates of knowledge were more than
half ajar for me, without an effort upon my part. One only portion
of all the arrangements I heard with anything like pleasure ; it was


decided that my man Mickey was to accompany me to Dublin, and
remain with me during my stay.

It was upon a clear, sharp morning in January, of the year 18—,
that I took my place upon the box-seat of the old Galway mail, and
set out on my journey. My heart was depressed and my spirits
were miserably low. I had all that feeling of sadness which leave-
taking inspires, and no sustaining prospect to cheer me in the dis-
tance. For the first time in my life, I had seen a tear glisten in my
poor uncle's eye, and heard his voice falter as he said, " Farewell !"
Notwithstanding the difference of age, we had been perfectly com-
panions together ; and as I thought now over all the thousand
kindnesses and affectionate instances of his love I had received, my
heart gave way, and the tears coursed slowly down my cheeks. I
turned to give one last look at the tall chimneys and the old woods,
my earliest friends ; but a turn of the road had shut out the pros-
pect, and thus I took my leave of Galway.

My friend Mickey, who sat behind with the guard, participated
but little in my feelings of regret. The potatoes in the metropolis
could scarcely be as wet as the lumpers in Scariff ; he had heard
that whisky was not dearer, and looked forward to the other de-
lights of the capital with a longing heart. Meanwhile, resolved
that no portion of his career should be lost, he was lightening the
road by anecdote and song, and held an audience of four people, a
very crusty -looking old guard included, in roars of laughter. Mike
had contrived, with his usual savoir faire, to make himself very
agreeable to an extremely pretty-looking country girl, around
whose waist he had most lovingly passed his arm, under pretence
of keeping her from falling, and to whom, in the midst of all his
attentions to the party at large, he devoted himself considerably,
pressing his suit with all the aid of his native minstrelsy.

" Hould me tight, Miss Matilda, dear."

" My name's Mary Brady, av ye plase."

" Ay, and I do plase.

" Oh, Mary Brady, you are my darlin',
You are my looking-glass, from night till mornin' ;
I'd rayther have ye without one farthen,
Nor Shusey Gallagher and her house and garden.

May I never av I wouldn't, then ; and ye needn't be laughing."

" Is his honor at home ?"

This speech was addressed to a gaping country fellow, that leaned
on his spade to see the coach pass.

" Is his honor at home ? I've something for him from Mr.

Mickey well knew that few western gentlemen were without con-


stant intercourse with the Athlone attorney. The poor countryman
accordingly hastened through the fence, and pursued the coach with
all speed for above a mile, Mike pretending all the time to be in
the greatest anxiety for his overtaking them ; until at last, as he
stopped in despair, a hearty roar of laughter told him that, in
Mickey's parlance, he was " sould."

" Taste it, my dear ; devil a harm it'll do ye ; it never paid the
king sixpence."

Here he filled a little horn vessel from a black bottle he carried,
accompanying the action with a song, the air to which, if any of my
readers feel disposed to sing it, I may observe bore a resemblance
to the well-known " A Fig for St. Denis of France "


" Av I was a monarch in state,

Like Romulus or Julius Caysar,
With the best of fine victuals to ate,

And drink like great Nebuchadnezzar,
A rasher of bacon I'd have,

And potatoes the finest was seen, sir ;
And for drink, it's no claret I'd crave,
But a keg of ould Mullens' potteen, sir,

With the smell of the smoke on it still.

" They talk of the Romans of ould,

Whom they say in their own times was frisky ;
But trust me, to keep out the could,

The Romans at home here like whisky.
Sure it warms both the head and the heart,

It's the soul of all readin' and writin' ;
It teaches both science and art,
And disposes for love or for fightin'.

Oh, potteen, good luck to ye, dear."

This very classic production, and the black bottle which accom-
panied it, completely established the singer's pre-eminence in the
company ; and I heard sundry sounds resembling drinking, with
frequent good wishes to the provider of the feast — " Long life to
ye, Mr. Free," " Your health and inclinations, Mr. Free," &c. — to
which Mr. Free responded by drinking those of the company, " av
they were vartuous." The amicable relations thus happily estab-
lished promised a very lasting reign, and would doubtless have en-

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 9 of 80)