Justin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthy.

The king over the water; or, The marriage of Mr. Melancholy online

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Online LibraryJustin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthyThe king over the water; or, The marriage of Mr. Melancholy → online text (page 1 of 21)
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(There are some pages in the hand of write of Colonel
Beamish O 'Carroll that can serve aptly for prelude of what is
to follow. Colonel O 'Carroll held his command in Dillon's
regiment in France in the early years of the eighteenth cen-
tury, and at one time he seems to have taken it into his head
like many another man-at-arms to write his memoirs. He
does not seem to have completed his purpose. The com-
paratively few sheets of paper which the curious student
may find in its portfolio No. "jligXy in the library of
the Archives in Paris are for the most part disconnected,
rambling records, apparently hurriedly jotted down to serve
as notes for the complete work. But there are some pages
that run consecutively and deal with a definite event, and
these pages may now for the first time appear in print.)

"T REMEMBER it as well as if it were yesterday
1 though, alas! it is not yesterday. I was sit-
ting in the parlor of the inn at Scelestat, leisurely
drinking my bottle of wine a ripe, red wine that



I favored and still favor. I was alone in the inn
parlor. I was tilted back in my chair against the
table, the heels of my boots rested on the window-
seat, and I was staring out through the tulip-pots at
the sleepy little street. I remember very well what
I was thinking of. My mind was moody and sullen,
I seemed full to the lips of bitter reflections; the red
wine could not exorcise my black thoughts.

" It was just one of those fits that come to a man
when he finds that he is no longer young and looks
back over the faded years and discovers little pleas-
ure in the perspective. 'What was the good of it
all ?' I asked myself, fretfully. The very wine that
I sipped tasted sour at my lips; the book of my life
offered little better than a catalogue of calamities
and follies. Here I sat, a melancholy trooper drift-
ing along in years, and what had I to show for it all,
and what to look forward to ? My uniform wore a
colonel's epaulettes that summed up the past; as
for the future the prospect of being knocked on the
head in some scufHe looked to be the most probable
solution of the speculation. Anyway, it seemed to
me that the best of the business was over, and that
the best was unsatisfactory enough. I was an exile,
a stranger in a strange land, speaking for the most
part an alien speech, serving a foreign flag. I
grumbled as I drank, and it was a waste of good
liquor to use it in such a fashion.

" Of course I had had my pleasures and liked them
at the time, but they seemed tasteless in the recol-


lection to my discontented spirit. The comrades,
the hard knocks taken and given, the marches, the
brawls, the gambling and the drinking and the
laughing, the drumming and the fifing and the fight-
ing, all the things that go to make up a soldier's life
and, for the most part, that content or should con-
tent a soldier, seemed of a sudden to have lost their
savor. If here and there a pretty face peeped up at
me out of my memories, if I recalled roguish lips
that had given and taken hearty kisses, the thought
of them only served to swell my despondency.

" I had never met my heart's desire nor, as I sup-
posed, ever should. I had loved as a trooper loves,
here, there, and everywhere, with never a heart-
ache and scarce a regret. Now, I was at the end of
my tether, so I assured myself dully; the game was
played, the money paid, nothing left to look for but
bed and sleep. 'My loves are buried,' said I to
myself, 'my adventures ended, romance has walked
out of my world forever; nothing is left for the poor
old Put but bed and sleep.' And, as I remember,
I sighed very dismally to think that all was ended
and done with, and just as I sighed the door of the
inn parlor opened, and creaked in opening. At all
times I dislike a creaking door, but just then, being
steeped in my distempered broodings and vexed at
being disturbed in them, it jarred upon me amaz-
ingly, and so I turned my head testily. As I say,
the door opened, and I greeted its opening with a
frown. But my frown instantly faded to a smile



and the smile brightened to a salutation of a familiar
face, a face very unexpected in that place and hour.
It was the face of my very near and dear friend and
very distant kinsman, my close comrade and ad-
mired hero, Charles Wogan.

" I have always loved my countrymen, and some
of them have given the French king as fine a body
of fighting fellows as ever drew a sword or fired a
pistol. But of them all there never stepped a
gallanter gentleman than Charles Wogan. As he
stood there, framed in the open doorway, in his
brightly colored habit, with his right hand stretched
out in greeting, and his fine face smiling upon me,
he seemed the 'very pattern of a soldier and a man,
and my heart drummed a welcome. My black
mood seemed to fall away from me like a discarded
cloak at the sight of him, and I was out of my
chair and holding him by the hand before he had
stepped a pace into the room.

" If I was glad to see him, he seemed to the full as
delighted to see me. He returned my grasp with
a wring that impressed itself even upon my sea-
soned wrist. He clapped me on the shoulder with
his disengaged left hand and looked me in the eyes
with such a smiling salutation that my heavy, lump-
ish body seemed suddenly to wear wings for sheer
pleasure at the meeting. My kinsman began to
speak before I had time to utter a syllable, and the
sound of his voice was as cheering as the light in
his eyes.



" ' You are the very man I have been longing to
see,' so the dear gentleman began. 'I have ridden
hard for this meeting, and as I serve God, I think
we are well met. When I found you were not at
your rooms, I was in a rage, but, by Heaven's grace,
I fell across your servant, who told me that I should
be most likely to find you here at this hour of the
day.' It struck me that it was no small liberty
for my servant to speak thus freely of my ways.
A gentleman may take his glass in his inn without
becoming the subject of a lackey's gossip. But
still, it had brought my friend to me, and that was
so much to the good, for me, who always rejoiced
to see him, and for him, too, as his words and man-
ner showed. I told him very straightly that I was
heartily glad to hold his hand and that in all things
I was at his service.

" * Don't be so rash,' he retorted, with a rallying
smile. 'Who knows but I may have a favor to
ask of you ?'

" I knew very well that I assured him with the heat
of a great fervor that I was always his in all things
to command. Indeed, it was a way with Wogan
to command men, and of all men, to command
me, for all that I was his elder in arms. Though
I know myself, I think, as well as the Greek sage
or was he a Roman sage ? could wish, and know
myself to be a tetchy, testy, petulant, peevish,
plaguey, fractious fellow when my ill moods are
upon me, I know also that the sunlight of a friendly



face, and the music of a friendly voice, can always
banish my black vapors and make me ready for
anything. In this instance the sunlight of a friend-
ly face beamed hotly, for I loved Charles Wogan
better than a brother, and in this instance the
music of a friendly voice pealed with a special in-
sistence. For I knew at once from the tone of the
man's voice that he had something very important
to say, and I felt in the very core of my heart how
great a compliment it was that he had chosen to
say it to me.

" Charles Wogan seated himself at my table and
helped himself to my wine. It was no bad drink-
ing; it could have been better; still it served; but
it might have been Hippocras or Hippocrene, or
whatever the name of the antique liquor was, for
the way in which Wogan savored it and smiled at
me over the lip of the beaker. In truth, he was
tired enough and thirsty enough after his long
journey to enjoy a coarser vintage. But for the
moment his main point, as I learned thereafter,
was to please me to his purpose, and win me to
his will, and for getting on the soft side of a man,
be he soldier or be he civilian, what better way is
there than to praise his tipple and to drain it down
with an air of relish ? My dear friend was ever a
delicate drinker, a fop with the flagon, choosing
rather the best and little than good and much or
middling and plenty. But he sipped my red wine
with a satisfaction that transfused itself from him



to me, so that I seemed to taste at once the warmth
of the wine and the warmth of his appreciation of
it. Thus I was primed and ready to oblige him.
He sat silent for a while as he sipped; indeed, he
sat silent so long at least it seemed long to me in
my impatience that at last I broke in upon his

"'Well/ I said, 'what's in the wind now?'
And I filled his glass again as I asked the question.

" He looked up at me with a new light of laughter
in his grave gray eyes. 'So we are curious,' he
said. 'Yet I dare swear that your curiosity does
not aim so high as my secret. If I sat silent so
long, it was for thinking what a business I was
about, and what a need I have for a good turn
from my old friend and comrade.'

" As he spoke he leaned over across the table and
gripped me by the wrist. He had fingers that
closed like a claw of steel, even when their pressure
was friendly, as it now was. The smile had slipped
from his face, and his expression was all earnest
and alert.

"'My dear old friend,' he said, 'loved leader
and true brother-in-arms* if I set down these
phrases it is because he used them, and because
for all that I was an old soldier they made me red
with pleasure 'this business is not my business,
but king's business. You may have heard that his
Majesty wishes to wed ?'

"Now, it was matter of common talk all over



Europe that his sacred Majesty James the Third,
King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland,
Defender of the Faith, was most anxious to form
some alliance that might serve him well against the
Hanoverian usurper, and I guessed at once that
Wogan's business was of this kind. So I just
nodded my head, and Wogan went on with his story.

"'You know as well as I do,' said my friend,
'that his Majesty has had no more troublesome
adversary in his attempts to regain his rightful
crown than the Empire. So it came into his
Majesty's mind, which is a great mind and a won-
derful, that if he could make a match with some
princess of the Empire he might raise himself up
a party in Germany that would serve him excel-
lently well against our bad and little-loved cousin
the Elector.'

" I nodded acquiescence, but to be wholly frank,
I was hard put to it to stifle a yawn. All these
diplomacies, these chancellery devices, these mar-
riage schemes, seemed to me no way to win back a
throne. Wogan and I had fought in the Fifteen;
Wogan had been taken; Wogan had only saved his
neck by breaking prison from Newgate. We had
failed in the Fifteen, but we might win next time
in the brave way with swords drawn and standard
flying, not with intrigue and alliances. So I began
to find my friend's story lacking in the interest I
had expected. Which only showed that I did not
the man as well as I thought I did,


"Wogan leaned over to me, and as if fearful that
the walls of the inn parlor might have ears, he spoke
in a low voice that was indeed little better than a
whisper, yet that was, nevertheless, as clear as any
bell. He told me a state secret, the secret of the
King's intended marriage; he told me of the shame-
ful treachery which strove to thwart it, and I lis-
tened, aggrieved and indignant. But when he had
come to the end of this part of his tale, leaving, as
it seemed to me, a royal plan hopelessly miscarried,
he began again, and revealed to me a certain pur-
pose of his own, which all the world knows of now,
but which I was one of the first half-dozen or so
and all the others deep in the King's counsels to
receive knowledge of at that time.

" For the moment I was unmanned, bewildered,
taken by surprise, what you will. Wogan had al-
ways seemed to me such a man as the Latin poet
would have praised a man with a sound mind in
a sound body yet here he was, facing me, and
babbling of enterprises after a fashion only per-
mitted to lunatics or drunkards. Yet my friend,
as he sat there and smiled, was to all seeming sane,
and was most certainly sober. It is not a glass or
two of red wine that can upset a Wogan of Rath-

"Wogan himself, leaning back in his tilted chair,
seemed to smile at my surprise.

" * Ods-fish, man,' he said. It was his fantastic
habit at times to assert his devotion to the House


of Stuart by helping himself to the favorite oath of
his late sacred Majesty King Charles the Second.
'Ods-fish, man, one would think that you had
never seen a sword drawn or a horse ridden that
you stare so when a friend plans a pleasant little
enterprise. It's nothing much out of the way for
some Irish soldiers of fortune to cheat a pair of
crowned rascals, and if it were the wildest game
afoot, I am going to play it, and, with God's help,
to win it.'

" I knew now that he was perfectly serious, and
the gravity of his manner drove graveness into me
as a nail is driven in with a hammer. So I an-
swered him as simply as if he had been proposing
nothing more serious than a round of bowls or a
game of basset.

' 'Go on/ says I, quite simply, and Wogan went
on and asked what he had come to ask, which was
no more and no less than this that I should grant
leave of absence for a month, and no questions
asked, to three gentlemen that were officers in my
regiment. These three gentlemen were Major
Richard Gaydon, Captain Luke O'Toole, and
Captain John Misset. After what Wogan had told
me, the request did not surprise me very much, and
as to asking no questions, why, there was no need
for me to be impertinently inquisitive. Sure I am
as good as another at putting two and two to-
gether, and I guessed well enough the drift of
Wogan's dare-devil intentions. So I gave my



promise readily enough, while I sent up a silent
prayer that my three blades might come back to
me in safety. For they made a trey of amazing
fine fellows, prides of a regiment, not to be will-
ingly or lightly missed from a muster. And be-
cause they are now so famous *Roman Senators no
less I do not think it amiss to set down some-
thing here as to their qualities and their natures,
for the benefit of future days, that will, as I hope
and believe, always take an interest in the per-
sonalities of heroes. And if ever there were heroes
in this world my friends Gaydon, O'Toole, and
Misset were very surely of their fellowship.

"Major Gaydon was a shrewd, experienced soldier
that had seen so much service as to deserve the
appellation of veteran, though, indeed, he looked
and carried himself as brisk as the best. He had
a keen, hard-bitten face, was for the most part of
taciturn disposition, but when he chose to speak
could employ a dry and caustic humor of his own
to considerable advantage. He was of the cautious
rather than the reckless kind these being the two
main ways in which the measure of soldiers must
be taken and one that liked to know pretty clearly
where he was going, and to be mighty sure of his
footing on the way. But he was as brave as any
man I ever knew, and for all that he was neither
reckless nor dashing there was scarcely a man in
the world that I would have sooner had by my
side if I were in a tight place. He liked his glass,
2 n


and he liked his pipe, but he liked both with
temperance and moderation; and as for women, I
know nothing about his whims or his ways con-
cerning them. I do not think that he had ever
married, and I never heard his name tied up in
the tangle of a love-tale. He kept himself very
much to himself, the good Gaydon, and never in
his merriest moods was tempted to talk much about
himself and his affairs. In the which reticence he
differed very patently from Luke O'Toole. In-
deed, I may say that at all points the two men
might have been pitted one against the other as
examples of the astonishing contrasts that the mili-
tary life can produce. The popular idea of the
soldier, and more especially the soldier of fortune,
such as the Irish exile must needs be called who
serves under a foreign flag when he would fain be
serving under another the popular idea of such an
one, I say, is a roaring boy that rollicks his way from
canteen to battlefield, is seldom sober, and forever
kissing the wenches. If you drew Major Gaydon out
of his uniform and stuck him into the clothes of a
workaday civilian citizen you would probably take
him for a shrewd fellow in business, one that meant
what he said and did what he meant, and was to
be reckoned with pretty seriously. There are
many soldiers of Richard Gaydon's kidney, and it
is well for the armies they serve that the thing is so.
But the jolly devil-may-cares flourish too, and Luke
O'Toole was one of the best and the merriest of them.



" O'Toole was one of the finest men and one of
the finest fellows that ever had served the Lilies.
He measured nearly three inches more than six
feet, but nature had shaped him all ways in such
perfect proportion that he did not at the first glance
convey the sense of his full height, and it was not
until you saw him in immediate association with
some comrade common tall that you realized the
fact that O'Toole was more than common tall. It
is a familiar saying though it is not borne out by
the nursery tales that giants are generally good-
natured. The saw was indeed a truth in O'Toole's
case, for I never met with any man of a more
affable carriage, genial humor, and jolly bearing
than he. He had an almost unbreakable belief in
the courage of men and the simplicity of women.
His large, honest face was ever aglow with good
spirits, and if his curly red locks did not cover a
head that would have served the turn of a states-
man, at least it contrasted very pleasantly with the
brightest and bravest blue eyes in the world.

" His failing, if I may say so, lay in this, that he
was not overmodest about his qualities. He had
a high opinion of his thick wits, at which some
were inclined to laugh; of his thick arms, which
made the would-be laughers wary; of his horse-
manship; above all, of his swordsmanship. For
all this, to know O'Toole was to love him. Indeed,
Wogan was often pleased to bring him forward as
an example of what Heaven had meant man to be


before sophistication had undone him with pens
and inks and its printed pages and its subtleties
about the why of this and the wherefore of that,
just a great, strong, healthy, honest man, not a
savage lurking in caves and dashing in the skull of
his fellow with a thigh-bone picked from his last
meal, but a soldier, upright, gallant, loyal, credulous,
swaggering, bragging, confident in his own honor
and the honor of all human souls.

" O'Toole came of a line that boasted an aston-
ishing antiquity. One of the house, not very early
in its annals, had played an amazing part in the
Trojan wars and was reported to have been called
by Helen the handsomest man she had ever be-
held, which must have been a rude jar for Paris,
the son of Priam. Another had served under
Alexander, and came nigh to meeting his death at
the hands of a monarch jealous of his superior
gifts, but, being warned in time by the beautiful
Thais, who had conceived a passion for the blithe
islander, made his escape and reigned for some
time in India before returning to Erin. A third,
it was asserted, sat for a season firmly enough on
the contested throne of the late Caesars. It cer-
tainly was not surprising that O'Toole should be
proud of his lineage. Nor was it surprising that
with the consciousness of such an ancestry for
the dear boy believed every word of the blessed
rigmarole he should conceive it his duty not
merely to live up to, but if it might be to surpass,


the character and the deeds of his amazing fore-
bears. Thus there never was adventure so ex-
travagant but that Luke O'Toole would undertake
it cheerfully, serenely confident that if he under-
took it it must needs be carried to a magnificently
triumphant conclusion. Nor was he ever unde-
ceived or dispirited by the occasional failures,
whether in arms, or in love, or at play, which fell
to his lot, as they must fall to the lot even of an
Irish gentleman and soldier. When it pleased fort-
une to deal him one of these rebuffs he accepted
it with an honest astonishment, had the native sense
to say no more about it, and, as I verily believe,
very soon forgot that any such cross had been
marked upon his course of glory. Bless his heart!
he was a wonderfully good fellow.

" Misset was a very different man from his two
comrades. For Misset was a student; Misset was
a scholar, or, at least, so he looked to those of us
who had no great tincture of letters. He seemed to
me as if he had drifted by some strange chance from
the cool quadrangles and gray cloisters of some
ancient and honorable university into the bustle
and clatter and rattle of barrack and bivouac.
Not that he lacked anything of the many arts that
a soldier must needs know. He could handle his
sword as well as any man in Dillon's command,
and as for the pistol, he was the surest shot I have
ever known, my uncle Cornelius not excepted, who
was the terror of Galway in his time. But what he


took most pleasure in was the reading of love-
verses, and next to that the writing of love-verses;
and, indeed, he accomplished this often very well,
and had a pretty skill in the turning of a brace of
rhymes. Nature had made him for a lover, a man
to love and be loved by many ladies, and he would
probably have wooed and won and loved and
ridden away time after time if he had not chanced
to woo and to win the woman who was now Mis-
tress Misset.

" That ended the shifting game for him. He re-
mained a lover just the same, but his love was all
for one woman, and that woman was his wife. I
know that it amazed some of us who knew his in-
flammable fancy to find that he proved such a pink
of husbands. But, indeed, the world at its best of
times has not many women so sweet and good and
fair as Mistress Misset, and the man would have
been but a poor rogue who, being so graced as to
share her life, could think of any woman's lips or
eyes thereafter. All the elements of love in him
that had darted hither and thither in little tongues
of fire now burned in one clear, steady flame on the
altar of his affection for her. And, indeed, if he
was happy in so rare a wife, she in her turn was
happy in so rare a lover. He was not a man that
was always tied to his wife's petticoat tail, and
soldiers did not lose a good comrade because Mis-
tress Misset had found a good husband. But he
was best pleased with his life when it was passed



in her company, and when he was away from her
I guessed that she was always in his thoughts.

" I knew very well, considering Misset, that the
risk to be run by himself would not of old time
have weighed one jot with him. But now he was
married and much in love with his wife, and love
and marriage must make a difference even to the
bravest, which is why I hold that it is well for a
soldier to be celibate. When a soldier is married
his life is no longer wholly his own to throw away
for an orange if it please him. There is always the
exquisite she to be considered, and though I knew
that Misset would charge a battery at command
with unaltered courage and composure, here was
Wogan wanting to implicate him in an adventure
which, after all, was none of his ordered business,
but something quite over and above what duty and
what honor demanded of him. And not only was

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Online LibraryJustin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthyThe king over the water; or, The marriage of Mr. Melancholy → online text (page 1 of 21)