Part 9 out of 10
them, and finally succeeded in blocking us up among them.
It was just at this critical moment that a sudden gleam of light from a
window fell upon the disordered mass, and to my astonishment, I need not
say to my delight, I perceived that they were Portuguese troops. Before
I had well time to halt my party, my convictions were pretty well
strengthened by hearing a well-known voice in the rear of the mass call
"Charge, ye devils! charge, will ye? Illustrious Hidalgos! cut them down;
_los infidelos, sacrificados los!_ Scatter them like chaff!"
One roar of laughter was my only answer to this energetic appeal for my
destruction, and the moment after the dry features and pleasant face of old
Monsoon beamed on me by the light of a pine-torch he carried in his right
[Illustration: MAJOR MONSOON TRYING TO CHARGE.]
"Are they prisoners? Have they surrendered?" inquired he, riding up. "It is
well for them; we'd have made mince-meat of them otherwise; now they shall
be well treated, and ransomed if they prefer."
"_Gracios excellenze!_" said I, in a feigned voice.
"Give up your sword," said the major, in an undertone.
"You behaved gallantly, but you fought against invincibles. Lord love them!
but they are the most terrified invincibles."
I nearly burst aloud at this.
"It was a close thing which of us ran first," muttered the major, as he
turned to give some directions to an aide-de-camp. "Ask them who they are,"
said he, in Spanish.
By this time I came close alongside of him, and placing my mouth close to
his ear, holloed out,--
"Monsoon, old fellow, how goes the King of Spain's sherry?"
"Eh, what! Why, upon my life, and so it is,--Charley, my boy, so it's you,
is it? Egad, how good; and we were so near being the death of you! My poor
fellow, how came you here?"
A few words of explanation sufficed to inform the major why we were there,
and still more to comfort him with the assurance that he had not been
charging the general's staff, and the conmander-in-chief himself.
"Upon my life, you gave me a great start; though as long as I thought you
were French, it was very well."
"True, Major, but certainly the invincibles were merciful as they were
"They were tired, Charley, nothing more; why, lad, we've been fighting
since daybreak,--beat Victor at six o'clock, drove him back behind the
Tagus; took a cold dinner, and had at him again in the afternoon. Lord love
you! we've immortalized ourselves. But you must never speak of this little
business here; it tells devilish ill for the discipline of your fellows,
upon my life it does."
This was rather an original turn to give the transaction, but I did not
oppose; and thus chatting, we entered the little inn, where, confidence
once restored, some semblance of comfort already appeared.
"And so you're come to reinforce us?" said Monsoon; "there was never
anything more opportune,--though we surprised ourselves today with valor, I
don't think we could persevere."
"Yes, Major, the appointment gave me sincere pleasure; I greatly desired
to see a little service under your orders. Shall I present you with my
"Not now, Charley,--not now, my lad. Supper is the first thing at this
moment; besides, now that you remind me, I must send off a despatch myself,
Upon my life, it's a great piece of fortune that you're here; you shall be
secretary at war, and write it for me. Here now--how lucky that I thought
of it, to be sure! And it was just a mere chance; one has so many things--"
Muttering such broken, disjointed sentences, the major opened a large
portfolio with writing materials, which he displayed before me as he rubbed
his hands with satisfaction, and said, "Write away, lad."
"But, my dear Major, you forget; I was not in the action. You must
describe; I can only follow you."
"Begin then thus:--
HEADQUARTERS, ALVAS, JUNE 26.
YOUR EXCELLENCY,--Having learned from Don Alphonzo Xaviero
da Minto, an officer upon my personal staff--
"Luckily sober at that moment--"
That the advanced guard of the eighth corps of the French
"Stay, though, was it the eighth? Upon my life, I'm not quite clear as to
that; blot the word a little and go on--"
That the--corps, under Marshal Victor, had commenced a forward
movement towards Alcantara, I immediately ordered a flank
movement of the light infantry regiment to cover the bridge over the
Tagus. After breakfast--
"I'm afraid, Major, that is not precise enough."
About eleven o'clock, the French skirmishers attacked, and drove
in our pickets that were posted in front of our position, and following
rapidly up with cavalry, they took a few prisoners, and killed old
Alphonzo,--he ran like a man, they say, but they caught him in
"You needn't put that in, if you don't like."
I now directed a charge of the cavalry brigade, under Don
Asturias Y'Hajos, that cut them up in fine style. Our artillery,
posted on the heights, mowing away at their columns like fun.
Victor didn't like this, and got into a wood, when we all went
to dinner; it was about two o'clock then.
After dinner, the Portuguese light corps, under Silva da Onorha,
having made an attack upon, the enemy's left, without my orders,
got devilish well trounced, and served them right; but coming up
to their assistance, with the heavy brigade of guns, and the cavalry,
we drove back the French, and took several prisoners, none of whom
we put to death.
"Dash that--Sir Arthur likes respect for the usages of war. Lord, how dry
The French were soon seen to retire their heavy guns, and
speedily afterwards retreated. We pursued them for some time, but
they showed fight; and as it was getting dark, I drew off my forces,
and came here to supper. Your Excellency will perceive, by the
enclosed return, that our loss has been considerable.
I send this despatch by Don Emanuel Forgales, whose services--
"I back him for mutton hash with onions against the whole regiment--"
--have been of the most distinguished nature, and beg to recommend
him to your Excellency's favor.
I have the honor, etc.
"Is it finished, Charley? Egad, I'm glad of it, for here comes supper."
The door opened as he spoke, and displayed a tempting tray of smoking
viands, flanked by several bottles,--an officer of the major's staff
accompanied it, and showed, by his attentions to the etiquette of the
table and the proper arrangement of the meal, that his functions in his
superior's household were more than military.
We were speedily joined by two others in rich uniform, whose names I now
forget, but to whom the major presented me in all form,--introducing me,
as well as I could interpret his Spanish, as his most illustrious ally and
friend Don Carlos O'Malley.
I have often partaken of more luxurious cookery and rarer wines; but never
do I remember enjoying a more welcome supper than on this occasion.
Our Portuguese guests left us soon, and the major and myself were once
more tete-a-tete beside a cheerful fire; a well-chosen array of bottles
guaranteeing that for some time at least no necessity of leave-taking
should arise from any deficiency of wine.
"That sherry is very near the thing, Charley; a little, a very little
sharp, but the after-taste perfect. And now, my boy, how have you been
doing since we parted?"
"Not so badly, Major. I have already got a step in promotion. The affair at
the Douro gave me a lieutenancy."
"I wish you joy with all my heart. I'll call you captain always while
you're with me. Upon my life I will. Why, man, they style me your
Excellency here. Bless your heart, we are great folk among the Portuguese,
and no bad service, after all."
"I should think not, Major. You seem to have always made a good thing of
"No, Charley; no, my boy. They overlook us greatly in general orders
and despatches. Had the brilliant action of to-day been fought by the
British--But no matter, they may behave well in England, after all; and
when I'm called to the Upper House as Baron Monsoon of the Tagus,--is that
better than Lord Alcantara?"
"I prefer the latter."
"Well, then, I'll have it. Lord! what a treaty I'll move for with Portugal,
to let us have wine cheap. Wine, you know, as David says, gives us a
pleasant countenance; and oil,--I forget what oil does. Pass over the
decanter. And how is Sir Arthur, Charley? A fine fellow, but sadly
deficient in the knowledge of supplies. Never would have made any character
in the commissariat. Bless your heart, he pays for everything here as if he
were in Cheapside."
"How absurd, to be sure!"
"Isn't it, though? That was not my way, when I was commissary-general about
a year or two ago. To be sure, how I did puzzle them! They tried to audit
my accounts, and what do you think I did? I brought them in three thousand
pounds in my debt. They never tried on that game any more. 'No, no,' said
the Junta, 'Beresford and Monsoon are great men, and must be treated with
respect!' Do you think we'd let them search our pockets? But the rogues
doubled on us after all; they sent us to the northward,--a poor country--"
"So that, except a little commonplace pillage of the convents and
nunneries, you had little or nothing?"
"Exactly so; and then I got a great shock about that time that affected my
spirits for a considerable while."
"Indeed, Major, some illness?"
"No, I was quite well; but--Lord, how thirsty it makes me to think of it;
my throat is absolutely parched--I was near being hanged!"
"Yes. Upon my life it's true,--very horrible, ain't it? It had a great
effect upon my nervous system; and they never thought of any little pension
to me as a recompense for my sufferings."
"And who was barbarous enough to think of such a thing, Major?"
"Sir Arthur Wellesley himself,--none other, Charley?"
"Oh, it was a mistake, Major, or a joke."
"It was devilish near being a practical one, though. I'll tell you how it
occurred. After the battle of Vimeira, the brigade to which I was attached
had their headquarters at San Pietro, a large convent where all the church
plate for miles around was stored up for safety. A sergeant's guard was
accordingly stationed over the refectory, and every precaution taken to
prevent pillage, Sir Arthur himself having given particular orders on the
subject. Well, somehow,--I never could find out how,--but in leaving the
place, all the wagons of our brigade had got some trifling articles of
small value scattered, as it might be, among their stores,--gold cups,
silver candlesticks, Virgin Marys, ivory crucifixes, saints' eyes set in
topazes, and martyrs' toes in silver filagree, and a hundred other similar
"One of these confounded bullock-cars broke down just at the angle of the
road where the commander-in-chief was standing with his staff to watch the
troops defile, and out rolled, among bread rations and salt beef, a whole
avalanche of precious relics and church ornaments. Every one stood aghast!
Never was there such a misfortune. No one endeavored to repair the mishap,
but all looked on in terrified amazement as to what was to follow.
"'Who has the command of this detachment?' shouted out Sir Arthur, in a
voice that made more than one of us tremble.
"'Monsoon, your Excellency,--Major Monsoon, of the Portuguese brigade.'
"'The d--d old rogue, I know him!' Upon my life that's what he said. 'Hang
him up on the spot,' pointing with his finger as he spoke; 'we shall see
if this practice cannot be put a stop to.' And with these words he rode
leisurely away, as if he had been merely ordering dinner for a small party.
"When I came up to the place the halberts were fixed, and Gronow, with a
company of the Fusiliers, under arms beside them.
"'Devilish sorry for it, Major,' said he; 'It's confoundedly unpleasant;
but can't be helped. We've got orders to see you hanged.'
"Faith, it was just so he said it, tapping his snuff-box as he spoke, and
looking carelessly about him. Now, had it not been for the fixed halberts
and the provost-marshal, I'd not have believed him; but one glance at them,
and another at the bullock-cart with all the holy images, told me at once
what had happened.
"'He only means to frighten me a little? Isn't that all, Gronow?' cried I,
in a supplicating voice.
"'Very possibly, Major,' said he; 'but I must execute my orders.'
"'You'll surely not--' Before I could finish, up came Dan Mackinnon,
"'Going to hang old Monsoon, eh, Gronow? What fun!'
"'Ain't it, though,' said I, half blubbering.
"'Well, if you're a good Catholic, you may have your choice of a saint,
for, by Jupiter, there's a strong muster of them here.' This cruel allusion
was made in reference to the gold and silver effigies that lay scattered
about the highway.
"'Dan,' said I, in a whisper, 'intercede for me. Do, like a good, kind
fellow. You have influence with Sir Arthur.'
"'You old sinner,' said he, 'it's useless.'
"'Dan, I'll forgive you the fifteen pounds.'
"'That you owe _me_,' said Dan, laughing.
"'Who'll ever be the father to you I have been? Who'll mix your punch with
burned Madeira, when I'm gone?' said I.
"'Well, really, I am sorry for you, Monsoon. I say, Gronow, don't tuck him
up for a few minutes; I'll speak for the old villain, and if I succeed,
I'll wave my handkerchief.'
"Well, away went Dan at a full gallop. Gronow sat down on a bank, and
I fidgeted about in no very enviable frame of mind, the confounded
provost-marshal eying me all the while.
"'I can only give you five minutes more, Major,' said Gronow, placing his
watch beside him on the grass. I tried to pray a little, and said three or
four of Solomon's proverbs, when he again called out: 'There, you see it
won't do! Sir Arthur is shaking his head.'
"'What's that waving yonder?'
"'The colors of the 6th Foot. Come, Major, off with your stock.'
"'Where is Dan now; what is he doing?'--for I could see nothing myself.
"'He's riding beside Sir Arthur. They all seem laughing.'
"'God forgive them! what an awful retrospect this will prove to some of
"'Time's up!' said Gronow, jumping up, and replacing his watch in his
"'Provost-Marshal, be quick now--'
"'Eh! what's that?--there, I see it waving! There's a shout too!'
"'Ay, by Jove! so it is; well, you're saved this time, Major; that's the
"So saying, Gronow formed his fellows in line and resumed his march quite
coolly, leaving me alone on the roadside to meditate over martial law and
my pernicious taste for relics.
"Well, Charley, this gave me a great shock, and I think, too, it must have
had a great effect upon Sir Arthur himself; but, upon my life, he has
wonderful nerves. I met him one day afterwards at dinner in Lisbon; he
looked at me very hard for a few seconds: 'Eh, Monsoon! Major Monsoon, I
"'Yes, your Excellency,' said I, briefly; thinking how painful it must be
for him to meet me.
"'Thought I had hanged you,--know I intended it,--no matter. A glass of
wine with you?'
"Upon my life, that was all; how easily some people can forgive themselves!
But Charley, my hearty, we are getting on slowly with the tipple; are they
all empty? So they are! Let us make a sortie on the cellar; bring a candle
with you, and come along."
We had scarcely proceeded a few steps from the door, when a most vociferous
sound of mirth, arising from a neighboring apartment, arrested our
"Are the dons so convivial, Major?" said I, as a hearty burst of laughter
broke forth at the moment.
"Upon my life, they surprise me; I begin to fear they have taken some of
We now perceived that the sounds of merriment came from the kitchen,
which opened upon a little courtyard. Into this we crept stealthily, and
approaching noiselessly to the window, obtained a peep at the scene within.
Around a blazing fire, over which hung by a chain a massive iron pot, sat a
goodly party of some half-dozen people. One group lay in dark shadow; but
the others were brilliantly lighted up by the cheerful blaze, and showed
us a portly Dominican friar, with a beard down to his waist, a buxom,
dark-eyed girl of some eighteen years, and between the two, most
comfortably leaning back, with an arm round each, no less a person than my
trusty man Mickey Free.
It was evident, from the alternate motion of his head, that his attentions
were evenly divided between the church and the fair sex; although, to
confess the truth, they seemed much more favorably received by the latter
than the former,--a brown earthen flagon appearing to absorb all the worthy
monk's thoughts that he could spare from the contemplation of heavenly
"Mary, my darlin,' don't be looking at me that way, through the corner of
your eye; I know you're fond of me,--but the girls always was. You think
I'm joking, but troth I wouldn't say a lie before the holy man beside me;
sure I wouldn't, Father?"
The friar grunted out something in reply, not very unlike, in sound at
least, a hearty anathema.
"Ah, then, isn't it yourself has the illigant time of it, Father dear!"
said he, tapping him familiarly upon his ample paunch, "and nothing to
trouble you; the best of divarsion wherever you go, and whether it's
Badahos or Ballykilruddery, it's all one; the women is fond of ye. Father
Murphy, the coadjutor in Scariff, was just such another as yourself, and
he'd coax the birds off the trees with the tongue of him. Give us a pull at
the pipkin before it's all gone, and I'll give you a chant."
With this he seized the jar, and drained it to the bottom; the smack of his
lips as he concluded, and the disappointed look of the friar as he peered
into the vessel, throwing the others, once more, into a loud burst of
"And now, your rev'rance, a good chorus is all I'll ask, and you'll not
refuse it for the honor of the church."
So saying, he turned a look of most droll expression upon the monk, and
began the following ditty, to the air of "Saint Patrick was a Gentleman":--
What an illegant life a friar leads,
With a fat round paunch before him!
He mutters a prayer and counts his beads,
And all the women adore him.
It's little he's troubled to work or think,
Wherever devotion leads him;
A "pater" pays for his dinner and drink,
For the Church--good luck to her!--feeds him.
From the cow in the field to the pig in the sty,
From the maid to the lady in satin,
They tremble wherever he turns an eye.
He can talk to the Devil in Latin!
He's mighty severe to the ugly and ould,
And curses like mad when he's near 'em;
But one beautiful trait of him I've been tould,
The innocent craytures don't fear him.
It's little for spirits or ghosts he cares;
For 'tis true as the world supposes,
With an Ave he'd make them march down-stairs,
Av they dared to show their noses.
The Devil himself's afraid, 'tis said,
And dares not to deride him;
For "angels make each night his bed,
And then--lie down beside him."
A perfect burst of laughter from Monsoon prevented my hearing how Mike's
minstrelsy succeeded within doors; but when I looked again, I found
that the friar had decamped, leaving the field open to his rival,--a
circumstance, I could plainly perceive, not disliked by either party.
"Come back, Charley, that villain of yours has given me the cramp, standing
here on the cold pavement. We'll have a little warm posset,--very small and
thin, as they say in Tom Jones,--and then to bed."
Notwithstanding the abstemious intentions of the major, it was daybreak
ere we separated, and neither party in a condition for performing upon the
My services while with the Legion were of no very distinguished character,
and require no lengthened chronicle. Their great feat of arms, the repulse
of an advanced guard of Victor's corps, had taken place the very morning I
had joined them, and the ensuing month was passed in soft repose upon their
For the first few days, indeed, a multiplicity of cares beset the worthy
major. There was a despatch to be written to Beresford, another to
the Supreme Junta, a letter to Wilson, at that time with the corps of
observation to the eastward. There were some wounded to be looked after, a
speech to be made to the conquering heroes themselves, and lastly, a few
prisoners were taken, whose fate seemed certainly to partake of the most
uncertain of war's proverbial chances.
The despatches gave little trouble; with some very slight alterations, the
great original, already sent forward to Sir Arthur, served as a basis for
the rest. The wounded were forwarded to Alcantara, with a medical staff; to
whom Monsoon, at parting, pleasantly hinted that he expected to see all the
sick at their duty by an early day, or he would be compelled to report the
doctors. The speech, which was intended as a kind of general order, he
deferred for some favorable afternoon when he could get up his Portuguese;
and lastly, came the prisoners, by far the most difficult of all his cares.
As for the few common soldiers taken, they gave him little uneasiness,--as
Sir John has it, they were "mortal men, and food for powder;" but there
was a staff-officer among them, aiguilletted and epauletted. The very
decorations he wore were no common temptation. Now, the major deliberated a
long time with himself, whether the usages of modern war might not admit of
the ancient, time-honored practice of ransom. The battle, save in glory,
had been singularly unproductive: plunder there was none; the few
ammunition-wagons and gun-carriages were worth little or nothing; so that,
save the prisoners, nothing remained. It was late in the evening--the
mellow hour of the major's meditations--when he ventured to open his heart
to me upon the matter.
"I was just thinking, Charley, how very superior they were in olden times
to us moderns, in many matters, and nothing more than in their treatment of
prisoners. They never took them away from their friends and country;
they always ransomed them,--if they had wherewithal to pay their way. So
good-natured!--upon my life it was a most excellent custom! They took any
little valuables they found about them, and then put them up at auction.
Moses and Eleazar, a priest, we are told, took every piece of gold, and
their wrought jewels,--meaning their watches, and ear-rings. You needn't
laugh, they all wore ear-rings, those fellows did. Now, why shouldn't
I profit by their good example? I have taken Agag, the King of the
Amalekites,--no, but upon my life, I have got a French major, and I'd let
him go for fifty doubloons."
It was not without much laughing, and some eloquence, that I could persuade
Monsoon that Sir Arthur's military notions might not accept of even the
authority of Moses; and as our headquarters were at no great distance,
the danger of such a step as he meditated was too considerable at such a
As for ourselves, no fatiguing drills, no harassing field-days, and no
provoking inspections interfered with the easy current of our lives.
Foraging parties there were, it was true, and some occasional outpost duty
was performed. But the officers for both were selected with a tact that
proved the major's appreciation of character; for while the gay, joyous
fellow that sung a jovial song and loved his _liquor_ was certain of being
entertained at headquarters, the less-gifted and less-congenial spirit had
the happiness of scouring the country for forage, and presenting himself as
a target to a French rifle.
My own endeavors to fulfil my instructions met with but little
encouragement or support; and although I labored hard at my task, I must
confess that the soil was a most ungrateful one. The cavalry were, it is
true, composed mostly of young fellows well-appointed, and in most cases
well-mounted; but a more disorderly, careless, undisciplined set of
good-humored fellows never formed a corps in the world.
Monsoon's opinions were felt in every branch of the service, from the
adjutant to the drumboy,--the same reckless, indolent, plunder-loving
spirit prevailed everywhere. And although under fire they showed no lack of
gallantry or courage, the moment of danger passed, discipline departed with
it, and their only conception of benefiting by a victory consisted in the
amount of pillage that resulted from it.
From time to time the rumors of great events reached us. We heard that
Soult, having succeeded in re-organizing his beaten army, was, in
conjunction with Ney's corps, returning from the north; that the marshals
were consolidating their forces in the neighborhood of Talavera; and that
King Joseph himself, at the head of a large army, had marched for Madrid.
Menacing as such an aspect of affairs was, it had little disturbed the
major's equanimity; and when our advanced posts reported daily the
intelligence that the French were in retreat, he cared little with what
object of concentrating they retired, provided the interval between us
grew gradually wider. His speculations upon the future were singularly
prophetic. "You'll see, Charley, what will happen; old Cuesta will pursue
them, and get thrashed. The English will come up, and perhaps get thrashed
too; but we, God bless us! are only a small force, partially organized and
ill to depend on,--we'll go up the mountains till all is over!" Thus did
the major's discretion not only extend to the avoidance of danger, but he
actually disqualified himself from even making its acquaintance.
Meanwhile our operations consisted in making easy marches to Almarez,
halting wherever the commissariat reported a well-stocked cellar or
well-furnished hen-roost, taking the primrose path in life, and being, in
words of the major, "contented and grateful, even amidst great perils!"
On the morning of the 10th July a despatch reached us announcing that Sir
Arthur Wellesley had taken up his headquarters at Placentia for the purpose
of communicating with Cuesta, then at Casa del Puerto; and ordering me
immediately to repair to the Spanish headquarters and await Sir Arthur's
arrival, to make my report upon the effective state of our corps. As for
me, I was heartily tired of the inaction of my present life, and much as I
relished the eccentricities of my friend the major, longed ardently for a
different sphere of action.
Not so Monsoon; the prospect of active employment and the thoughts of being
left once more alone, for his Portuguese staff afforded him little society,
depressed him greatly; and as the hour of my departure drew near, he
appeared lower in spirits than I had ever seen him.
"I shall be very lonely without you, Charley," said he, with a sigh, as we
sat the last evening together beside our cheerful wood fire. "I have little
intercourse with the dons; for my Portuguese is none of the best, and only
comes when the evening is far advanced; and besides, the villains, I fear,
may remember the sherry affair. Two of my present staff were with me then."
"Is that the story Power so often alluded to, Major; the King of Spain's--"
"There, Charley, hush; be cautious, my boy. I'd rather not speak about that
till we get among our own fellows."
"Just as you like, Major; but, do you know, I have a strong curiosity to
hear the narrative."
"If I'm not mistaken, there is some one listening at the door,--gently;
that's it, eh?"
"No, we are perfectly alone; the night's early; who knows when we shall
have as quiet an hour again together? Let me hear it, by all means."
"Well, I don't care; the thing, Heaven knows! is tolerably well known; so
if you'll amuse yourself making a devil of the turkey's legs there, I'll
tell you the story. It's very short, Charley, and there's no moral; so
you're not likely to repeat it."
So saying, the major filled up his glass, drew a little closer to the fire,
"When the French troops, under Laborde, were marching, upon Alcobaca,
in concert with Loison's corps, I was ordered to convey a very valuable
present of sherry the Duo d'Albu-querque was making to the Supreme
Junta,--no less than ten hogsheads of the best sherry the royal cellars of
Madrid had formerly contained.
"It was stored in the San Vincente convent; and the Junta, knowing a little
about monkish tastes and the wants of the Church, prudently thought it
would be quite as well at Lisbon. I was accordingly ordered, with a
sufficient force, to provide for its safe conduct and secure arrival, and
set out upon my march one lovely morning in April with my precious convoy.
"I don't know, I never could understand, why temptations are thrown in our
way in this life, except for the pleasure of yielding to them. As for me,
I'm a stoic when there's nothing to be had; but let me get a scent of
a well-kept haunch, the odor of a wine-bin once in my nose, I forget
everything except appropriation. That bone smells deliciously, Charley; a
little garlic would improve it vastly.
"Our road lay through cross-paths and mountain tracts, for the French were
scouring the country on every side, and my fellows, only twenty altogether,
trembled at the very name of them; so that our only chance was to avoid
falling in with any forage parties. We journeyed along for several days,
rarely making more than a few leagues between sunrise and sunset, a scout
always in advance to assure us that all was safe. The road was a lonesome
one and the way weary, for I had no one to speak to or converse with, so I
fell into a kind of musing fit about the old wine in the great brown casks.
I thought on its luscious flavor, its rich straw tint, its oily look as it
flowed into the glass, the mellow after-taste warming the heart as it went
down, and I absolutely thought I could smell it through the wood.
"How I longed to broach one of them, if it were only to see if my dreams
about it were correct. 'May be it's brown sherry,' thought I, 'and I am
all wrong.' This was a very distressing reflection. I mentioned it to the
Portuguese intendant, who travelled with us as a kind of supercargo; but
the villain only grinned and said something about the Junta and the galleys
for life, so I did not recur to it afterwards. Well, it was upon the third
evening of our march that the scout reported that at Merida, about a league
distant, he had fallen in with an English cavalry regiment, who were on
their march to the northern provinces, and remaining that night in the
village. As soon, therefore, as I had made all my arrangements for the
night, I took a fresh horse and cantered over to have a look at my
countrymen, and hear the news. When I arrived, it was a dark night, but I
was not long in finding out our fellows. They were the 11th Light Dragoons,
commanded by my old friend Bowes, and with as jolly a mess as any in the
"Before half an hour's time I was in the midst of them, hearing all about
the campaign, and telling them in return about my convoy, dilating upon the
qualities of the wine as if I had been drinking it every day at dinner.
"We had a very mellow night of it; and before four o'clock the senior
major and four captains were under the table, and all the subs, in a state
unprovided for by the articles of war. So I thought I'd be going, and
wishing the sober ones a good-by, set out on my road to join my own party.
"I had not gone above a hundred yards when I heard some one running after,
and calling out my name.
"'I say, Monsoon; Major, confound you, pull up.'
"'Well, what's the matter? Has any more lush turned up?' inquired I, for we
had drank the tap dry when I left.
"'Not a drop, old fellow!' said he; 'but I was thinking of what you've been
saying about that sherry.'
"'Well! What then?'
"'Why, I want to know how we could get a taste of it?'
"'You'd better get elected one of the Cortes,' said I, laughing; 'for it
doesn't seem likely you'll do so in any other way.'
"'I'm not so sure of that,' said he, smiling. 'What road do you travel
"'By Cavalhos and Reina.'
"'Whereabouts may you happen to be towards sunset?'
"'I fear we shall be in the mountains,' said I, with a knowing look, 'where
ambuscades and surprise parties would be highly dangerous.'
"'And your party consists of--'
"'About twenty Portuguese, all ready to run at the first shot.'
"'I'll do it, Monsoon; I'll be hanged if I don't.'
"'But, Tom,' said I, 'don't make any blunder; only blank cartridge, my
"'Honor bright!' cried he. 'Your fellows are armed of course?'
"'Never think of that; they may shoot each other in the confusion. But if
you only make plenty of noise coming on, they'll never wait for you.'
"'What capital fellows they must be!'
"'Crack troops, Tom; so don't hurt them. And now, good-night.'
"As I cantered off, I began to think over O'Flaherty's idea; and upon my
life, I didn't half like it. He was a reckless, devil-may-care fellow; and
it was just as likely he would really put his scheme into practice.
"When morning broke, however, we got under way again, and I amused myself
all the forenoon in detailing stories of French cruelty; so that before we
had marched ten miles, there was not a man among us not ready to run at the
slightest sound of attack on any side. As evening was falling we reached
Morento, a little mountain pass which follows the course of a small river,
and where, in many places, the mule carts had barely space enough to pass
between the cliffs and the stream. 'What a place for Tom O'Flaherty and his
foragers!' thought I, as we entered the little mountain gorge; but all was
silent as the grave,--except the tramp of our party, not a sound was heard.
There was something solemn and still in the great brown mountain, rising
like vast walls on either side, with a narrow streak of gray sky at top and
in the dark, sluggish stream, that seemed to awe us, and no one spoke. The
muleteer ceased his merry song, and did not crack or flourish his long whip
as before, but chid his beasts in a half-muttered voice, and urged them
faster, to reach the village before nightfall.
"Egad, somehow I felt uncommonly uncomfortable; I could not divest my mind
of the impression that some disaster was impending, and I wished O'Flaherty
and his project in a very warm climate. 'He'll attack us,' thought I,
'where we can't run; fair play forever. But if they are not able to get
away, even the militia will fight.' However, the evening crept on, and no
sign of his coming appeared on any side; and to my sincere satisfaction, I
could see, about half a league distant, the twinkling light of the little
village where we were to halt for the night. It was just at this time that
a scout I had sent out some few hundred yards in advance came galloping up,
"'The French, Captain; the French are upon us!' said he, with a face like a
"'Whew! Which way? How many?' said I, not at all sure that he might not be
telling the truth.
"'Coming in force!' said the fellow. 'Dragoons! By this road!'
"'Dragoons? By this road?' repeated every man of the party, looking at each
other like men sentenced to be hanged.
"Scarcely had they spoken when we heard the distant noise of cavalry
advancing at a brisk trot. Lord, what a scene ensued! The soldiers ran
hither and thither like frightened sheep; some pulled out crucifixes and
began to say their prayers; others fired off their muskets in a panic; the
mule-drivers cut their traces, and endeavored to get away by riding; and
the intendant took to his heels, screaming out to us, as he went, to fight
manfully to the last, and that he'd report us favorably to the Junta.
"Just at this moment the dragoons came in sight; they came galloping up,
shouting like madmen. One look was enough for my fellows; they sprang to
their legs from their devotions, fired a volley straight at the new moon,
and ran like men.
"I was knocked down in the rush. As I regained my legs, Tom O'Flaherty was
standing beside me, laughing like mad.
"'Eh, Monsoon! I've kept my word, old fellow! What legs they have! We shall
make no prisoners, that's certain. Now, lads, here it is! Put the horses
to, here. We shall take but one, Monsoon; so that your gallant defence of
the rest will please the Junta. Good-night, good-night! I will drink your
health every night these two months.'
"So saying, Tom sprang to his saddle; and in less time than I've been
telling it, the whole was over and I sitting by myself in the gray
moonlight, meditating on all I saw, and now and then shouting for my
Portuguese friends to come back again. They came in time, by twos and
threes; and at last the whole party re-assembled, and we set forth again,
every man, from the intendant to the drummer, lauding my valor, and saying
that Don Monsoon was a match for the Cid."
"And how did the Junta behave?"
"Like trumps, Charley. Made me a Knight of Battalha, and kissed me on both
cheeks, having sent twelve dozen of the rescued wine to my quarters, as a
small testimony of their esteem. I have laughed very often at it since. But
hush, Charley? What's that I hear without there?"
"Oh, it's my fellow Mike. He asked my leave to entertain his friends before
parting, and I perceive he is delighting them with a song."
"But what a confounded air it is! Are the words Hebrew?"
"Irish, Major; most classical Irish, too, I'll be bound!"
"Irish! I've heard most tongues, but that certainly surprises me. Call him
in, Charley, and let us have the canticle."
In a few minutes more, Mr. Free appeared in a state of very satisfactory
elevation, his eyebrows alternately rising and falling, his mouth a little
drawn to one side, and a side motion in his knee-joints that might puzzle a
physiologist to account for.
"A sweet little song of yours, Mike," said the major; "a very sweet thing
indeed. Wet your lips, Mickey."
"Long life to your honor and Master Charles there, too, and them that
belongs to both of yez. May a gooseberry skin make a nightcap for the man
would harm either of ye."
"Thank you, Mike. And now about that song."
"It's the ouldest tune ever was sung," said Mike, with a hiccough, "barring
Adam had a taste for music; but the words--the poethry--is not so ould."
"And how comes that?"
"The poethry, ye see, was put to it by one of my ancesthors,--he was a
great inventhor in times past, and made beautiful songs,--and ye'd never
guess what it's all about."
"Love, mayhap?" quoth Monsoon.
"Sorra taste of kissing from beginning to end."
"A drinking song?" said I.
"Whiskey is never mentioned."
"Fighting is the only other national pastime. It must be in praise of
"You're out again; but sure you'd never guess it," said Mike. "Well, ye
see, here's what it is. It's the praise and glory of ould Ireland in the
great days that's gone, when we were all Phenayceans and Armenians,
and when we worked all manner of beautiful contrivances in gold and
silver,--bracelets and collars and teapots, elegant to look at,--and read
Roosian and Latin, and played the harp and the barrel-organ, and eat and
drank of the best, for nothing but asking."
"Blessed times, upon my life!" quoth the major; "I wish we had them back
"There's more of your mind," said Mike, steadying himself. "My ancesthors
was great people in them days; and sure it isn't in my present situation
I'd be av we had them back again,--sorra bit, faith! It isn't, 'Come
here, Mickey, bad luck to you, Mike!' or, 'That blackguard, Mickey Free!'
people'd be calling me. But no matter; here's your health again, Major
"Never mind vain regrets, Mike. Let us hear your song; the major has taken
a great fancy to it."
"Ah, then, it's joking you are, Mister Charles," said Mike, affecting an
air of most bashful coyness.
"By no means; we want to hear you sing it."
"To be sure we do. Sing it by all means; never be ashamed. King David was
very fond of singing,--upon my life he was."
"But you'd never understand a word of it, sir."
"No matter; we know what it's about. That's the way with the Legion; they
don't know much English, but they generally guess what I'm at."
This argument seemed to satisfy all Mike's remaining scruples; so placing
himself in an attitude of considerable pretension as to grace, he began,
with a voice of no very measured compass, an air of which neither by name
nor otherwise can I give any conception; my principal amusement being
derived from a tol-de-rol chorus of the major, which concluded each verse,
and indeed in a lower key accompanied the singer throughout.
Since that I have succeeded in obtaining a free-and-easy translation of the
lyric; but in my anxiety to preserve the metre and something of the spirit
of the original, I have made several blunders and many anachronisms. Mr.
Free, however, pronounces my version a good one, and the world must take
his word till some more worthy translator shall have consigned it to
With this apology, therefore, I present Mr. Free's song:
AIR,--_Na Guilloch y' Goulen_.
Oh, once we were illigint people,
Though we now live in cabins of mud;
And the land that ye see from the steeple
Belonged to us all from the Flood.
My father was then King of Connaught,
My grand-aunt Viceroy of Tralee;
But the Sassenach came, and signs on it,
The devil an acre have we.
The least of us then were all earls,
And jewels we wore without name;
We drank punch out of rubies and pearls,--
Mr. Petrie can tell you the same.
But except some turf mould and potatoes,
There's nothing our own we can call;
And the English,--bad luck to them!--hate us,
Because we've more fun than them all!
My grand-aunt was niece to Saint Kevin,
That's the reason my name's Mickey Free!
Priest's nieces,--but sure he's in heaven,
And his failins is nothin' to me.
And we still might get on without doctors,
If they'd let the ould Island alone;
And if purple-men, priests, and tithe-proctors
Were crammed down the great gun of Athlone.
[Illustration: MR. FREE'S SONG.]
As Mike's melody proceeded, the major's thorough bass waxed beautifully
less,--now and then, it's true, roused by some momentary strain, it swelled
upwards in full chorus, but gradually these passing flights grew rarer, and
finally all ceased, save a long, low, droning sound, like the expiring sigh
of a wearied bagpipe. His fingers still continued mechanically to beat time
upon the table, and still his head nodded sympathetically to the music;
his eyelids closed in sleep; and as the last verse concluded, a full-drawn
snore announced that Monsoon, if not in the land of dreams, was at least in
a happy oblivion of all terrestrial concerns, and caring as little for the
woes of green Erin and the altered fortunes of the Free family as any Saxon
that ever oppressed them.
There he sat, the finished decanter and empty goblet testifying that his
labors had only ceased from the pressure of necessity; but the broken,
half-uttered words that fell from his lips evinced that he reposed on the
last bottle of the series.
"Oh, thin, he's a fine ould gentleman!" said Mike, after a pause of some
minutes, during which he had been contemplating the major with all the
critical acumen Chantrey or Canova would have bestowed upon an antique
statue,--"a fine ould gentleman, every inch of him; and it's the master
would like to have him up at the Castle."
"Quite true, Mike; but let us not forget the road. Look to the cattle, and
be ready to start within an hour."
When he left the room for this purpose I endeavored to shake the major into
momentary consciousness ere we parted.
"Major, Major," said I, "time is up. I must start."
"Yes, it's all true, your Excellency: they pillaged a little; and if they
did change their facings, there was a great temptation. All the red velvet
they found in the churches--"
"Good-by, old fellow, good-by!"
"Stand at ease!"
"Can't, unfortunately, yet awhile; so farewell. I'll make a capital report
of the Legion to Sir Arthur; shall I add anything particularly from
This, and the shake that accompanied it, aroused him. He started up, and
looked about him for a few seconds.
"Eh, Charley! You didn't say Sir Arthur was here, did you?"
"No, Major; don't be frightened; he's many a league off. I asked if you had
anything to say when I met him?"
"Oh, yes, Charley! Tell him we're capital troops in our own little way in
the mountains; would never do in pitched battles,--skirmishing's our forte;
and for cutting off stragglers, or sacking a town, back them at any odds."
"Yes, yes, I know all that; you've nothing more?"
"Nothing," said he, once more closing his eyes and crossing his hands
before him, while his lips continued to mutter on,--"nothing more, except
you may say from me,--he knows me, Sir Arthur does. Tell him to guard
himself from intemperance; a fine fellow if he wouldn't drink."
"You horrid old humbug, what nonsense are you muttering there?"
"Yes, yes; Solomon says, 'Who hath red eyes and carbuncles?' they that mix
their lush. Pure _Sneyd_ never injured any one. Tell him so from me,--it's
an old man's advice, and I have drunk some hogsheads of it."
With these words he ceased to speak, while his head, falling gently forward
upon his chest, proclaimed him sound asleep.
"Adieu, then, for the last time," said I, slapping him gently on the
shoulder. "And now for the road."
The second day of our journey was drawing to a close as we came in view of
the Spanish army.
The position they occupied was an undulating plain beside the Teitar River;
the country presented no striking feature of picturesque beauty, but the
scene before us needed no such aid to make it one of the most interesting
kind. From the little mountain path we travelled we beheld beneath a force
of thirty thousand men drawn up in battle array, dense columns of infantry
alternating with squadrons of horse or dark masses of artillery dotted
the wide plain, the bright steel glittering in the rich sunset of a July
evening when not a breath of air was stirring; the very banners hung down
listlessly, and not a sound broke the solemn stillness of the hour. All was
silent. So impressive and so strange was the spectacle of a vast army thus
resting mutely under arms, that I reined in my horse, and almost doubted
the reality of the scene as I gazed upon it. The dark shadows of the tall
mountain were falling across the valley, and a starry sky was already
replacing the ruddy glow of sunset as we reached the plain; but still no
change took place in the position of the Spanish army.
"Who goes there?" cried a hoarse voice, as we issued from the mountain
gorge, and in a moment we found ourselves surrounded by an outpost party.
Having explained, as well as I was able, who I was, and for what reason I
was there, I proceeded to accompany the officer towards the camp.
On my way thither I learned the reason of the singular display of troops
which had been so puzzling to me. From an early hour of that day Sir Arthur
Wellesley's arrival had been expected, and old Cuesta had drawn up his men
for inspection, and remained thus for several hours patiently awaiting his
coming; he himself, overwhelmed with years and infirmity, sitting upon his
horse the entire time.
As it was not necessary that I should be presented to the general, my
report being for the ear of Sir Arthur himself, I willingly availed myself
of the hospitality proffered by a Spanish officer of cavalry; and having
provided for the comforts of my tired cattle and taken a hasty supper,
issued forth to look at the troops, which, although it was now growing
late, were still in the same attitude.
Scarcely had I been half an hour thus occupied, when the stillness of
the scene was suddenly interrupted by the loud report of a large gun,
immediately followed by a long roll of musketry, while at the same moment
the bands of the different regiments struck up, and as if by magic a blaze
of red light streamed across the dark ranks. This was effected by pine
torches held aloft at intervals, throwing a lurid glare upon the grim and
swarthy features of the Spaniards, whose brown uniforms and slouching hats
presented a most picturesque effect as the red light fell upon them.
The swell of the thundering cannon grew louder and nearer,--the shouldering
of muskets, the clash of sabres, and the hoarse roll of the drum, mingling
in one common din. I at once guessed that Sir Arthur had arrived, and as I
turned the flank of a battalion I saw the staff approaching. Nothing can be
conceived more striking than their advance. In the front rode old Cuesta
himself, clad in the costume of a past century, his slashed doublet and
trunk hose reminding one of a more chivalrous period, his heavy, unwieldy
figure looming from side to side, and threatening at each moment to fall
from his saddle. On each side of him walked two figures gorgeously dressed,
whose duty appeared to be to sustain the chief in his seat. At his
side rode a far different figure. Mounted upon a slight-made, active
thorough-bred, whose drawn flanks bespoke a long and weary journey, sat
Sir Arthur Wellesley, a plain blue frock and gray trousers being his
unpretending costume; but the eagle glance which he threw around on every
side, the quick motion of his hand as he pointed hither and thither among
the dense battalions, bespoke him every inch a soldier. Behind them came
a brilliant staff, glittering in aiguillettes and golden trappings, among
whom I recognized some well-remembered faces,--our gallant leader at the
Douro, Sir Charles Stewart, among the number.
As they passed the spot where I was standing, the torch of a foot soldier
behind me flared suddenly up and threw a strong flash upon the party.
Cuesta's horse grew frightened, and plunged so fearfully for a minute that
the poor old man could scarcely keep his seat. A smile shot across Sir
Arthur's features at the moment, but the next instant he was grave and
steadfast as before.
A wretched hovel, thatched and in ruins, formed the headquarters of the
Spanish army, and thither the staff now bent their steps,--a supper being
provided there for our commander-in-chief and the officers of his suite.
Although not of the privileged party, I lingered round the spot for some
time, anxiously expecting to find some friend or acquaintance who might
tell me the news of our people, and what events had occurred in my absence.
The hours passed slowly over, and I at length grew weary of waiting.
For some time I had amused myself with observing the slouching gait and
unsoldier-like air of the Spaniards as they lounged carelessly about,
looking in dress, gesture, and appointment, far move like a guerilla than a
regular force. Then again, the strange contrast of the miserable hut with
falling chimney and ruined walls, to the glitter of the mounted guard of
honor who sat motionless beside it, served to pass the time; but as the
night was already far advanced, I turned towards my quarters, hoping that
the next morning might gratify my curiosity about my friends.
Beside the tent where I was billeted, I found Mike in waiting, who, the
moment he saw me, came hastily forward with a letter in his hand. An
officer of Sir Arthur's staff had left it while I was absent, desiring
Mike on no account to omit its delivery the first instant he met me.
The hand--not a very legible one--was perfectly unknown to me, and the
appearance of the billet such as betrayed no over-scrupulous care in the
I trimmed my lamp leisurely, threw a fresh log upon the fire, disposed
myself completely at full length beside it, and then proceeded to form
acquaintance with my unknown correspondent. I will not attempt any
description of the feelings which gradually filled me as I read on; the
letter itself will suggest them to those who know my story. It ran thus:--
PLACENTIA, July 8, 1809.
DEAR O'MALLEY,--Although I'd rather march to Lisbon barefoot
than write three lines, Fred Power insists upon my turning scribe,
as he has a notion you'll be up at Cuesta's headquarters about this
time. You're in a nice scrape, devil a lie in it! Here has Fred
been fighting that fellow Trevyllian for you,--all because you would
not have patience and fight him yourself the morning you left the
Douro,--so much for haste! Let it be a lesson to you for life.
Poor Fred got the ball in his hip, and the devil a one of the doctors
can find it. But he's getting better any way, and going to Lisbon
for change of air. Meanwhile, since Power's been wounded, Trevyllian's
speaking very hardly of you, and they all say here you must
come back--no matter how--and put matters to rights. Fred has
placed the thing in my hands, and I'm thinking we'd better call out
the "heavies" by turns,--for most of them stand by Trevyllian.
Maurice Quill and myself sat up considering it last night; but,
somehow, we don't clearly remember to-day a beautiful plan we hit
upon. However, we'll have at it again this evening. Meanwhile,
come over here, and let us be doing something. We hear that old
Monsoon has blown up a town, a bridge, and a big convent. They
must have been hiding the plunder very closely, or he'd never have
been reduced to such extremities. We'll have a brush with the
Yours most eagerly,
My first thought, as I ran my eye over these lines, was to seek for Power's
note, written on the morning we parted. I opened it, and to my horror
found that it only related to my quarrel with Hammersley. My meeting with
Trevyllian had been during Fred's absence, and when he assured me that all
was satisfactorily arranged, and a full explanation tendered, that nothing
interfered with my departure,--I utterly forgot that he was only aware of
one half my troubles, and in the haste and bustle of my departure, had not
a moment left me to collect myself and think calmly on the matter. The two
letters lay before me, and as I thought over the stain upon my character
thus unwittingly incurred; the blast I had thrown upon my reputation; the
wound of my poor friend, who exposed himself for my sake,--I grew sick at
heart, and the bitter tears of agony burst from my eyes.
That weary night passed slowly over; the blight of all my prospects, when
they seemed fairest and brightest, presented itself to me in a hundred
shapes; and when, overcome by fatigue and exhaustion, I closed my eyes to
sleep, it was only to follow up in my dreams my waking thoughts. Morning
came at length; but its bright sunshine and balmy air brought no comfort to
me. I absolutely dreaded to meet my brother officers; I felt that in such a
position as I stood, no half or partial explanation could suffice to set me
right in their estimation; and yet, what opportunity had I for aught else?
Irresolute how to act, I sat leaning my head upon my hands, when I heard
a footstep approach; I looked up and saw before me no other than my poor
friend Sparks, from whom I had been separated so long. Any other adviser
at such a moment would, I acknowledge, have been as welcome; for the
poor fellow knew but little of the world, and still less of the service.
However, one glance convinced me that his heart at least was true; and I
shook his outstretched hand with delight. In a few words he informed me
that Merivale had secretly commissioned him to come over in the hope of
meeting me; that although all the 14th men were persuaded that I was not to
blame in what had occurred,--yet that reports so injurious had gone abroad,
so many partial and imperfect statements were circulated, that nothing but
my return to headquarters would avail, and that I must not lose a moment in
having Trevyllian out, with whom all the misrepresentation had originated.
"This, of course," said Sparks, "is to be a secret; Merivale, being our
"Of course," said I, "he cannot countenance, much less counsel, such a
proceeding; Now, then, for the road."
"Yes; but you cannot leave before making your report. Gordon expects to see
you at eleven; he told me so last night."
"I cannot help it; I shall not wait; my mind is made up. My career here
matters but little in comparison with this horrid charge. I shall be broke,
but I shall be avenged."
"Come, come, O'Malley; you are in our hands now, and you must be guided.
You _shall_ wait; you shall see Gordon. Half an hour will make your report,
and I have relays of horses along the road, and we shall reach Placentia by
There was a tone of firmness in this, so unlike anything I ever looked for
in the speaker, and withal so much of foresight and precaution, that I
could scarcely credit my senses as he spoke. Having at length agreed to his
proposal, Sparks left me to think over my return of the Legion, promising
that immediately after my interview with the military secretary, we should
start together for headquarters.
"This is Major O'Shaughnessy's quarters, sir," said a sergeant, as he
stopped short at the door of a small, low house in the midst of an olive
plantation; an Irish wolf-dog--the well-known companion of the major--lay
stretched across the entrance, watching with eager and bloodshot eyes the
process of cutting up a bullock, which two soldiers in undress jackets were
performing within a few yards of the spot.
Stepping cautiously across the savage-looking sentinel, I entered the
little hall, and finding no one near, passed into a small room, the door of
which lay half open.
A very palpable odor of cigars and brandy proclaimed, even without his
presence, that this was O'Shaughnessy's sitting-room; so I sat myself down
upon an old-fashioned sofa to wait patiently for his return, which I heard
would be immediately after the evening parade. Sparks had become knocked up
during our ride, so that for the last three leagues I was alone, and like
most men in such circumstances, pressed on only the harder. Completely worn
out for want of rest, I had scarcely placed myself on the sofa when I
fell sound asleep. When I awoke, all was dark around me, save the faint
flickerings of the wood embers on the hearth, and for some moments I could
not remember where I was; but by degrees recollection came, and as I
thought over my position and its possible consequences, I was again nearly
dropping to sleep, when the door suddenly opened, and a heavy step sounded
on the floor.
I lay still and spoke not, as a large figure in a cloak approached the
fire-place, and stooping down endeavored to light a candle at the fast
I had little difficulty in detecting the major even by the half-light; a
muttered execration upon the candle, given with an energy that only an
Irishman ever bestows upon slight matters, soon satisfied me on this head.
"May the Devil fly away with the commissary and the chandler to the forces!
Ah, you've lit at last!"
With these words he stood up, and his eyes falling on me at the moment,
he sprang a yard or two backwards, exclaiming as he did so, "The blessed
Virgin be near us, what's this?" a most energetic crossing of himself
accompanying his words. My pale and haggard face, thus suddenly presented,
having suggested to the worthy major the impression of a supernatural
visitor, a hearty burst of laughter, which I could not resist, was my only
answer; and the next moment O'Shaughnessy was wrenching my hand in a grasp
like a steel vice.
"Upon my conscience, I thought it was your ghost; and if you kept quiet a
little longer, I was going to promise you Christian burial, and as many
Masses for your soul as my uncle the bishop could say between this and
Easter. How are you, my boy? A little thin, and something paler, I think,
than when you left us."
Having assured him that fatigue and hunger were in a great measure the
cause of my sickly looks, the major proceeded to place before me the
_debris_ of his day's dinner, with a sufficiency of bottles to satisfy a
mess-table, keeping up as he went a running fire of conversation.
"I'm as glad as if the Lord took the senior major, to see you here this
night. With the blessing of Providence we'll shoot Trevyllian in the
morning, and any more of the heavies that like it. You are an ill-treated
man, that's what it is, and Dan O'Shaughnessy says it. Help yourself, my
boy; crusty old port in that bottle as ever you touched your lips to.
Power's getting all right; it was contract powder, warranted not to kill.
Bad luck to the commissaries once more! With such ammunition Sir Arthur
does right to trust most to the bayonet. And how is Monsoon, the old
"Gloriously, living in the midst of wine and olives."
"No fear of him, the old sinner; but he is a fine fellow, after all.
Charley, you are eating nothing, boy."
"To tell you the truth, I'm far more anxious to talk with you at this
moment than aught else."
"So you shall: the night's young. Meanwhile, I had better not delay
matters. You want to have Trevyllian out,--is not that so?"
"Of course; you are aware how it happened?"
"I know everything. Go on with your supper, and don't mind me; I'll be back
in twenty minutes or less."
Without waiting for any reply, he threw his cloak around him, and strode
out of the room. Once more I was alone; but already my frame of mind was
altered,--the cheering tone of my reckless, gallant countryman had raised
my spirits, and I felt animated by his very manner.
An hour elapsed before the major returned; and when he did come, his
appearance and gestures bespoke anger and disappointment. He threw himself
hurriedly into a seat, and for some minutes never spoke.
"The world's beautifully changed, anyhow, since I began it, O'Malley,--when
you thanked a man civilly that asked you to fight him! The Devil take the
cowards, say I."
"What has happened? Tell me, I beseech you?"
"He won't fight," said the major, blurting out the words as if they would
"He'll not fight! And why?"
The major was silent. He seemed confused and embarrassed. He turned from
the fire to the table, from the table to the fire, poured out a glass of
wine, drank it hastily off, and springing from his chair, paced the room
with long, impatient strides.
"My dear O'Shaughnessy, explain, I beg of you. Does he refuse to meet me
for any reason--"
"He does," said the major, turning on me a look of deep feeling as he
spoke; "and he does it to ruin you, my boy. But as sure as my name is
Dan, he'll fail this time. He was sitting with his friend Beaufort when I
reached his quarters, and received me with all the ceremonious politeness
he well knows how to assume. I told him in a few words the object of my
visit; upon which Trevyllian, standing up, referred me to his friend for
a reply, and left the room. I thought that all was right, and sat down to
discuss, as I believed, preliminaries, when the cool puppy, with his back
to the fire, carelessly lisped out, 'It can't be, Major; your friend is too
"'Too late? too late?' said I.
"'Yes, precisely so; not up to time. The affair should have come off some
weeks since. We won't meet him now.'
"'This is really your answer?'
"'This is really my answer; and not only so, but the decision of our mess.'
"What I said after this _he_ may remember; devil take me if _I_ can. But I
have a vague recollection of saying something that the aforesaid mess will
never petition the Horse Guards to put on their regimental colors; and here
With these words the major gulped down a full goblet of wine, and once
more resumed his walk through the room. I shall not attempt to record the
feelings which agitated me during the major's recital. In one rapid glance
I saw the aim of my vindictive enemy. My honor, not my life, was the object
he sought for; and ten thousand times more than ever did I pant for the
opportunity to confront him in a deadly combat.
"Charley," said O'Shaughnessy, at length, placing his hand upon my
shoulder, "you must get to bed now. Nothing more can be done to-night in
any way. Be assured of one thing, my boy,--I'll not desert you; and if that
assurance can give you a sound sleep, you'll not need a lullaby."
I awoke refreshed on the following morning, and came down to breakfast with
a lighter heart than I had even hoped for. A secret feeling that all
would go well had somehow taken possession of me, and I longed for
O'Shaughnessy's coming, trusting that he might be able to confirm my hopes.
His servant informed me that the major had been absent since daybreak, and
left orders that he was not to be waited for at breakfast.
I was not destined, however, to pass a solitary time in his absence, for
every moment brought some new arrival to visit me; and during the morning
the colonel and every officer of the regiment not on actual duty came over.
I soon learned that the feeling respecting Trevyllian's conduct was one of
unmixed condemnation among my own corps, but that a kind of party spirit
which had subsisted for some months between the regiment he belonged to and
the 14th had given a graver character to the affair, and induced many men
to take up his views of the transaction; and although I heard of none who
attributed my absence to any dislike to a meeting, yet there were several
who conceived that, by my going at the time, I had forfeited all claim to
satisfaction at his hands.
"Now that Merivale is gone," said an officer to me as the colonel left the
room, "I may confess to you that he sees nothing to blame in your conduct
throughout; and even had you been aware of how matters were circumstanced,
your duty was too imperative to have preferred your personal consideration
"Does any one know where Conyers is?" said Baker.
"The story goes that Conyers can assist us here. Conyers is at Zaza la
Mayor, with the 28th; but what can he do?"
"That I'm not able to tell you; but I know O'Shaughnessy heard something at
parade this morning, and has set off in search of him on every side."
"Was Conyers ever out with Trevyllian?"
"Not as a principal, I believe. The report is, however, that he knows more
about him than other people, as Tom certainly does of everybody."
"It is rather a new thing for Trevyllian to refuse a meeting. They say,
O'Malley, he has heard of your shooting."
"No, no," said another; "he cares very little for any man's pistol. If the
story be true, he fires a second or two before his adversary; at least, it
was in that way he killed Carysfort."
"Here comes the great O'Shaughnessy!" cried some one at the window; and the
next moment the heavy gallop of a horse was heard along the causeway. In an
instant we all rushed to the door to receive him.
"It's all right, lads!" cried he, as he came up. "We have him this time!"
"How?" "When?" "Why?" "In what way have you managed?" fell from a dozen
voices, as the major elbowed his way through the crowd to the sitting-room.
"In the first place," said O'Shanghnessy, drawing a long breath, "I have
promised secrecy as to the steps of this transaction; secondly, if I
hadn't, it would puzzle me to break it, for I'll be hanged if I know more
than yourselves. Tom Conyers wrote me a few lines for Trevyllian, and
Trevyllian pledges himself to meet our friend; and that's all we need know
or care for."
"Then you have seen Trevyllian this morning?"
"No; Beaufort met me at the village. But even now it seems this affair is
never to come off. Trevyllian has been sent with a forage party towards
Lesco. However, that can't be a long absence. But, for Heaven's sake, let
me have some breakfast!"
While O'Shaughnessy proceeded to attack the viands before him, the others
chatted about in little groups; but all wore the pleased and happy looks of
men who had rescued their friend from a menaced danger. As for myself, my
heart swelled with gratitude to the kind fellows around me.
"How has Conyers assisted us at this juncture?" was my first question to
O'Shaughnessy, when we were once more alone.
"I am not at liberty to speak on that subject, Charley. But be satisfied
the reasons for which Trevyllian meets you are fair and honorable."
"I am content."
"The only thing now to be done is to have the meeting as soon as possible."
"We are all agreed upon that point," said I; "and the more so as the matter
had better be decided before Sir Arthur's return."
"Quite true. And now, O'Malley, you had better join your people as soon as
may be, and it will put a stop to all talking about the matter."
The advice was good, and I lost no time in complying with it; and when
I joined the regiment that day at mess, it was with a light heart and a
cheerful spirit, for come what might of the affair, of one thing I was
certain,--my character was now put above any reach of aspersion, and my
reputation beyond attack.
Some days after coming back to headquarters, I was returning from a visit I
had been making to a friend at one of the outposts, when an officer whom I
knew slightly overtook me and informed me that Major O'Shaughnessy had
been to my quarters in search of me, and had sent persons in different
directions to find me.
Suspecting the object of the major's haste, I hurried on at once, and as
I rode up to the spot, found him in the midst of a group of officers,
engaged, to all appearance, in most eager conversation.
"Oh, here he comes!" cried he, as I cantered up. "Come, my boy, doff the
blue frock as soon as you can, and turn out in your best-fitting black.
Everything has been settled for this evening at seven o'clock, and we have
no time to lose."
"I understand you," said I, "and shall not keep you waiting." So saying, I
sprang from my saddle and hastened to my quarters. As I entered the room I
was followed by O'Shaughnessy, who closed the door after him as he came in,
and having turned the key in it, sat down beside the table, and folding
his arms, seemed buried in reflection. As I proceeded with my toilet he
returned no answers to the numerous questions I put to him, either as to
the time of Trevyllian's return, the place of the meeting, or any other
part of the transaction. His attention seemed to wander far from all around
and about him; and as he muttered indistinctly to himself, the few words I
could catch bore not in the remotest degree upon the matter before us.
"I have written a letter or two here, Major," said I, opening my
writing-desk. "In case anything happens, you will look to a few things I
have mentioned here. Somehow, I could not write to poor Fred Power; but you
must tell him from me that his noble conduct towards me was the last thing
I spoke of."
"What confounded nonsense you are talking!" said O'Shaughnessy, springing
from his seat and crossing the room with tremendous strides, "croaking away
there as if the bullet was in your thorax. Hang it, man, bear up!"
"But, Major, my dear friend, what the deuce are you thinking of? The few
things I mentioned--"
"The devil! you are not going over it all again, are you?" said he, in a
voice of no measured tone.
I now began to feel irritated in turn, and really looked at him for some
seconds in considerable amazement. That he should have mistaken, the
directions I was giving him and attributed them to any cowardice was too
insulting a thought to bear; and yet how otherwise was I to understand the
very coarse style of his interruption?
At length my temper got the victory, and with a voice of most measured
calmness, I said, "Major O'Shaughnessy, I am grateful, most deeply
grateful, for the part you have acted towards me in this difficult
business; at the same time, as you now appear to disapprove of my conduct
and bearing, when I am most firmly determined to alter nothing, I shall beg
to relieve you of the unpleasant office of my friend."
"Heaven grant that you could do so!" said he, interrupting me, while his
clasped hands and eager look attested the vehemence of the wish. He paused
for a moment, then, springing from his chair, rushed towards me, and threw
his arms around me. "No, my boy, I can't do it,--I can't do it. I have
tried to bully myself into insensibility for this evening's work,--I have
endeavored to be rude to you, that you might insult me, and steel my heart
against what might happen; but it won't do, Charley, it won't do."
With these words the big tears rolled down his stern cheeks, and his voice
became thick with emotion.
"But for me, all this need not have happened. I know it; I feel it. I
hurried on this meeting; your character stood fair and unblemished without
that,--at least they tell me so now; and I still have to assure you--"
"Come, my dear, kind friend, don't give way in this fashion. You have stood
manfully by me through every step of the road; don't desert me on the
"The grave, O'Malley?"
"I don't think so, Major; but see, half-past six! Look to these pistols for
me. Are they likely to object to hair-triggers?"
A knocking at the door turned off our attention, and the next moment
Baker's voice was heard.
"O'Malley, you'll be close run for time; the meeting-place is full three
miles from this."
I seized the key and opened the door. At the same instant, O'Shaughnessy
rose and turned towards the window, holding one of the pistols in his hand.
"Look at that, Baker,--what a sweet tool it is!" said he, in a voice that
actually made me start. Not a trace of his late excitement remained; his
usually dry, half-humorous manner had returned, and his droll features were
as full of their own easy, devil-may-care fun as ever.
"Here comes the drag," said Baker. "We can drive nearly all the way, unless
you prefer riding."
"Of course not. Keep your hand steady, Charley, and if you don't bring him
down with that saw-handle, you're not your uncle's nephew."
With these words we mounted into the tax-cart, and set off for the
A small and narrow ravine between the two furze-covered dells led to the
open space where the meeting had been arranged for. As we reached this,
therefore, we were obliged to descend from the drag, and proceed the
remainder of the way afoot. We had not gone many yards when a step was
heard approaching, and the next moment Beaufort appeared. His usually easy
and _degage_ air was certainly tinged with somewhat of constraint; and
though his soft voice and half smile were as perfect as ever, a slightly
flurried expression about the lip, and a quick and nervous motion of his
eyebrow, bespoke a heart not completely at ease. He lifted his foraging cap
most ceremoniously to salute us as we came up, and casting an anxious look
to see if any others were following, stood quite still.
"I think it right to mention, Major O'Shaughnessy," said he, in a voice of
most dulcet sweetness, "that I am the only friend of Captain Trevyllian on
the ground; and though I have not the slightest objection to Captain Baker
being present, I hope you will see the propriety of limiting the witnesses
to the three persons now here."
"Upon my conscience, as far as I am concerned, or my friend either, we
are perfectly indifferent if we fight before three or three thousand. In
Ireland we rather like a crowd."
"Of course, then, as you see no objection to my proposition, I may count
upon your co-operation in the event of any intrusion,--I mean, that while
we, upon our sides, will not permit any of our friends to come forward, you
will equally exert yourself with yours."
"Here we are, Baker and myself, neither more nor less. We expect no one,
and want no one; so that I humbly conceive all the preliminaries you are
talking of will never be required."
Beaufort tried to smile, and bit his lips, while a small red spot upon his
cheek spoke that some deeper feeling of irritation than the mere careless
manner of the major could account for, still rankled in his bosom. We
now walked on without speaking, except when occasionally some passing
observation of Beaufort upon the fineness of the evening, or the rugged
nature of the road, broke the silence. As we emerged from the little
mountain pass into the open meadow land, the tall and soldier-like figure
of Trevyllian was the first object that presented itself. He was standing
beside a little stone cross that stood above a holy well, and seemed
occupied in deciphering the inscription. He turned at the noise of our
approach, and calmly waited our coming. His eye glanced quickly from the
features of O'Shaughnessy to those of Baker; but seeming rapidly reassured
as he walked forward, his face at once recovered its usual severity and its
cold, impassive look of sternness.
"All right!" said Beaufort, in a whisper the tones of which I overheard, as
he drew near to his friend. Trevyllian smiled in return, but did not speak.
During the few moments which passed in conversation between the seconds,
I turned from the spot with Baker, and had scarcely time to address a
question to him, when O'Shaughnessy called out, "Hollo, Baker!--come here
a moment!" The three seemed now in eager discussion for some minutes, when
Baker walked towards Trevyllian, and saying something, appeared to wait
for his reply. This being obtained, he joined the others, and the moment
afterwards came to where I was standing. "You are to toss for first shot,
O'Malley. O'Shaughnessy has made that proposition, and the others agree
that with two crack marksmen, it is perhaps the fairest way. I suppose you
have no objection?"
"Of course, I shall make none. Whatever O'Shaughnessy decides for me I am
ready to abide by."
"Well, then, as to the distance?" said Beaufort, loud enough to be heard by
me where I was standing. O'Shaughnessy's reply I could not catch, but it
was evident, from the tone of both parties, that some difference existed on
"Captain Baker shall decide between us," said Beaufort, at length, and they
all walked away to some distance. During all the while I could perceive
that Trevyllian's uneasiness and impatience seemed extreme; he looked from
the speakers to the little mountain pass, and strained his eyes in every
direction. It was clear that he dreaded some interruption. At last, unable
any longer to control his feelings, he called out, "Beaufort, I say, what
the devil are we waiting for now?"
"Nothing at present," said Beaufort, as he came forward with a dollar in
his hand. "Come, Major O'Shaughnessy, you shall call for your friend."
He pitched the piece of money as he spoke high into the air, and watched it
as it fell on the soft grass beneath.
"Head! for a thousand," cried O'Shaughnessy, running over and stooping
down; "and head it is!"
"You've won the first shot," whispered Baker; "for Heaven's sake be cool!"
Beaufort grew deadly pale as he bent over the crownpiece, and seemed
scarcely to have courage to look his friend in his face. Not so Trevyllian;
he pulled off his gloves without the slightest semblance of emotion,
buttoned up his well-fitting black frock to the throat, and throwing a
rapid glance around, seemed only eager to begin the combat.
"Fifteen paces, and the words, 'One, two!'"
"Exactly. My cane shall mark the spot."
"Devilish long paces you make them," said O'Shaughnessy, who did not seem
to approve of the distance. "They have some confounded advantage in this,
depend upon it," said the major, in a whisper to Baker.
"Are you ready?" inquired Beaufort.
"Take your ground, then!"
As Trevyllian moved forward to his place, he muttered something to his
friend. I did not hear the first part, but the latter words which met me
were ominous enough: "For as I intend to shoot him, 'tis just as well as it
Whether this was meant to be overheard and intimidate me I knew not;
but its effect proved directly opposite. My firm resolution to hit my
antagonist was now confirmed, and no compunctious visitings unnerved my
arm. As we took our places some little delay again took place, the flint of
my pistol having fallen; and thus we remained full ten or twelve seconds
steadily regarding each other. At length O'Shaughnessy came forward, and
putting my weapon in my hand, whispered low, "Remember, you have but one
"You are both ready?" cried Beaufort.
"Then: One, two--"
The last word was lost in the report of my pistol, which went off at the
instant. For a second the flash and smoke obstructed my view; but the
moment after I saw Trevyllian stretched upon the ground, with his friend
kneeling beside him. My first impulse was to rush over, for now all feeling
of enmity was buried in most heartfelt anxiety for his fate; but as I was
stepping forward, O'Shaughnessy called out, "Stand fast, boy, he's only
wounded!" and the same moment he rose slowly from the ground, with the
assistance of his friend, and looked with the same wild gaze around him.
Such a look! I shall never forget it; there was that intense expression of
searching anxiety, as if he sought to trace the outlines of some visionary
spirit as it receded before him. Quickly reassured, as it seemed, by
the glance he threw on all sides, his countenance lighted up, not with
pleasure, but with a fiendish expression of revengeful triumph, which even
his voice evinced as he called out: "It's my turn now."
I felt the words in their full force, as I stood silently awaiting my death
wound. The pause was a long one. Twice did he interrupt his friend, as he
was about to give the word, by an expression of suffering, pressing his
hand upon his side, and seeming to writhe with torture; and yet this was
O'Shaughnessy was now coming forward to interfere and prevent these
interruptions, when Trevyllian called out in a firm tone, "I'm ready!" At
the words, "One, two!" the pistol slowly rose; his dark eye measured me
coolly, steadily; his lip curled; and just as I felt that my last moment
of life had arrived, a heavy sound of a horse galloping along the rocky
causeway seemed to take off his attention. His frame trembled, his hand
shook, and jerking upwards his weapon, the ball passed high above my head.
"You bear me witness I fired in the air," said Trevyllian, while the large
drops of perspiration rolled from his forehead, and his features worked as
if in a fit.
"You saw it, sir; and you, Beaufort, my friend, you also. Speak! Why will
you not speak?"
"Be calm, Trevyllian; be calm, for Heaven's sake! What's the matter with
[Illustration: THE COAT OF MAIL.]
"The affair is then ended," said Baker, "and most happily so. You are, I
hope, not dangerously wounded."
As he spoke, Trevyllian's features grew deadly livid; his half-open mouth
quivered slightly, his eyes became fixed, and his arm dropped heavily
beside him, and with a low moan he fell fainting to the ground.
As we bent over him I now perceived that another person had joined our
party; he was a short, determined-looking man of about forty, with black
eyes and aquiline features. Before I had time to guess who it might be, I
heard O'Shaughnessy address him as Colonel Conyers.
"He is dying!" said Beaufort, still stooping over his friend, whose cold
hand he grasped within his own. "Poor, poor fellow!"
"He fired in the air," said Baker, as he spoke in reply to a question from
What he answered I heard not, but Baker rejoined,--
"Yes, I am certain of it. We all saw it."
"Had you not better examine his wounds?" said Conyers, in a tone of
sarcastic irony I could almost have struck him for. "Is your friend not
hit? Perhaps he is bleeding?"
"Yes," said O'Shaughnessy, "let us look to the poor fellow now." So saying,
with Beaufort's aid he unbuttoned his frock and succeeded in opening his
waistcoat. There was no trace of blood anywhere, and the idea of internal
hemorrhage at once occurred to us, when Conyers, stooping down, pushed me
aside, saying at the same time,--
"Your fears for his safety need not distress you much,--look here!" As he
spoke he tore open his shirt, and disclosed to our almost doubting senses
a vest of chain-mail armor fitting close next the skin and completely
I cannot describe the effect this sight produced upon us. Beaufort sprang
to his feet with a bound as he screamed out, rather than spoke, "No man
believes me to have been aware--"
"No, no, Beaufort, your reputation is very far removed from such a stain,"
O'Shaughnessy was perfectly speechless. He looked from one to the other, as
though some unexplained mystery still remained, and only seemed restored
to any sense of consciousness as Baker said, "I can feel no pulse at his
wrist,--his heart, too, does not beat."
Conyers placed his hand upon his bosom, then felt along his throat, lifted
up an arm, and letting it fall heavily upon the ground, he muttered, "He is
It was true. No wound had pierced him,--the pistol bullet was found within
his clothes. Some tremendous conflict of the spirit within had snapped the
cords of life, and the strong man had perished in his agony.
NEWS FROM GALWAY.
I have but a vague and most imperfect recollection of the events which
followed this dreadful scene; for some days my faculties seemed stunned and
paralyzed, and my thoughts clung to the minute detail of the ground,--the
persons about, the mountain path, and most of all the half-stifled cry that
spoke the broken heart,--with a tenacity that verged upon madness.
A court-martial was appointed to inquire into the affair; and although I
have been since told that my deportment was calm, and my answers were firm
and collected, yet I remember nothing of the proceedings.
The inquiry, through a feeling of delicacy for the friends of him who was
no more, was made as brief and as private as possible. Beaufort proved the
facts which exonerated me from any imputation in the matter; and upon the
same day the court delivered the decision: "That Lieutenant O'Malley was
not guilty of the charges preferred against him, and that he should be
released from arrest, and join his regiment."
Nothing could be more kind and considerate than the conduct of my brother
officers,--a hundred little plans and devices for making me forget the
late unhappy event were suggested and practised,--and I look back to that
melancholy period, marked as it was by the saddest circumstance of my life,
as one in which I received more of truly friendly companionship than even
my palmiest days of prosperity boasted.
While, therefore, I deeply felt the good part my friends were performing
towards me, I was still totally unsuited to join in the happy current of
their daily pleasures and amusements. The gay and unreflecting character of
O'Shaughnessy, the careless merriment of my brother officers, jarred upon
my nerves, and rendered me irritable and excited; and I sought in lonely
rides and unfrequented walks, the peace of spirit that calm reflection and
a firm purpose for the future rarely fail to lead to.
There is in deep sorrow a touch of the prophetic. It is at seasons when the
heart is bowed down with grief, and the spirit wasted with suffering, that
the veil which conceals the future seems to be removed, and a glance, short
and fleeting as the lightning flash, is permitted us into the gloomy valley
Misfortunes, too, come not singly,--the seared heart is not suffered to
heal from one affliction ere another succeeds it; and this anticipation
of the coming evil is, perhaps, one of the most poignant features of
grief,--the ever-watchful apprehension, the ever-rising question, "What
next?" is a torture that never sleeps.
This was the frame of my mind for several days after I returned to my
duty,--a morbid sense of some threatened danger being my last thought at
night and my first on awakening. I had not heard from home since my arrival
in the Peninsula; a thousand vague fancies haunted me now that some
brooding misfortune awaited me. My poor uncle never left my thoughts. Was
he well; was he happy? Was he, as he ever used to be, surrounded by the
friends he loved,--the old familiar faces around the hospitable hearth his
kindliness had hallowed in my memory as something sacred? Oh, could I but
see his manly smile, or hear his voice! Could I but feel his hand upon my
head, as he was wont to press it, while words of comfort fell from his
lips, and sunk into my heart!
Such were my thoughts one morning as I sauntered, unaccompanied, from my
quarters. I had not gone far, when my attention was aroused by the noise
of a mule-cart, whose jingling bells and clattering timbers announced its
approach by the road I was walking. Another turn of the way brought it into
view; and I saw from the gay costume of the driver, as well as a small
orange flag which decorated the conveyance, that it was the mail-cart with
letters from Lisbon.
Full as my mind was with thoughts of home, I turned hastily back, and
retraced my steps towards the camp. When I reached the adjutant-general's
quarters, I found a considerable number of officers assembled; the report
that the post had come was a rumor of interest to all, and accordingly,
every moment brought fresh arrivals, pouring in from all sides, and eagerly
inquiring, "If the bags had been opened?" The scene of riot, confusion, and
excitement, when that event did take place, exceeded all belief, each man
reading his letter half aloud, as if his private affairs and domestic
concerns must interest his neighbors, amidst a volley of exclamations of
surprise, pleasure, or occasional anger, as the intelligence severally
suggested,--the disappointed expectants cursing their idle correspondents,
bemoaning their fate about remittances that never arrived, or drafts never
honored; while here and there some public benefactor, with an outspread
"Times" or "Chronicle," was retailing the narrative of our own exploits in
the Peninsula or the more novel changes in the world of politics since we
left England. A cross-fire of news and London gossip ringing on every side
made up a perfect Babel most difficult to form an idea of. The jargon
partook of every accent and intonation the empire boasts of; and from the
sharp precision of the North Tweeder to the broad doric of Kerry, every
portion, almost every county, of Great Britain had its representative. Here
was a Scotch paymaster, in a lugubrious tone, detailing to his friend the
apparently not over-welcome news that Mistress M'Elwain had just been
safely delivered of twins, which, with their mother, were doing as well
as possible. Here an eager Irishman, turning over the pages rather than
reading his letter, while he exclaimed to his friend,--
"Oh, the devil a rap she's sent me. The old story about runaway tenants and
distress notices,--sorrow else tenants seem to do in Ireland than run away
A little apart some sentimental-looking cockney was devouring a very
crossed epistle which he pressed to his lips whenever any one looked at
him; while a host of others satisfied themselves by reading in a kind of
buzzing undertone, every now and then interrupting themselves with some
broken exclamation as commentary,--such as, "Of course she will!" "Never
knew him better!" "That's the girl for my money!" "Fifty per cent, the
devil!" and so on. At last I was beginning to weary of the scene, and
finding that there appeared to be nothing for me, was turning to leave the
place, when I saw a group of two or three endeavoring to spell out the
address of a letter.
"That's an Irish post-mark, I'll swear," said one; "but who can make
anything of the name? It's devilish like Otaheite, isn't it?"
"I wish my tailor wrote as illegibly," said another; "I'd keep up a most
animated correspondence with him."
"Here, O'Shaughnessy, you know something of savage life,--spell us this
"Show it here. What nonsense, it's as plain as the nose on my face: 'Master
Charles O'Malley, in foreign parts!'"
A roar of laughter followed this announcement, which, at any other time,
perhaps, I should have joined in, but which now grated sadly on my ruffled
"Here, Charley, this is for you," said the major; and added in a
whisper,--"and upon my conscience, between ourselves, your friend, whoever
he is, has a strong action against his writing-master,--devil such a fist
ever I looked at!"
One glance satisfied me as to my correspondent. It was from Father Rush,
my old tutor. I hurried eagerly from the spot, and regaining my quarters,
locked the door, and with a beating heart broke the seal and began, as well
as I was able, to decipher his letter. The hand was cramped and stiffened
with age, and the bold, upright letters were gnarled and twisted like a
rustic fence, and demanded great patience and much time in unravelling. It
THE PRIORY, Lady-day, 1809.
MY DEAR MASTER CHARLES,--Your uncle's feet are so big and
so uneasy that he can't write, and I am obliged to take up the pen
myself, to tell you how we are doing here since you left us. And,
first of all, the master lost the lawsuit in Dublin, all for the want
of a Galway jury,--but they don't go up to town for strong reasons
they had; and the Curranolick property is gone to Ned M'Manus,
and may the devil do him good with it! Peggy Maher left this on
Tuesday; she was complaining of a weakness; she's gone to consult
the doctors. I'm sorry for poor Peggy.
Owen M'Neil beat the Slatterys out of Portunma on Saturday,
and Jem, they say, is fractured. I trust it's true, for he never was
good, root nor branch, and we've strong reasons to suspect him for
drawing the river with a net at night. Sir Harry Boyle sprained his
wrist, breaking open his bed-room, that he locked when he was inside.
The count and the master were laughing all the evening at
him. Matters are going very hard in the country,--the people paying
their rents regularly, and not caring half as much as they used
about the real gentry and the old families.
We kept your birthday at the Castle in great style,--had the
militia band from the town, and all the tenants. Mr. James Daly
danced with your old friend Mary Green, and sang a beautiful song,
and was going to raise the devil, but I interfered; he burned down
half the blue drawing-room the last night with his tricks,--not that
your uncle cares, God preserve him to us! it's little anything like
that would fret him. The count quarrelled with a young gentleman
in the course of the evening, but found out he was only an attorney
from Dublin, so he didn't shoot him; but he was ducked in the pond
by the people, and your uncle says he hopes they have a true copy of
him at home, as they'll never know the original.
Peter died soon after you went away, but Tim hunts the dogs
just as well. They had a beautiful run last Wednesday, and the
Lord sent for him and gave him a five-pound note; but he says
he'd rather see yourself back again than twice as much. They
killed near the big turnip-field, and all went down to see where you
leaped Badger over the sunk fence,--they call it "Hammersley's
Nose" ever since. Bodkin was at Ballinasloe the last fair, limping
about with a stick; he's twice as quiet as he used to be, and never
beat any one since that morning.
Nellie Guire, at the cross-roads, wants to send you four pair of
stockings she knitted for you, and I have a keg of potteen of Barney's
own making this two months, not knowing how to send it. May be