Part 6 out of 10
"Are you certain it is fainting?" said the other, in a still lower.
"You see how it is, Charley," said O'Shaughnessy; "this poor boy must be
carried to the rear. Will you then, like a kind fellow, hasten back to
Colonel Campbell and mention the fact. It will kill Beauclerc should any
doubt rest upon his conduct, if he ever recover this."
While he spoke, four soldiers of the regiment placed the wounded officer in
a blanket. A long sigh escaped him, and he muttered a few broken words.
"Poor fellow, it's his mother he's talking of! He only joined a month
since, and is a mere boy. Come, O'Malley, lose no time. By Jove! it is too
late; there goes the first rocket for the columns to form. In ten minutes
more the stormers must fall in."
"What's the matter, Giles?" said he to one of the officers, who had stopped
the soldiers as they were moving off with their burden,--"what is it?"
"I have been cutting the white tape off his arm; for if he sees it on
waking, he'll remember all about the storming."
"Quite right--thoughtfully done!" said the other; "but who is to lead his
fellows? He was in the forlorn hope."
"I'll do it," cried I, with eagerness. "Come, O'Shaughnessy, you'll not
"Refuse you, boy!" said he, grasping my hand within both of his, "never!
But you must change your coat. The gallant Eighty-eighth will never mistake
their countryman's voice. But your uniform would be devilish likely to get
you a bayonet through it; so come back with me, and we'll make you a Ranger
in no time."
"I can give your friend a cap."
"And I," said the other, "a brandy flask, which, after all, is not the
worst part of a storming equipage."
"I hope," said O'Shaughnessy, "they may find Maurice in the rear.
Beauclerc's all safe in his hands."
"That they'll not," said Giles, "you may swear. Quill is this moment in the
trenches, and will not be the last man at the breach."
"Follow me now, lads," said O'Shaughnessy, in a low voice. "Our fellows are
at the angle of this trench. Who the deuce can that be, talking so loud?"
"It must be Maurice," said Giles.
The question was soon decided by the doctor himself, who appeared giving
directions to his hospital-sergeant.
"Yes, Peter, take the tools up to a convenient spot near the breach.
There's many a snug corner there in the ruins; and although we mayn't have
as good an operation-room as in old 'Steevens's,' yet we'll beat them
hollow in cases."
"Listen to the fellow," said Giles, with a shudder. "The thought of his
confounded thumbscrews and tourniquets is worse to me than a French
"The devil a kinder-hearted fellow than Maurice," said O'Shaughnessy, "for
all that; and if his heart was to be known this moment, he'd rather handle
a sword than a saw."
"True for you, Dennis," said Quill, overhearing him, "but we are both
useful in our way, as the hangman said to Lord Clare."
"But should you not be in the rear, Maurice?" said I.
"You are right, O'Malley," said he, in a whisper; "but, you see, I owe the
Cork Insurance Company a spite for making me pay a gout premium, and that's
the reason I'm here. I warned them at the time that their stinginess would
come to no good."
"I say, Captain O'Malley," said Giles, "I find I can't be as good as my
word with you; my servant has moved to the rear with all my traps."
"What is to be done?" said I.
"Is it shaving utensils you want?" said Maurice. "Would a scalpel serve
"No, Doctor, I'm going to take a turn of duty with your fellows to-night."
"In the breach, with the stormers?"
"With the forlorn hope," said O'Shaughnessy. "Beauclerc is so badly wounded
that we've sent him back; and Charley, like a good fellow, has taken his
"Martin told me," said Maurice, "that Beauclerc was only stunned; but,
upon my conscience, the hospital-mates, now-a-days, are no better than the
watchmakers; they can't tell what's wrong with the instrument till they
pick it to pieces. Whiz! there goes a blue light."
"Move on, move on," whispered O'Shaughnessy; "they're telling off the
stormers. That rocket is the order to fall in."
"But what am I to do for a coat?"
"Take mine, my boy," said Maurice, throwing off an upper garment of coarse
gray frieze as he spoke.
"There's a neat bit of uniform," continued he, turning himself round for
our admiration; "don't I look mighty like the pictures of George the First
at the battle of Dettingen!"
A burst of approving laughter was our only answer to this speech, while
Maurice proceeded to denude himself of his most extraordinary garment.
"What, in the name of Heaven, is it?" said I.
"Don't despise it, Charley; it knows the smell of gunpowder as well as any
bit of scarlet in the service;" while he added, in a whisper, "it's the
ould Roscommon Yeomanry. My uncle commanded them in the year '42, and this
was his coat. I don't mean to say that it was new then; for you see it's a
kind of heirloom in the Quill family, and it's not every one I'd be giving
"A thousand thanks, Maurice," said I, as I buttoned it on, amidst an
ill-suppressed titter of laughter.
"It fits you like a sentry-box," said Maurice, as he surveyed me with a
lantern. "The skirts separate behind in the most picturesque manner; and
when you button the collar, it will keep your head up so high that the
devil a bit you'll see except the blessed moon. It's a thousand pities you
haven't the three-cocked hat with the feather trimming. If you wouldn't
frighten the French, my name's not Maurice. Turn about here till I admire
you. If you only saw yourself in a glass, you'd never join the dragoons
again. And look now, don't be exposing yourself, for I wouldn't have those
blue facings destroyed for a week's pay."
"Ah, then, it's yourself is the darling, Doctor, dear!" said a voice behind
me. I turned round; it was Mickey Free, who was standing with a most
profound admiration of Maurice beaming in every feature of his face. "It's
yourself has a joke for every hour o' the day."
"Get to the rear, Mike, get to the rear with the cattle; this is no place
for you or them."
"Good-night, Mickey," said Maurice.
"Good-night, your honor," muttered Mike to himself; "may I never die till
you set a leg for me."
"Are you dressed for the ball?" said Maurice, fastening the white tape upon
my arm. "There now, my boy, move on, for I think I hear Picton's voice; not
that it signifies now, for he's always in a heavenly temper when any one's
going to be killed. I'm sure he'd behave like an angel, if he only knew the
ground was mined under his feet."
"Charley, Charley!" called out O'Shaughnessy, in a suppressed voice, "come
"No. 24, John Forbes--here! Edward Gillespie--here!"
"Who leads this party, Major O'Shaughnessy?"
"Mr. Beauclerc, sir," replied O'Shaughnessy, pushing me forward by the arm
while he spoke.
"Keep your people together, sir; spare the powder, and trust to your cold
iron." He grasped my hand within his iron grip, and rode on.
"Who was it, Dennis?" said I.
"Don't you know him, Charley? That was Picton."
THE STORMING OF CIUDAD RODRIGO.
Whatever the levity of the previous moment, the scene before us now
repressed it effectually. The deep-toned bell of the cathedral tolled
seven, and scarcely were its notes dying away in the distance, when the
march of the columns was heard stealing along the ground. A low murmuring
whisper ran along the advanced files of the forlorn hope; stocks were
loosened; packs and knapsacks thrown to the ground; each man pressed his
cap more firmly down upon his brow, and with lip compressed and steadfast
eye, waited for the word to move.
It came at last: the word "March!" passed in whispers from rank to rank,
and the dark mass moved on. What a moment was that as we advanced to the
foot of the breach! The consciousness that at the same instant, from
different points of that vast plain, similar parties were moving on; the
feeling that at a word the flame of the artillery and the flash of steel
would spring from that dense cloud, and death and carnage, in every shape
our imagination can conceive, be dealt on all sides; the hurried, fitful
thought of home; the years long past compressed into one minute's space;
the last adieu of all we've loved, mingling with the muttered prayer to
Heaven, while, high above all, the deep pervading sense that earth has no
temptation strong enough to turn us from that path whose ending must be a
Each heart was too full for words. We followed noiselessly along the turf,
the dark figure of our leader guiding us through the gloom. On arriving
at the ditch, the party with the ladders moved to the front. Already some
hay-packs were thrown in, and the forlorn hope sprang forward.
All was still and silent as the grave. "Quietly, my men, quietly!" said
M'Kinnon; "don't press." Scarcely had he spoken when a musket whose charge,
contrary to orders, had not been drawn, went off. The whizzing bullet could
not have struck the wall, when suddenly a bright flame burst forth from the
ramparts, and shot upward towards the sky. For an instant the whole scene
before us was bright as noonday. On one side, the dark ranks and glistening
bayonets of the enemy; on the other, the red uniform of the British
columns: compressed like some solid wall, they stretched along the plain.
A deafening roll of musketry from the extreme right announced that the
Third Division was already in action, while the loud cry of our leader, as
he sprang into the trench, summoned us to the charge. The leading sections,
not waiting for the ladders, jumped down, others pressing rapidly behind
them, when a loud rumbling thunder crept along the earth, a hissing,
crackling noise followed, and from the dark ditch a forked and livid
lightning burst like the flame from a volcano, and a mine exploded.
Hundreds of shells and grenades scattered along the ground were ignited at
the same moment; the air sparkled with the whizzing fuses, the musketry
plied incessantly from the walls, and every man of the leading company
of the stormers was blown to pieces. While this dreadful catastrophe was
enacting before our eyes, the different assaults were made on all sides;
the whole fortress seemed girt around with fire. From every part arose the
yells of triumph and the shouts of the assailants. As for us, we stood upon
the verge of the ditch, breathless, hesitating, and horror-struck. A sudden
darkness succeeded to the bright glare, but from the midst of the gloom the
agonizing cries of the wounded and the dying rent our very hearts.
"Make way there! make way! here comes Mackie's party," cried an officer
in the front, and as he spoke the forlorn hope of the Eighty-eighth came
forward at a run; jumping recklessly into the ditch, they made towards the
breach; the supporting division of the stormers gave one inspiring cheer,
and sprang after them. The rush was tremendous; for scarcely had we reached
the crumbling ruins of the rampart, when the vast column, pressing on like
some mighty torrent, bore down upon our rear. Now commenced a scene to
which nothing I ever before conceived of war could in any degree compare:
the whole ground, covered with combustibles of every deadly and destructive
contrivance, was rent open with a crash; the huge masses of masonry bounded
into the air like things of no weight; the ringing clangor of the iron
howitzers, the crackling of the fuses, the blazing splinters, the shouts of
defiance, the more than savage yell of those in whose ranks alone the dead
and the dying were numbered, made up a mass of sights and sounds almost
maddening with their excitement. On we struggled; the mutilated bodies of
the leading files almost filling the way.
By this time the Third Division had joined us, and the crush of our
thickening ranks was dreadful; every moment some well-known leader fell
dead or mortally wounded, and his place was supplied by some gallant fellow
who, springing from the leading files, would scarcely have uttered his
cheer of encouragement, ere he himself was laid low. Many a voice with
whose notes I was familiar, would break upon my ear in tones of heroic
daring, and the next moment burst forth in a death-cry. For above an hour
the frightful carnage continued, fresh troops continually advancing, but
scarcely a foot of ground was made; the earth belched forth its volcanic
fires, and that terrible barrier did no man pass. In turn the bravest and
the boldest would leap into the whizzing flame, and the taunting cheers of
the enemy triumphed in derision at the effort.
"Stormers to the front! Only the bayonet! trust to nothing but the
bayonet!" cried a voice whose almost cheerful accents contrasted strangely
with the dead-notes around, and Gurwood, who led the forlorn hope of
the Fifty-second, bounded into the chasm; all the officers sprang
simultaneously after him; the men pressed madly on; a roll of withering
musketry crashed upon them; a furious shout replied to it. The British,
springing over the dead and dying, bounded like blood-hounds on their prey.
Meanwhile the ramparts trembled beneath the tramp of the light division,
who, having forced the lesser breach, came down upon the flank of the
French. The garrison, however, thickened their numbers, and bravely held
their ground. Man to man now was the combat. No cry for quarter, no
supplicating look for mercy; it was the death struggle of vengeance and
despair. At this instant an explosion louder than the loudest thunder shook
the air; the rent and torn up ramparts sprang into the sky; the conquering
and the conquered were alike the victims; for one of the greatest magazines
had been ignited by a shell; the black smoke, streaked with a lurid flame,
hung above the dead and the dying. The artillery and the murderous musketry
were stilled, paralyzed, as it were, by the ruin and devastation before
them. Both sides stood leaning upon their arms; the pause was but
momentary; the cries of wounded comrades called upon their hearts. A fierce
burst of vengeance rent the air; the British closed upon the foe; for one
instant they were met; the next, the bayonets gleamed upon the ramparts,
and Ciudad Rodrigo was won.
While such were the scenes passing around me, of my own part in them, I
absolutely knew nothing; for until the moment that the glancing bayonets
of the light division came rushing on the foe, and the loud, long cheer of
victory burst above us, I felt like one in a trance. Then I leaned against
an angle of the rampart, overpowered and exhausted; a bayonet wound, which
some soldier of our own ranks had given me when mounting the breach, pained
me somewhat; my uniform was actually torn to rags; my head bare; of my
sword, the hilt and four inches of the blade alone remained, while my left
hand firmly grasped the rammer of a cannon, but why or wherefore I could
not even guess. As thus I stood, the unceasing tide of soldiery pressed on;
fresh divisions came pouring in, eager for plunder, and thirsting for the
spoil. The dead and the dying were alike trampled beneath the feet of that
remorseless mass, who, actuated by vengeance and by rapine, sprang fiercely
up the breach.
Weak and exhausted, faint from my wound, and overcome by my exertions, I
sank among the crumbling ruin. The loud shouts which rose from the town,
mingled with cries and screams, told the work of pillage was begun; while
still a dropping musketry could be heard on the distant rampart, where even
yet the French made resistance. At last even this was hushed, but to it
succeeded the far more horrifying sounds of rapine and of murder; the
forked flames of burning houses rose here and there amidst the black
darkness of the night; and through the crackling of the timbers, and the
falling crash of roofs, the heart-rending shriek of women rent the very
air. Officers pressed forward, but in vain were their efforts to restrain
their men; the savage cruelty of the moment knew no bounds of restraint.
More than one gallant fellow perished in his fruitless endeavor to enforce
obedience; and the most awful denunciations were now uttered against those
before whom, at any other time, they dared not mutter.
Thus passed the long night, far more terrible to me than all the dangers of
the storm itself, with all its death and destruction dealing around it. I
know not if I slept: if so, the horrors on every side were pictured in my
dreams; and when the gray dawn was breaking, the cries from the doomed city
were still ringing in my ears. Close around me the scene was still
and silent; the wounded had been removed during the night, but the
thickly-packed dead lay side by side where they fell. It was a fearful
sight to see them as, blood-stained and naked (for already the
camp-followers had stripped the bodies), they covered the entire breach.
From the rampart to the ditch, the ranks lay where they had stood in life.
A faint phosphoric flame flickered above their ghastly corpses, making even
death still more horrible. I was gazing steadfastly, with all that stupid
intensity which imperfect senses and exhausted faculties possess, when the
sound of voices near aroused me.
"Bring him along,--this way, Bob. Over the breach with the scoundrel, into
"He shall die no soldier's death, by Heaven!" cried another and a deeper
voice, "if I lay his skull open with my axe."
"Oh, mercy, mercy! as you hope for--"
"Traitor! don't dare to mutter here!" As the last words were spoken, four
infantry soldiers, reeling from drunkenness, dragged forward a pale and
haggard wretch, whose limbs trailed behind him like those of palsy, his
uniform was that of a French chasseur, but his voice bespoke him English.
"Kneel down there, and die like a man! You were one once!"
"Not so, Bill, never. Fix bayonets, boys! That's right! Now take the word
"Oh, forgive me! for the love of Heaven, forgive me!" screamed the voice of
the victim; but his last accents ended in a death-cry, for as he spoke, the
bayonets flashed for an instant in the air, and the next were plunged into
his body. Twice I had essayed to speak, but my voice, hoarse from shouting,
came not; and I could but look upon this terrible murder with staring eyes
and burning brain. At last speech came, as if wrested by the very excess of
my agony, and I muttered aloud, "O God!" The words were not well-spoken,
when the muskets were brought to the shoulders, and reeking with the blood
of the murdered man, their savage faces scowled at me as I lay.
A short and heart-felt prayer burst from my lips, and I was still. The
leader of the party called out, "Be steady, and together. One, two! Ground
arms, boys! Ground arms!" roared he, in a voice of thunder; "it's the
captain himself!" Down went the muskets with a crash; while, springing
towards me, the fellows caught me in their arms, and with one jerk mounted
me upon their shoulders, the cheer that accompanied the sudden movement
seeming like the yell of maniacs. "Ha, ha, ha! we have him now!" sang their
wild voices, as, with blood-stained hands and infuriated features, they
bore me down the rampart. My sensations of disgust and repugnance to the
party seemed at once to have evidenced themselves, for the corporal,
turning abruptly round, called out,--
"Don't _pity_ him, Captain; the scoundrel was a deserter; he escaped from
the picket two nights ago, and gave information of all our plans to the
"Ay," cried another, "and what's worse, he fired through an embrasure near
the breach, for two hours, upon his own regiment. It was there we found
him. This way, lads."
So saying, they turned short from the walls, and dashed down a dark
and narrow lane into the town. My struggles to get free were perfectly
ineffectual, and to my entreaties they were totally indifferent.
In this way, therefore, we made our entrance into the Plaza, where some
hundred soldiers, of different regiments, were bivouacked. A shout of
recognition welcomed the fellows as they came; while suddenly a party of
Eighty-eighth men, springing from the ground, rushed forward with drawn
bayonets, calling out, "Give him up this minute, or, by the Father of
Moses, we'll make short work of ye!"
The order was made by men who seemed well disposed to execute it; and I was
accordingly grounded with a shock and a rapidity that savored much more
of ready compliance than any respect for my individual comfort. A roar of
laughter rang through the motley mass, and every powder-stained face around
me seemed convulsed with merriment. As I sat passively upon the ground,
looking ruefully about, whether my gestures or my words heightened the
absurdity of my appearance, it is hard to say; but certainly the laughter
increased at each moment, and the drunken wretches danced round me in
"Where is your major? Major O'Shaughnessy, lads?" said I.
"He's in the church, with the general, your honor," said the sergeant of
the regiment, upon whom the mention of his officer's name seemed at once
to have a sobering influence. Assisting me to rise (for I was weak as a
child), he led me through the dense crowd, who, such is the influence of
example, now formed into line, and as well as their state permitted, gave
me a military salute as I passed. "Follow me, sir," said the sergeant;
"this little dark street to the left will take us to the private door of
"Wherefore are they there, Sergeant?"
"There's a general of division mortally wounded."
"You did not hear his name?"
"No, sir. All I know is, he was one of the storming party at the lesser
A cold, sickening shudder came over me; I durst not ask farther, but
pressed on with anxious steps towards the chapel.
"There, sir, yonder, where you see the light. That's the door."
So saying, the sergeant stopped suddenly, and placed his hand to his cap. I
saw at once that he was sufficiently aware of his condition not to desire
to appear before his officers; so, hurriedly thanking him, I walked
"Halt, there! and give the countersign," cried a sentinel, who with fixed
bayonet stood before the door.
"I am an officer," said I, endeavoring to pass in.
"Stand bock, stand bock!" said the harsh voice of the Highlander, for such
"Is Major O'Shaughnessy in the church?"
"I dinna ken," was the short, rough answer.
"Who is the officer so badly wounded?"
"I dinna ken," repeated he, as gruffly as before; while he added, in a
louder key, "Stand bock, I tell ye, man! Dinna ye see the staff coming?"
I turned round hastily, and at the same instant several officers, who
apparently from precaution had dismounted at the end of the street, were
seen approaching. They came hurriedly forward, but without speaking. He
who was in advance of the party wore a short, blue cape over an undress
uniform. The rest were in full regimentals. I had scarcely time to throw a
passing glance upon him, when the officer I have mentioned as coming first
called out in a stern voice,--
"Who are you, sir?"
I started at the sounds; it was not the first time those accents had been
heard by me.
"Captain O'Malley, Fourteenth Light Dragoons."
"What brings you here, sir? Your regiment is at Caya."
"I have been employed as acting aide-de-camp to General Crawfurd," said I,
"Is that your staff uniform?" said he, as with compressed brow and stern
look he fixed his eyes upon my coat. Before I had time to reply, or,
indeed, before I well knew how to do so, a gruff voice from behind called
"Damn me! if that ain't the fellow that led the stormers through a broken
embrasure! I say, my lord, that's the yeoman I was telling you of. Is it
not so, sir?" continued he, turning towards me.
"Yes, sir. I led a party of the Eighty-eight at the breach."
"And devilish well you did it, too!" added Picton, for it was he who
recognized me. "I saw him, my lord, spring down from the parapet upon a
French gunner, and break his sword as he cleft his helmet in two. Yes, yes;
I shall not forget in a hurry how you laid about you with the rammer of the
gun! By Jove! that's it he has in his hand!"
While Picton ran thus hurriedly on, Lord Wellington's calm but stern
features never changed their expression. The looks of those around were
bent upon me with interest and even admiration; but his evinced nothing of
Reverting at once to my absence from my post, he asked me,--
"Did you obtain leave for a particular service, sir?"
"No, my lord. It was simply from an accidental circumstance that--"
"Then, report yourself at your quarters as under arrest."
"But, my lord--" said Picton. Lord Wellington waited not for the
explanation, but walked firmly forward, and strode into the church. The
staff followed in silence, Picton turning one look of kindness on me as he
went, as though to say, "I'll not forget you."
"The devil take it," cried I, as I found myself once more alone, "but
I'm unlucky! What would turn out with other men the very basis of their
fortune, is ever with me the source of ill-luck."
It was evident, from Picton's account, that I had distinguished myself
in the breach; and yet nothing was more clear than that my conduct had
displeased the commander-in-chief. Picturing him ever to my mind's eye as
the _beau ideal_ of a military leader, by some fatality of fortune I was
continually incurring his displeasure, for whose praise I would have
risked my life. "And this confounded costume--What, in the name of every
absurdity, could have ever persuaded me to put it on. What signifies it,
though a man should cover himself with glory, if in the end he is to be
laughed at? Well, well, it matters not much, now my soldiering's over! And
yet I could have wished that the last act of my campaigning had brought
with it pleasanter recollections."
As thus I ruminated, the click of the soldier's musket near aroused me:
Picton was passing out. A shade of gloom and depression was visible upon
his features, and his lip trembled as he muttered some sentences to
"Ha! Captain--I forget the name. Yes, Captain O'Malley; you are released
from arrest. General Crawfurd has spoken very well of you, and Lord
Wellington has heard the circumstances of your case."
"Is it General Crawfurd, then, that is wounded, sir?" said I, eagerly.
Picton paused for a moment, while, with an effort, he controlled his
features into their stern and impassive expression, then added hurriedly
and almost harshly:--
Yes, sir; badly wounded through the arm and in the lung. He mentioned you
to the notice of the commander-in-chief, and your application for leave is
granted. In fact, you are to have the distinguished honor of carrying back
despatches. There, now; you had better join your brigade."
"Could I not see my general once more? It may be for the last time."
"No, sir!" sternly replied Picton. "Lord Wellington believes you under
arrest. It is as well he should suppose you obeyed his orders."
There was a tone of sarcasm in these words that prevented my reply; and
muttering my gratitude for his well-timed and kindly interference in my
behalf, I bowed deeply and turned away.
"I say, sir!" said Picton, as he returned towards the church, "should
anything befall,--that is, if, unfortunately, circumstances should make you
in want and desirous of a staff appointment, remember that you are known to
Downcast and depressed by the news of my poor general, I wended my way with
slow and uncertain steps towards the rampart. A clear, cold, wintry sky and
a sharp, bracing air made my wound, slight as it was, more painful, and
I endeavored to reach the reserves, where I knew the hospital-staff had
established, for the present, their quarters. I had not gone far when, from
a marauding party, I learned that my man Mike was in search of me through
the plain. A report of my death had reached him, and the poor fellow was
Longing anxiously to allay his fears on my account, which I well knew
might lead him into any act of folly or insanity, I pressed forward;
besides--shall I confess it?--amidst the manifold thoughts of sorrow and
affliction which weighed me down, I could not divest myself of the feeling
that so long as I wore my present absurd costume, I could be nothing but an
object of laughter and ridicule to all who met me.
I had not long to look for my worthy follower, for I soon beheld him
cantering about the plain. A loud shout brought him beside me; and
truly the poor fellow's delight was great and sincere. With a thousand
protestations of his satisfaction, and reiterated assurances of what he
would not have done to the French prisoners if anything had happened me, we
took our way together towards the camp.
I was preparing to visit the town on the following morning, when my
attention was attracted by a dialogue which took place beneath my window.
"I say, my good friend," cried a mounted orderly to Mike, who was busily
employed in brushing a jacket,--"I say, are you Captain O'Malley's man?"
"The least taste in life o' that same," replied he, with a half-jocular
"Well, then," said the other, "take up these letters to your master. Be
alive, my fine fellow, for they are despatches, and I must have a written
return for them."
"Won't ye get off and take a drop of somethin' refreshing; the air is cowld
"I can't stay, my good friend, but thank you all the same; so be alive,
"Arrah, there's no hurry in life. Sure, it's an invitation to dinner to
Lord Wellington or a tea-party at Sir Denny's; sure, my master's bothered
with them every day o' th' week: that's the misfortune of being an
agreeable creature; and I'd be led into dissipation myself, if I wasn't
"Well, come along, take these letters, for I must be off; my time is
"That's more nor your nose is, honey," said Mike, evidently piqued at the
little effect his advances had produced upon the Englishman. "Give them
here," continued he, while he turned the various papers in every direction,
affecting to read their addresses.
"There's nothing for me here, I see. Did none of the generals ask after
"You _are_ a queer one!" said the dragoon, not a little puzzled what to
make of him.
Mike meanwhile thrust the papers carelessly into his pocket, and strode
into the house, whistling a quick-step as he went, with the air of a man
perfectly devoid of care or occupation. The next moment, however, he
appeared at my door, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand, and
apparently breathless with haste.
"Despatches, Mister Charles, despatches from Lord Wellington. The orderly
is waiting below for a return."
"Tell him he shall have it in one moment," replied I. "And now bring me a
Before I had broken the seal of the envelope, Mike was once more at the
"My master is writing a few lines to say he'll do it. Don't be talking
of it," added he, dropping his voice, "but they want him to take another
What turn the dialogue subsequently took, I cannot say, for I was entirely
occupied by a letter which accompanied the despatches. It ran as follows:--
CIUDAD RODRIGO, Jan. 20, 1812.
Dear Sir,--The commander-in-chief has been kind enough to accord you
the leave of absence you applied for, and takes the opportunity
of your return to England to send you the accompanying letters
for his Royal Highness the Duke of York. To his approval of
your conduct in the assault last night you owe this distinguished
mark of Lord Wellington's favor, which, I hope, will be duly
appreciated by you, and serve to increase your zeal for that service
in which you have already distinguished yourself.
Believe me that I am most happy in being made the medium of
this communication, and have the honor to be,
Very truly yours,
I read and re-read this note again and again. Every line was conned over by
me, and every phrase weighed and balanced in my mind. Nothing could be more
gratifying, nothing more satisfactory to my feelings; and I would not have
exchanged its possession for the brevet of a lieutenant-colonel.
"Halloo, Orderly!" cried I, from the window, as I hurriedly sealed my few
words of acknowledgment, "take this note back to General Picton, and here's
a guinea for yourself." So saying, I pitched into his ready hand one of the
very few which remained to me in the world. "This is, indeed, good news!"
said I, to myself. "This is, indeed, a moment of unmixed happiness!"
As I closed the window, I could hear Mike pronouncing a glowing eulogium
upon my liberality, from which he could not, however, help in some degree
detracting, as he added:
"But the devil thank him, after all! Sure, it's himself has the illigant
fortune and the fine place of it!"
Scarcely were the last sounds of the retiring horseman dying away in the
distance, when Mike's meditations took another form, and he muttered
between his teeth, "Oh, holy Agatha! a guinea, a raal gold guinea to a
thief of a dragoon that come with the letter, and here am I wearing a
picture of the holy family for a back to my waistcoat, all out of economy;
and sure, God knows, but may be they'll take their dealing trick out of
me in purgatory for this hereafter; and faith, it's a beautiful pair of
breeches I'd have had, if I wasn't ashamed to put the twelve apostles on
While Mike ran on at this rate, my eyes fell upon a few lines of postscript
in Picton's letter, which I had not previously noticed.
"The official despatches of the storming are, of course, intrusted to
senior officers, but I need scarcely remind you that it will be a
polite and proper attention to his Royal Highness to present your
letters with as little delay as possible. Not a moment is to be lost
on your landing in England."
"Mike!" cried I, "how look the cattle for a journey?"
"The chestnut is a little low in flesh, but in great wind, your honor; and
the black horse is jumping like a filly."
"And Badger?" said I.
"Howld him, if you can, that's all; but it's murthering work this, carrying
despatches day after day."
"This time, however, Mike, we must not grumble."
"May be it isn't far?"
"Why, as to that, I shall not promise much. I'm bound for England, Mickey."
"Yes, Mike, and for Ireland."
"For Ireland! whoop!" shouted he, as he shied his cap into one corner of
the room, the jacket he was brushing into the other, and began dancing
round the table with no bad imitation of an Indian war dance.
"How I'll dance like a fairy,
To see ould Dunleary,
And think twice ere I leave it to be a dragoon."
"Oh, blessed hour! Isn't it beautiful to think of the illuminations and
dinners and speeches and shaking of hands, huzzaing, and hip-hipping. May
be there won't be pictures of us in all the shops,--Mister Charles and his
man Mister Free. May be they won't make plays out of us; myself dressed in
the gray coat with the red cuffs, the cords, the tops, and the Caroline hat
a little cocked, with a phiz in the side of it." Here he made a sign with
his expanded fingers to represent a cockade, which he designated by this
word. "I think I see myself dining with the corporation, and the Lord Major
of Dublin getting up to propose the health of the hero of El Bodon, Mr.
Free; and three times three, hurra! hurra! hurra! Musha, but it's dry I am
gettin' with the thoughts of the punch and the poteen negus."
"If you go on at this rate, we're not likely to be soon at our journey's
end. So be alive now; pack up my kit; I shall start by twelve o'clock."
With one spring Mike cleared the stairs, and overthrowing everything and
everybody in his way, hurried towards the stable, chanting at the top of
his voice the very poetical strain he had indulged me with a few minutes
My preparations were rapidly made; a few hurried lines of leave-taking to
the good fellows I had lived so much with and felt so strongly attached to,
with a firm assurance that I should join them again ere long, was all
that my time permitted. To Power I wrote more at length, detailing the
circumstances which my own letters informed me of, and also those which
invited me to return home. This done, I lost not another moment, but set
out upon my journey.
After an hour's sharp riding we reached the Aguada, where the river was yet
fordable; crossing this, we mounted the Sierra by a narrow and winding pass
which leads through the mountains towards Almeida. Here I turned once more
to cast a last and farewell look at the scene of our late encounter. It
was but a few hours that I had stood almost on the same spot, and yet how
altered was all around. The wide plain, then bustling with all the life and
animation of a large army, was now nearly deserted,--some dismounted guns,
some broken-up, dismantled batteries, around which a few sentinels seemed
to loiter rather than to keep guard; a strong detachment of infantry could
be seen wending their way towards the fortress, and a confused mass of
camp-followers, sutlers, and peasants following their steps for protection
against the pillagers and the still ruder assaults of their own Guerillas.
The fortress, too, was changed indeed. Those mighty walls before whose
steep sides the bravest fell back baffled and beaten, were now a mass of
ruin and decay; the muleteer could be seen driving his mule along through
the rugged ascent of that breach to win whose top the best blood of
Albion's chivalry was shed; and the peasant child looked timidly from those
dark enclosures in the deep fosse below, where perished hundreds of our
best and bravest. The air was calm, clear, and unclouded; no smoke obscured
the transparent atmosphere; the cannon had ceased; and the voices that rang
so late in accents of triumphant victory were stilled in death. Everything,
indeed, had undergone a mighty change; but nothing brought the altered
fortunes of the scene so vividly to my mind as when I remembered that when
last I had seen those walls, the dark shako of the French grenadiers
peered above their battlements, and now the gay tartan of the Highlanders
fluttered above them, and the red flag of England waved boldly in the
Up to that moment my sensations were those of unmixed pleasure. The thought
of my home, my friends, my country, the feeling that I was returning with
the bronze of the battle upon my cheek, and the voice of praise still
ringing in my heart,--these were proud thoughts, and my bosom heaved short
and quickly as I revolved them; but as I turned my gaze for the last time
towards the gallant army I was leaving, a pang of sorrow, of self-reproach,
shot through me, and I could not help feeling how far less worthily was
I acting in yielding to the impulse of my wishes, than had I remained to
share the fortunes of the campaign.
So powerfully did these sensations possess me, that I sat motionless for
some time, uncertain whether to proceed; forgetting that I was the bearer
of important information, I only remembered that by my own desire I was
there; my reason but half convinced me that the part I had adopted was
right and honorable, and more than once my resolution to proceed hung in
the balance. It was just at this critical moment of my doubts that Mike,
who had been hitherto behind, came up.
"Is it the upper road, sir?" said he, pointing to a steep and rugged path
which led by a zigzag ascent towards the crest of the mountain.
I nodded in reply, when he added:--
"Doesn't this remind your honor of Sleibh More, above the Shannon, where we
used to be grouse shooting? And there's the keeper's house in the valley;
and that might be your uncle, the master himself, waving his hat to you."
Had he known the state of my conflicting feelings at the moment, he could
not more readily have decided this doubt. I turned abruptly away, put
spurs to my horse, and dashed up the steep pass at a pace which evidently
surprised, and as evidently displeased, my follower.
How natural it is ever to experience a reaction of depression and lowness
after the first burst of unexpected joy! The moment of happiness is
scarce experienced ere come the doubts of its reality, the fears for its
continuance; the higher the state of pleasurable excitement, the more
painful and the more pressing the anxieties that await on it; the tension
of delighted feelings cannot last, and our overwrought faculties seek
repose in regrets. Happy he who can so temper his enjoyments as to view
them in their shadows as in their sunshine; he may not, it is true, behold
the landscape in the blaze of its noonday brightness, but he need not fear
the thunder-cloud nor the hurricane. The calm autumn of _his_ bliss, if it
dazzle not in its brilliancy, will not any more be shrouded in darkness and
My first burst of pleasure over, the thought of my uncle's changed fortunes
pressed deeply on my heart, and a hundred plans suggested themselves in
turn to my mind to relieve his present embarrassments; but I knew how
impracticable they would all prove when opposed by his prejudices. To
sell the old home of his forefathers, to wander from the roof which had
sheltered his name for generations, he would never consent to; the law
might by force expel him, and drive him a wanderer and an exile, but of
his own free will the thing was hopeless. Considine, too, would encourage
rather than repress such feelings; his feudalism would lead him to any
lengths; and in defence of what he would esteem a right, he would as soon
shoot a sheriff as a snipe, and, old as he was, ask for no better amusement
than to arm the whole tenantry and give battle to the king's troops on the
wide plain of Scariff. Amidst such conflicting thought, I travelled on
moodily and in silence, to the palpable astonishment of Mike, who could not
help regarding me as one from whom fortune met the most ungrateful returns.
At every new turn of the road he would endeavor to attract my attention by
the objects around,--no white-turreted chateau, no tapered spire in the
distance, escaped him; he kept up a constant ripple of half-muttered praise
and censure upon all he saw, and instituted unceasing comparisons between
the country and his own, in which, I am bound to say, Ireland rarely, if
ever, had to complain of his patriotism.
When we arrived at Almeida, I learned that the "Medea" sloop-of-war was
lying off Oporto, and expected to sail for England in a few days. The
opportunity was not to be neglected. The official despatches, I was aware,
would be sent through Lisbon, where the "Gorgon" frigate was in waiting to
convey them; but should I be fortunate enough to reach Oporto in time, I
had little doubt of arriving in England with the first intelligence of the
fall of Ciudad Rodrigo. Reducing my luggage, therefore, to the smallest
possible compass, and having provided myself with a juvenile guide for the
pass of La Reyna, I threw myself, without undressing, upon the bed, and
waited anxiously for the break of day to resume my journey.
As I ruminated over the prospect my return presented, I suddenly remembered
Frank Webber's letter, which I had hastily thrust into a portfolio without
reading, so occupied was I by Considine's epistle; with a little searching
I discovered it, and trimming my lamp, as I felt no inclination to sleep, I
proceeded to the examination of what seemed a more than usually voluminous
epistle. It contained four closely-written pages, accompanied by something
like a plan in an engineering sketch. My curiosity becoming further
stimulated by this, I sat down to peruse it. It began thus:--
Official Despatch of Lieutenant-General Francis Webber to Lord
Castlereagh, detailing the assault and capture of the old pump, in
Trinity College, Dublin, on the night of the second of December,
eighteen hundred and eleven, with returns of killed, wounded,
and missing, with other information from the seat of war.
HEADQUARTERS, No. 2, OLD SQUARE.
My Lord,--In compliance with the instructions contained in your
lordship's despatch of the twenty-first ultimo, I concentrated the
force under my command, and assembling the generals of division,
made known my intentions in the following general order:--
A. G. O.
The following troops will this evening assemble at headquarters, and
having partaken of a sufficient dinner for the next two days, with
punch for four, will hold themselves in readiness to march in the
Harry Nesbitt's Brigade of Incorrigibles will form a blockading
force, in the line extending from the vice-provost's house to the
library. The light division, under Mark Waller, will skirmish from
the gate towards the middle of the square, obstructing the march of
the Cuirassiers of the Guard, which, under the command of old Duncan
the porter, are expected to move in that direction. Two columns of
attack will be formed by the senior sophisters of the Old Guard, and
a forlorn hope of the "cautioned" men at the last four examinations
will form, under the orders of Timothy O'Rourke, beneath the shadow
of the dining-hall.
At the signal of the dean's bell the stormers will move forward. A
cheer from the united corps will then announce the moment of attack.
The word for the night will be, "May the Devil admire me!"
The commander-of-the-forces desires that the different corps should
be as strong as possible, and expects that no man will rema
any pretence whatever, in the rear with the lush. During the main
assault, Cecil Cavendish will make a feint upon the provost's
windows, to be converted into a real attack if the ladies scream.
The commissary-general, Foley, will supply the following articles for
the use of the troops: Two hams; eight pair of chickens, the same to
be roasted; a devilled turkey; sixteen lobsters; eight hundred of
oysters, with a proportionate quantity of cold sherry and hot punch.
The army will get drunk by ten o'clock to-night.
Having made these dispositions, my lord, I proceeded to mislead
the enemy as to our intentions, in suffering my servant to be taken
with an intercepted despatch. This, being a prescription by Doctor
Colles, would convey to the dean's mind the impression that I was
still upon the sick list. This being done, and four canisters of
Dartford gunpowder being procured on tick, our military chest being in
a most deplorable condition, I waited for the moment of attack.
A heavy rain, accompanied with a frightful hurricane, prevailed
during the entire day, rendering the march of the troops who came
from the neighborhood of Merrion Square and Fitzwilliam Street, a
service of considerable fatigue. The outlying pickets in College Green,
being induced probably by the inclemency of the season, were rather
tipsy on joining, and having engaged in a skirmish with old M'Calister,
tying his red uniform over his head, the moment of attack
was precipitated, and we moved to the trenches by half-past nine
Nothing could be more orderly, nothing more perfect, than the
march of the troops. As we approached the corner of the commons-hall,
a skirmish on the rear apprised us that our intentions had become
known; and I soon learned from my aide-de-camp, Bob Moore,
that the attack was made by a strong column of the enemy, under
the command of old Fitzgerald.
Perpendicular (as your lordship is aware he is styled by the army)
came on in a determined manner, and before many minutes had
elapsed had taken several prisoners, among others Tom Drummond,--Long
Tom,--who, having fallen on all fours, was mistaken for a
long eighteen. The success, however, was but momentary; Nesbitt's
Brigade attacked them in flank, rescued the prisoners, extinguished
the dean's lantern, and having beaten back the heavy porters, took
Perpendicular himself prisoner.
An express from the left informed me that the attack upon the
provost's house had proved equally successful; there wasn't a whole
pane of glass in the front, and from a footman who deserted, it was
learned that Mrs. Hutchinson was in hysterics.
While I was reading this despatch, a strong feeling of the line
towards the right announced that something was taking place in that
direction. Bob Moore, who rode by on Drummond's back, hurriedly
informed me that Williams had put the lighted end of his cigar to
one of the fuses, but the powder, being wet, did not explode
notwithstanding his efforts to effect it. Upon this, I hastened to the
front, where I found the individual in question kneeling upon the
ground, and endeavoring, as far as punch would permit him, to kindle a
flame at the portfire. Before I could interfere, the spark had caught;
a loud, hissing noise followed; the different magazines successively
became ignited, and at length the fire reached the great four-pound
I cannot convey to your lordship, by any words of mine, an idea of
this terrible explosion; the blazing splinters were hurled into the
air, and fell in fiery masses on every side from the park to King
William; Ivey the bell-ringer, was precipitated from the scaffold
beside the bell, and fell headlong into the mud beneath; the
surrounding buildings trembled at the shock; the windows were
shattered, and in fact a scene of perfect devastation ensued on all
When the smoke cleared away, I rose from my recumbent position,
and perceived with delight that not a vestige of the pump remained.
The old iron handle was imbedded in the wall of the dining-hall, and
its round knob stood out like the end of a queue.
Our loss was, of course, considerable; and ordering the wounded
to the rear, I proceeded to make an orderly and regular retreat. At
this time, however, the enemy had assembled in force. Two battalions
of porters, led on by Dr. Dobbin, charged us on the flank; a
heavy brigade poured down upon us from the battery, and but for
the exertions of Harry Nesbitt, our communication with our reserves
must have been cut off. Cecil Cavendish also came up; for although
beaten in his great attack, the forces under his command had penetrated
by the kitchen windows, and carried oil a considerable quantity
of cold meat.
Concentrating the different corps, I made an echelon movement
upon the chapel, to admit of the light division coming up. This they
did in a few moments, informing me that they had left Perpendicular
in the haha, which, as your lordship is aware, is a fosse of the
very greenest and most stagnant nature. We now made good our retreat
upon number "2," carrying our wounded with us. The plunder
we also secured; but we kicked the prisoners, and suffered them to
Thus terminated, my lord, one of the brightest achievements of the
undergraduate career. I enclose a list of the wounded, as also an
account of the various articles returned in the commissary-general's
Harry Nesbitt: severely wounded; no coat nor hat; a black-eye;
left shoe missing.
Cecil Cavendish: face severely scratched; supposed to have received
his wound in the attack upon the kitchen.
Tom Drummond: not recognizable by his friends; his features
resembling a transparency disfigured by the smoke of the preceding
Bob Moore: slightly wounded.
I would beg particularly to recommend all these officers to your
lordship's notice; indeed, the conduct of Moore, in kicking the dean's
lantern out of the porter's hand, was marked by great promptitude
and decision. This officer will present to H. R. H. the following
trophies, taken from the enemy: The dean's cap and tassel; the key
of his chambers; Dr. Dobbin's wig and bands; four porters' helmets,
and a book on the cellar.
I have the honor to remain, my lord, etc.,
The commander-of-the-forces returns his thanks to the various
officers and soldiers employed in the late assault, for their
persevering gallantry and courage. The splendor of the achievement
can only be equalled by the humanity and good conduct of the troops.
It only remains for him to add, that the less they say about the
transaction, and the sooner they are severally confined to their beds
with symptoms of contagious fever, the better.
Meanwhile, to concert upon the future measures of the campaign, the
army will sup to-night at Morrison's.
Here ended this precious epistle, rendering one fact sufficiently
evident,--that, however my worthy friend advanced in years, he had not
grown in wisdom.
While ruminating upon the strange infatuation which could persuade a gifted
and an able man to lavish upon dissipation and reckless absurdity the
talents that must, if well directed, raise him to eminence and distinction,
a few lines of a newspaper paragraph fell from the paper I was reading. It
LATE OUTRAGE IN TRINITY COLLEGE, DUBLIN.
We have great pleasure in stating that the serious disturbance which
took place within the walls of our University a few evenings since,
was in no wise attributable to the conduct of the students. A party
of ill-disposed townspeople were, it would appear, the instigators
and perpetrators of the outrage. That their object was the total
destruction of our venerated University there can be but little
doubt. Fortunately, however, they did not calculate upon the _esprit
de corps_ of the students, a body of whom, under the direction of Mr.
Webber, successfully opposed the assailants, and finally drove them
from the walls.
It is, we understand, the intention of the board to confer some mark
of approbation upon Mr. Webber, who, independently of this, has
strong claims upon their notice, his collegiate success pointing him
out as the most extraordinary man of his day.
This, my dear Charley, will give you some faint conception of one
of the most brilliant exploits of modern days. The bulletin, believe
me, is not Napoleonized into any bombastic extravagance of success.
The tiling was splendid; from the brilliant firework of the old pump
itself, to the figure of Perpendicular dripping with duckweed, like
an insane river-god, it was unequalled. Our fellows behaved like
trumps; and to do them justice, so did the enemy. But unfortunately,
notwithstanding this, and the plausible paragraphs of the
morning papers, I have been summoned before the board for Tuesday
Meanwhile I employ myself in throwing off a shower of small
squibs for the journals, so that if the board deal not mercifully with
me, I may meet with sympathy from the public. I have just despatched
a little editorial bit for the "Times," calling, in terms of
parental tenderness, upon the University to say--
"How long will the extraordinary excesses of a learned funct
be suffered to disgrace college? Is Doctor ---- to be permitted to
exhibit an example of more riotous insubordination than would be
endured in an undergraduate? More on this subject hereafter."
"'Saunders' News-letter.'--Dr. Barret appeared at the head
police-office, before Alderman Darley, to make oath that neither he
nor Catty were concerned in the late outrage upon the pump." etc.,
Paragraphs like these are flying about in every provincial paper of
the empire. People shake their heads when they speak of the University,
and respectable females rather cross over by King William and
the Bank than pass near its precincts.
Would you believe it, they've expelled me! Address your next
letter as usual, for they haven't got rid of me yet.
Yours, F. W.
"So I shall find him in his old quarters," thought I, "and evidently not
much altered since we parted." It was not without a feeling of (I trust
pardonable) pride that I thought over my own career in the interval. My
three years of campaigning life had given me some insight into the world,
and some knowledge of myself, and conferred upon me a boon, of which I know
not the equal,--that, while yet young, and upon the very threshold of life,
I should have tasted the enthusiastic pleasures of a soldier's fortune, and
braved the dangers and difficulties of a campaign at a time when, under
other auspices, I might have wasted my years in unprofitable idleness or
Twelve hours after my arrival in England I entered London. I cannot attempt
to record the sensations which thronged my mind as the din and tumult of
that mighty city awoke me from a sound sleep I had fallen into in the
corner of the chaise. The seemingly interminable lines of lamplight, the
crash of carriages, the glare of the shops, the buzz of voices, made up a
chaotic mass of sights and sounds, leaving my efforts at thought vain and
Obedient to my instructions, I lost not a moment in my preparations to
deliver my despatches. Having dressed myself in the full uniform of my
corps, I drove to the Horse Guards. It was now nine o'clock, and I learned
that his Royal Highness had gone to dinner at Carlton House. In a few words
which I spoke with the aide-de-camp, I discovered that no information of
the fall of Ciudad Rodrigo had yet reached England. The greatest anxiety
prevailed as to the events of the Peninsula, from which no despatches had
been received for several weeks past.
To Carlton House I accordingly bent my steps, without any precise
determination how I should proceed when there, nor knowing how far
etiquette might be an obstacle to the accomplishment of my mission. The
news of which I was the bearer was, however, of too important a character
to permit me to hesitate, and I presented myself to the aide-de-camp in
waiting, simply stating that I was intrusted with important letters to his
Royal Highness, the purport of which did not admit of delay.
"They have not gone to dinner yet," lisped out the aide-de-camp, "and if
you would permit me to deliver the letters--"
"Mine are despatches," said I, somewhat proudly, and in no way disposed to
cede to another the honor of personally delivering them into the hands of
"Then you had better present yourself at the levee to-morrow morning,"
replied he, carelessly, while he turned into one of the window recesses,
and resumed the conversation with one of the gentlemen-in-waiting.
I stood for some moments uncertain and undecided; reluctant on the one
part to relinquish my claim as the bearer of the despatches, and equally
unwilling to defer their delivery till the following day.
Adopting the former alternative, I took my papers from my sabretasche,
and was about to place them in the hands of the aide-de-camp, when the
folding-doors at the end of the apartment suddenly flew open, and a large
and handsome man with a high bald forehead entered hastily.
The different persons in waiting sprang from their lounging attitudes upon
the sofas, and bowed respectfully as he passed on towards another door.
His dress was a plain blue coat, buttoned to the collar, and his only
decoration a brilliant star upon the breast. There was that air, however,
of high birth and bearing about him that left no doubt upon my mind he was
of the blood royal.
As the aide-de-camp to whom I had been speaking opened the door for him to
pass out, I could hear some words in a low voice, in which the phrases,
"letters of importance" and "your Royal Highness" occurred. The individual
addressed turned suddenly about, and casting a rapid glance around the
room, without deigning a word in reply, walked straight up to where I was
"Despatches for me, sir?" said he, shortly, taking, as he spoke, the packet
from my hand.
"For his Royal Highness the commander-in-chief," said I, bowing
respectfully, and still uncertain in whose presence I was standing. He
broke the seal without answering, and as his eye caught the first lines of
the despatch, broke out into an exclamation of--
Ha, Peninsular news! When did you arrive, sir?"
"An hour since, sir."
"And these letters are from--"
"General Picton, your Royal Highness."
"How glorious! How splendidly done!" muttered he to himself, as he ran his
eyes rapidly over the letter. "Are you Captain O'Malley, whose name is
mentioned here so favorably?"
I bowed deeply in reply.
"You are most highly spoken of, and it will give me sincere pleasure to
recommend you to the notice of the Prince Regent. But stay a moment," so
saying, he hurriedly passed from the room, leaving me overwhelmed at the
suddenness of the incident, and a mark of no small astonishment to the
different persons in waiting, who had hitherto no other idea but that my
despatches were from Hounslow or Knightsbridge.
"Captain O'Malley," said an officer covered with decorations, and whose
slightly foreign accent bespoke the Hanoverian, "his Royal Highness
requests you will accompany me." The door opened as he spoke, and I found
myself in a most splendidly lit-up apartment,--the walls covered with
pictures, and the ceiling divided, into panels resplendent with the richest
gilding. A group of persons in court dresses were conversing in a low tone
as we entered, but suddenly ceased, and saluting my conductor respectfully,
made way for us to pass on. The folding-doors again opened as we
approached, and we found ourselves in a long gallery, whose sumptuous
furniture and costly decorations shone beneath the rich tints of a massive
lustre of ruby glass, diffusing a glow resembling the most gorgeous sunset.
Here also some persons in handsome uniform were conversing, one of whom
accosted my companion by the title of "Baron;" nodding familiarly as he
muttered a few words in German, he passed forward, and the next moment the
doors were thrown suddenly wide, and we entered the drawing-room.
The buzz of voices and the sound of laughter reassured me as I came
forward, and before I had well time to think where and why I was there, the
Duke of York advanced towards me, with a smile of peculiar sweetness in its
expression, and said, as he turned towards one side:--
"Your Royal Highness--Captain O'Malley!"
As he spoke the Prince moved forward, and bowed slightly.
"You've brought us capital news, Mr. O'Malley. May I beg, if you're not
too much tired, you'll join us at dinner. I am most anxious to learn the
particulars of the assault."
As I bowed my acknowledgments to the gracious invitation, he continued:--
"Are you acquainted with my friend here?--but of course you can scarcely
be; you began too early as a soldier. So let me present you to my friend,
Mr. Tierney," a middle-aged man, whose broad, white forehead and deep-set
eyes gave a character to features that were otherwise not remarkable in
expression, and who bowed rather stiffly.
Before he had concluded a somewhat labored compliment to me, we were joined
by a third person, whose strikingly-handsome features were lit up with an
expression of the most animated kind. He accosted the Prince with an air
of easy familiarity, and while he led him from the group, appeared to be
relating some anecdote which actually convulsed his Royal Highness with
Before I had time or opportunity to inquire who the individual could
be, dinner was announced, and the wide folding-doors being thrown open,
displayed the magnificent dining-room of Carlton House in all the blaze and
splendor of its magnificence.
The sudden change from the rough vicissitudes of campaigning life to all
the luxury and voluptuous elegance of a brilliant court, created too much
confusion in my mind to permit of my impressions being the most accurate
or most collected. The splendor of the scene, the rank, but even more the
talent of the individuals by whom I was surrounded, had all their full
effect upon me. And although I found, from the tone of the conversation
about, how immeasurably I was their inferior, yet by a delicate and
courteous interest in the scene of which I had lately partaken, they took
away the awkwardness which in some degree was inseparable from the novelty
of my position among them.
Conversing about the Peninsula with a degree of knowledge which I could
in no wise comprehend from those not engaged in the war, they appeared
perfectly acquainted with all the details of the campaign; and I heard on
every side of me anecdotes and stories which I scarcely believed known
beyond the precincts of a regiment. The Prince himself--the grace and charm
of whose narrative talents have seldom been excelled--was particularly
conspicuous, and I could not help feeling struck with his admirable
imitations of voice and manner. The most accomplished actor could not have
personated the canny, calculating spirit of the Scot, or the rollicking
recklessness of the Irishman, with more tact and _finesse_. But far above
all this, shone the person I have already alluded to as speaking to his
Royal Highness in the drawing-room. Combining the happiest conversational
eloquence with a quick, ready, and brilliant fancy, he threw from him in
all the careless profusion of boundless resource a shower of pointed and
epigrammatic witticisms. Now illustrating a really difficult subject by one
happy touch, as the blaze of the lightning will light up the whole surface
of the dark landscape beneath it; now turning the force of an adversary's
argument by some fallacious but unanswerable jest, accompanying the whole
by those fascinations of voice, look, gesture, and manner which have made
those who once have seen, never able to forget Brinsley Sheridan.
I am not able, were I even disposed, to record more particularly the
details of that most brilliant evening of my life. On every side of me I
heard the names of those whose fame as statesmen or whose repute as men of
letters was ringing throughout Europe. They were then, too, not in the easy
indolence of ordinary life, but displaying with their utmost effort those
powers of wit, fancy, imagination, and eloquence which had won for them
elsewhere their high and exalted position. The masculine understanding
and powerful intellect of Tierney vied with the brilliant and dazzling
conceptions of Sheridan. The easy _bonhomie_ and English heartiness of Fox
contrasted with the cutting sarcasm and sharp raillery of O'Kelly. While
contesting the palm with each himself, the Prince evinced powers of mind
and eloquent facilities of expression that, in any walk of life, must
have made their possessor a most distinguished man. Politics, war, women,
literature, the turf, the navy, the opposition, architecture, and the
drama, were all discussed with a degree of information and knowledge that
proved to me how much of real acquirements can be obtained by those whose
exalted station surrounds them with the collective intellect of a nation.
As for myself, the time flew past unconsciously. So brilliant a display of
all that was courtly and fascinating in manner, and all that was brightest
in genius, was so novel to me, that I really felt like one entranced. To
this hour, my impression, however confused in details, is as vivid as
though that evening were but yesternight; and although since that period
I have enjoyed numerous opportunities of meeting with the great and the
gifted, yet I treasure the memory of that evening as by far the most
exciting of my whole life.
While I abstain from any mention of the many incidents of the evening,
I cannot pass over one which, occurring to myself, is valuable but as
showing, by one slight and passing trait, the amiable and kind feeling of
one whose memory is hallowed in the service.
A little lower than myself, on the opposite side of the table, I perceived
an old military acquaintance whom I had first met in Lisbon. He was then on
Sir Charles Stewart's staff, and we met almost daily. Wishing to commend
myself to his recollection, I endeavored for some time to catch his eye,
but in vain; but at last when I thought I had succeeded, I called to him,--
"I say, Fred, a glass of wine with you."
When suddenly the Duke of York, who was speaking to Lord Hertford, turned
quickly round, and taking the decanter in his hand, replied,--
"With pleasure, O'Malley. What shall it be, my boy?"
I shall never forget the manly good-humor of his look as he sat waiting for
my answer. He had taken my speech as addressed to himself, and concluding
that from fatigue, the novelty of the scene, my youth, etc., I was not over
collected, vouchsafed in this kind way to receive it.
"So," said he, as I stammered out my explanation, "I was deceived. However,
don't cheat me out of my glass of wine. Let us have it now."
With this little anecdote, whose truth I vouch for, I shall conclude. More
than one now living was a witness to it, and my only regret in the mention
of it is my inability to convey the readiness with which he seized the
moment of apparent difficulty to throw the protection of his kind and
warm-hearted nature over the apparent folly of a boy.
It was late when the party broke up, and as I took my leave of the Prince,
he once more expressed himself in gracious terms towards me, and gave
me personally an invitation to a breakfast at Hounslow on the following
THE BELL AT BRISTOL.
On the morning after my dinner at Carlton House, I found my breakfast-table
covered with cards and invitations. The news of the storming of Ciudad
Rodrigo was published in all the morning papers, and my own humble name, in
letters of three feet long, was exhibited in placards throughout the city.
Less to this circumstance, however, than to the kind and gracious notice of
the Prince, was I indebted for the attentions which were shown me by
every one; and indeed, so flattering was the reception I met with, and so
overwhelming the civility showered on me from all sides, that it required
no small effort on my part not to believe myself as much a hero as they
would make me. An eternal round of dinners, balls, breakfasts, and
entertainments filled up the entire week. I was included in every
invitation to Carlton House, and never appeared without receiving from his
Royal Highness the most striking marks of attention. Captivating as all
this undoubtedly was, and fascinated as I felt in being the lion of London,
the courted and sought after by the high, the titled, and the talented of
the great city of the universe, yet amidst all the splendor and seduction
of that new world, my heart instinctively turned from the glare and
brilliancy of gorgeous saloons, from the soft looks and softer voice of
beauty, from the words of praise as they fell from the lips of those whose
notice was fame itself,--to my humble home amidst the mountains of the
west. Delighted and charmed as I felt by that tribute of flattery which
associated my name with one of the most brilliant actions of my country,
yet hitherto I had experienced no touch of home or fatherland. England was
to me as the high and powerful head of my house, whose greatness and whose
glory shed a halo far and near, from the proudest to the humblest of those
that call themselves Britons; but Ireland was-the land of my birth,--the
land of my earliest ties, my dearest associations,--the kind mother whose
breath had fanned my brow in infancy, and for her in my manhood my heart
beat with every throb of filial affection. Need I say, then, how ardently
I longed to turn homeward; for independent of all else, I could not avoid
some self-reproach on thinking what might be the condition of those I
prized the most on earth, at that very moment I was engaging in all the
voluptuous abandonment, and all the fascinating excesses of a life of
pleasure. I wrote several letters home, but received no answer; nor did I,
in the whole round of London society, meet with a single person who could
give me information of my family or my friends. The Easter recess had sent
the different members of Parliament to their homes; and thus, within a
comparatively short distance of all I cared for, I could learn nothing of
The invitations of the Prince Regent, which were, of course, to be regarded
as commands, still detained me in London; and I knew not in what manner
to escape from the fresh engagements which each day heaped upon me. In
my anxiety upon the subject, I communicated my wishes to a friend on the
duke's staff, and the following morning, as I presented myself at his
levee, he called me towards him and addressed me:--
"What leave have you got, Captain O'Malley?"
"Three months, your Royal Highness."
"Do you desire an unattached troop; for if so, an opportunity occurs just
at this moment."
"I thank you most sincerely, sir, for your condescension in thinking of me;
but my wish is to join my regiment at the expiration of my leave."
"Why, I thought they told me you wanted to spend some time in Ireland?"
"Only sufficient to see my friends, your Royal Highness. That done, I'd
rather join my regiment immediately."
"Ah, that alters the case! So then, probably, you'd like to leave us at
once. I see how it is; you've been staying here against your will all this
while. Then, don't say a word. I'll make your excuses at Carlton House; and
the better to cover your retreat, I'll employ you on service. Here, Gordon,
let Captain O'Malley have the despatches for Sir Henry Howard, at Cork." As
he said this, he turned towards me with an air of affected sternness in his
manner, and continued: "I expect, Captain O'Malley, that you will deliver
the despatches intrusted to your care without a moment's loss of time. You
will leave London within an hour. The instructions for your journey will
be sent to your hotel. And now," said he, again changing his voice to its
natural tone of kindliness and courtesy,--"and now, my boy, good-by, and a
safe journey to you. These letters will pay your expenses, and the occasion
save you all the worry of leave-taking."
I stood confused and speechless, unable to utter a single word of gratitude
for such unexpected kindness. The duke saw at once my difficulty, and as he
shook me warmly by the hand, added, in a laughing tone,--
"Don't wait, now; you mustn't forget that your despatches are pressing."
I bowed deeply, attempted a few words of acknowledgment, hesitated,
blundered, broke down, and at last got out of the room, Heaven knows how,
and found myself running towards Long's at the top of my speed. Within that
same hour I was rattling along towards Bristol as fast as four posters
could burn the pavement, thinking with ecstasy over the pleasures of my
reception in England; but far more than all, of the kindness evinced
towards me by him who, in every feeling of his nature, and in every feature
of his deportment was "every inch a prince."
However astonished I had been at the warmth, by which I was treated in
London, I was still less prepared for the enthusiasm which greeted me in
every town through which I passed. There was not a village where we stopped
to change horses whose inhabitants did not simultaneously pour forth to
welcome me with every demonstration of delight. That the fact of four
horses and a yellow chaise should have elicited such testimonies of
satisfaction, was somewhat difficult to conceive; and even had the
important news that I was the bearer of despatches been telegraphed from
London by successive postboys, still the extraordinary excitement was
unaccountable. It was only on reaching Bristol that I learned to what
circumstance my popularity was owing. My friend Mike, in humble imitation
of election practices, had posted a large placard on the back of the
chaise, announcing, in letters of portentous length, something like the
"Bloody news! Fall of Ciudad Rodrigo! Five thousand prisoners
and two hundred pieces of cannon taken!"
This veracious and satisfactory statement, aided by Mike's personal
exertions, and an unwearied performance on the trumpet he had taken from
the French dragoon, had roused the population of every hamlet, and made our
journey from London to Bristol one scene of uproar, noise, and confusion.
All my attempts to suppress Mike's oratory or music were perfectly
unavailing. In fact, he had pledged my health so many times during the day;
he had drunk so many toasts to the success of the British arms, so many to
the English nation, so many in honor of Ireland, and so many in honor of
Mickey Free himself,--that all respect for my authority was lost in his
enthusiasm for my greatness, and his shouts became wilder, and the blasts
from the trumpet more fearful and incoherent; and finally, on the last
stage of our journey, having exhausted as it were every tribute of his
lungs, he seemed (if I were to judge by the evidence of my ears) to be
performing something very like a hornpipe on the roof of the chaise.
Happily for me there is a limit to all human efforts, and even _his_ powers
at length succumbed; so that, when we arrived at Bristol, I persuaded him
to go to bed, and I once more was left to the enjoyment of some quiet. To
fill up the few hours which intervened before bedtime, I strolled into the
coffee room. The English look of every one, and everything around, had
still its charm for me; and I contemplated, with no small admiration, that
air of neatness and propriety so observant from the bright-faced clock that
ticked unwearily upon the mantelpiece, to the trim waiter himself, with
noiseless step and a mixed look of vigilance and vacancy. The perfect
stillness struck me, save when a deep voice called for "another
brandy-and-water," and some more modestly-toned request would utter a
desire for "more cream." The attention of each man, absorbed in the folds
of his voluminous newspaper, scarcely deigning a glance at the new-comer
who entered, was in keeping with the general surroundings,--giving, in
their solemnity and gravity, a character of almost religious seriousness,
to what, in any other land, would be a scene of riotous and discordant
tumult. I was watching all this with a more than common interest, when the
door opened, and the waiter entered with a large placard. He was followed
by another with a ladder, by whose assistance he succeeded in attaching the
large square of paper to the wall above the fireplace. Every one about rose
up, curious to ascertain what was going forward; and I myself joined in the
crowd around the fire. The first glance of the announcement showed me
what it meant; and it was with a strange mixture of shame and confusion I
"_Fall of Ciudad Rodrigo: with a full and detailed account of the
storming of the great breach, capture of the enemy's cannon, etc., by
Michael Free, 14th Light Dragoons_."
Leaving the many around me busied in conjecturing who the aforesaid Mr.
Free might be, and what peculiar opportunities he might have enjoyed for
his report, I hurried from the room and called the waiter.
"What's the meaning of the announcement you've just put up in the
coffee-room? Where did it come from?"
"Most important news, sir; exclusively in the columns of the '_Bristol
Telegraph_,'--the gentleman has just arrived--"
"Who, pray? What gentleman?"
"Mr. Free, sir, No. 13--large bed-room--blue damask--supper for
two--oysters--a devil--brandy-and-water-mulled port."
"What the devil do you mean? Is the fellow at supper?"
Somewhat shocked by the tone I ventured to assume towards the illustrious
narrator, the waiter merely bowed his reply.
"Show me to his room," said I; "I should like to see him."
"Follow me, if you please, sir,--this way. What name shall I say, sir?"
"You need not mind announcing me,--I'm an old acquaintance,--just show me
"I beg pardon, sir, but Mr. Meekins, the editor of the '_Telegraph_,' is
engaged with him at present; and positive orders are given not to suffer
"No matter; do as I bid you. Is that it? Oh, I hear his voice. There, that
will do. You may go down-stairs, I'll introduce myself."
[Illustration: CAPTAIN MICKEY FREE RELATING HIS HEROIC DEEDS.]
So saying, and slipping a crown into the waiter's hand, I proceeded
cautiously towards the door, and opened it stealthily. My caution was,
however, needless; for a large screen was drawn across this part of the
room, completely concealing the door, closing which behind me, I took my
place beneath the shelter of this ambuscade, determined on no account to be
perceived by the parties.
Seated in a large arm-chair, a smoking tumbler of mulled port before him,
sat my friend Mike, dressed in my full regimentals, even to the helmet,
which, unfortunately however for the effect, he had put on back foremost; a
short "dudeen" graced his lip, and the trumpet so frequently alluded to lay
Opposite him sat a short, puny, round-faced little gentleman with rolling
eyes and a turned up nose. Numerous sheets of paper, pens, etc., lay
scattered about; and he evinced, by his air and gesture, the most marked
and eager attention to Mr. Free's narrative, whose frequent interruptions,
caused by the drink and the oysters, were viewed with no small impatience
by the anxious editor.
"You must remember, Captain, time's passing; the placards are all out. Must
be at press before one o'clock to-night,--the morning edition is everything
with us. You were at the first parallel, I think."
"Devil a one o' me knows. Just ring that bell near you. Them's elegant
oysters; and you're not taking your drop of liquor. Here's a toast for you:
'May--' Whoop! raal Carlingford's, upon my conscience! See now, if I won't
hit the little black chap up there the first shot."
Scarcely were the words spoken, when a little painted bust of Shakespeare
fell in fragments on the floor, as an oyster-shell laid him low.
A faint effort at a laugh at the eccentricities of his friend was all the
poor editor could accomplish, while Mike's triumph knew no bounds.
"Didn't I tell you? But come now, are you ready? Give the pen a drink, if
you won't take one yourself."
"I am ready, quite ready," responded the editor.
"Faith, and it's more nor I am. See now, here it is: The night was
murthering dark; you could not see a stim."
"Not see a--a what?"
"A stim, bad luck to you; don't you know English? Hand me the hot water.
Have you that down yet?"
"Yes. Pray proceed."
"The Fifth Division was orthered up, bekase they were fighting chaps; the
Eighty-eighth was among them; the Rangers--Oh, upon my soul, we must drink
the Rangers! Here, devil a one o' me will go on till we give them all the
"Hip!" sighed the luckless editor, as he rose from his chair, obedient to
"Hurra! hurra! hurra! Well done! There's stuff in you yet, ould foolscap!
The little bottle's empty; ring again, if ye plaze.
'Oh, Father Magan
Was a beautiful man,
But a bit of a rogue, a bit of a rogue!
He was just six feet high,
Had a cast in his eye,
And an illigint brogue, an illigint brogue!
'He was born in Killarney,
And reared up in blarney--'
"Arrah, don't be looking miserable and dissolute that way. Sure, I'm only
screwing myself up for you; besides, you can print the song av you like.
It's a sweet tune, 'Teddy, you Gander,'"
"Really, Mr. Free, I see no prospect of our ever getting done."
"The saints in Heaven forbid!" interrupted Mike, piously; "the evening's
young, and drink plenty. Here now, make ready!"
The editor once more made a gesture of preparation.
"Well, as I was saying," resumed Mike, "it was pitch dark when the columns
moved up, and a cold, raw night, with a little thin rain falling. Have you
"Yes. Pray go on."
"Well, just as it might be here, at the corner of the trench, I met Dr.
Quill. 'They're waiting for you, Mr. Free,' says he, 'down there. Picton's
asking for you.' 'Faith, and he must wait,' says I, 'for I'm terrible
dry.' With that, he pulled out his canteen and mixed me a little
brandy-and-water. 'Are you taking it without a toast?' says Doctor Maurice.
'Never fear,' says I; 'here's Mary Brady--'"
"But, my dear sir," interposed Mr. Meekins, "pray _do_ remember this is
somewhat irrelevant. In fifteen minutes it will be twelve o'clock."
"I know it, ould boy, I know it. I see what you're at. You were going to
observe how much better we'd be for a broiled bone."
"Nothing of the kind, I assure you. For Heaven's sake, no more eating and
"No more eating nor drinking! Why not? You've a nice notion of a convivial
evening. Faith, we'll have the broiled bone sure enough, and, what's more,
a half gallon of the strongest punch they can make us; an' I hope that,
grave as you are, you'll favor the company with a song."
"Really, Mr. Free--"
"Arrah, none of your blarney! Don't be misthering me! Call me Mickey, or
Mickey Free, if you like better."
"I protest," said the editor, with dismay, "that here we are two hours at
work, and we haven't got to the foot of the great breach."
"And wasn't the army three months and a half in just getting that far, with
a battering train and mortars and the finest troops ever were seen? And
there you sit, a little fat creature, with your pen in your hand, grumbling
that you can't do more than the whole British army. Take care you don't
provoke me to beat you; for I am quiet till I'm roused. But, by the Rock o'
Here he grasped the brass trumpet with an energy that made the editor
spring from his chair.
"For mercy's sake, Mr. Free--"
"Well, I won't; but sit down there, and don't be bothering me about sieges
and battles and things you know nothing about."
"I protest," rejoined Mr. Meekins, "that, had you not sent to my office
intimating your wish to communicate an account of the siege, I never should
have thought of intruding myself upon you. And now, since you appear
indisposed to afford the information in question, if you will permit me,
I'll wish you a very good-night."
"Faith, and so you shall, and help me to pass one too; for not a step out
o' that chair shall you take till morning. Do ye think I am going to be
left here by myself all alone?"
"I must observe--" said Mr. Meekins.
"To be sure, to be sure," said Mickey; "I see what you mean. You're not the
best of company, it's true; but at a pinch like this--There now, take, your
"Once for all, sir," said the editor, "I would beg you to recollect that,
on the faith of your message to me, I have announced an account of the
storming of Ciudad Rodrigo for our morning edition. Are you prepared, may I
ask, for the consequences of my disappointing ten thousand readers?"
"It's little I care for one of them. I never knew much of reading myself."
"If you think to make a jest of me--" interposed Mr. Meekins, reddening
"A jest of you! Troth, it's little fun I can get out of you; you're as
tiresome a creature as ever I spent an evening with. See now, I told you
before not to provoke me; we'll have a little more drink; ring the bell.
Who knows but you'll turn out better by-and-by?"
As Mike rose at these words to summon the waiter, Mr. Meekins seized the
opportunity to make his escape. Scarcely had he reached the door, however,
when he was perceived by Mickey, who hurled the trumpet at him with all his
force, while he uttered a shout that nearly left the poor editor lifeless
with terror. This time, happily, Mr. Free's aim failed him, and before he
could arrest the progress of his victim, he had gained the corridor,
and with one bound, cleared the first flight of the staircase, his pace
increasing every moment as Mike's denunciations grew louder and louder,
till at last, as he reached the street, Mr. Free's delight overcame his
indignation, and he threw himself upon a chair and laughed immoderately.
"Oh, may I never! if I didn't frighten the editor. The little spalpeen
couldn't eat his oysters and take his punch like a man. But sure if he
didn't, there's more left for his betters." So saying, he filled himself
a goblet and drank it off. "Mr. Free, we won't say much for your
inclinations, for maybe they are not the best; but here's bad luck to the
fellow that doesn't think you good company; and here," added he, again
filling his glass,--"and here's may the devil take editors and authors and
compositors, that won't let us alone, but must be taking our lives and our
songs and our little devilments, that belongs to one's own family, and tell
them all over the world. A lazy set of thieves you are, every one of you;
spending your time inventing lies, devil a more nor less; and here," this
time he filled again,--"and here's a hot corner and Kilkenny coals, that's
half sulphur, to the villain--"
For what particular class of offenders Mike's penal code was now devised, I
was not destined to learn; for overcome by punch and indignation, he gave
one loud whoop, and measured his length upon the floor. Having committed
him to the care of the waiters, from whom I learned more fully the
particulars of his acquaintance with Mr. Meekins, I enjoined them,
strictly, not to mention that I knew anything of the matter; and betook
myself to my bed sincerely rejoicing that in a few hours more Mike would
be again in that laud where even his eccentricities and excesses would be
viewed with a favorable and forgiving eye.
"You'd better call your master up," said the skipper to Mickey Free, on the
second evening after our departure from Bristol; "he said he'd like to have
a look at the coast."
The words were overheard by me, as I lay between sleeping and waking in the
cabin of the packet, and without waiting for a second invitation, I rushed
upon deck. The sun was setting, and one vast surface of yellow golden light
played upon the water, as it rippled beneath a gentle gale. The white foam
curled at our prow, and the rushing sound told the speed we were going at.
The little craft was staggering under every sheet of her canvas, and her
spars creaked as her white sails bent before the breeze. Before us, but to
my landsman's eyes scarcely perceptible, were the ill-defined outlines of
cloudy darkness they called land, and which I continued to gaze at with a
strange sense of interest, while I heard the names of certain well-known
headlands assigned to apparently mere masses of fog-bank and vapor.
He who has never been separated in early years, while yet the budding
affections of his heart are tender shoots, from the land of his birth and
of his home, knows nothing of the throng of sensations that crowd upon him
as he nears the shore of his country. The names, familiar as household
words, come with a train of long-buried thoughts; the feeling of attachment
to all we call our own--that patriotism of the heart--stirs strongly within
him, as the mingled thrills of hope and fear alternately move him to joy or
Hard as are the worldly struggles between the daily cares of him who carves
out his own career and fortune, yet he has never experienced the darkest
poverty of fate who has not felt what it is to be a wanderer, without a
country to lay claim to. Of all the desolations that visit us, this is the
gloomiest and the worst. The outcast from the land of his fathers, whose
voice must never be heard within the walls where his infancy was nurtured,
nor his step be free upon the mountains where he gambolled in his youth,
this is indeed wretchedness. The instinct of country grows and strengthens
with our years; the joys of early life are linked with it; the hopes of
age point towards it; and he who knows not the thrill of ecstasy some
well-remembered, long-lost-sight-of place can bring to his heart when
returning after years of absence, is ignorant of one of the purest sources
of happiness of our nature.
With what a yearning of the heart, then, did I look upon the dim and misty
cliffs, that mighty framework of my island home, their stern sides lashed
by the blue waters of the ocean, and their summits lost within the clouds!
With what an easy and natural transition did my mind turn from the wild
mountains and the green valleys to their hardy sons, who toiled beneath
the burning sun of the Peninsula; and how, as some twinkling light of the
distant shore would catch my eye, did I wonder within myself whether
beside that hearth and board there might not sit some whose thoughts
were wandering over the sea beside the bold steeps of El Bodon, or the
death-strewn plain of Talavera,--their memories calling up some trait of
him who was the idol of his home; whose closing lids some fond mother had
watched over; above whose peaceful slumber her prayers had fallen; but
whose narrow bed was now beneath the breach of Badajos, and his sleep the
sleep that knows not waking!
I know not if in my sad and sorrowing spirit I did not envy him who thus
had met a soldier's fate,--for what of promise had my own! My hopes of
being in any way instrumental to my poor uncle's happiness grew hourly
less. His prejudices were deeply rooted and of long standing; to have asked
him to surrender any of what he looked upon as the prerogatives of his
house and name, would be to risk the loss of his esteem. What then remained
for me? Was I to watch, day by day and hour by hour, the falling ruin of
our fortunes? Was I to involve myself in the petty warfare of unavailing
resistance to the law? And could I stand aloof from my best, my truest, my
earliest friend, and see him, alone and unaided, oppose his weak and final
struggle to the unrelenting career of persecution. Between these two
alternatives the former could be my only choice; and what a choice!
Oh, how I thought over the wild heroism of the battle-field, the reckless
fury of the charge, the crash, the death-cry, and the sad picture of the
morrow, when all was past, and a soldier's glory alone remained to shed its
high halo over the faults and the follies of the dead.
As night fell, the twinkling of the distant lighthouses--some throwing
a column of light from the very verge of the horizon, others shining
brightly, like stars, from some lofty promontory--marked the different
outlines of the coast, and conveyed to me the memory of that broken and
wild mountain tract that forms the bulwark of the Green Isle against the
waves of the Atlantic. Alone and silently I trod the deck, now turning to
look towards the shore, where I thought I could detect the position of some
well-known headland, now straining my eyes seaward to watch some bright
and flitting star, as it rose from or merged beneath the foaming water,
denoting the track of the swift pilot-boat, or the hardy lugger of the
fisherman; while the shrill whistle of the floating sea-gull was the only
sound save the rushing waves that broke in spray upon our quarter.
What is it that so inevitably inspires sad and depressing thoughts as we
walk the deck of some little craft in the silence of the night's dark
hours? No sense of danger near, we hold on our course swiftly and steadily,
cleaving the dark waves and bending gracefully beneath the freshening
breeze. Yet still the motion, which, in the bright sunshine of the noonday
tells of joy and gladness, brings now no touch of pleasure to our hearts.
The dark and frowning sky, the boundless expanse of gloomy water, spread
like some gigantic pall around us, and our thoughts either turn back upon
the saddest features of the past or look forward to the future with a
sickly hope that all may not be as we fear it.
Mine were, indeed, of the gloomiest; and the selfishness alone of the
thought prevented me from wishing that, like many another, I had fallen by
a soldier's death on the plains of the Peninsula!
As the night wore on, I wrapped myself in my cloak and lay down beneath the
bulwark. The whole of my past life came in review before me, and I thought
over my first meeting with Lucy Dashwood; the thrill of boyish admiration
gliding into love; the hopes, the fears, that stirred my heart; the firm
resolve to merit her affection, which made me a soldier. Alas, how little
thought she of him to whose whole life she had been a guide-star and a
beacon! And as I thought over the hard-fought fields, the long, fatiguing
marches, the nights around the watch-fires, and felt how, in the whirl
and enthusiasm of a soldier's life, the cares and sorrows of every day
existence are forgotten, I shuddered to reflect upon the career that might
now open before me. To abandon, perhaps forever, the glorious path I had
been pursuing for a life of indolence and weariness, while my name, that
had already, by the chance of some fortunate circumstances, begun to be
mentioned with a testimony of approval, should be lost in oblivion or
remembered but as that of one whose early promise was not borne out by the
deeds of his manhood.
As day broke, overcome by watching, I slept, but was soon awoke by the stir
and bustle around me. The breeze had freshened, and we were running under
a reefed mainsail and foresail; and as the little craft bounded above the
blue water, the white foam crested above her prow, and ran in boiling
rivulets along towards the after-deck. The tramp of the seamen, the hoarse
voice of the captain, the shrill cry of the sea-birds, betokened, however,
nothing of dread or danger; and listlessly I leaned upon my elbow and asked
what was going forward.
"Nothing, sir; only making ready to drop our anchor."
"Are we so near shore, then?" said I.
"You've only to round that point to windward, and have a clear run into
I sprang at once to my legs. The land-fog prevented my seeing anything
whatever, but I thought that in the breeze, fresh and balmy as it blew, I
could feel the wind off shore. "At last," said I,--"at last!" as I stepped
into the little wherry which shot alongside of us, and we glided into the
still basin of Cove. How I remember every white-walled cottage, and the
beetling cliffs, and that bold headland beside which the valley opens, with
its dark-green woods, and then Spike Island. And what a stir is yonder,
early as it is; the men-of-war tenders seem alive with people, while still
the little village is sunk in slumber, not a smoke-wreath rising from its
silent hearths. Every plash of the oars in the calm water as I neared the
land, every chance word of the bronzed and hardy fisherman, told upon my
heart. I felt it was my home.
"Isn't it beautiful, sir? Isn't it illigant?" said a voice behind me, which
there could be little doubt in my detecting, although I had not seen the
individual since I left England.
"Is not what beautiful?" replied I, rather harshly, at the interruption of
my own thoughts.
"Ireland, to be sure; and long life to her!" cried he, with a cheer that
soon found its responsive echoes in the hearts of our sailors, who seconded
the sentiment with all their energy.
"How am I to get up to Cork, lads?" said I. "I am pressed for time, and
must get forward."
"We'll row your honor the whole way, av it's plazing to you."
"Why, thank you, I'd rather find some quicker mode of proceeding."
"Maybe you'd have a chaise? There's an elegant one at M'Cassidy's."
"Sure, the blind mare's in foal," said the bow oar. "The devil a step she
can go out of a walk; so, your honor, take Tim Riley's car, and you'll get
up cheap. Not that you care for money; but he's going up at eight o'clock
with two young ladies."
"Oh, be-gorra!" said the other, "and so he is. And faix, ye might do worse;
they're nice craytures."
"Well," said I, "your advice seems good; but perhaps they might object to
"I've no fear; they're always with the officers. Sure, the Miss
"The Miss Dalrymples! Push ahead, boys; it must be later than I thought. We
must get the chaise; I can't wait."
Ten minutes more brought us to land.
My arrangements were soon made, and as my impatience to press forward
became greater the nearer I drew to my destination, I lost not a moment.
The yellow chaise--sole glory of Cove--was brought forth at my request; and
by good fortune, four posters which had been down the preceding evening
from Cork to some gentleman's seat near were about to return. These were
also pressed into my service; and just as the first early riser of the
little village was drawing his curtain to take a half-closed eye-glance
upon the breaking morning, I rattled forth upon my journey at a pace which,
could I only have secured its continuance, must soon have terminated my
Beautiful as the whole line of country is, I was totally unconscious of it;
and even Mike's conversational powers, divided as they were between myself
and the two postilions, were fruitless in arousing me from the deep
pre-occupation of my mind by thoughts of home.
It was, then, with some astonishment I heard the boy upon the wheeler ask
whither he should drive me to.
"Tell his honor to wake up; we're in Cork now."
"In Cork! Impossible, already!"
"Faith, may be so; but it's Cork, sure enough."