Part 1 out of 10
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The Irish Dragoon
BY CHARLES LEVER.
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY PHIZ.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
[Illustration: THE SUNK FENCE]
MOST NOBLE THE MARQUESS OF DOURO, M.P., D.C.L., ETC., ETC.
* * * * *
MY DEAR LORD,--
The imperfect attempt to picture forth some scenes of the most
brilliant period of my country's history might naturally suggest their
dedication to the son of him who gave that era its glory. I feel,
however, in the weakness of the effort, the presumption of such a
thought, and would simply ask of you to accept these volumes as a
souvenir of many delightful hours passed long since in your society,
and a testimony of the deep pride with which I regard the honor of your
Believe me, my dear Lord, with every respect and esteem,
Yours, most sincerely,
BRUSSELS, November, 1841.
A WORD OF EXPLANATION.
* * * * *
Having so lately taken my leave of the stage, in a farewell benefit, it is
but fitting that I should explain the circumstances which once more bring
me before you,--that I may not appear intrusive, where I have met with but
too much indulgence.
A blushing _debutant_--_entre nous_, the most impudent Irishman that ever
swaggered down Sackville Street--has requested me to present him to
your acquaintance. He has every ambition to be a favorite with you; but
says--God forgive him--he is too bashful for the foot-lights.
He has remarked---as, doubtless, many others have done--upon what very
slight grounds, and with what slender pretension, _my_ Confessions have
met with favor at the hands of the press and the public; and the idea has
occurred to him to indite his _own_. Had his determination ended here,
I should have nothing to object to; but unfortunately, he expects me to
become his editor, and in some sort responsible for the faults of his
production. I have wasted much eloquence and more breath in assuring him
that I was no tried favorite of the public, who dared take liberties
with them; that the small rag of reputation I enjoyed, was a very scanty
covering for my own nakedness; that the plank which swam with one, would
most inevitably sink with two; and lastly, that the indulgence so often
bestowed upon a first effort is as frequently converted into censure on the
older offender. My arguments have, however, totally failed, and he remains
obdurate and unmoved. Under these circumstances I have yielded; and as,
happily for me, the short and pithy direction to the river Thames, in the
Critic, "to keep between its banks," has been imitated by my friend, I find
all that is required of me is to write my name upon the title and go in
peace. Such, he informs me, is modern editorship.
In conclusion, I would beg, that if the debt he now incurs at your hands
remain unpaid, you would kindly bear in mind that your remedy lies against
the drawer of the bill and not against its mere humble indorser,
BRUSSELS, March, 1840.
The success of Harry Lorrequer was the reason for writing Charles O'Malley.
That I myself was in no wise prepared for the favor the public bestowed on,
my first attempt is easily enough understood. The ease with which I strung
my stories together,--and in reality the Confessions of Harry Lorrequer are
little other than a note-book of absurd and laughable incidents,--led me
to believe that I could draw on this vein of composition without any limit
whatever. I felt, or thought I felt, an inexhaustible store of fun and
buoyancy within me, and I began to have a misty, half-confused impression
that Englishmen generally labored under a sad-colored temperament, took
depressing views of life, and were proportionately grateful to any one who
would rally them even passingly out of their despondency, and give them a
laugh without much trouble for going in search of it.
When I set to work to write Charles O'Malley I was, as I have ever been,
very low with fortune, and the success of a new venture was pretty much as
eventful to me as the turn of the right color at _rouge-et-noir_. At the
same time I had then an amount of spring in my temperament, and a power of
enjoying life which I can honestly say I never found surpassed. The world
had for me all the interest of an admirable comedy, in which the part
allotted myself, if not a high or a foreground one, was eminently suited
to my taste, and brought me, besides, sufficiently often on the stage to
enable me to follow all the fortunes of the piece. Brussels, where I was
then living, was adorned at the period by a most agreeable English society.
Some leaders of the fashionable world of London had come there to refit and
recruit, both in body and estate. There were several pleasant and a great
number of pretty people among them; and so far as I could judge, the
fashionable dramas of Belgrave Square and its vicinity were being performed
in the Rue Royale and the Boulevard de Waterloo with very considerable
success. There were dinners, balls, déjeûners, and picnics in the Bois de
Cambre, excursions to Waterloo, and select little parties to Bois-fort,--a
charming little resort in the forest whose intense cockneyism became
perfectly inoffensive as being in a foreign land, and remote from the
invasion of home-bred vulgarity. I mention all these things to show the
adjuncts by which I was aided, and the rattle of gayety by which I was, as
it were, "accompanied," when I next tried my voice.
The soldier element tinctured strongly our society, and I will say most
agreeably. Among those whom I remember best were several old Peninsulars.
Lord Combermere was of this number, and another of our set was an officer
who accompanied, if indeed he did not command, the first boat party who
crossed the Douro. It is needless to say how I cultivated a society so
full of all the storied details I was eager to obtain, and how generously
disposed were they to give me all the information I needed. On topography
especially were they valuable to me, and with such good result that I have
been more than once complimented on the accuracy of my descriptions of
places which I have never seen and whose features I have derived entirely
from the narratives of my friends.
When, therefore, my publishers asked me could I write a story in the
Lorrequer vein, in which active service and military adventure could figure
more prominently than mere civilian life, and where the achievements of a
British army might form the staple of the narrative,--when this question
was propounded me, I was ready to reply: Not one, but fifty. Do not mistake
me, and suppose that any overweening confidence in my literary powers would
have emboldened me to make this reply; my whole strength lay in the fact
that I could not recognize anything like literary effort in the matter. If
the world would only condescend to read that which I wrote precisely as I
was in the habit of talking, nothing could be easier than for me to occupy
them. Not alone was it very easy to me, but it was intensely interesting
and amusing to myself, to be so engaged.
The success of Harry Lorrequer had been freely wafted across the German
ocean, but even in its mildest accents it was very intoxicating incense to
me; and I set to work on my second book with a thrill of hope as regards
the world's favor which--and it is no small thing to say it--I can yet
I can recall, too, and I am afraid more vividly still, some of the
difficulties of my task when I endeavored to form anything like an accurate
or precise idea of some campaigning incident or some passage of arms from
the narratives of two distinct and separate "eye-witnesses." What mistrust
I conceived for all eye-witnesses from my own brief experience of their
testimonies! What an impulse did it lend me to study the nature and the
temperament of narrator, as indicative of the peculiar coloring he might
lend his narrative; and how it taught me to know the force of the French
epigram that has declared how it was entirely the alternating popularity of
Marshal Soult that decided whether he won or lost the battle of Toulouse.
While, however, I was sifting these evidences, and separating, as well as
I might, the wheat from the chaff, I was in a measure training myself for
what, without my then knowing it, was to become my career in life. This was
not therefore altogether without a certain degree of labor, but so light
and pleasant withal, so full of picturesque peeps at character and humorous
views of human nature, that it would be the very rankest ingratitude of me
if I did not own that I gained all my earlier experiences of the world in
very pleasant company,--highly enjoyable at the time, and with matter for
charming souvenirs long after.
That certain traits of my acquaintances found themselves embodied in some
of the characters of this story I do not to deny. The principal of natural
selection adapts itself to novels as to Nature, and it would have demanded
an effort above my strength to have disabused myself at the desk of all
the impressions of the dinner-table, and to have forgotten features which
interested or amused me.
One of the personages of my tale I drew, however, with very little aid from
fancy. I would go so far as to say that I took him from the life, if my
memory did not confront me with the lamentable inferiority of my picture to
the great original it was meant to portray.
With the exception of the quality of courage, I never met a man who
contained within himself so many of the traits of Falstaff as the
individual who furnished me with Major Monsoon. But the major--I must
call him so, though that rank was far beneath his own--was a man of
unquestionable bravery. His powers as a story-teller were to my thinking
unrivalled; the peculiar reflections on life which he would passingly
introduce, the wise apothegms, were after a morality essentially of his own
invention. Then he would indulge in the unsparing exhibition of himself in
situations such as other men would never have confessed to, all blended up
with a racy enjoyment of life, dashed occasionally with sorrow that our
tenure of it was short of patriarchal. All these, accompanied by a face
redolent of intense humor, and a voice whose modulations were managed with
the skill of a consummate artist,--all these, I say, were above me to
convey; nor indeed as I re-read any of the adventures in which he figures,
am I other than ashamed at the weakness of my drawing and the poverty of my
That I had a better claim to personify him than is always the lot of a
novelist; that I possessed, so to say, a vested interest in his life and
adventures,--I will relate a little incident in proof; and my accuracy, if
necessary, can be attested by another actor in the scene, who yet survives.
I was living a bachelor life at Brussels, my family being at Ostende
for the bathing, during the summer of 1840. The city was comparatively
empty,--all the so-called society being absent at the various spas or baths
of Germany. One member of the British legation, who remained at his post to
represent the mission, and myself, making common cause of our desolation
and ennui, spent much of our time together, and dined _tête-à-tête_ every
It chanced that one evening, as we were hastening through the park on
our way to dinner, we espied the major--for as major I must speak of
him--lounging along with that half-careless, half-observant air we had both
of us remarked as indicating a desire to be somebody's, anybody's guest,
rather than surrender himself to the homeliness of domestic fare.
"There's that confounded old Monsoon," cried my diplomatic friend. "It's
all up if he sees us, and I can't endure him."
Now, I must remark that my friend, though very far from insensible to the
humoristic side of the major's character, was not always in the vein to
enjoy it; and when so indisposed he could invest the object of his dislike
with something little short of antipathy. "Promise me," said he, as Monsoon
came towards us,--"promise me, you'll not ask him to dinner." Before I
could make any reply, the major was shaking a hand of either of us, and
rapturously expatiating over his good luck at meeting us. "Mrs. M.," said
he, "has got a dreary party of old ladies to dine with her, and I have come
out here to find some pleasant fellow to join me, and take our mutton-chop
"We're behind our time, Major," said my friend, "sorry to leave you
so abruptly, but must push on. Eh, Lorrequer," added he, to evoke
corroboration on my part.
"Harry says nothing of the kind," replied Monsoon, "he says, or he's going
to say, 'Major, I have a nice bit of dinner waiting for me at home, enough
for two, will feed three, or if there be a short-coming, nothing easier
than to eke out the deficiency by another bottle of Moulton; come along
with us then, Monsoon, and we shall be all the merrier for your company.'"
Repeating his last words, "Come along, Monsoon," etc., I passed my arm
within his, and away we went. For a moment my friend tried to get free and
leave me, but I held him fast and carried him along in spite of himself. He
was, however, so chagrined and provoked that till the moment we reached my
door he never uttered a word, nor paid the slightest attention to
Monsoon, who talked away in a vein that occasionally made gravity all but
Our dinner proceeded drearily enough, the diplomatist's stiffness never
relaxed for a moment, and my own awkwardness damped all my attempts at
conversation. Not so, however, Monsoon, he ate heartily, approved of
everything, and pronounced my wine to be exquisite. He gave us a perfect
discourse on sherry and Spanish wines in general, told us the secret of the
Amontillado flavor, and explained that process of browning by boiling down
wine which some are so fond of in England. At last, seeing perhaps that the
protection had little charm for us, with his accustomed tact, he diverged
into anecdote. "I was once fortunate enough," said he, "to fall upon some
of that choice sherry from the St. Lucas Luentas which is always reserved
for royalty. It was a pale wine, delicious in the drinking, and leaving no
more flavor in the mouth than a faint dryness that seemed to say, another
glass. Shall I tell you how I came by it?" And scarcely pausing for reply,
he told the story of having robbed his own convoy, and stolen the wine he
was in charge of for safe conveyance.
I wish I could give any, even the weakest idea of how he narrated that
incident,--the struggle that he portrayed between duty and temptation, and
the apologetic tone of his voice in which he explained that the frame of
mind that succeeds to any yielding to seductive influences, is often, in
the main, more profitable to a man than is the vain-glorious sense of
having resisted a temptation. "Meekness is the mother of all the virtues,"
said he, "and there is no being meek without frailty." The story, told as
he told it, was too much for the diplomatist's gravity, he resisted all
signs of attention as long as he was able, and at last fairly roared out
As soon as I myself recovered from the effects of his drollery, I said,
"Major, I have a proposition to make you. Let me tell the story in print,
and I'll give you five naps."
"Are you serious, Harry?" asked he. "Is this on honor?"
"On honor, assuredly," I replied.
"Let me have the money down, on the nail, and I'll give you leave to have
me and my whole life, every adventure that ever befell me, ay, and if you
like, every moral reflection that my experiences have suggested."
"Done!" cried I, "I agree."
"Not so fast," cried the diplomatist, "we must make a protocol of this; the
high contracting parties must know what they give and what they receive,
I'll draw out the treaty."
He did so at full length on a sheet of that solemn blue-tinted paper, so
dedicated to despatch purposes; he duly set fourth the concession and the
consideration. We each signed the document; he witnessed and sealed it; and
Monsoon pocketed my five napoleons, filling a bumper to any success the
bargain might bring me, and of which I have never had reason to express
This document, along with my university degree, my commission in a militia
regiment, and a vast amount of letters very interesting to me, was seized
by the Austrian authorities on the way from Como to Florence, in the August
of 1847, being deemed part of a treasonable correspondence,--probably
purposely allegorical in form,--and never restored to me. I fairly own that
I'd give all the rest willingly to repossess myself of the Monsoon treaty,
not a little for the sake of that quaint old autograph, faintly shaken by
the quiet laugh with which he wrote it.
That I did not entirely fail in giving my major some faint resemblance
to the great original from whom I copied him, I may mention that he was
speedily recognized in print by the Marquis of Londonderry, the well-known
Sir Charles Stuart of the Peninsular campaign. "I know that fellow well,"
said he, "he once sent me a challenge, and I had to make him a very humble
apology. The occasion was this: I had been out with a single aide-de-camp
to make a reconnaissance in front of Victor's division; and to avoid
attracting any notice, we covered over our uniform with two common gray
overcoats which reached to the feet, and effectually concealed our rank as
officers. Scarcely, however, had we topped a hill which commanded the view
of the French, than a shower of shells flew over and around us. Amazed to
think how we could have been so quickly noticed, I looked around me, and
discovered, quite close in my rear, your friend Monsoon with what he called
his staff,--a popinjay set of rascals dressed out in green and gold, and
with more plumes and feathers than the general staff ever boasted. Carried
away by momentary passion at the failure of my reconnaissance, I burst out
with some insolent allusion to the harlequin assembly which had drawn the
French fire upon us. Monsoon saluted me respectfully, and retired without a
word; but I had scarcely reached my quarters when a 'friend' of his waited
on me with a message, a very categorical message it was, too, 'it must be a
meeting or an ample apology.' I made the apology, a most full one, for the
major was right, and I had not a fraction of reason to sustain me in my
conduct, and we have been the best of friends ever since."
I myself had heard the incident before this from Monsoon, but told among
other adventures whose exact veracity I was rather disposed to question,
and did not therefore accord it all the faith that was its due; and I admit
that the accidental corroboration of this one event very often served to
puzzle me afterwards, when I listened to stories in which the major seemed
a second Munchausen, but might, like in this of the duel, have been among
the truest and most matter-of-fact of historians. May the reader be not
less embarrassed than myself, is my sincere, if not very courteous, prayer.
I have no doubt myself, that often in recounting some strange incident,--a
personal experience it always was,--he was himself more amused by the
credulity of the hearers, and the amount of interest he could excite in
them, than were they by the story. He possessed the true narrative gusto,
and there was a marvellous instinct in the way in which he would vary a
tale to suit the tastes of an audience; while his moralizings were almost
certain to take the tone of a humoristic quiz on the company.
Though fully aware that I was availing myself of the contract that
delivered him into my hands, and dining with me two or three days a week,
he never lapsed into any allusion to his appearance in print; and the story
had been already some weeks published before he asked me to lend him "that
last thing--he forgot the name of it--I was writing."
Of Frank Webber I have said, in a former notice, that he was one of my
earliest friends, my chum in college, and in the very chambers where I have
located Charles O'Malley, in Old Trinity. He was a man of the highest order
of abilities, and with a memory that never forgot, but ruined and run to
seed by the idleness that came of a discursive, uncertain temperament.
Capable of anything, he spent his youth in follies and eccentricities;
every one of which, however, gave indications of a mind inexhaustible in
resources, and abounding in devices and contrivances that none other but
himself would have thought of. Poor fellow, he died young; and perhaps it
is better it should have been so. Had he lived to a later day, he would
most probably have been found a foremost leader of Fenianism; and from
what I knew of him, I can say he would have been a more dangerous enemy to
English rule than any of those dealers in the petty larceny of rebellion we
have lately seen among us.
I have said that of Mickey Free I had not one but one thousand types.
Indeed, I am not quite sure that in my last visit to Dublin, I did not
chance on a living specimen of the "Free" family, much readier in repartée,
quicker with an apropos, and droller in illustration than my own Mickey.
This fellow was "boots" at a great hotel in Sackville Street; and I owe him
more amusement and some heartier laughs than it has been always my fortune
to enjoy in a party of wits. His criticisms on my sketches of Irish
character were about the shrewdest and the best I ever listened to; and
that I am not bribed to this by any flattery, I may remark that they were
more often severe than complimentary, and that he hit every blunder of
image, every mistake in figure, of my peasant characters, with an acuteness
and correctness which made me very grateful to know that his daily
occupations were limited to blacking boots, and not polishing off authors.
I believe I have now done with my confessions, except I should like to own
that this story was the means of according me a more heartfelt glow of
satisfaction, a more gratifying sense of pride, than anything I ever have
or ever shall write, and in this wise. My brother, at that time the rector
of an Irish parish, once forwarded to me a letter from a lady unknown to
him, but who had heard he was the brother of "Harry Lorrequer," and who
addressed him not knowing where a letter might be directed to myself. The
letter was the grateful expression of a mother, who said, "I am the
widow of a field officer, and with an only son, for whom I obtained a
presentation to Woolwich; but seeing in my boy's nature certain traits of
nervousness and timidity which induced me to hesitate on embarking him in
the career of a soldier, I became very unhappy and uncertain which course
to decide on.
"While in this state of uncertainty, I chanced to make him a birthday
present of 'Charles O'Malley,' the reading of which seemed to act like a
charm on his whole character, inspiring him with a passion for movement and
adventure, and spiriting him to an eager desire for a military life. Seeing
that this was no passing enthusiasm, but a decided and determined bent,
I accepted the cadetship for him; and his career has been not alone
distinguished as a student, but one which has marked him out for an almost
hare-brained courage, and for a dash and heroism that give high promise for
"Thank your brother for me," wrote she, "a mother's thanks for the welfare
of an only son; and say how I wish that my best wishes for him and his
could recompense him for what I owe him."
I humbly hope that it may not be imputed to me as unpardonable vanity,--the
recording of this incident. It gave me an intense pleasure when I heard it;
and now, as I look back on it, it invests this story for myself with an
interest which nothing else that I have written can afford me.
I have now but to repeat what I have declared in former editions, my
sincere gratitude for the favor the public still continues to bestow
on me,--a favor which probably associates the memory of this book with
whatever I have since done successfully, and compels me to remember that
to the popularity of "Charles O'Malley" I am indebted for a great share of
that kindliness in criticism, and that geniality in judgment, which--for
more than a quarter of a century--my countrymen have graciously bestowed on
their faithful friend and servant,
I. DALY'S CLUB-HOUSE
II. THE ESCAPE
III. MR. BLAKE
IV. THE HUNT
V. THE DRAWING-ROOM
VI. THE DINNER
VII. THE FLIGHT FROM GURT-NA-MORRA
VIII. THE DUEL
IX. THE RETURN
X. THE ELECTION
XI. AN ADVENTURE
XII. MICKEY FREE
XIII. THE JOURNEY
XV. CAPTAIN POWER
XVI. THE VICE-PROVOST
XVII. TRINITY COLLEGE.--A LECTURE
XVIII. THE INVITATION.--THE WAGER
XIX. THE BALL
XX. THE LAST NIGHT IN TRINITY
XXI. THE PHOENIX PARK
XXII. THE ROAD
XXIV. THE ADJUTANT'S DINNER
XXV. THE ENTANGLEMENT
XXVI. THE PREPARATION
XXVII. THE SUPPER
XXVIII. THE VOYAGE
XXIX. THE ADJUTANT'S STORY.--LIFE IN DERBY
XXX. FRED POWER'S ADVENTURE IN PHILIPSTOWN
XXXI. THE VOYAGE CONTINUED
XXXII. MR. SPARKS'S STORY
XXXIII. THE SKIPPER
XXXIV. THE LAND
XXXV. MAJOR MONSOON
XXXVI. THE LANDING
XXXVIII. THE RUA NUOVA
XXXIX. THE VILLA
XL. THE DINNER
XLI. THE ROUTE
XLII. THE FAREWELL
XLIII. THE MARCH
XLIV. THE BIVOUAC
XLV. THE DOURO
XLVI. THE MORNING
XLVII. THE REVIEW
XLVIII. THE QUARREL
XLIX. THE ROUTE CONTINUED
L. THE WATCH-FIRE
LI. THE MARCH
LII. THE PAGE
LIV. THE SUPPER
LV. THE LEGION
LVI. THE DEPARTURE
LVIII. THE LETTER
LXIX. MAJOR O'SHAUGHNESSY
LXI. ALL RIGHT
LXII. THE DUEL
LXIII. NEWS FROM GALWAY
LXIV. AN ADVENTURE WITH SIR ARTHUR
LXVI. NIGHT AFTER TALAVERA
LXVII. THE OUTPOST
ILLUSTRATIONS BY PHIZ IN VOL. I
THE SUNK FENCE
CHARLES POPS THE QUESTION
Illustrations in the Text
MR. BLAKE'S DRESSING-ROOM
MR. CROW WELL PLUCKED
FRANK WEBBER AT HIS STUDIES
MISS JUDY MACAN
THE ADJUTANT'S AFTER-DINNER RIDE
THE RIVAL FLUNKIES
MAJOR MONSOON AND DONNA MARIA
A TOUCH AT LEAP-FROG WITH NAPOLEON
MAJOR MONSOON TRYING TO CHARGE
MR. FREE'S SONG
THE COAT OF MAIL
THE IRISH DRAGOON.
* * * * *
The rain was dashing in torrents against the window-panes, and the wind
sweeping in heavy and fitful gusts along the dreary and deserted streets,
as a party of three persons sat over their wine, in that stately old pile
which once formed the resort of the Irish Members, in College Green,
Dublin, and went by the name of Daly's Club-House. The clatter of falling
tiles and chimney-pots, the jarring of the window-frames, and howling of
the storm without seemed little to affect the spirits of those within as
they drew closer to a blazing fire before which stood a small table covered
with the remains of a dessert, and an abundant supply of bottles, whose
characteristic length of neck indicated the rarest wines of France and
Germany; while the portly magnum of claret--the wine _par excellence_ of
every Irish gentleman of the day--passed rapidly from hand to hand, the
conversation did not languish, and many a deep and hearty laugh followed
the stories which every now and then were told, as some reminiscence of
early days was recalled, or some trait of a former companion remembered.
One of the party, however, was apparently engrossed by other thoughts than
those of the mirth and merriment around; for in the midst of all he would
turn suddenly from the others, and devote himself to a number of scattered
sheets of paper, upon which he had written some lines, but whose crossed
and blotted sentences attested how little success had waited upon
his literary labors. This individual was a short, plethoric-looking,
white-haired man of about fifty, with a deep, round voice, and a chuckling,
smothering laugh, which, whenever he indulged not only shook his own ample
person, but generally created a petty earthquake on every side of him. For
the present, I shall not stop to particularize him more closely; but when I
add that the person in question was a well-known member of the Irish House
of Commons, whose acute understanding and practical good sense were veiled
under an affected and well-dissembled habit of blundering that did far
more for his party than the most violent and pointed attacks of his more
accurate associates, some of my readers may anticipate me in pronouncing
him to be Sir Harry Boyle. Upon his left sat a figure the most unlike him
possible. He was a tall, thin, bony man, with a bolt-upright air and a most
saturnine expression; his eyes were covered by a deep green shade, which
fell far over his face, but failed to conceal a blue scar that crossing his
cheek ended in the angle of his mouth, and imparted to that feature, when
he spoke, an apparently abortive attempt to extend towards his eyebrow; his
upper lip was covered with a grizzly and ill-trimmed mustache, which added
much to the ferocity of his look, while a thin and pointed beard on his
chin gave an apparent length to the whole face that completed its rueful
character. His dress was a single-breasted, tightly buttoned frock, in one
button-hole of which a yellow ribbon was fastened, the decoration of a
foreign service, which conferred upon its wearer the title of count; and
though Billy Considine, as he was familiarly called by his friends, was
a thorough Irishman in all his feelings and affections, yet he had no
objection to the designation he had gained in the Austrian army. The Count
was certainly no beauty, but somehow, very few men of his day had a fancy
for telling him so. A deadlier hand and a steadier eye never covered his
man in the Phoenix; and though he never had a seat in the House, he was
always regarded as one of the government party, who more than once had
damped the ardor of an opposition member by the very significant threat
of "setting Billy at him." The third figure of the group was a large,
powerfully built, and handsome man, older than either of the others, but
not betraying in his voice or carriage any touch of time. He was attired in
the green coat and buff vest which formed the livery of the club; and in
his tall, ample forehead, clear, well-set eye, and still handsome mouth,
bore evidence that no great flattery was necessary at the time which called
Godfrey O'Malley the handsomest man in Ireland.
"Upon my conscience," said Sir Harry, throwing down his pen with an air of
ill-temper, "I can make nothing of it! I have got into such an infernal
habit of making bulls, that I can't write sense when I want it!"
"Come, come," said O'Malley, "try again, my dear fellow. If you can't
succeed, I'm sure Billy and I have no chance."
"What have you written? Let us see," said Considine, drawing the paper
towards him, and holding it to the light. "Why, what the devil is all this?
You have made him 'drop down dead after dinner of a lingering illness
brought on by the debate of yesterday.'"
"Well, read it yourself; there it is. And, as if to make the thing less
credible, you talk of his 'Bill for the Better Recovery of Small Debts.'
I'm sure, O'Malley, your last moments were not employed in that manner."
"Come, now," said Sir Harry, "I'll set all to rights with a postscript.
'Any one who questions the above statement is politely requested to call on
Mr. Considine, 16 Kildare Street, who will feel happy to afford him every
satisfaction upon Mr. O'Malley's decease, or upon miscellaneous matters."
"Worse and worse," said O'Malley. "Killing another man will never persuade
the world that I'm dead."
"But we'll wake you, and have a glorious funeral."
"And if any man doubt the statement, I'll call him out," said the Count.
"Or, better still," said Sir Harry, "O'Malley has his action at law for
"I see I'll never get down to Galway at this rate," said O'Malley; "and as
the new election takes place on Tuesday week, time presses. There are more
writs flying after me this instant than for all the government boroughs."
"And there will be fewer returns, I fear," said Sir Harry.
"Who is the chief creditor?" asked the Count.
"Old Stapleton, the attorney in Fleet Street, has most of the mortgages."
"Nothing to be done with him in this way?" said Considine, balancing the
corkscrew like a hair trigger.
"No chance of it."
"May be," said Sir Harry, "he might come to terms if I were to call and
say, 'You are anxious to close accounts, as your death has just taken
place.' You know what I mean."
"I fear so should he, were you to say so. No, no, Boyle, just try a plain,
straightforward paragraph about my death; we'll have it in Falkner's paper
to-morrow. On Friday the funeral can take place, and, with the blessing
o' God, I'll come to life on Saturday at Athlone, in time to canvass the
"I think it wouldn't be bad if your ghost were to appear to old Timins the
tanner, in Naas, on your way down. You know he arrested you once before."
"I prefer a night's sleep," said O'Malley. "But come, finish the squib for
"Stay a little," said Sir Harry, musing; "it just strikes me that if ever
the matter gets out I may be in some confounded scrape. Who knows if it is
not a breach of privilege to report the death of a member? And to tell you
truth, I dread the Sergeant and the Speaker's warrant with a very lively
"Why, when did you make his acquaintance?" said the Count.
"Is it possible you never heard of Boyle's committal?" said O'Malley. "You
surely must have been abroad at the time. But it's not too late to tell it
"Well, it's about two years since old Townsend brought in his Enlistment
Bill, and the whole country was scoured for all our voters, who were
scattered here and there, never anticipating another call of the House, and
supposing that the session was just over. Among others, up came our friend
Harry, here, and the night he arrived they made him a 'Monk of the Screw,'
and very soon made him forget his senatorial dignities. On the evening
after his reaching town, the bill was brought in, and at two in the morning
the division took place,--a vote was of too much consequence not to look
after it closely,--and a Castle messenger was in waiting in Exchequer
Street, who, when the debate was closing, put Harry, with three others,
into a coach, and brought them down to the House. Unfortunately, however,
they mistook their friends, voted against the bill, and amidst the loudest
cheering of the opposition, the government party were defeated. The rage of
the ministers knew no bounds, and looks of defiance and even threats were
exchanged between the ministers and the deserters. Amidst all this poor
Harry fell fast asleep and dreamed that he was once more in Exchequer
Street, presiding among the monks, and mixing another tumbler. At length he
awoke and looked about him. The clerk was just at the instant reading out,
in his usual routine manner, a clause of the new bill, and the remainder
of the House was in dead silence. Harry looked again around on every side,
wondering where was the hot water, and what had become of the whiskey
bottle, and above all, why the company were so extremely dull and ungenial.
At length, with a half-shake, he roused up a little, and giving a look
of unequivocal contempt on every side, called out, 'Upon my soul, you're
pleasant companions; but I'll give you a chant to enliven you!' So saying,
he cleared his throat with a couple of short coughs, and struck up, with
the voice of a Stentor, the following verse of a popular ballad:--
'And they nibbled away, both night and day,
Like mice in a round of Glo'ster;
Great rogues they were all, both great and small,
From Flood to Leslie Foster.
Great rogues all.
Chorus, boys!' If he was not joined by the voices of his friends in the
song, it was probably because such a roar of laughing never was heard since
the walls were roofed over. The whole House rose in a mass, and my friend
Harry was hurried over the benches by the sergeant-at-arms, and left for
three weeks in Newgate to practise his melody."
"All true," said Sir Harry; "and worse luck to them for not liking music.
But come, now, will this do? 'It is our melancholy duty to announce the
death of Godfrey O'Malley, Esq., late member for the county of Galway,
which took place on Friday evening, at Daly's Club-House. This esteemed
gentleman's family--one of the oldest in Ireland, and among whom it was
hereditary not to have any children--'"
Here a burst of laughter from Considine and O'Malley interrupted the
reader, who with the greatest difficulty could be persuaded that he was
again bulling it.
"The devil fly away with it," said he; "I'll never succeed."
"Never mind," said O'Malley, "the first part will do admirably; and let us
now turn our attention to other matters."
A fresh magnum was called for, and over its inspiring contents all the
details of the funeral were planned; and as the clock struck four the party
separated for the _night_, well satisfied with the result of their labors.
When the dissolution of Parliament was announced the following morning in
Dublin, its interest in certain circles was manifestly increased by the
fact that Godfrey O'Malley was at last open to arrest; for as in olden
times certain gifted individuals possessed some happy immunity against
death by fire or sword, so the worthy O'Malley seemed to enjoy a no less
valuable privilege, and for many a year had passed among the myrmidons of
the law as writ-proof. Now, however, the charm seemed to have yielded; and
pretty much with the same feeling as a storming party may be supposed to
experience on the day that a breach is reported as practicable, did the
honest attorneys retained in the various suits against him rally round each
other that morning in the Four Courts.
Bonds, mortgages, post-obits, promissory notes--in fact, every imaginable
species of invention for raising the O'Malley exchequer for the preceding
thirty years--were handed about on all sides, suggesting to the mind of an
uninterested observer the notion that had the aforesaid O'Malley been an
independent and absolute monarch, instead of merely being the member for
Galway, the kingdom over whose destinies he had been called to preside
would have suffered not a little from a depreciated currency and an
extravagant issue of paper. Be that as it might, one thing was clear,--the
whole estates of the family could not possibly pay one fourth of the debt;
and the only question was one which occasionally arises at a scanty dinner
on a mail-coach road,--who was to be the lucky individual to carve the
joint, where so many were sure to go off hungry?
It was now a trial of address between these various and highly gifted
gentlemen who should first pounce upon the victim; and when the skill of
their caste is taken into consideration, who will doubt that every feasible
expedient for securing him was resorted to? While writs were struck against
him in Dublin, emissaries were despatched to the various surrounding
counties to procure others in the event of his escape. _Ne exeats_ were
sworn, and water-bailiffs engaged to follow him on the high seas; and as
the great Nassau balloon did not exist in those days, no imaginable mode of
escape appeared possible, and bets were offered at long odds that within
twenty-four hours the late member would be enjoying his _otium cum
dignitate_ in his Majesty's jail of Newgate.
Expectation was at the highest, confidence hourly increasing, success all
but certain, when in the midst of all this high-bounding hope the dreadful
rumor spread that O'Malley was no more. One had seen it just five minutes
before in the evening edition of Falkner's paper; another heard it in the
courts; a third overheard the Chief-Justice stating it to the Master of the
Rolls; and lastly, a breathless witness arrived from College Green with
the news that Daly's Club-House was shut up, and the shutters closed.
To describe the consternation the intelligence caused on every side is
impossible; nothing in history equals it,--except, perhaps, the entrance
of the French army into Moscow, deserted and forsaken by its former
inhabitants. While terror and dismay, therefore, spread amidst that wide
and respectable body who formed O'Malley's creditors, the preparations
for his funeral were going on with every rapidity. Relays of horses were
ordered at every stage of the journey, and it was announced that, in
testimony of his worth, a large party of his friends were to accompany his
remains to Portumna Abbey,--a test much more indicative of resistance
in the event of any attempt to arrest the body, than of anything like
reverence for their departed friend.
Such was the state of matters in Dublin when a letter reached me one
morning at O'Malley Castle, whose contents will at once explain the
writer's intention, and also serve to introduce my unworthy self to my
reader. It ran thus:--
DALY'S, about eight in the evening.
Dear Charley,--Your uncle Godfrey, whose debts (God pardon
him!) are more numerous than the hairs of his wig, was obliged to
die here last night. We did the thing for him completely; and all
doubts as to the reality of the event are silenced by the
circumstantial detail of the newspaper, "that he was confined six
weeks to his bed from a cold he caught, ten days ago, while on guard."
Repeat this; for it is better we had all the same story till he
comes to life again, which, may be, will not take place before
Tuesday or Wednesday. At the same time, canvass the county for him,
and say he'll be with his friends next week, and up in Woodford and
the Scariff barony. Say he died a true Catholic; it will serve him on
the hustings. Meet us in Athlone on Saturday, and bring your uncle's
mare with you. He says he'd rather ride home. And tell Father Mac
Shane, to have a bit of dinner ready about four o'clock, for the corpse
can get nothing after he leaves Mountmellick. No more now, from
To CHARLES O'MALLEY, Esq.,
O'Malley Castle, Galway.
When this not over-clear document reached me I was the sole inhabitant of
O'Malley Castle,--a very ruinous pile of incongruous masonry, that stood in
a wild and dreary part of the county of Galway, bordering on the Shannon.
On every side stretched the property of my uncle, or at least what had once
been so; and indeed, so numerous were its present claimants that he would
have been a subtle lawyer who could have pronounced upon the rightful
owner. The demesne around the castle contained some well-grown and handsome
timber, and as the soil was undulating and fertile, presented many features
of beauty; beyond it, all was sterile, bleak, and barren. Long tracts of
brown heath-clad mountain or not less unprofitable valleys of tall and
waving fern were all that the eye could discern, except where the broad
Shannon, expanding into a tranquil and glassy lake, lay still and
motionless beneath the dark mountains, a few islands, with some ruined
churches and a round tower, alone breaking the dreary waste of water.
Here it was that I passed my infancy and my youth; and here I now stood,
at the age of seventeen, quite unconscious that the world contained aught
fairer and brighter than that gloomy valley with its rugged frame of
When a mere child, I was left an orphan to the care of my worthy uncle. My
father, whose extravagance had well sustained the family reputation, had
squandered a large and handsome property in contesting elections for his
native county, and in keeping up that system of unlimited hospitality for
which Ireland in general, and Galway more especially, was renowned. The
result was, as might be expected, ruin and beggary. He died, leaving every
one of his estates encumbered with heavy debts, and the only legacy he left
to his brother was a boy four years of age, entreating him with his last
breath, "Be anything you like to him, Godfrey, but a father, or at least
such a one as I have proved."
Godfrey O'Malley some short time previous had lost his wife, and when this
new trust was committed to him he resolved never to remarry, but to rear
me up as his own child and the inheritor of his estates. How weighty and
onerous an obligation this latter might prove, the reader can form some
idea. The intention was, however, a kind one; and to do my uncle justice,
he loved me with all the affection of a warm and open heart.
From my earliest years his whole anxiety was to fit me for the part of a
country gentleman, as he regarded that character,--namely, I rode boldly
with fox-hounds; I was about the best shot within twenty miles of us; I
could swim the Shannon at Holy Island; I drove four-in-hand better than the
coachman himself; and from finding a hare to hooking a salmon, my equal
could not be found from Killaloe to Banagher. These were the staple of my
endowments. Besides which, the parish priest had taught me a little Latin,
a little French, a little geometry, and a great deal of the life and
opinions of Saint Jago, who presided over a holy well in the neighborhood,
and was held in very considerable repute.
When I add to this portraiture of my accomplishments that I was nearly six
feet high, with more than a common share of activity and strength for my
years, and no inconsiderable portion of good looks, I have finished my
sketch, and stand before my reader.
It is now time I should return to Sir Harry's letter, which so completely
bewildered me that, but for the assistance of Father Roach, I should have
been totally unable to make out the writer's intentions. By his advice, I
immediately set out for Athlone, where, when I arrived, I found my
uncle addressing the mob from the top of the hearse, and recounting his
miraculous escapes as a new claim upon their gratitude.
"There was nothing else for it, boys; the Dublin people insisted on
my being their member, and besieged the club-house. I refused; they
threatened. I grew obstinate; they furious. 'I'll die first,' said I.
'Galway or nothing!'"
"Hurrah!" from the mob. "O'Malley forever!"
"And ye see, I kept my word, boys,--I did die; I died that evening at a
quarter past eight. There, read it for yourselves; there's the paper. Was
waked and carried out, and here I am after all, ready to die in earnest for
you, but never to desert you."
The cheers here were deafening, and my uncle was carried through the market
down to the mayor's house, who, being a friend of the opposite party, was
complimented with three groans; then up the Mall to the chapel, beside
which father Mac Shane resided. He was then suffered to touch the earth
once more; when, having shaken hands with all of his constituency within
reach, he entered the house, to partake of the kindest welcome and best
reception the good priest could afford him.
My uncle's progress homeward was a triumph. The real secret of his escape
had somehow come out, and his popularity rose to a white heat. "An' it's
little O'Malley cares for the law,--bad luck to it; it's himself can laugh
at judge and jury. Arrest him? Nabocklish! Catch a weasel asleep!" etc.
Such were the encomiums that greeted him as he passed on towards home;
while shouts of joy and blazing bonfires attested that his success was
regarded as a national triumph.
The west has certainly its strong features of identity. Had my uncle
possessed the claims of the immortal Howard; had he united in his person
all the attributes which confer a lasting and an ennobling fame upon
humanity,--he might have passed on unnoticed and unobserved; but for
the man that had duped a judge and escaped the sheriff, nothing was
sufficiently flattering to mark their approbation. The success of the
exploit was twofold; the news spread far and near, and the very story
canvassed the county better than Billy Davern himself, the Athlone
This was the prospect now before us; and however little my readers may
sympathize with my taste, I must honestly avow that I looked forward to
it with a most delighted feeling. O'Malley Castle was to be the centre
of operations, and filled with my uncle's supporters; while I, a mere
stripling, and usually treated as a boy, was to be intrusted with an
important mission, and sent off to canvass a distant relation, with whom
my uncle was not upon terms, and who might possibly be approachable by a
younger branch of the family, with whom he had never any collision.
Nothing but the exigency of the case could ever have persuaded my uncle to
stoop to the humiliation of canvassing the individual to whom I was now
about to proceed as envoy-extraordinary, with full powers to make any or
every _amende_, provided only his interest and that of his followers should
be thereby secured to the O'Malley cause. The evening before I set out was
devoted to giving me all the necessary instructions how I was to proceed,
and what difficulties I was to avoid.
"Say your uncle's in high feather with the government party," said Sir
Harry, "and that he only votes against them as a _ruse de guerre_, as the
French call it."
"Insist upon it that I am sure of the election without him; but that for
family reasons he should not stand aloof from me; that people are talking
of it in the country."
"And drop a hint," said Considine, "that O'Malley is greatly improved in
"And don't get drunk too early in the evening, for Phil Blake has beautiful
claret," said another.
"And be sure you don't make love to the red-headed girls," added a third;
"he has four of them, each more sinfully ugly than the other."
"You'll be playing whist, too," said Boyle; "and never mind losing a few
pounds. Mrs. B., long life to her, has a playful way of turning the king."
"Charley will do it all well," said my uncle; "leave him alone. And now let
us have in the supper."
It was only on the following morning, as the tandem came round to the door,
that I began to feel the importance of my mission, and certain misgivings
came over me as to my ability to fulfil it. Mr. Blake and his family,
though estranged from my uncle for several years past, had been always most
kind and good-natured to me; and although I could not, with propriety, have
cultivated any close intimacy with them, I had every reason to suppose that
they entertained towards me nothing but sentiments of good-will. The head
of the family was a Galway squire of the oldest and most genuine stock, a
great sportsman, a negligent farmer, and most careless father; he looked
upon a fox as an infinitely more precious part of the creation than a
French governess, and thought that riding well with hounds was a far better
gift than all the learning of a Parson. His daughters were after his
own heart,--the best-tempered, least-educated, most high-spirited, gay,
dashing, ugly girls in the county, ready to ride over a four-foot paling
without a saddle, and to dance the "Wind that shakes the barley" for four
consecutive hours, against all the officers that their hard fate, and the
Horse Guards, ever condemned to Galway.
The mamma was only remarkable for her liking for whist, and her invariable
good fortune thereat,--a circumstance the world were agreed in ascribing
less to the blind goddess than her own natural endowments.
Lastly, the heir of the house was a stripling of about my own age, whose
accomplishments were limited to selling spavined and broken-winded horses
to the infantry officers, playing a safe game at billiards, and acting as
jackal-general to his sisters at balls, providing them with a sufficiency
of partners, and making a strong fight for a place at the supper-table for
his mother. These fraternal and filial traits, more honored at home than
abroad, had made Mr. Matthew Blake a rather well-known individual in the
neighborhood where he lived.
Though Mr. Blake's property was ample, and strange to say for his county,
unencumbered, the whole air and appearance of his house and grounds
betrayed anything rather than a sufficiency of means. The gate lodge was a
miserable mud-hovel with a thatched and falling roof; the gate itself, a
wooden contrivance, one half of which was boarded and the other railed; the
avenue was covered with weeds, and deep with ruts; and the clumps of young
plantation, which had been planted and fenced with care, were now open to
the cattle, and either totally uprooted or denuded of their bark and dying.
The lawn, a handsome one of some forty acres, had been devoted to an
exercise-ground for training horses, and was cut up by their feet beyond
all semblance of its original destination; and the house itself, a large
and venerable structure of above a century old, displayed every variety of
contrivance, as well as the usual one of glass, to exclude the weather. The
hall-door hung by a single hinge, and required three persons each morning
and evening to open and shut it; the remainder of the day it lay pensively
open; the steps which led to it were broken and falling; and the whole
aspect of things without was ruinous in the extreme. Within, matters were
somewhat better, for though the furniture was old, and none of it clean,
yet an appearance of comfort was evident; and the large grate, blazing with
its pile of red-hot turf, the deep-cushioned chairs, the old black mahogany
dinner-table, and the soft carpet, albeit deep with dust, were not to be
despised on a winter's evening, after a hard day's run with the "Blazers."
Here it was, however, that Mr. Philip Blake had dispensed his hospitalities
for above fifty years, and his father before him; and here, with a retinue
of servants as _gauches_ and ill-ordered as all about them, was he
accustomed to invite all that the county possessed of rank and wealth,
among which the officers quartered in his neighborhood were never
neglected, the Miss Blakes having as decided a taste for the army as any
young ladies of the west of Ireland; and while the Galway squire, with
his cords and tops, was detailing the latest news from Ballinasloe in one
corner, the dandy from St. James's Street might be seen displaying more
arts of seductive flattery in another than his most accurate _insouciane_
would permit him to practise in the elegant salons of London or Paris, and
the same man who would have "cut his brother," for a solecism of dress or
equipage, in Bond Street, was now to be seen quietly domesticated, eating
family dinners, rolling silk for the young ladies, going down the middle
in a country dance, and even descending to the indignity of long whist at
"tenpenny" points, with only the miserable consolation that the company
were not honest.
It was upon a clear frosty morning, when a bright blue sky and a sharp but
bracing air seem to exercise upon the feelings a sense no less pleasurable
than the balmiest breeze and warmest sun of summer, that I whipped my
leader short round, and entered the precincts of "Gurt-na-Morra." As I
proceeded along the avenue, I was struck by the slight traces of repairs
here and there evident,--a gate or two that formerly had been parallel to
the horizon had been raised to the perpendicular; some ineffectual efforts
at paint were also perceptible upon the palings; and, in short, everything
seemed to have undergone a kind of attempt at improvement.
When I reached the door, instead of being surrounded, as of old, by a tribe
of menials frieze-coated, bare-headed, and bare-legged, my presence was
announced by a tremendous ringing of bells from the hands of an old
functionary in a very formidable livery, who peeped at me through the
hall-window, and whom, with the greatest difficulty, I recognized as my
quondam acquaintance, the butler. His wig alone would have graced a king's
counsel; and the high collar of his coat, and the stiff pillory of his
cravat denoted an eternal adieu to so humble a vocation as drawing a cork.
Before I had time for any conjecture as to the altered circumstances about,
the activity of my friend at the bell had surrounded me with "four others
worse than himself," at least they were exactly similarly attired; and
probably from the novelty of their costume, and the restraints of so
unusual a thing as dress, were as perfectly unable to assist themselves
or others as the Court of Aldermen would be were they to rig out in plate
armor of the fourteenth century. How much longer I might have gone on
conjecturing the reasons for the masquerade around, I cannot say; but my
servant, an Irish disciple of my uncle's, whispered in my ear, "It's a
red-breeches day, Master Charles,--they'll have the hoith of company in the
house." From the phrase, it needed little explanation to inform me that it
was one of those occasions on which Mr. Blake attired all the hangers-on
of his house in livery, and that great preparations were in progress for a
more than usually splendid reception.
In the next moment I was ushered into the breakfast-room, where a party of
above a dozen persons were most gayly enjoying all the good cheer for which
the house had a well-deserved repute. After the usual shaking of hands and
hearty greetings were over, I was introduced in all form to Sir George
Dashwood, a tall and singularly handsome man of about fifty, with an
undress military frock and ribbon. His reception of me was somewhat
strange; for as they mentioned my relationship to Godfrey O'Malley, he
smiled slightly, and whispered something to Mr. Blake, who replied, "Oh,
no, no; not the least. A mere boy; and besides--" What he added I lost, for
at that moment Nora Blake was presenting me to Miss Dashwood.
If the sweetest blue eyes that ever beamed beneath a forehead of snowy
whiteness, over which dark brown and waving hair fell less in curls than
masses of locky richness, could only have known what wild work they were
making of my poor heart, Miss Dashwood, I trust, would have looked at her
teacup or her muffin rather than at me, as she actually did on that fatal
morning. If I were to judge from her costume, she had only just arrived,
and the morning air had left upon her cheek a bloom that contributed
greatly to the effect of her lovely countenance. Although very young, her
form had all the roundness of womanhood; while her gay and sprightly manner
indicated all the _sans gêne_ which only very young girls possess, and
which, when tempered with perfect good taste, and accompanied by beauty and
no small share of talent, forms an irresistible power of attraction.
Beside her sat a tall, handsome man of about five-and-thirty or perhaps
forty years of age, with a most soldierly air, who as I was presented to
him scarcely turned his head, and gave me a half-nod of very unequivocal
coldness. There are moments in life in which the heart is, as it were, laid
bare to any chance or casual impression with a wondrous sensibility of
pleasure or its opposite. This to me was one of those; and as I turned from
the lovely girl, who had received me with a marked courtesy, to the cold
air and repelling _hauteur_ of the dark-browed captain, the blood rushed
throbbing to my forehead; and as I walked to my place at the table, I
eagerly sought his eye, to return him a look of defiance and disdain,
proud and contemptuous as his own. Captain Hammersley, however, never took
further notice of me, but continued to recount, for the amusement of those
about him, several excellent stories of his military career, which, I
confess, were heard with every test of delight by all save me. One thing
galled me particularly,--and how easy is it, when you have begun by
disliking a person, to supply food for your antipathy,--all his allusions
to his military life were coupled with half-hinted and ill-concealed
sneers at civilians of every kind, as though every man not a soldier were
absolutely unfit for common intercourse with the world, still more for any
favorable reception in ladies' society.
The young ladies of the family were a well-chosen auditory, for their
admiration of the army extended from the Life Guards to the Veteran
Battalion, the Sappers and Miners included; and as Miss Dashwood was the
daughter of a soldier, she of course coincided in many of, if not all, his
opinions. I turned towards my neighbor, a Clare gentleman, and tried to
engage him in conversation, but he was breathlessly attending to the
captain. On my left sat Matthew Blake, whose eyes were firmly riveted
upon the same person, and who heard his marvels with an interest scarcely
inferior to that of his sisters. Annoyed and in ill-temper, I ate my
breakfast in silence, and resolved that the first moment I could obtain a
hearing from Mr. Blake I would open my negotiation, and take my leave at
once of Gurt-na-Morra.
We all assembled in a large room, called by courtesy the library, when
breakfast was over; and then it was that Mr. Blake, taking me aside,
whispered, "Charley, it's right I should inform you that Sir George
Dashwood there is the Commander of the Forces, and is come down here at
this moment to--" What for, or how it should concern me, I was not to
learn; for at that critical instant my informant's attention was called off
by Captain Hammersley asking if the hounds were to hunt that day.
"My friend Charley here is the best authority upon that matter," said Mr.
Blake, turning towards me.
"They are to try the Priest's meadows," said I, with an air of some
importance; "but if your guests desire a day's sport, I'll send word over
to Brackely to bring the dogs over here, and we are sure to find a fox in
"Oh, then, by all means," said the captain, turning towards Mr. Blake, and
addressing himself to him,--"by all means; and Miss Dashwood, I'm sure,
would like to see the hounds throw off."
Whatever chagrin the first part of his speech caused me, the latter set my
heart a-throbbing; and I hastened from the room to despatch a messenger to
the huntsman to come over to Gurt-na-Morra, and also another to O'Malley
Castle to bring my best horse and my riding equipments as quickly as
"Matthew, who is this captain?" said I, as young Blake met me in the hall.
"Oh, he is the aide-de-camp of General Dashwood. A nice fellow, isn't he?"
"I don't know what you may think," said I, "but I take him for the most
impertinent, impudent, supercilious--"
The rest of my civil speech was cut short by the appearance of the very
individual in question, who, with his hands in his pockets and a cigar in
his mouth, sauntered forth down the steps, taking no more notice of Matthew
Blake and myself than the two fox-terriers that followed at his heels.
However anxious I might be to open negotiations on the subject of my
mission, for the present the thing was impossible; for I found that Sir
George Dashwood was closeted closely with Mr. Blake, and resolved to wait
till evening, when chance might afford me the opportunity I desired.
As the ladies had retired to dress for the hunt, and as I felt no peculiar
desire to ally myself with the unsocial captain, I accompanied Matthew to
the stable to look after the cattle, and make preparations for the coming
"There's Captain Hammersley's mare," said Matthew, as he pointed out a
highly bred but powerful English hunter. "She came last night; for as he
expected some sport, he sent his horses from Dublin on purpose. The others
will be here to-day."
"What is his regiment?" said I, with an appearance of carelessness, but in
reality feeling curious to know if the captain was a cavalry or infantry
"The --th Light Dragoons,"
"You never saw him ride?" said I.
"Never; but his groom there says he leads the way in his own country."
"And where may that be?"
"In Leicestershire, no less," said Matthew.
"Does he know Galway?"
"Never was in it before. It's only this minute he asked Moses Daly if the
ox-fences were high here."
"Ox-fences! Then he does not know what a wall is?"
"Devil a bit; but we'll teach him."
"That we will," said I, with as bitter a resolution to impart the
instruction as ever schoolmaster did to whip Latin grammar into one of the
"But I had better send the horses down to the Mill," said Matthew; "we'll
draw that cover first."
So saying, he turned towards the stable, while I sauntered alone towards
the road by which I expected the huntsman. I had not walked half a mile
before I heard the yelping of the dogs, and a little farther on I saw old
Brackely coming along at a brisk trot, cutting the hounds on each side, and
calling after the stragglers.
"Did you see my horse on the road, Brackely?" said I.
"I did, Misther Charles; and troth, I'm sorry to see him. Sure yerself
knows better than to take out the Badger, the best steeple-chaser in
Ireland, in such a country as this,--nothing but awkward stone-fences, and
not a foot of sure ground in the whole of it."
"I know it well, Brackely; but I have my reasons for it."
"Well, may be you have; what cover will your honor try first?"
"They talk of the Mill," said I; "but I'd much rather try Morran-a-Gowl."
"Morran-a-Gowl! Do you want to break your neck entirely?"
"No, Brackely, not mine."
"Whose, then, alannah?"
"An English captain's, the devil fly away with him! He's come down here
to-day, and from all I can see is a most impudent fellow; so, Brackely--"
"I understand. Well, leave it to me; and though I don't like the only
deer-park wall on the hill, we'll try it this morning with the blessing.
I'll take him down by Woodford, over the Devil's Mouth,--it's eighteen foot
wide this minute with the late rains,--into the four callows; then over the
stone-walls, down to Dangan; then take a short cast up the hill, blow him
a bit, and give him the park wall at the top. You must come in then fresh,
and give him the whole run home over Sleibhmich. The Badger knows it all,
and takes the road always in a fly,--a mighty distressing thing for the
horse that follows, more particularly if he does not understand a stony
country. Well, if he lives through this, give him the sunk fence and the
stone wall at Mr. Blake's clover-field, for the hounds will run into the
fox about there; and though we never ride that leap since Mr. Malone broke
his neck at it, last October, yet upon an occasion like this, and for the
honor of Galway--"
"To be sure, Brackely; and here's a guinea for you, and now trot on towards
the house. They must not see us together, or they might suspect something.
But, Brackely," said I, calling out after him, "if he rides at all fair,
what's to be done?"
"Troth, then, myself doesn't know. There is nothing so bad west of Athlone.
Have ye a great spite again him?"
"I have," said I, fiercely.
"Could ye coax a fight out of him?"
"That's true," said I; "and now ride on as fast as you can."
Brackely's last words imparted a lightness to my heart and my step, and I
strode along a very different man from what I had left the house half an
Although we had not the advantages of a southerly wind and cloudy sky, the
day towards noon became strongly over-cast, and promised to afford us good
scenting weather; and as we assembled at the meet, mutual congratulations
were exchanged upon the improved appearance of the day. Young Blake had
provided Miss Dashwood with a quiet and well-trained horse, and his sisters
were all mounted as usual upon their own animals, giving to our turnout
quite a gay and lively aspect. I myself came to cover upon a hackney,
having sent Badger with a groom, and longed ardently for the moment when,
casting the skin of my great-coat and overalls, I should appear before the
world in my well-appointed "cords and tops." Captain Hammersley had not as
yet made his appearance, and many conjectures were afloat as to whether "he
might have missed the road, or changed his mind," or "forgot all about it,"
as Miss Dashwood hinted.
"Who, pray, pitched upon this cover?" said Caroline Blake, as she looked
with a practised eye over the country on either side.
"There is no chance of a fox late in the day at the Mill," said the
huntsman, inventing a lie for the occasion.
"Then of course you never intend us to see much of the sport; for after you
break cover, you are entirely lost to us."
"I thought you always followed the hounds," said Miss Dashwood, timidly.
"Oh, to be sure we do, in any common country, but here it is out of the
question; the fences are too large for any one, and if I am not mistaken,
these gentlemen will not ride far over this. There, look yonder, where
the river is rushing down the hill: that stream, widening as it advances,
crosses the cover nearly midway,--well, they must clear that; and then you
may see these walls of large loose stones nearly five feet in height. That
is the usual course the fox takes, unless he heads towards the hills and
goes towards Dangan, and then there's an end of it; for the deer-park wall
is usually a pull up to every one except, perhaps, to our friend Charley
yonder, who has tried his fortune against drowning more than once there."
"Look, here he comes," said Matthew Blake, "and looking splendidly too,--a
little too much in flesh perhaps, if anything."
"Captain Hammersley!" said the four Miss Blakes, in a breath. "Where is
"No; it's the Badger I'm speaking of," said Matthew, laughing, and pointing
with his finger towards a corner of the field where my servant was
leisurely throwing down a wall about two feet high to let him pass.
"Oh, how handsome! What a charger for a dragoon!" said Miss Dashwood.
Any other mode of praising my steed would have been much more acceptable.
The word "dragoon" was a thorn in my tenderest part that rankled and
lacerated at every stir. In a moment I was in the saddle, and scarcely
seated when at once all the _mauvais honte_ of boyhood left me, and I
felt every inch a man. I often look back to that moment of my life, and
comparing it with similar ones, cannot help acknowledging how purely is the
self-possession which so often wins success the result of some slight and
trivial association. My confidence in my horsemanship suggested moral
courage of a very different kind; and I felt that Charles O'Malley
curvetting upon a thorough-bred, and the same man ambling upon a shelty,
were two and very dissimilar individuals.
"No chance of the captain," said Matthew, who had returned from a
_reconnaissance_ upon the road; "and after all it's a pity, for the day is
getting quite favorable."
While the young ladies formed pickets to look out for the gallant
_militaire_, I seized the opportunity of prosecuting my acquaintance with
Miss Dashwood, and even in the few and passing observations that fell from
her, learned how very different an order of being she was from all I had
hitherto seen of country belles. A mixture of courtesy with _naïveté;_ a
wish to please, with a certain feminine gentleness, that always flatters a
man, and still more a boy that fain would be one,--gained momentarily
more and more upon me, and put me also on my mettle to prove to my fair
companion that I was not altogether a mere uncultivated and unthinking
creature, like the remainder of those about me.
"Here he is at last," said Helen Blake, as she cantered across a field
waving her handkerchief as a signal to the captain, who was now seen
approaching at a brisk trot.
As he came along, a small fence intervened; he pressed his horse a little,
and as he kissed hands to the fair Helen, cleared it in a bound, and was in
an instant in the midst of us.
"He sits his horse like a man, Misther Charles," said the old huntsman;
"troth, we must give him the worst bit of it."
Captain Hammersley was, despite all the critical acumen with which I
canvassed him, the very beau-ideal of a gentleman rider; indeed, although a
very heavy man, his powerful English thorough-bred, showing not less bone
than blood, took away all semblance of overweight; his saddle was well
fitting and well placed, as also was his large and broad-reined snaffle;
his own costume of black coat, leathers, and tops was in perfect keeping,
and even to his heavy-handled hunting-whip I could find nothing to cavil
at. As he rode up he paid his respects to the ladies in his usual free and
easy manner, expressed some surprise, but no regret, at hearing that he was
late, and never deigning any notice of Matthew or myself, took his place
beside Miss Dashwood, with whom he conversed in a low undertone.
"There they go!" said Matthew, as five or six dogs, with their heads up,
ran yelping along a furrow, then stopped, howled again, and once more set
off together. In an instant all was commotion in the little valley
below us. The huntsman, with his hand to his mouth, was calling off the
stragglers, and the whipper-in followed up the leading dogs with the rest
of the pack. "They've found! They're away!" said Matthew; and as he spoke
a yell burst from the valley, and in an instant the whole pack were off at
full speed. Rather more intent that moment upon showing off my horsemanship
than anything else, I dashed spurs into Badger's sides, and turned him
towards a rasping ditch before me; over we went, hurling down behind us a
rotten bank of clay and small stones, showing how little safety there had
been in topping instead of clearing it at a bound. Before I was well-seated
again the captain was beside me. "Now for it, then," said I; and away we
went. What might be the nature of his feelings I cannot pretend to state,
but my own were a strange _mélange_ of wild, boyish enthusiasm, revenge,
and recklessness. For my own neck I cared little,--nothing; and as I led
the way by half a length, I muttered to myself, "Let him follow me fairly
this day, and I ask no more."
The dogs had got somewhat the start of us; and as they were in full cry,
and going fast, we were a little behind. A thought therefore struck me
that, by appearing to take a short cut upon the hounds, I should come down
upon the river where its breadth was greatest, and thus, at one coup, might
try my friend's mettle and his horse's performance at the same time. On
we went, our speed increasing, till the roar of the river we were now
approaching was plainly audible. I looked half around, and now perceived
the captain was standing in his stirrups, as if to obtain a view of what
was before him; otherwise his countenance was calm and unmoved, and not
a muscle betrayed that he was not cantering on a parade. I fixed myself
firmly in my seat, shook my horse a little together, and with a shout whose
import every Galway hunter well knows rushed him at the river. I saw the
water dashing among the large stones; I heard it splash; I felt a bound
like the _ricochet_ of a shot; and we were over, but so narrowly that the
bank had yielded beneath his hind legs, and it needed a bold effort of the
noble animal to regain his footing. Scarcely was he once more firm, when
Hammersley flew by me, taking the lead, and sitting quietly in his saddle,
as if racing. I know of little in my after-life like the agony of that
moment; for although I was far, very far, from wishing real ill to him, yet
I would gladly have broken my leg or my arm if he could not have been
able to follow me. And now, there he was, actually a length and a half in
advance! and worse than all, Miss Dashwood must have witnessed the whole,
and doubtless his leap over the river was better and bolder than mine.
One consolation yet remained, and while I whispered it to myself I felt
comforted again. "His is an English mare. They understand these leaps; but
what can he make of a Galway wall?" The question was soon to be solved.
Before us, about three fields, were the hounds still in full cry; a large
stone-wall lay between, and to it we both directed our course together.
"Ha!" thought I, "he is floored at last," as I perceived that the captain
held his course rather more in hand, and suffered me to lead. "Now, then,
for it!" So saying, I rode at the largest part I could find, well knowing
that Badger's powers were here in their element. One spring, one plunge,
and away we were, galloping along at the other side. Not so the captain;
his horse had refused the fence, and he was now taking a circuit of the
field for another trial of it.
"Pounded, by Jove!" said I, as I turned round in my saddle to observe him.
Once more she came at it, and once more balked, rearing up, at the same
time, almost so as to fall backward.
My triumph was complete; and I again was about to follow the hounds, when,
throwing a look back, I saw Hammersley clearing the wall in a most splendid
manner, and taking a stretch of at least thirteen feet beyond it. Once
more he was on my flanks, and the contest renewed. Whatever might be the
sentiments of the riders (mine I confess to), between the horses it now
became a tremendous struggle. The English mare, though evidently superior
in stride and strength, was slightly overweighted, and had not, besides,
that cat-like activity an Irish horse possesses; so that the advantages and
disadvantages on either side were about equalized. For about half an hour
now the pace was awful. We rode side by side, taking our leaps at
exactly the same instant, and not four feet apart. The hounds were still
considerably in advance, and were heading towards the Shannon, when
suddenly the fox doubled, took the hillside, and made for Dangan. "Now,
then, comes the trial of strength," I said, half aloud, as I threw my eye
up a steep and rugged mountain, covered with wild furze and tall heath,
around the crest of which ran, in a zigzag direction, a broken and
dilapidated wall, once the enclosure of a deer park. This wall, which
varied from four to six feet in height, was of solid masonry, and would, in
the most favorable ground, have been a bold leap. Here, at the summit of a
mountain, with not a yard of footing, it was absolutely desperation.
By the time that we reached the foot of the hill, the fox, followed closely
by the hounds, had passed through a breach in the wall; while Matthew
Blake, with the huntsmen and whipper-in, was riding along in search of a
gap to lead the horses through. Before I put spurs to Badger to face the
hill, I turned one look towards Hammersley. There was a slight curl,
half-smile, half-sneer, upon his lip that actually maddened me, and had a
precipice yawned beneath my feet, I should have dashed at it after that.
The ascent was so steep that I was obliged to take the hill in a slanting
direction; and even thus, the loose footing rendered it dangerous in the
At length I reached the crest, where the wall, more than five feet in
height, stood frowning above and seeming to defy me. I turned my horse full
round, so that his very chest almost touched the stones, and with a bold
cut of the whip and a loud halloo, the gallant animal rose, as if rearing,
pawed for an instant to regain his balance, and then, with a frightful
struggle, fell backwards, and rolled from top to bottom of the hill,
carrying me along with him; the last object that crossed my sight, as I lay
bruised and motionless, being the captain as he took the wall in a flying
leap, and disappeared at the other side. After a few scrambling efforts to
rise, Badger regained his legs and stood beside me; but such was the shock
and concussion of my fall that all the objects around seemed wavering and
floating before me, while showers of bright sparks fell in myriads before
my eyes. I tried to rise, but fell back helpless. Cold perspiration broke
over my forehead, and I fainted. From that moment I can remember nothing,
till I felt myself galloping along at full speed upon a level table-land,
with the hounds about three fields in advance, Hammersley riding foremost,
and taking all his leaps coolly as ever. As I swayed to either side upon my
saddle, from weakness, I was lost to all thought or recollection, save a
flickering memory of some plan of vengeance, which still urged me forward.
The chase had now lasted above an hour, and both hounds and horses began to
feel the pace at which they were going. As for me, I rode mechanically; I
neither knew nor cared for the dangers before me. My eye rested on but one
object; my whole being was concentrated upon one vague and undefined sense
of revenge. At this instant the huntsman came alongside of me.
"Are you hurted, Misther Charles? Did you fall? Your cheek is all blood,
and your coat is torn in two; and, Mother o' God! his boot is ground to
powder; he does not hear me! Oh, pull up! pull up, for the love of the
Virgin! There's the clover-field and the sunk fence before you, and you'll
be killed on the spot!"
"Where?" cried I, with the cry of a madman. "Where's the clover-field;
where's the sunk fence? Ha! I see it; I see it now."
So saying, I dashed the rowels into my horse's flanks, and in an instant
was beyond the reach of the poor fellow's remonstances. Another moment I
was beside the captain. He turned round as I came up; the same smile was
upon his mouth; I could have struck him. About three hundred yards before
us lay the sunk fence; its breadth was about twenty feet, and a wall of
close brickwork formed its face. Over this the hounds were now clambering;
some succeeded in crossing, but by far the greater number fell back,
howling, into the ditch.
I turned towards Hammersley. He was standing high in his stirrups, and as
he looked towards the yawning fence, down which the dogs were tumbling in
masses, I thought (perhaps it was but a thought) that his cheek was paler.
I looked again; he was pulling at his horse. Ha! it was true then; he would
not face it. I turned round in my saddle, looked him full in the face, and
as I pointed with my whip to the leap, called out in a voice hoarse with
passion, "Come on!" I saw no more. All objects were lost to me from that
moment. When next my senses cleared, I was standing amidst the dogs, where
they had just killed. Badger stood blown and trembling beside me, his head
drooping and his flanks gored with spur-marks. I looked about, but all
consciousness of the past had fled; the concussion of my fall had shaken
my intellect, and I was like one but half-awake. One glimpse, short and
fleeting, of what was taking place shot through my brain, as old Brackely
whispered to me, "By my soul, ye did for the captain there." I turned a
vague look upon him, and my eyes fell upon the figure of a man that lay
stretched and bleeding upon a door before me. His pale face was crossed
with a purple stream of blood that trickled from a wound beside his
eyebrow; his arms lay motionless and heavily at either side. I knew him
not. A loud report of a pistol aroused me from my stupor; I looked back. I
saw a crowd that broke suddenly asunder and fled right and left. I heard
a heavy crash upon the ground; I pointed with my finger, for I could not
utter a word.
"It is the English mare, yer honor; she was a beauty this morning, but
she's broke her shoulder-bone and both her legs, and it was best to put her
out of pain."
On the fourth day following the adventure detailed in the last chapter, I
made my appearance in the drawing-room, my cheek well blanched by copious
bleeding, and my step tottering and uncertain. On entering the room, I
looked about in vain for some one who might give me an insight into the
occurrences of the four preceding days; but no one was to be met with. The
ladies, I learned, were out riding; Matthew was buying a new setter, Mr.
Blake was canvassing, and Captain Hammersley was in bed. Where was Miss
Dashwood?--in her room; and Sir George?--he was with Mr. Blake.
"What! Canvassing, too?"
"Troth, that same was possible," was the intelligent reply of the old
butler, at which I could not help smiling. I sat down, therefore, in the
easiest chair I could find, and unfolding the county paper, resolved upon
learning how matters were going on in the political world. But somehow,
whether the editor was not brilliant or the fire was hot or that my own
dreams were pleasanter to indulge in than his fancies, I fell sound asleep.
How differently is the mind attuned to the active, busy world of thought
and action when awakened from sleep by any sudden and rude summons to arise
and be stirring, and when called into existence by the sweet and silvery
notes of softest music stealing over the senses, and while they impart
awakening thoughts of bliss and beauty, scarcely dissipating the dreamy
influence of slumber! Such was my first thought, as, with closed lids, the
thrilling chords of a harp broke upon my sleep and aroused me to a feeling
of unutterable pleasure. I turned gently round in my chair and beheld Miss
Dashwood. She was seated in a recess of an old-fashioned window; the pale
yellow glow of a wintry sun at evening fell upon her beautiful hair, and
tinged it with such a light as I have often since then seen in Rembrandt's
pictures; her head leaned upon the harp, and as she struck its chords at
random, I saw that her mind was far away from all around her. As I looked,
she suddenly started from her leaning attitude, and parting back her curls
from her brow, she preluded a few chords, and then sighed forth, rather
than sang, that most beautiful of Moore's melodies,--
"She is far from the land where her young hero sleeps."
Never before had such pathos, such deep utterance of feeling, met my
astonished sense; I listened breathlessly as the tears fell one by one down
my cheek; my bosom heaved and fell; and when she ceased, I hid my head
between my hands and sobbed aloud. In an instant, she was beside me, and
placing her hand upon my shoulder, said,--
"Poor dear boy, I never suspected you of being there, or I should not have
sung that mournful air."
I started and looked up; and from what I know not, but she suddenly
crimsoned to her very forehead, while she added in a less assured tone,--
"I hope, Mr. O'Malley, that you are much better; and I trust there is no
imprudence in your being here."
"For the latter, I shall not answer," said I, with a sickly smile; "but
already I feel your music has done me service."
"Then let me sing more for you."
"If I am to have a choice, I should say, Sit down, and let me hear you talk
to me. My illness and the doctor together have made wild work of my poor
brain; but if you will talk to me--"
"Well, then, what shall it be about? Shall I tell you a fairy tale?"
"I need it not; I feel I am in one this instant."
"Well, then, what say you to a legend; for I am rich in my stores of them?"
"The O'Malleys have their chronicles, wild and barbarous enough without the
aid of Thor and Woden."
"Then, shall we chat of every-day matters? Should you like to hear how the
election and the canvass go on?"
"Yes; of all things."
"Well, then, most favorably. Two baronies, with most unspeakable names,
have declared for us, and confidence is rapidly increasing among our party.
This I learned, by chance, yesterday; for papa never permits us to know
anything of these matters,--not even the names of the candidates."
"Well, that was the very point I was coming to; for the government were
about to send down some one just as I left home, and I am most anxious to
learn who it is."
"Then am I utterly valueless; for I really can't say what party the
government espouses, and only know of our own."
"Quite enough for me that you wish it success," said I, gallantly. "Perhaps
you can tell me if my uncle has heard of my accident?"
"Oh, yes; but somehow he has not been here himself, but sent a friend,--a
Mr. Considine, I think; a very strange person he seemed. He demanded to see
papa, and it seems, asked him if your misfortune had been a thing of his
contrivance, and whether he was ready to explain his conduct about it; and,
in fact, I believe he is mad."
"Heaven confound him!" I muttered between my teeth.
"And then he wished to have an interview with Captain Hammersley. However,
he is too ill; but as the doctor hoped he might be down-stairs in a week,
Mr. Considine kindly hinted that he should wait."
"Oh, then, do tell me how is the captain."
"Very much bruised, very much disfigured, they say," said she, half
smiling; "but not so much hurt in body as in mind."
"As how, may I ask?" said I, with an appearance of innocence.
"I don't exactly understand it; but it would appear that there was
something like rivalry among you gentlemen _chasseurs_ on that luckless
morning, and that while you paid the penalty of a broken head, he was
destined to lose his horse and break his arm."
"I certainly am sorry,--most sincerely sorry for any share I might have had
in the catastrophe; and my greatest regret, I confess, arises from the fact
that I should cause _you_ unhappiness."
"_Me_? Pray explain."
"Why, as Captain Hammersley--"
"Mr. O'Malley, you are too young now to mate me suspect you have an
intention to offend; but I caution you, never repeat this."
I saw that I had transgressed, but how, I most honestly confess, I could
not guess; for though I certainly was the senior of my fair companion in
years, I was most lamentably her junior in tact and discretion.
The gray dusk of evening had long fallen as we continued to chat together
beside the blazing wood embers,--she evidently amusing herself with the
original notions of an untutored, unlettered boy, and I drinking deep
those draughts of love that nerved my heart through many a breach and
Our colloquy was at length interrupted by the entrance of Sir George, who
shook me most cordially by the hand, and made the kindest inquiries about
"They tell me you are to be a lawyer. Mr. O'Malley," said he; "and if so, I
must advise you to take better care of your headpiece."
"A lawyer, Papa; oh dear me! I should never have thought of his being
anything so stupid."
"Why, silly girl, what would you have a man be?"
"A dragoon, to be sure, Papa," said the fond girl, as she pressed her arm
around his manly figure, and looked up in his face with an expression of
mingled pride and affection.
That word sealed my destiny.
When I retired to my room to dress for dinner, I found my servant waiting
with a note from my uncle, to which, he informed me, the messenger expected
I broke the seal and read:--
DEAR CHARLEY,--Do not lose a moment in securing old Blake,--if
you have not already done so,--as information has just reached
me that the government party has promised a cornetcy to young
Matthew if he can bring over his father. And these are the people
I have been voting with--a few private cases excepted--for thirty
I am very sorry for your accident. Considine informs me that it
will need explanation at a later period. He has been in Athlone
since Tuesday, in hopes to catch the new candidate on his way down,
and get him into a little private quarrel before the day; if he
succeeds, it will save the county much expense, and conduce greatly to
the peace and happiness of all parties. But "these things," as Father
Roach says, "are in the hands of Providence." You must also persuade
old Blake to write a few lines to Simon Mallock, about the
Coolnamuck mortgage. We can give him no satisfaction at present,
at least such as he looks for; and don't be philandering any longer
where you are, when your health permits a change of quarters.
Your affectionate uncle,
P.S. I have just heard from Considine. He was out this morning
and shot a fellow in the knee; but finds that after all he was
not the candidate, but a tourist that was writing a book about
P.S. No. 2. Bear the mortgage in mind, for old Mallock is a
spiteful fellow, and has a grudge against me, since I horsewhipped
his son in Banagher. Oh, the world, the world! G. O'M.
Until I read this very clear epistle to the end, I had no very precise
conception how completely I had forgotten all my uncle's interests, and
neglected all his injunctions. Already five days had elapsed, and I had not
as much as mooted the question to Mr. Blake, and probably all this time my
uncle was calculating on the thing as concluded; but, with one hole in my
head and some half-dozen in my heart, my memory was none of the best.
Snatching up the letter, therefore, I resolved to lose no more time, and
proceeded at once to Mr. Blake's room, expecting that I should, as the
event proved, find him engaged in the very laborious duty of making his
[Illustration: MR. BLAKE'S DRESSING ROOM.]
"Come in, Charley," said he, as I tapped gently at the door. "It's only
Charley, my darling. Mrs. B. won't mind you."
"Not the least in life," responded Mrs. B., disposing at the same time a
pair of her husband's corduroys tippet fashion across her ample shoulders,
which before were displayed in the plenitude and breadth of coloring we
find in a Rubens. "Sit down, Charley, and tell us what's the matter."
As until this moment I was in perfect ignorance of the Adam-and-Eve-like
simplicity in which the private economy of Mr. Blake's household was
conducted, I would have gladly retired from what I found to be a mutual
territory of dressing-room had not Mr. Blake's injunctions been issued
somewhat like an order to remain.
"It's only a letter, sir," said I, stuttering, "from my uncle about the
election. He says that as his majority is now certain, he should feel
better pleased in going to the poll with all the family, you know, sir,
along with him. He wishes me just to sound your intentions,--to make out
how you feel disposed towards him; and--and, faith, as I am but a poor
diplomatist, I thought the best way was to come straight to the point and
tell you so."
"I perceive," said Mr. Blake, giving his chin at the moment an awful gash
with the razor,--"I perceive; go on."
"Well, sir, I have little more to say. My uncle knows what influence you
have in Scariff, and expects you'll do what you can there."
"Anything more?" said Blake, with a very dry and quizzical expression I
didn't half like,--"anything more?"
"Oh, yes; you are to write a line to old Mallock."
"I understand; about Coolnamuck, isn't it?"
"Exactly; I believe that's all."
"Well, now, Charley, you may go down-stairs, and we'll talk it over after
"Yes, Charley dear, go down, for I'm going to draw on my stockings," said
the fair Mrs. Blake, with a look of very modest consciousness.
When I had left the room I couldn't help muttering a "Thank God!" for the
success of a mission I more than once feared for, and hastened to despatch
a note to my uncle, assuring him of the Blake interest, and adding that for
propriety's sake I should defer my departure for a day or two longer.
This done, with a heart lightened of its load and in high spirits at my
cleverness, I descended to the drawing-room. Here a very large party were
already assembled, and at every opening of the door a new relay of Blakes,
Burkes, and Bodkins was introduced. In the absence of the host, Sir George
Dashwood was "making the agreeable" to the guests, and shook hands with
every new arrival with all the warmth and cordiality of old friendship.
While thus he inquired for various absent individuals, and asked most
affectionately for sundry aunts and uncles not forthcoming, a slight
incident occurred which by its ludicrous turn served to shorten the long
half-hour before dinner. An individual of the party, a Mr. Blake, had, from
certain peculiarities of face, obtained in his boyhood the sobriquet of
"Shave-the-wind." This hatchet-like conformation had grown with his growth,
and perpetuated upon him a nickname by which alone was he ever spoken of
among his friends and acquaintances; the only difference being that as he
came to man's estate, brevity, that soul of wit, had curtailed the epithet
to mere "Shave." Now, Sir George had been hearing frequent reference made
to him always by this name, heard him ever so addressed, and perceived him
to reply to it; so that when he was himself asked by some one what sport he
had found that day among the woodcocks, he answered at once, with a bow of
very grateful acknowledgment, "Excellent, indeed; but entirely owing to
where I was placed in the copse. Had it not been for Mr. Shave there--"
I need not say that the remainder of his speech, being heard on all sides,
became one universal shout of laughter, in which, to do him justice, the
excellent Shave himself heartily joined. Scarcely were the sounds of mirth
lulled into an apparent calm, when the door opened and the host and hostess
appeared. Mrs. Blake advanced in all the plenitude of her charms, arrayed
in crimson satin, sorely injured in its freshness by a patch of grease
upon the front about the same size and shape as the continent of Europe in
Arrowsmith's Atlas. A swan's-down tippet covered her shoulders; massive
bracelets ornamented her wrists; while from her ears descended two Irish
diamond ear-rings, rivalling in magnitude and value the glass pendants of
a lustre. Her reception of her guests made ample amends, in warmth and
cordiality, for any deficiency of elegance; and as she disposed her ample
proportions upon the sofa, and looked around upon the company, she appeared
the very impersonation of hospitality.
After several openings and shuttings of the drawing-room door, accompanied
by the appearance of old Simon the butler, who counted the party at least
five times before he was certain that the score was correct, dinner was
at length announced. Now came a moment of difficulty, and one which, as
testing Mr. Blake's tact, he would gladly have seen devolve upon some other
shoulders; for he well knew that the marshalling a room full of mandarins,
blue, green, and yellow, was "cakes and gingerbread" to ushering a Galway
party in to dinner.
First, then, was Mr. Miles Bodkin, whose grandfather would have been a lord
if Cromwell had not hanged him one fine morning. Then Mrs. Mosey Blake's
first husband was promised the title of Kilmacud if it was ever restored;
whereas Mrs. French of Knocktunmor's mother was then at law for a title.
And lastly, Mrs. Joe Burke was fourth cousin to Lord Clanricarde, as is or
will be every Burke from this to the day of judgment. Now, luckily for her
prospects, the lord was alive; and Mr. Blake, remembering a very sage adage
about "dead lions," etc., solved the difficulty at once by gracefully
tucking the lady under his arm and leading the way. The others soon
followed, the priest of Portumna and my unworthy self bringing up the rear.
When, many a year afterwards, the hard ground of a mountain bivouac,
with its pitiful portion of pickled cork-tree yclept mess-beef, and that
pyroligneous aquafortis they call corn-brandy have been my hard fare,
I often looked back to that day's dinner with a most heart-yearning
sensation,--a turbot as big as the Waterloo shield, a sirloin that seemed
cut from the sides of a rhinoceros, a sauce-boat that contained an
oyster-bed. There was a turkey, which singly would have formed the main
army of a French dinner, doing mere outpost duty, flanked by a picket of
ham and a detached squadron of chickens carefully ambushed in a forest
of greens; potatoes, not disguised _à la maître d'hôtel_ and tortured to
resemble bad macaroni, but piled like shot in an ordnance-yard, were posted
at different quarters; while massive decanters of port and sherry stood
proudly up like standard bearers amidst the goodly array. This was none
of your austere "great dinners," where a cold and chilling _plateau_ of
artificial nonsense cuts off one-half of the table from intercourse with
the other; when whispered sentences constitute the conversation, and all
the friendly recognition of wine-drinking, which renews acquaintance and
cements an intimacy, is replaced by the ceremonious filling of your glass
by a lackey; where smiles go current in lieu of kind speeches, and epigram
and smartness form the substitute for the broad jest and merry story. Far
from it. Here the company ate, drank, talked, laughed,--did all but sing,
and certainly enjoyed themselves heartily. As for me, I was little more
than a listener; and such was the crash of plates, the jingle of glasses,
and the clatter of voices, that fragments only of what was passing
around reached me, giving to the conversation of the party a character
occasionally somewhat incongruous. Thus such sentences as the following ran
foul of each other every instant:--
"No better land in Galway"--"where could you find such facilities"--"for
shooting Mr. Jones on his way home"--"the truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth"--"kiss"--"Miss Blake, she's the girl with a foot and
ankle"--"Daly has never had wool on his sheep"--"how could he"--"what
does he pay for the mountain"--"four and tenpence a yard"--"not a penny
less"--"all the cabbage-stalks and potato-skins"--"with some bog stuff
through it"--"that's the thing to"--"make soup, with a red herring in it
instead of salt"--"and when he proposed for my niece, ma'am, says he"--"mix
a strong tumbler, and I'll make a shake-down for you on the floor"--"and
may the Lord have mercy on your soul"--"and now, down the middle and
up again"--"Captain Magan, my dear, he is the man"--"to shave a pig
properly"--"it's not money I'm looking for, says he, the girl of my
heart"--"if she had not a wind-gall and two spavins"--"I'd have given her
the rights of the church, of coorse," said Father Roach, bringing up the
rear of this ill-assorted jargon.
Such were the scattered links of conversation I was condemned to listen to,
till a general rise on the part of the ladies left us alone to discuss our
wine and enter in good earnest upon the more serious duties of the evening.
Scarcely was the door closed when one of the company, seizing the
bell-rope, said, "With your leave, Blake, we'll have the 'dew' now."
"Good claret,--no better," said another; "but it sits mighty cold on the
"There's nothing like the groceries, after all,--eh, Sir George?" said an
old Galway squire to the English general, who acceded to the fact, which he
understood in a very different sense.
"Oh, punch, you are my darlin'," hummed another, as a large, square,
half-gallon decanter of whiskey was placed on the table, the various
decanters of wine being now ignominiously sent down to the end of the board
without any evidence of regret on any face save Sir George Dashwood's, who
mixed his tumbler with a very rebellious conscience.
Whatever were the noise and clamor of the company before, they were nothing
to what now ensued. As one party were discussing the approaching contest,
another was planning a steeple-chase, while two individuals, unhappily
removed from each other the entire length of the table, were what is called
"challenging each other's effects" in a very remarkable manner,--the
process so styled being an exchange of property, when each party, setting
an imaginary value upon some article, barters it for another, the amount
of boot paid and received being determined by a third person, who is the
umpire. Thus a gold breast-pin was swopped, as the phrase is, against a
horse; then a pair of boots, then a Kerry bull, etc.,--every imaginable
species of property coming into the market. Sometimes, as matters of very
dubious value turned up, great laughter was the result. In this very
national pastime, a Mr. Miles Bodkin, a noted fire-eater of the west, was
a great proficient; and it is said he once so completely succeeded in
despoiling an uninitiated hand, that after winning in succession his horse,
gig, harness, etc., he proceeded _seriatim_ to his watch, ring, clothes,
and portmanteau, and actually concluded by winning all he possessed, and
kindly lent him a card-cloth to cover him on his way to the hotel.
His success on the present occasion was considerable, and his spirits
proportionate. The decanter had thrice been replenished, and the flushed
faces and thickened utterance of the guests evinced that from the cold
properties of the claret there was but little to dread. As for Mr. Bodkin,
his manner was incapable of any higher flight, when under the influence of
whiskey, than what it evinced on common occasions; and as he sat at the end
of the table fronting Mr. Blake, he assumed all the dignity of the ruler of
the feast, with an energy no one seemed disposed to question. In answer to
some observations of Sir George, he was led into something like an oration