Part 4 out of 10
expectations and nurture hopes never to be realized. Well, we meet
to-night, after a long and eventful absence; let my future fate be ruled by
the results of this meeting. If Lucy Dashwood does care for me, if I can
detect in her manner enough to show me that my affection may meet a return,
the whole effort of my life shall be to make her mine; if not, if my
own feelings be all that I have to depend upon to extort a reciprocal
affection, then shall I take my last look of her, and with it the first and
brightest dream of happiness my life has hitherto presented."
* * * * *
It need not be wondered at if the brilliant _coup d'oeil_ of the ball-room,
as I entered, struck me with astonishment, accustomed as I had hitherto
been to nothing more magnificent than an evening party of squires and
their squiresses or the annual garrison ball at the barracks. The glare of
wax-lights, the well-furnished saloons, the glitter of uniforms, and the
blaze of plumed and jewelled dames, with the clang of military music, was a
species of enchanted atmosphere which, breathing for the first time, rarely
fails to intoxicate. Never before had I seen so much beauty. Lovely faces,
dressed in all the seductive flattery of smiles, were on every side; and as
I walked from room to room, I felt how much more fatal to a man's peace and
heart's ease the whispered words and silent glances of those fair damsels,
than all the loud gayety and boisterous freedom of our country belles, who
sought to take the heart by storm and escalade.
As yet I had seen neither Sir George nor his daughter, and while I looked
on every side for Lucy Dashwood, it was with a beating and anxious heart
I longed to see how she would bear comparison with the blaze of beauty
Just at this moment a very gorgeously dressed hussar stepped from a doorway
beside me, as if to make a passage for some one, and the next moment she
appeared leaning upon the arm of another lady. One look was all that I had
time for, when she recognized me.
"Ah, Mr. O'Malley, how happy--has Sir George--has my father seen you?"
"I have only arrived this moment; I trust he is quite well?"
"Oh, yes, thank you--"
"I beg your pardon with all humility, Miss Dashwood," said the hussar, in a
tone of the most knightly courtesy, "but they are waiting for us."
"But, Captain Fortescue, you must excuse me one moment more. Mr. Lechmere,
will you do me the kindness to find out Sir George? Mr. O'Malley--Mr.
Lechmere." Here she said something in French to her companion, but so
rapidly that I could not detect what it was, but merely heard the reply,
_"Pas mal!"_--which, as the lady continued to canvass me most deliberately
through her eye-glass, I supposed referred to me. "And now, Captain
Fortescue--" And with a look of most courteous kindness to me she
disappeared in the crowd.
The gentleman to whose guidance I was entrusted was one of the
aides-de-camp, and was not long in finding Sir George. No sooner had the
good old general heard my name, than he held out both his hands and shook
mine most heartily.
"At last, O'Malley; at last I am able to thank you for the greatest
service ever man rendered me. He saved Lucy, my Lord; rescued her under
circumstances where anything short of his courage and determination must
have cost her her life."
"Ah, very pretty indeed," said a stiff old gentleman addressed, as he
bowed a most superbly powdered scalp before me; "most happy to make your
"Who is he?" added he, in nearly as loud a tone to Sir George.
"Mr. O'Malley, of O'Malley Castle."
"True, I forgot; why is he not in uniform?"
"Because, unfortunately, my Lord, we don't own him; he's not in the army."
"Ha! ha! thought he was."
"You dance, O'Malley, I suppose? I'm sure you'd rather be over there than
hearing all my protestations of gratitude, sincere and heartfelt as they
"Lechmere, introduce my friend, Mr. O'Malley; get him a partner."
I had not followed my new acquaintance many steps, when Power came up to
me. "I say, Charley," cried he, "I have been tormented to death by half the
ladies in the room to present you to them, and have been in quest of you
this half-hour. Your brilliant exploit in savage land has made you a
regular _preux chevalier_; and if you don't trade on that adventure to your
most lasting profit, you deserve to be--a lawyer. Come along here! Lady
Muckleman, the adjutant-general's lady and chief, has four Scotch daughters
you are to dance with; then I am to introduce you in all form to the Dean
of Something's niece,--she is a good-looking girl, and has two livings in
a safe county. Then there's the town-major's wife; and, in fact, I have
several engagements from this to supper-time."
"A thousand thanks for all your kindness in prospective, but I think,
perhaps, it were right I should ask Miss Dashwood to dance, if only as a
matter of form,--you understand?"
"And if Miss Dashwood should say, 'With pleasure, sir,' only as a matter of
form,--you understand?" said a silvery voice beside me. I turned, and saw
Lucy Dashwood, who, having overheard my free-and-easy suggestion, replied
to me in this manner.
I here blundered out my excuses. What I said, and what I did not say, I do
not now remember; but certainly, it was her turn now to blush, and her arm
trembled within mine as I led her to the top of the room. In the little
opportunity which our quadrille presented for conversation, I could not
help remarking that, after the surprise of her first meeting with me, Miss
Dashwood's manner became gradually more and more reserved, and that there
was an evident struggle between her wish to appear grateful for what had
occurred, with a sense of the necessity of not incurring a greater degree
of intimacy. Such was my impression, at least, and such the conclusion I
drew from a certain quiet tone in her manner that went further to wound my
feelings and mar my happiness than any other line of conduct towards me
could possibly have effected.
Our quadrille over, I was about to conduct her to a seat, when Sir George
came hurriedly up, his face greatly flushed, and betraying every semblance
of high excitement.
"Dear Papa, has anything occurred? Pray what is it?" inquired she.
He smiled faintly, and replied, "Nothing very serious, my dear, that
I should alarm you in this way; but certainly, a more disagreeable
_contretemps_ could scarcely occur."
"Do tell me: what can it be?"
"Read this," said he, presenting a very dirty-looking note which bore the
mark of a red wafer most infernally plain upon its outside.
Miss Dashwood unfolded the billet, and after a moment's silence, instead of
participating, as he expected, in her father's feeling of distress, burst
out a-laughing, while she said: "Why, really, Papa, I do not see why this
should put you out much, after all. Aunt may be somewhat of a character, as
her note evinces, but after a few days--"
"Nonsense, child; there's nothing in this world I have such a dread of as
that confounded woman,--and to come at such a time."
"When does she speak of paying her visit?"
"I knew you had not read the note," said Sir George, hastily; "she's coming
here to-night,--is on her way this instant, perhaps. What is to be done? If
she forces her way in here, I shall go deranged outright; O'Malley, my boy,
read this note, and you will not feel surprised if I appear in the humor
you see me."
I took the billet from the hands of Miss Dashwood, and read as follows:--
DEAR BROTHER,--When this reaches your hand, I'll not be far
off. I'm on my way up to town, to be under Dr. Dease for the ould
complaint. Cowley mistakes my case entirely; he says it's nothing
but religion and wind. Father Magrath, who understands a good
deal about females, thinks otherwise; but God knows who's right.
Expect me to tea, and, with love to Lucy,
Believe me, yours in haste,
Let the sheets be well aired in my room; and if you have a spare bed,
perhaps we could prevail upon Father Magrath to stop too.
I scarcely could contain my laughter till I got to the end of this very
free-and-easy epistle; when at last I burst forth in a hearty fit, in which
I was joined by Miss Dashwood.
From the account Power had given me in the morning, I had no difficulty in
guessing that the writer was the maiden sister of the late Lady Dashwood;
and for whose relationship Sir George had ever testified the greatest
dread, even at the distance of two hundred miles; and for whom, in any
nearer intimacy, he was in no wise prepared.
"I say, Lucy," said he, "there's only one thing to be done: if this horrid
woman does arrive, let her be shown to her room; and for the few days of
her stay in town, we'll neither see nor be seen by any one."
Without waiting for a reply, Sir George was turning away to give the
necessary instructions, when the door of the drawing-room was flung open,
and the servant announced, in his loudest voice, "Miss Macan." Never shall
I forget the poor general's look of horror as the words reached him; for as
yet, he was too far to catch even a glimpse of its fair owner. As for me, I
was already so much interested in seeing what she was like, that I made my
way through the crowd towards the door. It is no common occurrence that can
distract the various occupations of a crowded ball-room, where, amidst the
crash of music and the din of conversation, goes on the soft, low voice
of insinuating flattery, or the light flirtation of a first acquaintance;
every clique, every coterie, every little group of three or four has its
own separate and private interests, forming a little world of its own, and
caring for and heeding nothing that goes on around; and even when some
striking character or illustrious personage makes his _entrée_, the
attention he attracts is so momentary, that the buzz of conversation is
scarcely, if at all, interrupted, and the business of pleasure continues
to flow on. Not so now, however. No sooner had the servant pronounced the
magical name of Miss Macan, than all seemed to stand still. The spell thus
exercised over the luckless general seemed to have extended to his company;
for it was with difficulty that any one could continue his train of
conversation, while every eye was directed towards the door. About two
steps in advance of the servant, who still stood door in hand, was a tall,
elderly lady, dressed in an antique brocade silk, with enormous flowers
gaudily embroidered upon it. Her hair was powdered and turned back in the
fashion of fifty years before; while her high-pointed and heeled shoes
completed a costume that had not been seen for nearly a century. Her short,
skinny arms were bare and partly covered by a falling flower of old point
lace, while on her hands she wore black silk mittens; a pair of green
spectacles scarcely dimmed the lustre of a most piercing pair of eyes, to
whose effect a very palpable touch of rouge on the cheeks certainly added
brilliancy. There stood this most singular apparition, holding before her
a fan about the size of a modern tea-tray; while at each repetition of her
name by the servant, she curtesied deeply, bestowing the while upon the gay
crowd before her a very curious look of maidenly modesty at her solitary
and unprotected position.
[Illustration: MISS JUDY MACAN.]
As no one had ever heard of the fair Judith, save one or two of Sir
George's most intimate friends, the greater part of the company were
disposed to regard Miss Macan as some one who had mistaken the character of
the invitation, and had come in a fancy dress. But this delusion was but
momentary, as Sir George, armed with the courage of despair, forced his way
through the crowd, and taking her hand affectionately, bid her welcome to
Dublin. The fair Judy, at this, threw her arms about his neck, and saluted
him with a hearty smack that was heard all over the room.
"Where's Lucy, Brother? Let me embrace my little darling," said the lady,
in an accent that told more of Miss Macan than a three-volume biography
could have done. "There she is, I'm sure; kiss me, my honey."
This office Miss Dashwood performed with an effort at courtesy really
admirable; while, taking her aunt's arm, she led her to a sofa.
It needed all the poor general's tact to get over the sensation of this
most _malapropos_ addition to his party; but by degrees the various groups
renewed their occupations, although many a smile, and more than one
sarcastic glance at the sofa, betrayed that the maiden aunt had not escaped
Power, whose propensity for fun very considerably out-stripped his sense of
decorum to his commanding officer, had already made his way towards Miss
Dashwood, and succeeded in obtaining a formal introduction to Miss Macan.
"I hope you will do me the favor to dance next set with me, Miss Macan?"
"Really, Captain, it's very polite of you, but you must excuse me. I was
never anything great in quadrilles; but if a reel or a jig--"
"Oh, dear Aunt, don't think of it, I beg of you."
"Or even Sir Roger de Coverley," resumed Miss Macan.
"I assure you, quite equally impossible."
"Then I'm certain you waltz," said Power.
"What do you take me for, young man? I hope I know better. I wish Father
Magrath heard you ask me that question, and for all your laced jacket--"
"Dearest Aunt, Captain Power didn't mean to offend you; I'm certain he--"
"Well, why did he dare to [_sob, sob_]--did he see anything light about me,
that he [_sob, sob, sob_]--oh, dear! oh, dear! is it for this I came up
from my little peaceful place in the west [_sob, sob, sob_]?--General,
George, dear; Lucy, my love, I'm taken bad. Oh, dear! oh, dear! is there
any whiskey negus?"
Whatever sympathy Miss Macan's sufferings might have excited in the crowd
about her before, this last question totally routed them, and a most hearty
fit of laughter broke forth from more than one of the bystanders.
At length, however, she was comforted, and her pacification completely
effected by Sir George setting her down to a whist-table. From this moment
I lost sight of her for above two hours. Meanwhile I had little opportunity
of following up my intimacy with Miss Dashwood, and as I rather suspected
that, on more than one occasion, she seemed to avoid our meeting, I took
especial care on my part, to spare her the annoyance.
For one instant only had I any opportunity of addressing her, and then
there was such an evident embarrassment in her manner that I readily
perceived how she felt circumstanced, and that the sense of gratitude to
one whose further advances she might have feared, rendered her constrained
and awkward. "Too true," said I, "she avoids me. My being here is only a
source of discomfort and pain to her; therefore, I'll take my leave, and
whatever it may cost me, never to return." With this intention, resolving
to wish Sir George a very good night, I sought him out for some minutes. At
length I saw him in a corner, conversing with the old nobleman to whom he
had presented me early in the evening.
"True, upon my honor, Sir George," said he; "I saw it myself, and she did
it just as dexterously as the oldest blackleg in Paris."
"Why, you don't mean to say that she cheated?"
"Yes, but I do, though,--turned the ace every time. Lady Herbert said to
me, 'Very extraordinary it is,--four by honors again.' So I looked, and
then I perceived it,--a very old trick it is; but she did it beautifully.
What's her name?"
"Some western name; I forget it," said the poor general, ready to die with
"Clever old woman, very!" said the old lord, taking a pinch of snuff; "but
revokes too often."
Supper was announced at this critical moment, and before I had further
thought of my determination to escape, I felt myself hurried along in the
crowd towards the staircase. The party immediately in front of me were
Power and Miss Macan, who now appeared reconciled, and certainly testified
most openly their mutual feelings of good-will.
"I say, Charley," whispered Power, as I came along, "it is capital
fun,--never met anything equal to her; but the poor general will never
live through it, and I'm certain of ten day's arrest for this night's
"Any news of Webber?" I inquired.
"Oh, yes, I fancy I can tell something of him; for I heard of some one
presenting himself, and being refused the _entrée_, so that Master Frank
has lost his money. Sit near us, I pray you, at supper. We must take care
of the dear aunt for the niece's sake, eh?"
Not seeing the force of this reasoning, I soon separated myself from them,
and secured a corner at a side-table. Every supper on such an occasion as
this is the same scene of solid white muslin, faded flowers, flushed faces,
torn gloves, blushes, blanc-mange, cold chicken, jelly, sponge cakes,
spooney young gentlemen doing the attentive, and watchful mammas
calculating what precise degree of propinquity in the crush is safe or
seasonable for their daughters to the mustached and unmarrying lovers
beside them. There are always the same set of gratified elders, like the
benchers in King's Inn, marched up to the head of the table, to eat, drink,
and be happy, removed from the more profane looks and soft speeches of the
younger part of the creation. Then there are the _hoi polloi_ of outcasts,
younger sons of younger brothers, tutors, governesses, portionless cousins,
and curates, all formed in phalanx round the side-tables, whose primitive
habits and simple tastes are evinced by their all eating off the same plate
and drinking from nearly the same wine-glass,--too happy if some better-off
acquaintance at the long table invites them to "wine," though the ceremony
on their part is limited to the pantomime of drinking. To this miserable
_tiers etat_ I belonged, and bore my fate with unconcern; for, alas, my
spirits were depressed and my heart heavy. Lucy's treatment of me was every
moment before me, contrasted with her gay and courteous demeanor to all
save myself, and I longed for the moment to get away.
Never had I seen her looking so beautiful; her brilliant eyes were lit with
pleasure, and her smile was enchantment itself. What would I not have given
for one moment's explanation, as I took my leave forever!--one brief avowal
of my unalterable, devoted love; for which I sought not nor expected
return, but merely that I might not be forgotten.
Such were my thoughts, when a dialogue quite near me aroused me from my
revery. I was not long in detecting the speakers, who, with their backs
turned to us, were seated at the great table discussing a very liberal
allowance of pigeon-pie, a flask of champagne standing between them.
"Don't now! don't I tell ye; it's little ye know Galway, or ye wouldn't
think to make up to me, squeezing my foot."
"Upon my soul, you're an angel, a regular angel. I never saw a woman suit
my fancy before."
"Oh, behave now. Father Magrath says--"
"The priest; no less."
"Oh, confound him!"
"Confound Father Magrath, young man?"
"Well, then, Judy, don't be angry; I only meant that a dragoon knows rather
more of these matters than a priest."
"Well, then, I'm not so sure of that. But anyhow, I'd have you to remember
it ain't a Widow Malone you have beside you."
"Never heard of the lady," said Power.
"Sure, it's a song,--poor creature,--it's a song they made about her in the
North Cork, when they were quartered down in our county."
"I wish to Heaven you'd sing it."
"What will you give me, then, if I do?"
"Anything,--everything; my heart, my life."
"I wouldn't give a trauneen for all of them. Give me that old green ring on
your finger, then."
"It's yours," said Power, placing it gracefully upon Miss Macan's finger;
"and now for your promise."
"May be my brother might not like it."
"He'd be delighted," said Power; "he dotes on music."
"Does he now?"
"On my honor, he does."
"Well, mind you get up a good chorus, for the song has one, and here it
"Miss Macan's song!" said Power, tapping the table with his knife.
"Miss Macan's song!" was re-echoed on all sides; and before the luckless
general could interfere, she had begun. How to explain the air I know not,
for I never heard its name; but at the end of each verse a species of echo
followed the last word that rendered it irresistibly ridiculous.
THE WIDOW MALONE.
Did ye hear of the Widow Malone,
Who lived in the town of Athlone,
Oh, she melted the hearts
Of the swains in them parts,
So lovely the Widow Malone,
So lovely the Widow Malone.
Of lovers she had a full score,
And fortunes they all had galore,
From the minister down
To the clerk of the crown,
All were courting the Widow Malone,
All were courting the Widow Malone.
But so modest was Mrs. Malone,
'T was known
No one ever could see her alone,
Let them ogle and sigh,
They could ne'er catch her eye,
So bashful the Widow Malone,
So bashful the Widow Malone.
Till one Mister O'Brien from Clare,
It's little for blushin' they care
Put his arm round her waist,
Gave ten kisses at laste,
"Oh," says he, "you're my Molly Malone,
Oh," says he, "you're my Molly Malone."
And the widow they all thought so shy,
Ne'er thought of a simper or sigh,
But "Lucius," says she,
"Since you've made now so free,
You may marry your Mary Malone,
You may marry your Mary Malone."
There's a moral contained in my song,
And one comfort it's not very long,
If for widows you die,
Larn to _kiss, not_ to _sigh_,
For they're all like sweet Mistress Malone,
Oh, they're very like Mistress Malone.
Never did song create such a sensation as Miss Macan's; and certainly
her desires as to the chorus were followed to the letter, for "The Widow
Malone, ohone!" resounded from one end of the table to the other, amidst
one universal shout of laughter. None could resist the ludicrous effect of
her melody; and even poor Sir George, sinking under the disgrace of his
relationship, which she had contrived to make public by frequent allusions
to her "dear brother the general," yielded at last, and joined in the mirth
"I insist upon a copy of 'The Widow,' Miss Macan," said Power.
"To be sure; give me a call to-morrow,--let me see,--about two. Father
Magrath won't be at home," said she, with a coquettish look.
"Where, pray, may I pay my respects?"
"No. 22 South Anne Street,--very respectable lodgings. I'll write the
address in your pocket-book."
Power produced a card and pencil, while Miss Macan wrote a few lines,
saying, as she handed it:--
"There, now, don't read it here before the people; they'll think it mighty
indelicate in me to make an appointment."
Power pocketed the card, and the next minute Miss Macan's carriage was
Sir George Dashwood, who little flattered himself that his fair guest
had any intention of departure, became now most considerately attentive,
reminded her of the necessity of muffling against the night air, hoped she
would escape cold, and wished her a most cordial good-night, with a promise
of seeing her early the following day.
Notwithstanding Power's ambition to engross the attention of the lady, Sir
George himself saw her to her carriage, and only returned to the room as a
group was collecting around the gallant captain, to whom he was relating
some capital traits of his late conquest,--for such he dreamed she was.
"Doubt it who will," said he, "she has invited me to call on her to-morrow,
written her address on my card, told me the hour she is certain of being
alone. See here!" At these words he pulled forth the card, and handed it to
Scarcely were the eyes of the other thrown upon the writing, when he said,
"So, this isn't it, Power."
"To be sure it is, man," said Power. "Anne Street is devilish seedy, but
that's the quarter."
"Why, confound it, man!" said the other; "there's not a word of that here."
"Read it out," said Power. "Proclaim aloud my victory."
Thus urged, Lechmere read:--
Please pay to my credit,--and soon, mark ye!--the two ponies
lost this evening. I have done myself the pleasure of enjoying your
ball, kissed the lady, quizzed the papa, and walked into the cunning
Fred Power. Yours,
"The Widow Malone, ohone!" is at your service.
Had a thunderbolt fallen at his feet, his astonishment could not have
equalled the result of this revelation. He stamped, swore, raved, laughed,
and almost went deranged. The joke was soon spread through the room, and
from Sir George to poor Lucy, now covered with blushes at her part in the
transaction, all was laughter and astonishment.
"Who is he? That is the question," said Sir George, who, with all the
ridicule of the affair hanging over him, felt no common relief at the
discovery of the imposition.
"A friend of O'Malley's," said Power, delighted, in his defeat, to involve
another with himself.
"Indeed!" said the general, regarding me with a look of a very mingled
"Quite true, sir," said I, replying to the accusation that his manner
implied; "but equally so, that I neither knew of his plot nor recognized
him when here."
"I am perfectly sure of it, my boy," said the general; "and, after all, it
was an excellent joke,--carried a little too far, it's true; eh, Lucy?"
But Lucy either heard not, or affected not to hear; and after some little
further assurance that he felt not the least annoyed, the general turned to
converse with some other friends; while I, burning with indignation against
Webber, took a cold farewell of Miss Dashwood, and retired.
THE LAST NIGHT IN TRINITY.
How I might have met Master Webber after his impersonation of Miss Macan, I
cannot possibly figure to myself. Fortunately, indeed, for all parties, he
left town early the next morning; and it was some weeks ere he returned.
In the meanwhile I became a daily visitor at the general's, dined there
usually three or four times a week, rode out with Lucy constantly, and
accompanied her every evening either to the theatre or into society. Sir
George, possibly from my youth, seemed to pay little attention to an
intimacy which he perceived every hour growing closer, and frequently gave
his daughter into my charge in our morning excursions on horseback. As for
me, my happiness was all but perfect. I loved, and already began to hope
that I was not regarded with indifference; for although Lucy's manner never
absolutely evinced any decided preference towards me, yet many slight and
casual circumstances served to show me that my attentions to her were
neither unnoticed nor uncared for. Among the many gay and dashing
companions of our rides, I remarked that, however anxious for such a
distinction, none ever seemed to make any way in her good graces; and I had
already gone far in my self-deception that I was destined for good fortune,
when a circumstance which occurred one morning at length served to open my
eyes to the truth, and blast by one fatal breath the whole harvest of my
We were about to set out one morning on a long ride, when Sir George's
presence was required by the arrival of an officer who had been sent from
the Horse Guards on official business. After half an hour's delay, Colonel
Cameron, the officer in question, was introduced, and entered into
conversation with our party. He had only landed in England from the
Peninsula a few days before, and had abundant information of the stirring
events enacting there. At the conclusion of an anecdote,--I forget
what,--he turned suddenly round to Miss Dashwood, who was standing beside
me, and said in a low voice:--
"And now, Miss Dashwood, I am reminded of a commission I promised a very
old brother officer to perform. Can I have one moment's conversation with
you in the window?"
As he spoke, I perceived that he crumpled beneath his glove something like
"To me?" said Lucy, with a look of surprise that sadly puzzled me whether
to ascribe it to coquetry or innocence,--"to me?"
"To you," said the colonel, bowing; "and I am sadly deceived by my friend
"Captain Hammersley?" said she, blushing deeply as she spoke.
I heard no more. She turned towards the window with the colonel, and all I
saw was that he handed her a letter, which, having hastily broken open and
thrown her eyes over, she grew at first deadly pale, then red, and while
her eyes filled with tears, I heard her say, "How like him! How truly
generous this is!" I listened for no more; my brain was wheeling round and
my senses reeling. I turned and left the room; in another moment I was on
my horse, galloping from the spot, despair, in all its blackness, in my
heart, and in my broken-hearted misery, wishing for death.
I was miles away from Dublin ere I remembered well what had occurred, and
even then not over clearly. The fact that Lucy Dashwood, whom I imagined
to be my own in heart, loved another, was all that I really knew. That
one thought was all my mind was capable of, and in it my misery, my
wretchedness were centred.
Of all the grief my life has known, I have had no moments like the long
hours of that dreary night. My sorrow, in turn, took every shape and
assumed every guise. Now I remembered how the Dashwoods had courted my
intimacy and encouraged my visits,--how Lucy herself had evinced in a
thousand ways that she felt a preference for me. I called to mind the many
unequivocal proofs I had given her that my feeling at least was no common
one; and yet, how had she sported with my affections, and jested with my
happiness! That she loved Hammersley I had now a palpable proof. That this
affection must have been mutual, and prosecuted at the very moment I was
not only professing my own love for her, but actually receiving all but an
avowal of its return,--oh, it was too, too base! and in my deepest heart I
cursed my folly, and vowed never to see her more.
It was late on the next day ere I retraced my steps towards town, my heart
sad and heavy, careless what became of me for the future, and pondering
whether I should not at once give up my college career and return to my
uncle. When I reached my chambers, all was silent and comfortless; Webber
had not returned; my servant was from home; and I felt myself more than
ever wretched in the solitude of what had been so oft the scene of noisy
and festive gayety. I sat some hours in a half-musing state, every sad
depressing thought that blighted hopes can conjure up rising in turn before
me. A loud knocking at the door at length aroused me. I got up and opened
it. No one was there. I looked around as well as the coming gloom of
evening would permit, but saw nothing. I listened, and heard, at some
distance off, my friend Power's manly voice as he sang,--
"Oh, love is the soul of an Irish dragoon!"
I hallooed out, "Power!"
"Eh, O'Malley, is that you?" inquired he. "Why, then, it seems it required
some deliberation whether you opened your door or not. Why, man, you can
have no great gift of prophecy, or you wouldn't have kept me so long
"And have you been so?"
"Only twenty minutes; for as I saw the key in the lock, I had determined to
succeed if noise would do it."
"How strange! I never heard it."
"Glorious sleeper you must be; but come, my dear fellow, you don't appear
altogether awake yet."
"I have not been quite well these few days."
"Oh, indeed! The Dashwoods thought there must have been something of that
kind the matter by your brisk retreat. They sent me after you yesterday;
but wherever you went, Heaven knows. I never could come up with you; so
that your great news has been keeping these twenty-four hours longer than
"I am not aware what you allude to."
"Well, you are not over likely to be the wiser when you hear it, if you can
assume no more intelligent look than that. Why, man, there's great luck in
store for you."
"As how, pray? Come, Power, out with it; though I can't pledge myself to
feel half as grateful for my good fortune as I should do. What is it?"
"You know Cameron?"
"I have seen him," said I, reddening.
"Well, old Camy, as we used to call him, has brought over, among his other
news, your gazette."
"My gazette! What do you mean?"
"Confound your uncommon stupidity this evening! I mean, man, that you are
one of us,--gazetted to the 14th Light,--the best fellows for love, war,
and whiskey that ever sported a sabretasche.
'Oh, love is the soul of an Irish dragoon!'
By Jove, I am as delighted to have rescued you from the black harness of
the King's Bench as though you had been a prisoner there! Know, then,
friend Charley, that on Wednesday we proceed to Fermoy, join some score
of gallant fellows,--all food for powder,--and, with the aid of a rotten
transport and the stormy winds that blow, will be bronzing our beautiful
faces in Portugal before the month's out. But come, now, let's see about
supper. Some of ours are coming over here at eleven, and I promised them a
devilled bone; and as it's your last night among these classic precincts,
let us have a shindy of it."
While I despatched Mike to Morrison's to provide supper, I heard from Power
that Sir George Dashwood had interested himself so strongly for me that I
had obtained my cornetcy in the 14th; that, fearful lest any disappointment
might arise, he had never mentioned the matter to me, but that he had
previously obtained my uncle's promise to concur in the arrangement if his
negotiation succeeded. It had so done, and now the long-sought-for object
of many days was within my grasp. But, alas, the circumstance which lent it
all its fascinations was a vanished dream; and what but two days before had
rendered my happiness perfect, I listened to listlessly and almost without
interest. Indeed, my first impulse at finding that I owed my promotion to
Sir George was to return a positive refusal of the cornetcy; but then I
remembered how deeply such conduct would hurt my poor uncle, to whom I
never could give an adequate explanation. So I heard Power in silence to
the end, thanked him sincerely for his own good-natured kindness in the
matter, which already, by the interest he had taken in me, went far to heal
the wounds that my own solitary musings were deepening in my heart. At
eighteen, fortunately, consolations are attainable that become more
difficult at eight-and-twenty, and impossible at eight-and-thirty.
While Power continued to dilate upon the delights of a soldier's life--a
theme which many a boyish dream had long since made hallowed to my
thoughts--I gradually felt my enthusiasm rising, and a certain throbbing at
my heart betrayed to me that, sad and dispirited as I felt, there was still
within that buoyant spirit which youth possesses as its privilege, and
which answers to the call of enterprise as the war-horse to the trumpet.
That a career worthy of manhood, great, glorious, and inspiriting, opened
before me, coming so soon after the late downfall of my hopes, was in
itself a source of such true pleasure that ere long I listened to my
friend, and heard his narrative with breathless interest. A lingering sense
of pique, too, had its share in all this. I longed to come forward in some
manly and dashing part, where my youth might not be ever remembered against
me, and when, having brought myself to the test, I might no longer be
looked upon and treated as a boy.
We were joined at length by the other officers of the 14th, and, to the
number of twelve, sat down to supper.
It was to be my last night in Old Trinity, and we resolved that the
farewell should be a solemn one. Mansfield, one of the wildest young
fellows in the regiment, had vowed that the leave-taking should be
commemorated by some very decisive and open expressions of our feelings,
and had already made some progress in arrangements for blowing up the great
bell, which had more than once obtruded upon our morning convivialities;
but he was overruled by his more discreet associates, and we at length
assumed our places at table, in the midst of which stood a _hecatomb_
of all my college equipments, cap, gown, bands, etc. A funeral pile of
classics was arrayed upon the hearth, surmounted by my "Book on the
Cellar," and a punishment-roll waved its length, like a banner, over the
doomed heroes of Greece and Rome.
It is seldom that any very determined attempt to be gay _par excellence_
has a perfect success, but certainly upon this evening ours had. Songs,
good stories, speeches, toasts, high visions of the campaign before us, the
wild excitement which such a meeting cannot be free from, gradually, as
the wine passed from hand to hand, seized upon all, and about four in the
morning, such was the uproar we caused, and so terrific the noise of our
proceedings, that the accumulated force of porters, sent one by one to
demand admission, was now a formidable body at the door, and Mike at last
came in to assure us that the bursar,--the most dread official of all
collegians,--was without, and insisted, with a threat of his heaviest
displeasure in case of refusal, that the door should be opened.
A committee of the whole house immediately sat upon the question; and it
was at length resolved, _nemine contradicente_, that the request should be
complied with. A fresh bowl of punch, in honor of our expected guest, was
immediately concocted, a new broil put on the gridiron, and having seated
ourselves with as great a semblance of decorum as four bottles a man admits
of, Curtis the junior captain, being most drunk, was deputed to receive the
bursar at the door, and introduce him to our august presence.
Mike's instructions were, that immediately on Dr. Stone the bursar
entering, the door was to be slammed to, and none of his followers
admitted. This done, the doctor was to be ushered in and left to our polite
A fresh thundering from without scarcely left time for further
deliberation; and at last Curtis moved towards the door in execution of his
"Is there any one there?" said Mike, in a tone of most unsophisticated
innocence, to a rapping that, having lasted three quarters of an hour,
threatened now to break in the panel. "Is there any one there?"
"Open the door this instant,--the senior bursar desires you,--this
"Sure it's night, and we're all in bed," said Mike.
"Mr. Webber, Mr. O'Malley," said the bursar, now boiling with indignation,
"I summon you, in the name of the board, to admit me."
"Let the gemman in," hiccoughed Curtis; and at the same instant the
heavy bars were withdrawn, and the door opened, but so sparingly as with
difficulty to permit the passage of the burly figure of the bursar.
Forcing his way through, and regardless of what became of the rest, he
pushed on vigorously through the antechamber, and before Curtis could
perform his functions of usher, stood in the midst of us. What were his
feelings at the scene before him, Heaven knows. The number of figures in
uniform at once betrayed how little his jurisdiction extended to the great
mass of the company, and he immediately turned towards me.
"O'Malley, if you please, Mr. Bursar," said I, bowing with, most
"No matter, sir; _arcades ambo_, I believe."
"Both archdeacons," said Melville, translating, with a look of withering
contempt upon the speaker.
The doctor continued, addressing me,--
"May I ask, sir, if you believe yourself possessed of any privilege for
converting this university into a common tavern?"
"I wish to Heaven he did," said Curtis; "capital tap your old commons would
"Really, Mr. Bursar," replied I, modestly, "I had begun to flatter myself
that our little innocent gayety had inspired you with the idea of joining
"I humbly move that the old cove in the gown do take the chair," sang
out one. "All who are of this opinion say, 'Ay.'" A perfect yell of ayes
followed this. "All who are of the contrary say, 'No.' The ayes have it."
Before the luckless doctor had a moment for thought, his legs were lifted
from under him, and he was jerked, rather than placed, upon a chair, and
put sitting upon the table.
"Mr. O'Malley, your expulsion within twenty-four hours--"
"Hip, hip, hurra, hurra, hurra!" drowned the rest, while Power, taking off
the doctor's cap, replaced it by a foraging cap, very much to the amusement
of the party.
"There is no penalty the law permits of that I shall not--"
"Help the doctor," said Melville, placing a glass of punch in his
"Now for a 'Viva la Compagnie!'" said Telford, seating himself at the
piano, and playing the first bars of that well-known air, to which, in our
meetings, we were accustomed to improvise a doggerel in turn.
"I drink to the graces, Law, Physic, Divinity,
Viva la Compagnie!
And here's to the worthy old Bursar of Trinity,
Viva la Compagnie!"
"Viva, viva la va!" etc., were chorussed with a shout that shook the old
walls, while Power took up the strain:
"Though with lace caps and gowns they look so like asses,
Viva la Compagnie!"
They'd rather have punch than the springs of Parnassus,
Viva la Compagnie!
What a nose the old gentleman has, by the way,
Viva la Compagnie!
Since he smelt out the Devil from Botany Bay,
Viva la Compagnie!
[Footnote:1 Botany Bay was the slang name given by college men to a new
square rather remotely situated from the remainder of the college.]
Words cannot give even the faintest idea of the poor bursar's feelings
while these demoniacal orgies were enacting around him. Held fast in his
chair by Lechmere and another, he glowered on the riotous mob around like a
maniac, and astonishment that such liberties could be taken with one in his
situation seemed to have surpassed even his rage and resentment; and every
now and then a stray thought would flash across his mind that we were
mad,--a sentiment which, unfortunately, our conduct was but too well
calculated to inspire.
"So you're the morning lecturer, old gentleman, and have just dropped in
here in the way of business; pleasant life you must have of it," said
Casey, now by far the most tipsy man present.
"If you think, Mr. O'Malley, that the events of this evening are to end
"Very far from it, Doctor," said Power; "I'll draw up a little account of
the affair for 'Saunders.' They shall hear of it in every corner and nook
of the kingdom."
"The bursar of Trinity shall be a proverb for a good fellow that loveth his
lush," hiccoughed out Fegan.
"And if you believe that such conduct is academical," said the doctor, with
a withering sneer.
"Perhaps not," lisped Melville, tightening his belt; "but it's devilish
"Is that like him?" said Moreton, producing a caricature which he had just
"Capital,--very good,--perfect. M'Cleary shall have it in his window by
noon to-day," said Power.
At this instant some of the combustibles disposed among the rejected
habiliments of my late vocation caught fire, and squibs, crackers, and
detonating shots went off on all sides. The bursar, who had not been deaf
to several hints and friendly suggestions about setting fire to him,
blowing him up, etc., with one vigorous spring burst from his antagonists,
and clearing the table at a bound, reached the floor. Before he could be
seized, he had gained the door, opened it, and was away. We gave chase,
yelling like so many devils. But wine and punch, songs and speeches, had
done their work, and more than one among the pursuers measured his length
upon the pavement; while the terrified bursar, with the speed of terror,
held on his way, and gained his chambers by about twenty yards in advance
of Power and Melville, whose pursuit only ended when the oaken panel of the
door shut them out from their victim. One loud cheer beneath his window
served for our farewell to our friend, and we returned to my rooms. By
this time a regiment of those classic functionaries ycleped porters had
assembled around the door, and seemed bent upon giving battle in honor
of their maltreated ruler; but Power explained to them, in a neat speech
replete with Latin quotations, that their cause was a weak one, that we
were more than their match, and finally proposed to them to finish the
punch-bowl, to which we were really incompetent,--a motion that met
immediate acceptance; and old Duncan, with his helmet in one hand and a
goblet in the other, wished me many happy days and every luck in this life
as I stepped from the massive archway, and took my last farewell of Old
Should any kind reader feel interested as to the ulterior course assumed by
the bursar, I have only to say that the terrors of the "Board" were never
fulminated against me, harmless and innocent as I should have esteemed
them. The threat of giving publicity to the entire proceedings by the
papers, and the dread of figuring in a sixpenny caricature in M'Cleary's
window, were too much for the worthy doctor, and he took the wiser course
under the circumstances, and held his peace about the matter. I, too, have
done so for many a year, and only now recall the scene among the wild
transactions of early days and boyish follies.
THE PHOENIX PARK.
What a glorious thing it is when our first waking thoughts not only dispel
some dark, depressing dream, but arouse us to the consciousness of a new
and bright career suddenly opening before us, buoyant in hope, rich in
promise for the future! Life has nothing better than this. The bold spring
by which the mind clears the depth that separates misery from happiness is
ecstasy itself; and then what a world of bright visions come teeming before
us,--what plans we form; what promises we make to ourselves in our own
hearts; how prolific is the dullest imagination; how excursive the tamest
fancy, at such a moment! In a few short and fleeting seconds, the events of
a whole life are planned and pictured before us. Dreams of happiness
and visions of bliss, of which all our after-years are insufficient to
eradicate the _prestige_, come in myriads about us; and from that narrow
aperture through which this new hope pierces into our heart, a flood of
light is poured that illumines our path to the very verge of the grave. How
many a success in after-days is reckoned but as one step in that ladder of
ambition some boyish review has framed, perhaps, after all, destined to be
the first and only one! With what triumph we hail some goal attained, some
object of our wishes gained, less for its present benefit, than as the
accomplishment of some youthful prophecy, when picturing to our hearts all
that we would have in life, we whispered within us the flattery of success.
Who is there who has not had some such moment; and who would exchange
it, with all the delusive and deceptive influences by which it comes
surrounded, for the greatest actual happiness he has partaken of? Alas,
alas, it is only in the boundless expanse of such imaginations, unreal and
fictitious as they are, that we are truly blessed! Our choicest blessings
in life come even so associated with some sources of care that the cup of
enjoyment is not pure but dregged in bitterness.
To such a world of bright anticipation did I awake on the morning after the
events I have detailed in the last chapter. The first thing my eyes fell
upon was an official letter from the Horse Guards:--
"The commander of the forces desires that Mr. O'Malley will report
himself, immediately on the receipt of this letter, at the headquarters
of the regiment to which he is gazetted."
Few and simple as the lines were, how brimful of pleasure they sounded to
my ears. The regiment to which I was gazetted! And so I was a soldier at
last! The first wish of my boyhood was then really accomplished. And my
uncle, what will he say; what will he think?
"A letter, sir, by the post," said Mike, at the moment.
I seized it eagerly; it came from home, but was in Considine's handwriting.
How my heart failed me as I turned to look at the seal. "Thank God!" said
I, aloud, on perceiving that it was a red one. I now tore it open and
My Dear Charley,--Godfrey, being laid up with the gout, has
desired me to write to you by this day's post. Your appointment to
the 14th, notwithstanding all his prejudices about the army, has
given him sincere pleasure. I believe, between ourselves, that your
college career, of which he has heard something, convinced him that
your forte did not lie in the classics; you know I said so always, but
nobody minded me. Your new prospects are all that your best friends
could wish for you: you begin early; your corps is a crack one; you
are ordered for service. What could you have more?
Your uncle hopes, if you can get a few days' leave, that you will
come down here before you join, and I hope so too; for he is unusually
low-spirited, and talks about his never seeing you again, and
all that sort of thing.
I have written to Merivale, your colonel, on this subject, as well
as generally on your behalf. We were cornets together forty years
ago. A strict fellow you'll find him, but a trump on service. If
you can't manage the leave, write a long letter home at all events.
And so, God bless you, and all success!
I had thought of writing you a long letter of advice for your new
career; and, indeed, half accomplished one. After all, however, I
can tell you little that your own good sense will not teach you as you
go on; and experience is ever better than precept. I know of but
one rule in life which admits of scarcely any exception, and having
followed it upwards of sixty years, approve of it only the more:
Never quarrel when you can help it; but meet any man,--your
tailor, your hairdresser,--if he wishes to have you out.
I had scarcely come to the end of this very characteristic epistle, when
two more letters were placed upon my table. One was from Sir George
Dashwood, inviting me to dinner to meet some of my "brother officers."
How my heart beat at the expression. The other was a short note, marked
"Private," from my late tutor, Dr. Mooney, saying, "that if I made a
suitable apology to the bursar for the late affair at my room, he might
probably be induced to abandon any further step; otherwise--" then followed
innumerable threats about fine, penalties, expulsion, etc., that fell most
harmlessly upon my ears. I accepted the invitation; declined the apology;
and having ordered my horse, cantered off to the barracks to consult my
friend Power as to all the minor details of my career.
As the dinner hour grew near, my thoughts became again fixed upon Miss
Dashwood; and a thousand misgivings crossed my mind as to whether I should
have nerve enough to meet her, without disclosing in my manner the altered
state of my feelings; a possibility which I now dreaded fully as much as I
had longed some days before to avow my affection for her, however slight
its prospect of return. All my valiant resolves and well-contrived plans
for appearing unmoved and indifferent in her presence, with which I stored
my mind while dressing and when on the way to dinner, were, however,
needless, for it was a party exclusively of men; and as the coffee was
served in the dining-room, no move was made to the drawing-room by any of
the company. "Quite as well as it is!" was my muttered opinion, as I got
into my cab at the door. "All is at an end as regards me in her esteem, and
I must not spend my days sighing for a young lady that cares for another."
Very reasonable, very proper resolutions these; but, alas! I went home to
bed, only to think half the night long of the fair Lucy, and dream of her
the remainder of it.
When morning dawned my first thought was, Shall I see her once more? Shall
I leave her forever thus abruptly? Or, rather, shall I not unburden my
bosom of its secret, confess my love, and say farewell? I felt such a
course much more in unison with my wishes than the day before; and as Power
had told me that before a week we should present ourselves at Fermoy, I
knew that no time was to be lost.
My determination was taken. I ordered my horse, and early as it was, rode
out to the Royal Hospital. My heart beat so strongly as I rode up to the
door that I half resolved to return. I rang the bell. Sir George was in
town. Miss Dashwood had just gone, five minutes before, to spend some days
at Carton. "It is fate!" thought I as I turned from the spot and walked
slowly beside my horse towards Dublin.
In the few days that intervened before my leaving town, my time was
occupied from morning to night; the various details of my uniform, outfit,
etc., were undertaken for me by Power. My horses were sent for to Galway;
and I myself, with innumerable persons to see, and a mass of business to
transact, contrived at least three times a day to ride out to the Royal
Hospital, always to make some trifling inquiry for Sir George, and always
to hear repeated that Miss Dashwood had not returned.
Thus passed five of my last six days in Dublin; and as the morning of
the last opened, it was with a sorrowing spirit that I felt my hour of
departure approach without one only opportunity of seeing Lucy, even to
say good-by. While Mike was packing in one corner, and I in another was
concluding a long letter to my poor uncle, my door opened and Webber
"Eh, O'Malley, I'm only in time to say adieu, it seems. To my surprise this
morning I found you had cut the 'Silent Sister.' I feared I should be too
late to catch one glimpse of you ere you started for the wars."
"You are quite right, Master Frank, and I scarcely expected to have seen
you. Your last brilliant achievement at Sir George's very nearly involved
me in a serious scrape."
"A mere trifle. How confoundedly silly Power must have looked, eh? Should
like so much to have seen his face. He booked up next day,--very proper
fellow. By-the-bye, O'Malley, I rather like the little girl; she is
decidedly pretty, and her foot,--did you remark her foot?--capital."
"Yes, she's very good-looking," said I, carelessly.
"I'm thinking of cultivating her a little," said Webber, pulling up his
cravat and adjusting his hair at the glass. "She's spoiled by all the
tinsel vaporing of her hussar and aide-de-camp acquaintances; but something
may be done for her, eh?"
"With your most able assistance and kind intentions."
"That's what I mean exactly. Sorry you're going,--devilish sorry. You
served out Stone gloriously: perhaps it's as well, though,--you know they'd
have expelled you; but still something might turn up. Soldiering is a
bad style of thing, eh? How the old general did take his sister-in-law's
presence to heart! But he must forgive and forget, for I am going to be
very great friends with him and Lucy. Where are you going now?"
"I am about to try a new horse before troops," said I. "He's stanch enough
with the cry of the fox-pack in his ears; but I don't know how he'll stand
a peal of artillery."
"Well, come along," said Webber; "I'll ride with you." So saying, we
mounted and set off to the Park, where two regiments of cavalry and some
horse artillery were ordered for inspection.
The review was over when we reached the exercising ground, and we slowly
walked our horses towards the end of the Park, intending to return to
Dublin by the road. We had not proceeded far, when, some hundred yards in
advance, we perceived an officer riding with a lady, followed by an orderly
"There he goes," said Webber; "I wonder if he'd ask me to dinner, if I were
to throw myself in his way?"
"Who do you mean?" said I.
"Sir George Dashwood, to be sure, and, _la voilà_, Miss Lucy. The little
darling rides well, too; how squarely she sits her horse. O'Malley, I've a
weakness there; upon my soul I have."
"Very possible," said I; "I am aware of another friend of mine
participating in the sentiment."
"One Charles O'Malley, of his Majesty's--"
"Nonsense, man; no, no. I mean a very different person, and, for all I can
see, with some reason to hope for success."
"Oh, as to that, we flatter ourselves the thing does not present any very
"As how, pray?"
"Why, of course, like all such matters, a very decisive determination to
be, to do, and to suffer, as Lindley Murray says, carries the day. Tell her
she's an angel every day for three weeks. She may laugh a little at first,
but she'll believe it in the end. Tell her that you have not the slightest
prospect of obtaining her affections, but still persist in loving her.
That, finally, you must die from the effects of despair, etc., but rather
like the notion of it than otherwise. That you know she has no fortune;
that you haven't a sixpence; and who should marry, if people whose position
in the world was similar did not?"
"But halt; pray, how are you to get time and place for all such interesting
"Time and place! Good Heavens, what a question! Is not every hour of the
twenty-four the fittest? Is not every place the most suitable? A sudden
pause in the organ of St. Patrick's did, it is true, catch me once in a
declaration of love, but the choir came in to my aid and drowned the lady's
answer. My dear O'Malley, what could prevent you this instant, if you are
so disposed, from doing the amiable to the darling Lucy there?"
"With the father for an umpire in case we disagreed," said I.
"Not at all. I should soon get rid of him."
"Impossible, my dear friend."
"Come now, just for the sake of convincing your obstinacy. If you like
to say good-by to the little girl without a witness, I'll take off the
"You don't mean--"
"I do, man; I do mean it." So saying, he drew a crimson silk handkerchief
from his pocket, and fastened it round his waist like an officer's sash.
This done, and telling me to keep in their wake for some minutes, he turned
from me, and was soon concealed by a copse of white-thorn near us.
I had not gone above a hundred yards farther when I heard Sir George's
voice calling for the orderly. I looked and saw Webber at a considerable
distance in front, curvetting and playing all species of antics. The
distance between the general and myself was now so short that I overheard
the following dialogue with his sentry:--
"He's not in uniform, then?"
"No, sir; he has a round hat."
"A round hat!"
"A sword and sash. This is too bad. I'm determined to find him out."
"How d'ye do, General?" cried Webber, as he rode towards the trees.
"Stop, sir!" shouted Sir George.
"Good-day, Sir George," replied Webber, retiring.
"Stay where you are, Lucy," said the general as, dashing spurs into his
horse, he sprang forward at a gallop, incensed beyond endurance that his
most strict orders should be so openly and insultingly transgressed.
Webber led on to a deep hollow, where the road passed between two smooth
slopes, covered with furze-trees, and from which it emerged afterwards in
the thickest and most intricate part of the Park. Sir George dashed boldly
after, and in less than half a minute both were lost to my view, leaving me
in breathless amazement at Master Frank's ingenuity, and some puzzle as to
my own future movements.
"Now then, or never!" said I, as I pushed boldly forward, and in an instant
was alongside of Miss Dashwood. Her astonishment at seeing me so suddenly
increased the confusion from which I felt myself suffering, and for some
minutes I could scarcely speak. At last I plucked up courage a little, and
"Miss Dashwood, I have looked most anxiously, for the last four days, for
the moment which chance has now given me. I wished, before I parted forever
with those to whom I owe already so much, that I should at least speak my
gratitude ere I said good-by."
"But when do you think of going?"
"To-morrow. Captain Power, under whose command I am, has received orders to
embark immediately for Portugal."
I thought--perhaps it was but a thought--that her cheek grew somewhat paler
as I spoke; but she remained silent; and I, scarcely knowing what I had
said, or whether I had finished, spoke not either.
"Papa, I'm sure, is not aware," said she, after a long pause, "of your
intention of leaving so soon, for only last night he spoke of some letters
he meant to give you to some friends in the Peninsula; besides, I know,"
here she smiled faintly,--"that he destined some excellent advice for your
ears, as to your new path in life, for he has an immense opinion of the
value of such to a young officer."
"I am, indeed, most grateful to Sir George, and truly never did any one
stand more in need of counsel than I do." This was said half musingly, and
not intended to be heard.
"Then, pray, consult papa," said she, eagerly; "he is much attached to you,
and will, I am certain, do all in his power--"
"Alas! I fear not, Miss Dashwood."
"Why, what can you mean. Has anything so serious occurred?"
"No, no; I'm but misleading you, and exciting your sympathy with false
pretences. Should I tell you all the truth, you would not pardon, perhaps
not hear me."
"You have, indeed, puzzled me; but if there is anything in which my
"Less him than his daughter," said I, fixing my eyes full upon her as I
spoke. "Yes, Lucy, I feel I must confess it, cost what it may; I love you.
Stay, hear me out; I know the fruitlessness, the utter despair, that awaits
such a sentiment. My own heart tells me that I am not, cannot be, loved in
return; yet would I rather cherish in its core my affection, slighted and
unblessed, such as it is, than own another heart. I ask for nothing, I hope
for nothing; I merely entreat that, for my truth, I may meet belief, and
for my heart's worship of her whom alone I can love, compassion. I see that
you at least pity me. Nay, one word more; I have one favor more to ask,--it
is my last, my only one. Do not, when time and distance may have separated
us, perhaps forever, think that the expressions I now use are prompted by
a mere sudden ebullition of boyish feeling; do not attribute to the
circumstance of my youth alone the warmth of the attachment I profess,--for
I swear to you, by every hope that I have, that in my heart of hearts my
love to you is the source and spring of every action in my life, of every
aspiration in my heart; and when I cease to love you, I shall cease to
"And now, farewell,--farewell forever!" I pressed her hand to my lips, gave
one long, last look, turned my horse rapidly away, and ere a minute was far
out of sight of where I had left her.
Power was detained in town by some orders from the adjutant-general, so
that I started for Cork the next morning with no other companion than my
servant Mike. For the first few stages upon the road, my own thoughts
sufficiently occupied me to render me insensible or indifferent to all
else. My opening career, the prospects my new life as a soldier held out,
my hopes of distinction, my love of Lucy with all its train of doubts and
fears, passed in review before me, and I took no note of time till far past
noon. I now looked to the back part of the coach, where Mike's voice had
been, as usual, in the ascendant for some time, and perceived that he was
surrounded by an eager auditory of four raw recruits, who, under the care
of a sergeant, were proceeding to Cork to be enrolled in their regiment.
The sergeant, whose minutes of wakefulness were only those when the coach
stopped to change horses, and when he got down to mix a "summat hot," paid
little attention to his followers, leaving them perfectly free in all their
movements, to listen to Mike's eloquence and profit by his suggestions,
should they deem fit. Master Michael's services to his new acquaintances,
I began to perceive, were not exactly of the same nature as Dibdin is
reported to have rendered to our navy in the late war. Far from it. His
theme was no contemptuous disdain for danger; no patriotic enthusiasm
to fight for home and country; no proud consciousness of British valor,
mingled with the appropriate hatred of our mutual enemies,--on the
contrary, Mike's eloquence was enlisted for the defendant. He detailed,
and in no unimpressive way either, the hardships of a soldier's life,--its
dangers, its vicissitudes, its chances, its possible penalties, its
inevitably small rewards; and, in fact, so completely did he work on the
feelings of his hearers that I perceived more than one glance exchanged
between the victims that certainly betokened anything save the resolve to
fight for King George. It was at the close of a long and most powerful
appeal upon the superiority of any other line in life, petty larceny and
small felony inclusive, that he concluded with the following quotation:--
"Thrue for ye, boys!
'With your red scarlet coat,
You're as proud as a goat,
And your long cap and feather.'
But, by the piper that played before Moses! it's more whipping nor
gingerbread is going on among them, av ye knew but all, and heerd the
misfortune that happened to my father."
"And was he a sodger?" inquired one.
"Troth was he, more sorrow to him; and wasn't he a'most whipped one day for
doing what he was bid?"
"Musha, but that was hard!"
"To be sure it was hard; but faix, when my father seen that they didn't
know their own minds, he thought, anyhow, he knew his, so he ran away,--and
devil a bit of him they ever cotch afther. May be ye might like to hear the
story; and there's instruction in it for yez, too."
A general request to this end being preferred by the company, Mike took a
shrewd look at the sergeant, to be sure that he was still sleeping, settled
his coat comfortably across his knees, and began:--
Well, it's a good many years ago my father 'listed in the North Cork, just
to oblige Mr. Barry, the landlord there. For,' says he, 'Phil,' says he,
'it's not a soldier ye'll be at all, but my own man, to brush my clothes
and go errands, and the like o' that; and the king, long life to him! will
help to pay ye for your trouble. Ye understand me?' Well, my father agreed,
and Mr. Barry was as good as his word. Never a guard did my father mount,
nor as much as a drill had he, nor a roll-call, nor anything at all, save
and except wait on the captain, his master, just as pleasant as need be,
and no inconvenience in life.
"Well, for three years this went on as I am telling, and the regiment was
ordered down to Bantry, because of a report that the 'boys' was rising
down there; and the second evening there was a night party patrolling with
Captain Barry for six hours in the rain, and the captain, God be marciful
to him! tuk could and died. More by token, they said it was drink, but
my father says it wasn't: 'for' says he, 'after he tuk eight tumblers
comfortable,' my father mixed the ninth, and the captain waived his hand
this way, as much as to say he'd have no more. 'Is it that ye mean?' says
my father; and the captain nodded. 'Musha, but it's sorry I am,' says my
father, 'to see you this way; for ye must be bad entirely to leave off in
the beginning of the evening.' And thrue for him, the captain was dead in
"A sorrowful day it was for my father when he died. It was the finest
place in the world; little to do, plenty of divarsion, and a kind man he
was,--when he was drunk. Well, then, when the captain was buried and all
was over, my father hoped they'd be for letting him away, as he said,
'Sure, I'm no use in life to anybody, save the man that's gone, for his
ways are all I know, and I never was a sodger.' But, upon my conscience,
they had other thoughts in their heads, for they ordered him into the ranks
to be drilled just like the recruits they took the day before.
"'Musha, isn't this hard?' said my father. 'Here I am, an ould vitrin that
ought to be discharged on a pension with two-and-sixpence a day, obliged
to go capering about the barrack-yard, practising the goose-step, or some
other nonsense not becoming my age nor my habits.' But so it was. Well,
this went on for some time, and sure, if they were hard on my father,
hadn't he his revenge; for he nigh broke their hearts with his stupidity.
Oh, nothing in life could equal him! Devil a thing, no matter how easy, he
could learn at all; and so far from caring for being in confinement, it was
that he liked best. Every sergeant in the regiment had a trial of him, but
all to no good; and he seemed striving so hard to learn all the while that
they were loath to punish him, the ould rogue!
"This was going on for some time, when, one day, news came in that a
body of the rebels, as they called them, was coming down from the Gap of
Mulnavick to storm the town and burn all before them. The whole regiment
was of coorse under arms, and great preparations was made for a battle.
Meanwhile patrols were ordered to scour the roads, and sentries posted at
every turn of the way and every rising ground to give warning when the boys
came in sight; and my father was placed at the Bridge of Drumsnag, in the
wildest and bleakest part of the whole country, with nothing but furze
mountains on every side, and a straight road going over the top of them.
"'This is pleasant,' says my father, as soon as they left him there alone
by himself, with no human creature to speak to, nor a whiskey-shop within
ten miles of him; 'cowld comfort,' says he, 'on a winter's day; and faix,
but I have a mind to give ye the slip.'
"Well, he put his gun down on the bridge, and he lit his pipe, and he sat
down under an ould tree and began to ruminate upon his affairs.
"'Oh, then, it's wishing it well I am,' says he, 'for sodgering; and bad
luck to the hammer that struck the shilling that 'listed me, that's all,'
for he was mighty low in his heart.
"Just then a noise came rattling down near him. He listened, and before
he could get on his legs, down comes' the general, ould Cohoon, with an
orderly after him.
"'Who goes there?' says my father.
"'The round,' says the general, looking about all the time to see where was
the sentry, for my father was snug under the tree.
"'What round?' says my father.
"'The grand round,' says the general, more puzzled than afore.
"'Pass on, grand round, and God save you kindly!' says my father, putting
his pipe in his mouth again, for he thought all was over.
"'D--n your soul, where are you?' says the general, for sorrow bit of my
father could he see yet.
"'It's here I am,' says he, 'and a cowld place I have of it; and if it
wasn't for the pipe I'd be lost entirely.'
"The words wasn't well out of his mouth when the general began laughing,
till ye'd think he'd fall off his horse; and the dragoon behind him--more
by token, they say it wasn't right for him--laughed as loud as himself.
"'Yer a droll sentry,' says the general, as soon as he could speak.
"'Be-gorra, it's little fun there's left in me,' says my father, 'with this
drilling, and parading, and blackguarding about the roads all night.'
"'And is this the way you salute your officer?' says the general.
"'Just so,' says my father; 'devil a more politeness ever they taught me.'
"'What regiment do you belong to?' says the general.
"'The North Cork, bad luck to them!' says my father, with a sigh.
"'They ought to be proud of ye,' says the general.
"'I'm sorry for it,' says my father, sorrowfully, 'for may be they'll keep
me the longer.'
"'Well, my good fellow,' says the general, 'I haven't more time to waste
here; but let me teach you something before I go. Whenever your officer
passes, it's your duty to present to him.'
"'Arrah, it's jokin' ye are,' says my father.
"'No, I'm in earnest,' says he, 'as ye might learn, to your cost, if I
brought you to a court-martial.'
"'Well, there's no knowing,' says my father, 'what they'd be up to; but
sure, if that's all, I'll do it, with all "the veins," whenever yer coming
this way again.'
"The general began to laugh again here; but said,--
'I'm coming back in the evening,' says he, 'and mind you don't forget your
respect to your officer.'
"'Never fear, sir,' says my father; 'and many thanks to you for your
kindness for telling me.'
"Away went the general, and the orderly after him, and in ten minutes they
were out of sight.
"The night was falling fast, and one half of the mountain was quite dark
already, when my father began to think they were forgetting him entirely.
He looked one way, and he looked another, but sorra bit of a sergeant's
guard was coming to relieve him. There he was, fresh and fasting, and
daren't go for the bare life. 'I'll give you a quarter of an hour more,'
says my father, 'till the light leaves that rock up there; after that,'
says he, 'by the Mass! I'll be off, av it cost me what it may.'
"Well, sure enough, his courage was not needed this time; for what did
he see at the same moment but a shadow of something coming down the road
opposite the bridge. He looked again; and then he made out the general
himself, that was walking his horse down the steep part of the mountain,
followed by the orderly. My father immediately took up his musket off the
wall, settled his belts, shook the ashes out of his pipe and put it into
his pocket, making himself as smart and neat-looking as he could be,
determining, when ould Cohoon came up, to ask him for leave to go home, at
least for the night. Well, by this time the general was turning a sharp
part of the cliff that looks down upon the bridge, from where you might
look five miles round on every side. 'He sees me,' says my father; 'but
I'll be just as quick as himself.' No sooner said than done; for coming
forward to the parapet of the bridge, he up with his musket to his
shoulder, and presented it straight at the general. It wasn't well there,
when the officer pulled up his horse quite short, and shouted out, 'Sentry!
"'Anan?' says my father, still covering him.
"'Down with your musket you rascal. Don't you see it's the grand round?'
"'To be sure I do,' says my father, never changing for a minute.
"'The ruffian will shoot me,' says the general.
"'Devil a fear,' says my father, 'av it doesn't go off of itself.'
"'What do you mean by that, you villian?' says the general, scarcely able
to speak with fright, for every turn he gave on his horse, my father
followed with the gun,--what do you mean?'
"'Sure, ain't I presenting?' says my father. 'Blood an ages! do you want me
to fire next?'
"With that the general drew a pistol from his holster, and took deliberate
aim at my father; and there they both stood for five minutes, looking at
each other, the orderly all the while breaking his heart laughing behind a
rock; for, ye see, the general knew av he retreated that my father might
fire on purpose, and av he came on, that he might fire by chance,--and
sorra bit he knew what was best to be done.
"'Are ye going to pass the evening up there, grand round?' says my father;
'for it's tired I'm getting houldin' this so long.'
"'Port arms!' shouted the general, as if on parade.
"'Sure I can't, till yer past,' says my father, angrily; 'and my hands
"'By Heavens! I shall be shot,' says the general.
"'Be-gorra, it's what I'm afraid of,' says my father; and the words wasn't
out of his mouth before off went the musket, bang!--and down fell the
general, smack on the ground, senseless. Well the orderly ran out at this,
and took him up and examined his wound; but it wasn't a wound at all, only
the wadding of the gun. For my father--God be kind to him!--ye see, could
do nothing right; and so he bit off the wrong end of the cartridge when he
put it in the gun, and, by reason, there was no bullet in it. Well, from
that day after they never got a sight of him; for the instant that the
general dropped, he sprang over the bridge-wall and got away; and
what, between living in a lime-kiln for two months, eating nothing but
blackberries and sloes, and other disguises, he never returned to the army,
but ever after took to a civil situation, and drive a hearse for many
How far Mike's narrative might have contributed to the support of his
theory, I am unable to pronounce; for his auditory were, at some distance
from Cork, made to descend from their lofty position and join a larger body
of recruits, all proceeding to the same destination, under a strong escort
of infantry. For ourselves, we reached the "beautiful city" in due time,
and took up our quarters at the Old George Hotel.
The undress rehearsal of a new piece, with its dirty-booted actors, its
cloaked and hooded actresses _en papillote_, bears about the same relation
to the gala, wax-lit, and bespangled ballet, as the raw young gentleman
of yesterday to the epauletted, belted, and sabretasched dragoon, whose
transformation is due to a few hours of head-quarters, and a few interviews
with the adjutant.
So, at least, I felt it; and it was with a very perfect concurrence in his
Majesty's taste in a uniform, and a most entire approval of the regimental
tailor, that I strutted down George's Street a few days after my arrival in
Cork. The transports had not as yet come round; there was a great doubt of
their doing so for a week or so longer; and I found myself as the
dashing cornet, the centre of a thousand polite attentions and most kind
The officer under whose orders I was placed for the time was a great friend
of Sir George Dashwood's, and paid me, in consequence, much attention.
Major Dalrymple had been on the staff from the commencement of his military
career, had served in the commissariat for some time, was much on foreign
stations; but never, by any of the many casualties of his life, had he seen
what could be called service. His ideas of the soldier's profession were,
therefore, what might almost be as readily picked up by a commission in the
battle-axe guards, as one in his Majesty's Fiftieth. He was now a species
of district paymaster, employed in a thousand ways, either inspecting
recruits, examining accounts, revising sick certificates, or receiving
contracts for mess beef. Whether the nature of his manifold occupations had
enlarged the sphere of his talents and ambition, or whether the abilities
had suggested the variety of his duties, I know not, but truly the major
was a man of all work. No sooner did a young ensign join his regiment at
Cork, than Major Dalrymple's card was left at his quarters; the next day
came the major himself; the third brought an invitation to dinner; on the
fourth he was told to drop in, in the evening; and from thenceforward,
he was the _ami de la maison_, in company with numerous others as
newly-fledged and inexperienced as himself.
One singular feature of the society at the house was that although the
major was as well known as the flag on Spike Island, yet somehow, no
officer above the rank of an ensign was ever to be met with there. It
was not that he had not a large acquaintance; in fact, the "How are you,
Major?" "How goes it, Dalrymple?" that kept everlastingly going on as
he walked the streets, proved the reverse; but strange enough, his
predilections leaned towards the newly gazetted, far before the bronzed
and seared campaigners who had seen the world, and knew more about it. The
reasons for this line of conduct were twofold. In the first place, there
was not an article of outfit, from a stock to a sword-belt, that he could
not and did not supply to the young officer,--from the gorget of the
infantry to the shako of the grenadier, all came within his province;
not that he actually kept a _magasin_ of these articles, but he had so
completely interwoven his interests with those of numerous shopkeepers in
Cork that he rarely entered a shop over whose door Dalrymple & Co. might
not have figured on the sign-board. His stables were filled with a perfect
infirmary of superannuated chargers, fattened and conditioned up to a
miracle, and groomed to perfection. He could get you--_only you_--about
three dozen of sherry to take out with you as sea-store; he knew of such a
servant; he chanced upon such a camp-furniture yesterday in his walks; in
fact, why want for anything? His resources were inexhaustible; his kindness
Then money was no object,--hang it, you could pay when you liked; what
signified it? In other words, a bill at thirty-one days, cashed and
discounted by a friend of the major's, would always do. While such were the
unlimited advantages his acquaintance conferred, the sphere of his benefits
took another range. The major had two daughters; Matilda and Fanny were as
well known in the army as Lord Fitzroy Somerset, or Picton, from the Isle
of Wight to Halifax, from Cape Coast to Chatham, from Belfast to the
Bermudas. Where was the subaltern who had not knelt at the shrine of one
or the other, if not of both, and vowed eternal love until a change of
quarters? In plain words, the major's solicitude for the service was such,
that, not content with providing the young officer with all the necessary
outfit of his profession, he longed also to supply him with a comforter for
his woes, a charmer for his solitary hours, in the person of one of his
amiable daughters. Unluckily, however, the necessity for a wife is not
enforced by "general orders," as is the cut of your coat, or the length of
your sabre; consequently, the major's success in the home department of his
diplomacy was not destined for the same happy results that awaited it when
engaged about drill trousers and camp kettles, and the Misses Dalrymple
remained misses through every clime and every campaign. And yet, why was
it so? It is hard to say. What would men have? Matilda was a dark-haired,
dark-eyed, romantic-looking girl, with a tall figure and a slender waist,
with more poetry in her head than would have turned any ordinary brain;
always unhappy, in need of consolation, never meeting with the kindred
spirit that understood her, destined to walk the world alone, her fair
thoughts smothered in the recesses of her own heart. Devilish hard to stand
this, when you began in a kind of platonic friendship on both sides. More
than one poor fellow nearly succumbed, particularly when she came to quote
Cowley, and told him, with tears in her eyes,--
"There are hearts that live and love alone," etc.
I'm assured that this _coup-de-grace_ rarely failed in being followed by
a downright avowal of open love, which, somehow, what between the route
coming, what with waiting for leave from home, etc., never got further than
a most tender scene, and exchange of love tokens; and, in fact, such became
so often the termination, that Power swears Matty had to make a firm
resolve about cutting off any more hair, fearing a premature baldness
during the recruiting season.
Now, Fanny had selected another arm of the service. Her hair was fair; her
eyes blue, laughing, languishing,--mischief-loving blue, with long lashes,
and a look in them that was wont to leave its impression rather longer than
you exactly knew of; then, her figure was _petite_, but perfect; her feet
Canova might have copied; and her hand was a study for Titian; her voice,
too, was soft and musical, but full of that _gaiété de coeur_ that never
fails to charm. While her sister's style was _il penserono_, hers was
_l'allegro_; every imaginable thing, place, or person supplied food for her
mirth, and her sister's lovers all came in for their share. She hunted
with Smith Barry's hounds; she yachted with the Cove Club; she coursed,
practised at a mark with a pistol, and played chicken hazard with all
the cavalry,--for, let it be remarked as a physiological fact, Matilda's
admirers were almost invariably taken from the infantry, while Fanny's
adorers were as regularly dragoons. Whether the former be the romantic
arm of the service, and the latter be more adapted to dull realities, or
whether the phenomenon had any other explanation, I leave to the curious.
Now, this arrangement, proceeding upon that principle which has wrought
such wonders in Manchester and Sheffield,--the division of labor,--was a
most wise and equitable one, each having her one separate and distinct
field of action, interference was impossible; not but that when, as in the
present instance, cavalry was in the ascendant, Fanny would willingly spare
a dragoon or two to her sister, who likewise would repay the debt when
The mamma--for it is time I should say something of the head of the
family--was an excessively fat, coarse-looking, dark-skinned personage, of
some fifty years, with a voice like a boatswain in a quinsy. Heaven can
tell, perhaps, why the worthy major allied his fortunes with hers, for she
was evidently of a very inferior rank in society, could never have been
aught than downright ugly, and I never heard that she brought him any
money. "Spoiled five," the national amusement of her age and sex in Cork,
scandal, the changes in the army list, the failures in speculation of her
luckless husband, the forlorn fortunes of the girls, her daughters, kept
her in occupation, and her days were passed in one perpetual, unceasing
current of dissatisfaction and ill-temper with all around, that formed a
heavy counterpoise to the fascinations of the young ladies. The repeated
jiltings to which they had been subject had blunted any delicacy upon the
score of their marriage; and if the newly-introduced cornet or ensign was
not coming forward, as became him, at the end of the requisite number
of days, he was sure of receiving a very palpable admonition from Mrs.
Dalrymple. Hints, at first dimly shadowed, that Matilda was not in spirits
this morning; that Fanny, poor child, had a headache,--directed especially
at the culprit in question,--grew gradually into those little motherly
fondnesses in mamma, that, like the fascination of the rattlesnake, only
lure on to ruin. The doomed man was pressed to dinner when all others were
permitted to take their leave; he was treated like one of the family, God
help him! After dinner, the major would keep him an hour over his wine,
discussing the misery of an ill-assorted marriage; detailing his own
happiness in marrying a woman like the Tonga Islander I have mentioned;
hinting that girls should be brought up, not only to become companions to
their husbands, but with ideas fitting their station; if his auditor were
a military man, that none but an old officer (like him) could know how to
educate girls (like his); and that feeling he possessed two such treasures,
his whole aim in life was to guard and keep them,--a difficult task, when
proposals of the most flattering kind were coming constantly before him.
Then followed a fresh bottle, during which the major would consult his
young friend upon a very delicate affair,--no less than a proposition for
the hand of Miss Matilda, or Fanny, whichever he was supposed to be soft
upon. This was generally a _coup-de-maître_; should he still resist, he was
handed over to Mrs. Dalrymple, with a strong indictment against him, and
rarely did he escape a heavy sentence. Now, is it not strange that two
really pretty girls, with fully enough of amiable and pleasing qualities
to have excited the attention and won the affections of many a man, should
have gone on for years,--for, alas! they did so in every climate, under
every sun,--to waste their sweetness in this miserable career of intrigue
and man-trap, and yet nothing come of it? But so it was. The first question
a newly-landed regiment was asked, if coming from where they resided, was,
"Well, how are the girls?" "Oh, gloriously. Matty is there." "Ah, indeed!
poor thing." "Has Fan sported a new habit?" "Is it the old gray with the
hussar braiding? Confound it, that was seedy when I saw them in Corfu. And
Mother Dal as fat and vulgar as ever?" "Dawson of ours was the last,
and was called up for sentence when we were ordered away; of course,
he bolted," etc. Such was the invariable style of question and answer
concerning them; and although some few, either from good feeling or
fastidiousness, relished but little the mode in which it had become
habitual to treat them, I grieve to say that, generally, they were
pronounced fair game for every species of flirtation and love-making
without any "intentions" for the future. I should not have trespassed so
far upon my readers' patience, were I not, in recounting these traits of
my friends above, narrating matters of history. How many are there who may
cast their eyes upon these pages, that will say, "Poor Matilda! I knew her
at Gibraltar. Little Fanny was the life and soul of us all in Quebec."
"Mr. O'Malley," said the adjutant, as I presented myself in the afternoon
of my arrival in Cork to a short, punchy, little red-faced gentleman, in a
short jacket and ducks, "you are, I perceive, appointed to the 14th;
you will have the goodness to appear on parade to-morrow morning. The
riding-school hours are----. The morning drill is----; evening drill----.
Mr. Minchin, you are a 14th man, I believe? No, I beg pardon! a carbineer;
but no matter. Mr. O'Malley, Mr. Minchin; Captain Dounie, Mr. O'Malley.
You'll dine with us to-day, and to-morrow you shall be entered at the
"Yours are at Santarem, I believe?" said an old, weather-beaten looking
officer with one arm.
"I'm ashamed to say, I know nothing whatever of them; I received my gazette
"Ever in Cork before, Mr. O'Malley?"
"Never," said I.
"Glorious place," lisped a white-eyelashed, knocker-kneed ensign; "splendid
"Ah, Brunton," said Minchin, "you may boast a little; but we poor devils--"
"Know the Dals?" said the hero of the lisp, addressing me.
"I haven't that honor," I replied, scarcely able to guess whether what he
alluded to were objects of the picturesque or a private family.
"Introduce him, then, at once," said the adjutant; "we'll all go in the
evening. What will the old squaw think?"
"Not I," said Minchin. "She wrote to the Duke of York about my helping
Matilda at supper, and not having any honorable intentions afterwards."
"We dine at 'The George' to-day, Mr. O'Malley, sharp seven. Until then--"
So saying, the little man bustled back to his accounts, and I took my leave
with the rest, to stroll about the town till dinner-time.
THE ADJUTANT'S DINNER.
The adjutant's dinner was as professional an affair as need be. A circuit
or a learned society could not have been more exclusively devoted to
their own separate and immediate topics than were we. Pipeclay in all its
varieties came on the _tapis_; the last regulation cap, the new button,
the promotions, the general orders, the colonel and the colonel's wife,
stoppages, and the mess fund were all well and ably discussed; and strange
enough, while the conversation took this wide range, not a chance allusion,
not one stray hint ever wandered to the brave fellows who were covering the
army with glory in the Peninsula, nor one souvenir of him that, was even
then enjoying a fame as a leader second to none in Europe. This surprised
me not a little at the time; but I have since that learned how little
interest the real services of an army possess for the ears of certain
officials, who, stationed at home quarters, pass their inglorious lives in
the details of drill, parade, mess-room gossip, and barrack scandal. Such,
in fact, were the dons of the present dinner. We had a commissary-general,
an inspecting brigade-major of something, a physician to the forces, the
adjutant himself, and Major Dalrymple; the _hoi polloi_ consisting of the
raw ensign, a newly-fledged cornet (Mr. Sparks), and myself.
The commissary told some very pointless stories about his own department;
the doctor read a dissertation upon Walcheren fever; the adjutant got very
stupidly tipsy; and Major Dalrymple succeeded in engaging the three juniors
of the party to tea, having previously pledged us to purchase nothing
whatever of outfit without his advice, he well knowing (which he did) how
young fellows like us were cheated, and resolving to be a father to us
(which he certainly tried to be).
As we rose from the table, about ten o'clock, I felt how soon a few such
dinners would succeed in disenchanting me of all my military illusions;
for, young as I was, I saw that the commissary was a vulgar bore, the
doctor a humbug, the adjutant a sot, and the major himself I greatly
suspected to be an old rogue.
"You are coming with us, Sparks?" said Major Dalrymple, as he took me by
one arm and the ensign by the other. "We are going to have a little tea
with the ladies; not five minutes' walk."
"Most happy, sir," said Mr. Sparks, with a very flattered expression of
"O'Malley, you know Sparks, and Burton too."
This served for a species of triple introduction, at which we all bowed,
simpered, and bowed again. We were very happy to have the pleasure, etc.
"How pleasant to get away from these fellows!" said the major, "they are so
uncommonly prosy! That commissary, with his mess beef, and old Pritchard,
with black doses and rigors,--nothing so insufferable! Besides, in
reality, a young officer never needs all that nonsense. A little medicine
chest--I'll get you one each to-morrow for five pounds--no, five pounds
ten--the same thing--that will see you all through the Peninsula. Remind me
of it in the morning." This we all promised to do, and the major resumed:
"I say, Sparks, you've got a real prize in that gray horse,--such a trooper
as he is! O'Malley, you'll be wanting something of that kind, if we can
find it for you."
"Many thanks, Major; but my cattle are on the way here already. I've only
three horses, but I think they are tolerably good ones."
The major now turned to Burton and said something in a low tone, to which
the other replied, "Well, if you say so, I'll get it; but it's devilish
"Dear, my young friend! Cheap, dog cheap."
"Only think, O'Malley, a whole brass bed, camp-stool, basin-stand, all
complete, for sixty pounds! If it was not that a widow was disposing of
it in great distress, one hundred could not buy it. Here we are; come
along,--no ceremony. Mind the two steps; that's it, Mrs, Dalrymple, Mr.
O'Malley; Mr. Sparks, Mr. Burton, my daughters. Is tea over, girls?"
"Why, Papa, it's nearly eleven o'clock," said Fanny, as she rose to ring
the bell, displaying in so doing the least possible portion of a very
Miss Matilda Dal laid down her book, but seemingly lost in abstraction, did
not deign to look at us. Mrs. Dalrymple, however, did the honors with much
politeness, and having by a few adroit and well-put queries ascertained
everything concerning our rank and position, seemed perfectly satisfied
that our intrusion was justifiable.
While my _confrère_, Mr. Sparks, was undergoing his examination I had time
to look at the ladies, whom I was much surprised at finding so very
well looking; and as the ensign had opened a conversation with Fanny, I
approached my chair towards the other, and having carelessly turned over
the leaves of the book she had been reading, drew her on to talk of it. As
my acquaintance with young ladies hitherto had been limited to those who
had "no soul," I felt some difficulty at first in keeping up with the
exalted tone of my fair companion, but by letting her take the lead for
some time, I got to know more of the ground. We went on tolerably together,
every moment increasing my stock of technicals, which were all that was
needed to sustain the conversation. How often have I found the same plan
succeed, whether discussing a question of law or medicine, with a learned
professor of either! or, what is still more difficult, canvassing the
merits of a preacher or a doctrine with a serious young lady, whose
"blessed privileges" were at first a little puzzling to comprehend.
I so contrived it, too, that Miss Matilda should seem as much to be making
a convert to her views as to have found a person capable of sympathizing
with her; and thus, long before the little supper, with which it was the
major's practice to regale his friends every evening, made its appearance,
we had established a perfect understanding together,--a circumstance that,
a bystander might have remarked, was productive of a more widely diffused
satisfaction than I could have myself seen any just cause for. Mr. Burton
was also progressing, as the Yankees say, with the sister; Sparks had
booked himself as purchaser of military stores enough to make the campaign
of the whole globe; and we were thus all evidently fulfilling our various
vocations, and affording perfect satisfaction to our entertainers.
Then came the spatch-cock, and the sandwiches, and the negus, which Fanny
first mixed for papa, and subsequently, with some little pressing, for Mr.
Burton; Matilda the romantic assisted _me_; Sparks helped himself. Then we
laughed, and told stories; pressed Sparks to sing, which, as he declined,
we only pressed the more. How, invariably, by-the-bye, is it the custom to
show one's appreciation of anything like a butt by pressing him for a song!
The major was in great spirits; told us anecdotes of his early life in
India, and how he once contracted to supply the troops with milk, and made
a purchase, in consequence, of some score of cattle, which turned out to be
bullocks. Matilda recited some lines from Pope in my ear. Fanny challenged
Burton to a rowing match. Sparks listened to all around him, and Mrs.
Dalrymple mixed a very little weak punch, which Dr. Lucas had recommended
to her to take the last thing at night,--_Noctes coenoeque_ etc. Say
what you will, these were very jovial little _réunions_. The girls were
decidedly very pretty. We were in high favor; and when we took leave at the
door, with a very cordial shake hands, it was with no _arrière pensée_ we
promised to see them in the morning.
When we think for a moment over all the toils, all the anxieties, all the
fevered excitement of a _grande passion_, it is not a little singular that
love should so frequently be elicited by a state of mere idleness; and yet
nothing, after all, is so predisposing a cause as this. Where is the man
between eighteen and eight-and-thirty--might I not say forty--who,
without any very pressing duns, and having no taste for strong liquor and
_rouge-et-noir_, can possibly lounge through the long hours of his day
without at least fancying himself in love? The thousand little occupations
it suggests become a necessity of existence; its very worries are like the
wholesome opposition that purifies and strengthens the frame of a free
state. Then, what is there half so sweet as the reflective flattery which
results from our appreciation of an object who in return deems us the _ne
plus ultra_ of perfection? There it is, in fact; that confounded bump of
self-esteem does it all, and has more imprudent matches to answer for than
all the occipital protuberances that ever scared poor Harriet Martineau.
Now, to apply my moralizing. I very soon, to use the mess phrase, got
"devilish spooney" about the "Dals." The morning drill, the riding-school,
and the parade were all most fervently consigned to a certain military
character that shall be nameless, as detaining me from some appointment
made the evening before; for as I supped there each night, a party of one
kind or another was always planned for the day following. Sometimes we had
a boating excursion to Cove, sometimes a picnic at Foaty; now a rowing
party to Glanmire, or a ride, at which I furnished the cavalry. These
doings were all under my especial direction, and I thus became speedily
the organ of the Dalrymple family; and the simple phrase, "It was Mr.
O'Malley's arrangement," "Mr. O'Malley wished it," was like the _Moi le
roi_ of Louis XIV.
Though all this while we continued to carry on most pleasantly, Mrs.
Dalrymple, I could perceive, did not entirely sympathize with our projects
of amusement. As an experienced engineer might feel when watching the
course of some storming projectile--some brilliant congreve--flying over
a besieged fortress, yet never touching the walls nor harming the
inhabitants, so she looked on at all these demonstrations of attack with
no small impatience, and wondered when would the breach be reported
practicable. Another puzzle also contributed its share of anxiety,--which