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Title: Charles O'Malley, The Irish Dragoon, Volume 2
Author: Lever, Charles James
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Charles O'Malley, The Irish Dragoon, Volume 2" ***

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CHARLES O’MALLEY


The Irish Dragoon


BY CHARLES LEVER.


WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY PHIZ.


IN TWO VOLUMES.

VOL. II.


[Illustration: EXORCISING A SPIRIT.]



CONTENTS.


CHAPTER

I.       THE DOCTOR’S TALE
II.      THE SKIRMISH
III.     THE LINES OF CIUDAD RODRIGO
IV.      THE DOCTOR
V.       THE COA
VI.      THE NIGHT MARCH
VII.     THE JOURNEY
VIII.    THE GHOST
IX.      LISBON
X.       A PLEASANT PREDICAMENT
XI.      THE DINNER
XII.     THE LETTER
XIII.    THE VILLA
XIV.     THE VISIT
XV.      THE CONFESSION
XVI.     MY CHARGER
XVII.    MAURICE
XVIII.   THE MASQUERADE
XIX.     THE LINES
XX.      THE RETREAT OF THE FRENCH
XXI.     PATRICK’S DAY IN THE PENINSULA
XXII.    FUENTES D’ONORO
XXIII.   THE BATTLE OF FUENTES D’ONORO
XXIV.    A RENCONTRE
XXV.     ALMEIDA
XXVI.    A NIGHT ON THE AZAVA
XXVII.   MIKE’S MISTAKE
XXVIII.  MONSOON IN TROUBLE
XXIX.    THE CONFIDENCE
XXX.     THE CANTONMENT
XXXI.    MICKEY FREE’S ADVENTURE
XXXII.   THE SAN PETRO
XXXIII.  THE COUNT’S LETTER
XXXIV.   THE TRENCHES
XXXV.    THE STORMING OF CIUDAD RODRIGO
XXXVI.   THE RAMPART
XXXVII.  THE DESPATCH
XXXVIII. THE LEAVE
XXXIX.   LONDON
XL.      THE BELL AT BRISTOL
XLI.     IRELAND
XLII.    THE RETURN
XLIII.   HOME
XLIV.    AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE
XLV.     A SURPRISE
XLVI.    NEW VIEWS
XLVII.   A RECOGNITION
XLVIII.  A MISTAKE
XLIX.    BRUSSELS
L.       AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE
LI.      THE DUCHESS OF RICHMOND’S BALL
LII.     QUATRE BRAS
LIII.    WATERLOO
LIV.     BRUSSELS
LV.      CONCLUSION
         L’ENVOI



ILLUSTRATIONS BY PHIZ IN VOL. II

Etchings
EXORCISING A SPIRIT
THE TABLES TURNED 210
THE GENTLEMEN WHO NEVER SLEEP 405
THE WELCOME HOME 472

Illustrations in the Text
A FLYING SHOT 28
O’MALLEY FOLLOWING THE CUSTOM OF HIS COUNTRY 77
MR. FREE TURNED SPANIARD 96
CHARLEY TRYING A CHARGER 118
GOING OUT TO DINNER 152
DISADVANTAGE OF BREAKFASTING OVER A DUELLING-PARTY 157
MR. FREE PIPES WHILE HIS FRIENDS PIPE-CLAY 218
A HUNTING TURN-OUT IN THE PENINSULA 240
MIKE CAPTURING THE TRUMPETER 248
CAPTAIN MICKEY FREE RELATING HIS HEROIC DEEDS 310
BABY BLAKE 355
MICKEY ASTONISHES THE NATIVES 403
DEATH OF HAMMERSLEY 463



CHARLES O’MALLEY.


THE IRISH DRAGOON.


       *       *       *       *       *


CHAPTER I.


THE DOCTOR’S TALE.[1]

“It is now some fifteen years since--if it wasn’t for O’Shaughnessy’s
wrinkles, I could not believe it five--we were quartered in Loughrea. There
were, besides our regiment, the Fiftieth and the Seventy-third, and a troop
or two of horse artillery, and the whole town was literally a barrack, and
as you may suppose, the pleasantest place imaginable. All the young ladies,
and indeed all those that had got their brevet some years before, came
flocking into the town, not knowing but the Devil might persuade a raw
ensign or so to marry some of them.

“Such dinner parties, such routs and balls, never were heard of west of
Athlone. The gayeties were incessant; and if good feeding, plenty of
claret, short whist, country dances, and kissing could have done the thing,
there wouldn’t have been a bachelor with a red coat for six miles around.

[Footnote 1: I cannot permit the reader to fall into the same blunder,
with regard to the worthy “Maurice,” as my friend Charles O’Malley has
done. It is only fair to state that the doctor in the following tale was
hoaxing the “dragoon.” A braver and a better fellow than Quill never
existed, equally beloved by his brother officers, as delighted in for his
convivial talents. His favorite amusement was to invent some story or
adventure in which, mixing up his own name with that of some friend or
companion, the veracity of the whole was never questioned. Of this nature
was the pedigree he devised in the last chapter of Vol. I. to impose upon
O’Malley, who believed implicitly all he told him.]

“You know the west, O’Mealey, so I needn’t tell you what the Galway girls
are like: fine, hearty, free-and-easy, talking, laughing devils, but as
deep and ‘cute as a Master in Chancery; ready for any fun or merriment, but
always keeping a sly look-out for a proposal or a tender acknowledgment,
which--what between the heat of a ball-room, whiskey negus, white satin
shoes, and a quarrel with your guardian--it’s ten to one you fall into
before you’re a week in the same town with them.

“As for the men, I don’t admire them so much: pleasant and cheerful enough
when they’re handicapping the coat off your back, and your new tilbury for
a spavined pony and a cotton umbrella, but regular devils if you come to
cross them the least in life; nothing but ten paces, three shots apiece, to
begin and end with something like Roger de Coverley, when every one has a
pull at his neighbor. I’m not saying they’re not agreeable, well-informed,
and mild in their habits; but they lean overmuch to corduroys and coroners’
inquests for one’s taste farther south. However, they’re a fine people,
take them all in all; and if they were not interfered with, and their
national customs invaded with road-making, petty-sessions, grand-jury laws,
and a stray commission now and then, they are capable of great things, and
would astonish the world.

“But as I was saying, we were ordered to Loughrea after being fifteen
months in detachments about Birr, Tullamore, Kilbeggan, and all that
country; the change was indeed a delightful one, and we soon found
ourselves the centre of the most marked and determined civilities. I told
you they were wise people in the west; this was their calculation: the
line--ours was the Roscommon militia--are here to-day, there to-morrow;
they may be flirting in Tralee this week, and fighting on the Tagus the
next; not that there was any fighting there in those times, but then there
was always Nova Scotia and St. John’s, and a hundred other places that a
Galway young lady knew nothing about, except that people never came back
from them. Now, what good, what use was there in falling in love with them?
Mere transitory and passing pleasure that was. But as for us: there we
were; if not in Kilkenny we were in Cork. Safe out and come again; no
getting away under pretence of foreign service; no excuse for not marrying
by any cruel pictures of the colonies, where they make spatch-cocks of the
officers’ wives and scrape their infant families to death with a small
tooth-comb. In a word, my dear O’Mealey, we were at a high premium; and
even O’Shaughnessy, with his red head and the legs you see, had his
admirers. There now, don’t be angry, Dan; the men, at least, were mighty
partial to you.

“Loughrea, if it was a pleasant, was a very expensive place. White gloves
and car hire,--there wasn’t a chaise in the town,--short whist, too (God
forgive me if I wrong them, but I wonder were they honest), cost money; and
as our popularity rose, our purses fell; till at length, when the one was
at the flood, the other was something very like low water.

“Now, the Roscommon was a beautiful corps; no petty jealousies, no little
squabbling among the officers, no small spleen between the major’s wife
and the paymaster’s sister,--all was amiable, kind, brotherly, and
affectionate. To proceed, I need only mention one fine trait of them,--no
man ever refused to indorse a brother officer’s bill. To think of asking
the amount or even the date would be taken personally; and thus we went on
mutually aiding and assisting each other,--the colonel drawing on me, I
on the major, the senior captain on the surgeon, and so on, a regular
cross-fire of ‘promises to pay,’ all stamped and regular.

“Not but the system had its inconveniences; for sometimes an obstinate
tailor or bootmaker would make a row for his money, and then we’d be
obliged to get up a little quarrel between the drawer and the acceptor of
the bill; they couldn’t speak for some days, and a mutual friend to both
would tell the creditor that the slightest imprudence on his part would
lead to bloodshed; ‘and the Lord help him! if there was a duel, he’d be
proved the whole cause of it.’ This and twenty other plans were employed;
and finally, the matter would be left to arbitration among our brother
officers, and I need not say, they behaved like trumps. But notwithstanding
all this, we were frequently hard pressed for cash; as the colonel said,
‘It’s a mighty expensive corps.’ Our dress was costly; not that it had much
lace and gold on it, but that, what between falling on the road at night,
shindies at mess, and other devilment, a coat lasted no time. Wine, too,
was heavy on us; for though we often changed our wine merchant, and rarely
paid him, there was an awful consumption at the mess!

“Now, what I have mentioned may prepare you for the fact that before
we were eight weeks in garrison, Shaugh and myself, upon an accurate
calculation of our conjoint finances, discovered that except some vague
promises of discounting here and there through the town, and seven and
fourpence in specie, we were innocent of any pecuniary treasures. This was
embarrassing; we had both embarked in several small schemes of pleasurable
amusement, had a couple of hunters each, a tandem, and a running account--I
think it _galloped_--at every shop in the town.

“Let me pause for a moment here, O’Mealey, while I moralize a little in a
strain I hope may benefit you. Have you ever considered--of course you have
not, you’re too young and unreflecting--how beautifully every climate
and every soil possesses some one antidote or another to its own noxious
influences? The tropics have their succulent and juicy fruits, cooling and
refreshing; the northern latitudes have their beasts with fur and warm skin
to keep out the frost-bites; and so it is in Ireland. Nowhere on the face
of the habitable globe does a man contract such habits of small debt, and
nowhere, I’ll be sworn, can he so easily get out of any scrape concerning
them. They have their tigers in the east, their antelopes in the south,
their white bears in Norway, their buffaloes in America; but we have an
animal in Ireland that beats them all hollow,--a country attorney!

“Now, let me introduce you to Mr. Matthew Donevan. Mat, as he was
familiarly called by his numerous acquaintances, was a short, florid, rosy
little gentleman of some four or five-and-forty, with a well-curled wig of
the fairest imaginable auburn, the gentle wave of the front locks, which
played in infantine loveliness upon his little bullet forehead, contrasting
strongly enough with a cunning leer of his eye, and a certain _nisi prius_
laugh that however it might please a client, rarely brought pleasurable
feelings to his opponent in a cause.

“Mat was a character in his way; deep, double, and tricky in everything
that concerned his profession, he affected the gay fellow,--liked a jolly
dinner at Brown’s Hotel, would go twenty miles to see a steeple-chase and
a coursing match, bet with any one when the odds were strong in his favor,
with an easy indifference about money that made him seem, when winning,
rather the victim of good luck than anything else. As he kept a rather
pleasant bachelor’s house, and liked the military much, we soon became
acquainted. Upon him, therefore, for reasons I can’t explain, both our
hopes reposed; and Shaugh and myself at once agreed that if Mat could not
assist us in our distresses, the case was a bad one.

“A pretty little epistle was accordingly concocted, inviting the worthy
attorney to a small dinner at five o’clock the next day, intimating that we
were to be perfectly alone, and had a little business to discuss. True to
the hour, Mat was there; and as if instantly guessing that ours was no
regular party of pleasure, his look, dress, and manner were all in keeping
with the occasion,--quiet, subdued, and searching.

“When the claret had been superseded by the whiskey, and the confidential
hours were approaching, by an adroit allusion to some heavy wager then
pending, we brought our finances upon the _tapis_. The thing was done
beautifully,--an easy _adagio_ movement, no violent transition; but hang me
if old Mat didn’t catch the matter at once.

“‘Oh, it’s there ye are, Captain!’ said he, with his peculiar grin.
‘Two-and-sixpence in the pound, and no assets.’

“‘The last is nearer the mark, my old boy,’ said Shaugh, blurting out the
whole truth at once. The wily attorney finished his tumbler slowly, as
if giving himself time for reflection, and then, smacking his lips in a
preparatory manner, took a quick survey of the room with his piercing green
eye.

“‘A very sweet mare of yours that little mouse-colored one is, with the dip
in the back; and she has a trifling curb--may be it’s a spavin, indeed--in
the near hind-leg. You gave five-and-twenty for her, now, I’ll be bound?’

“‘Sixty guineas, as sure as my name’s Dan,’ said Shaugh, not at all pleased
at the value put upon his hackney; ‘and as to spavin and curb, I’ll wager
double the sum she has neither the slightest trace of one nor the other.’

“‘I’ll not take the bet,’ said Mat, dryly. ‘Money’s scarce in these parts.’

“This hit silenced us both; and our friend continued,--

“‘Then there’s the bay horse,--a great strapping, leggy beast he is for a
tilbury; and the hunters, worth nothing here; they don’t know this country.
Them’s neat pistols; and the tilbury is not bad--’

“‘Confound you!’ said I, losing all patience; ‘we didn’t ask you here to
appraise our movables. We want to raise the wind without that.’

“‘I see, I perceive,’ said Mat, taking a pinch of snuff very leisurely as
he spoke,--‘I see. Well, that is difficult, very difficult just now. I’ve
mortgaged every acre of ground in the two counties near us, and a sixpence
more is not to be had that way. Are you lucky at the races?’

“‘Never win a sixpence.’

“‘What can you do at whist?’

“‘Revoke, and get cursed by my partner; devil a more!’

“‘That’s mighty bad, for otherwise, we might arrange something for you.
Well, I only see one thing for it; you must marry. A wife with some money
will get you out of your present difficulties; and we’ll manage that easily
enough.’

“‘Come, Dan,’ said I, for Shaugh was dropping asleep; ‘cheer up, old
fellow. Donevan has found the way to pull us through our misfortunes. A
girl with forty thousand pounds, the best cock shooting in Ireland, an old
family, a capital cellar, all await ye,--rouse up, there!’

“‘I’m convanient,’ said Shaugh, with a look intended to be knowing, but
really very tipsy.

“‘I didn’t say much for her personal attractions, Captain,’ said Mat; ‘nor,
indeed, did I specify the exact sum; but Mrs. Rogers Dooley, of Clonakilty,
might be a princess--’

“‘And so she shall be, Mat; the O’Shaughnessys were Kings of Ennis in the
time of Nero and I’m only waiting for a trifle of money to revive the
title. What’s her name?’

“‘Mrs. Rogers Dooley.’

“‘Here’s her health, and long life to her,--

    ‘And may the Devil cut the toes
    Of all her foes,
    That we may know them by their limping.’

“This benevolent wish uttered, Dan fell flat upon the hearth-rug, and was
soon sound asleep. I must hasten on; so need only say that, before we
parted that night, Mat and myself had finished the half-gallon bottle of
Loughrea whiskey, and concluded a treaty for the hand and fortune of Mrs.
Rogers Dooley. He being guaranteed a very handsome percentage on the
property, and the lady being reserved for choice between Dan and myself,
which, however, I was determined should fall upon my more fortunate friend.

“The first object which presented itself to my aching senses the following
morning was a very spacious card of invitation from Mr. Jonas Malone,
requesting me to favor him with the seductions of my society the next
evening to a ball; at the bottom of which, in Mr. Donevan’s hand, I read,--

“‘Don’t fail; you know who is to be there. I’ve not been idle since I saw
you. Would the captain take twenty-five for the mare?’

“‘So far so good,’ thought I, as entering O’Shaughnessy’s quarters, I
discovered him endeavoring to spell out his card, which, however, had no
postscript. We soon agreed that Mat should have his price; so sending a
polite answer to the invitation, we despatched a still more civil note to
the attorney, and begged of him, as a weak mark of esteem, to accept the
mouse-colored mare as a present.”

Here O’Shaughnessy sighed deeply, and even seemed affected by the souvenir.

“Come, Dan, we did it all for the best. Oh, O’Mealey, he was a cunning
fellow; but no matter. We went to the ball, and to be sure, it was a great
sight. Two hundred and fifty souls, where there was not good room for the
odd fifty; such laughing, such squeezing, such pressing of hands and waists
in the staircase, and then such a row and riot at the top,--four fiddles, a
key bugle, and a bagpipe, playing ‘Haste to the wedding,’ amidst the crash
of refreshment-trays, the tramp of feet, and the sounds of merriment on all
sides!

“It’s only in Ireland, after all, people have fun. Old and young, merry and
morose, the gay and cross-grained, are crammed into a lively country-dance;
and ill-matched, ill-suited, go jigging away together to the blast of a bad
band, till their heads, half turned by the noise, the heat, the novelty,
and the hubbub, they all get as tipsy as if they were really deep in
liquor.

“Then there is that particularly free-and-easy tone in every one about.
Here go a couple capering daintily out of the ball-room to take a little
fresh air on the stairs, where every step has its own separate flirtation
party; there, a riotous old gentleman, with a boarding-school girl for
his partner, has plunged smack into a party at loo, upsetting cards and
counters, and drawing down curses innumerable. Here are a merry knot round
the refreshments, and well they may be; for the negus is strong punch,
and the biscuit is tipsy cake,--and all this with a running fire of good
stories, jokes, and witticisms on all sides, in the laughter for which even
the droll-looking servants join as heartily as the rest.

“We were not long in finding out Mrs. Rogers, who sat in the middle of a
very high sofa, with her feet just touching the floor. She was short,
fat, wore her hair in a crop, had a species of shining yellow skin, and a
turned-up nose, all of which were by no means prepossessing. Shaugh and
myself were too hard-up to be particular, and so we invited her to dance
alternately for two consecutive hours, plying her assiduously with negus
during the lulls in the music.

“Supper was at last announced, and enabled us to recruit for new efforts;
and so after an awful consumption of fowl, pigeon-pie, ham, and brandy
cherries, Mrs. Rogers brightened up considerably, and professed her
willingness to join the dancers. As for us, partly from exhaustion, partly
to stimulate our energies, and in some degree to drown reflection, we drank
deep, and when we reached the drawing-room, not only the agreeable guests
themselves, but even the furniture, the venerable chairs, and the stiff old
sofa seemed performing ‘Sir Roger de Coverley.’ How we conducted ourselves
till five in the morning, let our cramps confess; for we were both
bed-ridden for ten days after. However, at last Mrs. Rogers gave in, and
reclining gracefully upon a window-seat, pronounced it a most elegant
party, and asked me to look for her shawl. While I perambulated the
staircase with her bonnet on my head, and more wearing apparel than would
stock a magazine, Shaugh was roaring himself hoarse in the street, calling
Mrs. Rogers’ coach.

“‘Sure, Captain,’ said the lady, with a tender leer, ‘it’s only a chair.’

“‘And here it is,’ said I, surveying a very portly-looking old sedan, newly
painted and varnished, that blocked up half the hall.

“‘You’ll catch cold, my angel,’ said Shaugh, in a whisper, for he was
coming it very strong by this; ‘get into the chair. Maurice, can’t you find
those fellows?’ said he to me, for the chairmen had gone down-stairs, and
were making very merry among the servants.

“‘She’s fast now,’ said I, shutting the door to. ‘Let us do the gallant
thing, and carry her home ourselves.’ Shaugh thought this a great notion;
and in a minute we mounted the poles and sallied forth, amidst a great
chorus of laughing from all the footmen, maids, and teaboys that filled the
passage.

“‘The big house, with the bow-window and the pillars, Captain,’ said a
fellow, as we issued upon our journey. “‘I know it,’ said I. ‘Turn to the
left after you pass the square.’

“‘Isn’t she heavy?’ said Shaugh, as he meandered across the narrow streets
with a sidelong motion that must have suggested to our fair inside
passenger some notions of a sea voyage. In truth, I must confess our
progress was rather a devious one,--now zig-zagging from side to side, now
getting into a sharp trot, and then suddenly pulling up at a dead stop, or
running the machine chuck against a wall, to enable us to stand still and
gain breath.

“‘Which way now?’ cried he, as we swung round the angle of a street and
entered the large market-place; ‘I’m getting terribly tired.’

“‘Never give in, Dan. Think of Clonakilty and the old lady herself.’ Here
I gave the chair a hoist that evidently astonished our fair friend, for a
very imploring cry issued forth immediately after.

“‘To the right, quick-step, forward, charge!’ cried I; and we set off at a
brisk trot down a steep narrow lane.

“‘Here it is now,--the light in the window. Cheer up.’

“As I said this we came short up to a fine, portly-looking doorway, with
great stone pillars and cornice.

“‘Make yourself at home, Maurice,’ said he; ‘bring her in.’ So saying,
we pushed forward--for the door was open--and passed boldly into a great
flagged hall, silent and cold, and dark as the night itself.

“‘Are you sure we’re right?’ said he.

“‘All right,’ said I; ‘go ahead.’

“And so we did, till we came in sight of a small candle that burned dimly
at a distance from us.

“‘Make for the light,’ said I; but just as I said so Shaugh slipped and
fell flat on the flagway. The noise of his fall sent up a hundred echoes
in the silent building, and terrified us both dreadfully. After a minute’s
pause, by one consent we turned and made for the door, falling almost at
every step, and frightened out of our senses, we came tumbling together
into the porch, and out in the street, and never drew breath till we
reached the barracks. Meanwhile let me return to Mrs. Rogers. The dear
old lady, who had passed an awful time since she left the ball, had just
rallied out of a fainting fit when we took to our heels; so after screaming
and crying her best, she at last managed to open the top of the chair, and
by dint of great exertions succeeded in forcing the door, and at length
freed herself from bondage. She was leisurely groping her way round it
in the dark, when her lamentations, being heard without, woke up the old
sexton of the chapel,--for it was there we placed her,--who, entering
cautiously with a light, no sooner caught a glimpse of the great black
sedan and the figure beside it than he also took to his heels, and ran like
a madman to the priest’s house.

“‘Come, your reverence, come, for the love of marcy! Sure didn’t I see him
myself! Oh, wirra, wirra!’

“‘What is it, ye ould fool?’ said M’Kenny.

“‘It’s Father Con Doran, your reverence, that was buried last week, and
there he is up now, coffin and all, saying a midnight Mass as lively as
ever.’

“Poor Mrs. Rogers, God help her! It was a trying sight for her when the
priest and the two coadjutors and three little boys and the sexton all came
in to lay her spirit; and the shock she received that night, they say, she
never got over.

“Need I say, my dear O’Mealey, that our acquaintance with Mrs. Rogers was
closed? The dear woman had a hard struggle for it afterwards. Her character
was assailed by all the elderly ladies in Loughrea for going off in our
company, and her blue satin, piped with scarlet, utterly ruined by a deluge
of holy water bestowed on her by the pious sexton. It was in vain that she
originated twenty different reports to mystify the world; and even ten
pounds spent in Masses for the eternal repose of Father Con Doran only
increased the laughter this unfortunate affair gave rise to. As for us, we
exchanged into the line, and foreign service took us out of the road of
duns, debts, and devilment, and we soon reformed, and eschewed such low
company.”


The day was breaking ere we separated; and amidst the rich and fragrant
vapors that exhaled from the earth, the faint traces of sunlight dimly
stealing told of the morning. My two friends set out for Torrijos, and I
pushed boldly forward in the direction of the Alberche.

It was a strange thing that although but two days before the roads we were
then travelling had been the line of retreat of the whole French army, not
a vestige of their equipment nor a trace of their _matériel_ had been left
behind. In vain we searched each thicket by the wayside for some straggling
soldier, some wounded or wearied man; nothing of the kind was to be seen.
Except the deeply-rutted road, torn by the heavy wheels of the artillery,
and the white ashes of a wood fire, nothing marked their progress.

Our journey was a lonely one. Not a man was to be met with. The houses
stood untenanted; the doors lay open; no smoke wreathed from their deserted
hearths. The peasantry had taken to the mountains; and although the plains
were yellow with the ripe harvest, and the peaches hung temptingly upon the
trees, all was deserted and forsaken. I had often seen the blackened walls
and broken rafters, the traces of the wild revenge and reckless pillage of
a retiring army. The ruined castle and the desecrated altar are sad things
to look upon; but, somehow, a far heavier depression sunk into my heart
as my eye ranged over the wide valleys and broad hills, all redolent of
comfort, of beauty, and of happiness, and yet not one man to say, “This is
my home; these are my household gods.” The birds carolled gayly in each
leafy thicket; the bright stream sung merrily as it rippled through the
rocks; the tall corn, gently stirred by the breeze, seemed to swell the
concert of sweet sounds; but no human voice awoke the echoes there. It
was as if the earth was speaking in thankfulness to its Maker, while
man,--ungrateful and unworthy man,--pursuing his ruthless path of
devastation and destruction, had left no being to say, “I thank Thee for
all these.”

The day was closing as we drew near the Alberche, and came in sight of the
watch-fires of the enemy. Far as the eye could reach their column extended,
but in the dim twilight nothing could be seen with accuracy; yet from the
position their artillery occupied, and the unceasing din of baggage wagons
and heavy carriages towards the rear, I came to the conclusion that a still
farther retreat was meditated. A picket of light cavalry was posted upon
the river’s bank, and seemed to watch with vigilance the approaches to the
stream.

Our bivouac was a dense copse of pine-trees, exactly opposite to the French
advanced posts, and there we passed the night,--fortunately a calm and
starlight one; for we dared not light fires, fearful of attracting
attention.

During the long hours I lay patiently watching the movements of the enemy
till the dark shadows hid all from sight; and even then, as my ears caught
the challenge of a sentry or the footsteps of some officer in his round,
my thoughts were riveted upon them, and a hundred vague fancies as to the
future were based upon no stronger foundation than the clink of a firelock
or the low-muttered song of a patrol.

Towards morning I slept; and when day broke my first glance was towards the
river-side. But the French were gone, noiselessly, rapidly. Like one man
that vast army had departed, and a dense column of dust towards the
horizon alone marked the long line of march where the martial legions were
retreating.

My mission was thus ended; and hastily partaking of the humble breakfast my
friend Mike provided for me, I once more set out and took the road towards
headquarters.



CHAPTER II.


THE SKIRMISH.

For several months after the battle of Talavera my life presented nothing
which I feel worth recording. Our good fortune seemed to have deserted us
when our hopes were highest; for from the day of that splendid victory we
began our retrograde movement upon Portugal. Pressed hard by overwhelming
masses of the enemy, we saw the fortresses of Ciudad Rodrigo and Almeida
fall successively into their hands. The Spaniards were defeated wherever
they ventured upon a battle; and our own troops, thinned by sickness and
desertion, presented but a shadow of that brilliant army which only a few
months previous had followed the retiring French beyond the frontiers of
Portugal.

However willing I now am--and who is not--to recognize the genius and
foresight of that great man who then held the destinies of the Peninsula
within his hands, I confess at the time I speak of I could ill comprehend
and still less feel contented with the successive retreats our forces made;
and while the words Torres Vedras brought nothing to my mind but the last
resting-place before embarkation, the sad fortunes of Corunna were now
before me, and it was with a gloomy and desponding spirit I followed the
routine of my daily duty.

During these weary months, if my life was devoid of stirring interest or
adventure, it was not profitless. Constantly employed at the outposts,
I became thoroughly inured to all the roughing of a soldier’s life, and
learned in the best of schools that tacit obedience which alone can form
the subordinate or ultimately fit its possessor for command himself.

Humble and unobtrusive as such a career must ever be, it was not without
its occasional rewards. From General Crawfurd I more than once obtained
most kind mention in his despatches, and felt that I was not unknown or
unnoticed by Sir Arthur Wellesley himself. At that time these testimonies,
slight and passing as they were, contributed to the pride and glory of my
existence; and even now--shall I confess it?--when some gray hairs are
mingling with the brown, and when my old dragoon swagger is taming down
into a kind of half-pay shamble, I feel my heart warm at the recollection
of them.

Be it so; I care not who smiles at the avowal. I know of little better
worth remembering as we grow old than what pleased us while we were young.
With the memory of the kind words once spoken come back the still kinder
looks of those who spoke them, and better than all, that early feeling of
budding manhood, when there was neither fear nor distrust. Alas! these are
the things, and not weak eyes and tottering limbs, which form the burden of
old age. Oh, if we could only go on believing, go on trusting, go on hoping
to the last, who would shed tears for the bygone feats of his youthful
days, when the spirit that evoked them lived young and vivid as before?

But to my story. While Ciudad Rodrigo still held out against the besieging
French,--its battered walls and breached ramparts sadly foretelling the
fate inevitably impending,--we were ordered, together with the 16th Light
Dragoons, to proceed to Gallegos, to reinforce Crawfurd’s division, then
forming a corps of observation upon Massena’s movements.

The position he occupied was a most commanding one,--the crown of a long
mountain ridge, studded with pine-copse and cork-trees, presenting every
facility for light-infantry movements; and here and there gently sloping
towards the plain, offering a field for cavalry manoeuvres. Beneath, in
the vast plain, were encamped the dark legions of France, their heavy
siege-artillery planted against the doomed fortress, while clouds of their
cavalry caracoled proudly before us, as if in taunting sarcasm at our
inactivity.

Every artifice which his natural cunning could suggest, every taunt a
Frenchman’s vocabulary contains, had been used by Massena to induce Sir
Arthur Wellesley to come to the assistance of the beleagured fortress:
but in vain. In vain he relaxed the energy of the siege, and affected
carelessness. In vain he asserted that the English were either afraid or
else traitors to their allies. The mind of him he thus assailed was neither
accessible to menace nor to sarcasm. Patiently abiding his time, he watched
the progress of events, and provided for that future which was to crown his
country’s arms with success and himself with undying glory.

Of a far different mettle was the general formed under whose orders we were
now placed. Hot, passionate, and impetuous, relying upon bold and headlong
heroism rather than upon cool judgment and well-matured plans, Crawfurd
felt in war all the asperity and bitterness of a personal conflict. Ill
brooking the insulting tone of the wily Frenchman, he thirsted for any
occasion of a battle, and his proud spirit chafed against the colder
counsels of his superior.

On the very morning we joined, the pickets brought in the intelligence that
the French patrols were nightly in the habit of visiting the villages at
the outposts and committing every species of cruel indignity upon the
wretched inhabitants. Fired at this daring insult, our general resolved to
cut them off, and formed two ambuscades for the purpose.

Six squadrons of the 14th were despatched to Villa del Puerco, three of
the 16th to Baguetto, while some companies of the 95th, and the caçadores,
supported by artillery, were ordered to hold themselves in reserve, for the
enemy were in force at no great distance from us.

The morning was just breaking as an aide-de-camp galloped up with the
intelligence that the French had been seen near the Villa del Puerco, a
body of infantry and some cavalry having crossed the plain, and disappeared
in that direction. While our colonel was forming us, with the intention of
getting between them and their main body, the tramp of horses was heard in
the wood behind, and in a few moments two officers rode up. The foremost,
who was a short, stoutly-built man of about forty, with a bronzed face and
eye of piercing black, shouted out as we wheeled into column:--

“Halt, there! Why, where the devil are you going? That’s your ground!” So
saying, and pointing straight towards the village with his hand, he would
not listen to our colonel’s explanation that several stone fences and
enclosures would interfere with cavalry movements, but added, “Forward, I
say! Proceed!”

Unfortunately, the nature of the ground separated our squadron, as the
colonel anticipated; and although we came on at a topping pace, the French
had time to form in square upon a hill to await us, and when we charged,
they stood firmly, and firing with a low and steady aim, several of our
troopers fell. As we wheeled round, we found ourselves exactly in front
of their cavalry coming out of Baguilles; so dashing straight at them,
we revenged ourselves for our first repulse by capturing twenty-nine
prisoners, and wounding several others.

The French infantry were, however, still unbroken; and Colonel Talbot rode
boldly up with five squadrons of the 14th; but the charge, pressed home
with all its gallantry, failed also, and the colonel fell mortally wounded,
and fourteen of his troopers around him. Twice we rode round the square,
seeking for a weak point, but in vain; the gallant Frenchman who commanded,
Captain Guache, stood fearlessly amidst his brave followers, and we could
hear him, as he called out from time to time,--

“_C’est ça mes enfans! Trés bien fait, mes braves!_”

And at length they made good their retreat, while we returned to the camp,
leaving thirty-two troopers and our brave colonel dead upon the field in
this disastrous affair.


The repulse we had met with, so contrary to all our hopes and expectations,
made that a most gloomy day to all of us. The brave fellows we had left
behind us, the taunting cheer of the French infantry, the unbroken ranks
against which we rode time after time in vain, never left our minds; and a
sense of shame of what might be thought of us at headquarters rendered the
reflection still more painful.

Our bivouac, notwithstanding all our efforts, was a sad one, and when the
moon rose, some drops of heavy rain falling at intervals in the still,
unruffled air threatened a night of storm; gradually the sky grew darker
and darker, the clouds hung nearer to the earth, and a dense, thick mass
of dark mist shrouded every object. The heavy cannonade of the siege was
stilled; nothing betrayed that a vast army was encamped near us; their
bivouac fires were even imperceptible; and the only sound we heard was the
great bell of Ciudad Rodrigo as it struck the hour, and seemed, in the
mournful cadence of its chime, like the knell of the doomed citadel.

The patrol which I commanded had to visit on its rounds the most advanced
post of our position. This was a small farm-house, which, standing upon a
little rising ledge of ground, was separated from the French lines by a
little stream tributary to the Aguda. A party of the 14th were picketed
here, and beneath them in the valley, scarce five hundred yards distant,
was the detachment of cuirassiers which formed the French outpost. As we
neared our picket the deep voice of the sentry challenged us; and while
all else was silent as the grave, we could hear from the opposite side
the merry chorus of a French _chanson à boire_, with its clattering
accompaniment of glasses, as some gay companions were making merry
together.

Within the little hut which contained _our_ fellows, the scene was a
different one. The three officers who commanded sat moodily over a wretched
fire of wet wood; a solitary candle dimly lighted the dismantled room,
where a table but ill-supplied with cheer stood unminded and uncared for.

“Well, O’Malley,” cried Baker, as I came in, “what is the night about? And
what’s Crawfurd for next?”

“We hear,” cried another, “that he means to give battle to-morrow; but
surely Sir Arthur’s orders are positive enough. Gordon himself told me
that he was forbidden to fight beyond the Coa, but to retreat at the first
advance of the enemy.”

“I’m afraid,” replied I, “that retreating is his last thought just now.
Ammunition has just been served out, and I know the horse artillery have
orders to be in readiness by daybreak.”

“All right,” said Hampden, with a half-bitter tone. “Nothing like going
through with it. If he is to be brought to court-martial for disobedience,
he’ll take good care we sha’n’t be there to see it.”

“Why, the French are fifty thousand strong!” said Baker. “Look there, what
does that mean, now? That’s a signal from the town.”

As he spoke a rocket of great brilliancy shot up into the sky, and bursting
at length fell in millions of red lustrous sparks on every side, showing
forth the tall fortress, and the encamped army around it, with all the
clearness of noonday. It was a most splendid sight; and though the next
moment all was dark as before, we gazed still fixedly into the gloomy
distance, straining our eyes to observe what was hid from our view forever.

“That must be a signal,” repeated Baker.

“Begad! if Crawfurd sees it he’ll interpret it as a reason for fighting. I
trust he’s asleep by this time,” said Hampden. “By-the-bye, O’Malley, did
you see the fellows at work in the trenches? How beautifully clear it was
towards the southward!”

“Yes, I remarked that! and what surprised me was the openness of their
position in that direction. Towards the San Benito mole I could not see a
man.”

“Ah, they’ll not attack on that side; but if we really are--”

“Stay, Hampden!” said I, interrupting him, “a thought has just struck me.
At sunset, I saw, through my telescope, the French engineers marking with
their white tape the line of a new entrenchment in that quarter. Would it
not be a glorious thing to move the tape, and bring the fellows under the
fire of San Benito?”

“By Jove, O’Malley, that is a thought worth a troop to you!”

“Far more likely to forward his promotion in the next world than in this,”
 said Baker, smiling.

“By no means,” added I. “I marked the ground this evening, and have it
perfectly in my mind. If we were to follow the bend of the river, I’ll be
bound to come right upon the spot; by nearing the fortress we’ll escape the
sentries; and all this portion is open to us.”

The project thus loosely thrown out was now discussed in all its bearings.
Whatever difficulties it presented were combated so much to our own
satisfaction, that at last its very facility damped our ardor. Meanwhile
the night wore on, and the storm of rain so long impending began to descend
in very torrents; hissing along the parched ground, it rose in a mist,
while overhead the heavy thunder rolled in long unbroken peals; the crazy
door threatened to give way at each moment, and the whole building trembled
to its foundation.

“Pass the brandy down here, Hampden, and thank your stars you’re where you
are. Eh, O’Malley? You’ll defer your trip to San Benito for finer weather.”

“Well, to come to the point,” said Hampden, “I’d rather begin my
engineering at a more favorable season; but if O’Malley’s for it--”

“And O’Malley _is_ for it,” said I, suddenly.

“Then faith, I’m not the man to balk his fancy; and as Crawfurd is so bent
upon fighting to-morrow, it don’t make much difference. Is it a bargain?”

“It is; here’s my hand on it.”

“Come, come, boys, I’ll have none of this; we’ve been prettily cut up this
morning already. You shall not go upon this foolish excursion.”

“Confound it, old fellow! it’s all very well for you to talk, with the
majority before you, next step; but here we are, if peace came to-morrow,
scarcely better than we left England. No, no; if O’Malley’s ready--and I
see he is so before me--What have you got there? Oh, I see; that’s our tape
line; capital fun, by George! The worst of it is, they’ll make us colonels
of engineers. Now then, what’s your plan--on foot or mounted?”

“Mounted, and for this reason, the country is all open; if we are to have a
run for it, our thoroughbreds ought to distance them; and as we must expect
to pass some of their sentries, our only chance is on horseback.”

“My mind is relieved of a great load,” said Hampden; “I was trembling in my
skin lest you should make it a walking party. I’ll do anything you like in
the saddle, from robbing the mail to cutting out a frigate; but I never was
much of a foot-pad.”

“Well, Mike,” said I, as I returned to the room with my trusty follower,
“are the cattle to be depended on?”

“If we had a snaffle in Malachi Daly’s mouth [my brown horse], I’d be
afeared of nothing, sir; but if it comes to fencing, with that cruel
bit,--but sure, you’ve a light hand, and let him have his head, if it’s
wall.”

“By Jove, he thinks it a fox-chase!” said Hampden.

“Isn’t it the same, sir?” said Mike, with a seriousness that made the whole
party smile.

“Well, I hope we shall not be earthed, any way,” said I. “Now, the next
thing is, who has a lantern? Ah! the very thing; nothing better. Look to
your pistols, Hampden; and Mike, here’s a glass of grog for you; we’ll want
you. And now, one bumper for good luck. Eh, Baker, won’t you pledge us?”

“And spare a little for me,” said Hampden. “How it does rain! If one didn’t
expect to be water-proofed before morning, one really wouldn’t go out in
such weather.”

While I busied myself in arranging my few preparations, Hampden proceeded
gravely to inform Mike that we were going to the assistance of the besieged
fortress, which could not possibly go on without us.

“Tare and ages!” said Mike, “that’s mighty quare; and the blue rocket was a
letter of invitation, I suppose?”

“Exactly,” said Hampden; “and you see there’s no ceremony between us. We’ll
just drop in, in the evening, in a friendly way.”

“Well, then, upon my conscience, I’d wait, if I was you, till the family
wasn’t in confusion. They have enough on their hands just now.”

“So you’ll not be persuaded?” said Baker. “Well, I frankly tell you, that
come what will of it, as your senior officer I’ll report you to-morrow.
I’ll not risk myself for any such hair-brained expeditions.”

“A mighty pleasant look-out for me,” said Mike; “if I’m not shot to-night,
I may be flogged in the morning.”

This speech once more threw us into a hearty fit of laughter, amidst which
we took leave of our friends, and set forth upon our way.



CHAPTER III.


THE LINES OF CIUDAD RODRIGO.

The small, twinkling lights which shone from the ramparts of Ciudad Rodrigo
were our only guide, as we issued forth upon our perilous expedition. The
storm raged, if possible, even more violently than before, and gusts of
wind swept along the ground with the force of a hurricane; so that at
first, our horses could scarcely face the tempest. Our path lay along the
little stream for a considerable way; after which, fording the rivulet, we
entered upon the open plain, taking care to avoid the French outpost on the
extreme left, which was marked by a bivouac fire, burning under the heavy
downpour of rain, and looking larger through the dim atmosphere around it.

I rode foremost, followed closely by Hampden and Mike; not a word was
spoken after we crossed the stream. Our plan was, if challenged by a
patrol, to reply in French and press on; so small a party could never
suggest the idea of attack, and we hoped in this manner to escape.

The violence of the storm was such that many of our precautions as to
silence were quite unnecessary; and we had advanced to a considerable
extent into the plain before any appearance of the encampment struck us.
At length, on mounting a little rising ground, we perceived several fires
stretching far away to the northward; while still to our left, there blazed
one larger and brighter than the others. We now found that we had not
outflanked their position as we intended, and learning from the situation
of the fires, that we were still only at the outposts, we pressed sharply
forward, directing our course by the twin stars that shone from the
fortress.

“How heavy the ground is here!” whispered Hampden, as our horses sunk above
the fetlocks. “We had better stretch away to the right; the rise of the
hill will favor us.”

“Hark!” said I; “did you not hear something? Pull up,--silence now. Yes,
there they come. It’s a patrol; I hear their tramp.” As I spoke, the
measured tread of infantry was heard above the storm, and soon after a
lantern was seen coming along the causeway near us. The column passed
within a few yards of where we stood. I could even recognize the black
covering of the shakos as the light fell on them. “Let us follow them,”
 whispered I; and the next moment we fell in upon their track, holding our
cattle well in hand, and ready to start at a moment.

“_Qui va là?_” a sentry demanded.

“_La deuxième division_,” cried a hoarse voice.

“_Halte là! la consigne?_”

“_Wagram!_” repeated the same voice as before, while his party resumed
their march; and the next moment the patrol was again upon his post, silent
and motionless as before.

“_En avant, Messieurs!_” said I, aloud, as soon as the infantry had
proceeded some distance,--“_en avant!_”

“_Qui va là?_” demanded the sentry, as we came along at a sharp trot.

“_L’état-major, Wagram!_” responded I, pressing on without drawing rein;
and in a moment we had regained our former position behind the infantry. We
had scarcely time to congratulate ourselves upon the success of our scheme,
when a tremendous clattering noise in front, mingled with the galloping of
horses and the cracking of whips, announced the approach of the artillery
as they came along by a narrow road which bisected our path; and as they
passed between us and the column, we could hear the muttered sentences of
the drivers, cursing the unseasonable time for an attack, and swearing at
their cattle in no measured tones.

“Did you hear that?” whispered Hampden; “the battery is about to be
directed against the San Benito, which must be far away to the left.
I heard one of the troop saying that they were to open their fire at
daybreak.”

“All right, now,” said I; “look there!”

From the hill we now stood upon a range of lanterns was distinctly visible,
stretching away for nearly half a mile.

“There are the trenches; they must be at work, too. See how the lights are
moving from place to place! Straight now. Forward!”

So saying, I pressed my horse boldly on.

We had not proceeded many minutes when the sounds of galloping were heard
coming along behind us.

“To the right, in the hollow,” cried I. “Be still.”

Scarcely had we moved off when several horsemen galloped up, and drawing
their reins to breathe their horses up the hill, we could hear their voices
as they conversed together.

In the few broken words we could catch, we guessed that the attack upon San
Benito was only a feint to induce Crawfurd to hold his position, while
the French, marching upon his flank and front, were to attack him with
overwhelming masses and crush him.

“You hear what’s in store for us, O’Malley?” whispered Hampden. “I think we
could not possibly do better than hasten back with the intelligence.”

“We must not forget what we came for, first,” said I; and the next moment
we were following the horsemen, who from their helmets seemed to be
horse-artillery officers.

The pace our guides rode at showed us that they knew their ground. We
passed several sentries, muttering something at each time, and seeming as
if only anxious to keep up with our party.

“They’ve halted,” said I. “Now to the left there; gently here, for we must
be in the midst of their lines. Ha! I knew we were right. See there!”

Before us, now, at a few hundred yards, we could perceive a number of men
engaged upon the field. Lights were moving from place to place rapidly,
while immediately in front a strong picket of cavalry were halted.

“By Jove! there’s sharp work of it to-night,” whispered Hampden. “They do
intend to surprise us to-morrow.”

“Gently now, to the left,” said I, as cautiously skirting the little hill,
I kept my eye firmly fixed upon the watch-fire.

The storm, which for some time had abated considerably, was now nearly
quelled, and the moon again peeped forth amidst masses of black and watery
clouds.

“What good fortune for us!” thought I, at this moment, as I surveyed the
plain before me.

“I say, O’Malley, what are those fellows at yonder, where the blue light is
burning?”

“Ah! the very people we want; these are the sappers. Now for it; that’s our
ground. We’ll soon come upon their track now.”

We pressed rapidly forward, passing an infantry party as we went. The blue
light was scarcely a hundred yards off; we could even hear the shouting of
the officers to their men in the trenches, when suddenly my horse came down
upon his head, and rolling over, crushed me to the earth.

“Not hurt, my boy,” cried I, in a subdued tone, as Hampden jumped down
beside me.

It was the angle of a trench I had fallen into; and though both my horse
and myself felt stunned for the moment, we rallied the next minute.

“Here is the very spot,” said I. “Now, Mike, catch the bridles and follow
us closely.”

Guiding ourselves along the edge of the trench, we crept stealthily
forward; the only watch-fire near was where the engineer party was halted,
and our object was to get outside of this.

“My turn this time,” said Hampden, as he tripped suddenly, and fell head
foremost upon the grass.

As I assisted him to rise, something caught my ankle, and on stooping I
found it was a cord pegged fast into the ground, and lying only a few
inches above it.

“Now, steady! See here; this is their working line. Pass your hand along it
there, and let us follow it out.”

While Hampden accordingly crept along on one side, I tracked the cord upon
the other. Here I found it terminating upon a small mound, where probably
some battery was to be erected. I accordingly gathered it carefully up, and
was returning towards my friend, when what was my horror to hear Mike’s
voice, conversing, as it seemed to me, with some one in French.

I stood fixed to the spot, my very heart beating almost in my mouth as I
listened.

“_Qui êtes-vous done, mon ami?_” inquired a hoarse, deep voice, a few yards
off.

“_Bon cheval, non_ beast, _sacré nom de Dieu!_” A hearty burst of laughter
prevented my hearing the conclusion of Mike’s French.

I now crept forward upon my hands and knees, till I could catch the dark
outline of the horses, one hand fixed upon my pistol trigger, and my sword
drawn in the other. Meanwhile the dialogue continued.

“_Vous êtes d’Alsace, n’est-ce-pas?_” asked the Frenchman, kindly supposing
that Mike’s French savored of Strasburg.

“Oh, blessed Virgin! av I might shoot him,” was the muttered reply.

Before I had time to see the effect of the last speech, I pressed forward
with a bold spring, and felled the Frenchman to the earth. My hand had
scarcely pressed upon his mouth, when Hampden was beside me. Snatching up
the pistol I let fall, he held it to the man’s chest and commanded him to
be silent. To unfasten his girdle and bind the Frenchman’s hands behind
him, was the work of a moment; and as the sharp click of the pistol-cock
seemed to calm his efforts to escape, we soon succeeded in fastening a
handkerchief tight across his mouth, and the next minute he was placed
behind Mike’s saddle, firmly attached to this worthy individual by his
sword-belt.

“Now, a clear run home for it, and a fair start,” said Hampden, as he
sprang into the saddle.

“Now, then, for it,” I replied, as turning my horse’s head towards our
lines, I dashed madly forward.

The moon was again obscured, but still the dark outline of the hill which
formed our encampment was discernible on the horizon. Riding side by side,
on we hurried,--now splashing through the deep wet marshes, now plunging
through small streams. Our horses were high in mettle, and we spared them
not. By taking a wide _détour_ we had outflanked the French pickets, and
were almost out of all risk, when suddenly on coming to the verge of rather
a steep hill, we perceived beneath us a strong cavalry picket standing
around a watch-fire; their horses were ready saddled, the men accoutred,
and quite prepared for the field. While we conversed together in whispers
as to the course to follow, our deliberations were very rapidly cut short.
The French prisoner, who hitherto had given neither trouble nor resistance,
had managed to free his mouth from the encumbrance of the handkerchief; and
as we stood quietly discussing our plans, with one tremendous effort he
endeavored to hurl himself and Mike from the saddle, shouting out as he did
so,--

“_A moi camarades! à moi!_”

Hampden’s pistol leaped from the holster as he spoke, and levelling it with
a deadly aim, he pulled the trigger; but I threw up his arm, and the ball
passed high above his head. To have killed the Frenchman would have been to
lose my faithful follower, who struggled manfully with his adversary, and
at length by throwing himself flatly forward upon the mane of his horse,
completely disabled him. Meanwhile the picket had sprung to their saddles,
and looked wildly about on every side.

Not a moment was to be lost; so turning our horses’ heads towards the
plain, away we went. One loud cheer announced to us that we had been seen,
and the next instant the clash of the pursuing cavalry was heard behind us.
It was now entirely a question of speed, and little need we have feared
had Mike’s horse not been doubly weighted. However, as we still had
considerably the start, and the gray dawn of day enabled us to see the
ground, the odds were in our favor. “Never let your horse’s head go,” was
my often repeated direction to Mike, as he spurred with all the desperation
of madness. Already the low meadow-land was in sight which flanked the
stream we had crossed in the morning, but unfortunately the heavy rains had
swollen it now to a considerable depth, and the muddy current, choked with
branches of trees and great stones, was hurrying down like a torrent. “Take
the river! never flinch it!” was my cry to my companions, as I turned my
head and saw a French dragoon, followed by two others, gaining rapidly upon
us. As I spoke, Mike dashed in, followed by Hampden, and the same moment
the sharp ring of a carbine whizzed past me. To take off the pursuit from
the others, I now wheeled my horse suddenly round, as if I feared to take
the stream, and dashed along by the river’s bank.

[Illustration: A FLYING SHOT.]

Beneath me in the foaming current the two horsemen labored,--now stemming
the rush of water, now reeling almost beneath. A sharp cry burst from Mike
as I looked, and I saw the poor fellow bend nearly to his saddle. I could
see no more, for the chase was now hot upon myself. Behind me rode a French
dragoon, his carbine pressed tightly to his side, ready to fire as he
pressed on in pursuit. I had but one chance; so drawing my pistol I wheeled
suddenly in my saddle, and fired straight at him. The Frenchman fell, while
a regular volley from his party rung around me, one ball striking my horse,
and another lodging in the pommel of my saddle. The noble animal reeled
nearly to the earth, but as if rallying for a last effort, sprang forward
with renewed energy, and plunged boldly into the river. For a moment,
so sudden was my leap, my pursuers lost sight of me; but the bank being
somewhat steep, the efforts of my horse to climb again discovered me, and
before I reached the field two pistol-balls took effect upon me,--one
slightly grazed my side, but my bridle-arm was broken by the other, and
my hand fell motionless to my side. A cheer of defiance was, however, my
reply, as I turned round in my saddle, and the next moment I was far beyond
the range of their fire.

Not a man durst follow, and the last sight I had of them was the dismounted
group who stood around their dead comrade. Before me rode Hampden and Mike,
still at top speed, and never turning their heads backwards. I hastened
after them; but my poor, wounded horse, nearly hamstrung by the shot,
became dead lame, and it was past daybreak ere I reached the first outposts
of our lines.



CHAPTER IV.


THE DOCTOR.

“And his wound? Is it a serious one?” said a round, full voice, as the
doctor left my room at the conclusion of his visit.

“No, sir; a fractured bone is the worst of it,--the bullet grazed, but did
not cut the artery, and as--”

“Well, how soon will he be about again?”

“In a few weeks, if no fever sets in.”

“There’s no objection to my seeing him?--a few minutes only,--I’ll be
cautious.” So saying, and as it seemed to me, without waiting for a reply,
the door was opened by an aide-de-camp, who, announcing General Crawfurd,
closed it again, and withdrew.

The first glance I threw upon the general enabled me to recognize the
officer who, on the previous morning, had ridden up to the picket and given
us the orders to charge. I essayed to rise a little as he came forward; but
he motioned me with his hand to lie still, while, placing a chair close
beside my bed, he sat down.

“Very sorry for your mishap, sir, but glad it is no worse. Moreton says
that nothing of consequence is injured; there, you mustn’t speak except I
ask you. Hampden has told me everything necessary; at least as far as he
knew. Is it your opinion, also, that any movement is in contemplation; and
from what circumstance?”

I immediately explained, and as briefly as I was able, the reasons for
suspecting such, with which he seemed quite satisfied. I detailed the
various changes in the positions of the troops that were taking place
during the night, the march of the artillery, and the strong bodies of
cavalry that were posted in reserve along the river.

“Very well, sir; they’ll not move; your prisoner, quartermaster of an
infantry battalion, says not, also. Yours was a bold stroke, but could not
possibly have been of service, and the best thing I can do for you is not
to mention it,--a court-martial’s but a poor recompense for a gun-shot
wound. Meanwhile, when this blows over, I’ll appoint you on my personal
staff. There, not a word, I beg; and now, good-by.”

So saying, and waving me an adieu with his hand, the gallant veteran
withdrew before I could express my gratitude for his kindness.

I had little time for reflecting over my past adventure, such numbers of my
brother officers poured in upon me. All the doctor’s cautions respecting
quietness and rest were disregarded, and a perfect levee sat the entire
morning in my bed-room. I was delighted to learn that Mike’s wound, though
painful at the moment, was of no consequence; and indeed Hampden, who
escaped both steel and shot, was the worst off among us,--his plunge in the
river having brought on an ague he had labored under years before.

“The illustrious Maurice has been twice here this morning, but they
wouldn’t admit him. Your Scotch physician is afraid of his Irish
_confrère_, and they had a rare set-to about Galen and Hippocrates
outside,” said Baker.

“By-the-bye,” said another, “did you see how Sparks looked when Quill
joined us? Egad, I never saw a fellow in such a fright; he reddened up,
then grew pale, turned his back, and slunk away at the very first moment.”

“Yes, I remember it. We must find out the reason; for Maurice, depend upon
it, has been hoaxing the poor fellow.”

“Well, O’Malley,” growled out the senior major, “you certainly did give
Hampden a benefit. He’ll not trust himself in such company again; and
begad, he says, the man is as bad as the master. That fellow of yours never
let go his prisoner till he reached the quartermaster-general, and they
were both bathed in blood by that time.”

“Poor Mike! we must do something for him.”

“Oh, he’s as happy as a king! Maurice has been in to see him, and they’ve
had a long chat about Ireland, and all the national pastimes of whiskey
drinking and smashing skulls. My very temples ache at the recollection.”

“Is Mister O’Mealey at home?” said a very rich Cork accent, as the
well-known and most droll features of Dr. Maurice Quill appeared at the
door.

“Come in, Maurice,” said the major; “and for Heaven’s sake, behave
properly. The poor fellow must not have a row about his bedside.”

“A row, a row! Upon my conscience, it is little you know about a row, and
there’s worse things going than a row. Which leg is it?”

“It’s an arm, Doctor, I’m happy to say.”

“Not your punch hand, I hope. No; all’s right. A neat fellow you have for
a servant, that Mickey Free. I was asking him about a townsman of his
own--one Tim Delany,--the very cut of himself, the best servant I ever had.
I never could make out what became of him. Old Hobson of the 95th, gave
him to me, saying, ‘There he is for you, Maurice, and a bigger thief and a
greater blackguard there’s not in the 60th.’

“‘Strong words,’ said I.

“‘And true’ said he; ‘he’d steal your molar tooth while you were laughing
at him.’

“‘Let me have him, and try my hand on him, anyway. I’ve got no one just
now. Anything is better than nothing.’

“Well I took Tim, and sending for him to my room I locked the door, and
sitting down gravely before him explained in a few words that I was quite
aware of his little propensities.

“‘Now,’ said I, ‘if you like to behave well, I’ll think you as honest as
the chief-justice; but if I catch you stealing, if it be only the value of
a brass snuff-box, I’ll have you flogged before the regiment as sure as my
name’s Maurice.’

“Oh, I wish you heard the volley of protestations that fell from him fast
as hail. He was a calumniated man the world conspired to wrong him; he was
never a thief nor a rogue in his life. He had a weakness, he confessed, for
the ladies; but except that, he hoped he might die so thin that he could
shave himself with his shin-bone if he ever so much as took a pinch of salt
that wasn’t his own.

“However this might be, nothing could be better than the way Tim and I got
on together. Everything was in its place, nothing missing; and in fact, for
upwards of a year, I went on wondering when he was to show out in his true
colors, for hitherto he had been a phoenix.

“At last,--we were quartered in Limerick at the time,--every morning used
to bring accounts of all manner of petty thefts in the barrack,--one fellow
had lost his belt, another his shoes, a third had three-and-sixpence in
his pocket when he went to bed and woke without a farthing, and so on.
Everybody save myself was mulet of something. At length some rumors of
Tim’s former propensities got abroad; suspicion was excited; my friend
Delany was rigidly watched, and some very dubious circumstances attached to
the way he spent his evenings.

“My brother officers called upon me about the matter, and although nothing
had transpired like proof, I sent for Tim, and opened my mind on the
subject.

“You may talk of the look of conscious innocence, but I defy you to
conceive anything finer than the stare of offended honor Tim gave me as I
began.

“‘They say it’s me, Doctor,’ said he, ‘do they? And you,--you believe them.
You allow them to revile me that way? Well, well, the world is come to a
pretty pass, anyhow! Now, let me ask your honor a few questions? How many
shirts had yourself when I entered your service? Two, and one was more like
a fishing net! And how many have ye now? Eighteen; ay, eighteen bran new
cambrie ones,--devil a hole in one of them! How many pair of stockings had
you? Three and an odd one. You have two dozen this minute. How many pocket
handkerchiefs? One,--devil a more! You could only blow your nose two days
in the week, and now you may every hour of the twenty-four! And as to
the trilling articles of small value, snuff-boxes, gloves, bootjacks,
nightcaps, and--’

“‘Stop, Tim, that’s enough--’

“‘No, sir, it is not,’ said Tim, drawing himself up to his full height;
‘you have wounded my feelings in a way I can’t forget. It is impossible
we can have that mutual respect our position demands. Farewell, farewell,
Doctor, and forever!’

“Before I could say another word, the fellow had left the room, and closed
the door after him; and from that hour to this I never set eyes on him.”

In this vein did the worthy doctor run on till some more discreet friend
suggested that however well-intentioned the visit, I did not seem to be
fully equal to it,--my flushed cheek and anxious eye betraying that the
fever of my wound had commenced. They left me, therefore, once more alone,
and to my solitary musings over the vicissitudes of my fortune.



CHAPTER V.


THE COA.

Within a week from the occurrence of the events just mentioned, Ciudad
Rodrigo surrendered, and Crawfurd assumed another position beneath the
walls of Almeida. The Spanish contingent having left us, we were reinforced
by the arrival of two battalions, renewed orders being sent not to risk a
battle, but if the French should advance, to retire beyond the Coa.

On the evening of the 21st of July a strong body of French cavalry advanced
into the plain, supported by some heavy guns; upon which Crawfurd retired
upon the Coa, intending, as we supposed, to place that river between
himself and the enemy. Three days, however, passed over without any
movement upon either side, and we still continued, with a force of scarcely
four thousand infantry and a thousand dragoons, to stand opposite to an
army of nearly fifty thousand men. Such was our position as the night of
the 24th set in. I was sitting alone in my quarters. Mike, whose wound had
been severer than at first was supposed, had been sent to Almeida, and I
was musing in solitude upon the events of the campaign, when the noise and
bustle without excited my attention,--the roll of artillery wagons, the
clash of musketry, and the distant sounds of marching, all proved that the
troops were effecting some new movement, and I burned with anxiety to
learn what it was. My brother officers, however, came not as usual to my
quarters; and although I waited with impatience while the hours rolled by,
no one appeared.

Long, low moaning gusts of wind swept along the earth, carrying the leaves
as they tore them from the trees, and mingling their sad sounds with the
noises of the retiring troops; for I could perceive that gradually the
sounds grew more and more remote, and only now and then could I trace their
position as the roll of a distant drum swelled upon the breeze, or the
more shrill cry of a pibroch broke upon my ear. A heavy downpour of rain
followed soon after, and in its unceasing plash drowned all other sounds.

As the little building shook beneath the peals of loud thunder, the
lightning flashed in broad sheets upon the rapid river, which, swollen and
foaming, dashed impetuously beside my window. By the uncertain but vivid
glare of the flashes, I endeavored to ascertain where our force was posted,
but in vain. Never did I witness such a night of storm,--the deep booming
of the thunder seeming never for a moment to cease, while the rush of the
torrent grew gradually louder, till at length it swelled into one deep and
sullen roar like that of distant artillery.

Weak and nervous as I felt from the effects of my wound, feverish and
exhausted by days of suffering and sleepless nights, I paced my little room
with tottering but impatient steps. The sense of my sad and imprisoned
state impressed me deeply; and while from time to time I replenished my
fire, and hoped to hear some friendly step upon the stair, my heart grew
gradually heavier, and every gloomy and depressing thought suggested itself
to my imagination. My most constant impression was that the troops were
retiring beyond the Coa, and that, forgotten in the haste and confusion of
a night march, I had been left behind to fall a prisoner to the enemy.

The sounds of the troops retiring gradually farther and farther favored the
idea, in which I was still more strengthened on finding that the peasants
who inhabited the little hut had departed, leaving me utterly alone. From
the moment I ascertained this fact, my impatience knew no bounds; and in
proportion as I began to feel some exertion necessary on my part, so much
more did my nervousness increase my debility, and at last I sank exhausted
upon my bed, while a cold perspiration broke out upon my temples.

I have mentioned that the Coa was immediately beneath the house; I must
also add that the little building occupied the angle of a steep but narrow
gorge which descended from the plain to the bridge across the stream. This,
as far as I knew, was the only means we possessed of passing the river; so
that, when the last retiring sounds of the troops were heard by me, I began
to suspect that Crawfurd, in compliance with his orders, was making a
backward movement, leaving the bridge open to the French, to draw them
on to his line of march, while he should cross over at some more distant
point.

As the night grew later, the storm seemed to increase; the waves of the
foaming river dashed against the frail walls of the hut, while its roof,
rent by the blast, fell in fragments upon the stream, and all threatened a
speedy and perfect ruin.

How I longed for morning! The doubt and uncertainty I suffered nearly drove
me distracted. Of all the casualties my career as a soldier opened, none
had such terrors for me as imprisonment; the very thought of the long years
of inaction and inglorious idleness was worse than any death. My wounds,
and the state of fever I was in, increased the morbid dread upon me, and
had the French captured me at the time, I know not that madness of which
I was not capable. Day broke at last, but slowly and sullenly; the gray
clouds hurried past upon the storm, pouring down the rain in torrents as
they went, and the desolation and dreariness on all sides was scarcely
preferable to the darkness and gloom of night. My eyes were turned ever
towards the plain, across which the winter wind bore the plashing rain in
vast sheets of water; the thunder crashed louder and louder; but except the
sounds of the storm none others met my ear. Not a man, not a human figure
could I see, as I strained my sight towards the distant horizon.

The morning crept over, but the storm abated not, and the same unchanged
aspect of dreary desolation prevailed without. At times I thought I could
hear, amidst the noises of the tempest, something like the roll of distant
artillery; but the thunder swelled in sullen roar above all, and left me
uncertain as before.

At last, in a momentary pause of the storm, a tremendous peal of heavy
guns caught my ear, followed by the long rattling of small-arms. My heart
bounded with ecstasy. The thoughts of the battle-field, with all its
changing fortunes, was better, a thousand times better, than the despairing
sense of desertion I labored under. I listened now with eagerness, but
the rain bore down again in torrents, and the crumbling walls and falling
timbers left no other sounds to be heard. Far as my eye could reach,
nothing could still be seen save the dreary monotony of the vast plain,
undulating slightly here and there, but unmarked by a sign of man.

Far away towards the horizon I had remarked for some time past that the
clouds resting upon the earth grew blacker and blacker, spreading out to
either side in vast masses, and not broken or wafted along like the rest.
As I watched the phenomenon with an anxious eye, I perceived the dense mass
suddenly appear, as it were, rent asunder, while a volume of liquid flame
rushed wildly out, throwing a lurid glare on every side. One terrific clap,
louder than any thunder, shook the air at this moment, while the very earth
trembled beneath the shock.

As I hesitated what it might be, the heavy din of great guns again was
heard, and from the midst of the black smoke rode forth a dark mass,
which I soon recognized as the horse-artillery at full gallop. They were
directing their course towards the bridge.

As they mounted the little rising ground, they wheeled and unlimbered with
the speed of lightning, just as a strong column of cavalry showed above the
ridge. One tremendous discharge again shook the field, and ere the smoke
cleared away they were again far in retreat.

So much was my attention occupied with this movement that I had not
perceived the long line of infantry that came from the extreme left, and
were now advancing also towards the bridge at a brisk quick-step; scattered
bodies of cavalry came up from different parts, while from the little
valley, every now and then, a rifleman would mount the rising ground,
turning to fire as he retreated. All this boded a rapid and disorderly
retreat; and although as yet I could see nothing of the pursuing enemy, I
knew too well the relative forces of each to have a doubt for the result.

At last the head of a French column appeared above the mist, and I could
plainly distinguish the gestures of the officers as they hurried their men
onwards. Meanwhile a loud hurra attracted my attention, and I turned my eye
towards the road which led to the river. Here a small body of the 95th had
hurriedly assembled, and formed again, were standing to cover the retreat
of the broken infantry as they passed on eagerly to the bridge; in a second
after the French cuirassiers appeared. Little anticipating resistance from
a flying and disordered mass, they rode headlong forward, and although the
firm attitude and steady bearing of the Highlanders might have appalled
them, they rode heedlessly down upon the square, sabring the very men in
the front rank. Till now not a trigger had been pulled, when suddenly the
word “Fire!” was given, and a withering volley of balls sent the cavalry
column in shivers. One hearty cheer broke from the infantry in the rear,
and I could hear “Gallant Ninety-fifth!” shouted on every side along the
plain.

The whole vast space before me was now one animated battle-ground. Our own
troops, retiring in haste before the overwhelming forces of the French,
occupied every little vantage ground with their guns and light infantry,
charges of cavalry coursing hither and thither; while, as the French
pressed forward, the retreating columns again formed into squares to
permit stragglers to come up. The rattle of small-arms, the heavy peal of
artillery, the earth-quake crash of cavalry, rose on every side, while the
cheers which alternately told of the vacillating fortune of the fight rose
amidst the wild pibroch of the Highlanders.

A tremendous noise now took place on the floor beneath me; and looking
down, I perceived that a sergeant and party of sappers had taken possession
of the little hut, and were busily engaged in piercing the walls for
musketry; and before many minutes had elapsed, a company of the Rifles were
thrown into the building, which, from its commanding position above the
road, enfiladed the whole line of march. The officer in command briefly
informed me that we had been attacked that morning by the French in force,
and “devilishly well thrashed;” that we were now in retreat beyond the Coa,
where we ought to have been three days previously, and desired me to cross
the bridge and get myself out of the way as soon as I possibly could.

A twenty-four pounder from the French lines struck the angle of the house
as he spoke, scattering the mortar and broken bricks about us on all sides.
This was warning sufficient for me, wounded and disabled as I was; so
taking the few things I could save in my haste, I hurried from the hut, and
descending the path, now slippery by the heavy rain, I took my way across
the bridge, and established myself on a little rising knoll of ground
beyond, from which a clear view could be obtained of the whole field.

I had not been many minutes in my present position ere the pass which led
down to the bridge became thronged with troops, wagons, ammunition carts,
and hospital stores, pressing thickly forward amidst shouting and uproar;
the hills on either side of the way were crowded with troops, who formed
as they came up, the artillery taking up their position on every rising
ground. The firing had already begun, and the heavy booming of the large
guns was heard at intervals amidst the rattling crash of musketry. Except
the narrow road before me, and the high bank of the stream, I could see
nothing; but the tumult and din, which grew momentarily louder, told that
the tide of battle raged nearer and nearer. Still the retreat continued;
and at length the heavy artillery came thundering across the narrow bridge
followed by stragglers of all arms, and wounded, hurrying to the rear. The
sharpshooters and the Highlanders held the heights above the stream, thus
covering the retiring columns; but I could plainly perceive that their fire
was gradually slackening, and that the guns which flanked their position
were withdrawn, and everything bespoke a speedy retreat. A tremendous
discharge of musketry at this moment, accompanied by a deafening cheer,
announced the advance of the French, and soon the head of the Highland
brigade was seen descending towards the bridge, followed by the Rifles and
the 95th; the cavalry, consisting of the 11th and 14th Light Dragoons, were
now formed in column of attack, and the infantry deployed into line; and in
an instant after, high above the din and crash of battle, I heard the word
“Charge!” The rising crest of the hill hid them from my sight, but my heart
bounded with ecstasy as I listened to the clanging sound of the cavalry
advance. Meanwhile the infantry pressed on, and forming upon the bank,
took up a strong position in front of the bridge; the heavy guns were
also unlimbered, riflemen scattered through the low copse-wood, and every
precaution taken to defend the pass to the last. For a moment all my
attention was riveted to the movements upon our own side of the stream,
when suddenly the cavalry bugle sounded the recall, and the same moment
the staff came galloping across the bridge. One officer I could perceive,
covered with orders and trappings, his head was bare, and his horse,
splashed with blood and foam, moved lamely and with difficulty; he turned
in the middle of the bridge, as if irresolute whether to retreat farther.
One glance at him showed me the bronzed, manly features of our leader.
Whatever his resolve, the matter was soon decided for him, for the cavalry
came galloping swiftly down the slope, and in an instant the bridge was
blocked up by the retreating forces, while the French as suddenly appearing
above the height, opened a plunging fire upon their defenceless enemies;
their cheer of triumph was answered by our fellows from the opposite bank,
and a heavy cannonade thundered along the rocky valley, sending up a
hundred echoes as it went.

The scene now became one of overwhelming interest; the French, posting
their guns upon the height, replied to our fire, while their line, breaking
into skirmishers, descended the banks to the river’s edge, and poured
in one sheet of galling musketry. The road to the bridge, swept by our
artillery, presented not a single file; and although a movement among
the French announced the threat of an attack, the deadly service of the
artillery seemed to pronounce it hopeless.

A strong cavalry force stood inactively spectators of the combat, on the
French side, among whom I now remarked some bustle and preparation, and as
I looked an officer rode boldly to the river’s edge, and spurring his horse
forward, plunged into the stream. The swollen and angry torrent, increased
by the late rains, boiled like barm, and foamed around him as he advanced;
when suddenly his horse appeared to have lost its footing, and the rapid
current, circling around him, bore him along with it. He labored madly, but
in vain, to retrace his steps; the rolling torrent rose above his saddle,
and all that his gallant steed could do was barely sufficient to keep
afloat; both man and horse were carried down between the contending
armies. I could see him wave his hand to his comrades, as if in adieu. One
deafening cheer of admiration rose from the French lines, and the next
moment he was seen to fall from his seat, and his body, shattered with
balls, floated mournfully upon the stream.

This little incident, to which both armies were witnesses, seemed to have
called forth all the fiercer passions of the contending forces; a loud yell
of taunting triumph rose from the Highlanders, responded to by a cry of
vengeance from the French, and the same moment the head of a column was
seen descending the narrow causeway to the bridge, while an officer with a
whole blaze of decorations and crosses sprang from his horse and took the
lead. The little drummer, a child of scarcely ten years old, tripped gayly
on, beating his little _pas des charge_, seeming rather like the play of
infancy than the summons to death and carnage, as the heavy guns of the
French opened a volume of fire and flame to cover the attacking column. For
a moment all was hid from our eyes; the moment after the grape-shot swept
along the narrow causeway; and the bridge, which but a second before was
crowded with the life and courage of a noble column, was now one heap of
dead and dying. The gallant fellow who led them on fell among the first
rank, and the little child, as if kneeling, was struck dead beside the
parapet; his fair hair floated across his cold features, and seemed in its
motion to lend a look of life where the heart’s throb had ceased forever.
The artillery again re-opened upon us; and when the smoke had cleared away,
we discovered that the French had advanced to the middle of the bridge and
carried off the body of their general. Twice they essayed to cross, and
twice the death-dealing fire of our guns covered the narrow bridge with
slain, while by the wild pibroch of the 42d, swelling madly into notes of
exultation and triumph, the Highlanders could scarcely be prevented from
advancing hand to hand with the foe. Gradually the French slackened their
fire, their great guns were one by one withdrawn from the heights, and a
dropping, irregular musketry at intervals sustained the fight, which, ere
sunset, ceased altogether; and thus ended “The Battle of the Coa!”



CHAPTER VI.


THE NIGHT MARCH.

Scarcely had the night fallen when our retreat commenced. Tired and weary
as our brave fellows felt, but little repose was allowed them; their
bivouac fires were blazing brightly, and they had just thrown themselves
in groups around them, when the word to fall in was passed from troop to
troop, and from battalion to battalion,--no trumpet, no bugle called them
to their ranks. It was necessary that all should be done noiselessly and
speedily; while, therefore, the wounded were marched to the front, and
the heavy artillery with them, a brigade of light four pounders and two
squadrons of cavalry held the heights above the bridge, and the infantry,
forming into three columns, began their march.

My wound, forgotten in the heat and excitement of the conflict, was now
becoming excessively painful, and I gladly availed myself of a place in a
wagon, where, stretched upon some fresh straw, with no other covering save
the starry sky, I soon fell sound asleep, and neither the heavy jolting of
the rough conveyance, nor the deep and rutty road, were able to disturb my
slumbers. Still through my sleep I heard the sounds around me, the heavy
tramp of infantry, the clash of the moving squadrons, and the dull roll of
artillery; and ever and anon the half-stifled cry of pain, mingling with
the reckless carol of some drinking-song, all flitted through my dreams,
lending to my thoughts of home and friends a memory of glorious war.

All the vicissitudes of a soldier’s life passed then in review before me,
elicited in some measure by the things about. The pomp and grandeur, the
misery and meanness, the triumph, the defeat, the moment of victory, and
the hour of death were there, and in that vivid dream I lived a life long.

I awoke at length, the cold and chilling air which follows midnight blew
around me, and my wounded arm felt as though it were frozen. I tried to
cover myself beneath the straw, but in vain; and as my limbs trembled and
my teeth chattered, I thought again of home, where, at that moment, the
poorest menial of my uncle’s house was better lodged than I; and strange to
say, something of pride mingled with the thought, and in my lonely heart a
feeling of elation cheered me.

These reflections were interrupted by the sound of a voice near me, which I
at once knew to be O’Shaughnessy’s; he was on foot, and speaking evidently
in some excitement.

“I tell you, Maurice, some confounded blunder there must be; sure, he was
left in the cottage near the bridge, and no one ever saw him after.”

“The French took it from the Rifles before we crossed the river. By Jove!
I’ll wager my chance of promotion against a pint of sherry, he’ll turn up
somewhere in the morning; those Galway chaps have as many lives as a cat.”

“See, now, Maurice, I wouldn’t for a full colonelcy anything would happen
to him; I like the boy.”

“So do I myself; but I tell you there’s no danger of him. Did you ask
Sparks anything?”

“Ask Sparks! God help you! Sparks would go off in a fit at the sight of me.
No, no, poor creature! it’s little use it would be my speaking to him.”

“Why so, Doctor!” cried I, from my straw couch.

“May I never, if it’s not him! Charley, my son, I’m glad you’re safe.
‘Faith, I thought you were on your way to Verdun by this time.”

“Sure, I told you he’d find his way here--But, O’Mealey, dear, you’re
mighty could,--a rigor, as old M’Lauchlan would call it.”

“E’en sae, Maister Quill,” said a broad Scotch accent behind him; “and I
canna see ony objection to giein’ things their right names.”

“The top of the morning to you,” said Quill, familiarly patting him on the
back; “how goes it, old Brimstone?”

The conversation might not have taken a very amicable turn had M’Lauchlan
heard the latter part of this speech; but, as happily he was engaged
unpacking a small canteen which he had placed in the wagon, it passed
unnoticed.

“You’ll nae dislike a toothfu’ of something warm, Major,” said he,
presenting a glass to O’Shaughnessy; “and if ye’ll permit me, Mr. O’Mealey,
to help you--”

“A thousand thanks, Doctor; but I fear a broken arm--”

“There’s naething in the whiskey to prevent the proper formation of
callus.”

“By the rock of Cashel, it never made any one callous,” said O’Shaughnessy,
mistaking the import of the phrase.

“Ye are nae drinking frae the flask?” said the doctor, turning in some
agitation towards Quill.

“Devil a bit, my darling. I’ve a little horn convaniency here, that holds
half-a-pint, nice measure.”

I don’t imagine that our worthy friend participated in Quill’s admiration
of the “convaniency,” for he added, in a dry tone:--

“Ye may as weel tak your liquor frae a glass, like a Christian, as stick
your nose in a coo’s horn.”

“By my conscience, you’re no small judge of spirits, wherever you learned
it,” said the major; “it’s like Islay malt!”

“I was aye reckoned a gude ane,” said the doctor, “and my mither’s brither
Caimbogie had na his like in the north country. Ye may be heerd tell what
he aince said to the Duchess of Argyle, when she sent for him to taste her
claret.”

“Never heard of it,” quoth Quill; “let’s have it by all means. I’d like to
hear what the duchess said to him.”

“It was na what the duchess said to him, but what he said to the duchess,
ye ken. The way of it was this: My uncle Caimbogie was aye up at the
castle, for besides his knowledge of liquor, there was nae his match for
deer-stalking, or spearing a salmon, in those parts. He was a great, rough
carle, it’s true; but ane ye’d rather crack wi’ than fight wi’.

“Weel, ae day they had a grand dinner at the duke’s, and there were plenty
o’ great southern lords and braw leddies in velvets and satin; and vara
muckle surprised they were at my uncle, when he came in wi’ his tartan
kilt, in full Highland dress, as the head of a clan ought to do. Caimbogie,
however, pe’d nae attention to them; but he eat his dinner, and drank his
wine, and talked away about fallow and red deer, and at last the duchess,
for she was aye fond o’ him, addressed him frae the head o’ the table:--

“‘Cambogie,’ quoth she, ‘I’d like to hae your opinion about that wine. It’s
some the duke has just received, and we should like to hear what you think
of it.’

“‘It’s nae sae bad, my leddy,’ said my uncle; for ye see he was a man of
few words, and never flattered onybody.

“‘Then you don’t approve much of it?’ said the duchess.

“‘I’ve drank better, and I’ve drank waur,’ quo’ he.

“‘I’m sorry you don’t like it, Caimbogie,’ said the duchess, ‘for it can
never be popular now,--we have such a dependence upon your taste.’

“‘I cauna say ower muckle for my _taste_, my leddy, but ae thing I _will_
say,--I’ve a most damnable _smell!_’

“I hear that never since the auld walls stood was there ever the like o’
the laughing that followed; the puir duke himsel’ was carried away, and
nearly had a fit, and a’ the grand lords and leddies a’most died of it. But
see here, the earle has nae left a drap o’ whiskey in the flask.”

“The last glass I drained to your respectable uncle’s health,” said Quill,
with a most professional gravity. “Now, Charlie, make a little room for me
in the straw.”

The doctor soon mounted beside me, and giving me a share of his ample
cloak, considerably ameliorated my situation.

“So you knew Sparks, Doctor?” said I, with a strong curiosity to hear
something of his early acquaintance.

“That I did: I knew him when he was an ensign in the 10th Foot; and, to say
the truth, he is not much changed since that time,--the same lively look of
a sick cod-fish about his gray eyes; the same disorderly wave of his yellow
hair; the same whining voice, and that confounded apothecary’s laugh.”

“Come, come, Doctor, Sparks is a good fellow at heart; I won’t have him
abused. I never knew he had been in the infantry; I should think it must
have been another of the same name.”

“Not at all; there’s only one like him in the service, and that’s himself.
Confound it, man, I’d know his skin upon a bush; he was only three weeks
in the Tenth, and, indeed, your humble servant has the whole merit of his
leaving it so soon.”

“Do let us hear how that happened.”

“Simply thus: The jolly Tenth were some four years ago the pleasantest
corps in the army; from the lieutenant-colonel down to the last joined
sub., all were out-and-outers,--real gay fellows. The mess was, in fact,
like a pleasant club, and if you did not suit it, the best thing you could
do was to sell out or exchange into a slower regiment; and, indeed, this
very wholesome truth was not very long in reaching your ears some way or
other, and a man that could remain after being given this hint, was likely
to go afterwards without one.”

Just as Dr. Quill reached this part of his story, an orderly dragoon
galloped furiously past, and the next moment an aide-de-camp rode by,
calling as he passed us,--

“Close up, there! Close up! Get forward, my lads! get forward!”

It was evident, from the stir and bustle about, that some movement was
being made; and soon after, a dropping, irregular fire from the rear showed
that our cavalry were engaged with the enemy. The affair was scarcely of
five minutes’ duration, and our march resumed all its former regularity
immediately after.

I now turned to the doctor to resume his story, but he was gone; at what
moment he left I could not say, but O’Shaughnessy was also absent, nor did
I again meet with them for a considerable time after.

Towards daybreak we halted at Bonares, when, my wound demanding rest and
attention, I was billeted in the village, and consigned to all the miseries
of a sick bed.



CHAPTER VII.


THE JOURNEY.

With that disastrous day my campaigning was destined, for some time
at least, to conclude. My wound, which grew from hour to hour more
threatening, at length began to menace the loss of the arm, and by the
recommendation of the regimental surgeons, I was ordered back to Lisbon.

Mike, by this time perfectly restored, prepared everything for my
departure, and on the third day after the battle of the Coa, I began my
journey with downcast spirits and depressed heart. The poor fellow was,
however, a kind and affectionate nurse, and unlike many others, his cares
were not limited to the mere bodily wants of his patient,--he sustained,
as well as he was able, my drooping resolution, rallied my spirits, and
cheered my courage. With the very little Portuguese he possessed, he
contrived to make every imaginable species of bargain; always managed a
good billet; kept every one in good humor, and rarely left his quarters in
the morning without a most affective leave-taking, and reiterated promises
to renew his visit.

Our journeys were usually short ones, and already two days had elapsed,
when, towards nightfall, we entered the little hamlet of Jaffra. During the
entire of that day, the pain of my wounded limb had been excruciating; the
fatigue of the road and the heat had brought back violent inflammation, and
when at last the little village came in sight, my reason was fast yielding
to the torturing agonies of my wound. But the transports with which I
greeted my resting-place were soon destined to a change; for as we drew
near, not a light was to be seen, not a sound to be heard, not even a dog
barked as the heavy mule-cart rattled over the uneven road. No trace of
any living thing was there. The little hamlet lay sleeping in the pale
moonlight, its streets deserted, and its homes tenantless; our own
footsteps alone echoed along the dreary causeway. Here and there, as we
advanced farther, we found some relics of broken furniture and house-gear;
most of the doors lay open, but nothing remained within save bare walls;
the embers still smoked in many places upon the hearth, and showed us that
the flight of the inhabitants had been recent. Yet everything convinced
us that the French had not been there; there was no trace of the reckless
violence and wanton cruelty which marked their footsteps everywhere.

All proved that the desertion had been voluntary; perhaps in compliance
with an order of our commander-in-chief, who frequently desired any
intended line of march of the enemy to be left thus a desert. As we
sauntered slowly on from street to street, half hoping that some one human
being yet remained behind, and casting our eyes from side to side in search
of quarters for the night, Mike suddenly came running up, saying,--

“I have it, sir; I’ve found it out. There’s people living down that small
street there; I saw a light this minute as I passed.”

I turned immediately, and accompanied by the mule-driver, followed Mike
across a little open square into a small and narrow street, at the end
of which a light was seen faintly twinkling. We hurried on and in a few
minutes reached a high wall of solid masonry, from a niche of which we now
discovered, to our utter disappointment, the light proceeded. It was a
small lamp placed before a little waxen image of the Virgin, and was
probably the last act of piety of some poor villager ere he left his home
and hearth forever. There it burned, brightly and tranquilly, throwing its
mellow ray upon the cold, deserted stones.

Whatever impatience I might have given way to in a moment of chagrin was
soon repressed, as I saw my two followers, uncovering their heads in silent
reverence, kneel down before the little shrine. There was something at once
touching and solemn in this simultaneous feeling of homage from the hearts
of those removed in country, language, and in blood. They bent meekly down,
their heads bowed upon their bosoms, while with muttering voices each
offered up his prayer. All sense of their disappointment, all memory of
their forlorn state, seemed to have yielded to more powerful and absorbing
thoughts, as they opened their hearts in prayer.

My eyes were still fixed upon them when suddenly Mike, whose devotion
seemed of the briefest, sprang to his legs, and with a spirit of levity
but little in accordance with his late proceedings, commenced a series of
kicking, rapping, and knocking at a small oak postern sufficient to have
aroused a whole convent from their cells. “House there! Good people
within!”--bang, bang, bang; but the echoes alone responded to his call,
and the sounds died away at length in the distant streets, leaving all as
silent and dreary as before.

Our Portuguese friend, who by this time had finished his orisons, now began
a vigorous attack upon the small door, and with the assistance of Mike,
armed with a fragment of granite about the size of a man’s head, at length
separated the frame from the hinges, and sent the whole mass prostrate
before us.

The moon was just rising as we entered the little park, where gravelled
walks, neatly kept and well-trimmed, bespoke recent care and attention;
following a handsome alley of lime-trees, we reached a little _jet d’eau_,
whose sparkling fountain shone diamond-like in the moonbeams, and escaping
from the edge of a vast shell, ran murmuring amidst mossy stones and
water-lilies that, however naturally they seemed thrown around, bespoke
also the hand of taste in their position. On turning from the spot, we came
directly in front of an old but handsome château, before which stretched
a terrace of considerable extent. Its balustraded parapet lined with
orange-trees, now in full blossom, scented the still air with delicious
odor; marble statues peeped here and there amidst the foliage, while a rich
acacia, loaded with flowers, covered the walls of the building, and hung in
vast masses of variegated blossom across the tall windows.

As leaning on Mike’s arm I slowly ascended the steps of the terrace, I was
more than ever struck with the silence and death-like stillness around;
except the gentle plash of the fountain, all was at rest; the very plants
seemed to sleep in the yellow moonlight, and not a trace of any living
thing was there.

The massive door lay open as we entered the spacious hall flagged with
marble and surrounded with armorial bearings. We advanced farther and came
to a broad and handsome stair, which led us to a long gallery, from which
a suit of rooms opened, looking towards the front part of the building.
Wherever we went, the furniture appeared perfectly untouched; nothing was
removed; the very chairs were grouped around the windows and the tables;
books, as if suddenly dropped from their readers’ hands, were scattered
upon the sofas and the ottomans; and in one small apartment, whose blue
satin walls and damask drapery bespoke a boudoir, a rich mantilla of
black velvet and a silk glove were thrown upon a chair. It was clear the
desertion had been most recent, and everything indicated that no time had
been given to the fugitives to prepare for flight. What a sad picture of
war was there! To think of those whose home was endeared to them by all
the refinements of cultivated life and all the associations of years of
happiness sent out upon the wide world wanderers and houseless, while
their hearth, sacred by every tie that binds us to our kindred, was to
be desecrated by the ruthless and savage hands of a ruffian soldiery. I
thought of them,--perhaps at that very hour their thoughts were clinging
round the old walls, remembering each well-beloved spot, while they took
their lonely path through mountain and through valley,--and felt ashamed
and abashed at my own intrusion there. While thus my revery ran on, I
had not perceived that Mike, whose views were very practical upon all
occasions, had lighted a most cheerful fire upon the hearth, and disposing
a large sofa before it, had carefully closed the curtains; and was, in
fact, making himself and his master as much at home as though he had spent
his life there.

“Isn’t it a beautiful place, Misther Charles? And this little room, doesn’t
it remind you of the blue bed-room in O’Malley Castle, barrin’ the elegant
view out upon the Shannon, and the mountain of Scariff?”

Nothing short of Mike’s patriotism could forgive such a comparison; but,
however, I did not contradict him as he ran on:--

“Faith, I knew well there was luck in store for us this evening; and ye see
the handful of prayers I threw away outside wasn’t lost. José’s making
the beasts comfortable in the stable, and I’m thinking we’ll none of us
complain of our quarters. But you’re not eating your supper; and the
beautiful hare-pie that I stole this morning, won’t you taste it? Well, a
glass of Malaga? Not a glass of Malaga? Oh, mother of Moses! what’s this
for?”

Unfortunately, the fever produced by the long and toilsome journey had
gained considerably on me, and except copious libations of cold water, I
could touch nothing; my arm, too, was much more painful than before. Mike
soon perceived that rest and quietness were most important to me at the
moment, and having with difficulty been prevailed upon to swallow a few
hurried mouthfuls, the poor fellow disposed cushions around me in every
imaginable form for comfort; and then, placing my wounded limb in its
easiest position, he extinguished the lamp, and sat silently down beside
the hearth, without speaking another word.

Fatigue and exhaustion, more powerful than pain, soon produced their
effects upon me, and I fell asleep; but it was no refreshing slumber which
visited my heavy eyelids; the slow fever of suffering had been hour by
hour increasing, and my dreams presented nothing but scenes of agony and
torture. Now I thought that, unhorsed and wounded, I was trampled beneath
the clanging hoofs of charging cavalry; now I felt the sharp steel piercing
my flesh, and heard the loud cry of a victorious enemy; then, methought, I
was stretched upon a litter, covered by gore and mangled by a grape-shot.
I thought I saw my brother officers approach and look sadly upon me, while
one, whose face I could not remember, muttered: “I should not have known
him.” The dreadful hospital of Talavera, and all its scenes of agony, came
up before me, and I thought that I lay waiting my turn for amputation. This
last impression, more horrible to me than all the rest, made me spring from
my couch, and I awoke. The cold drops of perspiration stood upon my brow,
my mouth was parched and open, and my temples throbbed so that I could
count their beatings; for some seconds I could not throw off the frightful
illusion I labored under, and it was only by degrees I recovered
consciousness and remembered where I was. Before me, and on one side of the
bright wood-fire, sat Mike, who, apparently deep in thought, gazed fixedly
at the blaze. The start I gave on awaking had not attracted his attention,
and I could see, as the flickering glare fell upon his features, that he
was pale and ghastly, while his eyes were riveted upon the fire; his lips
moved rapidly, as if in prayer, and his locked hands were pressed
firmly upon his bosom; his voice, at first inaudible, I could gradually
distinguish, and at length heard the following muttered sentences:--

“Oh, mother of mercy! So far from his home and his people, and so young to
die in a strange land--There it is again.” Here he appeared listening
to some sounds from without. “Oh, wirra, wirra, I know it well!--the
winding-sheet, the winding-sheet! There it is; my own eyes saw it!”
 The tears coursed fast upon his pale cheeks, and his voice grew almost
inaudible, as rocking to and fro, for some time he seemed in a very stupor
of grief; when at last, in a faint, subdued tone, he broke into one of
those sad and plaintive airs of his country, which only need the moment of
depression to make them wring the very heart in agony.

His song was that to which Moore has appended the beautiful lines, “Come
rest on this bosom.” The following imperfect translation may serve to
convey some impression of the words, which in Mike’s version were Irish:--

    “The day was declining,
    The dark night drew near,
    And the old lord grew sadder
    And paler with fear:
    ‘Come listen, my daughter,
    Come nearer, oh, near!
    Is’t the wind or the water
    That sighs in my ear?’

    “Not the wind nor the water
    Now stirred the night air,
    But a warning far sadder,--.
    The Banshee was there!
    Now rising, now swelling,
    On the night wind it bore
    One cadence, still telling,
    ‘I want thee, Rossmore!’

    “And then fast came his breath,
    And more fixed grew his eye;
    And the shadow of death
    Told his hour was nigh.
    Ere the dawn of that morning
    The struggle was o’er,
    For when thrice came the warning
    A corpse was Rossmore!”

The plaintive air to which these words were sung fell heavily upon my
heart, and it needed but the low and nervous condition I was in to make me
feel their application to myself. But so it is; the very superstition your
reason rejects and your sense spurns, has, from old association, from
habit, and from mere nationality too, a hold upon your hopes and fears that
demands more firmness and courage than a sick-bed possesses to combat with
success; and I now listened with an eager ear to mark if the Banshee
cried, rather than sought to fortify myself by any recurrence to my own
convictions. Meanwhile Mike’s attitude became one of listening attention.
Not a finger moved; he scarce seemed even to breathe; the state of suspense
I suffered from was maddening; and at last, unable to bear it longer, I
was about to speak, when suddenly, from the floor beneath us, one
long-sustained note swelled upon the air and died away again, and
immediately after, to the cheerful sounds of a guitar, we heard the husky
voice of our Portuguese guide indulging himself in a love-ditty.

Ashamed of myself for my fears, I kept silent; but Mike, who felt only one
sensation,--that of unmixed satisfaction at his mistake,--rubbed his hands
pleasantly, filled up his glass, drank it, and refilled; while with an
accent of reassured courage, he briefly remarked,--

“Well, Mr. José, if that be singing, upon my conscience I wonder what
crying is like!”

I could not forbear a laugh at the criticism; and in a moment, the poor
fellow, who up to that moment believed me sleeping, was beside me. I saw
from his manner that he dreaded lest I had been listening to his melancholy
song, and had overheard any of his gloomy forebodings; and as he cheered
my spirits and spoke encouragingly, I could remark that he made more than
usual endeavors to appear light-hearted and at ease. Determined, however,
not to let him escape so easily, I questioned him about his belief in
ghosts and spirits, at which he endeavored, as he ever did when the subject
was an unpleasing one, to avoid the discussion; but rather perceiving that
I indulged in no irreverent disrespect of these matters, he grew gradually
more open, treating the affair with that strange mixture of credulity and
mockery which formed his estimate of most things,--now seeming to suppose
that any palpable rejection of them might entail sad consequences in
future, now half ashamed to go the whole length in his credulity.

“And so, Mike, you never saw a ghost yourself?--that you acknowledge?”

“No, sir, I never saw a real ghost; but sure there’s many a thing I never
saw; but Mrs. Moore, the housekeeper, seen two. And your grandfather that’s
gone--the Lord be good to him!--used to walk once a year in Lurra Abbey;
and sure you know the story about Tim Clinchy that was seen every Saturday
night coming out of the cellar with a candle and a mug of wine and a pipe
in his mouth, till Mr. Barry laid him. It cost his honor your uncle ten
pounds in Masses to make him easy; not to speak of a new lock and two bolts
on the cellar door.”

“I have heard all about that; but as you never yourself saw any of these
things--”

“But sure my father did, and that’s the same any day. My father seen the
greatest ghost that ever was seen in the county Cork, and spent the evening
with him, that’s more.”

“Spent the evening with him!--what do you mean?”

“Just that, devil a more nor less. If your honor wasn’t so weak, and the
story wasn’t a trying one, I’d like to tell it to you.”

“Out with it by all means, Mike; I am not disposed to sleep; and now that
we are upon these matters, my curiosity is strongly excited by your worthy
father’s experience.”

Thus encouraged, having trimmed the fire and reseated himself beside the
blaze, Mike began; but as a ghost is no every-day personage in our history,
I must give him a chapter to himself.



CHAPTER VIII.


THE GHOST.

“Well, I believe your honor heard me tell long ago how my father left the
army, and the way that he took to another line of life that was more to his
liking. And so it was, he was happy as the day was long; he drove a hearse
for Mr. Callaghan of Cork for many years, and a pleasant place it was; for
ye see, my father was a ‘cute man, and knew something of the world; and
though he was a droll devil, and could sing a funny song when he was among
the boys, no sooner had he the big black cloak on him and the weepers, and
he seated on the high box with the six long-tailed blacks before him, you’d
really think it was his own mother was inside, he looked so melancholy and
miserable. The sexton and gravedigger was nothing to my father; and he had
a look about his eye--to be sure there was a reason for it--that you’d
think he was up all night crying; though it’s little indulgence he took
that way.

“Well, of all Mr. Callaghan’s men, there was none so great a favorite as my
father. The neighbors were all fond of him.

“‘A kind crayture, every inch of him!’ the women would say. ‘Did ye see his
face at Mrs. Delany’s funeral?’

“‘True for you,’ another would remark; ‘he mistook the road with grief, and
stopped at a shebeen house instead of Kilmurry church.’

“I need say no more, only one thing,--that it was principally among the
farmers and the country people my father was liked so much. The great
people and the quality--ax your pardon; but sure isn’t it true, Mister
Charles?--they don’t fret so much after their fathers and brothers, and
they care little who’s driving them, whether it was a decent, respectable
man like my father, or a chap with a grin on him like a rat-trap. And so
it happened that my father used to travel half the county; going here and
there wherever there was trade stirring; and faix, a man didn’t think
himself rightly buried if my father wasn’t there; for ye see, he knew all
about it: he could tell to a quart of spirits what would be wanting for a
wake; he knew all the good criers for miles round; and I’ve heard it was a
beautiful sight to see him standing on a hill, arranging the procession as
they walked into the churchyard, and giving the word like a captain,--

“‘Come on, the stiff; now the friends of the stiff; now the pop’lace.’

“That’s what he used to say, and troth he was always repeating it, when he
was a little gone in drink,--for that’s the time his spirits would rise,
and he’d think he was burying half Munster.

“And sure it was a real pleasure and a pride to be buried in them times;
for av it was only a small farmer with a potato garden, my father would
come down with the black cloak on him, and three yards of crape behind his
hat, and set all the children crying and yelling for half a mile round;
and then the way he’d walk before them with a spade on his shoulder, and
sticking it down in the ground, clap his hat on the top of it, to make it
look like a chief mourner. It was a beautiful sight!”

“But Mike, if you indulge much longer in this flattering recollection of
your father, I’m afraid we shall lose sight of the ghost entirely.”

“No fear in life, your honor; I’m coming to him now. Well, it was this
way it happened: In the winter of the great frost, about forty-two or
forty-three years ago, the ould priest of Tullonghmurray took ill and died.
He was sixty years priest of the parish, and mightily beloved by all
the people, and good reason for it; a pleasanter man, and a more
social crayture never lived,--‘twas himself was the life of the whole
country-side. A wedding nor a christening wasn’t lucky av he wasn’t there,
sitting at the top of the table, with may be his arm round the bride
herself, or the baby on his lap, a smoking jug of punch before him, and as
much kindness in his eye as would make the fortunes of twenty hypocrites if
they had it among them. And then he was so good to the poor; the Priory was
always so full of ould men and ould women sitting around the big fire in
the kitchen that the cook could hardly get near it. There they were, eating
their meals and burning their shins till they were speckled like a trout’s
back, and grumbling all the time; but Father Dwyer liked them, and he would
have them.

“‘Where have they to go,’ he’d say, ‘av it wasn’t to me? Give Molly
Kinshela a lock of that bacon. Tim, it’s a could morning; will ye have a
taste of the “dew?”’

“Ah, that’s the way he’d spake to them; but sure goodness is no warrant
for living, any more than devilment, and so he got could in his feet at a
station, and he rode home in the heavy snow without his big coat,--for he
gave it away to a blind man on the road; in three days he was dead.

“I see you’re getting impatient, so I’ll not stop to say what grief was
in the parish when it was known; but troth, there never was seen the like
before,--not a crayture would lift a spade for two days, and there was more
whiskey sold in that time than at the whole spring fair. Well, on the third
day the funeral set out, and never was the equal of it in them parts:
first, there was my father,--he came special from Cork with the six horses
all in new black, and plumes like little poplar-trees,--then came Father
Dwyer, followed by the two coadjutors in beautiful surplices, walking
bare-headed, with the little boys of the Priory school, two-and-two.”

“Well, Mike, I’m sure it was very fine; but for Heaven’s sake, spare me all
these descriptions, and get on to the ghost!”

“‘Faith, yer honor’s in a great hurry for the ghost,--may be ye won’t like
him when ye have him; but I’ll go faster, if ye please. Well, Father Dwyer,
ye see, was born at Aghan-lish, of an ould family, and he left it in his
will that he was to be buried in the family vault; and as Aghan-lish was
eighteen miles up the mountains, it was getting late when they drew near.
By that time the great procession was all broke up and gone home. The
coadjutors stopped to dine at the ‘Blue Bellows’ at the cross-roads; the
little boys took to pelting snowballs; there was a fight or two on the way
besides,--and in fact, except an ould deaf fellow that my father took to
mind the horses, he was quite alone. Not that he minded that same; for when
the crowd was gone, my father began to sing a droll song, and told the deaf
chap that it was a lamentation. At last they came in sight of Aghan-lish.
It was a lonesome, melancholy-looking place with nothing near it except two
or three ould fir-trees and a small slated house with one window, where the
sexton lived, and even that was shut up and a padlock on the door. Well,
my father was not over much pleased at the look of matters; but as he was
never hard put to what to do, he managed to get the coffin into the vestry,
and then when he had unharnessed the horses, he sent the deaf fellow with
them down to the village to tell the priest that the corpse was there, and
to come up early in the morning and perform Mass. The next thing to do was
to make himself comfortable for the night; and then he made a roaring fire
on the ould hearth,--for there was plenty of bog-fir there,--closed the
windows with the black cloaks, and wrapping two round himself, he sat down
to cook a little supper he brought with him in case of need.

“Well, you may think it was melancholy enough to pass the night up there
alone with a corpse, in an ould ruined church in the middle of the
mountains, the wind howling about on every side, and the snowdrift beating
against the walls; but as the fire burned brightly, and the little plate of
rashers and eggs smoked temptingly before him, my father mixed a jug of the
strongest punch, and sat down as happy as a king. As long as he was eating
away he had no time to be thinking of anything else; but when all was done,
and he looked about him, he began to feel very low and melancholy in his
heart. There was the great black coffin on three chairs in one corner; and
then the mourning cloaks that he had stuck up against the windows moved
backward and forward like living things; and outside, the wild cry of the
plover as he flew past, and the night-owl sitting in a nook of the old
church. ‘I wish it was morning, anyhow,’ said my father, ‘for this is a
lonesome place to be in; and faix, he’ll be a cunning fellow that catches
me passing the night this way again.’ Now there was one thing distressed
him most of all,--my father used always to make fun of the ghosts and
sperits the neighbors would tell of, pretending there was no such thing;
and now the thought came to him, ‘May be they’ll revenge themselves on me
to-night when they have me up here alone;’ and with that he made another
jug stronger than the first, and tried to remember a few prayers in case of
need, but somehow his mind was not too clear, and he said afterwards he
was always mixing up ould songs and toasts with the prayers, and when he
thought he had just got hold of a beautiful psalm, it would turn out to be
‘Tatter Jack Walsh’ or ‘Limping James’ or something like that. The storm,
meanwhile, was rising every moment, and parts of the old abbey were falling
as the wind shook the ruin; and my father’s spirits, notwithstanding the
punch, wore lower than ever.

“‘I made it too weak,’ said he, as he set to work on a new jorum; and
troth, this time that was not the fault of it, for the first sup nearly
choked him.

“‘Ah,’ said he, now, ‘I knew what it was; this is like the thing; and Mr.
Free, you are beginning to feel easy and comfortable. Pass the jar. Your
very good health and song. I’m a little hoarse, it’s true, but if the
company will excuse--’

“And then he began knocking on the table with his knuckles, as if there was
a room full of people asking him to sing. In short, my father was drunk as
a fiddler; the last brew finished him; and he began roaring away all kinds
of droll songs, and telling all manner of stories as if he was at a great
party.

“While he was capering this way about the room, he knocked down his hat,
and with it a pack of cards he put into it before leaving home, for he was
mighty fond of a game.

“‘Will ye take a hand, Mr. Free?’ said he, as he gathered them up and sat
down beside the fire.

“‘I’m convanient,’ said he, and began dealing out as if there was a partner
fornenst him.

“When my father used to get this far in the story, he became very confused.
He says that once or twice he mistook the liquor, and took a pull at the
bottle of poteen instead of the punch; and the last thing he remembers was
asking poor Father Dwyer if he would draw near to the fire, and not be
lying there near the door.

“With that he slipped down on the ground and fell fast asleep. How long he
lay that way he could never tell. When he awoke and looked up, his hair
nearly stood on an end with fright. What do you think he seen fornenst him,
sitting at the other side of the fire, but Father Dwyer himself. There he
was, divil a lie in it, wrapped up in one of the mourning cloaks, trying to
warm his hands at the fire. “‘_Salve hoc nomine patri!_’ said my father,
crossing himself, ‘av it’s your ghost, God presarve me!’

“‘Good-evening t’ye, Mr. Free,’ said the ghost; ‘and av I might be bould,
what’s in the jug?’--for ye see, my father had it under his arm fast, and
never let it go when he was asleep.

“‘_Pater noster qui es in_,--poteen, sir,’ said my father; for the ghost
didn’t look pleased at his talking Latin.

“‘Ye might have the politeness to ax if one had a mouth on him, then,’ says
the ghost.

“‘Sure, I didn’t think the likes of you would taste sperits.’

“‘Try me,’ said the ghost; and with that he filled out a glass, and tossed
it off like a Christian.

“‘Beamish!’ says the ghost, smacking his lips.

“‘The same,’ says my father; ‘and sure what’s happened you has not spoiled
your taste.’

“‘If you’d mix a little hot,’ says the ghost, ‘I’m thinking it would be
better,--the night is mighty sevare.’

“‘Anything that your reverance pleases,’ says my father, as he began to
blow up a good fire to boil the water.

“‘And what news is stirring?’ says the ghost.

“‘Devil a word, your reverance,--your own funeral was the only thing doing
last week. Times is bad; except the measles, there’s nothing in our parts.’

“‘And we’re quite dead hereabouts, too,’ says the ghost.

“‘There’s some of us so, anyhow, says my father, with a sly look. ‘Taste
that, your reverance.’

“‘Pleasant and refreshing,’ says the ghost; ‘and now, Mr. Free, what do you
say to a little “spoilt five,” or “beggar my neighbor”?’

“‘What will we play for? ‘says my father, for a thought just struck
him,--‘may be it’s some trick of the Devil to catch my soul.’

“‘A pint of Beamish,’ says the ghost.

“‘Done!’ says my father; ‘cut for deal. The ace of clubs,--you have it.’

“Now the whole time the ghost was dealing the cards, my father never took
his eyes off of him, for he wasn’t quite aisy in his mind at all; but when
he saw him turn up the trump, and take a strong drink afterwards, he got
more at ease, and began the game.

“How long they played it was never rightly known; but one thing is sure,
they drank a cruel deal of sperits. Three quart bottles my father brought
with him were all finished, and by that time his brain was so confused with
the liquor, and all he lost,--for somehow he never won a game,--that he was
getting very quarrelsome.

“‘You have your own luck to it,’ says he, at last.

“‘True for you; and besides, we play a great deal where I come from.’

“‘I’ve heard so,’ says my father. ‘I lead the knave, sir; spades! Bad cess
to it, lost again!’

“Now it was really very distressing; for by this time, though they only
began for a pint of Beamish, my father went on betting till he lost the
hearse and all the six horses, mourning cloaks, plumes, and everything.

“‘Are you tired, Mr. Free? May be you’d like to stop?’

“‘Stop! faith it’s a nice time to stop; of course not.’

“‘Well, what will ye play for now?’

“The way he said these woods brought a trembling all over my father, and
his blood curdled in his heart. ‘Oh, murther!’ says he to himself, ‘it’s my
sowl he’s wanting all the time.’

“‘I’ve mighty little left,’ says my father, looking at him keenly, while he
kept shuffling the cards quick as lightning.

“‘Mighty little; no matter, we’ll give you plenty of time to pay,--and if
you can’t do it, it shall never trouble you as long as you live.’

“‘Oh, you murthering devil!’ says my father, flying at him with a spade
that he had behind his chair, ‘I’ve found you out.’

“With one blow he knocked him down, and now a terrible fight begun, for the
ghost was very strong, too; but my father’s blood was up, and he’d have
faced the Devil himself then. They rolled over each other several times,
the broken bottles cutting them to pieces, and the chairs and tables
crashing under them. At last the ghost took the bottle that lay on the
hearth, and levelled my father to the ground with one blow. Down he fell,
and the bottle and the whiskey were both dashed into the fire. That was
the end of it, for the ghost disappeared that moment in a blue flame that
nearly set fire to my father as he lay on the floor.

“Och, it was a cruel sight to see him next morning, with his cheek cut open
and his hands all bloody, lying there by himself,--all the broken glass and
the cards all round him,--the coffin, too, was knocked down off the chair,
may be the ghost had trouble getting into it. However that was, the funeral
was put off for a day, for my father couldn’t speak; and as for the sexton,
it was a queer thing, but when they came to call him in the morning, he had
two black eyes, and a gash over his ear, and he never knew how he got them.
It was easy enough to know the ghost did it; but my father kept the secret,
and never told it to any man, woman, or child in them parts.”



CHAPTER IX.


LISBON.

I have little power to trace the events which occupied the succeeding three
weeks of my history. The lingering fever which attended my wound detained
me during that time at the château; and when at last I did leave for
Lisbon, the winter was already beginning, and it was upon a cold raw
evening that I once more took possession of my old quarters at the Quay de
Soderi.

My eagerness and anxiety to learn something of the campaign was ever
uppermost, and no sooner had I reached my destination than I despatched
Mike to the quartermaster’s office to pick up some news, and hear which of
my friends and brother officers were then at Lisbon. I was sitting in a
state of nervous impatience watching for his return, when at length I heard
footsteps approaching my room, and the next moment Mike’s voice, saying,
“The ould room, sir, where he was before.” The door suddenly opened, and my
friend Power stood before me.

“Charley, my boy!”--“Fred, my fine fellow!” was all either could say for
some minutes. Upon my part, the recollection of his bold and manly bearing
in my behalf choked all utterance; while upon his, my haggard cheek and
worn look produced an effect so sudden and unexpected that he became
speechless.

In a few minutes, however, we both rallied, and opened our store of mutual
remembrances since we parted. My career I found he was perfectly acquainted
with, and his consisted of nothing but one unceasing round of gayety and
pleasure. Lisbon had been delightful during the summer,--parties to Cintra,
excursions through the surrounding country, were of daily occurrence; and
as my friend was a favorite everywhere, his life was one of continued
amusement.

“Do you know, Charley, had it been any other man than yourself, I should
not have spared him; for I have fallen head over ears in love with your
little dark-eyed Portuguese.”

“Ah, Donna Inez, you mean?”

“Yes, it is she I mean, and you need not affect such an air of uncommon
_nonchalance_. She’s the loveliest girl in Lisbon, and with fortune to pay
off all the mortgages in Connemara.”

“Oh, faith! I admire her amazingly; but as I never flattered myself upon
any preference--”

“Come, come, Charley, no concealment, my old fellow; every one knows the
thing’s settled. Your old friend, Sir George Dashwood, told me yesterday.”

“Yesterday! Why, is he here, at Lisbon?”

“To be sure he is; didn’t I tell you that before? Confound it, what a head
I have! Why, man, he’s come out as deputy adjutant-general; but for him I
should not have got renewed leave.”

“And Miss Dashwood, is she here?”

“Yes, she came with him. By Jove, how handsome she is,--quite a different
style of thing from our dark friend, but, to my thinking, even handsomer.
Hammersley seems of my opinion, too.”

“How! Is Hammersley at Lisbon?”

“On the staff here. But, confound it, what makes you so red, you have no
ill-feeling towards him now. I know he speaks most warmly of you; no later
than last night, at Sir George’s--”

What Power was about to add I know not, for I sprang from my chair with a
sudden start, and walked to the window, to conceal my agitation from him.

“And so,” said I, at length regaining my composure in some measure, “Sir
George also spoke of my name in connection with the senhora?”

“To be sure he did. All Lisbon does. What can you mean? But I see, my dear
boy; you know you are not of the strongest, and we’ve been talking far too
long. Come now, Charley, I’ll say good-night. I’ll be with you at breakfast
to-morrow, and tell you all the gossip; meanwhile promise me to get quietly
to bed, and so good-night.”

Such was the conflicting state of feeling I suffered from that I made no
effort to detain Power. I longed to be once more alone, to think, calmly if
I could, over the position I stood in, and to resolve upon my plans for the
future.

My love for Lucy Dashwood had been long rather a devotion than a hope. My
earliest dawn of manly ambition was associated with the first hour I met
her. She it was who first touched my boyish heart, and suggested a sense
of chivalrous ardor within me; and even though lost to me forever, I could
still regard her as the mainspring of my actions, and dwell upon my passion
as the thing that hallowed every enterprise of my life.

In a word, my love, however little it might reach her heart, was everything
to mine. It was the worship of the devotee to his protecting saint. It was
the faith that made me rise above misfortune and mishap, and led me onward;
and in this way I could have borne anything, everything, rather than the
imputation of fickleness.

Lucy might not--nay, I felt she did not--love me. It was possible that some
other was preferred before me; but to doubt my own affection, to suspect my
own truth, was to destroy all the charm of my existence, and to extinguish
within me forever the enthusiasm that made me a hero to my own heart.

It may seem but poor philosophy; but alas, how many of our happiest, how
many of our brightest thoughts here are but delusions like this! The
dayspring of youth gilds the tops of the distant mountains before us, and
many a weary day through life, when clouds and storms are thickening around
us, we live upon the mere memory of the past. Some fast-flitting prospect
of a bright future, some passing glimpse of a sunlit valley, tinges all our
after-years.

It is true that he will suffer fewer disappointments, he will incur fewer
of the mishaps of the world, who indulges in no fancies such as these; but
equally true is it that he will taste none of that exuberant happiness
which is that man’s portion who weaves out a story of his life, and who, in
connecting the promise of early years with the performance of later, will
seek to fulfil a fate and destiny.

Weaving such fancies, I fell sound asleep, nor woke before the stir and
bustle of the great city aroused me. Power, I found, had been twice at my
quarters that morning, but fearing to disturb me, had merely left a few
lines to say that, as he should be engaged on service during the day,
we could not meet before the evening. There were certain preliminaries
requisite regarding my leave which demanded my appearing before a board of
medical officers, and I immediately set about dressing; resolving that, as
soon as they were completed, I should, if permitted, retire to one of the
small cottages on the opposite bank of the Tagus, there to remain until my
restored health allowed me to rejoin my regiment.

I dreaded meeting the Dashwoods. I anticipated with a heavy heart how
effectually one passing interview would destroy all my day-dreams of
happiness, and I preferred anything to the sad conviction of hopelessness
such a meeting must lead to.

While I thus balanced with myself how to proceed, a gentle step came to the
door, and as it opened slowly, a servant in a dark livery entered.

“Mr. O’Malley, sir?”

“Yes,” said I, wondering to whom my arrival could be thus early known.

“Sir George Dashwood requests you will step over to him as soon as you go
out,” continued the man; “he is so engaged that he cannot leave home, but
is most desirous to see you.”

“It is not far from here?”

“No, sir; scarcely five minutes’ walk.”

“Well, then, if you will show me the way, I’ll follow you.”

I cast one passing glance at myself to see that all was right about my
costume, and sallied forth.

In the middle of the Black Horse Square, at the door of a large,
stone-fronted building, a group of military men were assembled, chatting
and laughing away together,--some reading the lately-arrived English
papers; others were lounging upon the stone parapet, carelessly puffing
their cigars. None of the faces were known to me; so threading my way
through the crowd, I reached the steps. Just as I did so, a half-muttered
whisper met my ear:--

“Who did you say?”

“O’Malley, the young Irishman who behaved so gallantly at the Douro.”

The blood rushed hotly to my cheek, my heart bounded with exultation; my
step, infirm and tottering but a moment before, became fixed and steady,
and I felt a thrill of proud enthusiasm playing through my veins. How
little did the speaker of those few and random words know what courage he
had given to a drooping heart, what renewed energy to a breaking spirit!
The voice of praise, too, coming from those to whom we had thought
ourselves unknown, has a magic about it that must be felt to be understood.
So it happened that in a few seconds a revolution had taken place in all
my thoughts and feelings, and I, who had left my quarters dispirited and
depressed, now walked confidently and proudly forward.

“Mr. O’Malley, sir,” said the servant to the officer waiting, as we entered
the antechamber.

“Ah, Mr. O’Malley,” said the aide-de-damp, in his blandest accent, “I hope
you’re better. Sir George is most anxious to see you; he is at present
engaged with the staff--”

A bell rang at that moment, and cut short the sentence; he flew to the door
of the inner room, and returning in an instant, said,--

“Will you follow me? This way, if you please.”

The room was crowded with general officers and aides-de-camp, so that for
a second or two I could not distinguish the parties; but no sooner was my
name announced, than Sir George Dashwood, forcing his way through, rushed
forward to meet me.

“O’Malley, my brave fellow, delighted to shake your hand again! How much
grown you are,--twice the man I knew you; and the arm, too, is it getting
on well?”

Scarcely giving me a moment to reply, and still holding my hand tightly in
his grasp, he introduced me on every side.

“My young Irish friend, Sir Edward, the man of the Douro. My Lord, allow me
to present Lieutenant O’Malley, of the Fourteenth.”

“A very dashing thing, that of yours, sir, at Ciudad Rodrigo.”

“A very senseless one, I fear, my Lord.”

“No, no, I don’t agree with you at all; even when no great results follow,
the _morale_ of an army benefits by acts of daring.”

A running fire of kind and civil speeches poured in on me from all
quarters, and amidst all that crowd of bronzed and war-worn veterans, I
felt myself the lion of the moment. Crawfurd, it appeared, had spoken most
handsomely of my name, and I was thus made known to many of those whose own
reputations were then extending over Europe.

In this happy trance of excited pleasure I passed the morning. Amidst
the military chit-chat of the day around me, treated as an equal by the
greatest and the most distinguished, I heard all the confidential opinions
upon the campaign and its leaders; and in that most entrancing of
all flatteries,--the easy tone of companionship of our elders and
betters,--forgot my griefs, and half believed I was destined for great
things.

Fearing, at length, that I had prolonged my visit too far, I approached
Sir George to take my leave, when, drawing my arm within his, he retired
towards one of the windows.

“A word, O’Malley, before you go. I’ve arranged a little plan for you;
mind, I shall insist upon obedience. They’ll make some difficulty about
your remaining here, so that I have appointed you one of our extra
aides-de-camp. That will free you from all trouble, and I shall not be very
exacting in my demands upon you. You must, however, commence your duties
to-day, and as we dine at seven precisely, I shall expect you. I am
aware of your wish to stay in Lisbon, my boy, and if all I hear be true,
congratulate you sincerely; but more of this another time, and so good-by.”
 So saying, he shook my hand once more, warmly; and without well feeling how
or why, I found myself in the street.

The last few words Sir George had spoken threw a gloom over all my
thoughts. I saw at once that the report Power had alluded to had gained
currency at Lisbon. Sir George believed it; doubtless, Lucy, too; and
forgetting in an instant all the emulative ardor that so lately stirred my
heart, I took my path beside the river, and sauntered slowly along, lost in
my reflections.

I had walked for above an hour before paying any attention to the path I
followed. Mechanically, as it were, retreating from the noise and tumult-of
the city, I wandered towards the country. My thoughts fixed but upon
one theme, I had neither ears nor eyes for aught around me; the great
difficulty of my present position now appearing to me in this light,--my
attachment to Lucy Dashwood, unrequited and unreturned as I felt it,
did not permit of my rebutting any report which might have reached her
concerning Donna Inez. I had no right, no claim to suppose her sufficiently
interested about me to listen to such an explanation, had I even the
opportunity to make it. One thing was thus clear to me,--all my hopes had
ended in that quarter; and as this conclusion sank into my mind, a species
of dogged resolution to brave my fortune crept upon me, which only waited
the first moment of my meeting her to overthrow and destroy forever.

Meanwhile I walked on,--now rapidly, as some momentary rush of passionate
excitement, now slowly, as some depressing and gloomy notion succeeded;
when suddenly my path was arrested by a long file of bullock cars which
blocked up the way. Some chance squabble had arisen among the drivers, and
to avoid the crowd and collision, I turned into a gateway which opened
beside me, and soon found myself in a lawn handsomely planted and adorned
with flowering shrubs and ornamental trees.

In the half-dreamy state my musings had brought me to, I struggled to
recollect why the aspect of the place did not seem altogether new. My
thoughts were, however, far away,--now blending some memory of my distant
home with scenes of battle and bloodshed, or resting upon my first
interview with her whose chance word, carelessly and lightly spoken, had
written the story of my life. From this revery I was rudely awakened by a
rustling noise in the trees behind me, and before I could turn my head, the
two fore-paws of a large stag-hound were planted upon my shoulders, while
the open mouth and panting tongue were close beside my face. My day-dream
was dispelled quick as lightning; it was Juan, himself, the favorite dog of
the senhora, who gave me this rude welcome, and who now, by a thousand wild
gestures and bounding caresses, seemed to do the honors of his house. There
was something so like home in these joyful greetings that I yielded myself
at once his prisoner, and followed, or rather was accompanied by him
towards the villa.

Of course, sooner or later, I should have called upon my kind friends; then
why not now, when chance has already brought me so near? Besides, if I
held to my resolution, which I meant to do,--of retiring to some quiet and
sequestered cottage till my health was restored,--the opportunity might not
readily present itself again. This line of argument perfectly satisfied my
reason; while a strong feeling of something like curiosity piqued me to
proceed, and before many minutes elapsed, I reached the house. The door, as
usual, lay wide open; and the ample hall, furnished like a sitting-room,
had its customary litter of books, music, and flowers scattered upon the
tables. My friend Juan, however, suffered me not to linger here, but
rushing furiously at a door before me, began a vigorous attack for
admittance.

As I knew this to be the drawing-room, I opened the door and walked in, but
no one was to be seen; a half-open book lay upon an ottoman, and a fan,
which I recognized as an old acquaintance, was beside it, but the owner was
absent.

I sat down, resolved to wait patiently for her coming, without any
announcement of my being there. I was not sorry, indeed, to have some
moments to collect my thoughts, and restore my erring faculties to
something like order.

As I looked about the room, it seemed as if I had been there but yesterday.
The folding-doors lay open to the garden, just as I had seen them last; and
save that the flowers seemed fewer, and those which remained of a darker
and more sombre tint, all seemed unchanged. There lay the guitar to whose
thrilling chords my heart had bounded; there, the drawing over which I had
bent in admiring pleasure, suggesting some tints of light or shadow, as the
fairy fingers traced them; every chair was known to me, and I greeted them
as things I cared for.

While thus I scanned each object around me, I was struck by a little china
vase which, unlike its other brethren, contained a bouquet of dead and
faded flowers; the blood rushed to my cheek; I started up; it was one I had
myself presented to her the day before we parted. It was in that same vase
I placed it; the very table, too, stood in the same position beside that
narrow window. What a rush of thoughts came pouring on me! And oh!--shall I
confess it?--how deeply did such a mute testimony of remembrance speak
to my heart, at the moment that I felt myself unloved and uncared for by
another! I walked hurriedly up and down, a maze of conflicting resolves
combating in my mind, while one thought ever recurred: “Would that I had
not come there!” and yet after all it may mean nothing; some piece of
passing coquetry which she will be the very first to laugh at. I remembered
how she spoke of poor Howard; what folly to take it otherwise! “Be it so,
then,” said I, half aloud; “and now for my part of the game;” and with this
I took from my pocket the light-blue scarf she had given me the morning we
parted, and throwing it over my shoulder, prepared to perform my part in
what I had fully persuaded myself to be a comedy. The time, however, passed
on, and she came not; a thousand high-flown Portuguese phrases had time to
be conned over again and again by me, and I had abundant leisure to enact
my coming part; but still the curtain did not rise. As the day was wearing,
I resolved at last to write a few lines, expressive of my regret at not
meeting her, and promising myself an early opportunity of paying my
respects under more fortunate circumstances. I sat down accordingly, and
drawing the paper towards me, began in a mixture of French and Portuguese,
as it happened, to indite my billet.

“Senhora Inez--” no--“Ma chère Mademoiselle Inez--” confound it, that’s too
intimate; well, here goes: “Monsieur O’Malley presente ses respects--” that
will never do; and then, after twenty other abortive attempts, I began
thoughtlessly sketching heads upon the paper, and scribbling with wonderful
facility in fifty different ways: “Ma charmante amie--Ma plus chère Inez,”
 etc., and in this most useful and profitable occupation did I pass another
half-hour.

How long I should have persisted in such an employment it is difficult to
say, had not an incident intervened which suddenly but most effectually put
an end to it. As the circumstance is one which, however little striking in
itself, had the greatest and most lasting influence upon my future career,
I shall, perhaps, be excused in devoting another chapter to its recital.



CHAPTER X.


A PLEASANT PREDICAMENT.

As I sat vainly endeavoring to fix upon some suitable and appropriate
epithet by which to commence my note, my back was turned towards the door
of the garden; and so occupied was I in my meditations, that even had any
one entered at the time, in all probability I should not have perceived it.
At length, however, I was aroused from my study by a burst of laughter,
whose girlish joyousness was not quite new to me. I knew it well; it was
the senhora herself; and the next moment I heard her voice.

“I tell you, I’m quite certain I saw his face in the mirror as I passed.
Oh, how delightful! and you’ll be charmed with him; so, mind, you must not
steal him from me; I shall never forgive you if you do; and look, only
look! he has got the blue scarf I gave him when he marched to the Douro.”

While I perceived that I was myself seen, I could see nothing of the
speaker, and wishing to hear something further, appeared more than ever
occupied in the writing before me.

What her companion replied I could not, however, catch, but only guess at
its import by the senhora’s answer. “_Fi done!_--I really am very fond of
him; but, never fear, I shall be as stately as a queen. You shall see how
meekly he will kiss my hand, and with what unbending reserve I’ll receive
him.”

“Indeed!” thought I; “mayhap, I’ll mar your plot a little; but let us
listen.”

Again her friend spoke, but too low to be heard.

“It is so provoking,” continued Inez; “I never can remember names, and his
was something too absurd; but never mind, I shall make him a grandee of
Portugal. Well, but come along, I long to present him to you.”

Here a gentle struggle seemed to ensue; for I heard the senhora coaxingly
entreat her, while her companion steadily resisted.

“I know very well you think I shall be so silly, and perhaps wrong; eh, is
it not so? but you are quite mistaken. You’ll be surprised at my cold and
dignified manner. I shall draw myself proudly up, thus, and curtsying
deeply, say, ‘Monsieur, j’ai l’honneur de vous saluer.’”

A laugh twice as mirthful as before interrupted her account of herself,
while I could hear the tones of her friend evidently in expostulation.

[Illustration: O’MALLEY FOLLOWING THE CUSTOM OF HIS COUNTRY.]

“Well, then, to be sure, you are provoking, but you really promise to
follow me. Be it so; then give me that moss-rose. How you have fluttered
me; now for it!”

So saying, I heard her foot upon the gravel, and the next instant upon the
marble step of the door. There is something in expectation that sets the
heart beating, and mine throbbed against my side. I waited, however, till
she entered, before lifting my head, and then springing suddenly up, with
one bound clasped her in my arms, and pressing my lips upon her roseate
cheek, said,--

“_Mar charmante amie!_” To disengage herself from me, and to spring
suddenly back was her first effort; to burst into an immoderate fit of
laughing, her second; her cheek was, however, covered with a deep blush,
and I already repented that my malice had gone so far.

“Pardon, Mademoiselle,” said I, in affected innocence, “if I have so far
forgotten myself as to assume a habit of my own country to a stranger.”

A half-angry toss of the head was her only reply, and turning towards the
garden, she called to her friend:--

“Come here, dearest, and instruct my ignorance upon your national customs;
but first let me present to you,--never know his name,--the Chevalier de
----What is it?”

The glass door opened as she spoke; a tall and graceful figure entered, and
turning suddenly round, showed me the features of Lucy Dashwood. We both
stood opposite each other, each mute with amazement. _My_ feelings let me
not attempt to convey; shame, for the first moment stronger than aught
else, sent the blood rushing to my face and temples, and the next I was
cold and pale as death. As for her, I cannot guess at what passed in
her mind. She curtsied deeply to me, and with a half-smile of scarce
recognition passed by me, and walked towards a window.

“_Comme vous êtes amiable!_” said the lively Portuguese, who comprehended
little of this dumb show; “here have I been flattering myself what friends
you’d be the very moment you meet, and now you’ll not even look at each
other.”

What was to be done? The situation was every instant growing more and more
embarrassing; nothing but downright effrontery could get through with
it now; and never did a man’s heart more fail him than did mine at this
conjuncture. I made the’ effort, however, and stammered out certain
unmeaning commonplaces. Inez replied, and I felt myself conversing with the
headlong recklessness of one marching to a scaffold, a coward’s fear at his
heart, while he essayed to seem careless and indifferent.

Anxious to reach what I esteemed safe ground, I gladly adverted to the
campaign; and at last, hurried on by the impulse to cover my embarrassment,
was describing some skirmish with a French outpost. Without intending, I
had succeeded in exciting the senhora’s interest, and she listened with
sparkling eye and parted lips to the description of a sweeping charge in
which a square was broken, and several prisoners carried off. Warming with
the eager avidity of her attention, I grew myself more excited, when just
as my narrative reached its climax, Miss Dashwood walked gently towards the
bell, rang it, and ordered her carriage. The tone of perfect _nonchalance_
of the whole proceeding struck me dumb; I faltered, stammered, hesitated,
and was silent. Donna Inez turned from one to the other of us with a look
of unfeigned astonishment and I heard her mutter to herself something
like a reflection upon “national eccentricities.” Happily, however,
her attention was now exclusively turned towards her friend, and while
assisting her to shawl, and extorting innumerable promises of an early
visit, I got a momentary reprieve; the carriage drew up also, and as the
gravel flew right and left beneath the horses’ feet, the very noise and
bustle relieved me. “_Adios_,” then said Inez, as she kissed her for the
last time, while she motioned to me to escort her to her carriage. I
advanced, stopped, made another step forward, and again grew irresolute;
but Miss Dashwood speedily terminated the difficulty; for making me a
formal curtsey, she declined my scarce-proffered attention, and left the
room.

As she did so, I perceived that on passing the table, her eyes fell upon
the paper I had been scribbling over so long, and I thought that for
an instant an expression of ineffable scorn seemed to pass across her
features, save which--and perhaps even in this I was mistaken--her manner
was perfectly calm, easy, and indifferent.

Scarce had the carriage rolled from the door, when the senhora, throwing
herself upon her chair, clapped her hands in childish ecstasy, while she
fell into a fit of laughing that I thought would never have an end. “Such
a scene!” cried she; “I would not have lost it for the world; what
cordiality! what _empressement_ to form acquaintance! I shall never forget
it, Monsieur le Chevalier; your national customs seem to run sadly in
extremes. One would have thought you deadly enemies; and poor me, after a
thousand delightful plans about you both!”

As she ran on thus, scarce able to control her mirth at each sentence, I
walked the room with impatient strides, now, resolving to hasten after the
carriage, stop it, explain in a few words how all had happened, and then
fly from her forever; then the remembrance of her cold, impassive look
crossed me, and I thought that one bold leap into the Tagus might be the
shortest and easiest solution to all my miseries. Perfect abasement,
thorough self-contempt had broken all my courage, and I could have cried
like a child. What I said, or how I comforted myself after, I know not; but
my first consciousness came to me as I felt myself running at the top of my
speed far upon the road towards Lisbon.



CHAPTER XI.


THE DINNER.

It may easily be imagined that I had little inclination to keep my promise
of dining that day with Sir George Dashwood. However, there was nothing
else for it; the die was cast,--my prospects as regarded Lucy were ruined
forever. We were not, we never could be anything to each other; and as for
me, the sooner I braved my altered fortunes the better; and after all, why
should I call them altered. She evidently never had cared for me; and even
supposing that my fervent declaration of attachment had interested her, the
apparent duplicity and falseness of my late conduct could only fall the
more heavily upon me.

I endeavored to philosophize myself into calmness and indifference. One by
one I exhausted every argument for my defence, which, however ingeniously
put forward, brought no comfort to my own conscience. I pleaded the
unerring devotion of my heart, the uprightness of my motives, and when
called on for the proofs,--alas! except the blue scarf I wore in memory of
another, and my absurd conduct at the villa, I had none. From the current
gossip of Lisbon, down to my own disgraceful folly, all, all was against
me.

Honesty of intention, rectitude of purpose, may be, doubtless they are,
admirable supports to a rightly constituted mind; but even then they must
come supported by such claims to probability as make the injured man feel
he has not lost the sympathy of all his fellows. Now, I had none of these,
had even my temperament, broken by sickness and harassed by unlucky
conjectures, permitted my appreciating them.

I endeavored to call my wounded pride to my aid, and thought over the
glance of haughty disdain she gave me as she passed on to her carriage; but
even this turned against me, and a humiliating sense of my own degraded
position sank deeply into my heart. “This impression at least,” thought I,
“must be effaced. I cannot permit her to believe--”

“His Excellency is waiting dinner, sir,” said a lackey, introducing a
finely powdered head gently within the door. I looked at my watch, it was
eight o’clock; so snatching my sabre, and shocked at my delay, I
hastily followed the servant down-stairs, and thus at once cut short my
deliberations.

The man must be but little observant or deeply sunk in his own reveries,
who, arriving half-an-hour too late for dinner, fails to detect in the
faces of the assembled and expectant guests a very palpable expression of
discontent and displeasure. It is truly a moment of awkwardness, and one
in which few are found to manage with success; the blushing, hesitating,
blundering apology of the absent man, is scarcely better than the
ill-affected surprise of the more practised offender. The bashfulness of
the one is as distasteful as the cool impertinence of the other; both are
so thoroughly out of place, for we are thinking of neither; our thoughts
are wandering to cold soups and rechaufféd pâtés, and we neither care for
nor estimate the cause, but satisfy our spleen by cursing the offender.

Happily for me I was clad in a triple insensibility to such feelings,
and with an air of most perfect unconstraint and composure walked into
a drawing-room where about twenty persons were busily discussing what
peculiar amiability in my character could compensate for my present
conduct.

“At last, O’Malley, at last!” said Sir George. “Why, my dear boy, how very
late you are!”

I muttered something about a long walk,--distance from Lisbon, etc.

“Ah! that was it. I was right, you see!” said an old lady in a spangled
turban, as she whispered something to her friend beside her, who appeared
excessively shocked at the information conveyed; while a fat, round-faced
little general, after eying me steadily through his glass, expressed a
_sotto voce_ wish that I was upon _his_ staff. I felt my cheek reddening
at the moment, and stared around me like one whose trials were becoming
downright insufferable, when happily dinner was announced, and terminated
my embarrassment.

As the party filed past, I perceived that Miss Dashwood was not among them;
and with a heart relieved for the moment by the circumstance, and inventing
a hundred conjectures to account for it, I followed with the aides-de-camp
and the staff to the dinner-room.

The temperament is very Irish, I believe, which renders a man so elastic
that from the extreme of depression to the very climax of high spirits,
there is but one spring. To this I myself plead guilty, and thus, scarcely
was I freed from the embarrassment which a meeting with Lucy Dashwood must
have caused, when my heart bounded with lightness.

When the ladies withdrew, the events of the campaign became the subject of
conversation, and upon these, very much to my astonishment, I found myself
consulted as an authority. The Douro, from some fortunate circumstance, had
given me a reputation I never dreamed of, and I heard my opinions quoted
upon topics of which my standing as an officer, and my rank in the service,
could not imply a very extended observation. Power was absent on duty; and
happily for my supremacy, the company consisted entirely of generals in the
commissariat or new arrivals from England, all of whom knew still less than
myself.

What will not iced champagne and flattery do? Singly, they are strong
impulses; combined, their power is irresistible. I now heard for the first
time that our great leader had been elevated to the peerage by the title of
Lord Wellington, and I sincerely believe--however now I may smile at the
confession--that, at the moment, I felt more elation at the circumstance
than he did. The glorious sensation of being in any way, no matter how
remotely, linked with the career of those whose path is a high one, and
whose destinies are cast for great events, thrilled through me; and in
all the warmth of my admiration and pride for our great captain, a secret
pleasure stirred within me as I whispered to myself, “And I, too, am a
soldier!”

I fear me that very little flattery is sufficient to turn the head of a
young man of eighteen; and if I yielded to the “pleasant incense,” let my
apology be that I was not used to it; and lastly, let me avow, if I did get
tipsy, I liked the liquor. And why not? It is the only tipple I know of
that leaves no headache the next morning to punish you for the glories of
the past night. It may, like all other strong potations, it is true, induce
you to make a fool of yourself when under its influence; but like the
nitrous-oxide gas, its effects are passing, and as the pleasure is an
ecstasy for the time, and your constitution none the worse when it is over,
I really see no harm in it.

Then the benefits are manifest; for while he who gives becomes never the
poorer for his benevolence, the receiver is made rich indeed. It matters
little that some dear, kind friend is ready with his bitter draught to
remedy what he is pleased to call its unwholesome sweetness; you betake
yourself with only the more pleasure to the “blessed elixir,” whose
fascinations neither the poverty of your pocket, nor the penury of your
brain, can withstand, and by the magic of whose spell you are great and
gifted. “_Vive la bagatelle!_” saith the Frenchman. “Long live flattery!”
 say I, come from what quarter it will,--the only wealth of the poor man,
the only reward of the unknown one; the arm that supports us in failure;
the hand that crowns us in success; the comforter in our affliction; the
gay companion in our hours of pleasure; the lullaby of the infant; the
staff of old age; the secret treasure we lock up in our own hearts, and
which ever grows greater as we count it over. Let me not be told that the
coin is fictitious, and the gold not genuine; its clink is as musical to
the ear as though it bore the last impression of the mint, and I’m not the
man to cast an aspersion upon its value.

This little digression, however seemingly out of place, may serve to
illustrate what it might be difficult to convey in other words,--namely,
that if Charles O’Malley became, in his own estimation, a very considerable
personage that day at dinner, the fault lay not entirely with himself, but
with his friends, who told him he was such. In fact, my good reader, I was
the lion of the party, the man who saved Laborde, who charged through a
brigade of guns, who performed feats which newspapers quoted, though he
never heard of them himself. At no time is a man so successful in society
as when his reputation heralds him; and it needs but little conversational
eloquence to talk well, if you have but a willing and ready auditory. Of
mine, I could certainly not complain; and as, drinking deeply, I poured
forth a whole tide of campaigning recital, I saw the old colonels of
recruiting districts exchanging looks of wonder and admiration with
officers of the ordnance; while Sir George himself, evidently pleased at my
_début_, went back to an early period of our acquaintance, and related the
rescue of his daughter in Galway.

In an instant the whole current of my thoughts was changed. My first
meeting with Lucy, my boyhood’s dream of ambition, my plighted faith,
my thought of our last parting in Dublin, when, in a moment of excited
madness, I told my tale of love. I remembered her downcast look, as her
cheek now flushing, now growing pale, she trembled while I spoke. I thought
of her, as in the crash of battle her image flashed across my brain, and
made me feel a rush of chivalrous enthusiasm to win her heart by “doughty
deeds.”

I forgot all around and about me. My head reeled, the wine, the excitement,
my long previous illness, all pressed upon me; and as my temples throbbed
loudly and painfully, a chaotic rush of discordant, ill-connected ideas
flitted across my mind. There seemed some stir and confusion in the room,
but why or wherefore I could not think, nor could I recall my scattered
senses, till Sir George Dashwood’s voice roused me once again to
consciousness.

“We are going to have some coffee, O’Malley. Miss Dashwood expects us in
the drawing-room. You have not seen her yet?”

I know not my reply; but he continued:--

“She has some letters for you, I think.”

I muttered something, and suffered him to pass on; no sooner had he done
so, however, than I turned towards the door, and rushed into the street.
The cold night air suddenly recalled me to myself, and I stood for a moment
endeavoring to collect myself; as I did so, a servant stopped, and saluting
me, presented me with a letter. For a second, a cold chill came over me; I
knew not what fear beset me. The letter, I at last remembered, must be that
one alluded to by Sir George, so I took it in silence, and walked on.



CHAPTER XII.


THE LETTER.

As I hurried to my quarters, I made a hundred guesses from whom the letter
could have come; a kind of presentiment told me that it bore, in some
measure, upon the present crisis of my life, and I burned with anxiety to
read it.

No sooner had I reached the light, than all my hopes on this head vanished;
the envelope bore the well-known name of my old college chum, Frank Webber,
and none could, at the moment, have more completely dispelled all chance
of interesting me. I threw it from me with disappointment, and sat moodily
down to brood over my fate.

At length, however, and almost without knowing it, I drew the lamp towards
me, and broke the seal. The reader being already acquainted with my amiable
friend, there is the less indiscretion in communicating the contents, which
ran thus:--


    TRINITY COLLEGE, DUBLIN, No. 2,

    October 5, 1810.

    My Dear O’Malley,--Nothing short of your death and burial,
    with or without military honors, can possibly excuse your very
    disgraceful neglect of your old friends here. Nesbitt has never
    heard of you, neither has Smith. Ottley swears never to have seen
    your handwriting, save on the back of a protested bill. You have
    totally forgotten _me_, and the dean informs me that you have never
    condescended a single line to him; which latter inquiry on my part
    nearly cost me a rustication.

    A hundred conjectures to account for your silence--a new feature
    in you since you were here--are afloat. Some assert that your
    soldiering has turned your head, and that you are above corresponding
    with civilians. Your friends, however, who know you better and
    value your worth, think otherwise; and having seen a paragraph
    about a certain O’Malley being tried by court-martial for stealing a
    goose, and maltreating the woman that owned it, ascribe your not
    writing to other motives. Do, in any case, relieve our minds; say,
    is it yourself, or only a relative that’s mentioned?
    Herbert came over from London with a long story about your
    doing wonderful things,--capturing cannon and general officers by
    scores,--but devil a word of it is extant; and if you have really
    committed these acts, they have “misused the king’s press damnably,”
     for neither in the “Times” nor the “Post” are you heard of.
    Answer this point, and say also if you have got promotion; for what
    precise sign you are algebraically expressed by at this writing, may
    serve Fitzgerald for a fellowship question. As for us, we are jogging
    along, _semper eadem_,--that is, worse and worse. Dear Cecil
    Cavendish, our gifted friend, slight of limb and soft of voice, has
    been rusticated for immersing four bricklayers in that green
    receptacle of stagnant water and duckweed, yeleped the “Haha.”
     Roper, equally unlucky, has taken to reading for honors, and obtained
    a medal, I fancy,--at least his friends shy him, and it must be
    something of that kind. Belson--poor Belson (fortunately for him he
    was born in the nineteenth, not the sixteenth century, or he’d be most
    likely ornamenting a pile of fagots) ventured upon some stray
    excursions into the Hebrew verbs,--the professor himself never having
    transgressed beyond the declensions, and the consequence is, he is
    in disgrace among the seniors. And as for me, a heavy charge hangs
    over my devoted head even while I write. The senior lecturer, it
    appears, has been for some time instituting some very singular
    researches into the original state of our goodly college at its
    founding. Plans and specifications showing its extent and magnificence
    have been continually before the board for the last month; and in such
    repute have been a smashed door-sill or an old arch, that freshmen
    have now abandoned conic sections for crowbars, and instead of the
    “Principia” have taken up the pickaxe. You know, my dear fellow,
    with what enthusiasm I enter into any scheme for the aggrandizement
    of our Alma Mater, so I need not tell you how ardently I
    adventured into the career now opened to me. My time was completely
    devoted to the matter; neither means nor health did I spare,
    and in my search for antiquarian lore, I have actually undermined
    the old wall of the fellows’ garden, and am each morning in expectation
    of hearing that the big bell near the commons-hall has descended
    from its lofty and most noisy eminence, and is snugly reposing in
    the mud. Meanwhile accident put me in possession of a most
    singular and remarkable discovery. Our chambers--I call them
    ours for old association sake--are, you may remember, in the Old
    Square. Well, I have been fortunate enough, within the very precincts
    of my own dwelling, to contribute a very wonderful fact to the
    history of the University; alone, unassisted, unaided, I labored
    at my discovery. Few can estimate the pleasure I felt, the fame
    and reputation I anticipated. I drew up a little memoir for the
    board, most respectfully and civilly worded, having for title the
    following:--

    ACCOUNT
    Of a remarkable Subterranean Passage lately discovered in the
    Old Building of Trinity College, Dublin;
    With Observations upon its Extent, Antiquity, and Probable Use.
    By F. WEBBER, Senior Freshman.

    My dear O’Malley, I’ll not dwell upon the pride I felt in my new
    character of antiquarian; it is enough to state, that my very
    remarkable tract was well considered and received, and a commission
    appointed to investigate the discovery, consisting of the
    vice-provost, the senior lecturer, old Woodhouse, the sub-dean, and
    a few more.

    On Tuesday last they came accordingly in full academic costume.
    I, being habited most accurately in the like manner, conducted
    them with all form into my bed-room, where a large screen concealed
    from view the entrance to the tunnel alluded to. Assuming a very
    John Kembleish attitude, I struck this down with one hand, pointing
    with the other to the wall, as I exclaimed, “There! look
    there!”

    I need only quote Barret’s exclamation to enlighten you upon my
    discovery as, drawing in his breath with a strong effort, he burst
    out:--

    “May the Devil admire me, but it’s a rat-hole!”

    I fear, Charley, he’s right, and what’s more, that the board will
    think so, for this moment a very warm discussion is going on among
    that amiable and learned body whether I shall any longer remain an
    ornament to the University. In fact, the terror with which they
    fled from my chambers, overturning each other in the passage,
    seemed to imply that they thought me mad, and I do believe my
    voice, look, and attitude would not have disgraced a blue cotton
    dressing-gown and a cell in “Swift’s.” Be this as it may, few men
    have done more for college than I have. The sun never stood still
    for Joshua with more resolution than I have rested in my career of
    freshman; and if I have contributed little to the fame, I have done
    much for the funds of the University; and when they come to compute
    the various sums I have paid in, for fines, penalties, and what
    they call properly “impositions,” if they don’t place a portrait of me
    in the examination hall, between Archbishop Ussher and Flood, then
    do I say there is no gratitude in mankind; not to mention the impulse
    I have given to the various artisans whose business it is to
    repair lamps, windows, chimneys, iron railings, and watchmen, all
    of which I have devoted myself to with an enthusiasm for political
    economy well known, and registered in the College Street police-office.

    After all, Charley, I miss you greatly. Your second in a ballad is
    not to be replaced; besides, Carlisle Bridge has got low; medical
    students and young attorneys affect minstrelsy, and actually frequent
    the haunts sacred to our muse.

    Dublin is, upon the whole, I think, worse; though one scarcely
    ever gets tired laughing at the small celebrities--


Master Frank gets here indiscreet, so I shall skip.

    And so the Dashwoods are going too; this will make mine a
    pitiable condition, for I really did begin to feel tender in that
    quarter. You may have heard that she refused me; this, however, is not
    correct, though I have little doubt it might have been,--had I
    asked her.

    Hammersley has, you know, got his dismissal. I wonder how the
    poor fellow took it when Power gave him back his letters and his
    picture. How _you_ are to be treated remains to be seen; in any
    case, you certainly stand first favorite.


I laid down the letter at this passage, unable to read farther. Here, then,
was the solution of the whole chaos of mystery; here the full explanation
of what had puzzled my aching brain for many a night long. These were the
very letters I had myself delivered into Hammersley’s hands; this the
picture he had trodden to dust beneath his heel the morning of our meeting.
I now felt the reason of his taunting allusion to my “success,” his cutting
sarcasm, his intemperate passion. A flood of light poured at once across
all the dark passages of my history; and Lucy, too,--dare I think of her! A
rapid thought shot through my brain. What if she had really cared for me!
What if for me she had rejected another’s love! What if, trusting to my
faith, my pledged and sworn faith, she had given me her heart! Oh, the
bitter agony of that thought! To think that all my hopes were shipwrecked
with the very land in sight.

I sprang to my feet with some sudden impulse, but as I did so the blood
rushed madly to my face and temples, which beat violently; a parched and
swollen feeling came about my throat; I endeavored to open my collar
and undo my stock, but my disabled arm prevented me. I tried to call
my servant, but my utterance was thick and my words would not come; a
frightful suspicion crossed me that my reason was tottering. I made towards
the door; but as I did so, the objects around me became confused and
mingled, my limbs trembled, and I fell heavily upon the floor. A pang of
dreadful pain shot through me as I fell; my arm was rebroken. After this I
knew no more; all the accumulated excitement of the evening bore down with
one fell swoop upon my brain. Ere day broke, I was delirious.

I have a vague and indistinct remembrance of hurried and anxious faces
around my bed, of whispered words and sorrowful looks; but my own thoughts
careered over the bold hills of the far west as I trod them in my
boyhood, free and high of heart, or recurred to the din and crash of the
battle-field, with the mad bounding of the war-horse, and the loud clang of
the trumpet. Perhaps the acute pain of my swollen and suffering arm gave
the character to my mental aberration; for I have more than once observed
among the wounded in battle, that even when torn and mangled by grape
from a howitzer, their ravings have partaken of a high feature of
enthusiasm,--shouts of triumph and exclamations of pleasure, even
songs have I heard, but never once the low muttering of despair or the
half-stifled cry of sorrow and affliction.

Such were the few gleams of consciousness which visited me; and even to
such as these I soon became insensible.

Few like to chronicle, fewer still to read, the sad history of a sick-bed.
Of mine, I know but little. The throbbing pulses of the erring brain, the
wild fancies of lunacy, take no note of time. There is no past nor future;
a dreadful present, full of its hurried and confused impressions, is all
that the mind beholds; and even when some gleams of returning reason flash
upon the mad confusion of the brain, they come like sunbeams through a
cloud, dimmed, darkened, and perverted.

It is the restless activity of the mind in fever that constitutes its
most painful anguish; the fast-flitting thoughts that rush ever onwards,
crowding sensation on sensation, an endless train of exciting images
without purpose or repose; or even worse, the straining effort to pursue
some vague and shadowy conception which evades us ever as we follow, but
which mingles with all around and about us, haunting us at midnight as in
the noontime. Of this nature was a vision which came constantly before
me, till at length, by its very recurrence, it assumed a kind of real and
palpable existence; and as I watched it, my heart thrilled with the high
ardor of enthusiasm and delight, or sunk into the dark abyss of sorrow and
despair. “The dawning of morning, the daylight sinking,” brought no other
image to my aching sight; and of this alone, of all the impressions of the
period, has my mind retained any consciousness.

Methought I stood within an old and venerable cathedral, where the dim
yellow light fell with a rich but solemn glow upon the fretted capitals,
or the grotesque tracings of the oaken carvings, lighting up the fading
gildings of the stately monuments, and tinting the varied hues of time-worn
banners. The mellow notes of a deep organ filled the air, and seemed to
attune the sense to all the awe and reverence of the place, where the very
footfall, magnified by its many echoes, seemed half a profanation. I stood
before an altar, beside me a young and lovely girl, whose bright brown
tresses waved in loose masses upon a neck of snowy whiteness; her hand,
cold and pale, rested within my own; we knelt together, not in prayer, but
a feeling of deep reverence stole over my heart, as she repeated some few
half-uttered words after me; I knew that she was mine. Oh, the ecstasy of
that moment, as, springing to my feet, I darted forward to press her to my
heart! When, suddenly, an arm was interposed between us, while a low but
solemn voice rang in my ears, “Stir not; for thou art false and traitorous,
thy vow a perjury, and thy heart a lie!” Slowly and silently the fair form
of my loved Lucy--for it was her--receded from my sight. One look, one last
look of sorrow--it was scarce reproach--fell upon me, and I sank back upon
the cold pavement, broken-hearted and forsaken.

This dream came with daybreak, and with the calm repose of evening; the
still hours of the waking night brought no other image to my eyes, and when
its sad influence had spread a gloom and desolation over my wounded heart,
a secret hope crept over me, that again the bright moment of happiness
would return, and once more beside that ancient altar I’d kneel beside my
bride, and call her mine.


For the rest, my memory retains but little; the kind looks which came
around my bedside brought but a brief pleasure, for in their affectionate
beaming I could read the gloomy prestige of my fate. The hurried but
cautious step, the whispered sentences, the averted gaze of those who
sorrowed for me, sunk far deeper into my heart than my friends then thought
of. Little do they think, who minister to the sick or dying, how each
passing word, each flitting glance is noted, and how the pale and stilly
figure which lies all but lifeless before them counts over the hours he has
to live by the smiles or tears around him!

Hours, days, weeks rolled over, and still my fate hung in the balance; and
while in the wild enthusiasm of my erring faculties, I wandered far in
spirit from my bed of suffering and pain, some well-remembered voice beside
me would strike upon my ear, bringing me back, as if by magic, to all the
realities of life, and investing my almost unconscious state with all the
hopes and fears about me.

One by one, at length, these fancies fled from me, and to the delirium of
fever succeeded the sad and helpless consciousness of illness, far, far
more depressing; for as the conviction of sense came back, the sorrowful
aspect of a dreary future came with it.



CHAPTER XIII.


THE VILLA.

The gentle twilight of an autumnal evening, calm, serene, and mellow, was
falling as I opened my eyes to consciousness of life and being, and looked
around me. I lay in a large and handsomely-furnished apartment, in which
the hand of taste was as evident in all the decorations as the unsparing
employment of wealth; the silk draperies of my bed, the inlaid tables, the
ormolu ornaments which glittered upon the chimney, were one by one so many
puzzles to my erring senses, and I opened and shut my eyes again and again,
and essayed by every means in my power to ascertain if they were not the
visionary creations of a fevered mind. I stretched out my hands to feel the
objects; and even while holding the freshly-plucked flowers in my grasp I
could scarce persuade myself that they were real. A thrill of pain at this
instant recalled me to other thoughts, and I turned my eyes upon my wounded
arm, which, swollen and stiffened, lay motionless beside me. Gradually, my
memory came back, and to my weak faculties some passages of my former
life were presented, not collectedly it is true, nor in any order, but
scattered, isolated scenes. While such thoughts flew past, my ever-rising
question to myself was, “Where am I now?” The vague feeling which illness
leaves upon the mind, whispered to me of kind looks and soft voices; and
I had a dreamy consciousness about me of being watched and cared for, but
wherefore, or by whom, I knew not.

From a partly open door which led into a garden, a mild and balmy air
fanned my temples and soothed my heated brow; and as the light curtain
waved to and fro with the breeze, the odor of the rose and the orange-tree
filled the apartment.

There is something in the feeling of weakness which succeeds to long
illness of the most delicious and refined enjoyment. The spirit emerging as
it were from the thraldom of its grosser prison, rises high and triumphant
above the meaner thoughts and more petty ambitions of daily life. Purer
feelings, more ennobling hopes succeed; and dreams of our childhood,
mingling with our promises for the future, make up an ideal existence
in which the low passions and cares of ordinary life enter not or are
forgotten. ‘Tis then we learn to hold converse with ourselves; ‘tis then we
ask how has our manhood performed the promises of its youth, or have our
ripened prospects borne out the pledges of our boyhood? ‘Tis then, in
the calm justice of our lonely hearts, we learn how our failures are but
another name for our faults, and that what we looked on as the vicissitudes
of fortune are but the fruits of our own vices. Alas, how short-lived are
such intervals! Like the fitful sunshine in the wintry sky, they throw one
bright and joyous tint over the dark landscape: for a moment the valley and
the mountain-top are bathed in a ruddy glow; the leafless tree and the dark
moss seem to feel a touch of spring; but the next instant it is past; the
lowering clouds and dark shadows intervene, and the cold blast, the moaning
wind, and the dreary waste are once more before us.

I endeavored to recall the latest events of my career, but in vain; the
real and the visionary were inextricably mingled, and the scenes of my
campaigns were blended with hopes and fears and doubts which had no
existence save in my dreams. My curiosity to know where I was grew now my
strongest feeling, and I raised myself with one arm to look around me. In
the room all was still and silent, but nothing seemed to intimate what I
sought for. As I looked, however, the wind blew back the curtain which
half-concealed the sash-door, and disclosed to me the figure of a man
seated at a table; his back was towards me, but his broad sombrero hat
and brown mantle bespoke his nation; the light blue curl of smoke
which wreathed gently upwards, and the ample display of long-necked,
straw-wrapped flasks, also attested that he was enjoying himself with true
Peninsular gusto, having probably partaken of a long siesta.

It was a perfect picture in its way of the indolent luxury of the
South,--the rich and perfumed flowers, half-closing to the night air, but
sighing forth a perfumed _buonas noches_ as they betook themselves to rest;
the slender shadows of the tall shrubs, stretching motionless across the
walks; the very attitude of the figure himself was in keeping as supported
by easy chairs he lounged at full length, raising his head ever and anon as
if to watch the wreath of eddying smoke as it rose upwards from his cigar
and melted away in the distance.

[Illustration: MR. FREE TURNED SPANIARD.]

“Yes”, thought I, as I looked for some time, “such is the very type of his
nation. Surrounded by every luxury of climate, blessed with all that earth
can offer of its best and fairest, and yet only using such gifts as mere
sensual gratifications.” Starting with this theme, I wove a whole story for
the unknown personage whom, in my wandering fancy, I began by creating
a grandee of Portugal, invested with rank honors, and riches; but who,
effeminated by the habits and usages of his country, had become the mere
idle voluptuary, living a life of easy and inglorious indolence. My further
musings were interrupted at this moment for the individual to whom I
had been so complimentary in my revery, slowly arose from his recumbent
position, flung his loose mantle carelessly across his left shoulder, and
pushing open the sash-door, entered my chamber. Directing his steps to a
large mirror, he stood for some minutes contemplating himself with what,
from his attitude, I judged to be no small satisfaction. Though his back
was still towards me, and the dim twilight of the room too uncertain to see
much, yet I could perceive that he was evidently admiring himself in the
glass. Of this fact I had soon the most complete proof; for as I looked,
he slowly raised his broad-leafed Spanish hat with an air of most imposing
pretension, and bowed reverently to himself.

“_Come sta vostra senoria?_” said he.

The whole gesture and style of this proceeding struck me as so ridiculous,
that in spite of all my efforts I could scarcely repress a laugh. He turned
quickly round and approached the bed. The deep shadow of the sombrero
darkened the upper part of his features, but I could distinguish a pair of
fierce-looking mustaches beneath, which curled upwards towards his eyes,
while a stiff point beard stuck straight from his chin. Fearing lest my
rude interruption had been overheard, I was framing some polite speech in
Portuguese, when he opened the dialogue by asking in that language how I
did.

I replied, and was about to ask some questions relative to where, and
under whose protection I then was, when my grave-looking friend, giving a
pirouette upon one leg, sent his hat flying into the air, and cried out in
a voice that not even my memory could fail to recognize,--

“By the rock of Cashel he’s cured!--he’s cured!--the fever’s over! Oh,
Master Charles, dear! oh, Master, darling, and you ain’t mad, after all?”

“Mad! no, faith! but I shrewdly suspect you must be.”

“Oh, devil a taste! But spake to me, honey; spake to me, acushla!”

“Where am I? Whose house is this? What do you mean by that disguise, that
beard--”

“Whisht, I’ll tell you all, av you have patience? But are you cured? Tell
me that first. Sure they was going to cut the arm off you, till you got out
of bed, and with your pistols, sent them flying, one out of the window and
the other down-stairs; and I bate the little chap with the saw myself till
he couldn’t know himself in the glass.”

While Mike ran on at this rate, I never took my eyes from him, and it was
all my poor faculties were equal to, to convince myself that the whole
scene was not some vision of a wandering intellect. Gradually, however, the
well-known features recalled me to myself, and as my doubts gave way at
length, I laughed long and heartily at the masquerade absurdity of his
appearance.

Mike, meanwhile, whose face expressed no small mistrust at the sincerity of
my mirth, having uncloaked himself, proceeded to lay aside his beard and
mustaches, saying, as he did so,--

“There now, darling; there now, Master, dear,--don’t be grinning that
way,--I’ll not be a Portigee any more, av you’ll be quiet and listen to
reason.”

“But, Mike, where am I? Answer me that one question.”

“You’re at home, dear; where else would you be?”

“At home?” said I, with a start, as my eye ranged over the various articles
of luxury and elegance around, so unlike the more simple and unpretending
features of my uncle’s house,--“at home?”

“Ay, just so; sure, isn’t it the same thing. It’s ould Don Emanuel that
owns it; and won’t it be your own when you’re married to that lovely
crayture herself?”

I started up, and placing my hand upon my throbbing temples, asked myself
if I were really awake, or if some flight of fancy had not carried me away
beyond the bounds of reason and sense. “Go on, go on!” said I, at length,
in a hollow voice, anxious to gather from his words something like a clew
to this mystery. “How did this happen?”

“Av ye mean how you came here, faith, it was just this way. After you got
the fever, and beat the doctors, devil a one would go near you but myself
and the major.”

“The major,--Major Monsoon?”

“No, Major Power himself. Well, he told your friends up here how it was
going very hard with you, and that you were like to die; and the same
evening they sent down a beautiful litter, as like a hearse as two peas,
for you, and brought you up here in state,--devil a thing was wanting but
a few people to raise the cry to make it as fine a funeral as ever I seen.
And sure, I set up a whillilew myself in the Black Horse Square, and the
devils only laughed at me.

“Well, you see they put you into a beautiful, elegant bed, and the young
lady herself sat down beside you, betune times fanning you with a big
fan, and then drying her eyes, for she was weeping like a waterfall. ‘Don
Miguel,’ says she to me,--for ye see, I put your cloak on by mistake when I
was leaving the quarters,--‘Don Miguel, questa hidalgo é vostro amigo?’

“‘My most particular friend,’ says I; ‘God spare him many years to be so.’

“‘Then take up your quarters here,’ says she, ‘and don’t leave him; we’ll
do everything in our power to make you comfortable.’

“‘I’m not particular,’ says I; ‘the run of the house--’

“Then this is the Villa Nuova?” said I, with a faint sigh.

“The same,” replied Mike; “and a sweet place it is for eating and
drinking,--for wine in buckets full, av ye axed for it, for dancing and
singing every evening, with as pretty craytures as ever I set eyes upon.
Upon my conscience, it’s as good as Galway; and good manners it is they
have. What’s more, none of your liberties or familiarities with strangers;
but it’s Don Miguel, devil a less. ‘Don Miguel, av it’s plazing to you to
take a drop of Xeres before your meat?’ or, ‘Would you have a shaugh of a
pipe or cigar when you’re done?’ That’s the way of it.”

“And Sir George Dashwood,” said I, “has he been here? Has he inquired for
me?”

“Every day either himself or one of the staff comes galloping up at
luncheon time to ask after you; and then they have a bit of tender
discourse with the senhora herself. Oh, devil a bit need ye fear them,
she’s true blue; and it isn’t the major’s fault,--upon my conscience it
isn’t,--for he does be coming the blarney over her in beautiful style.”

“Does Miss Dashwood ever visit here?” said I, with a voice faltering and
uncertain enough to have awakened suspicion in a more practised observer.

“Never once; and that’s what I call unnatural behavior, after you saving
her life; and if she wasn’t--”

“Be silent, I say.”

“Well, well, there, I won’t say any more; and sure it’s time for me to be
putting on my beard again. I’m going to the Casino with Catrina, and sure
it’s with real ladies I might be going av it wasn’t for Major Power, that
told them I wasn’t a officer; but it’s all right again. I gave them a great
history of the Frees from the time of Cuilla na Toole, that was one of the
family and a cousin of Moses, I believe; and they behave well to one that
comes from an ould stock.”

“Don Miguel! Don Miguel!” said a voice from the garden.

“I’m coming, my angel! I’m coming, my turtle-dove!” said Mike, arranging
his mustaches and beard with amazing dexterity. “Ah, but it would do your
heart good av you could take a peep at us about twelve o’clock, dancing
‘Dirty James’ for a bolero, and just see Miss Catrina, the lady’s maid,
doing ‘cover the buckle’ as neat as Nature. There now, there’s the lemonade
near your hand, and I’ll leave you the lamp, and you may go asleep as soon
as you please, for Miss Inez won’t come in to-night to play the guitar, for
the doctor said it might do you harm now.”

So saying, and before I could summon presence of mind to ask another
question, Don Miguel wrapped himself in the broad folds of his Spanish
cloak, and strode from the room with the air of an hidalgo.

I slept but little that night; the full tide of memory, rushing in upon me,
brought back the hour of my return to Lisbon and the wreck of all my hopes,
which from the narrative of my servant I now perceived to be complete. I
dare not venture upon recording how many plans suggested themselves to my
troubled spirit, and were in turn rejected. To meet Lucy Dashwood; to make
a full and candid declaration; to acknowledge that flirtation alone with
Donna Inez (a mere passing, boyish flirtation) had given the coloring to
my innocent passion, and that in heart and soul I was hers, and hers
only,--this was my first resolve; but alas! if I had not courage to sustain
a common interview, to meet her in the careless crowd of a drawing-room,
what could I do under circumstances like these? Besides, the matter would
be cut very short by her coolly declaring that she had neither right nor
inclination to listen to such a declaration. The recollection of her look
as she passed me to her carriage came flashing across my brain and decided
this point. No, no! I’ll not encounter that; however appearances for the
moment had been against me, she should not have treated me thus coldly and
disdainfully. It was quite clear she had never cared for me,--wounded pride
had been her only feeling; and so as I reasoned I ended by satisfying
myself that in that quarter all was at end forever.

Now then for dilemma number two, I thought. The senhora, my first impulse
was one of anything but gratitude to her by whose kind, tender care my
hours of pain and suffering had been soothed and alleviated. But for her,
I should have been spared all my present embarrassment, all my shipwrecked
fortunes; but for her I should now be the aide-de-camp residing in Sir
George Dashwood’s own house, meeting with Lucy every hour of the day,
dining beside her, riding out with her, pressing my suit by every means and
with every advantage of my position; but for her and her dark eyes--and,
by-the-bye, what eyes they are! how full of brilliancy, yet how teeming
with an expression of soft and melting sweetness; and her mouth, too,
how perfectly chiselled those full lips,--how different from the cold,
unbending firmness of Miss Dashwood’s! Not but I have seen Lucy smile too,
and what a sweet smile! How it lighted up her fair cheek, and made her blue
eyes darken and deepen till they looked like heaven’s own vault. Yes, there
is more poetry in a blue eye. But still Inez is a very lovely girl, and
her foot never was surpassed. She is a coquette, too, about that foot and
ankle,--I rather like a woman to be so. What a sensation she would make in
England; how she would be the rage! And then I thought of home and Galway,
and the astonishment of some, the admiration of others, as I presented her
as my wife,--the congratulations of my friends, the wonder of the men, the
tempered envy of the women. Methought I saw my uncle, as he pressed her in
his arms, say, “Yes, Charley, this is a prize worth campaigning for.”

The stray sounds of a guitar which came from the garden broke in upon my
musings at this moment. It seemed as if a finger was straying heedlessly
across the strings. I started up, and to my surprise perceived it was Inez.
Before I had time to collect myself, a gentle tap at the window aroused me;
it opened softly, while from an unseen hand a bouquet of fresh flowers was
thrown upon my bed. Before I could collect myself to speak, the sash closed
again and I was alone.



CHAPTER XIV.


THE VISIT.

Mike’s performances at the masquerade had doubtless been of the most
distinguished character, and demanded a compensating period of repose, for
he did not make his appearance the entire morning. Towards noon, however,
the door from the garden gently opened, and I heard a step upon the stone
terrace, and something which sounded to my ears like the clank of a sabre.
I lifted my head, and saw Fred Power beside me.

I shall spare my readers the recital of my friend, which, however, more
full and explanatory of past events, contained in reality little more than
Mickey Free had already told me. In fine, he informed me that our army, by
a succession of retreating movements, had deserted the northern provinces,
and now occupied the intrenched lines of Torres Vedras. That Massena, with
a powerful force, was still in march, reinforcements daily pouring in
upon him, and every expectation pointing to the probability that he would
attempt to storm our position.

“The wise-heads,” remarked Power, “talk of our speedy embarkation, the
sanguine and the hot-brained rave of a great victory and the retreat of
Massena; but I was up at headquarters last week with despatches, and saw
Lord Wellington myself.”

“Well, what did you make out? Did he drop any hint of his own views?”

“Faith, I can’t say he did. He asked me some questions about the troops
just landed; he spoke a little of the commissary department, damned the
blankets, said that green forage was bad food for the artillery horses,
sent me an English paper to read about the O. P. riots, and said the
harriers would throw off about six o’clock, and that he hoped to see me at
dinner.”

I could not restrain a laugh at Power’s catalogue of his lordship’s topics.
“So,” said I, “he at least does not take any gloomy views of our present
situation.”

“Who can tell what he thinks? He’s ready to fight if fighting will do
anything, and to retreat, if that be better. But that he’ll sleep an hour
less, or drink a glass of claret more--come what will of it--I’ll believe
from no man living.

“We’ve lost one gallant thing in any case, Charley,” resumed Power. “Busaco
was, I’m told, a glorious day, and our people were in the heat of it. So
that, if we do leave the Peninsula now, that will be a confounded chagrin.
Not for you, my poor fellow, for you could not stir; but I was so cursed
foolish to take the staff appointment,--thus one folly ever entails
another.”

There was a tone of bitterness in which these words were uttered that left
no doubt upon my mind some _arrière pensée_ remained lurking behind them.
My eyes met his; he bit his lip, and coloring deeply, rose from the chair,
and walked towards the window.

The chance allusion of my man Mike flashed upon me at the moment, and I
dared not trust myself to break silence. I now thought I could trace in my
friend’s manner less of that gay and careless buoyancy which ever marked
him. There was a tone, it seemed, of more grave and sombre character, and
even when he jested, the smile his features bore was not his usual frank
and happy one, and speedily gave way to an expression I had never before
remarked. Our silence which had now lasted for some minutes was becoming
embarrassing; that strange consciousness that, to a certain extent, we were
reading each other’s thoughts, made us both cautious of breaking it; and
when at length, turning abruptly round, he asked, “When I hoped to be up
and about again?” I felt my heart relieved from I knew not well what load
of doubt and difficulty that oppressed it. We chatted on for some little
time longer, the news of Lisbon, and the daily gossip finishing our topics.

“Plenty of gayety, Charley, dinners and balls to no end! so get well, my
boy, and make the most of it.”

“Yes,” I replied, “I’ll do my best; but be assured the first use I’ll make
of health will be to join the regiment. I am heartily ashamed of myself for
all I have lost already,--though not altogether my fault.”

“And will you really join at once?” said Power, with a look of eager
anxiety I could not possibly account for.

“Of course I will; what have I, what can I have to detain me here?”

What reply he was about to make at this moment I know not, but the door
opened, and Mike announced Sir George Dashwood.

“Gently, my worthy man, not so loud, if you please?” said the mild voice of
the general, as he stepped noiselessly across the room, evidently shocked
at the indiscreet tone of my follower. “Ah, Power, you here! and our poor
friend, how is he?”

“Able to answer for himself at last, Sir George,” said I, grasping his
proffered hand.

“My poor lad! you’ve had a long bout of it; but you’ve saved your arm, and
that’s well worth the lost time. Well, I’ve come to bring you good news;
there’s been a very sharp cavalry affair, and our fellows have been the
conquerors.”

“There again, Power,--listen to that! We are losing everything!”

“Not so, not so, my boy,” said Sir George, smiling blandly, but archly.
“There are conquests to be won here, as well as there; and in your present
state, I rather think you better fitted for such as these.”

Power’s brow grew clouded; he essayed a smile, but it failed, and he rose
and hurried towards the window.

As for me, my confusion must have led to a very erroneous impression of my
real feelings, and I perceived Sir George anxious to turn the channel of
the conversation.

“You see but little of your host, O’Malley,” he resumed; “he is ever from
home; but I believe nothing could be kinder than his arrangements for you.
You are aware that he kidnapped you from us? I had sent Forbes over to
bring you to us; your room was prepared, everything in readiness, when he
met your man Mike, setting forth upon a mule, who told him you had just
taken your departure for the villa. We both had our claim upon you and, I
believe, pretty much on the same score. By-the-bye, you have not seen Lucy
since your arrival. I never knew it till yesterday, when I asked if she did
not find you altered.”

I blundered out some absurd reply, blushed, corrected myself, and got
confused. Sir George attributing this, doubtless, to my weak state, rose
soon after, and taking Power along with him, remarked as he left the
room,--

“We are too much for him yet, I see that; so we’ll leave him quiet some
time longer.”

Thanking him in my heart for his true appreciation of my state, I sank back
upon my pillow to think over all I had heard and seen.

“Well, Mister Charles,” said Mike as he came forward with a smile, “I
suppose you heard the news? The Fourteenth bate the French down at Merca
there, and took seventy prisoners; but sure it’s little good it’ll do,
after all.”

“And why not, Mike?”

“Musha! isn’t Boney coming himself? He’s bringing all the Roossians down
with him, and going to destroy us entirely.”

“Not at all, man; you mistake. He’s nothing to do with Russia, and has
quite enough on his hands at this moment.”

“God grant it was truth you were talking! But, you see, I read it myself in
the papers (or Sergeant Haggarty did, which is the same thing) that he’s
coming with the Cusacks.”

“With who?--with what?”

“With the Cusacks.”

“What the devil do you mean? Who are they?”

“Oh, Tower of Ivory! did you never hear of the Cusacks, with the red beards
and the red breeches and long poles with pike-heads on them, that does all
the devilment on horseback,--spiking and spitting the people like larks?”

“The Cossacks, is it, you mean? The Cossacks?”

“Ay, just so, the Cusacks. They’re from Clare Island, and thereabouts; and
there’s more of them in Meath. They’re my mother’s people, and was always
real devils for fighting.”

I burst out into an immoderate fit of laughing at Mike’s etymology, which
thus converted Hetman Platoff into a Galway man.

“Oh, murder! isn’t it cruel to hear you laugh that way! There now, alanna!
be asy, and I’ll tell you more news. We’ve the house to ourselves to-day.
The ould gentleman’s down at Behlem, and the daughter’s in Lisbon, making
great preparations for a grand ball they’re to give when you are quite
well.”

“I hope I shall be with the army in a few days, Mike; and certainly, if I’m
able to move about, I’ll not remain longer in Lisbon.”

“Arrah, don’t say so, now! When was you ever so comfortable? Upon my
conscience, it’s more like Paradise than anything else. If ye see the
dinner we sit down to every day; and as for drink,--if it wasn’t that I
sleep on a ground-floor, I’d seldom see a blanket!”

“Well, certainly, Mike, I agree with you, these are hard things to tear
ourselves away from.”

“Aren’t they now, sir? And then Miss Catherine, I’m taching her Irish!”

“Teaching her Irish! for Heaven’s sake, what use can she make of Irish?”

“Ah, the crayture, she doesn’t know better; and as she was always bothering
me to learn her English, I promised one day to do it; but ye see, somehow,
I never was very proficient in strange tongues; so I thought to myself
Irish will do as well. So, you perceive, we’re taking a course of Irish
literature, as Mr. Lynch says in Athlone; and, upon my conscience, she’s an
apt scholar.”

“‘Good-morning to you, Katey,’ says Mr. Power to her the other day, as he
passed through the hall. ‘Good-morning, my dear; I hear you speak English
perfectly now?’

“‘_Honia mon diaoul_,’ says she, making a curtsey.

“Be the powers, I thought he’d die with the laughing.

“‘Well, my dear, I hope you don’t mean it,--do you know what you’re
saying?’

“‘Honor bright, Major!’ says I,--‘honor bright!’ and I gave him a wink at
the same time.

“‘Oh, that’s it!’ said he, ‘is it!’ and so he went off holding his hands to
his sides with the bare laughing; and your honor knows it wasn’t a blessing
she wished him, for all that.”



CHAPTER XV.


THE CONFESSION.

“What a strange position this of mine!” thought I, a few mornings after
the events detailed in the last chapter. “How very fascinating in some
respects, how full of all the charm of romance, and how confoundly
difficult to see one’s way through!”

To understand my cogitation right, _figurez-vous_, my dear reader, a large
and splendidly furnished drawing-room, from one end of which an orangery
in full blossom opens; from the other is seen a delicious little boudoir,
where books, bronzes, pictures and statues, in all the artistique disorder
of a lady’s sanctum, are bathed in a deep purple light from a stained glass
window of the seventeenth century.

On a small table beside the wood fire, whose mellow light is flirting with
the sunbeams upon the carpet, stands an antique silver breakfast-service,
which none but the hand of Benvenuto could have chiselled; beside it sits
a girl, young and beautiful; her dark eyes, beaming beneath their long
lashes, are fixed with an expression of watchful interest upon a pale and
sickly youth, who, lounging upon a sofa opposite, is carelessly turning
over the leaves of a new journal, or gazing steadfastly on the fretted
gothic of the ceiling, while his thoughts are travelling many a mile away.
The lady being the Senhora Inez; the nonchalant invalid, your unworthy
acquaintance, Charles O’Malley.

What a very strange position to be sure.

“Then you are not equal to this ball to-night?” said she, after a pause of
some minutes.

I turned as she spoke; her words had struck audibly upon my ear, but, lost
in my revery, I could but repeat my own fixed thought,--how strange to be
so situated!

“You are really very tiresome, Signor; I assure you, you are. I have
been giving you a most elegant description of the Casino _fête_, and the
beautiful costume of our Lisbon belles, but I can get nothing from you but
this muttered something, which may be very shocking for aught I know. I’m
sure your friend, Major Power, would be much more attentive to me; that
is,” added she, archly, “if Miss Dashwood were not present.”

“What! why! You don’t mean that there is anything there--that Tower is
paying attention to--”

“_Madre divina_, how that seems to interest you, and how red you are! If it
were not that you never met her before, and that your acquaintance did not
seem to make rapid progress, then I should say you are in love with her
yourself.”

I had to laugh at this, but felt my face flushing more. “And so,” said I,
affecting a careless and indifferent tone, “the gay Fred Power is smitten
at last!”

“Was it so very difficult a thing to accomplish?” said she, slyly.

“He seems to say so, at least. And the lady, how does she appear to receive
his attentions?”

“Oh, I should say with evident pleasure and satisfaction, as all girls do
the advances of men they don’t care for, nor intend to care for.”

“Indeed,” said I, slowly, “indeed, Senhora?” looking into her eyes as I
spoke, as if to read if the lesson were destined for my benefit.

“There, don’t stare so!--every one knows that.”

“So you don’t think, then, that Lucy,--I mean Miss Dashwood--Why are you
laughing so?”

“How can I help it; your calling her Lucy is so good, I wish she heard it;
she’s the very proudest girl I ever knew.”

“But to come back; you really think she does not care for him?”

“Not more than for you; and I may be pardoned for the simile, having seen
your meeting. But let me give you the news of our own _fête_. Saturday is
the day fixed; and you must be quite well,--I insist upon it. Miss Dashwood
has promised to come,--no small concession; for after all she has never
once been here since the day you frightened her. I can’t help laughing at
my blunder,--the two people I had promised myself should fall desperately
in love with each other, and who will scarcely meet.”

“But I trusted,” said I, pettishly, “that you were not disposed to resign
your own interest in me?”

“Neither was I,” said she, with an easy smile, “except that I have so many
admirers. I might even spare to my friends; though after all I should be
sorry to lose you, I like you.”

“Yes,” said I half bitterly, “as girls do those they never intend to care
for; is it not so?”

“Perhaps, yes, and perhaps--But is it going to rain? How provoking! and I
have ordered my horse. Well, Signor Carlos, I leave you to your delightful
newspaper, and all the magnificent descriptions of battles and sieges and
skirmishes of which you seem doomed to pine without ceasing. There, don’t
kiss my hand twice; that’s not right.”

“Well, let me begin again--”

“I shall not breakfast with you any more. But tell me, am I to order a
costume for you in Lisbon; or will you arrange all that yourself? You must
come to the _fête_, you know.”

“If you would be so very kind.”

“I will, then, be so very kind; and once more, _adios_.” So saying, and
with a slight motion of her hand, she smiled a good-by, and left me.

“What a lovely girl!” thought I, as I rose and walked to the window,
muttering to myself Othello’s line, and--

    “When I love thee not, chaos is come again.”

In fact, it was the perfect expression of my feeling; the only solution
to all the difficulties surrounding me, being to fall desperately,
irretrievably in love with the fair senhora, which, all things considered,
was not a very desperate resource for a gentleman in trouble. As I thought
over the hopelessness of one attachment, I turned calmly to consider all
the favorable points of the other. She was truly beautiful, attractive in
every sense; her manner most fascinating, and her disposition, so far as
I could pronounce, perfectly amiable. I felt already something more than
interest about her; how very easy would be the transition to a stronger
feeling! There was an _éclat_, too, about being her accepted lover that had
its charm. She was the belle _par excellence_ of Lisbon; and then a sense
of pique crossed my mind as I reflected what would Lucy say of him whom
she had slighted and insulted, when he became the husband of the beautiful
millionnaire Senhora Inez?

As my meditations had reached thus far, the door opened stealthily, and
Catherine appeared, her finger upon her lips, and her gesture indicating
caution. She carried on her arm a mass of drapery covered by a large
mantle, which throwing off as she entered, she displayed before me a rich
blue domino with silver embroidery. It was large and loose in its folds, so
as thoroughly to conceal the figure of any wearer. This she held up before
me for an instant without speaking; when at length, seeing my curiosity
fully excited, she said,--

“This is the senhora’s domino. I should be ruined if she knew I showed it;
but I promised--that is, I told--”

“Yes, yes, I understand,” relieving her embarrassment about the source of
her civilities; “go on.”

“Well, there are several others like it, but with this small difference,
instead of a carnation, which all the others have embroidered upon the
cuff, I have made it a rose,--you perceive? La Senhora knows nothing of
this,--none save yourself knows it. I’m sure I may trust you with the
secret.”

“Fear not in the least, Catherine; you have rendered me a great service.
Let me look at it once more; ah, there’s no difficulty in detecting it. And
you are certain she is unaware of it?”

“Perfectly so; she has several other costumes, but in this one I know she
intends some surprise, so be upon your guard.”

With these words, carefully once more concealing the rich dress beneath the
mantle, she withdrew; while I strolled forth to wonder what mystery might
lie beneath this scheme, and speculate how far I myself was included in the
plot she spoke of.

For the few days which succeeded, I passed my time much alone. The senhora
was but seldom at home; and I remarked that Power rarely came to see me. A
strange feeling of half-coolness had latterly grown between us, and instead
of the open confidence we formerly indulged in when together, we appeared
now rather to chat over things of mere every-day interest than of our own
immediate plans and prospects. There was a kind of pre-occupation, too, in
his manner that struck me; his mind seemed ever straying from the topics he
talked of to something remote, and altogether, he was no longer the frank
and reckless dragoon I had ever known him. What could be the meaning of
this change? Had he found out by any accident that I was to blame in my
conduct towards Lucy; had any erroneous impression of my interview with her
reached his ears? This was most improbable; besides, there was nothing in
that to draw down his censure or condemnation, however represented; and was
it that he was himself in love with her, that, devoted heart and soul to
Lucy, he regarded me as a successful rival, preferred before him! Oh, how
could I have so long blinded myself to the fact! This was the true solution
of the whole difficulty. I had more than once suspected this to be so; now
all the circumstances of proof poured in upon me. I called to mind his
agitated manner the night of my arrival in Lisbon, his thousand questions
concerning the reasons of my furlough; and then, lately, the look of
unfeigned pleasure with which he heard me resolve to join my regiment the
moment I was sufficiently recovered. I remembered also how assiduously he
pressed his intimacy with the senhora, Lucy’s dearest friend here; his
continual visits at the villa; those long walks in the garden, where his
very look betokened some confidential mission of the heart. Yes, there was
no doubt of it, he loved Lucy Dashwood! Alas, there seemed to be no end to
the complication of my misfortunes; one by one I appeared fated to lose
whatever had a hold upon my affections, and to stand alone, unloved and
uncared for in the world. My thoughts turned towards the senhora, but
I could not deceive myself into any hope there. My own feelings were
untouched, and hers I felt to be equally so. Young as I was, there was no
mistaking the easy smile of coquetry, the merry laugh of flattered vanity,
for a deeper and holier feeling. And then I did not wish it otherwise. One
only had taught me to feel how ennobling, how elevating in all its impulses
can be a deep-rooted passion for a young and beautiful girl! From her
eyes alone had I caught the inspiration that made me pant for glory and
distinction. I could not transfer the allegiance of my heart, since it had
taught that very heart to beat high and proudly. Lucy, lost to me forever
as she must be, was still more than any other woman ever could be; all the
past clung to her memory, all the prestige of the future must point to it
also.

And Power, why had he not trusted, why had he not confided in me? Was this
like my old and tried friend? Alas! I was forgetting that in his eye I was
the favored rival, and not the despised, rejected suitor.

“It is past now,” thought I, as I rose and walked into the garden; “the
dream that made life a fairy tale is dispelled; the cold reality of the
world is before me, and my path lies a lonely and solitary one.” My first
resolution was to see Power, and relieve his mind of any uneasiness as
regarded my pretentions; they existed no longer. As for me, I was no
obstacle to his happiness; it was, then, but fair and honorable that I
should tell him so; this done, I should leave Lisbon at once. The cavalry
had for the most part been ordered to the rear; still there was always
something going forward at the outposts.

The idea of active service, the excitement of a campaigning life, cheered
me, and I advanced along the dark alley of the garden with a lighter and a
freer heart. My resolves were not destined to meet delay; as I turned the
angle of a walk, Power was before me. He was leaning against a tree, his
hands crossed upon his bosom, his head bowed forward, and his whole air and
attitude betokening deep reflection.

He started as I came up, and seemed almost to change color.

“Well, Charley,” said he, after a moment’s pause, “you look better this
morning. How goes the arm?”

“The arm is ready for service again, and its owner most anxious for it. Do
you know, Fred, I’m thoroughly weary of this life.”

“They’re little better, however, at the lines. The French are in position,
but never adventure a movement; and except some few affairs at the pickets,
there is really nothing to do.”

“No matter, remaining here can never serve one’s interests, and besides, I
have accomplished what I came for--”

I was about to add, “the restoration of my health,” when he suddenly
interrupted me, eying me fixedly as he spoke.

“Indeed! indeed! Is that so?”

“Yes,” said I, half puzzled at the tone and manner of the speech; “I can
join now when I please; meanwhile, Fred, I have been thinking of you. Yes,
don’t be surprised, at the very moment we met you were in my thoughts.”

I took his arm as I said this, and led him down the alley.

“We are too old and, I trust, too true friends, Fred, to have secrets from
each other, and yet we have been playing this silly game for some weeks
past. Now, my dear fellow, I have yours, and it is only fair justice you
should have mine, and, faith, I feel you’d have discovered it long since,
had your thoughts been as free as I have known them to be. Fred, you are in
love; there, don’t wince, man, I know it; but hear me out. You believe me
to be so also; nay, more, you think that my chances of success are better,
stronger than your own; learn, then, that I have none,--absolutely none.
Don’t interrupt me now, for this avowal cuts me deeply; my own heart alone
knows what I suffer as I record my wrecked fortunes; but I repeat it, my
hopes are at end forever; but, Fred, my boy, I cannot lose my friend too.
If I have been the obstacle to your path, I am so no more. Ask me not why;
it is enough that I speak in all truth and sincerity. Ere three days I
shall leave this, and with it all the hopes that once beamed upon my
fortunes, and all the happiness,--nay, not all, my boy, for I feel some
thrill at my heart yet, as I think that I have been true to you.”

I know not what more I spoke nor how he replied to me. I felt the warm
grasp of his hand, I saw his delighted smile; the words of grateful
acknowledgment his lips uttered conveyed but an imperfect meaning to my
ear, and I remembered no more.

The courage which sustained me for the moment sank gradually as I meditated
over my avowal, and I could scarce help accusing Power of a breach of
friendship for exacting a confession which, in reality, I had volunteered
to give him. How Lucy herself would think of my conduct was ever occurring
to my thoughts, and I felt, as I ruminated upon the conjectures it might
give rise to, how much more likely a favorable opinion might now be formed
of me, than when such an estimation could have crowned me with delight.

“Yes,” thought I, “she will at last learn to know him who loved her with
truth and with devoted affection; and when the blight of all his hopes is
accomplished, the fair fame of his fidelity will be proved. The march,
the bivouac, the battle-field, are now all to me; and the campaign alone
presents a prospect which may fill up the aching void that disappointed and
ruined hopes have left behind them.”

How I longed for the loud call of the trumpet, the clash of the steel, the
tramp of the war-horse; though the proud distinction of a soldier’s life
were less to me in the distance than the mad and whirlwind passion of a
charge, and the loud din of the rolling artillery.

It was only some hours after, as I sat alone in my chamber, that all the
circumstances of our meeting came back clearly to my memory, and I could
not help muttering to myself,--

“It is indeed a hard lot, that to cheer the heart of my friend, I must bear
witness to the despair that shed darkness on my own.”



CHAPTER XVI.


MY CHARGER.

Although I felt my heart relieved of a heavy load by the confession I had
made to Power, yet still I shrank from meeting him for some days after;
a kind of fear lest he should in any way recur to our conversation
continually beset me, and I felt that the courage which bore me up for my
first effort would desert me on the next occasion.

My determination to join my regiment was now made up, and I sent forward a
resignation of my appointment to Sir George Dashwood’s staff, which I
had never been in health to fulfil, and commenced with energy all my
preparations for a speedy departure.

The reply to my rather formal letter was a most kind note written by
himself. He regretted the unhappy cause which had so long separated us, and
though wishing, as he expressed it, to have me near him, perfectly approved
of my resolution.

    “Active service alone, my dear boy, can ever place you in the
    position you ought to occupy; and I rejoice the more at your decision
    in this matter, as I feared the truth of certain reports here,
    which attributed to you other plans than those which a campaign
    suggests. My mind is now easy on this score, and I pray you forgive
    me if my congratulations are _mal à propos_.”

After some hints for my future management, and a promise of some letters to
his friends at headquarters, he concluded:--

    “As this climate does not seem to suit my daughter, I have
    applied for a change, and am in daily hope of obtaining it. Before
    going, however, I must beg your acceptance of the charger which my
    groom will deliver to your servant with this. I was so struck with
    his figure and action that I purchased him before leaving England
    without well knowing why or wherefore. Pray let him see some
    service under your auspices, which he is most unlikely to do under
    mine. He has plenty of bone to be a weight carrier, and they tell
    me also that he has speed enough for anything.”

Mike’s voice in the lawn beneath interrupted my reading farther, and on
looking out, I perceived him and Sir George Dashwood’s servant standing
beside a large and striking-looking horse, which they were both examining
with all the critical accuracy of adepts.

“Arrah, isn’t he a darling, a real beauty, every inch of him?”

“That ‘ere splint don’t signify nothing; he aren’t the worse of it,” said
the English groom.

“Of coorse it doesn’t,” replied Mike. “What a fore-hand, and the legs,
clean as a whip!”

“There’s the best of him, though,” interrupted the other, patting the
strong hind-quarters with his hand. “There’s the stuff to push him along
through heavy ground and carry him over timber.”

“Or a stone wall,” said Mike, thinking of Galway.

My own impatience to survey my present had now brought me into the
conclave, and before many minutes were over I had him saddled, and was
cantering around the lawn with a spirit and energy I had not felt for
months long. Some small fences lay before me, and over these he carried me
with all the ease and freedom of a trained hunter. My courage mounted with
the excitement, and I looked eagerly around for some more bold and dashing
leap.

“You may take him over the avenue gate,” said the English groom, divining
with a jockey’s readiness what I looked for; “he’ll do it, never fear him.”

Strange as my equipment was, with an undress jacket flying loosely open,
and a bare head, away I went. The gate which the groom spoke of was a
strongly-barred one of oak timber, nearly five feet high,--its difficulty
as a leap only consisted in the winding approach, and the fact that it
opened upon a hard road beyond it.

In a second or two a kind of half fear came across me. My long illness had
unnerved me, and my limbs felt weak and yielding; but as I pressed into the
canter, that secret sympathy between the horse and his rider shot suddenly
through me, I pressed my spurs to his flanks, and dashed him at it.

Unaccustomed to such treatment, the noble animal bounded madly forward.
With two tremendous plunges he sprang wildly in the air, and shaking his
long mane with passion, stretched out at the gallop.

[Illustration: CHARLEY TRYING A CHARGER.]

My own blood boiled now as tempestuously as his; and with a shout of
reckless triumph, I rose him at the gate. Just at the instant two figures
appeared before it,--the copse had concealed their approach hitherto,--but
they stood now as if transfixed. The wild attitude of the horse, the not
less wild cry of his rider, had deprived them for a time of all energy; and
overcome by the sudden danger, they seemed rooted to the ground. What I
said, spoke, begged, or imprecated, Heaven knows--not I. But they stirred
not! One moment more and they must lie trampled beneath my horse’s
hoofs,--he was already on his haunches for the bound,--when, wheeling half
aside, I faced him at the wall. It was at least a foot higher and of solid
stone masonry, and as I did so I felt that I was perilling my life to save
theirs. One vigorous dash of the spur I gave him, as I lifted him to the
leap. He bounded beneath it quick as lightning; still, with a spring like
a rocket, he rose into the air, cleared the wall, and stood trembling and
frightened on the road outside.

“Safe, by Jupiter! and splendidly done, too,” cried a voice near me, that I
immediately recognized as Sir George Dashwood’s.

“Lucy, my love, look up,--Lucy, my dear, there’s no danger now. She has
fainted! O’Malley, fetch some water,--fast. Poor fellow, your own nerves
seem shaken. Why, you’ve let your horse go! Come here, for Heaven’s sake!
Support her for an instant. I’ll fetch some water.”

It appeared to me like a dream; I leaned against the pillar of the gate;
the cold and death-like features of Lucy Dashwood lay motionless upon my
arm; her hand, falling heavily upon my shoulder, touched my cheek. The
tramp of my horse, as he galloped onward, was the only sound that broke the
silence, as I stood there, gazing steadfastly upon the pale brow and paler
cheek, down which a solitary tear was slowly stealing. I knew not how the
minutes passed; my memory took no note of time, but at length a gentle
tremor thrilled her frame, a slight, scarce-perceptible blush colored her
fair face, her lips slightly parted, and heaving a deep sigh, she looked
around her. Gradually her eyes turned and met mine. Oh, the bliss
unutterable of that moment! It was no longer the look of cold scorn she had
given me last; the expression was one of soft and speaking gratitude. She
seemed to read my very heart, and know its truth; there was a tone of deep
and compassionate interest in the glance; and forgetting all,--everything
that had passed,--all save my unaltered, unalterable love, I kneeled beside
her, and in words burning as my own heart burned, poured out my tale
of mingled sorrow and affection with all the eloquence of passion. I
vindicated my unshaken faith,--reconciling the conflicting evidences with
the proofs I proffered of my attachment. If my moments were measured, I
spent them not idly. I called to witness how every action of my soldier’s
life emanated from her; how her few and chance words had decided the
character of my fate; if aught of fame or honor were my portion, to her I
owed it. As, hurried onwards by my ardent hopes, I forgot Power and all
about him, a step up the gravel walk came rapidly nearer, and I had but
time to assume my former attitude beside Lucy as her father came up.

“Well, Charley, is she better? Oh, I see she is. Here, we have the whole
household at our heels.” So saying, he pointed to a string of servants
pressing eagerly forward with every species of restorative that Portuguese
ingenuity has invented.

The next moment we were joined by the senhora, who, pale with fear, seemed
scarcely less in need of assistance than her friend.

Amidst questions innumerable; explanations sought for on all sides;
mistakes and misconceptions as to the whole occurrence,--we took our way
towards the villa, Lucy walking between Sir George and Donna Inez, while I
followed, leaning upon Power’s arm.

“They’ve caught him again, O’Malley,” said the general, turning half round
to me; “he, too, seemed as much frightened as any of us.”

“It is time, Sir George, I should think of thanking you. I never was so
mounted in my life--”

“A splendid charger, by Jove!” said Power; “but, Charley, my lad, no more
feats of this nature, if you love me. No girl’s heart will stand such
continual assaults as your winning horsemanship submits it to.”

I was about making some half-angry reply, when he continued: “There, don’t
look sulky; I have news for you. Quill has just arrived. I met him at
Lisbon; he has got leave of absence for a few days, and is coming to our
masquerade here this evening.”

“This evening!” said I, in amazement; “why, is it so soon?”

“Of course it is. Have you not got all your trappings ready? The Dashwoods
came out here on purpose to spend the day; but come, I’ll drive you into
town. My tilbury is ready, and we’ll both look out for our costumes.” So
saying, he led me along towards the house, when, after a rapid change of my
toilet, we set out for Lisbon.



CHAPTER XVII.


MAURICE.

It seemed a conceded matter between Power and myself that we should never
recur to the conversation we held in the garden; and so, although we dined
_tête-à-tête_ that day, neither of us ventured, by any allusion the most
distant, to advert to what it was equally evident was uppermost in the
minds of both.

All our endeavors, therefore, to seem easy and unconcerned were in vain;
a restless anxiety to seem interested about things and persons we were
totally indifferent to, pervaded all our essays at conversation. By
degrees, we grew weary of the parts we were acting, and each relapsed
into a moody silence, thinking over his plans and projects, and totally
forgetting the existence of the other.

The decanter was passed across the table without speaking, a half nod
intimated the bottle was standing; and except an occasional malediction
upon an intractable cigar, nothing was heard.

Such was the agreeable occupation we were engaged in, when, towards nine
o’clock, the door opened, and the great Maurice himself stood before us.

“Pleasant fellows, upon my conscience, and jovial over their liquor!
Confound your smoking! That may do very well in a bivouac. Let us have
something warm!”

Quill’s interruption was a most welcome one to both parties, and we
rejoiced with a sincere pleasure at his coming.

“What shall it be, Maurice? Port or sherry mulled, and an anchovy?”

“Or what say you to a bowl of bishop?” said I.

“Hurrah for the Church, Charley! Let us have the bishop; and not to
disparage Fred’s taste, we’ll be eating the anchovy while the liquor’s
concocting.”

“Well, Maurice, and now for the news. How are matters at Torres Vedras?
Anything like movement in that quarter?”

“Nothing very remarkable. Massena made a reconnoissance some days since,
and one of our batteries threw a shower of grape among the staff, which
spoiled the procession, and sent them back in very disorderly time. Then
we’ve had a few skirmishes to the front with no great results,--a few
courts-martial, bad grub, and plenty of grumbling.”

“Why, what would they have? It’s a great thing to hold the French army in
check within a few marches of Lisbon.”

“Charley, my man, who cares twopence for the French army or Lisbon or the
Portuguese or the Junta or anything about it?--every man is pondering over
his own affairs. One fellow wants to get home again, and be sent upon some
recruiting station. Another wishes to get a step or two in promotion, to
come to Torres Vedras, where even the _grande armée_ can’t. Then some of us
are in love, and some of us are in debt. Their is neither glory nor profit
to be had. But here’s the bishop, smoking and steaming with an odor of
nectar!”

“And our fellows, have you seen them lately?”

“I dined with yours on Tuesday. Was it Tuesday? Yes. I dined with them.
By-the-bye, Sparks was taken prisoner that morning.”

“Sparks taken prisoner! Poor fellow. I am sincerely sorry. How did it
happen, Maurice?”

“Very simply. Sparks had a forage patrol towards Vieda, and set out early
in the morning with his party. It seemed that they succeeded perfectly, and
were returning to the lines, when poor Sparks, always susceptible where the
sex are concerned, saw, or thought he saw, a lattice gently open as he rode
from the village, and a very taper finger make a signal to him. Dropping a
little behind the rest, he waited till his men had debouched upon the road,
when riding quietly up, he coughed a couple of times to attract the fair
unknown; a handkerchief waved from the lattice in reply, which was speedily
closed, and our valiant cornet accordingly dismounted and entered the
house.

“The remainder of the adventure is soon told; for in a few seconds after,
two men mounted on one horse were seen galloping at top speed towards the
French lines,--the foremost being a French officer of the 4th Cuirassiers,
the gentleman with his face to the tail, our friend Sparks; the lovely
unknown being a _vieille moustache_ of Loison’s corps, who had been
wounded in a skirmish some days before, and lay waiting an opportunity of
rejoining his party. One of our prisoners knew this fellow well; he had
been promoted from the ranks, and was a Hercules for feats of strength; so
that, after all, Sparks could not help himself.”

“Well, I’m really sorry; but as you say, Sparks’s tender nature is always
the ruin of him.”

“Of him! ay, and of you; and of Power; and of myself; of all of us. Isn’t
it the sweet creatures that make fools of us from Father Adam down to
Maurice Quill, neither sparing age nor rank in the service, half-pay nor
the veteran battalion--it’s all one? Pass the jug, there. O’Shaughnessy--”

“Ah, by-the-bye, how’s the major?”

“Charmingly; only a little bit in a scrape just now. Sir Arthur--Lord
Wellington, I mean--had him up for his fellows being caught pillaging, and
gave him a devil of a rowing a few days ago.

“‘Very disorderly corps yours, Major O’Shaughnessy,’ said the general;
‘more men up for punishment than any regiment in the service.’

“Shaugh muttered something; but his voice was lost in a loud
cock-a-doo-do-doo, that some bold chanticleer set up at the moment.

“‘If the officers do their duty, Major O’Shaughnessy, these acts of
insubordination do not occur.’

“‘Cock-a-doo-do-doo,’ was the reply. Some of the staff found it hard not to
laugh; but the general went on,--

“‘If, therefore, the practice does not cease, I’ll draft the men into West
India regiments.’

“‘Cock-a-doo-do-doo.’

“‘And if any articles pillaged from the inhabitants are detected in the
quarters, or about the person of the troops--’

“‘Cock-a-doo-do-_doo_,’ screamed louder here than ever.

“‘Damn that cock! Where is it?’

“There was a general look around on all sides, which seemed in vain; when
a tremendous repetition of the cry resounded from O’Shaughnessy’s coat
pocket,--thus detecting the valiant major himself in the very practice of
his corps. There was no standing this: every one burst out into a peal of
laughing; and Lord Wellington himself could not resist, but turned away,
muttering to himself as he went, ‘Damned robbers--every man of them!’ while
a final war-note from the major’s pocket closed the interview.”

“Confound you, Maurice, you’ve always some villanous narrative or other.
You never crossed a street for shelter without making something out of it.”

“True this time, as sure as my name’s Maurice; but the bowl is empty.”

“Never mind, here comes its successor. How long can you stay among us?”

“A few days at most. Just took a run off to see the sights. I was all over
Lisbon this morning; saw the Inquisition and the cells and the place where
they tried the fellows,--the kind of grand jury room with the great picture
of Adam and Eve at the end of it. What a beautiful creature she is; hair
down to her waist, and such eyes! ‘Ah, ye darling!’ said I to myself,
‘small blame to him for what he did. Wouldn’t I ate every crab in the
garden, if ye asked me!’”

“I must certainly go to see her, Maurice. Is she very Portuguese in her
style?”

“Devil a bit of it! She might be a Limerick-woman with elegant brown hair
and blue eyes and a skin like snow.”

“Come, come, they’ve pretty girls in Lisbon too, Doctor.”

“Yes, faith,” said Power, “that they have.”

“Nothing like Ireland, boys; not a bit of it; they’re the girls for my
money; and where’s the man can resist them? From Saint Patrick, that had to
go and live in the Wicklow mountains--”

“Saint Kevin, you mean, Doctor.”

“Sure it’s all the same, they were twins. I made a little song about them
one evening last week,--the women I mean.”

“Let us have it, Maurice; let us have it, old fellow. What’s the measure?”

“Short measure; four little verses, devil a more!”

“But the time, I mean?”

“Whenever you like to sing it; here it is,”--

    THE GIRLS OF THE WEST.

    Air,--“_Teddy, ye Gander_.”

    (_With feeling: but not too slow_.)

    You may talk, if you please,
    Of the brown Portuguese,
    But wherever you roam, wherever you roam,
    You nothing will meet,
    Half so lovely or sweet,
    As the girls at home, the girls at home.

    Their eyes are not sloes,
    Nor so long is their nose,
    But between me and you, between me and you,
    They are just as alarming,
    And ten times more charming,
    With hazel and blue, with hazel and blue.

    They don’t ogle a man,
    O’er the top of their fan
    Till his heart’s in a flame, till his heart’s in a flame
    But though bashful and shy,
    They’ve a look in their eye
    That just comes to the same, just comes to the same.

    No mantillas they sport,
    But a petticoat short
    Shows an ankle the best, an ankle the best,
    And a leg--but, O murther!
    I dare not go further;
    So here’s to the west, so here’s to the west.

“Now that really is a sweet little thing. Moore’s isn’t it?”

“Not a bit of it; my own muse, every word of it.”

“And the music?” said I.

“My own, too. Too much spice in that bowl; that’s an invariable error in
your devisers of drink, to suppose that the tipple you start with can
please your palate to the last; they forget that as we advance, either in
years or lush, our tastes simplify.”

“_Nous revenons à nos premières amours_. Isn’t that it?”

“No, not exactly, for we go even further; for if you mark the progression
of a sensible man’s fluids, you’ll find what an emblem of life it presents
to you. What is his initiatory glass of ‘Chablis’ that he throws down with
his oysters but the budding expectancy of boyhood,--the appetizing sense of
pleasure to come; then follows the sherry with his soup, that warming glow
which strength and vigor in all their consciousness impart, as a glimpse of
life is opening before him. Then youth succeeds--buoyant, wild, tempestuous
youth--foaming and sparkling like the bright champagne whose stormy surface
subsides into a myriad of bright stars.”

“_Oeil de perdrix_.”

“Not a bit of it; woman’s own eye, brilliant, sparkling, life-giving--”

“Devil take the fellow, he’s getting poetical!”

“Ah, Fred! if that could only last; but one must come to the burgundies
with his maturer years. Your first glass of hermitage is the algebraic sign
for five-and-thirty,--the glorious burst is over; the pace is still good,
to be sure, but the great enthusiasm is past. You can afford to look
forward, but confound it, you’ve along way to look back also.”

“I say, Charley, our friend has contrived to finish the bishop during his
disquisition; the bowl’s quite empty.”

“You don’t say so, Fred. To be sure, how a man does forget himself in
abstract speculations; but let us have a little more, I’ve not concluded my
homily.”

“Not a glass, Maurice; it’s already past nine. We are all pledged to
the masquerade, and before we’ve dressed and got there, ‘t will be late
enough.”

“But I’m not disguised yet, my boy, nor half.”

“Well, they must take you _au naturel_, as our countrymen do their
potatoes.”

“Yes, Doctor, Fred’s right; we had better start.”

“Well, I can’t help it; I’ve recorded my opposition to the motion, but I
must submit; and now that I’m on my legs, explain to me what’s that very
dull-looking old lamp up there?”

“That’s the moon, man; the full moon.”

“Well, I’ve no objection; I’m full too: so come along, lads.”



CHAPTER XVIII.


THE MASQUERADE.

To form one’s impression of a masked ball from the attempts at this mode
of entertainment in our country, is but to conceive a most imperfect and
erroneous notion. With us, the first _coup d’oeil_ is everything; the
nuns, the shepherdesses, the Turks, sailors, eastern princes, watchmen,
moonshees, milestones, devils, and Quakers are all very well in their way
as they pass in the review before us, but when we come to mix in the
crowd, we discover that, except the turban and the cowl, the crook and
the broad-brim, no further disguise is attempted or thought of. The nun,
forgetting her vow and her vestments, is flirting with the devil; the
watchman, a very fastidious elegant, is ogling the fishwomen through his
glass; while the Quaker is performing a _pas seul_ Alberti might be proud
of, in a quadrille of riotous Turks and half-tipsy Hindoos; in fact, the
whole wit of the scene consists in absurd associations. Apart from this,
the actors have rarely any claims upon your attention; for even supposing
a person clever enough to sustain his character, whatever it be, you must
also supply the other personages of the drama, or, in stage phrase, he’ll
have nothing to “play up to.” What would be Bardolph without Pistol; what
Sir Lucius O’Triuger without Acres? It is the relief which throws out the
disparities and contradictions of life that afford us most amusement; hence
it is that one swallow can no more make a summer, than one well-sustained
character can give life to a masquerade. Without such sympathies, such
points of contact, all the leading features of the individual, making him
act and be acted upon, are lost; the characters being mere parallel lines,
which, however near they approach, never bisect or cross each other.

This is not the case abroad: the domino, which serves for mere concealment,
is almost the only dress assumed, and the real disguise is therefore thrown
from necessity upon the talents, whatever they be, of the wearer. It is
no longer a question of a beard or a spangled mantle, a Polish dress or
a pasteboard nose; the mutation of voice, the assumption of a different
manner, walk, gesture, and mode of expression, are all necessary, and no
small tact is required to effect this successfully.

I may be pardoned this little digression, as it serves to explain in some
measure how I felt on entering the splendidly lit up _salons_ of the
villa, crowded with hundreds of figures in all the varied costumes of a
carnival,--the sounds of laughter mingled with the crash of the music;
the hurrying hither and thither of servants with refreshments; the crowds
gathered around fortune-tellers, whose predictions threw the parties
at each moment into shouts of merriment; the eager following of some
disappointed domino, interrogating every one to find out a lost mask.
For some time I stood an astonished spectator at the kind of secret
intelligence which seemed to pervade the whole assemblage, when suddenly a
mask, who for some time had been standing beside me, whispered in French,--

“If you pass your time in this manner, you must not feel surprised if your
place be occupied.”

I turned hastily round, but she was gone. She, I say, for the voice was
clearly a woman’s; her pink domino could be no guide, for hundreds of the
same color passed me every instant. The meaning of the allusion I had
little doubt of. I turned to speak to Power, but he was gone; and for the
first moment of my life, the bitterness of rivalry crossed my mind. It was
true I had resigned all pretensions in his favor. My last meeting with Lucy
had been merely to justify my own character against an impression that
weighed heavily on me; still, I thought he might have waited,--another day
and I should be far away, neither to witness nor grieve over his successes.

“You still hesitate,” whispered some one near me.

I wheeled round suddenly, but could not detect the speaker, and was again
relapsing into my own musings, when the same voice repeated,--

“The white domino with the blue cape. Adieu.”

Without waiting to reflect upon the singularity of the occurrence, I now
hurried along through the dense crowd, searching on every side for the
domino.

“Isn’t that O’Malley?” said an Englishman to his friend.

“Yes,” replied the other; “the very man we want. O’Malley, find a partner;
we have been searching a _vis-à-vis_ this ten minutes.”

The speaker was an officer I had met at Sir George Dashwood’s. “How did you
discover me?” said I, suddenly.

“Not a very difficult thing if you carry your mask in your hand that way,”
 was the answer.

And I now perceived that in the distraction of my thoughts I had been
carrying my mask in this manner since my coming into the room.

“There now, what say you to the blue domino? I saw her foot, and a girl
with such an instep must be a waltzer.”

I looked round, a confused effort at memory passing across my mind; my eyes
fell at the instant upon the embroidered sleeve of the domino, where a
rosebud worked in silver at once reminded me of Catrina’s secret. “Ah,”
 thought I, “La Senhora herself!” She was leaning upon the arm of a tall and
portly figure in black; who this was I knew not, nor sought to discover,
but at once advancing towards Donna Inez asked her to waltz.

Without replying to me she turned towards her companion, who seemed as it
were to press her acceptance of my offer; she hesitated, however, for an
instant, and curtsying deeply, declined it. “Well,” thought I, “she at
least has not recognized me.”

“And yet, Senhora,” said I, half jestingly, “I _have_ seen you join a
bolero before now.”

“You evidently mistake me,” was the reply, but in a voice so well feigned
as almost to convince me she was right.

“Nay, more,” said I, “under your own fair auspices did I myself first
adventure one.”

“Still in error, believe me; I am not known to you.”

“And yet I have a talisman to refresh your memory, should you dare me
further.”

At this instant my hand was grasped warmly by a passing mask. I turned
round rapidly, and Power whispered in my ear,--

“Yours forever, Charley; you’ve made my fortune.”

As he hurried on I could perceive that he supported a lady on his arm, and
that she wore a loose white domino with a deep blue cape. In a second all
thought of Inez was forgotten, and anxious only to conceal my emotion, I
turned away and mingled in the crowd. Lost to all around me, I wandered
carelessly, heedlessly on, neither noticing the glittering throng around,
nor feeling a thought in common with the gay and joyous spirits that
flitted by. The night wore on, my melancholy and depression growing ever
deeper, yet so spell-bound was I that I could not leave the place. A
secret sense that it was the last time we were to meet had gained entire
possession of me, and I longed to speak a few words ere we parted forever.

I was leaning on a window which looked out upon the courtyard, when
suddenly the tramp of horses attracted my attention, and I saw by the
clear moonlight a group of mounted men, whose long cloaks and tall helmets
announced dragoons, standing around the porch. At the same moment the
door of the _salon_ opened, and an officer in undress, splashed and
travel-stained, entered. Making his way rapidly through the crowd, he
followed the servant, who introduced him towards the supper-room. Thither
the dense mass now pressed to learn the meaning of the singular apparition;
while my own curiosity, not less excited, led me towards the door. As
I crossed the hall, however, my progress was interrupted by a group of
persons, among whom I saw an aide-de-camp of Lord Wellington’s staff,
narrating, as it were, some piece of newly-arrived intelligence. I had
no time for further inquiry, when a door opened near me, and Sir George
Dashwood, accompanied by several general officers, came forth, the officer
I had first seen enter the ball-room along with them. Every one was by this
unmasked, and eagerly looking to hear what had occurred.

“Then, Dashwood, you’ll send off an orderly at once?” said an old general
officer beside me.

“This instant, my Lord. I’ll despatch an aide-de-camp. The troops shall be
in marching order before noon. Oh, here’s the man I want! O’Malley, come
here. Mount your horse and dash into town. Send for Brotherton and M’Gregor
to quarters, and announce the news as quickly as possible.”

“But what am I to announce, Sir George?”

“That the French are in retreat,--Massena in retreat, my lad.”

A tremendous cheer at this instant burst from the hundreds in the
_salon_, who now heard the glorious tidings. Another cheer and another
followed,--ten thousand _vivas_ rose amidst the crash of the band, as it
broke into a patriotic war chant. Such a scene of enthusiasm and excitement
I never witnessed. Some wept with joy. Others threw themselves into their
friends’ arms.

“They’re all mad, every mother’s son of them!” said Maurice Quill, as he
elbowed his way through the mass; “and here’s an old vestal won’t leave my
arm. She has already embraced me three times, and we’ve finished a flask of
Malaga between us.”

“Come, O’Malley, are you ready for the road?”

My horse was by this time standing saddled at the front. I sprang at once
to the saddle, and without waiting for a second order, set out for Lisbon.
Ten minutes had scarce elapsed,--the very shouts of joy of the delighted
city were still ringing in my ears,--when I was once again back at the
villa. As I mounted the steps into the hall, a carriage drew up,--it was
Sir George Dashwood’s. He came forward, his daughter leaning upon his arm.

“Why, O’Malley, I thought you had gone.”

“I have returned, Sir George. Colonel Brotherton is in waiting, and the
staff also. I have received orders to set out for Benejos, where the 14th
are stationed, and have merely delayed to say adieu.”

“Adieu, my dear boy, and God bless you!” said the warm-hearted old man, as
he pressed my hand between both his. “Lucy, here’s your old friend about to
leave; come and say good-by.”

Miss Dashwood had stopped behind to adjust her shawl. I flew to her
assistance. “Adieu, Miss Dashwood, and forever!” said I, in a broken voice,
as I took her hand in mine. “This is not your domino,” said I, eagerly, as
a blue silk one peeped from beneath her mantle; “and the sleeve, too,--did
you wear this?” She blushed slightly, and assented.

“I changed with the senhora, who wore mine all the evening.”

“And Power, then, was not your partner?”

“I should think not,--for I never danced.”

“Lucy, my love, are you ready? Come, be quick.”

“Good-by, Mr. O’Malley, and _au revoir, n’est-ce pas?_”

I drew her glove from her hand as she spoke, and pressing my lips upon her
fingers, placed her within the carriage. “Adieu, and _au revoir!_” said I.
The carriage turned away, and a white glove was all that remained to me of
Lucy Dashwood!

The carriage had turned the angle of the road, and its retiring sounds were
growing gradually fainter, ere I recovered myself sufficiently to know
where I stood. One absorbing thought alone possessed me. Lucy was not lost
to me forever; Power was not my rival in that quarter,--that was enough for
me. I needed no more to nerve my arm and steel my heart. As I reflected
thus, the long loud blast of a trumpet broke upon the silence of the
night, and admonished me to depart. I hurried to my room to make my few
preparations for the road; but Mike had already anticipated everything
here, and all was in readiness.

But one thing now remained,--to make my adieu to the senhora. With this
intent, I descended a narrow winding stair which led from my dressing-room,
and opened by a little terrace upon the flower-garden beside her
apartments.

As I crossed the gravelled alley, I could not but think of the last time I
had been there. It was on the eve of departure for the Douro. I recalled
the few and fleeting moments of our leave-taking, and a thought flashed
upon me,--what if she cared for me! What if, half in coquetry, half in
reality, her heart was mixed up in those passages which daily association
gives rise to?

I could not altogether acquit myself of all desire to make her believe me
her admirer; nay, more, with the indolent _abandon_ of my country, I had
fallen into a thousand little schemes to cheat the long hours away, which,
having no other object than the happiness of the moment, might yet color
all her after-life with sorrow.

Let no one rashly pronounce me a coxcomb, vain and pretentious, for all
this. In my inmost heart I had no feeling of selfishness mingled with the
consideration. It was from no sense of my own merits, no calculation of my
own chances of success, that I thought thus. Fortunately, at eighteen one’s
heart is uncontaminated with such an alloy of vanity. The first emotions of
youth are pure and holy things, tempering our fiercer passions, and calming
the rude effervescence of our boyish spirit; and when we strive to please,
and hope to win affection, we insensibly fashion ourselves to nobler and
higher thoughts, catching from the source of our devotion a portion of that
charm that idealizes daily life, and makes our path in it a glorious and a
bright one.

Who would not exchange all the triumph of his later days, the proudest
moments of successful ambition, the richest trophies of hard-won
daring,--for the short and vivid flash that first shot through his heart
and told him he was loved. It is the opening consciousness of life, the
first sense of power that makes of the mere boy a man,--a man in all his
daring and his pride; and hence it is that in early life we feel ever prone
to indulge those fancied attachments which elevate and raise us in our own
esteem. Such was the frame of my mind when I entered the little boudoir
where once before I had ventured on a similar errand.

As I closed the sash-door behind me, the gray dawn of breaking day scarcely
permitted my seeing anything around me, and I felt my way towards the door
of an adjoining room, where I supposed it was likely I should find the
senhora. As I proceeded thus, with cautious step and beating heart, I
thought I heard a sound near me. I stopped and listened, and was about
again to move on, when a half-stifled sob fell upon my ear. Slowly and
silently guiding my steps towards the sounds, I reached a sofa, when, my
eyes growing by degrees more accustomed to the faint light, I could detect
a figure which, at a glance, I recognized as Donna Inez. A cashmere shawl
was loosely thrown around her, and her face was buried in her hands. As she
lay, to all seeming, still and insensible before me, her beautiful hair
fell heavily upon her back and across her arm, and her whole attitude
denoted the very abandonment of grief. A short convulsive shudder which
slightly shook her frame alone gave evidence of life, except when a sob,
barely audible in the death-like silence, escaped her.

I knelt silently down beside her, and gently withdrawing her hand, placed
it within mine. A dreadful feeling of self-condemnation shot through me as
I felt the gentle pressure of her taper fingers, which rested without a
struggle in my grasp. My tears fell hot and fast upon that pale hand, as
I bent in sadness over it, unable to utter a word. A rush of conflicting
thoughts passed through my brain, and I knew not what to do. I now had no
doubt upon my mind that she loved me, and that her present affliction was
caused by my approaching departure.

“Dearest Inez!” I stammered out at length, as I pressed her hands to my
lips,--“dearest Inez!”--a faint sob, and a slight pressure of her hand, was
the only reply. “I have come to say good-by,” continued I, gaining a little
courage as I spoke; “a long good-by, too, in all likelihood. You have heard
that we are ordered away,--there, don’t sob, dearest, and, believe me, I
had wished ere we parted to have spoken to you calmly and openly; but,
alas, I cannot,--I scarcely know what I say.”

“You will not forget me?” said she, in a low voice, that sank into my very
heart. “You will not forget me?” As she spoke, her hand dropped heavily
upon my shoulder, and her rich luxuriant hair fell upon my cheek. What a
devil of a thing is proximity to a downy cheek and a black eyelash, more
especially when they belong to one whom you are disposed to believe not
indifferent to you! What I did at this precise moment there is no necessity
for recording, even had not an adage interdicted such confessions, nor can
I now remember what I said; but I can well recollect how, gradually warming
with my subject, I entered into a kind of half-declaration of attachment,
intended most honestly to be a mere _exposé_ of my own unworthiness to win
her favor, and my resolution to leave Lisbon and its neighborhood forever.

Let not any one blame me rashly if he has not experienced the difficulty of
my position. The impetus of love-making is like the ardor of a fox-hunt.
You care little that the six-bar gate before you is the boundary of another
gentleman’s preserves or the fence of his pleasure-ground. You go slap
along at a smashing-pace, with your head up, and your hand low, clearing
all before you, the opposing difficulties to your progress giving half
the zest, because all the danger to your career. So it is with love; the
gambling spirit urges one ever onward, and the chance of failure is a
reason for pursuit, where no other argument exists.

“And you do love me?” said the senhora, with a soft, low whisper that most
unaccountably suggested anything but comfort to me.

“Love you, Inez? By this kiss--I’m in an infernal scrape!” said I,
muttering this last half of my sentence to myself.

“And you’ll never be jealous again?”

“Never, by all that’s lovely!--your own sweet lips. That’s the very last
thing to reproach me with.”

“And you promise me not to mind that foolish boy? For, after all, you know,
it was mere flirtation,--if even that.”

“I’ll never think of him again,” said I, while my brain was burning to make
out her meaning. “But, dearest, there goes the trumpet-call--”

“And, as for Pedro Mascarenhas, I never liked him.”

“Are you quite sure, Inez?”

“I swear it!--so no more of him. Gonzales Cordenza--I’ve broke with him
long since. So that you see, dearest Frederic--”

“Frederic!” said I, starting almost to my feet with, amazement, while she
continued:--

“I’m your own,--all your own!”

“Oh, the coquette, the heartless jilt!” groaned I, half-aloud.

“And O’Malley, Inez, poor Charley!--what of him?”

“Poor thing! I can’t help him. But he’s such a puppy, the lesson may do him
good.”

“But perhaps he loved you, Inez?”

“To be sure he did; I wished him to do so,--I can’t bear not to be loved.
But, Frederic, tell me, may I trust you,--will you keep faithful to me?”

“Sweetest Inez! by this last kiss I swear that such as I kneel before you
now, you’ll ever find me.”

A foot upon the gravel-walk without now called me to my feet; I sprang
towards the door, and before Inez had lifted her head from the sofa, I had
reached the garden. A figure muffled in a cavalry cloak passed near me, but
without noticing me, and the next moment I had cleared the paling, and was
hurrying towards the stable, where I had ordered Mike to be in waiting.

The faint streak of dull pink which announces the coming day stretched
beneath the dark clouds of the night, and the chill air of the morning was
already stirring in the leaves.

As I passed along by a low beech hedge which skirted the avenue, I was
struck by the sound of voices near me. I stopped to listen, and soon
detected in one of the speakers my friend Mickey Free; of the other I was
not long in ignorance.

“Love you, is it, bathershin? It’s worship you, adore you, my
darling,--that’s the word! There, acushla, don’t cry; dry your eyes--Oh,
murther, it’s a cruel thing to tear one’s self away from the best of
living, with the run of the house in drink and kissing! Bad luck to it for
campaigning, any way, I never liked it!”

Catrina’s reply,--for it was she,--I could not gather; but Mike resumed:--

“Ay, just so, sore bones and wet grass, _accadenté_, and half-rations. Oh,
that I ever saw the day when I took to it! Listen to me now, honey; here it
is, on my knees I am before you, and throth it’s not more nor three, may be
four, young women I’d say the like to; bad scran to me if I wouldn’t marry
you out of a face this blessed morning just as soon as I’d look at ye.
Arrah, there now, don’t be screeching and bawling; what’ll the neighbors
think of us, and my own heart’s destroyed with grief entirely.”

Poor Catrina’s voice returned an inaudible answer, and not wishing any
longer to play the eavesdropper, I continued my path towards the stable.
The distant noises from the city announced a state of movement and
preparation, and more than one orderly passed the road near me at a gallop.
As I turned into the wide courtyard, Mike, breathless and flurried with
running, overtook me.

“Are the horses ready, Mike?” said I; “we must start this instant?”

“They’ve just finished a peck of oats apiece, and faix, that same may be a
stranger to them this day six months.”

“And the baggage, too?”

“On the cars, with the staff and the light brigade. It was down there I was
now, to see all was right.”

“Oh, I’m quite aware; and now bring out the cattle. I hope Catrina received
your little consolations well. That seems a very sad affair.”

“Murder, real murder, devil a less! It’s no matter where you go, from
Clonmel to Chayney, it’s all one; they’ve a way of getting round you. Upon
my soul, it’s like the pigs they are.”

“Like pigs, Mike? That appears a strange compliment you’ve selected to pay
them.”

“Ay, just like the pigs, no less. May be you’ve heard what happened to
myself up at Moronha?”

“Look to that girth there. Well, go on.”

“I was coming along one morning, just as day was beginning to break, when I
sees a slip of a pig trotting before me, with nobody near him; but as the
road was lonely, and myself rather down in heart, I thought, Musha! but yer
fine company, anyhow, av a body could only keep you with him. But, ye see,
a pig--saving your presence--is a baste not easily flattered, so I didn’t
waste time and blarney upon him, but I took off my belt, and put it round
its neck as neat as need be; but, as the devil’s luck would have it, I
didn’t go half an hour when a horse came galloping up behind me. I turned
round, and, by the blessed light, it was Sir Dinny himself was on it!”

“Sir Dennis Pack?”

“Yes, bad luck to his hook nose. ‘What are you doing there, my fine
fellow?’ says he. ‘What’s that you have dragging there behind you?’

“‘A boneen, sir,’ says I. ‘Isn’t he a fine crayture?--av he wasn’t so
troublesome.’

“‘Troublesome, troublesome--what do you mean?’

“‘Just so,’ says I. ‘Isn’t he parsecutiug the life out of me the whole
morning, following me about everywhere I go? Contrary bastes they always
was.’

“‘I advise you to try and part company, my friend, notwithstanding,’ says
he; ‘or may be it’s the same end you’ll be coming to, and not long either.’
And faix, I took his advice; and ye see, Mister Charles, it’s just as I was
saying, they’re like the women, the least thing in life is enough to bring
them after us, _av ye only put the ‘comether’_ upon them.”

“And now adieu to the Villa Nuova,” said I, as I rode slowly down the
avenue, turning ever and anon in my saddle to look back on each well-known
spot.

A heavy sigh from Mike responded to my words.

“A long, a last farewell!” said I, waving my hand towards the trellised
walls, now half-hidden by the trees; and, as I spoke, that heaviness of the
heart came over me that seems inseparable from leave-taking. The hour of
parting seems like a warning to us that all our enjoyments and pleasures
here are destined to a short and merely fleeting existence; and as each
scene of life passes away never to return, we are made to feel that youth
and hope are passing with them; and that, although the fair world be as
bright, and its pleasures as rich in abundance, our capacity of enjoyment
is daily, hourly diminishing; and while all around us smiles in beauty and
happiness, that we, alas! are not what we were.

Such was the tenor of my thoughts as I reached the road, when they were
suddenly interrupted by my man Mike, whose meditations were following
a somewhat similar channel, though at last inclining to different
conclusions. He coughed a couple of times as if to attract my attention,
and then, as it were half thinking aloud, he muttered,--

“I wonder if we treated the young ladies well, anyhow, Mister Charles, for,
faix, I’ve my doubts on it.”



CHAPTER XIX.


THE LINES.

When we reached Lescas, we found that an officer of Lord Wellington’s staff
had just arrived from the lines, and was occupied in making known the
general order from headquarters; which set forth, with customary brevity,
that the French armies, under the command of Massena, had retired from
their position, and were in full retreat,--the second and third corps,
which had been stationed at Villa Franca, having marched, during the
night of the 15th, in the direction of Manal. The officers in command of
divisions were ordered to repair instantly to Pero Negro, to consult upon a
forward movement, Admiral Berkeley being written to to provide launches to
pass over General Hill’s, or any other corps which might be selected, to
the left bank of the Tagus. All now was excitement, heightened by the
unexpected nature of an occurrence which not even speculation had
calculated upon. It was but a few days before, and the news had reached
Torres Vedras that a powerful reinforcement was in march to join Massena’s
army, and their advanced guard had actually reached Santarem. The confident
expectation was, therefore, that an attack upon the lines was meditated.
Now, however, this prospect existed no longer; for scarcely had the heavy
mists of the lowering day disappeared, when the vast plain, so lately
peopled by the thickened ranks and dark masses of a great army, was seen in
its whole extent deserted and untenanted.

The smouldering fires of the pickets alone marked where the troops had been
posted, but not a man of that immense force was to be seen. General Fane,
who had been despatched with a brigade of Portuguese cavalry and some
artillery, hung upon the rear of the retiring army, and from him we learned
that the enemy were continuing their retreat northward, having occupied
Santarem with a strong force to cover the movement. Crawfurd was ordered
to the front with the light division, the whole army following in the same
direction, except Hill’s corps, which, crossing the river at Velada, was
intended to harass the enemy’s flank, and assist our future operations.

Such, in brief, was the state of affairs when I reached Villa Franca
towards noon, and received orders to join my regiment, then forming part of
Sir Stapleton Cotton’s brigade.

It must be felt to be thoroughly appreciated, the enthusiastic pleasure
with which one greets his old corps after some months of separation: the
bounding ecstasy with which the weary eye rests on the old familiar faces,
dear by every association of affection and brotherhood; the anxious look
for this one and for that; the thrill of delight sent through the heart as
the well-remembered march swells upon the ear; the very notes of that rough
voice which we have heard amidst the crash of battle and the rolling of
artillery, speak softly to our senses like a father’s welcome; from the
well-tattered flag that waves above us to the proud steed of the war-worn
trumpeter, each has a niche in our affection.

If ever there was a corps calculated to increase and foster these
sentiments, the 14th Light Dragoons was such. The warm affection, the truly
heart-felt regard, which existed among my brother officers, made of our
mess a happy home. Our veteran colonel, grown gray in campaigning, was like
a father to us; while the senior officers, tempering the warm blood of
impetuous youth with their hard-won experience, threw a charm of peace and
tranquillity over all our intercourse that made us happy when together, and
taught us to feel that, whether seated around the watch-fire or charging
amidst the squadrons of the enemy, we were surrounded by those devoted
heart and soul to aid us.

Gallant Fourteenth!--ever first in every gay scheme of youthful jollity, as
foremost in the van to meet the foe--how happy am I to recall the memory
of your bright looks and bold hearts; of your manly daring and your bold
frankness; of your merry voices, as I have heard them in the battle or in
the bivouac! Alas and alas, that I should indulge such recollections alone!
How few--how very few--are left of those with whom I trod the early steps
of life, whose bold cheer I have heard above the clashing sabres of the
enemy, whose broken voice I have listened to above the grave of a comrade!
The dark pines of the Pyrenees wave above some, the burning sands of India
cover others, and the wide plains of Salamanca are the abiding-place of
still more.

“Here comes O’Malley!” shouted a well-known voice, as I rode down the
little slope at the foot of which a group of officers were standing beside
their horses.

“Welcome, thou man of Galway!” cried Hampden; “delighted to have you once
more among us. How confoundedly well the fellow is looking!”

“Lisbon beef seems better prog than commissariat biscuit!” said another.

“A’weel, Charley?” said my friend the Scotch doctor; “how’s a’ wi’ ye man?
Ye seem to thrive on your mishaps! How cam’ ye by that braw beastie ye’re
mounted on?”

“A present, Doctor; the gift of a very warm friend.”

“I hope you invited him to the mess, O’Malley! For, by Jove, our stables
stand in need of his kind offices! There he goes! Look at him! What a
slashing pace for a heavy fellow!” This observation was made with
reference to a well-known officer on the commander-in-chief’s staff, whose
weight--some two and twenty stone--never was any impediment to his bold
riding.

“Egad, O’Malley, you’ll soon be as pretty a light-weight as our friend
yonder. Ah, there’s a storm going on there! Here comes the colonel!”

“Well, O’Malley, are you come back to us? Happy to see you, boy! Hope
we shall not lose you again in a hurry! We can’t spare the scapegraces!
There’s plenty of skirmishing going on! Crawfurd always asks for the
scapegraces for the pickets!”

I shook my gallant colonel’s hand, while I acknowledged, as best I might,
his ambiguous compliment.

“I say, lads,” resumed the colonel, “squad your men and form on the road!
Lord Wellington’s coming down this way to have a look at you! O’Malley, I
have General Crawfurd’s orders to offer you your old appointment on his
staff; without you prefer to remaining with the regiment!”

“I can never be sufficiently grateful, sir, to the general: but, in fact--I
think--that is, I believe--”

“You’d rather be among your own fellows. Out with it boy! I like you all
the better! But come, we mustn’t let the general know that; so that I shall
forget to tell you all about it. Eh, isn’t that best? But join your troop
now; I hear the staff coming this way.”

As he spoke, a crowd of horseman were seen advancing towards us at a sharp
trot, their waving plumes and gorgeous aiguillettes denoting their rank
as generals of division. In the midst, as they came nearer, I could
distinguish one whom once seen there was no forgetting; his plain blue
frock and gray trousers, unstrapped beneath his boots, not a little unlike
the trim accuracy of costume around him. As he rode to the head of the
leading squadron, the staff fell back and he stood alone before us; for a
second there was a dead silence, but the next instant--by what impulse tell
who can--one tremendous cheer burst from the entire regiment. It was like
the act of one man; so sudden, so spontaneous. While every cheek glowed,
and every eye sparkled with enthusiasm, he alone seemed cool and unexcited,
as, gently raising his hand, he motioned them to silence.

“Fourteenth, you are to be where you always desire to be,--in the advanced
guard of the army. I have nothing to say on the subject of your conduct
in the field. I know _you_; but if in pursuit of the enemy, I hear of any
misconduct towards the people of the country, or any transgression of the
general orders regarding pillage, by G----, I’ll punish you as severely as
the worst corps in the service, and you know _me!_”

“Oh, tear an ages, listen to that; and there’s to be no plunder after all!”
 said Mickey Free; and for an instant the most I could do was not to burst
into a fit of laughter. The word, “Forward!” was given at the moment, and
we moved past in close column, while that penetrating eye, which seemed to
read our very thoughts, scanned us from one end of the line to the other.

“I say, Charley,” said the captain of my troop, in a whisper,--“I say, that
confounded cheer we gave got us that lesson; he can’t stand that kind of
thing.”

“By Jove! I never felt more disposed than to repeat it,” said I.

“No, no, my boy, we’ll give him the honors, nine times nine; but wait till
evening. Look at old Merivale there. I’ll swear he’s saying something
devilish civil to him. Do you see the old fellow’s happy look?”

And so it was; the bronzed, hard-cast features of the veteran soldier
were softened into an expression of almost boyish delight, as he sat,
bare-headed, bowing to his very saddle, while Lord Wellington was speaking.

As I looked, my heart throbbed painfully against my side, my breath came
quick, and I muttered to myself, “What would I not give to be in his place
now!”



CHAPTER XX.


THE RETREAT OF THE FRENCH.

It is not my intention, were I even adequate to the task, to trace with
anything like accuracy the events of the war at this period. In fact, to
those who, like myself, were performing a mere subaltern character, the
daily movements of our own troops, not to speak of the continual changes
of the enemy, were perfectly unknown, and an English newspaper was more
ardently longed for in the Peninsula than by the most eager crowd of a
London coffee-room; nay, the results of the very engagements we were
ourselves concerned in, more than once, first reached us through the press
of our own country. It is easy enough to understand this. The officer in
command of the regiment, and how much more, the captain of a troop, or the
subaltern under him, knows nothing beyond the sphere of his own immediate
duty; by the success or failure of his own party his knowledge is bounded,
but how far he or his may influence the fortune, of the day, or of what is
taking place elsewhere, he is totally ignorant; and an old Fourteenth man
did not badly explain, his ideas on the matter, who described Busaco as “a
great noise and a great smoke, booming artillery and rattling small-arms,
infernal confusion, and to all seeming, incessant blundering, orders
and counter-orders, ending with a crushing charge; when, not being hurt
himself, nor having hurt anybody, he felt much pleased to learn that they
had gained a victory.” It is then sufficient for all the purposes of my
narrative, when I mention that Massena continued his retreat by Santarem
and Thomar, followed by the allied army, who, however desirous of pressing
upon the rear of their enemy, were still obliged to maintain their
communication with the lines, and also to watch the movement of the large
armies which, under Ney and Soult, threatened at any unguarded moment to
attack them in flank.

The position which Massena occupied at Santarem, naturally one of great
strength, and further improved by intrenchments, defied any attack on
the part of Lord Wellington, until the arrival of the long-expected
reinforcements from England. These had sailed in the early part of January,
but delayed by adverse winds, only reached Lisbon on the 2d of March; and
so correctly was the French marshal apprised of the circumstance, and so
accurately did he anticipate the probable result, that on the fourth he
broke up his encampment, and recommenced his retrograde movement, with an
army now reduced to forty thousand fighting men, and with two thousand
sick, destroying all his baggage and guns that could not be horsed. By a
demonstration of advancing upon the Zezere, by which he held the allies
in check, he succeeded in passing his wounded to the rear, while Ney,
appearing with a large force suddenly at Leiria, seemed bent upon attacking
the lines. By these stratagems two days’ march were gained, and the French
retreated upon Torres Novas and Thomar, destroying the bridges behind them
as they passed.

The day was breaking on the 12th of March, when the British first came in
sight of the retiring enemy. We were then ordered to the front, and broken
up into small parties, threw out our skirmishers. The French chasseurs,
usually not indisposed to accept this species of encounter, showed now less
of inclination than usual, and either retreated before us, or hovered in
masses to check our advance; in this way the morning was passed, when
towards noon we perceived that the enemy was drawn up in battle array,
occupying the height above the village of Redinha. This little straggling
village is situated in a hollow traversed by a narrow causeway which opens
by a long and dangerous defile upon a bridge, on either side of which a
dense wood afforded a shelter for light troops, while upon the commanding
eminence above a battery of heavy guns was seen in position.

In front of the village a brigade of artillery and a division of infantry
were drawn up so skilfully as to give the appearance of a considerable
force, so that when Lord Wellington came up he spent some time in examining
the enemy’s position. Erskine’s brigade was immediately ordered up, and the
Fifty-second and Ninety-fourth, and a company of the Forty-third were led
against the wooded slopes upon the French right. Picton simultaneously
attacked the left, and in less than an hour, both were successful, and
Ney’s position was laid bare; his skirmishers, however, continued to hold
their ground in front, and La Ferrière, a colonel of hussars, dashing
boldly forward at this very moment, carried off fourteen prisoners from
the very front of our line. Deceived by the confidence of the enemy, Lord
Wellington now prepared for an attack in force. The infantry were therefore
formed into line, and, at the signal of three shots fired from the centre,
began their foremost movement.

Bending up a gentle curve, the whole plain glistened with the glancing
bayonets, and the troops marched majestically onward; while the light
artillery and the cavalry, bounding forward from the left and centre,
rushed eagerly towards the foe. One deafening discharge from the French
guns opened at the moment, with a general volley of small-arms. The smoke
for an instant obscured everything, and when that cleared away, no enemy
was to be seen.

The British pressed madly on, like heated blood-hounds; but when they
descended the slope, the village of Redinha was in flames, and the French
in full retreat beyond it. A single howitzer seemed our only trophy, and
even this we were not destined to boast of, for from the midst of the
crashing flame and dense smoke of the burning village, a troop of dragoons
rushed forward, and charging our infantry, carried it off. The struggle,
though but for a moment, cost them dear: twenty of their comrades lay dead
upon the spot; but they were resolute and determined, and the officer who
led them on, fighting hand to hand with a soldier of the Forty-second,
cheered them as they retired. His gallant bearing, and his coat covered
with decorations, bespoke him one of note, and well it might; he who
thus perilled his life to maintain the courage of his soldiers at the
commencement of a retreat, was none other than Ney himself, _le plus brave
des braves_. The British pressed hotly on, and the light troops crossed the
river almost at the same time with the French. Ney, however, fell back upon
Condeixa, where his main body was posted, and all farther pursuit was for
the present abandoned.

At Casa Noval and at Foz d’Aronce, the allies were successful; but the
French still continued to retire, burning the towns and villages in their
rear, and devastating the country along the whole line of march by every
expedient of cruelty the heart of man has ever conceived. In the words of
one whose descriptions, however fraught with the most wonderful power of
painting, are equally marked by truth, “Every horror that could make war
hideous attended this dreadful march. Distress, conflagration, death in
all modes,--from wounds, from fatigue, from water, from the flames, from
starvation,--vengeance, unlimited vengeance, was on every side.” The
country was a desert!

Such was the exhaustion of the allies, who suffered even greater privations
than the enemy, that they halted upon the 16th, unable to proceed farther;
and the river Ceira, swollen and unfordable, flowed between the rival
armies.

The repose of even one day was a most grateful interruption to the
harassing career we had pursued for some time past; and it seemed that my
comrades felt, like myself, that such an opportunity was by no means to
be neglected; but while I am devoting so much space and trespassing on my
reader’s patience thus far with narrative of flood and field, let me steal
a chapter for what will sometimes seem a scarcely less congenial topic, and
bring back the recollection of a glorious night in the Peninsula.



CHAPTER XXI.


PATRICK’S DAY IN THE PENINSULA.

The _réveil_ had not yet sounded, when I felt my shoulder shaken gently as
I lay wrapped up in my cloak beneath a prickly pear-tree.

“Lieutenant O’Malley, sir; a letter, sir; a bit of a note, your honor,”
 said a voice that bespoke the bearer and myself were countrymen. I opened
it, and with difficulty, by the uncertain light, read as follows:--

    Dear Charley,--As Lord Wellington, like a good Irishman as
    he is, wouldn’t spoil Patrick’s Day by marching, we’ve got a little
    dinner at our quarters to celebrate the holy times, as my uncle would
    call it. Maurice, Phil Grady, and some regular trumps will all come,
    so don’t disappoint us. I’ve been making punch all night, and
    Casey, who has a knack at pastry, has made a goose-pie as big as a
    portmanteau. Sharp seven, after parade. The second battalion of
    the Fusiliers are quartered at Melanté, and we are next them. Bring
    any of yours worth their liquor. Power is, I know, absent with the
    staff; perhaps the Scotch doctor would come; try him. Carry over
    a little mustard with you, if there be such in your parts.

    Yours,

    D. O’SHAUGHNESSY.

    Patrick’s day, and raining like blazes.

Seeing that the bearer expected an answer, I scrawled the words, “I’m
there,” with my pencil on the back of the note, and again turned myself
round to sleep. My slumbers were, however, soon interrupted once more; for
the bugles of the light infantry and the hoarse trumpet of the cavalry
sounded the call, and I found to my surprise that, though halted, we were
by no means destined to a day of idleness. Dragoons were already mounted,
carrying orders hither and thither, and staff-officers were galloping right
and left. A general order commanded an inspection of the troops, and within
less than an hour from daybreak the whole army was drawn up under arms. A
thin, drizzling rain continued to fall during the early part of the day,
but the sun gradually dispelled the heavy vapor; and as the bright verdure
glittered in its beams, sending up all the perfumes of a southern clime, I
thought I had never seen a more lovely morning. The staff were stationed
upon a little knoll beside the river, round the base of which the troops
defiled, at first in orderly, then in quick time, the bands playing and the
colors flying. In the same brigade with us the Eighty-eighth came, and as
they neared the commander-in-chief, their quick-step was suddenly stopped,
and after a pause of a few seconds, the band struck up “St. Patrick’s Day;”
 the notes were caught up by the other Irish regiments, and amidst one
prolonged cheer from the whole line, the gallant fellows moved past.

The grenadier company were drawn up beside the road, and I was not long in
detecting my friend O’Shaughnessy, who wore a tremendous shamrock in his
shako.

“Left face, wheel! Quick march! Don’t forget the mustard!” said the bold
major; and a loud roar of laughing from my brother officers followed him
off the ground. I soon explained the injunction, and having invited some
three or four to accompany me to the dinner, waited with all patience for
the conclusion of the parade.

The sun was setting as I mounted, and joined by Hampden, Baker, the doctor,
and another, set out for O’Shaughnessy’s quarters. As we rode along, we
were continually falling in with others bent upon the same errand as
ourselves, and ere we arrived at Melanté our party was some thirty strong;
and truly a most extraordinary procession did we form. Few of the
invited came without some contribution to the general stock; and while a
staff-officer flourished a ham, a smart hussar might be seen with a plucked
turkey, trussed for roasting; most carried bottles, as the consumption of
fluid was likely to be considerable; and one fat old major jogged along on
a broken-winded pony, with a basket of potatoes on his arm. Good fellowship
was the order of the day, and certainly a more jovial squadron seldom was
met together than ours. As we turned the angle of a rising ground, a hearty
cheer greeted us, and we beheld in front of an old ordnance marquee a party
of some fifty fellows engaged in all the pleasing duties of the _cuisine_.
Maurice, conspicuous above all, with a white apron and a ladle in his hand,
was running hither and thither, advising, admonishing, instructing, and
occasionally imprecating. Ceasing for a second his functions, he gave us a
cheer and a yell like that of an Indian savage, and then resumed his duties
beside a huge boiler, which, from the frequency of his explorations into
its contents, we judged to be punch.

“Charley, my son, I’ve a place for you; don’t forget. Where’s my learned
brother?--haven’t you brought him with you? Ah, Doctor, how goes it?”

[Illustration: GOING OUT TO DINNER.]

“Nae that bad, Master Quell: a’ things considered, we’ve had an awfu’ time
of it lately.”

“You know my friend Hampden, Maurice. Let me introduce Mr. Baker, Mr.
Maurice Quill. Where’s the major?”

“Here I am, my darling, and delighted to see you. Some of yours, O’Malley,
ain’t they? Proud to have you, gentlemen. Charley, we are obliged to have
several tables; but you are to be beside Maurice, so take your friends with
you. There goes the ‘Roast Beef;’ my heart warms to that old tune.”

Amidst a hurried recognition, and shaking of hands on every side, I elbowed
my way into the tent, and soon reached a corner, where, at a table for
eight, I found Maurice seated at one end; a huge, purple-faced old major,
whom he presented to us as Bob Mahon, occupied the other. O’Shaughnessy
presided at the table next to us, but near enough to join in all the
conviviality of ours.

One must have lived for some months upon hard biscuit and harder beef
to relish as we did the fare before us, and to form an estimate of our
satisfaction. If the reader cannot fancy Van Amburgh’s lions in red coats
and epaulettes, he must be content to lose the effect of the picture. A
turkey rarely fed more than two people, and few were abstemious enough to
be satisfied with one chicken. The order of the viands, too, observed no
common routine, each party being happy to get what he could, and satisfied
to follow up his pudding with fish, or his tart with a sausage. Sherry,
champagne, London porter, Malaga, and even, I believe, Harvey’s sauce were
hobnobbed in; while hot punch, in teacups or tin vessels, was unsparingly
distributed on all sides. Achilles himself, they say, got tired of eating,
and though he consumed something like a prize ox to his own cheek, he at
length had to call for cheese, so that we at last gave in, and having
cleared away the broken tumbrels and baggage-carts of our army, cleared for
a general action.

“Now, lads!” cried the major, “I’m not going to lose your time and mine by
speaking; but there are a couple of toasts I must insist upon your drinking
with all the honors; and as I like despatch, we’ll couple them. It so
happens that our old island boasts of two of the finest fellows that
ever wore Russia ducks. None of your nonsensical geniuses, like poets or
painters or anything like that; but downright, straightforward, no-humbug
sort of devil-may-care and bad-luck-to-you kind of chaps,--real Irishmen!
Now, it’s a strange thing that they both had such an antipathy to vermin,
they spent their life in hunting them down and destroying them; and whether
they met toads at home or Johnny Crapaud abroad, it was all one. [Cheers.]
Just so, boys; they made them leave that; but I see you are impatient, so
I’ll not delay you, but fill to the brim, and with the best cheer in your
body, drink with me the two greatest Irishmen that ever lived, ‘Saint
Patrick and Lord Wellington.’”

The Englishmen laughed long and loud, while we cheered with an energy that
satisfied even the major.

“Who is to give us the chant? Who is to sing Saint Patrick?” cried Maurice.
“Come, Bob, out with it.”

“I’m four tumblers too low for that yet,” growled out the major.

“Well, then, Charley, be you the man; or why not Dennis himself? Come,
Dennis, we cannot better begin our evening than with a song; let us have
our old friend ‘Larry M’Hale.’”

“Larry M’Hale!” resounded from all parts of the room, while O’Shaughnessy
rose once more to his legs.

“Faith, boys, I’m always ready to follow your lead; but what analogy can
exist between ‘Larry M’Hale’ and the toast we have just drank I can’t see
for the life of me; not but Larry would have made a strapping light company
man had he joined the army.”

“The song, the song!” cried several voices.

“Well, if you will have it, here goes:”--

    LARRY M’HALE.

    AIR,--_“It’s a bit of a thing_,” _etc_.

    Oh, Larry M’Hale he had little to fear,
    And never could want when the crops didn’t fail;
    He’d a house and demesne and eight hundred a year,
    And the heart for to spend it, had Larry M’Hale!
    The soul of a party, the life of a feast,
    And an illigant song he could sing, I’ll be bail;
    He would ride with the rector, and drink with the priest,
    Oh, the broth of a boy was old Larry M’Hale!

    It’s little he cared for the judge or recorder,
    His house was as big and as strong as a jail;
    With a cruel four-pounder, he kept in great order,
    He’d murder the country, would Larry M’Hale.
    He’d a blunderbuss too, of horse-pistols a pair;
    But his favorite weapon was always a flail.
    I wish you could see how he’d empty a fair,
    For he handled it neatly, did Larry M’Hale.

    His ancestors were kings before Moses was born,
    His mother descended from great Grana Uaile;
    He laughed all the Blakes and the Frenches to scorn;
    They were mushrooms compared to old Larry M’Hale.
    He sat down every day to a beautiful dinner,
    With cousins and uncles enough for a tail;
    And, though loaded with debt, oh, the devil a thinner,
    Could law or the sheriff make Larry M’Hale!

    With a larder supplied and a cellar well stored,
    None lived half so well, from Fair-Head to Kinsale,
    As he piously said, “I’ve a plentiful board,
    And the Lord he is good to old Larry M’Hale.”
     So fill up your glass, and a high bumper give him,
    It’s little we’d care for the tithes or repale;
    For ould Erin would be a fine country to live in,
    If we only had plenty like LARRY M’HALE.

“Very singular style of person your friend Mr. M’Hale,” lisped a
spooney-looking cornet at the end of the table.

“Not in the country he belongs to, I assure you,” said Maurice; “but I
presume you were never in Ireland.”

“You are mistaken there,” resumed the other; “I was in Ireland, though I
confess not for a long time.”

“If I might be so bold,” cried Maurice, “how long?”

“Half an hour, by a stop-watch,” said the other, pulling up his stock; “and
I had quite enough of it in that time.”

“Pray give us your experiences,” cried out Bob Mahon; “they should be
interesting, considering your opportunities.”

“You are right,” said the cornet; “they were so; and as they illustrate a
feature in your amiable country, you shall have them.”

A general knocking upon the table announced the impatience of the company,
and when silence was restored the cornet began:--

When the ‘Bermuda’ transport sailed from Portsmouth for Lisbon, I happened
to make one of some four hundred interesting individuals who, before they
became food for powder, were destined to try their constitutions on pickled
pork. The second day after our sailing, the winds became adverse; it blew
a hurricane from every corner of the compass but the one it ought, and the
good ship, that should have been standing straight for the Bay of Biscay,
was scudding away under a double-reefed topsail towards the coast of
Labrador. For six days we experienced every sea-manoeuvre that usually
preludes a shipwreck, and at length, when, what from sea-sickness and fear,
we had become utterly indifferent to the result, the storm abated, the sea
went down, and we found ourselves lying comfortably in the harbor of Cork,
with a strange suspicion on our minds that the frightful scenes of the past
week had been nothing but a dream.

“‘Come, Mr. Medlicot,’ said the skipper to me, ‘we shall be here for a
couple of days to refit; had you not better go ashore and see the country?’

“I sprang to my legs with delight; visions of cowslips, larks, daisies, and
mutton-chops floated before my excited imagination, and in ten minutes I
found myself standing at that pleasant little inn at Cove which, opposite
Spike Island, rejoices in the name of the ‘Goat and Garters.’

“‘Breakfast, waiter,’ said I; ‘a beefsteak,--fresh beef, mark ye,--fresh
eggs, bread, milk, and butter, all fresh. No more hard tack,’ thought I;
‘no salt butter, but a genuine land breakfast.’

“Up-stairs, No. 4, sir,’ said the waiter, as he flourished a dirty napkin,
indicating the way.

“Up-stairs I went, and in due time the appetizing little meal made its
appearance. Never did a minor’s eye revel over his broad acres with more
complacent enjoyment than did mine skim over the mutton and the muffin,
the tea-pot, the trout, and the devilled kidney, so invitingly spread out
before me. ‘Yes,’ thought I, as I smacked my lips, ‘this is the reward of
virtue; pickled pork is a probationary state that admirably fits us for
future enjoyments.’ I arranged my napkin upon my knee, seized my knife
and fork, and proceeded with most critical acumen to bisect a beefsteak.
Scarcely, however, had I touched it, when, with a loud crash, the plate
smashed beneath it, and the gravy ran piteously across the cloth. Before I
had time to account for the phenomenon, the door opened hastily, and the
waiter rushed into the room, his face beaming with smiles, while he rubbed
his hands in an ecstasy of delight.

“‘It’s all over, sir,’ said he; ‘glory be to God! it’s all done.’

“‘What’s over? What’s done?’ inquired I, with impatience.

“‘Mr. M’Mahon is satisfied,’ replied he, ‘and so is the other gentleman.’

“‘Who and what the devil do you mean?’

[Illustration: DISADVANTAGE OF BREAKFASTING OVER A DUELLING-PARTY.]

“‘It’s over, sir, I say,’ replied the waiter again; ‘he fired in the air.’

“‘Fired in the air! Was there a duel in the room below stairs?’

“‘Yes, sir,’ said the waiter, with a benign smile.

“‘That will do,’ said I, as seizing my hat, I rushed out of the house, and
hurrying to the beach, took a boat for the ship. Exactly half an hour had
elapsed since my landing, but even those short thirty minutes had fully as
many reasons that although there may be few more amusing, there are some
safer places to live in than the Green Isle.”

A general burst of laughter followed the cornet’s story, which was
heightened in its effect by the gravity with which he told it.

“And after all,” said Maurice Quill, “now that people have given up making
fortunes for the insurance companies by living to the age of Methuselah,
there’s nothing like being an Irishman. In what other part of the habitable
globe can you cram so much adventure into one year? Where can you be so
often in love, in liquor, or in debt; and where can you get so merrily out
of the three? Where are promises to marry and promises to pay treated with
the same gentleman-like forbearance; and where, when you have lost your
heart and your fortune, are people found so ready to comfort you in your
reverses? Yes,” said Maurice, as he filled his glass up to the brim, and
eyed it lusciously for a moment,--“yes, darling, here’s your health; the
only girl I ever loved--in that part of the country, I mean. Give her a
bumper, lads, and I’ll give you a chant.”

“Name! name! name!” shouted several voices from different parts of the
table.

“Mary Draper!” said Maurice, filling his glass once more, while the name
was re-echoed by every lip at table.

“The song! the song!”

“Faith, I hope I haven’t forgotten it,” quoth Maurice. “No; here it is.”

So saying, after a couple of efforts to assure the pitch of his voice, the
worthy doctor began the following words to that very popular melody, “Nancy
Dawson:”--


    MARY DRAPER.

    AIR,--_Nancy Dawson_.

    Don’t talk to me of London dames,
    Nor rave about your foreign flames,
    That never lived, except in drames,
    Nor shone, except on paper;
    I’ll sing you ‘bout a girl I knew,
    Who lived in Ballywhacmacrew,
    And let me tell you, mighty few
    Could equal Mary Draper.

    Her cheeks were red, her eyes were blue,
    Her hair was brown of deepest hue,
    Her foot was small, and neat to view,
    Her waist was slight and taper;
    Her voice was music to your ear,
    A lovely brogue, so rich and clear,
    Oh, the like I ne’er again shall hear,
    As from sweet Mary Draper.

    She’d ride a wall, she’d drive a team,
    Or with a fly she’d whip a stream,
    Or may be sing you “Rousseau’s Dream,”
     For nothing could escape her;
    I’ve seen her, too,--upon my word,--
    At sixty yards bring down her bird,
    Oh, she charmed all the Forty-third,
    Did lovely Mary Draper.

    And at the spring assizes’ ball,
    The junior bar would one and all
    For all her fav’rite dances call,
    And Harry Dean would caper;
    Lord Clare would then forget his lore;
    King’s Counsel, voting law a bore,
    Were proud to figure on the floor,
    For love of Mary Draper.

    The parson, priest, sub-sheriff too,
    Were all her slaves, and so would you,
    If you had only but one view,
    Of such a face and shape, or
    Her pretty ankles--But, ohone,
    It’s only west of old Athlone
    Such girls were found--and now they’re gone--
    So here’s to Mary Draper!

“So here’s to Mary Draper!” sang out every voice, in such efforts to catch
the tune as pleased the taste of the motley assembly.

“For Mary Draper and Co., I thank you,” said Maurice. “Quill drinks to
Dennis,” added he, in a grave tone, as he nodded to O’Shaughnessy. “Yes,
Shaugh, few men better than ourselves know these matters; and few have had
more experience of the three perils of Irishmen,--love, liquor, and the law
of arrest.”

“It’s little the latter has ever troubled my father’s son,” replied
O’Shaughnessy. “Our family have been writ proof for centuries, and he’d
have been a bold man who would have ventured with an original or a true
copy within the precincts of Killinahoula.”

“Your father had a touch of Larry M’Hale in him,” said I, “apparently.”

“Exactly so,” replied Dennis; “not but they caught him at last, and a
scurvy trick it was and well worthy of him who did it! Yes,” said he, with
a sigh, “it is only another among the many instances where the better
features of our nationality have been used by our enemies as instruments
for our destruction; and should we seek for the causes of unhappiness in
our wretched country, we should find them rather in our virtues than in
our vices, and in the bright rather than in the darker phases of our
character.”

“Metaphysics, by Jove!” cried Quill; “but all true at the same time. There
was a mess-mate of mine in the ‘Roscommon’ who never paid car-hire in his
life. ‘Head or harp, Paddy!’ he would cry. ‘Two tenpennies or nothing.’
‘Harp, for the honor of ould Ireland!’ was the invariable response, and my
friend was equally sure to make head come uppermost; and, upon my soul,
they seem to know the trick at the Home Office.”

“That must have been the same fellow that took my father,” cried
O’Shaughnessy, with energy.

“Let us hear the story, Dennis,” said I.

“Yes,” said Maurice, “for the benefit of self and fellows, let us hear the
stratagem!”

“The way of it was this,” resumed O’Shaughnessy. “My father, who for
reasons registered in the King’s Bench spent a great many years of his life
in that part of Ireland geographically known as lying west of the law,
was obliged, for certain reasons of family, to come up to Dublin. This he
proceeded to do with due caution. Two trusty servants formed an advance
guard, and patrolled the country for at least five miles in advance; after
them came a skirmishing body of a few tenants, who, for the consideration
of never paying rent, would have charged the whole Court of Chancery, if
needful. My father himself, in an old chaise victualled like a fortress,
brought up the rear; and as I said before, he were a bold man who would
have attempted to have laid siege to him. As the column advanced into the
enemy’s country, they assumed a closer order, the patrol and the picket
falling back upon the main body; and in this way they reached that most
interesting city called Kilbeggan. What a fortunate thing it is for us in
Ireland that we can see so much of the world without foreign travel, and
that any gentleman for six-and-eightpence can leave Dublin in the morning,
and visit Timbuctoo against dinner-time. Don’t stare! it’s truth I’m
telling; for dirt, misery, smoke, unaffected behavior, and black faces,
I’ll back Kilbeggan against all Africa. Free-and-easy, pleasant people ye
are, with a skin, as begrimed and as rugged as your own potatoes! But, to
resume. The sun was just rising in a delicious morning of June, when my
father,--whose loyal antipathies I have mentioned made him also an early
riser,--was preparing for the road. A stout escort of his followers were
as usual under arms to see him safe in the chaise, the passage to and from
which every day being the critical moment of my father’s life.

“‘It’s all right, your honor,’ said his own man, as, armed with a
blunderbuss, he opened the bed-room door.

“‘Time enough, Tim,’ said my father; ‘close the door, for I haven’t
finished my breakfast.’

“Now, the real truth was, that my father’s attention was at that moment
withdrawn from his own concerns by a scene which was taking place in a
field beneath his window.

“But a few minutes before, a hack-chaise had stopped upon the roadside, out
of which sprang three gentlemen, who, proceeding into the field, seemed
bent upon something, which, whether a survey or a duel, my father could not
make out. He was not long, however, to remain in ignorance. One, with an
easy, lounging gait, strode towards a distant corner; another took an
opposite direction; while a third, a short, pursy gentleman, in a red
handkerchief and rabbit-skin waistcoat, proceeded to open a mahogany
box, which, to the critical eyes of my respected father, was agreeably
suggestive of bloodshed and murder.

“‘A duel, by Jupiter!’ said my father, rubbing his hands. ‘What a heavenly
morning the scoundrels have,--not a leaf stirring, and a sod like a
billiard-table!’

“Meanwhile the little man who officiated as second, it would appear to
_both_ parties, bustled about with an activity little congenial to his
shape; and what between snapping the pistols, examining the flints, and
ramming down the charges, had got himself into a sufficient perspiration
before he commenced to measure the ground.

“‘Short distance and no quarter!’ shouted one of the combatants, from the
corner of the field.

“‘Across a handkerchief, if you like!’ roared the other.

“‘Gentlemen, every inch of them!’ responded my father.

“‘Twelve paces!’ cried the little man. ‘No more and no less. Don’t forget
that I am alone in this business!’

“‘A very true remark!’ observed my father; ‘and an awkward predicament
yours will be if they are not both shot!’

“By this time the combatants had taken their places, and the little man,
having delivered the pistols, was leisurely retiring to give the word.
My father, however, whose critical eye was never at fault, detected a
circumstance which promised an immense advantage to one at the expense of
the other; in fact, one of the parties was so placed with his back to the
sun, that his shadow extended in a straight line to the very foot of his
antagonist.

“‘Unfair, unfair!’ cried my father, opening the window as he spoke, and
addressing himself to him of the rabbit-skin. ‘I crave your pardon for the
interruption,’ said he; ‘but I feel bound to observe that that gentleman’s
shadow is likely to make a shade of him.’

“‘And so it is,’ observed the short man; ‘a thousand thanks for your
kindness, but the truth is, I am totally unaccustomed to this kind of
thing, and the affair will not admit of delay.’

“‘Not an hour!’ said one.

“‘No, not five minutes!’ growled the other of the combatants.

“‘Put them up north and south,’ said my father.

“‘Is it thus?’

“‘Exactly so. But now, again, the gentleman in the brown coat is covered
with the ash-tree.’

“‘And so he is!’ said rabbit-skin, wiping his forehead with agitation.

“‘Move them a little to the left,’ said he.

“‘That brings me upon an eminence,’ said the gentleman in blue. ‘I’ll be
d--d if I be made a cock shot of!’

“‘What an awkward little thief it is in the hairy waistcoat!’ said my
father; ‘he’s lucky if he don’t get shot himself!’

“‘May I never, if I’m not sick of you both!’ ejaculated rabbit-skin, in a
passion. ‘I’ve moved you round every point of the compass, and the devil a
nearer we are than ever!’

“‘Give us the word,’ said one.

“‘The word!’

“‘Downright murder,’ said my father.

“‘I don’t care,’ said the little man; ‘we shall be here till doomsday.’

“‘I can’t permit this,’ said my father; ‘allow me.’ So saying, he stepped
upon the window-sill, and leaped down into the field.

“‘Before I can accept of your politeness,’ said he of the rabbit-skin, ‘may
I beg to know your name and position in society?’

“‘Nothing more reasonable,’ said my father. ‘I’m Miles O’Shaughnessy,
Colonel of the Royal Raspers,--here is my card.’

“The piece of pasteboard was complacently handed from one to the other of
the party, who saluted my father with a smile of most courteous benignity.

“‘Colonel O’Shaughnessy,’ said one.

“‘Miles O’Shaughnessy,’ said the other.

“‘Of Killinahoula Castle,’ said the third.

“‘At your service,’ said my father, bowing, as he presented his snuff-box;
‘and now to business, if you please, for my time also is limited.’

“‘Very true,’ observed he of the rabbit-skin; ‘and, as you observe, now to
business; in virtue of which, Colonel Miles O’Shaughnessy, I hereby arrest
you in the King’s name. Here is the writ; it’s at the suit of Barnaby
Kelly, of Loughrea, for the sum of £1,482 19s. 7-1/2d., which--’

“Before he could conclude the sentence, my father discharged one obligation
by implanting his closed knuckles in his face. The blow, well aimed and
well intentioned, sent the little fellow summersetting like a sugar
hogshead. But, alas! it was of no use; the others, strong and able-bodied,
fell both upon him, and after a desperate struggle succeeded in getting him
down. To tie his hands, and convey him to the chaise, was the work of a few
moments; and as my father drove by the inn, the last object which caught
his view was a bloody encounter between his own people and the myrmidons
of the law, who, in great numbers, had laid siege to the house during his
capture. Thus was my father taken; and thus, in reward for yielding to a
virtuous weakness in his character, was he consigned to the ignominious
durance of a prison. Was I not right, then, in saying that such is the
melancholy position of our country, the most beautiful traits in our
character are converted into the elements of our ruin?”

“I dinna think ye ha’e made out your case, Major?” said the Scotch doctor,
who felt sorely puzzled at my friend’s logic. “If your faether had na gi’en
the bond--”

“There is no saying what he wouldn’t have done to the bailiffs,”
 interrupted Dennis, who was following up a very different train of
reasoning.

“I fear me, Doctor,” observed Quill, “you are much behind us in Scotland.
Not but that some of your chieftains are respectable men, and wouldn’t get
on badly even in Galway.”

“I thank ye muckle for the compliment,” said the doctor, dryly; “but I ha’e
my doubts they’d think it ane, and they’re crusty carls that’s no’ ower
safe to meddle wi’.”

“I’d as soon propose a hand of ‘spoiled five’ to the Pope of Rome, as a
joke to one of them,” returned Maurice.

“May be ye are na wrang there, Maister Quell.”

“Well,” cried Hampden, “if I may be allowed an opinion, I can safely aver I
know no quarters like Scotland. Edinburgh beyond anything or anywhere I was
ever placed in.”

“Always after Dublin,” interposed Maurice; while a general chorus of voices
re-echoed the sentiment.

“You are certainly a strong majority,” said my friend, “against me; but
still I recant not my original opinion. Edinburgh before the world. For a
hospitality that never tires; for pleasant fellows that improve every day
of your acquaintance; for pretty girls that make you long for a repeal of
the canon about being only singly blessed, and lead you to long for a score
of them, Edinburgh,--I say again, before the world.”

“Their ankles are devilish thick,” whispered Maurice.

“A calumny, a base calumny!”

“And then they drink--”

“Oh--”

“Yes; they drink very strong tea.”

“Shall we ha’e a glass o’ sherry together, Hampden?” said the Scotch
doctor, willing to acknowledge his defence of auld Reekie.

“And we’ll take O’Malley in,” said Hampden; “he looks imploringly.”

“And now to return to the charge,” quoth Maurice. “In what particular dare
ye contend the palm with Dublin? We’ll not speak of beauty. I can’t suffer
any such profane turn in the conversation as to dispute the superiority of
Irishwomen’s lips, eyes, noses, and eyebrows, to anything under heaven.
We’ll not talk of gay fellows; egad, we needn’t. I’ll give you the
garrison,--a decent present,--and I’ll back the Irish bar for more genuine
drollery, more wit, more epigram, more ready sparkling fun, than the whole
rest of the empire--ay, and all her colonies--can boast of.”

“They are nae remarkable for passing the bottle, if they resemble their
very gifted advocate,” observed the Scotchman.

“But they are for filling and emptying both, making its current, as it
glides by, like a rich stream glittering in the sunbeams with the sparkling
lustre of their wit. Lord, how I’m blown! Fill my pannikin, Charley.
There’s no subduing a Scot. Talk with him, drink with him, fight with him,
and he’ll always have the last of it; there’s only one way of concluding
the treaty--”

“And that is--”

“Blarney him. Lord bless you, he can’t stand it! Tell him Holyrood’s like
Versailles, and the Trossach’s finer than Mont Blanc; that Geordie Buchanan
was Homer, and the Canongate, Herculaneum,--then ye have him on the hip.
Now, ye never can humbug an Irishman that way; he’ll know you’re quizzing
him when you praise his country.”

“Ye are right, Hampden,” said the Scotch doctor, in reply to some
observation. “We are vara primitive in the Hielands, and we keep to our ain
national customs in dress and everything; and we are vara slow to learn,
and even when we try we are nae ower successfu’ in our imitations, which
sometimes cost us dearly enough. Ye may have heard, may be, of the M’Nab o’
that ilk, and what happened him with the king’s equerry?”

“I’m not quite certain,” said Hampden, “if I ever heard the story.”

“It’s nae muckle of a story; but the way of it was this. When Montrose came
back from London, he brought with him a few Englishers to show them the
Highlands, and let them see something of deer-stalking,--among the rest, a
certain Sir George Sowerby, an aide-de-camp or an equerry of the prince.
He was a vara fine gentleman, that never loaded his ain gun, and a’most
thought it too much trouble to pull the trigger. He went out every
morning to shoot with his hair curled like a woman, and dressed like a
dancing-master. Now, there happened to be at the same time at the castle
the Laird o’ M’Nab; he was a kind of cousin of the Montrose, and a rough
old tyke of the true Hieland breed, wha’ thought that the head of a clan
was fully equal to any king or prince. He sat opposite to Sir George at
dinner the day of his arrival, and could not conceal his surprise at the
many new-fangled ways of feeding himself the Englisher adopted. He ate his
saumon wi’ his fork in ae hand, and a bittock of bread in the other. He
would na touch the whiskey; helped himself to a cutlet wi’ his fingers. But
what was maist extraordinary of all, he wore a pair o’ braw white gloves
during the whole time o’ dinner and when they came to tak’ away the cloth,
he drew them off with a great air, and threw them into the middle of it,
and then, leisurely taking anither pair off a silver salver which his ain
man presented, he pat them on for dessert. The M’Nab, who, although an
auld-fashioned carl, was aye fond of bringing something new hame to his
friends, remarked the Englisher’s proceeding with great care, and the next
day he appeared at dinner wi’ a huge pair of Hieland mittens, which he
wore, to the astonishment of all and the amusement of most, through the
whole three courses; and exactly as the Englishman changed his gloves, the
M’Nab produced a fresh pair of goats’ wool, four times as large as the
first, which, drawing on with prodigious gravity, he threw the others into
the middle of the cloth, remarking, as he did so,--

“‘Ye see, Captain, we are never ower auld to learn.’

“All propriety was now at an end, and a hearty burst of laughter from one
end of the table to the other convulsed the whole company,--the M’Nab and
the Englishman being the only persons who did not join in it, but sat
glowering at each other like twa tigers; and, indeed, it needed, a’
the Montrose’s interference that they had na quarrelled upon it in the
morning.”

“The M’Nab was a man after my own heart,” said Maurice; “there was
something very Irish in the lesson he gave the Englishman.”

“I’d rather ye’d told him that than me,” said the doctor, dryly; “he would
na hae thanked ye for mistaking him for ane of your countrymen.”

“Come, Doctor,” said Dennis, “could not ye give us a stave? Have ye nothing
that smacks of the brown fern and the blue lakes in your memory?”

“I have na a sang in my mind just noo except ‘Johnny Cope,’ which may be
might na be ower pleasant for the Englishers to listen to.”

“I never heard a Scotch song worth sixpence,” quoth Maurice, who seemed
bent on provoking the doctor’s ire. “They contain nothing save some
puling sentimentality about lasses with lint-white locks, or some absurd
laudations of the Barley Bree.”

“Hear till him, hear till him!” said the doctor, reddening with impatience.

“Show me anything,” said Maurice, “like the ‘Cruiskeen Lawn’ or the ‘Jug
of Punch;’ but who can blame them, after all? You can’t expect much from a
people with an imagination as naked as their own knees.”

“Maurice! Maurice!” cried O’Shaughnessy, reprovingly, who saw that he was
pushing the other’s endurance beyond all bounds.

“I mind weel,” said the Scotchman, “what happened to ane o’ your countrymen
wha took upon him to jest as you are doing now. It was to Laurie Cameron he
did it.”

“And what said the redoubted Laurie in reply?”

“He did na say muckle, but he did something.”

“And what might it be?” inquired Maurice.

“He threw him ower the brig of Ayr into the water, and he was drowned.”

“And did Laurie come to no harm about the matter?”

“Ay, they tried him for it, and found him guilty; but when they asked
him what he had to say in his defence, he merely replied, ‘When the carl
sneered about Scotland, I did na suspect that he did na ken how to swim;’
and so the end of it was, they did naething to Laurie.”

“Cool that, certainly,” said I.

“I prefer your friend with the mittens, I confess,” said Maurice, “though
I’m sure both were most agreeable companion. But come, Doctor, couldn’t you
give us,--

    Sit ye down, my heartie, and gie us a crack,
    Let the wind tak’ the care o’ the world on his back.’”

“You maunna attempt English poethry, my freend Quell; for it must be
confessed ye’e a damnable accent of your ain.”

“Milesian-Phoenician-Corkacian; nothing more, my boy, and a coaxing kind
of recitative it is, after all. Don’t tell me of your soft Etruscan, your
plethoric. _Hoch_-Deutsch, your flattering French. To woo and win the
girl of your heart, give me a rich brogue and the least taste in life of
blarney! There’s nothing like it, believe me,--every inflection of your
voice suggesting some tender pressure of her soft hand or taper waist,
every cadence falling on her gentle heart like a sea-breeze on a burning
coast, or a soft sirocco over a rose-tree. And then, think, my boys,--and
it is a fine thought after all,--what a glorious gift that is, out of the
reach of kings to give or to take, what neither depends upon the act of
Union nor the _Habeas Corpus_. No! they may starve us, laugh at us, tax us,
transport us. They may take our mountains, our valleys, and our bogs; but,
bad luck to them, they can’t steal our ‘blarney;’ that’s the privilege one
and indivisible with our identity. And while an Englishman raves of his
liberty, a Scotchman of his oaten meal, blarney’s _our_ birthright, and a
prettier portion I’d never ask to leave behind me to my sons. If I’d as
large a family as the ould gentleman called Priam we used to hear of at
school, it’s the only inheritance I’d give them, and one comfort there
would be besides, the legacy duty would be only a trifle. Charley, my
son, I see you’re listening to me, and nothing satisfies me more than to
instruct inspiring youth; so never forget the old song,--

    ‘If at your ease, the girls you’d please,
    And win them, like Kate Kearney,
    There’s but one way, I’ve heard them say,
    Go kiss the Stone of Blarney.’”

“What do you say, Shaugh, if we drink it with all the honors?”

“But gently: do I hear a trumpet there?”

“Ah, there go the bugles. Can it be daybreak already?”

“How short the nights are at this season!” said Quill.

“What an infernal rumpus they’re making! It’s not possible the troops are
to march so early.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me in the least,” quoth Maurice; “there is no knowing
what the commander-in-chief’s not capable of,--the reason’s clear enough.”

“And why, Maurice?”

“There’s not a bit of blarney about him.”

The _réveil_ sang out from every brigade, and the drums beat to fall in,
while Mike came galloping up at full speed to say that the bridge of boats
was completed, and that the Twelfth were already ordered to cross. Not a
moment was therefore to be lost; one parting cup we drained to our next
meeting, and amidst a hundred “good-bys” we mounted our horses. Poor
Hampden’s brains, sadly confused by the wine and the laughing, he knew
little of what was going on around him, and passed the entire time of our
homeward ride in a vain endeavor to adapt “Mary Draper” to the air of “Rule
Britannia.”



CHAPTER XXII.


FUENTES D’ONORO.

From this period the French continued their retreat, closely followed by
the allied armies, and on the 5th of April, Massena once more crossed the
frontier into Spain, leaving thirty thousand of his bravest troops behind
him, fourteen thousand of whom had fallen or been taken prisoners.
Reinforcements, however, came rapidly pouring in. Two divisions of the
Ninth corps had already arrived, and Drouet, with eleven thousand infantry
and cavalry, was preparing to march to his assistance. Thus strengthened,
the French army marched towards the Portuguese frontier, and Lord
Wellington, who had determined not to hazard much by his blockade of Ciudad
Rodrigo, fell back upon the large table-land beyond the Turones and the Dos
Casas, with his left at Fort Conception, and his right resting upon Fuentes
d’Onoro. His position extended to about five miles; and here, although
vastly inferior in numbers, yet relying upon the bravery of the troops, and
the moral ascendency acquired by their pursuit of the enemy, he finally
resolved upon giving them battle.

Being sent with despatches to Pack’s brigade, which formed the blockading
force at Almeida, I did not reach Fuentes d’Onoro until the evening of the
3d. The thundering of the guns, which, even at the distance I was at, was
plainly heard, announced that an attack had taken place, but it by no means
prepared me for the scene which presented itself on my return.

The village of Fuentes d’Onoro, one of the most beautiful in Spain, is
situated in a lovely valley, where all the charms of verdure so peculiar to
the Peninsula seemed to have been scattered with a lavish hand. The citron
and the arbutus, growing wild, sheltered every cottage door, and the
olive and the laurel threw their shadows across the little rivulet which
traversed the village. The houses, observing no uniform arrangement,
stood wherever the caprice or the inclination of the builder suggested,
surrounded with little gardens, the inequality of the ground imparting a
picturesque feature to even the lowliest hut, while upon a craggy eminence
above the rest, an ancient convent and a ruined chapel looked down upon the
little peaceful hamlet with an air of tender protection.

Hitherto this lovely spot had escaped all the ravages of war. The light
division of our army had occupied it for months long; and every family was
gratefully remembered by some one or other of our officers, and more than
one of our wounded found in the kind and affectionate watching of these
poor peasants the solace which sickness rarely meets with when far from
home and country.

It was, then, with an anxious heart I pressed my horse forward into a
gallop as the night drew near. The artillery had been distinctly heard
during the day, and while I burned with eagerness to know the result, I
felt scarcely less anxious for the fate of that little hamlet whose name
many a kind story had implanted in my memory. The moon was shining brightly
as I passed the outpost, and leading my horse by the bridle, descended the
steep and rugged causeway to the village beneath me. The lanterns were
moving rapidly to and fro; the measured tread of infantry at night--that
ominous sound, which falls upon the heart so sadly--told me that they
were burying the dead. The air was still and breathless; not a sound was
stirring save the step of the soldiery, and the harsh clash of the shovel
as it struck the earth. I felt sad and sick at heart, and leaned against a
tree; a nightingale concealed in the leaves was pouring forth its plaintive
notes to the night air, and its low warble sounded like the dirge of the
departed. Far beyond, in the plain, the French watch-fires were burning,
and I could see from time to time the fatigue-parties moving in search of
their wounded. At this moment the clock of the convent struck eleven, and a
merry chime rang out, and was taken up by the echoes till it melted away in
the distance. Alas, where were those whose hearts were wont to feel cheered
at that happy peal; whose infancy it had gladdened; whose old age it has
hallowed? The fallen walls, the broken roof-trees, the ruin and desolation
on every side, told too plainly that they had passed away forever! The
smoking embers, the torn-up pathway, denoted the hard-fought struggle; and
as I passed along, I could see that every garden, where the cherry and the
apple-blossom were even still perfuming the air, had now its sepulchre.

“Halt, there!” cried a hoarse voice in front. “You cannot pass this
way,--the commander-in-chief’s quarters.”

I looked up and beheld a small but neat-looking cottage, which seemed to
have suffered less than the others around. Lights were shining brightly
from the windows, and I could even detect from time to time a figure
muffled up in a cloak passing to and fro across the window; while another,
seated at a table, was occupied in writing. I turned into a narrow path
which led into the little square of the village, and here, as I approached,
the hum and murmur of voices announced a bivouac party. Stopping to ask
what had been the result of the day, I learned that a tremendous attack
had been made by the French in column upon the village, which was at first
successful; but that afterwards the Seventy-first and Seventy-ninth,
marching down from the heights, had repulsed the enemy, and driven them
beyond the Dos Casas. Five hundred had fallen in that fierce encounter,
which was continued through every street and alley of the little hamlet.
The gallant Highlanders now occupied the battle-field; and hearing that the
cavalry brigade was some miles distant, I willingly accepted their offer to
share their bivouac, and passed the remainder of the night among them.

When day broke, our troops were under arms, but the enemy showed no
disposition to renew the attack. We could perceive, however, from the road
to the southward, by the long columns of dust, that reinforcements were
still arriving; and learned during the morning, from a deserter, that
Massena himself had come up, and Bessiéres also, with twelve hundred
cavalry, and a battery of the Imperial Guard.

From the movements observable in the enemy, it was soon evident that the
battle, though deferred, was not abandoned; and the march of a strong
force towards the left of their position induced our commander-in-chief to
despatch the Seventh Division, under Houston, to occupy the height of Naval
d’Aver--our extreme right--in support of which our brigade of cavalry
marched as a covering force. The British position was thus unavoidably
extended to the enormous length of seven miles, occupying a succession of
small eminences, from the division at Fort Conception to the height of
Naval d’Aver,--Fuentes d’Onoro forming nearly the centre of the line.

It was evident, from the thickening combinations of the French, that a more
dreadful battle was still in reserve for us; and yet never did men look
more anxiously for the morrow.

As for myself, I felt a species of exhilaration I had never before
experienced; the events of the preceding day came dropping in upon me from
every side, and at every new tale of gallantry or daring I felt my heart
bounding with excited eagerness to win also my need of honorable praise.

Crawfurd, too, had recognized me in the kindest manner; and while saying
that he did not wish to withdraw me from my regiment on a day of battle,
added that he would make use of me for the present on his staff. Thus was
I engaged, from early in the morning till late in the evening, bringing
orders and despatches along the line. The troop-horse I rode--for I
reserved my gray for the following day--was scarcely able to carry me
along, as towards dusk I jogged along in the direction of Naval d’Aver.
When I did reach our quarters, the fires were lighted, and around one of
them I had the good fortune to find a party of the Fourteenth occupied in
discussing a very appetizing little supper. The clatter of plates, and the
popping of champagne corks were most agreeable sounds. Indeed, the latter
appeared to me so much too flattering an illusion, that I hesitated giving
credit to my senses in the matter, when Baker called out,--

“Come, Charley, sit down; you’re just in the nick. Tom Marsden is giving us
a benefit. You know Tom?”

And here he presented me in due form to that best of commissaries and most
hospitable of horse-dealers.

“I can’t introduce you to my friend on my right,” continued Baker, “for my
Spanish is only a skeleton battalion; but he’s a trump,--that I’ll vouch
for; never flinches his glass, and looks as though he enjoyed all our
nonsense.”

The Spaniard, who appeared to comprehend that he was alluded to, gravely
saluted me with a low bow, and offered his glass to hobnob with me. I
returned the curtesy with becoming ceremony, while Hampden whispered in my
ear,--

“A fine-looking fellow. You know who he is? Julian, the Guerilla chief.”

I had heard much of both the strangers. Tom Marsden was a household word
in every cavalry brigade; equally celebrated were his contracts and his
claret. He knew every one, from Lord Wellington to the last-joined cornet;
and while upon a march, there was no piece of better fortune than to be
asked to dine with him. So in the very thick of battle, Tom’s critical eye
was scanning the squadrons engaged, with an accuracy as to the number of
fresh horses that would be required upon the morrow that nothing but long
practice and infinite coolness could have conferred.

Of the Guerilla I need not speak. The bold feats he accomplished, the aid
he rendered to the cause of his country, have made his name historical. Yet
still with all this, fatigue, more powerful than my curiosity, prevailed,
and I sank into a heavy sleep upon the grass, while my merry companions
kept up their revels till near morning. The last piece of consciousness I
am sensible of was seeing Julian spreading his wide mantle over me as I
lay, while I heard his deep voice whisper a kind wish for my repose.



CHAPTER XXIII.


THE BATTLE OF FUENTES D’ONORO.

So soundly did I sleep that the tumult and confusion of the morning never
awoke me; and the Guerilla, whose cavalry were stationed along the edge of
the ravine near the heights of Echora, would not permit of my being roused
before the last moment. Mike stood near me with my horses, and it was only
when the squadrons were actually forming that I sprang to my feet and
looked around me.

The day was just breaking; a thick mist lay upon the parched earth, and
concealed everything a hundred yards from where we stood. From this dense
vapor the cavalry defiled along the base of the hill, followed by the
horse artillery and the Guards, disappearing again as they passed us,
but proving, by the mass of troops now assembled, that our position was
regarded as the probable point of attack.

While the troops continued to take up their position, the sun shone out,
and a slight breeze blowing at the same, moment, the heavy clouds moved
past, and we beheld the magnificent panorama of the battle-field. Before
us, at the distance of less than half a league, the French cavalry were
drawn up in three strong columns; the Cuirassiers of the Guard, plainly
distinguished by their steel cuirasses, flanked by the Polish Lancers and a
strong huzzar brigade; a powerful artillery train supported the left, and
an infantry force occupied the entire space between the right and the
rising ground opposite Poço Velho. Farther to the right again, the column
destined for the attack of Fuentes d’Onoro were forming, and we could see
that, profiting by their past experience, they were bent upon attacking the
village with an overwhelming force.

For above two hours the French continued to manoeuvre, more than one
alteration having taken place in their disposition; fresh battalions were
moved towards the front, and gradually the whole of their cavalry was
assembled on the extreme left in front of our position. Our people were
ordered to breakfast where we stood; and a little after seven o’clock a
staff officer came riding down the line, followed in a few moments after by
General Crawfurd, when no sooner was his well-known brown cob recognized by
the troops than a hearty cheer greeted him along the whole division.

“Thank ye, boys; thank ye, boys, with all my heart. No man feels more
sensibly what that cheer means than I do. Guards, Lord Wellington relies
upon your maintaining this position, which is essential to the safety of
the whole line. You will be supported by the light division. I need say
no more. If such troops cannot keep their ground, none can. Fourteenth,
there’s your place; the artillery and the Sixteenth are with you. They’ve
the odds of us in numbers, lads; but it will tell all the better in the
‘Gazette.’ I see they’re moving; so fall in now, fall in; and Merivale,
move to the front. Ramsey, prepare to open your fire on the attacking
squadrons.”

As he spoke, the low murmuring sound of distantly moving cavalry crept
along the earth, growing louder and louder, till at length we could detect
the heavy tramp of the squadrons as they came on in a trot, our pace
being merely a walk. While we thus advanced into the plain, the artillery
unlimbered behind us, and the Spanish cavalry, breaking into skirmishers,
dashed boldly to the front.

It was an exciting moment. The ground dipped between the two armies so
as to conceal the head of the advancing column of the French, and as the
Spanish skirmishers disappeared down the ridge, our beating hearts and
straining eyes followed their last horseman.

“Halt! halt!” was passed from squadron to squadron, and the same instant
the sharp ring of the pistol shots and the clash of steel from the valley,
told us the battle had begun. We could hear the Guerilla war-cry mingle
with the French shout, while the thickening crash of fire-arms implied a
sharper conflict. Our fellows were already manifesting some impatience
to press on, when a Spanish horseman appeared above the ridge, another
followed, and another, and then pell-mell, broken and disordered, they
fell back before the pursuing cavalry in flying masses; while the French,
charging them hotly home, utterly routed and repulsed them.

The leading squadrons of the French now fell back upon their support; the
column of attack thickened, and a thundering noise between their masses
announced their brigade of light guns as they galloped to the front. It was
then for the first time that I felt dispirited; far as my eye could stretch
the dense mass of sabres extended, defiling from the distant hills and
winding its slow length across the plain. I turned to look at our line,
scarce one thousand strong, and could not help feeling that our hour was
come: the feeling flashed vividly across my mind, but the next instant I
felt my cheek redden with shame as I gazed upon the sparkling eyes and bold
looks around me, the lips compressed, the hands knitted to their sabres;
all were motionless, but burning to advance.

The French had halted on the brow of the hill to form, when Merivale came
cantering up to us.

“Fourteenth, are you ready? Are you ready, lads?”

“Ready, sir! ready!” re-echoed along the line.

“Then push them home and charge! Charge!” cried he, raising his voice to a
shout at the last word.

Heavens, what a crash was there! Our horses, in top condition, no sooner
felt the spur than they bounded madly onwards. The pace--for the distance
did not exceed four hundred yards--was like racing. To resist the impetus
of our approach was impossible; and without a shot fired, scarcely a
sabre-cut exchanged, we actually rode down their advanced squadrons,
hurling them headlong upon their supporting division, and rolling men and
horses beneath us on every side. The French fell back upon their artillery;
but before they could succeed in opening their fire upon us, we had
wheeled, and carrying off about seventy prisoners, galloped back to our
position with the loss of but two men in the affair. The whole thing was so
sudden, so bold, and so successful, that I remember well, as we rode
back, a hearty burst of laughter was ringing through the squadron at the
ludicrous display of horsemanship the French presented as they tumbled
headlong down the hill; and I cannot help treasuring the recollection,
for from that moment, all thought of anything short of victory completely
quitted my mind, and many of my brother officers, who had participated in
my feelings at the commencement of the day, confessed to me afterwards that
it was then for the first time they felt assured of beating the enemy.

While we slowly fell back to our position, the French were seen advancing
in great force from the village of Almeida, to the attack of Poço Velho;
they came on at a rapid pace, their artillery upon their front and flank,
large masses of cavalry hovering around them. The attack upon the village
was now opened by the large guns; and amidst the booming of the artillery
and the crashing volleys of small fire-arms, rose the shout of the
assailants, and the wild cry of the Guerilla cavalry, who had formed in
front of the village. The French advanced firmly, driving back the pickets,
and actually inundated the devoted village with a shower of grape; the
blazing fires burst from the ignited roofs; and the black, dense smoke,
rising on high, seemed to rest like a pall over the little hamlet.

The conflict was now a tremendous one; our Seventh Division held the
village with the bayonet; but the French continuing to pour in mass upon
mass, drove them back with loss, and at the end of an hour’s hard fighting,
took possession of the place.

The wood upon the left flank was now seen to swarm with light infantry, and
the advancement of their whole left proved that they meditated to turn our
flank; the space between the village and the hill of Naval d’Aver became
thus the central position; and here the Guerilla force, led on by Julian
Sanches, seemed to await the French with confidence. Soon, however, the
cuirassiers came galloping to the spot, and almost without exchanging a
sabre-cut, the Guerillas fell back, and retired behind the Turones. This
movement of Julian was more attributable to anger than to fear; for his
favorite lieutenant, being mistaken for a French officer, was shot by a
soldier of the Guards a few minutes before.

Montbrun pursued the Guerillas with some squadrons of horse, but they
turned resolutely upon the French, and not till overwhelmed by numbers did
they show any disposition to retreat.

The French, however, now threw forward their whole cavalry, and driving
back the English horse, succeeded in turning the right of the Seventh
Division. The battle by this time was general. The staff officers who came
up from the left informed us that Fuentes d’Onoro was attacked in force,
Massena himself leading the assault in person; while thus for seven miles
the fight was maintained hotly at intervals, it was evident that upon the
maintenance of our position the fortune of the day depended. Hitherto we
had been repulsed from the village and the wood; and the dark masses of
infantry which were assembled upon our right, seemed to threaten the hill
of Naval d’Aver with as sad a catastrophe.

Crawfurd came now galloping up among us, his eye flashing fire, and his
uniform splashed and covered with foam:

“Steady Sixteenth, steady! Don’t blow your horses! Have your fellows
advanced, Malcolm?” said he, turning to an officer who stood beside him.
“Ay, there they go!” pointing with his finger to the wood where, as he
spoke, the short ringing of the British rifle proclaimed the advance of
that brigade. “Let the cavalry prepare to charge! And now, Ramsey, let us
give it them home!”

Scarcely were the words spoken, when the squadrons were formed, and in an
instant after, the French light infantry were seen retreating from the
wood, and flying in disorderly masses across the plain. Our squadrons
riding down among them, actually cut them to atoms, while the light
artillery, unlimbering, threw in a deadly discharge of grape-shot.

“To the right, Fourteenth, to the right!” cried General Stewart. “Have at
their hussars!”

Whirling by them, we advanced at a gallop, and dashed towards the enemy,
who, not less resolutely bent, came boldly forward to meet us. The shock
was terrific! The leading squadrons on both sides went down almost to a
man, and all order being lost, the encounter became one of hand to hand.

The struggle was deadly; neither party would give way; and while fortune
now inclined hither and thither, Sir Charles Stewart singled out the French
general, Lamotte, and carried him off his prisoner. Meanwhile Montbrun’s
cavalry and the cuirassiers came riding up, and the retreat now sounding
through our ranks, we were obliged to fall back upon the infantry. The
French pursued us hotly; and so rapid was their movement, that before
Ramsey’s brigade could limber up and away, their squadrons had surrounded
him and captured his guns.

“Where is Ramsey?” cried Crawfurd, as he galloped to the head of our
division. “Cut off--cut off! Taken, by G----! There he goes!” said he,
pointing with his finger, as a dense cloud of mingled smoke and dust moved
darkly across the plain. “Form into column once more!”

As he spoke, the dense mass before us seemed agitated by some mighty
commotion; the flashing of blades, and the rattling of small-arms, mingled
with shouts of triumph or defiance, burst forth, and the ominous cloud
lowering more darkly, seemed peopled by those in deadly strife. An English
cheer pealed high above all other sounds; a second followed; the mass was
rent asunder, and like the forked lightning from a thunder-cloud, Ramsey
rode forth at the head of his battery, the horses bounding madly, while the
guns sprang behind them like things of no weight; the gunners leaped to
their places, and fighting hand to hand with the French cavalry, they flew
across the plain.

“Nobly done, gallant Ramsey!” said a voice behind me. I turned at the
sound; it was Lord Wellington who spoke. My eye fixed upon his stern
features, I forgot all else; when he suddenly recalled me to my
recollection by saying,--

“Follow your brigade, sir. Charge!”

In an instant I was with my people, who, intervening betwixt Ramsey and his
pursuers, repulsed the enemy with loss, and carried off several prisoners.
The French, however, came up in greater strength; overwhelming masses of
cavalry came sweeping upon us, and we were obliged to retire behind the
light division, which rapidly formed into squares to resist the cavalry.
The Seventh Division, which was more advanced, were, however, too late for
this movement, and before they could effect their formation, the French
were upon them. At this moment they owed their safety to the Chasseurs
Britanniques, who poured in a flanking fire, so close, and with so deadly
an aim, that their foes recoiled, beaten and bewildered.

Meanwhile the French had become masters of Pogo Velho; the formidable
masses had nearly outflanked us on the right. The battle was lost if we
could not fall back upon our original position, and concentrate our force
upon Fuentes d’Onoro. To effect this was a work of great difficulty; but
no time was to be lost. The Seventh Division were ordered to cross the
Turones, while Crawfurd, forming the light division into squares, covered
their retreat, and supported by the cavalry, sustained the whole force of
the enemy’s attack.

Then was the moment to witness the cool and steady bravery of British
infantry; the squares dotted across the enormous plain seemed as nothing
amidst that confused and flying multitude, composed of commissariat
baggage, camp-followers, peasants, and finally, broken pickets and videttes
arriving from the wood. A cloud of cavalry hovered and darkened around
them; the Polish Lancers shook their long spears, impatient of delay, and
the wild huzzas burst momentarily from their squadrons as they waited for
the word to attack. But the British stood firm and undaunted; and although
the enemy rode round their squares, Montbrun himself at their head, they
never dared to charge them. Meanwhile the Seventh Division fell back, as
if on a parade, and crossing the river, took up their ground at Frenada,
pivoting upon the First Division; the remainder of the line also fell back,
and assumed a position at right angles with their former one, the cavalry
forming in front, and holding the French in check during the movement. This
was a splendid manoeuvre, and when made in face of an overnumbering enemy,
one unmatched during the whole war.

At sight of this new front, the French stopped short, and opened a fire
from their heavy guns. The British batteries replied with vigor and
silenced the enemy’s cannon. The cavalry drew out of range, and the
infantry gradually fell back to their former position. While this was going
on, the attack upon Fuentes d’Onoro was continued with unabated vigor.
The three British regiments in the lower town were pierced by the
French tirailleurs, who poured upon them in overwhelming numbers; the
Seventy-ninth were broken, ten companies taken, and Cameron, their colonel,
mortally wounded. Thus the lower village was in the hands of the enemy,
while from the upper town the incessant roll of musketry proclaimed the
obstinate resistance of the British.

At this period the reserves were called up from the right, in time to
resist the additional troops which Drouet continued to bring on. The
French, reinforced by the whole Sixth Corps, now came forward at a
quick-step. Dashing through the ruined streets of the lower town, they
crossed the rivulet, fighting bravely, and charged against the height.
Already their leading files had gained the crag beside the chapel. A French
colonel holding his cap upon his sword-point waved on his men.

The grizzly features of the grenadiers soon appeared, and the dark column,
half-climbing, half-running, were seen scaling the height. A rifle-bullet
sent the French leader tumbling from the precipice; and a cheer--mad and
reckless as the war-cry of an Indian--rent the sky, as the 71st and 79th
Highlanders sprang upon the enemy.

Our part was a short one; advancing in half squadrons, we were concealed
from the observation of the enemy by the thick vineyards which skirted the
lower town, waiting, with impatience, the moment when our gallant infantry
should succeed in turning the tide of battle. We were ordered to dismount,
and stood with our bridles on our arms, anxious and expectant. The charge
of the French column was made close to where we were standing,--the
inspiriting cheers of the officers, the loud _vivas_ of the men, were
plainly heard by us as they rushed to the assault; but the space between
us was intersected by walls and brushwood, which totally prevented the
movements of cavalry.

Fearlessly their dark column moved up the heights, fixing the bayonets
as they went. No tirailleurs preceded them, but the tall shako of the
Grenadier of the Guard was seen in the first rank. Long before the end of
the column had passed us, the leading files were in action. A deafening
peal of musketry--so loud, so dense, it seemed like artillery--burst forth.
A volume of black smoke rolled heavily down from the heights and hid all
from our view, except when the vivid lightning of the platoon firing rent
the veil asunder, and showed us the troops almost in hand to hand conflict.

“It’s Picton’s Division, I’m certain,” cried Merivale; “I hear the bagpipes
of the Highlanders.”

“You are right, sir,” said Hampden, “the Seventy-first are in the same
brigade, and I know their bugles well. There they go again!”

“Fourteenth! Fourteenth!” cried a voice from behind, and at the same
moment, a staff officer, without his hat, and his horse bleeding from a
recent sabre-cut, came up. “You must move to the rear, Colonel Merivale;
the French have gained the heights! Move round by the causeway; bring up
your squadrons as quickly as you can, and support the infantry!”

In a moment we were in our saddles; but scarcely was the word “to fall in”
 given, when a loud cheer rent the very air; the musketry seemed suddenly
to cease, and the dark mass which continued to struggle up the heights
wavered, broke, and turned.

“What can that be?” said Merivale. “What can it mean?”

“I can tell you, sir,” said I, proudly, while I felt my heart throb as
though it would bound from my bosom.

“And what is it, boy? Speak!”

“There it goes again! That was an Irish shout! The Eighty-eighth are at
them!”

“By Jove, here they come!” said Hampden. “God help the Frenchmen now!”

The words were not well spoken, when the red coats of our gallant fellows
were seen dashing through the vineyard.

“The steel, boys; nothing but the steel!” shouted a loud voice from the
crag above our heads.

I looked up. It was the stern Picton himself who spoke. The Eighty-eighth
now led the pursuit, and sprang from rock to rock in all the mad
impetuosity of battle; and like some mighty billow rolling before the gale,
the French went down the heights.

“Gallant Eighty-eighth! Gloriously done!” cried Picton, as he waved his
hat.

“Aren’t we Connaught robbers, now?” shouted a rich brogue, as its owner,
breathless and bleeding, pressed forward in the charge.

A hearty burst of laughter mingled with the din of the battle.

“Now for it, boys! Now for _our_ work!” said old Merivale, drawing his
sabre as he spoke. “Forward! and charge!”

We waited not a second bidding, but bursting from our concealment,
galloped down into the broken column. It was no regular charge, but an
indiscriminate rush. Scarcely offering resistance, the enemy fell beneath
our sabres, or the still more deadly bayonets of the infantry, who were
inextricably mingled up in the conflict.

The chase was followed up for above half a mile, when we fell back,
fortunately in good time; for the French had opened a heavy fire from their
artillery, and regardless of their own retreating column, poured a shower
of grape among our squadrons. As we retired, the struggling files of the
Rangers joined us,--their faces and accoutrements blackened and begrimed
with powder; many of them, themselves wounded, had captured prisoners; and
one huge fellow of the grenadier company was seen driving before him a
no less powerful Frenchman, and to whom, as he turned from time to time
reluctantly, and scowled upon his jailer, the other vociferated some Irish
imprecation, whose harsh intentions were made most palpably evident by a
flourish of a drawn bayonet.

“Who is he?” said Mike; “who is he, ahagur?”

“Sorra one o’ me knows,” said the other; “but it’s the chap that shot
Lieutenant Mahony, and I never took my eye off him after; and if the
lieutenant’s not dead, sure it’ll be a satisfaction to him that I cotch
him.”

The lower town was now evacuated by the French, who retired beyond the
range of our artillery; the upper continued in the occupation of our
troops; and worn out and exhausted, surrounded by dead and dying, both
parties abandoned the contest, and the battle was over.

Both sides laid claim to the victory; the French, because, having taken the
village of Poço Velho, they had pierced the British line, and compelled
them to fall back and assume a new position; the British, because the
attack upon Fuentes d’Onoro has been successfully resisted, and the
blockade of Almeida--the real object of the battle--maintained. The loss
to each was tremendous; fifteen hundred men and officers, of whom three
hundred were prisoners, were lost by the allies, and a far greater number
fell among the forces of the enemy.

After the action, a brigade of the light division released the troops in
the village, and the armies bivouacked once more in sight of each other.



CHAPTER XXIV.


A RENCONTRE.

“LIEUTENANT O’MALLEY, 14th Light Dragoons, to serve as extra aide-de-camp
to Major-General Crawfurd, until the pleasure of his Royal Highness the
Prince Regent is known.” Such was the first paragraph of a general order,
dated Fuentes d’Onoro, the day after the battle, which met me as I woke
from a sound and heavy slumber, the result of thirteen hours on horseback.

A staff appointment was not exactly what I desired at the moment; but I
knew that with Crawfurd my duties were more likely to be at the pickets and
advanced posts of the army, than in the mere details of note-writing or
despatch-bearing; besides that, I felt, whenever anything of importance
was to be done, I should always obtain his permission to do duty with my
regiment.

Taking a hurried breakfast, therefore, I mounted my horse, and cantered
over to Villa Formosa, where the general’s quarters were, to return my
thanks for the promotion, and take the necessary steps for assuming my new
functions.

Although the sun had risen about two hours, the fatigue of the previous day
had impressed itself upon all around. The cavalry, men and horses, were
still stretched upon the sward, sunk in sleep; the videttes, weary and
tired, seemed anxiously watching for the relief; and the disordered and
confused appearance of everything bespoke that discipline had relaxed its
stern features, in compassion for the bold exertions of the preceding day.
The only contrast to this general air of exhaustion and weariness on every
side was a corps of sappers, who were busily employed upon the high grounds
above the village. Early as it was, they seemed to have been at work
some hours,--at least so their labors bespoke; for already a rampart
of considerable extent had been thrown up, stockades implanted, and a
breastwork was in a state of active preparation. The officer of the party,
wrapped up in a loose cloak, and mounted upon a sharp-looking hackney, rode
hither and thither as the occasion warranted, and seemed, as well as from
the distance I could guess, something of a tartar. At least I could not
help remarking how, at his approach, the several inferior officers seemed
suddenly so much more on the alert, and the men worked with an additional
vigor and activity. I stopped for some minutes to watch him, and seeing
an engineer captain of my acquaintance among the party, couldn’t resist
calling out:--

“I say, Hatchard, your friend on the chestnut mare must have had an easier
day yesterday than some of us, or I’ll be hanged if he’d be so active this
morning.” Hatchard hung his head in some confusion, and did not reply;
and on my looking round, whom should I see before me but the identical
individual I had so coolly been criticising, and who, to my utter horror
and dismay, was no other than Lord Wellington himself. I did not wait for a
second peep. Helter-skelter, through water, thickets, and brambles, away I
went, clattering down the causeway like a madman. If a French squadron had
been behind me, I should have had a stouter heart, although I did not fear
pursuit. I felt his eye was upon me,--his sharp and piercing glance, that
shot like an arrow into me; and his firm look stared at me in every object
around.

Onward I pressed, feeling in the very recklessness of my course some relief
to my sense of shame, and ardently hoping that some accident--some smashed
arm or broken collar-bone--might befall me and rescue me from any notice
my conduct might otherwise call for. I never drew rein till I reached the
Villa Formosa, and pulled up short at a small cottage where a double sentry
apprised me of the general’s quarters. As I came up, the low lattice sprang
quickly open, and a figure, half dressed, and more than half asleep,
protruded his head.

“Well, what has happened? Anything wrong?” said he, whom I now recognized
to be General Crawfurd.

“No, nothing wrong, sir,” stammered I, with evident confusion. “I’m merely
come to thank you for your kindness in my behalf.”

“You seemed in a devil of a hurry to do it, if I’m to judge by the pace
you came at. Come in and take your breakfast with us; I shall be dressed
presently, and you’ll meet some of your brother aides-de-camp.”

Having given my horse to an orderly, I walked into a little room, whose
humble accommodations and unpretending appearance seemed in perfect
keeping with the simple and unostentatious character of the general. The
preparations for a good and substantial breakfast were, however, before
me, and an English newspaper of a late date spread its most ample pages
to welcome me. I had not been long absorbed in my reading, when the door
opened, and the general, whose toilet was not yet completed, made his
appearance.

“Egad, O’Malley, you startled me this morning. I thought we were in for it
again.”

I took this as the most seasonable opportunity to recount my mishap of the
morning, and accordingly, without more ado, detailed the unlucky meeting
with the commander-in-chief. When I came to the end, Crawfurd threw himself
into a chair and laughed till the very tears coursed down his bronzed
features.

“You don’t say so, boy? You don’t really tell me you said that? By Jove! I
had rather have faced a platoon of musketry than have stood in your shoes!
You did not wait for a reply, I think?”

“No, faith, sir, that I did not!”

“Do you suspect he knows you?”

“I trust not, sir; the whole thing passed so rapidly!”

“Well, it’s most unlucky in more ways than one!” He paused for a few
moments as he said this, and then added, “Have you seen the general order?”
 pushing towards me a written paper as he spoke. It ran thus:--

    G.O.      ADJUTANT-GENERAL’S OFFICE, VILLA FORMOSA,

    May 6, 1811.

    _Memorandum_.--Commanding officers are requested to send in to
    the military secretary, as soon as possible, the names of officers they
    may wish to have promoted in succession to those who have fallen
    in action.”

“Now look at this list. The Honorable Harvey Howard, Grenadier Guards,
to be first lieutenant, _vice_--No, not that. Henry Beauchamp--George
Villiers--ay, here it is! Captain Lyttleton, Fourteenth Light Dragoons,
to be major in the Third Dragoon Guards, _vice_ Godwin, killed in action;
Lieutenant O’Malley to be captain, _vice_ Lyttleton, promoted. You see,
boy, I did not forget you; you were to have had the vacant troop in your
own regiment. Now I almost doubt the prudence of bringing your name under
Lord Wellington’s notice. He may have recognized you; and if he did so,
why, I rather think--that is, I suspect--I mean, the quieter you keep the
better.”

While I poured forth my gratitude as warmly as I was able for the general’s
great kindness to me, I expressed my perfect concurrence in his views.

“Believe me, sir,” said I, “I should much rather wait any number of years
for my promotion, than incur the risk of a reprimand; the more so, as it is
not the first time I have blundered with his lordship.” I here narrated
my former meeting with Sir Arthur, at which Crawfurd’s mirth again burst
forth, and he paced the room, holding his sides in an ecstasy of merriment.

“Come, come, lad, we’ll hope for the best; we’ll give you the chance that
he has not seen your face, and send the list forward as it is. But here
come our fellows.”

As he spoke, the door opened, and three officers of his staff entered, to
whom, being severally introduced, we chatted away about the news of the
morning until breakfast.

“I’ve frequently heard of you from my friend Hammersley,” said Captain
Fitzroy, addressing me. “You were intimately acquainted, I believe?”

“Oh, yes! Pray, where is he now? We have not met for a long time.”

“The poor fellow’s invalided; that sabre-cut upon his head has turned out
a sad affair, and he’s gone back to England on a sick leave. Old Dashwood
took him back with him as private secretary, or something of that sort.”

“Ah!” said another, “Dashwood has daughters, hasn’t he? No bad notion of
his; for Hammersley will be a baronet some of these days, with a rent-roll
of eight or nine thousand per annum.”

“Sir George Dashwood,” said I, “has but one daughter, and I am quite sure
that in his kindness to Hammersley no intentions of the kind you mention
were mixed up.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the third, a pale, sickly youth, with handsome
but delicate features. “I was on Dashwood’s staff until a few weeks ago,
and certainly I thought there was something going on between Hammersley
and Miss Lucy, who, be it spoken, is a devilish fine girl, though rather
disposed to give herself airs.”

I felt my cheek and my temples boiling like a furnace; my hand trembled as
I lifted my coffee to my lips; and I would have given my expected promotion
twice over to have had any reasonable ground of quarrel with the speaker.

“Egad, lads,” said Crawfurd, “that’s the very best thing I know about a
command. As a bishop is always sure to portion off his daughters with
deaneries and rectories, so your knowing old general always marries his
among his staff.”

This sally was met with the ready laughter of the subordinates, in which,
however little disposed. I was obliged to join.

“You are quite right, sir,” rejoined the pale youth; “and Sir George has no
fortune to give his daughter.”

“How came it, Horace, that you got off safe?” said Fitzroy, with a certain
air of affected seriousness in his voice and manner. “I wonder they let
such a prize escape them.”

“Well, it was not exactly their fault, I do confess. Old Dashwood did the
civil towards me, and _la belle Lucie_ herself was condescending enough to
be less cruel than to the rest of the staff. Her father threw us a good
deal together; and in fact, I believe--I fear--that is--that I didn’t
behave quite well.”

“You may rest perfectly assured of it, sir,” said I; “whatever your
previous conduct may have been, you have completely relieved your mind on
this occasion, and behaved most shamefully.”

Had a shell fallen in the midst of us, the faces around me could not have
been more horror-struck than when, in a cool, determined tone, I spoke
these few words. Fitzroy pushed his chair slightly back from the table, and
fixed his eyes full upon me. Crawfurd grew dark-purple over his whole face
and forehead, and looked from one to the other of us without speaking;
while the Honorable Horace Delawar, the individual addressed, never changed
a muscle of his wan and sickly features, but lifting his eyes slowly from
his muffin, lisped softly out,--

“You think so? How very good!”

“General Crawfurd,” said I, the moment I could collect myself sufficiently
to speak, “I am deeply grieved that I should so far have forgotten myself
as to disturb the harmony of your table; but when I tell you that Sir
George Dashwood is one of my warmest friends on earth; that from my
intimate knowledge of him, I am certain that gentleman’s statements are
either the mere outpourings of folly or worse--”

“By Jove, O’Malley! you have a very singular mode of explaining away the
matter. Delawar, sit down again. Gentlemen, I have only one word to say
about this transaction; I’ll have no squabbles nor broils here; from this
room to the guard-house is a five minutes’ walk. Promise me, upon your
honors, this altercation ends here, or as sure as my name’s Crawfurd, you
shall both be placed under arrest, and the man who refuses to obey me shall
be sent back to England.”

Before I well knew in what way to proceed, Mr. Delawar rose and bowed
formally to the general, while I imitated his example; silently we resumed
our places, and after a pause of a few moments, the current of conversation
was renewed, and other topics discussed, but with such evident awkwardness
and constraint that all parties felt relieved when the general rose from
table.

“I say, O’Malley, have you forwarded the returns to the adjutant-general’s
office?”

“Yes, sir; I despatched them this morning before leaving my quarters.”

“I am glad of it; the irregularities on this score have called forth a
heavy reprimand at headquarters.”

I was also glad of it, and it chanced that by mere accident I remembered to
charge Mike with the papers, which, had they not been lying unsealed upon
the table before me, would, in all likelihood, have escaped my attention.
The post started to Lisbon that same morning, to take advantage of which
I had sat up writing for half the night. Little was I aware at the
moment what a mass of trouble and annoyance was in store for me from the
circumstance.



CHAPTER XXV.


ALMEIDA.

On the morning of the 7th we perceived, from a movement in the French camp,
that the wounded were being sent to the rear, and shortly afterwards the
main body of their army commenced its retreat. They moved with slow, and as
it were, reluctant steps; and Bessiéres, who commanded the Imperial Guard,
turned his eyes more than once to that position which all the bravery of
his troops was unavailing to capture. Although our cavalry lay in force to
the front of our line, no attempt was made to molest the retreating French;
and Massena, having retired beyond the Aguada, left a strong force to watch
the ford, while the remainder of the army fell back upon Cuidad Rodrigo.

During this time we had succeeded in fortifying our position at Fuentes
d’Onoro so strongly as to resist any new attack, and Lord Wellington now
turned his whole attention to the blockade of Almeida, which, by Massena’s
retreat, was abandoned to its fate.

On the morning of the 10th I accompanied General Crawfurd in a
reconnoissance of the fortress, which, from the intelligence we had lately
received, could not much longer hold out against our blockade. The fire
from the enemy’s artillery was, however, hotly maintained; and as night
fell, some squadrons of the Fourteenth, who were picketed near, were unable
to light their watch-fires, being within reach of their shot. As the
darkness increased so did the cannonade, and the bright flashes from the
walls and the deep booming of the artillery became incessant.

A hundred conjectures were afloat to account for the circumstance; some
asserting that what we heard were mere signals to Massena’s army; and
others, that Brennier was destroying and mutilating the fortress before he
evacuated it to the allies.

It was little past midnight when, tired from the fatigues of the day, I had
fallen asleep beneath a tree, an explosion, louder than any which preceded
it, burst suddenly forth, and as I awoke and looked about me, I perceived
the whole heavens illuminated by one bright glare, while the crashing
noise of falling stones and crumbling masonry told me that a mine had been
sprung; the moment after, all was calm and still and motionless; a thick
black smoke increasing the sombre darkness of the night shut out every star
from view, and some drops of heavy rain began to fall.

The silence, ten times more appalling than the din which preceded it,
weighed heavily upon my senses, and a dread of some unknown danger crept
over me; the exhaustion, however, was greater than my fear, and again I
sank into slumber.

Scarcely had I been half an hour asleep, when the blast of a trumpet again
awoke me, and I found, amidst the confusion and excitement about, that
something of importance had occurred. Questions were eagerly asked on all
sides, but no one could explain what had happened. Towards the town all was
as still as death, but a dropping, irregular fire of musketry issued from
the valley beside the Aguada. “What can this mean; what can it be?” we
asked of each other. “A sortie from the garrison,” said one; “A night
attack by Massena’s troops,” cried another; and while thus we disputed and
argued, a horseman was heard advancing along the road at the top of his
speed.

“Where are the cavalry?” cried a voice I recognized as one of my brother
aides-de-camp. “Where are the Fourteenth?”

A cheer from our party answered this question, and the next moment,
breathless and agitated, he rode in among us.

“What is it? Are we attacked?”

“Would to Heaven that were all! But come along, lads, follow me.”

“What can it be, then?” said I again; while my anxiety knew no bounds.

“Brennier has escaped; burst his way through Pack’s Division, and has
already reached Valde Mula.”

“The French have escaped!” was repeated from mouth to mouth; while,
pressing spurs to our horses, we broke into a gallop, and dashed forward in
the direction of the musketry. We soon came up with the 36th Infantry, who,
having thrown away their knapsacks, were rapidly pressing the pursuit. The
maledictions which burst from every side proved how severely the misfortune
was felt by all, while the eager advance of the men bespoke how ardently
they longed to repair the mishap.

Dark as was the night, we passed them in a gallop, when suddenly the
officer who commanded the leading squadron called out to halt.

“Take care there, lads!” cried he; “I hear the infantry before us; we shall
be down upon our own people.”

The words were hardly spoken, when a bright flash blazed out before us, and
a smashing volley was poured into the squadron.

“The French! the French, by Jove!” said Hampden. “Forward, boys! charge
them!”

Breaking into open order, to avoid our wounded comrades, several of whom
had fallen by the fire, we rode down among them. In a moment their order
was broken, their ranks pierced, and fresh squadrons coming up at the
instant, they were sabred to a man.

After this the French pursued their march in silence, and even when
assembling in force we rode down upon their squares, they never halted nor
fired a shot. At Barba del Puerco, the ground being unfit for cavalry, the
Thirty-sixth took our place, and pressed them hotly home. Several of
the French were killed, and above three hundred made prisoners, but our
fellows, following up the pursuit too rashly, came upon an advanced body of
Massena’s force, drawn up to await and cover Brennier’s retreat; the result
was the loss of above thirty men in killed and wounded.

Thus were the great efforts of the three preceding days rendered fruitless
and nugatory. To maintain this blockade, Lord Wellington, with an inferior
force, and a position by no means strong, had ventured to give the enemy
battle; and now by the unskilfulness of some, and the negligence of others,
were all his combinations thwarted, and the French general enabled to march
his force through the midst of the blockading columns almost unmolested and
uninjured.

Lord Wellington’s indignation was great, as well it might be; the prize for
which he had contested was torn from his grasp at the very moment he had
won it, and although the gallantry of the troops in the pursuit might,
under other circumstances, have called forth eulogium, his only observation
on the matter was a half-sarcastic allusion to the inconclusive effects of
undisciplined bravery. “Notwithstanding,” says the general order of the
day, “what has been printed in gazettes and newspapers, we have never seen
small bodies, unsupported, successfully opposed to large; nor has the
experience of any officer realized the stories which all have read, of
whole armies being driven by a handful of light infantry and dragoons.”



CHAPTER XXVI.


A NIGHT ON THE AZAVA.

Massena was now recalled, and Marmont, having assumed the command of
the French, army, retired towards Salamanca, while our troops went into
cantonments upon the Aguada. A period of inaction succeeded to our previous
life of bustle and excitement, and the whole interest of the campaign was
now centred in Beresford’s army, exposed to Soult in Estramadura.

On the 15th Lord Wellington set out for that province, having already
directed a strong force to march upon Badajos.

“Well, O’Malley,” said Crawfurd, as he returned from bidding Lord
Wellington good-by, “your business is all right; the commander-in-chief has
signed my recommendation, and you will get your troop.”

While I continued to express my grateful acknowledgments for his kindness,
the general, apparently inattentive to all I was saying, paced the room
with hurried steps, stopping every now and then to glance at a large map of
Spain which covered one wall of the apartment, while he muttered to himself
some broken and disjointed sentences.

“Eight leagues--too weak in cavalry--with the left upon Fuenta Grenaldo--a
strong position. O’Malley, you’ll take a troop of dragoons and patrol the
country towards Castro; you’ll reconnoitre the position the Sixth Corps
occupies, but avoid any collision with the enemy’s pickets, keeping the
Azava between you and them. Take rations for three days.”

“When shall I set out, sir?”

“Now!” was the reply.

Knowing with what pleasure the hardy veteran recognized anything like
alacrity and despatch, I resolved to gratify him; and before half an hour
had elapsed, was ready with my troop to receive his final orders.

“Well done, boy!” said he, as he came to the door of the hut, “you’ve lost
no time. I don’t believe I have any further instructions to give you; to
ascertain as far as possible the probable movement of the enemy is my
object, that’s all.” As he spoke this, he waved his hand, and wishing me
“Good-by,” walked leisurely back into the house. I saw that his mind was
occupied by other thoughts; and although I desired to obtain some more
accurate information for my guidance, knowing his dislike to questions, I
merely returned his salute, and set forth upon my journey.

The morning was beautiful; the sun had risen about an hour, and the earth,
refreshed by the heavy dew of the night, was breathing forth all its
luxuriant fragrance. The river which flowed beside us was clear as crystal,
showing beneath its eddying current the shining, pebbly bed, while upon
the surface, the water-lilies floated or sank as the motion of the stream
inclined. The tall cork-trees spread their shadows about us, and the richly
plumed birds hopped from branch to branch awaking the echoes with their
notes.

It is but seldom that the heart of man is thoroughly attuned to the
circumstances of the scenery around him. How often do we need a struggle
with ourselves to enjoy the rich and beautiful landscape which lies smiling
in its freshness before us! How frequently do the blue sky and the calm air
look down upon the heart darkened and shadowed with affliction! And how
often have we felt the discrepancy between the lowering look of winter and
the glad sunshine of our hearts! The harmony of the world without with our
thoughts within is one of the purest, as it is one of the greatest, sources
of happiness. Our hopes and our ambitions lose their selfish character when
we feel that fortune smiles upon us from all around, and the flattery which
speaks to our hearts from the bright stars and the blue sky, the peaked
mountain or the humble flower, is greater in its mute eloquence than all
the tongue of man can tell us.

This feeling did I experience in all its fulness as I ruminated upon my
bettered fortunes, and felt within myself that secret instinct that tells
of happiness to come. In such moods of mind my thoughts strayed ever
homewards, and I could not help confessing how little were all my successes
in my eyes, did I not-hope for the day when I should pour forth my tale of
war and battle-field to the ears of those who loved me.

I resolved to write home at once to my uncle. I longed to tell him each
incident of my career, and my heart glowed as I thought over the broken
and disjointed sentences which every cotter around would whisper of my
fortunes, far prouder as they would be in the humble deeds of one they
knew, than in the proudest triumphs of a nation’s glory.

Indeed, Mike himself gave the current to my thoughts. After riding beside
me for some time in silence, he remarked,--

“And isn’t it Father Rush will be proud when he sees your honor’s a
captain; to think of the little boy that he used to take before him on the
ould gray mare for a ride down the avenue,--to think of him being a real
captain, six feet two without his boots, and galloping over the French as
if they were lurchers! Peggy Mahon, that nursed you, will be the proud
woman the day she hears it; and there won’t be a soldier sober in his
quarters that night in Portumna barracks! ‘Pon my soul, there’s not a thing
with a red coat on it, if it was even a scarecrow to frighten the birds
from the barley, that won’t be treated with respect when they hear of the
news.”

The country through which we travelled was marked at every step by the
traces of a retreating army: the fields of rich corn lay flattened beneath
the tramp of cavalry, or the wheels of the baggage-wagons; the roads, cut
up and nearly impassable, were studded here and there with marks which
indicated a bivouac. At the same time, everything around bore a very
different aspect from what we had observed in Portugal; there, the
vindictive cruelty of the French soldiery had been seen in full sway: the
ruined château, the burned villages, the desecrated altars, the murdered
peasantry,--all attested the revengeful spirit of a beaten and baffled
enemy. No sooner, however, had they crossed the frontiers, than, as if by
magic, their character became totally changed. Discipline and obedience
succeeded to recklessness and pillage; and instead of treating the natives
with, inhumanity and cruelty, in all their intercourse with the Spaniards
the French behaved with moderation and even kindness. Paying for
everything, obtaining their billets peaceably and quietly, marching with
order and regularity, they advanced into the heart of the country, showing,
by the most irrefragable proof, the astonishing evidences of a discipline
which, by a word, could convert the lawless irregularities of a ruffian
soldiery into the orderly habits and obedient conduct of a highly-organized
army.

As we neared the Azava, the tracks of the retiring enemy became gradually
less perceptible, and the country, uninjured by the march, extended for
miles around us in all the richness and abundance of a favored climate. The
tall corn, waving its yellow gold, reflected like a sea the clouds that
moved slowly above it. The wild gentian and the laurel grew thickly around,
and the cattle stood basking in the clear streams, while some listless
peasant lounged upon the bank beside them. Strange as all these evidences
of peace and tranquillity were, so near to the devastating track of a
mighty army, yet I have more than once witnessed the fact, and remarked
how, but a short distance from the line of our hurried march, the country
lay untouched and uninjured; and though the clank of arms and the dull roll
of the artillery may have struck upon the ear of the far-off dweller in his
native valley, he listened as he would have done to the passing thunder as
it crashed above him; and when the bright sky and pure air succeeded to
the lowering atmosphere and the darkening storm, he looked forth upon his
smiling fields and happy home, while he muttered to his heart a prayer of
thanksgiving that the scourge was passed.

We bivouacked upon the bank of the river, a truly Salvator Rosa scene;
the rocks, towering high above us, were fissured by the channel of many a
trickling stream, seeking, in its zigzag current, the bright river below.
The dark pine-tree and the oak mingled their foliage with the graceful
cedar, which spread its fan-like branches about us. Through the thick shade
some occasional glimpses of a starry sky could yet be seen, and a faint
yellow streak upon the silent river told that the queen of night was there.

When I had eaten my frugal supper, I wandered forth alone upon the bank
of the stream, now standing to watch its bold sweeps as it traversed the
lonely valley before me, now turning to catch a passing glance at our
red watch-fires and the hardy features which sat around. The hoarse and
careless laugh, the deep-toned voice of some old campaigner holding forth
his tale of flood and field, were the only sounds I heard; and gradually I
strolled beyond the reach of even these. The path beside the river, which
seemed scarped from the rock, was barely sufficient for the passage of
one man, a rude balustrade of wood being the only defence against the
precipice, which, from a height of full thirty feet, looked down upon the
stream. Here and there some broad gleam of moonlight would fall upon the
opposite bank, which, unlike the one I occupied, stretched out into rich
meadow and pasturage, broken by occasional clumps of ilex and beech. River
scenery has been ever a passion with me. I can glory in the bold and broken
outline of a mighty mountain; I can gaze with delighted eyes upon the
boundless seas, and know not whether to like it more in all the mighty
outpouring of its wrath, when the white waves lift their heads to heaven
and break themselves in foam upon the rocky beach, or in the calm beauty of
its broad and mirrored surface, in which the bright world of sun and sky
are seen full many a fathom deep. But far before these, I love the happy
and tranquil beauty of some bright river, tracing its winding current
through valley and through plain, now spreading into some calm and waveless
lake, now narrowing to an eddying stream with mossy rocks and waving trees
darkening over it. There’s not a hut, however lowly, where the net of the
fisherman is stretched upon the sward, around whose hearth I do not picture
before me the faces of happy toil and humble contentment, while, from the
ruined tower upon the crag, methinks I hear the ancient sounds of wassail
and of welcome; and though the keep be fissured and the curtain fallen, and
though for banner there “waves some tall wall-flower,” I can people its
crumbling walls with images of the past; and the merry laugh of the warder,
and the clanking tread of the mailed warrior, are as palpably before me as
the tangled lichen that now trails from its battlements.

As I wandered on, I reached the little rustic stair which led downward from
the path to the river’s side; and on examining farther, perceived that at
this place the stream was fordable; a huge flat rock, filling up a great
part of the river’s bed, occupied the middle, on either side of which the
current ran with increased force.

Bent upon exploring, I descended the cliff, and was preparing to cross,
when my attention was attracted by the twinkle of a fire at some distance
from me, on the opposite side; the flame rose and fell in fitful flashes,
as though some hand were ministering to it at the moment. As it was
impossible, from the silence on every side, that it could proceed from a
bivouac of the enemy, I resolved on approaching it, and examining it for
myself. I knew that the shepherds in remote districts were accustomed thus
to pass the summer nights, with no other covering save the blue vault above
them. It was not impossible, too, that it might prove a Guerilla party, who
frequently, in small numbers, hang upon the rear of a retreating army. Thus
conjecturing, I crossed the stream, and quickening my pace, walked forward
in the direction of the blaze. For a moment a projecting rock obstructed my
progress; and while I was devising some means of proceeding farther, the
sound of voices near me arrested my attention. I listened, and what was my
astonishment to hear that they spoke in French. I now crept cautiously to
the verge of the rock and looked over; the moon was streaming in its full
brilliancy upon a little shelving strand beside the stream, and here I
now beheld the figure of a French officer. He was habited in the undress
uniform of a _chasseur á cheval_, but wore no arms; indeed his occupation
at the moment was anything but a warlike one, he being leisurely employed
in collecting some flasks of champagne which apparently had been left to
cool within the stream.

“_Eh bien, Alphonse!_” said a voice in the direction of the fire, “what are
you delaying for?”

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” said the other; “but, _par Dieu!_ I can only find
five of our bottles; one seems to have been carried away by the stream.”

“No matter,” replied the other, “we are but three of us, and one is, or
should be, on the sick list.”

The only answer to this was the muttered chorus of a French drinking-song,
interrupted at intervals by an imprecation upon the missing flask. It
chanced, at this moment, that a slight clinking noise attracted me, and on
looking down, I perceived at the foot of the rock the prize he sought for.
It had been, as he conceived, carried away by an eddy of the stream and was
borne, as a true prisoner-of-war, within my grasp. I avow that from this
moment my interest in the scene became considerably heightened; such a waif
as a bottle of champagne was not to be despised in circumstances like mine;
and I watched with anxious eyes every gesture of the impatient Frenchman,
and alternately vibrated between hope and fear, as he neared or receded
from the missing flask.

“Let it go to the devil,” shouted his companion, once more. “Jacques has
lost all patience with you.”

“Be it so, then,” said the other, as he prepared to take up his burden. At
this instant I made a slight effort so to change my position as to obtain
a view of the rest of the party. The branch by which I supported myself,
however, gave way beneath my grasp with a loud crash. I lost my footing,
and slipping downward from the rock, came plump into the stream below. The
noise, the splash, and more than all, the sudden appearance of a man beside
him, astounded the Frenchman, who almost let fall his pannier, and thus we
stood confronting each other for at least a couple of minutes in silence. A
hearty burst of laughter from both parties terminated this awkward moment,
while the Frenchman, with the readiness of his country, was the first to
open the negotiation.

“_Sacré Dieu!_” said he, “what can you be doing here? You’re English,
without doubt.”

“Even so,” said I; “but that is the very question I was about to ask you;
what are you doing here?”

“_Eh bien_,” replied the other, gayly, “you shall be answered in all
frankness. Our captain was wounded in the action of the 8th, and we heard
had been carried up the country by some peasants. As the army fell back, we
obtained permission to go in search of him. For two days all was fruitless;
the peasantry fled at our approach; and although we captured some of our
stolen property--among other things, the contents of this basket--yet we
never came upon the track of our comrade till this evening. A good-hearted
shepherd had taken him to his hut, and treated him with every kindness,
but no sooner did he hear the gallop of our horses and the clank of our
equipments, than, fearing himself to be made a prisoner, he fled up the
mountains, leaving our friend behind him; _voilà notre histoire_. Here we
are, three in all, one of us with a deep sabre-cut in his shoulder. If you
are the stronger party, we are, I suppose, your prisoners; if not--”

What was to have followed I know not, for at this moment his companion, who
had finally lost all patience, came suddenly to the spot.

“A prisoner,” cried he, placing a heavy hand upon my shoulder, while with
the other he held his drawn sword pointed towards my breast.

To draw a pistol from my bosom was the work of a second; and while gently
turning the point of his weapon away, I coolly said,--

“Not so fast, my friend, not so fast! The game is in my hands, not yours. I
have only to pull this trigger, and my dragoons are upon you; whatever fate
befall me, yours is certain.”

A half-scornful laugh betrayed the incredulity of him I addressed, while
the other, apparently anxious to relieve the awkwardness of the moment,
suddenly broke in with,--

“He is right, Auguste, and you are wrong; we are in his power; that is,”
 added he, smiling, “if he believes there is any triumph in capturing such
_pauvres diables_ as ourselves.”

The features of him he addressed suddenly lost their scornful expression,
and sheathing his sword with an air of almost melodramatic solemnity,
he gravely pulled up his mustaches, and after a pause of a few seconds,
solemnly ejaculated a malediction upon his fortune.

“_C’est toujours ainsi_,” said he, with a bitterness that only a Frenchman
can convey when cursing his destiny. “_Soyez bon enfant_, and see what will
come of it. Only be good-natured, only be kind, and if you haven’t bad luck
at the end of it, it’s only because fortune has a heavier stroke in reserve
for you hereafter.”

I could not help smiling at the Frenchman’s philosophy, which, assuming
as a good augury, he gayly said, “So, then, you’ll not make us prisoners.
Isn’t it so?”

“Prisoners,” said the other, “nothing of the kind. Come and sup with us;
I’ll venture to say our larder is as well stocked as your own; in any case
an omelette, a cold chicken, and a glass of champagne are not bad things in
our circumstances.”

I could not help laughing outright at the strangeness of the proposal.
“I fear I must decline,” said I; “you seem to forget I am placed here to
watch, not to join you.”

“_A la bonne heure_,” cried the younger of the two; “do both. Come along;
_soyez bon camarade_; you are always near your own people, so don’t refuse
us.”

In proportion as I declined, they both became more pressing in their
entreaties, and at last, I began to dread lest my refusal might seem to
proceed from some fear as to the good faith of the invitation, and I never
felt so awkwardly placed as when one plumply pressed me by saying,--

“_Mais pourquoi pas, mon cher?_”

I stammered out something about duty and discipline, when they both
interrupted me by a long burst of laughter.

“Come, come!” said they; “in an hour--in half an hour, if you will--you
shall be back with your own people. We’ve had plenty of fighting latterly,
and we are likely to have enough in future; we know something of each other
by this time in the field; let us see how we get on in the bivouac!”

Resolving not to be outdone in generosity, I replied at once, “Here goes,
then!”

Five minutes afterwards I found myself seated at their bivouac fire. The
captain, who was the oldest of the party, was a fine soldier-like fellow of
some forty years old; he had served in the Imperial Guard through all the
campaigns of Italy and Austria, and abounded in anecdotes of the French
army. From him I learned many of those characteristic traits which so
eminently distinguish the imperial troops, and saw how completely their
bravest and boldest feats of arms depended upon the personal valor of him
who led them on. From the daring enterprise of Napoleon at Lodi to the
conduct of the lowest corporal in the _grande armée_, the picture presents
nothing but a series of brilliant and splendid chivalry; while, at the same
time, the warlike character of the nation is displayed by that instinctive
appreciation of courage and daring which teaches them to follow their
officers to the very cannon’s mouth.

“It was at Elchingen,” said the captain, “you should have seen them. The
regiment in which I was a lieutenant was ordered to form close column, and
charge through a narrow ravine to carry a brigade of guns, which, by a
flanking fire, were devastating our troops. Before we could reach the
causeway, we were obliged to pass an open plain in which the ground dipped
for about a hundred yards; the column moved on, and though it descended one
hill, not a man ever mounted the opposite one. A very avalanche of balls
swept the entire valley; and yet amidst the thunder and the smoke, the red
glare of the artillery, and the carnage around them, our grenadiers marched
firmly up. At last, Marshal Ney sent an aide-de-camp with orders to the
troops to lie flat down, and in this position the artillery played over
us for above half an hour. The Austrians gradually slackened, and finally
discontinued their fire; this was the moment to resume the attack. I crept
cautiously to my knees and looked about. One word brought my men around me;
but I found to my horror that of a battalion who came into action fourteen
hundred strong, not five hundred remained; and that I myself, a mere
lieutenant, was now the senior officer of the regiment. Our gallant colonel
lay dead beside my feet. At this instant a thought struck me. I remembered
a habit he possessed in moments of difficulty and danger, of placing in his
shako a small red plume which he commonly carried in his belt. I searched
for it, and found it. As I held it aloft, a maddening cheer burst around
me, while from out the line each officer sprang madly forward, and rushed
to the head of the column. It was no longer a march. With a loud cry of
vengeance, the mass rushed forward, the men trying to outstrip their
officers, and come first in contact with the foe. Like tigers on the
spring, they fell upon the enemy, who, crushed, overwhelmed, and massacred,
lay in slaughtered heaps around the cannon. The cavalry of the Guard came
thundering on behind us; a whole division followed; and three thousand five
hundred prisoners, and fourteen pieces of artillery were captured.

“I sat upon the carriage of a gun, my face begrimed with powder, and my
uniform blackened and blood-stained. The whole thing appeared like some
shocking dream. I felt a hand upon my shoulder, while a rough voice called
in my ear, ‘_Capitaine du soixante-neuvième, tu es mon frère!_’

“It was Ney who spoke. This,” added the brave captain, his eyes filling as
he said the words,--“this is the sabre he gave me.”

I know not why I have narrated this anecdote; it has little in itself, but
somehow, to me it brings back in all its fulness the recollection of that
night.

There was something so strongly characteristic of the old Napoleonist
in the tone of his narrative that I listened throughout with breathless
attention. I began to feel too, for the first time, what a powerful arm
in war the Emperor had created by fostering the spirit of individual
enterprise. The field thus opened to fame and distinction left no bounds
to the ambition of any. The humble conscript, as he tore himself from the
embraces of his mother, wiped his tearful eyes to see before him in the
distance the bâton of a marshal. The bold soldier who stormed a battery
felt his heart beat more proudly and more securely beneath the cordon of
the Legion than behind a cuirass of steel; and to a people in whom the
sense of duty alone would seem cold, barren, and inglorious, he had
substituted a highly-wrought chivalrous enthusiasm; and by the _prestige_
of his own name, the proud memory of his battles, and the glory of those
mighty tournaments at which all Europe were the spectators, he had
converted a nation into an army.

By a silent and instinctive compact we appeared to avoid those topics of
the campaign in which the honor of our respective arms was interested; and
once, when, by mere accident, the youngest of the party adverted to Fuentes
d’Onoro, the old captain adroitly turned the current of the conversation by
saying, “Come, Alphonse, let’s have a song.”

“Yes,” said the other. “_Les Pas de Charge_.”

“No, no,” said the captain; “if I am to have a choice, let it be that
little Breton song you gave us on the Danube.”

“So be it then,” said Alphonse. “Here goes!”

I have endeavored to convey, by a translation, the words he sang; but I
feel conscious how totally their feeling and simplicity are lost when
deprived of their own _patois_, and the wild but touching melody that
accompanied them.

    THE BRETON HOME.

    When the battle is o’er, and the sounds of fight
    Have closed with the closing day,
    How happy around the watch-fire’s light
    To chat the long hours away;
    To chat the long hours away, my boy,
    And talk of the days to come,
    Or a better still and a purer joy,
    To think of our far-off home.

    How many a cheek will then grow pale,
    That never felt a tear!
    And many a stalwart heart will quail,
    That never quailed in fear!
    And the breast that like some mighty rock
    Amidst the foaming sea
    Bore high against the battle’s shock
    Now heaves like infancy.

    And those who knew each other not
    Their hands together steal,
    Each thinks of some long hallowed spot,
    And all like brothers feel:
    Such holy thoughts to all are given;
    The lowliest has his part;
    The love of home, like love of heaven,
    Is woven in our heart.

There was a pause as he concluded, each sank in his own reflections. How
long we should have thus remained, I know not; but we were speedily aroused
from our reveries by the tramp of horses near us. We listened, and could
plainly detect in their rude voices and coarse laughter the approach of a
body of Guerillas. We looked from one to the other in silence and in fear.
Nothing could be more unfortunate should we be discovered. Upon this point
we were left little time to deliberate; for with a loud cheer, four Spanish
horsemen galloped up to the spot, their carbines in the rest. The Frenchmen
sprang to their feet, and seized their sabres, bent upon making a resolute
resistance. As for me, my determination was at once taken. Remaining
quietly seated upon the grass, I stirred not for a moment, but addressing
him who appeared to be the chief of the Guerillas, said, in Spanish:--

“These are my prisoners; I am a British officer of dragoons, and my party
is yonder.”

This evidently unexpected declaration seemed to surprise them, and they
conferred for a few moments together. Meanwhile they were joined by two
others, in one of whom we could recognize, by his costume, the real leader
of the party.

“I am captain in the light dragoons,” said I, repeating my declaration.

“_Morte de Dios!_” replied he; “it is false; you are a spy!”

The word was repeated from lip to lip by his party, and I saw, in their
lowering looks and darkened features, that the moment was a critical one
for me.

“Down with your arms!” cried he, turning to the Frenchmen. “Surrender
yourselves our prisoners; I’ll not bid ye twice!”

The Frenchmen turned upon me an inquiring look, as though to say that upon
me now their hopes entirely reposed.

“Do as he bids you,” said I; while at the same moment I sprang to my legs,
and gave a loud, shrill whistle, the last echo of which had not died away
in the distance ere it was replied to.

[Illustration: THE TABLES TURNED.]

“Make no resistance now,” said I to the Frenchmen; “our safety depends on
this.”

While this was passing two of the Spaniards had dismounted, and detaching a
coil of rope which hung from their saddle-peak, were proceeding to tie the
prisoners wrist to wrist; the others, with their carbines to the shoulder,
covered us man by man, the chief of the party having singled out me as his
peculiar prey.

“The fate of Mascarenhas might have taught you better,” said he, “than to
play this game.” And then added with a grim smile, “But we’ll see if an
Englishman will not make as good a carbonado as a Portuguese!”

This cruel speech made my blood run cold, for I knew well to what he
alluded. I was at Lisbon at the time it happened, but the melancholy fate
of Julian Mascarenhas, the Portuguese spy, had reached me there. He was
burned to death at Torres Vedras!

The Spaniard’s triumph over my terror was short-lived, indeed, for scarcely
had the words fallen from his lips, when a party of the Fourteenth,
dashing through the river at a gallop, came riding up. The attitude of the
Guerillas, as they sat with presented arms, was sufficient for my fellows
who needed not the exhortation of him who rode foremost of the party:--

“Ride them down, boys! Tumble them over! Flatten their broad beavers, the
infernal thieves!”

“Whoop!” shouted Mike, as he rode at the chief with the force of a
catapult. Down went the Spaniard, horse and all; and before he could
disentangle himself, Mike was upon him, his knee pressed upon his neck.

“Isn’t it enough for ye to pillage the whole country without robbing the
king’s throops!” cried he, as he held him fast to the earth with one hand,
while he presented a loaded pistol to his face.

By this time the scene around me was sufficiently ludicrous. Such of the
Guerillas as had not been thrown by force from their saddles, had slid
peaceably down, and depositing their arms upon the ground, dropped upon
their knees in a semicircle around us, and amidst the hoarse laughter of
the troopers, and the irrepressible merriment of the Frenchmen, rose up the
muttered prayers of the miserable Spaniards, who believed that now their
last hour was come.

“_Madre de Dios_, indeed!” cried Mike, imitating the tone of a repentant
old sinner in a patched mantle; “it’s much the blessed Virgin thinks of
the like o’ ye, thieves and rogues as ye are; it a’most puts me beyond my
senses to see ye there crossing yourselves like _rale_ Christians.”

If I could not help indulging myself in this retributive cruelty towards
the chief, and leaving him to the tender mercies of Mike, I ordered the
others to rise and form in line before me. Affecting to occupy myself
entirely with them, I withdrew the attention of all from the French
officers, who remained quiet spectators of the scene around them.

“_Point de façons_, gentlemen,” said I, in a whisper. “Get to your horses
and away! Now’s your time. Good-by!”

A warm grasp of the hand from each was the only reply, and I turned once
more to my discomforted friends the Guerillas.

“There, Mike, let the poor devil rise. I confess appearances were strong
against me just now.”

“Well, Captain, are you convinced by this time that I was not deceiving
you?”

The Guerilla muttered some words of apology between his teeth, and while he
shook the dust from his cloak, and arranged the broken feather of his
hat, cast a look of scowling and indignant meaning upon Mike, whose rough
treatment he had evidently not forgiven.

“Don’t be looking at me that way, you black thief! or I’ll--”

“Hold there!” said I; “no more of this. Come, gentlemen, we must be
friends. If I mistake not, we’ve got something like refreshment at our
bivouac. In any case you’ll partake of our watch-fire till morning.”

They gladly accepted our invitation, and ere half an hour elapsed Mike’s
performance in the part of host had completely erased every unpleasant
impression his first appearance gave rise to; and as for myself, when I did
sleep at last, the confused mixture of Spanish and Irish airs which issued
from the thicket beside me, proved that a most intimate alliance had grown
up between the parties.



CHAPTER XXVII.


MIKE’S MISTAKE.

An hour before daybreak the Guerillas were in motion, and having taken a
most ceremonious leave of us, they mounted their horses and set out upon
their journey. I saw their gaunt figures wind down the valley, and watched
them till they disappeared in the distance. “Yes, brigands though they be,”
 thought I, “there is something fine, something heroic in the spirit of
their unrelenting vengeance.” The sleuth-hound never sought the lair of
his victim with a more ravening appetite for blood than they track the
retreating columns of the enemy. Hovering around the line of march, they
sometimes swoop down in masses, and carry off a part of the baggage, or the
wounded. The wearied soldier, overcome by heat and exhaustion, who drops
behind his ranks, is their certain victim; the sentry on an advanced post
is scarcely less so. Whole pickets are sometimes attacked and carried off
to a man; and when traversing the lonely passes of some mountain gorge, or
defiling through the dense shadows of a wooded glen, the stoutest heart has
felt a fear, lest from behind the rock that frowned above him, or from the
leafy thicket whose branches stirred without a breeze, the sharp ring of a
Guerilla carbine might sound his death-knell.

It was thus in the retreat upon Corunna fell Colonel Lefebvre. Ever
foremost in the attack upon our rear-guard, this gallant youth (he was
scarce six-and-twenty), a colonel of his regiment, and decorated with the
Legion of Honor, he led on every charge of his bold “_sabreurs_,” riding
up to the very bayonets of our squares, waving his hat above his head, and
seeming actually to court his death-wound; but so struck were our brave
fellows with his gallant bearing, that they cheered him as he came on.

It was in one of these moments as, rising high in his stirrups, he bore
down upon the unflinching ranks of the British infantry, the shrill whistle
of a ball strewed the leaves upon the roadside, the exulting shout of a
Guerilla followed it, and the same instant Lefebvre fell forward upon his
horse’s mane, a deluge of blood bursting from his bosom. A broken cry
escaped his lips,--a last effort to cheer on his men; his noble charger
galloped forward between our squares, bearing to us our prisoner, the
corpse of his rider.

“Captain O’Malley,” said a mounted dragoon to the advanced sentry at the
bottom of the little hill upon which I was standing. “Despatches from
headquarters, sir,” delivering into my hands a large sealed packet from the
adjutant-general’s office. While he proceeded to search for another letter
of which he was the bearer, I broke the seal and read as follows:--

    ADJUTANT-GENERAL’S OFFICE.

    May 15.

    Sir,--On the receipt of this order you are directed, having previously
    resigned your command to the officer next in seniority, to
    repair to headquarters at Fueutes d’Onoro, there to report yourself
    under arrest.

    I have the honor to be your obedient servant,

    GEORGE HOPETON,

    _Military Secretary_.

“What the devil can this mean?” said I to myself, as I read the lines over
again and again. “What have I done lately, or what have I left undone to
involve me in this scrape? Ah!” thought I, “to be sure, it can be nothing
else. Lord Wellington _did_ recognize me that unlucky morning, and has
determined not to let me pass unpunished. How unfortunate. Scarcely
twenty-four hours have elapsed since fortune seemed to smile upon me from
every side, and now the very destiny I most dreaded stares me fully in the
face.” A reprimand, or the sentence of a court-martial, I shrank from with
a coward’s fear. It mattered comparatively little from what source arising,
the injury to my pride as a man and my spirit as a soldier would be almost
the same.

“This is the letter, sir,” said the orderly, presenting me with a packet,
the address of which was in Power’s hand-writing. Eagerly tearing it open,
I sought for something which might explain my unhappy position. It bore the
same date as the official letter, and ran thus:--

    My Dear Charley,--I joined yesterday, just in time to enjoy the
    heartiest laugh I have had since our meeting. If notoriety can gratify
    you, by Jove, you have it; for Charles O’Malley and his man Mickey
    Free are bywords in every mess from Villa Formosa to the rear-guard.
    As it’s only fair you should participate a little in the fun you’ve
    originated, let me explain the cause. Your inimitable man Mike, to
    whom it appears you intrusted the report of killed and wounded for
    the adjutant-general, having just at that moment accomplished a
    letter to his friends at home, substituted his correspondence for your
    returns, and doubtless, sent the list of the casualties as very
    interesting information to his sweetheart in Ireland. If such be the
    case, I hope and trust she has taken the blunder in better part than
    old Colbourn, who swears he’ll bring you to a court-martial, under
    Heaven knows what charges. In fact, his passion has known no bounds
    since the event; and a fit of jaundice has given his face a kind of
    neutral tint between green and yellow, like nothing I know of except
    the facings of the “dirty half-hundred.” [2]

[Footnote 2: For the information of my unmilitary readers, I may
remark that this sobriquet was applied to the 50th Regiment.]

    As Mr. Free’s letter may be as great a curiosity to you as it has
    been to us, I enclose you a copy of it, which Hopeton obtained for
    me. It certainly places the estimable Mike in a strong light as a
    despatch-writer. The occasional interruption to the current of the
    letter, you will perceive, arises from Mike having used the pen of a
    comrade, writing being, doubtless, an accomplishment forgotten in
    the haste of preparing Mr. Free for the world; and the amanuensis
    has, in more than one instance, committed to paper more than was
    meant by the author:--


      Mrs. M’Gra,--Tear an’ ages, sure I need not be treating he
      way. Now, just say Mrs. Mary--ay, that’ll do--Mrs. Mary, it’s may be
      surprised you’ll be to be reading a letter from your humble servant,
      sitting on the top of the Alps,--arrah, may be it’s not the Alps; but
      sure she’ll never know,--fornent the whole French army, with Bony
      himself and all his jinnerals--God be between us and harm--ready to
      murther every mother’s son of us, av they were able, Molly darlin’;
      but, with the blessing of Providence, and Lord Wellington and Mister
      Charles, we’ll bate them yet, as we bate them afore.

      My lips is wathering at the thought o’ the plunder. I often
      of Tim Riley, that was hanged for sheep-stealing; he’d be worth his
      weight in gold here.

      Mr. Charles is now a captain--devil a less--and myself might be
      somethin’ that same, but ye see I was always of a bashful n
      and recommended the master in my place. “He’s mighty young, Mister
      Charles is,” says my Lord Wellington to me,--“He’s mighty young, Mr.
      Free.” “He is, my lord,” says I; “he’s young, as you obsarve, but
      he’s as much divilment in him as many that might be his father.”
       “That’s somethin’, Mr. Free,” says my lord; “ye say he comes from a
      good stock?” “The _rale_ sort, my lord,” says I; “an ould, ancient
      family, that’s spent every sixpence they had in treating their
      neighbors. My father lived near him for years,”--you see, Molly, I
      said that to season the discourse. “We’ll make him a captain,” says
      my lord; “but, Mr. Free, could we do nothing for you?” “Nothing, at
      present, my lord. When my friends comes into power,” says I, “they’ll
      think of me. There’s many a little thing to give away in Ireland, and
      they often find it mighty hard to find a man for lord-lieutenant; and
      if that same, or a tide-waiter’s place was vacant--” “Just tell me,”
       says my lord. “It’s what I’ll do,” says I. “And now, wishing you
      happy dreams, I’ll take my lave.” Just so, Molly, it’s hand and glove
      we are. A pleasant face, agreeable manners seasoned with natural
      modesty, and a good pair of legs, them’s the gifts to push a man’s
      way in the world. And even with the ladies--but sure I am forgetting,
      my master was proposed for, and your humble servant too, by two
      illigant creatures in Lisbon; but it wouldn’t do, Molly, it’s higher
      nor that we’ll be looking,--_rale_ princesses, the devil a less. Tell
      Kitty Hannigan I hope she’s well; she was a disarving young
      in her situation in life. Shusey Dogherty, at the cross road--
      I don’t forget the name--was a good-looking slip too; give her my
      affectionate salutations, as we say in the Portuguese. I hope I’ll be
      able to bear the inclementuous nature of your climate when I go back;
      but I can’t expect to stay long--for Lord Wellington can’t do without
      me. We play duets on the guitar together every evening. The master is
      shouting for a blanket, so no more at present from,

      Your very affectionate friend,

      MICKEY FREE.

      P. S.--I don’t write this myself, for the Spanish tongue p
      out o’ the habit of English. Tell Father Rush, if he’d study the
      Portuguese, I’d use my interest for him with the Bishop of Toledo.
      It’s a country he’d like--no regular stations, but promiscuous eating
      and drinking, and as pretty girls as ever confessed their sins.


    My poor Charley, I think I am looking at you. I think I can
    see the struggle between indignation, and laughter, which every line
    of this letter inflicts upon you. Get back as quickly as you can, and
    we’ll try if Crawfurd won’t pull you through the business. In any
    case, expect no sympathy; and if you feel disposed to be angry with
    all who laugh at you, you had better publish a challenge in the next
    general order. George Scott, of, the Greys, bids me say, that if
    you’re hard up for cash, he’ll give you a couple of hundred for
    Mickey Free. I told him I thought you’d accept it, as your uncle
    has the breed of those fellows upon his estate, and might have no
    objection to weed his stud. Hammersley’s gone back with the Dashwoods;
    but I don’t think you need fear anything in that quarter.
    At the same time, if you wish for success, make a bold push for the
    peerage and half-a-dozen decorations, for Miss Lucy is most decidedly
    gone wild about military distinction. As for me, my affairs go on
    well: I’ve had half-a-dozen quarrels with Inez, but we parted good
    friends, and my bad Portuguese has got me out of all difficulties with
    papa, who pressed me tolerably close as to fortune. I shall want
    your assistance in this matter yet. If parchments will satisfy him, I
    think I could get up a qualification; but somehow the matter must
    be done, for I’m resolved to have his daughter.

    The orderly is starting, so no more till we meet.

    Yours ever,            FRED POWER.


“Godwin,” said I, as I closed the letter, “I find myself in a scrape at
headquarters; you are to take the command of the detachment, for I must set
out at once.”

“Nothing serious, I hope. O’Malley?”

“Oh, no; nothing of consequence. A most absurd blunder of my rascally
servant.”

“The Irish fellow yonder?”

“The same.”

“He seems to take it easily, however.”

“Oh, confound him! he does not know what trouble he has involved me in; not
that he’ll care much when he does.”

“Why, he does not seem to be of a very desponding temperament. Listen to
the fellow! I’ll be hanged, if he’s not singing!”

“I’m devilishly disposed to spoil his mirth. They tell me, however, he
always keeps the troop in good humor; and see, the fellows are actually
cleaning his horses for him, while he is sitting on the bank!”

“Faith, O’Malley, that fellow knows the world. Just hear him.”

Mr. Free was, as described, most leisurely reposing on a bank, a mug of
something drinkable beside him, and a pipe of that curtailed proportion
which an Irishman loves held daintily between his fingers. He appeared to
be giving his directions to some soldiers of the troop, who were busily
cleaning his horses and accoutrements for him.

[Illustration: MR. FREE PIPES WHILE HIS FRIENDS PIPE-CLAY.]

“That’s it, Jim! Rub ‘em down along the hocks; he won’t kick; it’s only
play. Scrub away, honey; that’s the devil’s own carbine to get clean.”

“Well, I say, Mr. Free, are you going to give us that ere song?”

“Yes. I’ll be danged if I burnish your sabre, if you don’t sing.”

“Tear an’ ages! ain’t I composing it? Av I was Tommy Moore, I couldn’t be
quicker.”

“Well, come along, my hearty; let’s hear it.”

“Oh, murther!” said Mike, draining the pot to its last few drops, which he
poured pathetically upon the grass before him; and then having emptied the
ashes from his pipe, he heaved a deep sigh, as though to say life had no
pleasures in store for him. A brief pause followed, after which, to the
evident delight of his expectant audience, he began the following song, to
the popular air of “Paddy O’Carroll”:--


    BAD LUCK TO THIS MARCHING.

    Air,--_Paddy O’Carroll_.

    Bad luck to this marching,
    Pipe-claying, and starching,
    How neat one must be to be killed by the French,
    I’m sick of parading,
    Through wet and cowld wading,
    Or standing all night to be shot in a trench.
    To the tune of a fife
    They dispose of your life,
    You surrender your soul to some illigant lilt;
    Now, I like Garryowen,
    When I hear it at home,
    But it’s not half so sweet when you’re going to be kilt.

    Then, though up late and early,
    Our pay comes so rarely,
    The devil a farthing we’ve ever to spare;
    They say some disaster
    Befell the paymaster;
    On my conscience, I think that the money’s not there.
    And just think what a blunder,
    They won’t let us plunder,
    While the convents invite us to rob them, ‘tis clear;
    Though there isn’t a village,
    But cries, “Come and pillage,”
     Yet we leave all the mutton behind for Mounseer.

    Like a sailor that’s nigh land,
    I long for that island
    Where even the kisses we steal if we please;
    Where it is no disgrace
    If you don’t wash your face,
    And you’ve nothing to do but to stand at your ease.
    With no sergeant t’abuse us,
    We fight to amuse us;
    Sure, it’s better bate Christians than kick a baboon.
    How I’d dance like a fairy
    To see ould Dunleary,
    And think twice ere I’d leave it to be a dragoon!


“There’s a sweet little bit for you,” said Mike, as he concluded; “thrown
off as aisy as a game at football.”

“I say, Mr. Free, the captain’s looking for you; he’s just received
despatches from the camp, and wants his horses.”

“In that case, gentlemen, I must take my leave of you; with the more
regret, too, that I was thinking of treating you to a supper this evening.
You needn’t be laughing; it’s in earnest I am. Coming, sir, coming!”
 shouted he, in a louder tone, answering some imaginary call, as an excuse
for his exit.

When he appeared before me, an air of most business-like alacrity had
succeeded to his late appearance, and having taken my orders to get the
horses in readiness, he left me at once, and in less than half an hour we
were upon the road.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


MONSOON IN TROUBLE.

As I rode along towards Fuentes d’Onoro, I could not help feeling provoked
at the absurd circumstances in which I was involved. To be made the subject
of laughter for a whole army was by no means a pleasant consideration; but
what I felt far worse was the possibility that the mention of my name in
connection with a reprimand might reach the ears of those who knew nothing
of the cause.

Mr. Free himself seemed little under the influence of similar feelings; for
when, after a silence of a couple of hours, I turned suddenly towards him
with a half-angry look, and remarked, “You see, sir, what your confounded
blundering has done,” his cool reply was,--

“Ah, then! won’t Mrs. M’Gra be frightened out of her life when she reads
all about the killed and wounded in your honor’s report? I wonder if they
ever had the manners to send my own letter afterwards, when they found out
their mistake!”

“_Their_ mistake, do you say? rather _yours!_ You appear to have a happy
knack of shifting blame from your own shoulders. And do you fancy that
they’ve nothing else to do than to trouble their heads about your absurd
letters?”

“Faith, it’s easily seen you never saw my letter, or you wouldn’t be saying
that. And sure, it’s not much trouble it would give Colonel Fitzroy or any
o’ the staff that write a good hand just to put in a line to Mrs. M’Gra, to
prevent her feeling alarmed about that murthering paper. Well, well; it’s
God’s blessing! I don’t think there’s anybody of the name of Mickey Free
high up in the army but myself; so that the family won’t be going into
mourning for me on a false alarm.”

I had not patience to participate in this view of the case; so that I
continued my journey without speaking. We had jogged along for some time
after dark, when the distant twinkle of the-watch-fires announced our
approach to the camp. A detachment of the Fourteenth formed the advanced
post, and from the officer in command I learned that Power was quartered
at a small mill about half a mile distant; thither I accordingly turned my
steps, but finding that the path which led abruptly down to it was broken
and cut up in many places, I sent Mike back with the horses, and continued
my way alone on foot.

The night was deliciously calm; and as I approached the little rustic mill,
I could not help feeling struck with Power’s taste in a billet.

A little vine-clad cottage, built close against a rock, nearly concealed
by the dense foliage around it, stood beside a clear rivulet whose eddying
current supplied water to the mill, and rose in a dew-like spray which
sparkled like gems in the pale moonlight. All was still within, but as I
came nearer I thought I could detect the chords of a guitar. “Can it be,”
 thought I, “that Master Fred has given himself up to minstrelsy; or is
it some little dress rehearsal for a serenade? But no,” thought I, “that
certainly is not Power’s voice.” I crept stealthily down the little path,
and approached the window; the lattice lay open, and as the curtain waved
to and fro with the night air, I could see plainly all who were in the
room.

Close beside the window sat a large, dark-featured Spaniard, his hands
crossed upon his bosom and his head inclined heavily forward, the attitude
perfectly denoting deep sleep, even had not his cigar, which remained
passively between his lips, ceased to give forth its blue smoke wreath. At
a little distance from him sat a young girl, who, even by the uncertain
light, I could perceive was possessed of all that delicacy of form and
gracefulness of carriage which characterize her nation.

Her pale features--paler still from the contrast with her jet black
hair and dark costume--were lit up with an expression of animation and
enthusiasm as her fingers swept rapidly and boldly across the strings of a
guitar.

“And you’re not tired of it yet?” said she, bending her head downwards
towards one whom I now for the first time perceived.

Reclining carelessly at her feet, his arm leaning upon her chair, while his
hand occasionally touched her taper fingers, lay my good friend, Master
Fred Power. An undress jacket, thrown loosely open, and a black neck-cloth,
negligently knotted, bespoke the easy _nonchalance_ with which he
prosecuted his courtship.

“Do sing it again?” said he, pressing her fingers to his lips.

What she replied, I could not catch; but Fred resumed: “No, no; he never
wakes. The infernal clatter of that mill is his lullaby.”

“But your friend will be here soon,” said she. “Is it not so?”

“Oh, poor Charley! I’d almost forgotten him. By-the-bye, you mustn’t fall
in love with him. There now, do not look angry; I only meant that, as I
knew he’d be desperately smitten, you shouldn’t let him fancy he got any
encouragement.”

“What would you have me do?” said she, artlessly.

“I have been thinking over that, too. In the first place, you’d better
never let him hear you sing; scarcely ever smile; and as far as possible,
keep out of his sight.”

“One would think, Senhor, that all these precautions were to be taken more
on my account than on his. Is he so very dangerous, then?”

“Not a bit of it! Good-looking enough he is, but, only a boy; at the same
time, a devilish bold one! And he’d think no more of springing through that
window and throwing his arms round your neck, the very first moment of his
arrival, than I should of whispering how much I love you.”

“How very odd he must be! I’m sure I should like him.”

“Many thanks to both for your kind hints; and now to take advantage of
them.” So saying, I stepped lightly upon the window-sill, cleared the
miller with one spring, and before Power could recover his legs or
Margeritta her astonishment, I clasped her in my arms, and kissed her on
either cheek.

“Charley! Charley! Damn it, man, it won’t do!” cried Fred; while the young
lady, evidently more amused at his discomfiture than affronted at the
liberty, threw herself into a seat, and laughed immoderately.

“Ha! Hilloa there! What is’t?” shouted the miller, rousing himself from his
nap, and looking eagerly round. “Are they coming? Are the French coming?”

A hearty renewal of his daughter’s laughter was the only reply; while Power
relieved his anxiety by saying,--

“No, no, Pedrillo, not the French; a mere marauding party,--nothing more. I
say, Charley,” continued he, in a lower tone, “you had better lose no time
in reporting yourself at headquarters. We’ll walk up together. Devilish
awkward scrape, yours.”

“Never fear, Fred; time enough for all that. For the present, if you permit
me, I’ll follow up my acquaintance with our fair friend here.”

“Gently, gently!” said he, with a look of most imposing seriousness. “Don’t
mistake her; she’s not a mere country girl: you understand?--been bred in a
convent here,--rather superior kind of thing.”

“Come, come, Fred, I’m not the man to interfere with you for a moment.”

“Good-night, Senhor,” said the old miller, who had been waiting patiently
all this time to pay his respects before going.

“Yes, that’s it!” cried Power, eagerly. “Good-night, Pedrillo.”

“_Buonos noches_,” lisped out Margeritta, with a slight curtsy.

I sprang forward to acknowledge her salutation, when Power coolly
interposed between us, and closing the door after them, placed his back
against it.

“Master Charley, I must read you a lesson--”

“You inveterate hypocrite, don’t attempt this nonsense with _me_. But come,
tell me how long you have been here?”

“Just twenty-four of the shortest hours I ever passed at an outpost. But
listen,--do you know that voice? Isn’t it O’Shaughnessy?”

“To be sure it is. Hear the fellow’s song.”

    “My father cared little for shot or shell,
    He laughed at death and dangers;
    And he’d storm the very gates of hell
    With a company of the ‘Rangers.’
    So sing tow, row, row, row, row,” etc.


“Ah, then, Mister Power, it’s twice I’d think of returning your visit, if I
knew the state of your avenue. If there’s a grand jury in Spain, they might
give you a presentment for this bit of road. My knees are as bare as a
commissary’s conscience, and I’ve knocked as much flesh off my shin-bones
as would make a cornet in the hussars!”

A regular roar of laughter from both of us apprized Dennis of our vicinity.

“And it’s laughing ye are? Wouldn’t it be as polite just to hold a candle
or lantern for me in this confounded watercourse?”

“How goes it, Major?” cried I, extending my hand to him through the window.

“Charley--Charley O’Malley, my son! I’m glad to see you. It’s a hearty
laugh you gave us this morning. My friend Mickey’s a pleasant fellow for a
secretary-at-war. But it’s all settled now; Crawfurd arranged it for you
this afternoon.”

“You don’t say so! Pray tell me all about it.”

“That’s just what I won’t; for ye see I don’t know it; but I believe old
Monsoon’s affair has put everything out of their heads.”

“Monsoon’s affair! What is that? Out with it, Dennis.”

“Faith, I’ll be just as discreet about that as your own business. All I can
tell you is, that they brought him up to headquarters this evening with
a sergeant’s guard, and they say he’s to be tried by court-martial; and
Picton is in a blessed humor about it.”

“What could it possibly have been? Some plundering affair, depend on it.”

“Faith, you may swear it wasn’t for his little charities, as Dr. Pangloss
calls them, they’ve pulled him up,” cried Power.

“Maurice is in high feather about it,” said Dennis. “There are five of them
up at Fuentes, making a list of the charges to send to Monsoon; for Bob
Mahon, it seems, heard of the old fellow’s doings up the mountains.”

“What glorious fun!” said Tower. “Let’s haste and join them, boys.”

“Agreed,” said I. “Is it far from this?”

“Another stage. When we’ve got something to eat,” said the major, “if Power
has any intentions that way--”

“Well, I really did begin to fear Fred’s memory was lapsing; but somehow,
poor fellow, smiles have been more in his way than sandwiches lately.”

An admonishing look from Power was his only reply, as he walked towards the
door. Bent upon teasing him, however, I continued,--

“My only fear is, he may do something silly.”

“Who? Monsoon, is it?”

“No, no. Not Monsoon; another friend of ours.”

“Faith, I scarcely thought your fears of old Monsoon were called for. He’s
a fox--the devil a less.”

“No, no, Dennis. I wasn’t thinking of him. My anxieties were for a most
soft-hearted young gentleman,--one Fred Power.”

“Charley, Charley!” said Fred, from the door, where he had been giving
directions to his servant about supper. “A man can scarce do a more silly
thing than marry in the army; all the disagreeables of married life, with
none of its better features.”

“Marry--marry!” shouted O’Shaughnessy, “upon my conscience, it’s
incomprehensible to me how a man can be guilty of it. To be sure, I don’t
mean to say that there are not circumstances,--such as half-pay, old age,
infirmity, the loss of your limbs, and the like; but that, with good health
and a small balance at your banker’s, you should be led into such an
embarrassment--”

“Men will flirt,” said I, interrupting; “men will press taper fingers, look
into bright eyes, and feel their witchery; and although the fair owners be
only quizzing them half the time, and amusing themselves the other, and
though they be the veriest hackneyed coquettes--”

“Did you ever meet the Dalrymple girls, Dennis?” said Fred, with a look I
shall never forget.

What the reply was I cannot tell. My shame and confusion were overwhelming,
and Power’s victory complete.

“Here comes the prog,” cried Dennis, as Power’s servant entered with a very
plausible-looking tray, while Fred proceeded to place before us a strong
army of decanters.

Our supper was excellent, and we were enjoying ourselves to the utmost,
when an orderly sergeant suddenly opened the door, and raising his hand to
his cap, asked if Major Power was there.

“A letter for you, sir.”

“Monsoon’s writing, by Jove! Come, boys, let us see what it means. What a
hand the old fellow writes! The letters look all crazy, and are tumbling
against each other on every side. Did you ever see anything half so tipsy
as the crossing of that _t?_”

“Read it. Read it out, Fred!”


    Tuesday Evening.

    Dear Power,--I’m in such a scrape! Come up and see me at
    once, bring a little sherry with you, and we’ll talk over what’s to be
    done.

    Yours ever,

    B. MONSOON.

    Quarter-General.


We resolved to finish our evening with the major; so that, each having
armed himself with a bottle or two, and the remnants of our supper, we set
out towards his quarters, under the guidance of the orderly. After a sharp
walk of half an hour, we reached a small hut, where two sentries of the
Eighty-eighth were posted at the door.

O’Shaughnessy procured admittance for us, and in we went. At a small table,
lighted by a thin tallow candle, sat old Monsoon, who, the weather being
hot, had neither coat nor wig on; an old cracked china tea-pot, in which
as we found afterwards he had mixed a little grog, stood before him, and a
large mass of papers lay scattered around on every side,--he himself being
occupied in poring over their contents, and taking occasional draughts from
his uncouth goblet.

As we entered noiselessly, he never perceived us, but continued to mumble
over, in a low tone, from the documents before him:--

“Upon my life, it’s like a dream to me! What infernal stuff this brandy
is!”

    CHARGE No. 8.--For conduct highly unbecoming an officer and
    a gentleman, in forcing the cellar of the San Nicholas convent at
    Banos, taking large quantities of wine therefrom, and subsequently
    compelling the prior to dance a bolero, thus creating a riot, and
    tending to destroy the harmony between the British and the Portuguese,
    so strongly inculcated to be preserved by the general orders.

“Destroy the harmony! Bless their hearts! How little they know of it! I’ve
never passed a jollier night in the Peninsula! The prior’s a trump, and
as for the bolero, he _would_ dance it. I hope they say nothing about my
hornpipe.”

    CHARGE No. 9.--For a gross violation of his duty as an officer, in
    sending a part of his brigade to attack and pillage the alcalde of
    Banos; thereby endangering the public peace of the town, being a
    flagrant breach of discipline and direct violation of the articles of
    war.

“Well, I’m afraid I was rather sharp on the alcalde, but we did him no harm
except the fright. What sherry the fellow had! ‘t would have been a sin to
let it fall into the hands of the French.”

    CHARGE No. 10.--For threatening, on or about the night of the
    3d, to place the town of Banos under contribution, and subsequently
    forcing the authorities to walk in procession before him, in absurd
    and ridiculous costumes.

“Lord, how good it was! I shall never forget the old alcalde! One of my
fellows fastened a dead lamb round his neck, and told him it was the golden
fleece. The commander-in-chief would have laughed himself if he had been
there. Picton’s much too grave,--never likes a joke.”

    CHARGE No. 11.--For insubordination and disobedience, in refusing
    to give up his sword, and rendering it necessary for the Portuguese
    guard to take it by force,--thereby placing himself in a
    situation highly degrading to a British officer.

“Didn’t I lay about me before they got it! Who’s that? Who’s laughing
there? Ah, boys, I’m glad to see you! How are you, Fred? Well, Charley,
I’ve heard of your scrape; very sad thing for so young a fellow as you are.
I don’t think you’ll be broke; I’ll do what I can. I’ll see what I can do
with Picton; we are very old friends, were at Eton together.”

“Many thanks, Major; but I hear your own affairs are not flourishing.
What’s all this court-martial about?”

“A mere trifle; some little insubordination in the legion. Those Portuguese
are sad dogs. How very good of you, Fred, to think of that little supper.”

While the major was speaking, his servant, with a dexterity the fruit of
long habit, had garnished the table with the contents of our baskets, and
Monsoon, apologizing for not putting on his wig, sat down among us with a
face as cheerful as though the floor was not covered with the charges of
the court-martial to be held on him.

As we chatted away over the campaign and its chances, Monsoon seemed little
disposed to recur to his own fortunes. In fact, he appeared to suffer much
more from what he termed my unlucky predicament than from his own mishaps.
At the same time, as the evening wore on, and the sherry began to tell upon
him, his heart expanded into its habitual moral tendency, and by an easy
transition, he was led from the religious association of convents to the
pleasures of pillaging them.

“What wine they have in their old cellars! It’s such fun drinking it out of
great silver vessels as old as Methuselah. ‘There’s much treasure in the
house of the righteous,’ as David says; and any one who has ever sacked a
nunnery knows that.”

“I should like to have seen that prior dancing the bolero,” said Power.

“Wasn’t it good, though! He grew jealous of me, for I performed a hornpipe.
Very good fellow the prior; not like the alcalde,--there was no fun in him.
Lord bless him! he’ll never forget me.”

“What did you do with him, Major?”

“Well, I’ll tell you; but you mustn’t let it be known, for I see they have
not put it in the court-martial. Is there no more sherry there? There, that
will do; I’m always contented. ‘Better a dry morsel with quietness,’ as
Moses says. Ay, Charley, never forget that ‘a merry heart is just like
medicine.’ Job found out that, you know.”

“Well, but the alcalde, Major.”

“Oh! the alcalde, to be sure. These pious meditations make me forget
earthly matters.”

“This old alcalde at Banos, I found out, was quite spoiled by Lord
Wellington. He used to read all the general orders, and got an absurd
notion in his head that because we were his allies, we were not allowed to
plunder. Only think, he used to snap his fingers at Beresford, didn’t care
twopence about the legion, and laughed outright at Wilson. So, when I was
ordered down there, I took another way with him. I waited till night-fall,
ordered two squadrons to turn their jackets, and sent forward one of my
aides-de-camp, with a few troopers, to the alcalde’s house. They galloped
into the courtyard, blowing trumpets and making an infernal hubbub. Down
came the alcalde in a passion. ‘Prepare quarters quickly, and rations for
eight hundred men.’

“‘Who dares to issue such an order?’ said he.

“The aide-de-camp whispered one word in his ear, and the old fellow
grew pale as death. ‘Is he here; is he coming,--is he coming?’ said he,
trembling from head to foot.

“I rode in myself at this moment looking thus,--

“‘_Où est le malheureux?_’ said I, in French,--you know I speak French like
Portuguese.”

“Devilish like, I’ve no doubt,” muttered Power.

“‘_Pardon, gracias eccellenza!_’ said the alcalde, on his knees.”

“Who the deuce did he take you for, Major?”

“You shall hear; you’ll never guess, though. Lord, I shall never forget it!
He thought I was Marmont; my aide-de-camp told him so.”

One loud burst of laughter interrupted the major at this moment, and it was
some considerable time before he could continue his narrative.

“And do you really mean,” said I, “that you personated the Duke de Raguse?”

“Did I not, though? If you had only seen me with a pair of great mustaches,
and a drawn sabre in my hand, pacing the room up and down in presence of
the assembled authorities. Napoleon himself might have been deceived. My
first order was to cut off all their heads; but I commuted the sentence
to a heavy fine. Ah, boys, if they only understood at headquarters how to
carry on a war in the Peninsula, they’d never have to grumble in England
about increased taxation! How I’d mulet the nunneries! How I’d grind the
corporate towns! How I’d inundate the country with exchequer bills! I’d
sell the priors at so much a head, and put the nuns up to auction by the
dozen.”

“You sacrilegious old villain! But continue the account of your exploits.”

“Faith, I remember little more. After dinner I grew somewhat mellow, and
a kind of moral bewilderment, which usually steals over me about eleven
o’clock, induced me to invite the alcalde and all the aldermen to come and
sup. Apparently, we had a merry night of it, and when morning broke,
we were not quite clear in our intellects. Hence came that infernal
procession; for when the alcalde rode round the town with a paper cap, and
all the aldermen after him, the inhabitants felt offended, it seems, and
sent for a large Guerilla force, who captured me and my staff, after a very
vigorous resistance. The alcalde fought like a trump for us, for I promised
to make him Prefect of the Seine; but we were overpowered, disarmed, and
carried off. The remainder you can read in the court-martial, for you may
think that after sacking the town, drinking all night, and fighting in the
morning, my memory was none of the clearest.”

“Did you not explain that you were not the marshal-general?”

“No, faith, I know better than that; they’d have murdered me had they known
their mistake. They brought me to headquarters in the hope of a great
reward, and it was only when they reached this that they found out I
was not the Duke de Raguse; so you see, boys, it’s a very complicated
business.”

“‘Gad, and so it is,” said Power, “and an awkward one, too.”

“He’ll be hanged, as sure as my name’s Dennis!” vociferated O’Shaughnessy,
with an energy that made the major jump from his chair. “Picton will hang
him!”

“I’m not afraid,” said Monsoon; “they know me so well. Lord bless you,
Beresford couldn’t get on without me!”

“Well, Major,” said I, “in any case, you certainly take no gloomy nor
desponding view of your case.”

“Not I, boy. You know what Jeremiah says: ‘a merry heart is a continual
feast;’ and so it is. I may die of repletion, but they’ll never find me
starved with sorrow.”

“And, faith, it’s a strange thing!” muttered O’Shaughnessy, thinking aloud;
“a most extraordinary thing! An honest fellow would be sure to be hanged;
and there’s that old rogue, that’s been melting down more saints and
blessed Virgins than the whole army together, he’ll escape. Ye’ll see he
will!”

“There goes the patrol,” said Fred; “we must start.”

“Leave the sherry, boys; you’ll be back again. I’ll have it put up
carefully.”

We could scarcely resist a roar of laughter as we said, “Good-night.”

“Adieu, Major,” said I; “we shall meet soon.”

So saying, I followed Power and O’Shaughnessy towards their quarters.

“Maurice has done it beautifully!” said Power. “Pleasant revelations the
old fellow will make on the court-martial, if he only remembers what we’ve
heard to-night! But here we are, Charley; so good-night, and remember, you
breakfast with me to-morrow.”



CHAPTER XXIX.


THE CONFIDENCE.

“I have changed the venue, Charley,” said Power, as he came into my room
the following morning,--“I’ve changed the venue, and come to breakfast with
you.”

I could not help smiling as a certain suspicion crossed my mind; perceiving
which, he quickly added,--

“No, no, boy! I guess what you’re thinking of. I’m not a bit jealous in
that quarter. The fact is, you know, one cannot be too guarded.”

“Nor too suspicious of one’s friends, apparently.”

“A truce with quizzing. I say, have you reported yourself?”

“Yes; and received this moment a most kind note from the general. But it
appears I’m not destined to have a long sojourn among you, for I’m desired
to hold myself in readiness for a journey this very day.”

“Where the deuce are they going to send you now?”

“I’m not certain of my destination. I rather suspect there are despatches
for Badajos. Just tell Mike to get breakfast, and I’ll join you
immediately.”

When I walked into the little room which served as my _salon_, I found
Power pacing up and down, apparently wrapped in meditation.

“I’ve been thinking, Charley,” said he, after a pause of about ten
minutes,--“I’ve been thinking over our adventures in Lisbon. Devilish
strange girl that senhora! When you resigned in my favor, I took it for
granted that all difficulty was removed. Confound it! I no sooner began to
profit by your absence, in pressing my suit, than she turned short round,
treated me with marked coldness, exhibited a hundred wilful and capricious
fancies, and concluded one day by quietly confessing to me you were the
only man she cared for.”

“You are not serious in all this, Fred?” said I.

“Ain’t I though, by Jove! I wish to Heaven I were not! My dear Charley,
the girl is an inveterate flirt,--a decided coquette. Whether she has a
particle of heart or not, I can’t say; but certainly her greatest pleasure
is to trifle with that of another. Some absurd suspicion that you were in
love with Lucy Dashwood piqued her vanity, and the anxiety to recover a
lapsing allegiance led her to suppose herself attached to you, and made her
treat all my advances with the most frigid indifference or wayward caprice;
the more provoking,” continued he, with a kind of bitterness in his tone,
“as her father was disposed to take the thing favorably; and, if I must say
it, I felt devilish spooney about her myself.

“It was only two days before I left, that in a conversation with Don
Emanuel, he consented to receive my addresses to his daughter on my
becoming lieutenant-colonel. I hastened back with delight to bring her the
intelligence, and found her with a lock of hair on the book before her,
over which she was weeping. Confound me, if it was not yours! I don’t
know what I said, nor what she replied; but when we parted, it was with a
perfect understanding we were never to meet again. Strange girl! She came
that evening, put her arm within mine as I was walking alone in the garden,
and half in jest, half in earnest, talked me out of all my suspicions, and
left me fifty times more in love with her than ever. Egad! I thought I used
to know something about women, but here is a chapter I’ve yet to read.
Come, now, Charley, be frank with me; tell me all you know.”

“My poor Fred, if you were not head and ears in love, you would see as
plainly as I do that your affairs prosper. And after all, how invariable
is it that the man who has been the veriest flirt with women,--sighing,
serenading, sonneteering, flinging himself at the feet of every pretty girl
he meets with,--should become the most thorough dupe to his own feelings
when his heart is really touched. Your man of eight-and-thirty is always
the greatest fool about women.”

“Confound your impertinence! How the devil can a fellow with a mustache not
stronger that a Circassian’s eyebrow read such a lecture to _me?_”

“Just for the very reason you’ve mentioned. You _glide_ into an attachment
at _my_ time of life; you _fall_ in love at _yours_.”

“Yes,” said Power, musingly, “there is some truth in that. This flirting is
sad work. It is just like sparring with a friend; you put on the gloves in
perfect good humor, with the most friendly intentions of exchanging a few
amicable blows; you find yourself insensibly warm with the enthusiasm of
the conflict, and some unlucky hard knock decides the matter, and it ends
in a downright fight.

“Few men, believe me, are regular seducers; and among those who behave
‘vilely’ (as they call it), three-fourths of the number have been more
sinned against than sinning. You adventure upon love as upon a voyage to
India. Leaving the cold northern latitudes of first acquaintance behind
you, you gradually glide into the warmer and more genial climate of
intimacy. Each day you travel southward shortens the miles and the hours of
your existence; so tranquil is the passage, and so easy the transition, you
suffer no shock by the change of temperature about you. Happy were it for
us that in our courtship, as in our voyage, there were some certain Rubicon
to remind us of the miles we have journeyed! Well were it if there were
some meridian in love!”

“I’m not sure, Fred, that there is not that same shaving process they
practise on the line, occasionally performed for us by parents and
guardians at home; and I’m not certain that the iron hoop of old Neptune is
not a pleasanter acquaintance than the hair-trigger of some indignant
and fire-eating brother. But come, Fred, you have not told me the most
important point,--how fare your fortunes now; or in other words, what are
your present prospects as regards the senhora?”

“What a question to ask me! Why not request me to tell you where Soult will
fight us next, and when Marmont will cross the frontier? My dear boy, I
have not seen her for a week, an entire week,--seven full days and nights,
each with their twenty-four hours of change and vacillation.”

“Well, then, give me the last bulletin from the seat of war; that at least
you can do. Tell me how you parted.”

“Strangely enough. You must know we had a grand dinner at the villa the
day before I left; and when we adjourned for our coffee to the garden, my
spirits were at the top of their bent. Inez never looked so beautiful,
never was one half so gracious; and as she leaned upon my arm, instead
of following the others towards the little summer-house, I turned, as if
inadvertently, into a narrow, dark alley that skirts the lake.”

“I know it well; continue.”

Power reddened slightly, and went on:--

“‘Why are we taking this path?’ said Donna Inez; ‘this is, surely, not a
short way?’

“‘Oh, I wished to make my adieux to my old friends the swans. You know I go
to-morrow.’

“‘Ah, that’s true,’ added she. ‘I’d quite forgotten it.’

“This speech was not very encouraging; but as I felt myself in for the
battle, I was not going to retreat at the skirmish. ‘Now or never,’ thought
I. I’ll not tell you what I said. I couldn’t, if I would. It is only with
a pretty woman upon one’s arm; it is only when stealing a glance at her
bright eyes, as you bend beyond the border of her bonnet,--that you know
what it is to be eloquent. Watching the changeful color of her cheek with
a more anxious heart than ever did mariner gaze upon the fitful sky above
him, you pour out your whole soul in love; you leave no time for doubt, you
leave no space for reply. The difficulties that shoot across her mind you
reply to ere she is well conscious of them; and when you feel her hand
tremble, or see her eyelids fall, like the leader of a storming party when
the guns slacken in their fire, you spring boldly forward in the breach,
and blind to every danger around you, rush madly on, and plant your
standard upon the walls.”

“I hope you allow the vanquished the honors of war,” said I, interrupting.

Without noticing my observation, he continued:--

“I was on my knee before her, her hand passively resting in mine, her eyes
bent _upon_ me softly and tearfully--”

“The game was your own, in fact.”

“You shall hear.

“‘Have we stood long enough thus, Senhor?’ said she, bursting into a fit of
laughter.

“I sprang to my legs in anger and indignation.

“‘There, don’t be passionate; it is so tiresome. What do you call that tree
there?’

“‘It is a tulip-tree,’ said I, coldly.

“‘Then, to put your gallantry to the test, do climb up there and pluck me
that flower. No, the far one. If you fall into the lake and are drowned,
why it would put an end to this foolish interview.’

“‘And if not?’ said I.

“‘Oh, then I shall take twelve hours to consider of it; and if my decision
be in your favor, I’ll give you the flower ere you leave to-morrow.’

“It’s somewhat about thirty years since I went bird-nesting, and hang me,
if a tight jacket and spurs are the best equipment for climbing a tree; but
up I went, and, amidst a running fire of laughter and quizzing, reached the
branch and brought it down safely.

“Inez took especial care to avoid me the rest of the evening. We did not
meet until breakfast the following morning. I perceived then that she wore
the flower in her belt; but, alas! I knew her too well to augur favorably
from that; besides that, instead of any trace of sorrow or depression at my
approaching departure, she was in high spirits, and the life of the party.
‘How can I manage to speak with her?’ said I to myself. ‘But one word,--I
already anticipate what it must be; but let the blow fall--anything is
better than this uncertainty.’

“‘The general and the staff have passed the gate, sir,’ said my servant at
this moment.

“‘Are my horses ready?’

“‘At the door, sir; and the baggage gone forward.’

“I gave Inez one look--

“‘Did you say more coffee?’ said she, smiling.

“I bowed coldly, and rose from the table. They all assembled upon the
terrace to see me ride away.

“‘You’ll let us hear from you,’ said Don Emanuel.

“‘And pray don’t forget the letter to my brother,’ cried old Madame Forjas.

“Twenty similar injunctions burst from the party, but not a word said Inez.

“‘Adieu, then!’ said I. ‘Farewell.’

“‘Adios! Go with God!’ chorused the party.

“‘Good-by, Senhora,’ said I. ‘Have _you_ nothing to tell me ere we part?’

“‘Not that I remember,’ said she, carelessly. ‘I hope you’ll have good
weather.’

“‘There is a storm threatening,’ said I, gloomily.

“‘Well, a soldier cares little for a wet jacket.’

“‘Adieu!’ said I, sharply, darting at her a look that spoke my meaning.

“‘Farewell!’ repeated she, curtsying slightly, and giving one of her
sweetest smiles.

“I drove the spurs into my horse’s flanks, but holding him firmly on the
curb at the same moment, instead of dashing forward, he bounded madly in
the air.

“‘What a pretty creature!’ said she, as she turned towards the house; then
stopping carelessly, she looked round,--

“‘Should you like this bouquet?’

“Before I could reply, she disengaged it from her belt, and threw it
towards me. The door closed behind her as she spoke. I galloped on to
overtake the staff, _et voilà tout_. Now, Charley, read my fate for me, and
tell me what this portends.”

“I confess I only see one thing certain in the whole.”

“And that is?” said Power.

“That Master Fred Power is more irretrievably in love than any gentleman on
full pay I ever met with.”

“By Jove, I half fear as much! Is that orderly waiting for you, Charley?
Who do you want my man?”

“Captain O’Malley, sir. General Crawfurd desires to see you at headquarters
immediately.”

“Come, Charley, I’m going towards Fuentes. Take your cap; we’ll walk down
together.”

So saying, we cantered towards the village, where we separated,--Power to
join some Fourteenth men stationed there on duty, and I to the general’s
quarters to receive my orders.



CHAPTER XXX.


THE CANTONMENT.

Soon after this the army broke up from Caja, and went into cantonments
along the Tagus, the headquarters being at Portalegre. We were here joined
by four regiments of infantry lately arrived from England, and the 12th
Light Dragoons. I shall not readily forget the first impression created
among our reinforcements by the habits of our life at this period.

[Illustration: A HUNTING TURN-OUT IN THE PENINSULA.]

Brimful of expectation, they had landed at Lisbon, their minds filled with
all the glorious expectancy of a brilliant campaign; sieges, storming, and
battle-fields floated before their excited imagination. Scarcely,
however, had they reached the camp, when these illusions were dissipated.
Breakfasts, dinners, private theatricals, pigeon matches, formed our daily
occupation. Lord Wellington’s hounds threw off regularly twice a week;
and here might be seen every imaginable species of equipment, from the
artillery officer mounted on his heavy troop horse, to the infantry
subaltern on a Spanish jennet. Never was anything more ludicrous than our
turn-out. Every quadruped in the army was put into requisition. And even
those who rolled not from their saddles from sheer necessity, were most
likely to do so from laughing at their neighbors. The pace may not have
equalled Melton, nor the fences have been as stubborn as in Leicestershire,
but I’ll be sworn there was more laughter, more fun, and more merriment,
in one day with us, than in a whole season with the best organized pack in
England. With a lively trust that the country was open and the leaps easy,
every man took the field. Indeed, the only anxiety evinced at all, was to
appear at the meet in something like jockey fashion, and I must confess
that this feeling was particularly conspicuous among the infantry. Happy
the man whose kit boasted a pair of cords or buck skins; thrice happy he
who sported a pair of tops. I myself was in that enviable position, and
well remember with what pride of heart I cantered up to cover in all the
superior _éclat_ of my costume, though, if truth were to be spoken, I doubt
if I should have passed muster among my friends of the “Blazers.” A round
cavalry jacket and a foraging cap with a hanging tassel were the strange
accompaniments of my more befitting nether garments. Whatever our costumes,
the scene was a most animated one. Here the shell-jacket of a heavy dragoon
was seen storming the fence of a vineyard; there the dark green of a
rifleman was going the pace over the plain. The unsportsmanlike figure of
a staff officer might be observed emerging from a drain, while some
neck-or-nothing Irishman, with light infantry wings, was flying at every
fence before him, and overturning all in his way. The rules and regulations
of the service prevailed not here; the starred and gartered general, the
plumed and aiguilletted colonel obtained but little deference and less
mercy from his more humble subaltern. In fact, I am half disposed to think
that many an old grudge of rigid discipline or severe duty met with its
retribution here. More than once have I heard the muttered sentences around
me which boded like this,--

“Go the pace, Harry, never flinch it! There’s old Colquhoun--take him in
the haunches; roll him over!”

“See here, boys--watch how I’ll scatter the staff--Beg your pardon,
General, hope I haven’t hurt you. Turn about--fair play--I have taught
_you_ to take up a position now.”

I need scarcely say there was one whose person was sacred from all such
attacks. He was well mounted upon a strong, half-breed horse; rode always
foremost, following the hounds with the same steady pertinacity with which
he would have followed the enemy, his compressed lip rarely opening for a
laugh when even the most ludicrous misadventure was enacting before him;
and when by chance he would give way, the short ha! ha! was over in a
moment, and the cold, stern features were as fixed and impassive as before.

All the excitement, all the enthusiasm of a hunting-field, seemed powerless
to turn his mind from the pre-occupation which the mighty interests he
presided over, exacted. I remember once an incident which, however trivial
in itself, is worth recording as illustrative of what I mean. We were going
along at a topping pace, the hounds, a few fields in advance, were hidden
from our view by a small beech copse. The party consisted of not more than
six persons, one of whom was Lord Wellington himself. Our run had been a
splendid one, and as we were pursuing the fox to earth, every man of us
pushed his horse to his full stride in the hot enthusiasm of such a moment.

“This way, my lord, this way,” said Colonel Conyers, an old Melton man, who
led the way. “The hounds are in the valley; keep to the left.” As no reply
was made, after a few moments’ pause Conyers repeated his admonition, “You
are wrong, my lord, the hounds are hunting yonder.”

“I know it!” was the brief answer given, with a shortness that almost
savored of asperity; for a second or two not a word was spoken.

“How far is Niza, Gordon?” inquired Lord Wellington.

“About five leagues, my lord,” replied the astonished aide-de-camp.

“That’s the direction, is it not?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Let’s go over and inspect the wounded.”

No more was said, and before a second was given for consideration, away
went his lordship, followed by his aide-de-camp, his pace the same
stretching gallop, and apparently feeling as much excitement, as he dashed
onwards towards the hospital, as though following in all the headlong
enthusiasm of a fox chase.

Thus passed our summer; a life of happy ease and recreation succeeding to
the harassing fatigues and severe privations of the preceding campaign.
Such are the lights and shadows of a soldier’s life; such the checkered
surface of his fortunes. Constituting, by their very change, that buoyant
temperament, that happy indifference, which enables him to derive its full
enjoyment from each passing incident of his career.

While thus we indulged in all the fascinations of a life of pleasure, the
rigid discipline of the army was never for a moment forgotten. Reviews,
parades, and inspections were of daily occurrence, and even a superficial
observer could not fail to detect that under this apparent devotion to
amusement and enjoyment, our commander-in-chief concealed a deep stroke of
his policy.

The spirits of both men and officers, broken, in spite of their successes,
by the incessant privations they had endured, imperatively demanded this
period of rest and repose. The infantry, many of whom had served in the
ill-fated campaign of Walcharen, wore still suffering from the effects of
the intermittent fever. The cavalry, from deficient forage, severe marches,
and unremitting service, were in great part unfit for duty. To take the
field under circumstances like these was therefore impossible; and with the
double object of restoring their wonted spirit to his troops, and checking
the ravages which sickness and the casualties of war had made within his
ranks, Lord Wellington embraced the opportunity of the enemy’s inaction to
take up his present position on the Tagus.

But while we were enjoying all the pleasures of a country life, enhanced
tenfold by daily association with gay and cheerful companions, the
master-mind, whose reach extended from the profoundest calculations of
strategy to minutest details of military organization, was never idle.
Foreseeing that a period of inaction, like the present, must only be like
the solemn calm that preludes the storm, he prepared for the future by
those bold conceptions and unrivalled combinations which were to guide him
through many a field of battle and of danger to end his career of glory in
the liberation of the Peninsula.

The failure of the attack upon Badajos had neither damped his ardor nor
changed his views; and he proceeded to the investment of Ciudad Rodrigo
with the same intense determination of uprooting the French occupation in
Spain by destroying their strongholds and cutting off their resources.
Carrying aggressive war in one hand, he turned the other towards the
maintenance of those defences which, in the event of disaster or defeat,
must prove the refuge of the army.

To the lines of Torres Vedras he once more directed his attention. Engineer
officers were despatched thither; the fortresses were put into repair; the
bridges broken or injured during the French invasion were restored; the
batteries upon the Tagus were rendered more effective, and furnaces for
heating shot were added to them.

The inactivity and apathy of the Portuguese government but ill corresponded
with his unwearied exertions; and despite of continual remonstrances and
unceasing representations, the bridges over the Leira and Alva were left
unrepaired, and the roads leading to them, so broken as to be almost
impassable, might seriously have endangered the retreat of the army, should
such a movement be deemed necessary.

It was in the first week of September. I was sent with despatches for the
engineer officer in command at the lines, and during the fortnight of my
absence, was enabled for the first time to examine those extraordinary
defences which, for the space of thirty miles, extended over a country
undulating in hill and valley, and presenting, by a succession of natural
and artificial resources, the strongest and most impregnable barrier that
has ever been presented against the advance of a conquering army.



CHAPTER XXXI.


MICKEY FREE’S ADVENTURE.

When I returned to the camp, I found the greatest excitement prevailing on
all sides. Each day brought in fresh rumors that Marmont was advancing
in force; that sixty thousand Frenchmen were in full march upon Ciudad
Rodrigo, to raise the blockade, and renew the invasion of Portugal.
Intercepted letters corroborated these reports; and the Guerillas who
joined us spoke of large convoys which they had seen upon the roads from
Salamanca and Tamanes.

Except the light division, which, under the command of Crawfurd, were
posted upon the right of the Aguada, the whole of our army occupied the
country from El Bodon to Gallegos; the Fourth Division being stationed at
Fuente Guenaldo, where some intrenchments had been hastily thrown up.

To this position Lord Wellington resolved upon retreating, as affording
points of greater strength and more capability of defence than the other
line of road, which led by Almeida upon the Coa. Of the enemy’s intentions
we were not long to remain in doubt; for on the morning of the 24th, a
strong body were seen descending from the pass above Ciudad Rodrigo, and
cautiously reconnoitring the banks of the Aguada. Far in the distance a
countless train of wagons, bullock-cars, and loaded mules were seen winding
their slow length along, accompanied by several squadrons of dragoons.

Their progress was slow, but as evening fell they entered the gates of
the fortress; and the cheering of the garrison mixing with the strains
of martial music, faint from distance, reached us where we lay upon the
far-off heights of El Bodon. So long as the light lasted, we could perceive
fresh troops arriving; and even when the darkness came on, we could detect
the position of the reinforcing columns by the bright watch-fires which
gleamed along the plain.

By daybreak we were under arms, anxiously watching for the intentions of
our enemy, which soon became no longer dubious. Twenty-five squadrons of
cavalry, supported by a whole division of infantry, were seen to defile
along the great road from Ciudad Rodrigo to Guenaldo. Another column,
equally numerous, marched straight upon Espeja; nothing could be more
beautiful, nothing more martial, than their appearance: emerging from a
close mountain gorge, they wound along the narrow road and appeared upon
the bridge of the Aguada just as the morning sun was bursting forth,
its bright beams tipping the polished cuirassiers and their glittering
equipments, they shone in their panoply like the gay troop of some ancient
tournament. The lancers of Berg, distinguished by their scarlet dolmans
and gorgeous trappings, were followed by the Cuirassiers of the Guard,
who again were succeeded by the _chasseurs à cheval_, their bright steel
helmets and light-blue uniforms, their floating plumes and dappled
chargers, looking the very _beau idéal_ of light horsemen; behind, the dark
masses of the infantry pressed forward and deployed into the plain; while,
bringing up the rear, the rolling din, like distant thunder, announced the
“dread artillery.”

On they came, the seemingly interminable line converging on to that one
spot upon whose summit now we assembled a force of scarcely ten thousand
bayonets.

While this brilliant panorama was passing before our eyes, we ourselves
were not idle. Orders had been sent to Picton to come up from the left with
his division. Alten’s cavalry and a brigade of artillery were sent to the
front, and every preparation which the nature of the ground admitted was
made to resist the advance of the enemy. While these movements on either
side occupied some hours, the scene was every moment increasing in
interest. The large body of cavalry was now seen forming into columns of
attack. Nine battalions of infantry moved up to their support, and forming
into columns, echelons, and squares, performed before us all the manoeuvres
of a review with the most admirable precision and rapidity; but from these
our attention was soon taken by a brilliant display upon our left. Here,
emerging from the wood which flanked the Aguada, were now to be seen the
gorgeous staff of Marmont himself. Advancing at a walk, they came forward
amidst the _vivas_ of the assembled thousands, burning with ardor and
thirsting for victory. For a moment, as I looked, I could detect the
marshal himself, as, holding his plumed hat above his head, he returned the
salute of a lancer regiment, who proudly waved their banners as he passed;
but, hark, what are those clanging sounds which, rising high above the
rest, seem like the war-cry of a warrior?

“I can’t mistake those tones,” said a bronzed old veteran beside me; “those
are the brass bands of the Imperial Guard. Can Napoleon be there? See,
there they come!” As he spoke, the head of a column emerged from the wood,
and deploying as they came, poured into the plain. For above an hour that
mighty tide flowed on, and before noon a force of sixty thousand men was
collected in the space beneath us.

I was not long to remain an unoccupied spectator of this brilliant display,
for I soon received orders to move down with my squadron to the support of
the Eleventh Light Dragoons, who were posted at the base of the hill. The
order at the moment was anything but agreeable, for I was mounted upon a
hack pony, on which I had ridden over from Crawfurd’s Division early in the
morning, and suspecting that there might be some hot work during the day,
had ordered Mike to follow with my horse. There was no time, however, for
hesitation, and I moved my men down the slope in the direction of the
skirmishers.

The position we occupied was singularly favorable,--our flanks defended on
either side by brushwood, we could only be assailed in front; and here,
notwithstanding our vast inferiority of force, we steadily awaited the
attack. As I rode from out the thick wood, I could not help feeling
surprised at the sounds which greeted me. Instead of the usual low and
murmuring tones, the muttered sentences which precede a cavalry advance,--a
roar of laughter shook the entire division, while exclamations burst from
every side around me: “Look at him now!” “They have him, by heavens, they
have him!” “Well done, well done!” “How the fellow rides!” “He’s hit, he’s
hit!” “No, no!” “Is he down?” “He’s down!”

A loud cheer rent the air at this moment, and I reached the front in time
to learn, the reason of all this excitement. In the wide plain before me a
horseman was seen, having passed the ford of the Aguada, to advance at
the top of his speed towards the British lines. As he came nearer, it was
perceived that he was accompanied by a led horse, and apparently with total
disregard of the presence of an enemy, rode boldly and carelessly forward.
Behind him rode three lancers, their lances couched, their horses at speed;
the pace was tremendous, and the excitement intense: for sometimes, as the
leading horseman of the pursuit neared the fugitive, he would bend suddenly
upon the saddle, and swerving to the right or the left, totally evade him,
while again at others, with a loud cry of bold defiance, rising in his
stirrups, he would press on, and with a shake of his bridle that bespoke
the jockey, almost distance the enemy.

“That must be your fellow, O’Malley; that must be your Irish groom!” cried
a brother officer. There could be no doubt of it. It was Mike himself.

“I’ll be hanged, if he’s not playing with them!” said Baker. “Look at the
villain! He’s holding in; that’s more than the Frenchmen are doing. Look!
look at the fellow on the gray horse! He has flung his trumpet to his back,
and drawn his sabre.”

A loud cheer burst from the French lines; the trumpeter was gaining at
every stride. Mike had got into deep ground, and the horses would not keep
together. “Let the brown horse go! Let him go, man!” shouted the dragoons,
while I re-echoed the cry with my utmost might. But not so, Mike held
firmly on, and spurring madly, he lifted his horse at each stride, turning
from time to time a glance at his pursuer. A shout of triumph rose from the
French side; tin; trumpeter was beside him; his arm was uplifted; the sabre
above his head. A yell broke from the British, and with difficulty could
the squadron be restrained. For above a minute the horses went side by
side, but the Frenchman delayed his stroke until he could get a little in
the front. My excitement had rendered me speechless; if a word could have
saved my poor fellow, I could not have spoken. A mist seemed to gather
across my eyes, and the whole plain and its peopled thousands danced before
my vision.

“He’s down!” “He’s down, by heavens!” “No! no, no!” “Look there! Nobly
done!” “Gallant fellow!” “He has him! he has him, by ----!” A cheer that
rent the very air above us broke from the squadrons, and Mike galloped in
among us, holding the Frenchman by the throat with one hand; the bridle of
his horse he firmly grasped with his own in the other.

[Illustration: MIKE CAPTURING THE TRUMPETER.]

“How was it? How did he do it?”

“He broke his sword-arm with a blow, and the Frenchman’s sabre fell to the
earth.”

“Here he is, Mister Charles; and musha, but it’s trouble he gave me to
catch him! And I hope your honor won’t be displeased at me losing the brown
horse. I was obliged to let him go when the thief closed on me; but sure,
there he is! May I never, if he’s not galloping into the lines by himself!”
 As he spoke, my brown charger came cantering up to the squadrons, and took
his place in the line with the rest.

I had scarcely time to mount my horse, amidst a buzz of congratulations,
when our squadron was ordered to the front. Mixed up with detachments from
the Eleventh and Sixteenth, we continued to resist the enemy for about two
hours.

Our charges were quick, sharp, and successive, pouring in our numbers
wherever the enemy appeared for a moment to be broken, and then retreating
under cover of our infantry when the opposing cavalry came down upon us in
overwhelming numbers.

Nothing could be more perfect than the manner in which the different troops
relieved each other during this part of the day. When the French squadrons
advanced, ours met them as boldly. When the ground became no longer
tenable, we broke and fell back, and the bayonets of the infantry arrested
their progress. If the cavalry pressed heavily upon the squares, ours came
up to the relief, and as they were beaten back, the artillery opened upon
them with an avalanche of grape-shot.

I have seen many battles of greater duration and more important in result;
many there have been in which more tactic was displayed, and greater
combinations called forth,--but never did I witness a more desperate
hand-to-hand conflict than on the heights of El Bodon.

Baffled by our resistance, Montbrun advanced with the Cuirassiers of the
Guard. Riding down our advanced squadrons, they poured upon us like some
mighty river, overwhelming all before it, and charged, cheering, up the
heights. Our brave troopers were thrown back upon the artillery, and many
of them cut down beside the guns. The artillerymen and the drivers shared
the same fate, and the cannon were captured. A cheer of exultation burst
from the French, and their _vivas_ rent the air. Their exultation was
short-lived, and that cheer their death-cry; for the Fifth Foot, who had
hitherto lain concealed in the grass, sprang madly to their feet, their
gallant Major Ridge at their head. With a yell of vengeance they rushed
upon the foe; the glistening bayonets glanced amidst the cavalry of the
French; the troops pressed hotly home; and while the cuirassiers were
driven down the hill, the guns were recaptured, limbered up, and brought
away. This brilliant charge was the first recorded instance of cavalry
being assailed by infantry in line.

But the hill could no longer be held; the French were advancing on either
flank; overwhelming numbers pressed upon the front, and retreat was
unavoidable. The cavalry were ordered to the rear, and Picton’s Division,
throwing themselves into squares, covered the retreating movement.

The French dragoons bore down upon every face of those devoted battalions;
the shouts of triumph cheered them as the earth trembled beneath their
charge,--but the British infantry, reserving their fire until the sabres
clanked with the bayonet, poured in a shattering volley, and the cry of the
wounded and the groans of the dying rose from the smoke around them.

Again and again the French came on; and the same fate ever awaited then.
The only movement in the British squares was closing up the spaces as their
comrades fell or sank wounded to the earth.

At last reinforcements came up from the left; the whole retreated across
the plain, until as they approached Guenaldo, our cavalry, having
re-formed, came to their aid with one crushing charge, which closed the
day.

That same night Lord Wellington fell back, and concentrating his troops
within a narrow loop of land bounded on either flank by the Coa, awaited
the arrival of the light division, which joined us at three in the morning.

The following day Marmont again made a demonstration of his force, but no
attack followed. The position was too formidable to be easily assailed, and
the experience of the preceding day had taught him that, however inferior
in numbers, the troops he was opposed to were as valiant as they were ably
commanded.

Soon after this, Marmont retired on the valley of the Tagus. Dorsenne also
fell back, and for the present at least, no further effort was made to
prosecute the invasion of Portugal.



CHAPTER XXXII.


THE SAN PETRO.

“Not badly wounded, O’Malley, I hope?” said General Crawfurd, as I waited
upon him soon after the action.

I could not help starting at the question, while he repeated it, pointing
at the same time to my left shoulder, from which a stream of blood was now
flowing down my coat-sleeve.

“I never noticed it, sir, till this moment. It can’t be of much
consequence, for I have been on horseback the entire day, and never felt
it.”

“Look to it at once, boy; a man wants all his blood for this campaign. Go
to your quarters. I shall not need you for the present; so pray see the
doctor at once.”

As I left the general’s quarters, I began to feel sensible of pain, and
before a quarter of an hour had elapsed, had quite convinced myself that my
wound was a severe one. The hand and arm were swollen, heavy, and distended
with hemorrhage beneath the skin, my thirst became great, and a cold,
shuddering sensation passed over me from time to time.

I sat down for a moment upon the grass, and was just reflecting within
myself what course I should pursue, when I heard the tramp of feet
approaching. I looked up, and perceived some soldiers in fatigue dresses,
followed by a few others who, from their noiseless gestures and sad
countenances, I guessed were carrying some wounded comrade to the rear.

“Who is it, boys?” cried I.

“It’s the major, sir, the Lord be good to him!” said a hardy-looking
Eighty-eighth man, wiping his eye with the cuff of his coat as he spoke.

“Not your major? Not Major O’Shaughnessy?” said I, jumping up and rushing
forward towards the litter. Alas, too true, it was the gallant fellow
himself! There he lay, pale and cold; his bloodless cheek and parted lips
looking like death itself. A thin blue rivulet trickled from his forehead,
but his most serious wound appeared to be in the side; his coat was open,
and showed a mass of congealed and clotted blood, from the midst of which,
with every motion of the way, a fresh stream kept welling upward. Whether
from the shock or my loss of blood or from both together, I know not, but I
sank fainting to the ground.


It would have needed a clearer brain and a cooler judgment than I possessed
to have conjectured where I was, and what had occurred to me, when next
I recovered my senses. Weak, fevered, and with a burning thirst, I lay,
unable to move, and could merely perceive the objects which lay within the
immediate reach of my vision. The place was cold, calm, and still as the
grave. A lamp, which hung high above my head, threw a faint light around,
and showed me, within a niche of the opposite wall, the figure of a
gorgeously dressed female; she appeared to be standing motionless, but as
the pale light flickered upon her features, I thought I could detect the
semblance of a smile. The splendor of her costume and the glittering gems
which shone upon her spotless robe gleamed through the darkness with an
almost supernatural brilliancy, and so beautiful did she look, so calm her
pale features, that as I opened and shut my eyes and rubbed my lids, I
scarcely dared to trust to my erring senses, and believe it could be
real. What could it mean? Whence this silence; this cold sense of awe
and reverence? Was it a dream; was it the fitful vision of a disordered
intellect? Could it be death? My eyes were riveted upon that beautiful
figure. I essayed to speak, but could not; I would have beckoned her
towards me, but my hands refused their office. I felt I know not what charm
she possessed to calm my throbbing brain and burning heart; but as I turned
from the gloom and darkness around to gaze upon her fair brow and unmoved
features, I felt like the prisoner who turns from the cheerless desolation
of his cell, and looks upon the fair world and the smiling valleys lying
sunlit and shadowed before him.

Sleep at length came over me; and when I awoke, the day seemed breaking,
for a faint gray tint stole through a stained-glass window, and fell in
many colored patches upon the pavement. A low muttering sound attracted me;
I listened, it was Mike’s voice. With difficulty raising myself upon one
arm, I endeavored to see more around me. Scarcely had I assumed this
position, when my eyes once more fell upon the white-clad figure of the
preceding night. At her feet knelt Mike, his hands clasped, and his head
bowed upon his bosom. Shall I confess my surprise, my disappointment! It
was no other than an image of the blessed Virgin, decked out in all the
gorgeous splendor which Catholic piety bestows upon her saints. The
features, which the imperfect light and my more imperfect faculties had
endowed with an expression of calm, angelic beauty, were, to my waking
senses, but the cold and barren mockery of loveliness; the eyes, which my
excited brain gifted with looks of tenderness and pity, stared with no
speculation in them; yet contrasting my feelings of the night before, full
as they were of, their deceptions, with my now waking thoughts, I longed
once more for that delusion which threw a dreamy pleasure over me, and
subdued the stormy passions of my soul into rest and repose.

“Who knows,” thought I, “but he who kneels yonder feels now as I did then?
Who can tell how little the cold, unmeaning reality before him resembles
the spiritualized creation the fervor of his love and the ardor of his
devotion may have placed upon that altar? Who can limit or bound the depth
of that adoration for an object whose attributes appeal not only to every
sentiment of the heart, but also to every sense of the brain? I fancy
that I can picture to myself how these tinselled relics, these tasteless
waxworks, changed by the magic of devotion and of dread, become to the
humble worshipper images of loveliness and beauty. The dim religious light;
the reverberating footsteps echoed along those solemn aisles; the vaulted
arches, into whose misty heights the sacred incense floats upward, while
the deep organ is pealing its notes of praise or prayer,--these are no
slight accessories to all the pomp and grandeur of a church whose forms and
ceremonial, unchanged for ages and hallowed by a thousand associations,
appeal to the mind of the humblest peasant or the proudest noble by all the
weaknesses as by all the more favored features of our nature.”

How long I might have continued to meditate in this strain I know not, when
a muttered observation from Mike turned the whole current of my thoughts.
His devotion over, he had seated himself upon the steps of the altar, and
appeared to be resolving some doubts within himself concerning his late
pious duties.

“Masses is dearer here than in Galway. Father Rush would be well pleased
at two-and-sixpence for what I paid three doubloons for, this morning.
And sure it’s droll enough. How expensive an amusement it is to kill the
French! Here’s half a dollar I gave for the soul of a cuirassier that I
kilt yesterday, and nearly twice as much for an artilleryman I cut down at
the guns; and because the villain swore like a heythen, Father Pedro told
me he’d cost more nor if he died like a decent man.”

At these words he turned suddenly round towards the Virgin, and crossing
himself devoutly, added,--

And sure it’s yourself knows if it’s fair to make me pay for devils that
don’t know their duties; and after all, if you don’t understand English nor
Irish, I’ve been wasting my time here this two hours.”

“I say, Mike, how’s my friend the major! How’s Major O’Shaughnessy?”

“Charmingly, sir. It was only loss of blood that ailed him. A thief with
a pike--one of the chaps they call Poles, bekase of the long sticks they
carry with them--stuck the major in the ribs; but Doctor Quill--God reward
him! he’s a great doctor and a funny divil too--he cured him in no time.”

“And where is he now, Mike?”

“Just convanient, in a small chapel off the sacristy; and throuble enough
we have to keep him quiet. He gave up the _con_fusion of roses, and took
to punch; and faith, it isn’t hymns nor paslams [psalms] he’s singing all
night. And they had me there, mixing materials and singing songs, till I
heard the bell for matins; and what between the punch and the prayers, I
never closed my eyes.”

“What do they call this convent?”

“It is a hard word, I misremember. It’s something like saltpetre. But how’s
your honor? It’s time to ask.”

“Much better, Mike, much better. But as I see that either your drink or
your devotion seems to have affected your nerves, you’d better lie down for
an hour or two. I shall not want you.”

“That’s just what I can’t; for you see I’m making a song for this evening.
The Rangers has a little supper, and I’m to be there; and though I’ve made
one, I’m not sure it’ll do. May be your honor would give me your opinion
about it?”

“With all my heart, Mike; let’s hear it.”

“Arrah, is it here, before the Virgin and the two blessed saints that’s
up there in the glass cases? But sure, when they make an hospital of the
place, and after the major’s songs last night--”

“Exactly so, Mike; out with it.”

“Well, Ma’am,” said he, turning towards the Virgin, “as I suspect you don’t
know English, may be you’ll think it’s my offices I’m singing. So, saving
your favor, here it is.”

    MR. FREE’S SONG.

    AIR,--“_Arrah, Catty, now can’t you be asy?_”

    Oh, what stories I’ll tell when my sodgering’s o’er,
    And the gallant Fourteenth is disbanded;
    Not a drill nor parade will I hear of no more,
    When safely in Ireland landed.
    With the blood that I spilt, the Frenchmen I kilt,
    I’ll drive the young girls half crazy;
    And some cute one will cry, with a wink of her eye,
    “Mister Free, now _why can’t you be asy?_”

    I’ll tell how we routed the squadrons in fight,
    And destroyed them all at “Talavera,”
     And then I’ll just add how we finished the night,
    In learning to dance the “bolera;”
     How by the moonshine we drank raal wine,
    And rose next day fresh as a daisy;
    Then some one will cry, with a look mighty sly,
    “Arrah, Mickey, _now can’t you lie asy?_”

    I’ll tell how the nights with Sir Arthur we spent,
    Around a big fire in the air too,
    Or may be enjoying ourselves in a tent,
    Exactly like Donnybrook fair too.
    How he’d call out to me: “Pass the wine, Mr. Free,
    For you’re a man never is lazy!”
     Then some one will cry, with a wink of her eye,
    “Arrah, Mickey, dear, _can’t you be asy?_”

    I’ll tell, too, the long years in fighting we passed,
    Till Mounseer asked Bony to lead him;
    And Sir Arthur, grown tired of glory at last,
    Begged of one Mickey Free to succeed him.
    “But, acushla,” says I, “the truth is I’m shy!
    There’s a lady in Ballymacrazy!
    And I swore on the book--” He gave me a look,
    And cried: “Mickey, _now can’t you be asy?_”

“Arrah, Mickey, now can’t you be _asy?_” sang out a voice in chorus, and
the next moment Dr. Quill himself made his appearance.

“Well, O’Malley, is it a penitential psalm you’re singing, or is my friend
Mike endeavoring to raise your spirits with a Galway sonata?”

“A little bit of his own muse, Doctor, nothing more; but tell me, how goes
it with the major,--is the poor fellow out of danger?”

“Except from the excess of his appetite, I know of no risk he runs. His
servant is making gruel for him all day in a thing like the grog-tub of a
frigate. But you’ve heard the news,--Sparks has been exchanged. He came
here last night; but the moment he caught sight of me, he took his
departure. Begad, I’m sure he’d rather pass a month in Verdun than a week
in my company!”

“By-the-bye, Doctor, you never told me how this same antipathy of Sparks
for you had its origin.”

“Sure I drove him out of the Tenth before he was three weeks with the
regiment.”

“Ay, I remember; you began the story for me one night on the retreat from
the Coa, but something broke it off in the middle.”

“Just so, I was sent for to the rear to take off some gentleman’s legs that
weren’t in dancing condition; but as there’s no fear of interruption now,
I’ll finish the story. But first, let us have a peep at the wounded. What
beautiful anatomists they are in the French artillery! Do you feel the
thing I have now in my forceps? There,--don’t jump,--that’s a bit of the
brachial nerve most beautifully displayed. Faith, I think I’ll give Mike a
demonstration.”

“Oh, Mister Quill, dear! Oh, Doctor, darling!”

“Arrah, Mickey, now can’t ye be asy?” sang out Maurice, with a perfect
imitation of Mike’s voice and manner.

“A little lint here! Bend your arm,--that’s it--Don’t move your fingers.
Now, Mickey, make me a cup of coffee with a glass of brandy in it. And now,
Charley, for Sparks. I believe I told you what kind of fellows the Tenth
were,--regular out-and-outers. We hadn’t three men in the regiment that
were not from the south of Ireland,--the _bocca Corkana_ on their lips, fun
and devilment in their eyes, and more drollery and humbug in their hearts
than in all the messes in the service put together. No man had any chance
among them if he wasn’t a real droll one; every man wrote his own songs and
sang them too. It was no small promotion could tempt a fellow to exchange
out of the corps. You may think, then, what a prize your friend Sparks
proved to us; we held a court-martial upon him the week after he joined. It
was proved in evidence that he had never said a good thing in his life,
and had about as much notion of a joke as a Cherokee has of the Court of
Chancery; and as to singing, Lord bless you, he had a tune with wooden
turns to it,--it was most cruel to hear; and then the look of him, those
eyes, like dropsical oysters, and the hair standing every way, like a field
of insane flax, and the mouth with a curl in it like the slit in the side
of a fiddle. A pleasant fellow that for a mess that always boasted the
best-looking chaps in the service.

“‘What’s to be done with him?’ said the major; ‘shall we tell him we are
ordered to India, and terrify him about his liver?’

“‘Or drill him into a hectic fever?’

“‘Or drink him dry?’

“‘Or get him into a fight and wing him?’

“‘Oh, no,’ said I, ‘leave him to me; we’ll laugh him out of the corps.’

“‘Yes, we’ll leave him to you, Maurice,’ said the rest.

“And that day week you might read in the ‘Gazette,’ ‘Pierce Flynn
O’Haygerty, to be Ensign, 10th Foot, _vice_ Sparks, exchanged.’”

“But how was it done, Maurice; you haven’t told me that.”

“Nothing easier. I affected great intimacy with Sparks, bemoaned our hard
fate, mutually, in being attached to such a regiment: ‘A damnable corps
this,--low, vulgar fellows, practical jokes; not the kind of thing one
expects in the army. But as for me, I’ve joined it partly from necessity.
You, however, who might be in a crack regiment, I can’t conceive your
remaining in it.’

“‘But why did you join, Doctor?’ said he; ‘what necessity could have
induced you?’

“‘Ah, my friend,’ said I, ‘_that_ is the secret,--_that_ is the hidden
grief that must lie buried in my own bosom.’

“I saw that his curiosity was excited, and took every means to increase it
farther. At length, as if yielding to a sudden impulse of friendship, and
having sworn him to secrecy, I took him aside, and began thus,--

“‘I may trust you, Sparks, I feel I may; and when I tell you that my
honor, my reputation, my whole fortune is at stake, you will judge of the
importance of the trust.’

“The goggle eyes rolled fearfully, and his features exhibited the most
craving anxiety to hear my story.

“‘You wish to know why I left the Fifty-sixth. Now I’ll tell you; but mind,
you’re pledged, you’re sworn, never to divulge it.’

“‘Honor bright.’

“‘There, that’s enough; I’m satisfied. It was a slight infraction of the
articles of war; a little breach of the rules and regulations of the
service; a trifling misconception of the mess code,--they caught me one
evening leaving the mess with--What do you think in my pocket? But
you’ll never tell! No, no, I know you’ll not; eight forks and a
gravy-spoon,--silver forks every one of them. There now,’ said I, grasping
his hand, ‘you have my secret; my fame and character are in your hands, for
you see they made me quit the regiment,--a man can’t stay in a corps where
he is laughed at.’

“Covering my face with my handkerchief, as if to conceal my shame, I turned
away, and left Sparks to his meditations. That same evening we happened to
have some strangers at mess; the bottle was passing freely round, and as
usual the good spirits of the party at the top of their bent, when suddenly
from the lower end of the table, a voice was heard demanding, in tones of
the most pompous importance, permission to address the president upon a
topic where the honor of the whole regiment was concerned.

“‘I rise, gentlemen,’ said Mr. Sparks, ‘with feelings the most painful;
whatever may have been the laxity of habit and freedom of conversation
habitual in this regiment, I never believed that so flagrant an instance as
this morning came to my ears--’

“‘Oh, murder!’ said I. ‘Oh, Sparks, darling, sure you’re not going to
tell?’

“‘Doctor Quill,’ replied he, in an austere tone, ‘it is impossible for me
to conceal it.’

“‘Oh, Sparks, dear, will you betray me?’

“I gave him here a look of the most imploring entreaty, to which he replied
by one of unflinching sternness.

“‘I have made up my mind, sir,’ continued he; ‘it is possible the officers
of this corps may look more leniently than I do upon this transaction; but
know it they shall.’

“‘Out with it, Sparks; tell it by all means!’ cried a number of voices; for
it was clear to every one, by this time, that he was involved in a hoax.

“Amidst, therefore, a confused volley of entreaty on one side, and my
reiterated prayers for his silence, on the other, Sparks thus began:--

“‘Are you aware, gentlemen, why Dr. Quill left the Fifty-sixth?’

“‘No, no, no!’ rang from all sides; ‘let’s have it!’

“‘No, sir,’ said he, turning towards me, ‘concealment is impossible; an
officer detected with the mess-plate in his pocket--’

“They never let him finish, for a roar of laughter shook the table from one
end to the other; while Sparks, horror-struck at the lack of feeling and
propriety that could make men treat such a matter with ridicule, glared
around him on every side.

“‘Oh, Maurice, Maurice!’ cried the major, wiping his eyes, ‘this is too
bad; this is too bad!’

“‘Gracious Heaven!’ screamed Sparks, ‘can you laugh at it?’

“‘Laugh at it!’ re-echoed the paymaster, ‘God grant I only don’t burst a
blood-vessel!’ And once more the sounds of merriment rang out anew, and
lasted for several minutes.

“‘Oh, Maurice Quill,’ cried an old captain, ‘you’ve been too heavy on the
lad. Why, Sparks, man, he’s been humbugging you.’

“Scarcely were the words spoken when he sprang from the room. The whole
truth flashed at once upon his mind; in an instant he saw that he had
exposed himself to the merciless ridicule of a mess-table and that all
peace for him, in that regiment at least, was over.

“We got a glorious fellow in exchange for him; and Sparks descended into
a cavalry regiment,--I ask your pardon, Charley,--where, as you are well
aware, sharp wit and quick intellect are by no means indispensable. There
now, don’t be angry or you’ll do yourself harm. So good-by, for an hour or
two.”



CHAPTER XXXIII.


THE COUNT’S LETTER.

O’Shaughnessy’s wound, like my own, was happily only formidable from the
loss of blood. The sabre or the lance are rarely, indeed, so death-dealing
as the musket or the bayonet; and the murderous fire from a square of
infantry is far more terrific in its consequences than the heaviest charge
of a cavalry column. In a few weeks, therefore, we were once more about and
fit for duty; but for the present the campaign was ended. The rainy season
with its attendant train of sickness and sorrow set in. The troops were
cantoned along the line of the frontier,--the infantry occupying the
villages, and the cavalry being stationed wherever forage could be
obtained.

The Fourteenth were posted at Avintas, but I saw little of them. I was
continually employed upon the staff; and as General Crawfurd’s activity
suffered no diminution from the interruption of the campaign, rarely passed
a day without eight or nine hours on horseback.

The preparations for the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo occupied our undivided
attention. To the reduction of this fortress and of Badajos, Lord
Wellington looked as the most important objects, and prosecuted his plans
with unremitting zeal. To my staff appointment I owed the opportunity of
witnessing that stupendous feature of war, a siege; and as many of my
friends formed part of the blockading force, I spent more than one night in
the trenches. Indeed, except for this, the tiresome monotony of life was
most irksome at this period. Day after day the incessant rain poured down.
The supplies were bad, scanty, and irregular; the hospitals crowded with
sick; field-sports impracticable; books there were none; and a dulness and
spiritless depression prevailed on every side. Those who were actively
engaged around Ciudad Rodrigo had, of course, the excitement and interest
which the enterprise involved: but even there the works made slow progress.
The breaching artillery was defective in every way: the rain undermined the
faces of the bastions; the clayey soil sank beneath the weight of the heavy
guns; and the storms of one night frequently destroyed more than a whole
week’s labor had effected.

Thus passed the dreary months along; the cheeriest and gayest among us
broken in spirit, and subdued in heart by the tedium of our life. The very
news which reached us partook of the gloomy features of our prospects. We
heard only of strong reinforcements marching to the support of the French
in Estramadura. We were told that the Emperor, whose successes in Germany
enabled him to turn his entire attention to the Spanish campaign, would
himself be present in the coming spring, with overwhelming odds and a firm
determination to drive us from the Peninsula.

In that frame of mind which such gloomy and depressing prospects are well
calculated to suggest, I was returning one night to my quarters at Mucia,
when suddenly I beheld Mike galloping towards me with a large packet in his
hand, which he held aloft to catch my attention. “Letters from England,
sir,” said he, “just arrived with the general’s despatches.” I broke the
envelope at once, which bore the war-office seal, and as I did so, a
perfect avalanche of letters fell at my feet. The first which caught my eye
was an official intimation from the Horse Guards that the Prince Regent had
been graciously pleased to confirm my promotion to the troop, my commission
to bear date from the appointment, etc., etc. I could not help feeling
struck, as my eye ran rapidly across the lines, that although the letter
came from Sir George Dashwood’s office, it contained not a word of
congratulation nor remembrance on his part, but was couched in the usual
cold and formal language of an official document. Impatient, however, to
look over my other letters, I thought but little of this; so, throwing them
hurriedly into my sabretasche, I cantered on to my quarters without delay.
Once more alone in silence, I sat down to commune with my far-off friends,
and yet with all my anxiety to hear of home, passed several minutes in
turning over the letters, guessing from whom they might have come, and
picturing to myself their probable contents. “Ah, Frank Webber, I recognize
your slap-dash, bold hand without the aid of the initials in the corner;
and this--what can this be?--this queer, misshapen thing, representing
nothing save the forty-seventh proposition of Euclid, and the address
seemingly put on with a cat’s-tail dipped in lampblack? Yes, true enough,
it is from Mister Free himself. And what have we here? This queer, quaint
hand is no new acquaintance; how many a time have I looked upon it as the
_ne plus ultra_ of caligraphy! But here is one I’m not so sure of. Who
could have written this bolt-upright, old-fashioned superscription, not
a letter of which seems on speaking terms with its neighbor? The very O
absolutely turns its back upon the M in O’Malley, and the final Y wags his
tail with a kind of independent shake, as if he did not care a curse for
his predecessors! And the seal, too,--surely I know that griffin’s head,
and that stern motto, _Non rogo sed capio_. To be sure, it is Billy
Considine’s, the count himself. The very paper, yellow and time-stained,
looks coeval with his youth; and I could even venture to wager that his
sturdy pen was nibbed half a century since. I’ll not look farther among
this confused mass of three-cornered billets, and long, treacherous-looking
epistles, the very folding of which denote the dun. Here goes for the
count!” So saying to myself, I drew closer to the fire, and began the
following epistle:--

    O’MALLEY CASTLE, November 3.

    Dear Charley,--Here we sit in the little parlor with your last
    letter, the “Times,” and a big map before us, drinking your health,
    and wishing you a long career of the same glorious success you have
    hitherto enjoyed. Old as I am--eighty-two or eighty-three (I forget
    which) in June--I envy you with all my heart. Luck has stood
    to you, my boy; and if a French sabre or a bayonet finish you now,
    you’ve at least had a splendid burst of it. I was right in my opinion
    of you, and Godfrey himself owns it now,--a lawyer, indeed! Bad
    luck to them! we’ve had enough of lawyers. There’s old Hennesy,--honest
    Jack, as they used to call him,--that your uncle trusted
    for the last forty years, has raised eighteen thousand pounds on the
    title-deeds, and gone off to America. The old scoundrel! But it’s
    no use talking; the blow is a sore one to Godfrey, and the gout
    more troublesome than ever. Drumgold is making a motion in
    Chancery about it, to break the sale, and the tenants are in open
    rebellion and swear they’ll murther a receiver, if one is sent down
    among them. Indeed, they came in such force into Galway during
    the assizes, and did so much mischief, that the cases for trial were
    adjourned, and the judges left with a military escort to protect them.
    This, of course, is gratifying to our feelings; for, thank Providence,
    there is some good in the world yet. Kilmurry was sold last week
    for twelve thousand. Andy Blake would foreclose the mortgage,
    although we offered him every kind of satisfaction. This has done
    Godfrey a deal of harm; and some pitiful economy--taking only
    two bottles of claret after his dinner--has driven the gout to his
    head. They’ve been telling him he’d lengthen his days by this, and
    I tried it myself, and, faith, it was the longest day I ever spent in
    my life. I hope and trust you take your liquor like a gentleman and
    an Irish gentleman.

    Kinshela, we hear, has issued an execution against the house and
    furniture; but the attempt to sell the demesne nearly killed your
    uncle. It was advertised in a London paper, and an offer made for it
    by an old general whom you may remember when down here. Indeed,
    if I mistake not, he was rather kind to you in the beginning. It
    would appear he did not wish to have his name known, but we found
    him out, and such a letter as we sent him! It’s little liking he’ll
    have to buy a Galway gentleman’s estate over his head, that same Sir
    George Dashwood! Godfrey offered to meet him anywhere he
    pleased, and if the doctor thought he could bear the sea voyage,
    he’d even go over to Holyhead; but the sneaking fellow sent an
    apologetic kind of a letter, with some humbug excuse about very
    different motives, etc. But we’ve done with him, and I think he
    with us.

When I had read thus far, I laid down the letter, unable to go on; the
accumulated misfortunes of one I loved best in the world, following so fast
one upon another, the insult--unprovoked, gratuitous insult--to him upon
whom my hopes of future happiness so much depended, completely overwhelmed
me. I tried to continue. Alas, the catalogue of evils went on; each line
bore testimony to some farther wreck of fortune, some clearer evidence of a
ruined house.

All that my gloomiest and darkest forebodings had pictured was come to
pass; sickness, poverty, harassing unfeeling creditors, treachery, and
ingratitude were goading to madness and despair a spirit whose kindliness
of nature was unequalled. The shock of blasted fortunes was falling upon
the dying heart; the convictions which a long life had never brought
home--that men were false and their words a lie--were stealing over the
man upon the brink of the grave; and he who had loved his neighbor like a
brother was to be taught, at the eleventh hour, that the beings he trusted
were perjured and forsworn.

A more unsuitable adviser than Considine, in difficulties like these, there
could not be; his very contempt for all the forms of law and justice was
sufficient to embroil my poor uncle still farther; so that I resolved at
once to apply for leave, and if refused, and no other alternative offered,
to leave the service. It was not without a sense of sorrow bordering on
despair, that I came to this determination. My soldier’s life had become
a passion with me. I loved it for its bold and chivalrous enthusiasm, its
hour of battle and strife, its days of endurance and hardship, its trials,
its triumphs; its very reverses were endeared by those they were shared
with; and the spirit of adventure and the love of danger--that most
exciting of all gambling--had now entwined themselves in my very nature. To
surrender all these at once, and to exchange the daily, hourly enthusiasm
of a campaign for the prospects now before me, was almost maddening. But
still a sustaining sense of duty of what I owed to him, who, in his love,
had sacrificed all for me, overpowered every other consideration. My mind
was made up.

Father Rush’s letter was little more than a recapitulation of the count’s.
Debt, distress, sickness, and the heart-burnings of altered fortunes filled
it; and when I closed it, I felt like one over all whose views in life a
dark and ill-omened cloud was closing forever. Webber’s I could not read;
the light and cheerful raillery of a friend would have seemed, at such a
time, like the cold, unfeeling sarcasm of an enemy. I sat down at last to
write to the general, enclosing my application for leave, and begging of
him to forward it, with a favorable recommendation, to headquarters.

This done, I lay down upon my bed, and overcome by fatigue and fretting,
fell asleep to dream of my home and those I had left there; which,
strangely too, were presented to my mind with all the happy features that
made them so dear to my infancy.



CHAPTER XXXIV.


THE TRENCHES.

“I have not had time, O’Malley, to think of your application,” said
Crawfurd, “nor is it likely I can for a day or two. Read that.” So saying,
he pushed towards me a note, written, in pencil, which ran thus:--

    CIUDAD RODRIGO, December 18.

    Dear C.,--Fletcher tells me that the breaches will be practicable
    by to-morrow evening, and I think so myself. Come over, then, at
    once, for we shall not lose any time.

    Yours,           W.

“I have some despatches for your regiment, but if you prefer coming along
with me--”

“My dear General, dare I ask for such a favor?”

“Well, come along; only remember that, although my division will be
engaged, I cannot promise you anything to do. So now, get your horses
ready; let’s away.”

It was in the afternoon of the following day that we rode into the large
plain before Ciudad Rodrigo, and in which the allied armies were now
assembled to the number of twelve thousand men. The loud booming of
the siege artillery had been heard by me for some hours before; but
notwithstanding this prelude and my own high-wrought expectations, I
was far from anticipating the magnificent spectacle which burst upon my
astonished view. The air was calm and still; a clear, blue, wintry sky
stretched overhead, but below, the dense blue smoke of the deafening guns
rolled in mighty volumes along the earth, and entirely concealed the lower
part of the fortress; above this the tall towers and battlemented parapets
rose into the thin, transparent sky like fairy palaces. A bright flash of
flame would now and then burst forth from the walls, and a clanging crash
of the brass metal be heard; but the unceasing roll of our artillery nearly
drowned all other sounds, save when a loud cheer would burst from the
trenches, while the clattering fall of masonry, and the crumbling stones
as they rolled down, bespoke the reason of the cry. The utmost activity
prevailed on all sides; troops pressed forward to the reliefs in the
parallels; ammunition wagons moved to the front; general and staff officers
rode furiously about the plain; and all betokened that the hour of attack
was no longer far distant.

While all parties were anxiously awaiting the decision of our chief, the
general order was made known, which, after briefly detailing the necessary
arrangements, concluded with the emphatic words, “Ciudad Rodrigo _must_ be
stormed to-night.” All speculation as to the troops to be engaged in this
daring enterprise was soon at an end; for with his characteristic sense of
duty, Lord Wellington made no invidious selection, but merely commanded
that the attack should be made by whatever divisions might chance to be
that day in the trenches. Upon the Third and Light Divisions, therefore,
this glorious task devolved. The former was to attack the main breach;
to Crawfurd’s Division was assigned the, if possible, more difficult
enterprise of carrying the lesser one; while Pack’s Portuguese Brigade were
to menace the convent of La Caridad by a feint attack, to be converted into
a real one, if circumstances should permit.

The decision, however matured and comprehensive in all its details, was
finally adopted so suddenly that every staff officer upon the ground was
actively engaged during the entire evening in conveying the orders to the
different regiments. As the day drew to a close, the cannonade slackened on
either side, a solitary gun would be heard at intervals, and in the calm
stillness around, its booming thunder re-echoed along the valleys of the
Sierra; but as the moon rose and night set in, these were no longer heard,
and a perfect stillness and tranquillity prevailed around. Even in the
trenches, crowded with armed and anxious soldiers, not a whisper was heard;
and amidst that mighty host which filled the plain, the tramp of a patrol
could be distinctly noted, and the hoarse voice of the French sentry upon
the walls, telling that all was well in Ciudad Rodrigo.

The massive fortress, looming larger as its dark shadow stood out from the
sky, was still as the grave; while in the greater breach a faint light was
seen to twinkle for a moment, and then suddenly to disappear, leaving all
gloomy and dark as before.

Having been sent with orders to the Third Division, of which the
Eighty-eighth formed a part, I took the opportunity of finding out
O’Shaughnessy, who was himself to lead an escalade party in M’Kinnon’s
Brigade. He sprang towards me as I came forward, and grasping my hand with
a more than usual earnestness, called out, “The very man I wanted! Charley,
my boy, do us a service now!”

Before I could reply, he continued in a lower tone, “A young fellow of
ours, Harry Beauclerc, has been badly wounded in the trenches; but by some
blunder, his injury is reported as a slight one, and although the poor
fellow can scarcely stand, he insists upon going with the stormers.”

“Come here, Major, come here!” cried a voice at a little distance.

“Follow me, O’Malley,” cried O’Shaughnessy, moving in the direction of the
speaker.

By the light of a lantern we could descry two officers kneeling upon the
ground; between them on the grass lay the figure of a third, upon whose
features, as the pale light fell, the hand of death seemed rapidly
stealing. A slight froth, tinged with blood, rested on his lip, and the
florid blood which stained the buff facing of his uniform indicated that
his wound was through the lungs.

“He has fainted,” said one of the officers, in a low tone.

“Are you certain it is fainting?” said the other, in a still lower.

“You see how it is, Charley,” said O’Shaughnessy; “this poor boy must be
carried to the rear. Will you then, like a kind fellow, hasten back to
Colonel Campbell and mention the fact. It will kill Beauclerc should any
doubt rest upon his conduct, if he ever recover this.”

While he spoke, four soldiers of the regiment placed the wounded officer in
a blanket. A long sigh escaped him, and he muttered a few broken words.

“Poor fellow, it’s his mother he’s talking of! He only joined a month
since, and is a mere boy. Come, O’Malley, lose no time. By Jove! it is too
late; there goes the first rocket for the columns to form. In ten minutes
more the stormers must fall in.”

“What’s the matter, Giles?” said he to one of the officers, who had stopped
the soldiers as they were moving off with their burden,--“what is it?”

“I have been cutting the white tape off his arm; for if he sees it on
waking, he’ll remember all about the storming.”

“Quite right--thoughtfully done!” said the other; “but who is to lead his
fellows? He was in the forlorn hope.”

“I’ll do it,” cried I, with eagerness. “Come, O’Shaughnessy, you’ll not
refuse me.”

“Refuse you, boy!” said he, grasping my hand within both of his, “never!
But you must change your coat. The gallant Eighty-eighth will never mistake
their countryman’s voice. But your uniform would be devilish likely to get
you a bayonet through it; so come back with me, and we’ll make you a Ranger
in no time.”

“I can give your friend a cap.”

“And I,” said the other, “a brandy flask, which, after all, is not the
worst part of a storming equipage.”

“I hope,” said O’Shaughnessy, “they may find Maurice in the rear.
Beauclerc’s all safe in his hands.”

“That they’ll not,” said Giles, “you may swear. Quill is this moment in the
trenches, and will not be the last man at the breach.”

“Follow me now, lads,” said O’Shaughnessy, in a low voice. “Our fellows are
at the angle of this trench. Who the deuce can that be, talking so loud?”

“It must be Maurice,” said Giles.

The question was soon decided by the doctor himself, who appeared giving
directions to his hospital-sergeant.

“Yes, Peter, take the tools up to a convenient spot near the breach.
There’s many a snug corner there in the ruins; and although we mayn’t have
as good an operation-room as in old ‘Steevens’s,’ yet we’ll beat them
hollow in cases.”

“Listen to the fellow,” said Giles, with a shudder. “The thought of his
confounded thumbscrews and tourniquets is worse to me than a French
howitzer.”

“The devil a kinder-hearted fellow than Maurice,” said O’Shaughnessy, “for
all that; and if his heart was to be known this moment, he’d rather handle
a sword than a saw.”

“True for you, Dennis,” said Quill, overhearing him, “but we are both
useful in our way, as the hangman said to Lord Clare.”

“But should you not be in the rear, Maurice?” said I.

“You are right, O’Malley,” said he, in a whisper; “but, you see, I owe the
Cork Insurance Company a spite for making me pay a gout premium, and that’s
the reason I’m here. I warned them at the time that their stinginess would
come to no good.”

“I say, Captain O’Malley,” said Giles, “I find I can’t be as good as my
word with you; my servant has moved to the rear with all my traps.”

“What is to be done?” said I.

“Is it shaving utensils you want?” said Maurice. “Would a scalpel serve
your turn?”

“No, Doctor, I’m going to take a turn of duty with your fellows to-night.”

“In the breach, with the stormers?”

“With the forlorn hope,” said O’Shaughnessy. “Beauclerc is so badly wounded
that we’ve sent him back; and Charley, like a good fellow, has taken his
place.”

“Martin told me,” said Maurice, “that Beauclerc was only stunned; but,
upon my conscience, the hospital-mates, now-a-days, are no better than the
watchmakers; they can’t tell what’s wrong with the instrument till they
pick it to pieces. Whiz! there goes a blue light.”

“Move on, move on,” whispered O’Shaughnessy; “they’re telling off the
stormers. That rocket is the order to fall in.”

“But what am I to do for a coat?”

“Take mine, my boy,” said Maurice, throwing off an upper garment of coarse
gray frieze as he spoke.

“There’s a neat bit of uniform,” continued he, turning himself round for
our admiration; “don’t I look mighty like the pictures of George the First
at the battle of Dettingen!”

A burst of approving laughter was our only answer to this speech, while
Maurice proceeded to denude himself of his most extraordinary garment.

“What, in the name of Heaven, is it?” said I.

“Don’t despise it, Charley; it knows the smell of gunpowder as well as any
bit of scarlet in the service;” while he added, in a whisper, “it’s the
ould Roscommon Yeomanry. My uncle commanded them in the year ‘42, and this
was his coat. I don’t mean to say that it was new then; for you see it’s a
kind of heirloom in the Quill family, and it’s not every one I’d be giving
it to.”

“A thousand thanks, Maurice,” said I, as I buttoned it on, amidst an
ill-suppressed titter of laughter.

“It fits you like a sentry-box,” said Maurice, as he surveyed me with a
lantern. “The skirts separate behind in the most picturesque manner; and
when you button the collar, it will keep your head up so high that the
devil a bit you’ll see except the blessed moon. It’s a thousand pities you
haven’t the three-cocked hat with the feather trimming. If you wouldn’t
frighten the French, my name’s not Maurice. Turn about here till I admire
you. If you only saw yourself in a glass, you’d never join the dragoons
again. And look now, don’t be exposing yourself, for I wouldn’t have those
blue facings destroyed for a week’s pay.”

“Ah, then, it’s yourself is the darling, Doctor, dear!” said a voice behind
me. I turned round; it was Mickey Free, who was standing with a most
profound admiration of Maurice beaming in every feature of his face. “It’s
yourself has a joke for every hour o’ the day.”

“Get to the rear, Mike, get to the rear with the cattle; this is no place
for you or them.”

“Good-night, Mickey,” said Maurice.

“Good-night, your honor,” muttered Mike to himself; “may I never die till
you set a leg for me.”

“Are you dressed for the ball?” said Maurice, fastening the white tape upon
my arm. “There now, my boy, move on, for I think I hear Picton’s voice; not
that it signifies now, for he’s always in a heavenly temper when any one’s
going to be killed. I’m sure he’d behave like an angel, if he only knew the
ground was mined under his feet.”

“Charley, Charley!” called out O’Shaughnessy, in a suppressed voice, “come
up quickly!”

“No. 24, John Forbes--here! Edward Gillespie--here!”

“Who leads this party, Major O’Shaughnessy?”

“Mr. Beauclerc, sir,” replied O’Shaughnessy, pushing me forward by the arm
while he spoke.

“Keep your people together, sir; spare the powder, and trust to your cold
iron.” He grasped my hand within his iron grip, and rode on.

“Who was it, Dennis?” said I.

“Don’t you know him, Charley? That was Picton.”



CHAPTER XXXV.


THE STORMING OF CIUDAD RODRIGO.

Whatever the levity of the previous moment, the scene before us now
repressed it effectually. The deep-toned bell of the cathedral tolled
seven, and scarcely were its notes dying away in the distance, when the
march of the columns was heard stealing along the ground. A low murmuring
whisper ran along the advanced files of the forlorn hope; stocks were
loosened; packs and knapsacks thrown to the ground; each man pressed his
cap more firmly down upon his brow, and with lip compressed and steadfast
eye, waited for the word to move.

It came at last: the word “March!” passed in whispers from rank to rank,
and the dark mass moved on. What a moment was that as we advanced to the
foot of the breach! The consciousness that at the same instant, from
different points of that vast plain, similar parties were moving on; the
feeling that at a word the flame of the artillery and the flash of steel
would spring from that dense cloud, and death and carnage, in every shape
our imagination can conceive, be dealt on all sides; the hurried, fitful
thought of home; the years long past compressed into one minute’s space;
the last adieu of all we’ve loved, mingling with the muttered prayer to
Heaven, while, high above all, the deep pervading sense that earth has no
temptation strong enough to turn us from that path whose ending must be a
sepulchre!

Each heart was too full for words. We followed noiselessly along the turf,
the dark figure of our leader guiding us through the gloom. On arriving
at the ditch, the party with the ladders moved to the front. Already some
hay-packs were thrown in, and the forlorn hope sprang forward.

All was still and silent as the grave. “Quietly, my men, quietly!” said
M’Kinnon; “don’t press.” Scarcely had he spoken when a musket whose charge,
contrary to orders, had not been drawn, went off. The whizzing bullet could
not have struck the wall, when suddenly a bright flame burst forth from the
ramparts, and shot upward towards the sky. For an instant the whole scene
before us was bright as noonday. On one side, the dark ranks and glistening
bayonets of the enemy; on the other, the red uniform of the British
columns: compressed like some solid wall, they stretched along the plain.

A deafening roll of musketry from the extreme right announced that the
Third Division was already in action, while the loud cry of our leader, as
he sprang into the trench, summoned us to the charge. The leading sections,
not waiting for the ladders, jumped down, others pressing rapidly behind
them, when a loud rumbling thunder crept along the earth, a hissing,
crackling noise followed, and from the dark ditch a forked and livid
lightning burst like the flame from a volcano, and a mine exploded.
Hundreds of shells and grenades scattered along the ground were ignited at
the same moment; the air sparkled with the whizzing fuses, the musketry
plied incessantly from the walls, and every man of the leading company
of the stormers was blown to pieces. While this dreadful catastrophe was
enacting before our eyes, the different assaults were made on all sides;
the whole fortress seemed girt around with fire. From every part arose the
yells of triumph and the shouts of the assailants. As for us, we stood upon
the verge of the ditch, breathless, hesitating, and horror-struck. A sudden
darkness succeeded to the bright glare, but from the midst of the gloom the
agonizing cries of the wounded and the dying rent our very hearts.

“Make way there! make way! here comes Mackie’s party,” cried an officer
in the front, and as he spoke the forlorn hope of the Eighty-eighth came
forward at a run; jumping recklessly into the ditch, they made towards the
breach; the supporting division of the stormers gave one inspiring cheer,
and sprang after them. The rush was tremendous; for scarcely had we reached
the crumbling ruins of the rampart, when the vast column, pressing on like
some mighty torrent, bore down upon our rear. Now commenced a scene to
which nothing I ever before conceived of war could in any degree compare:
the whole ground, covered with combustibles of every deadly and destructive
contrivance, was rent open with a crash; the huge masses of masonry bounded
into the air like things of no weight; the ringing clangor of the iron
howitzers, the crackling of the fuses, the blazing splinters, the shouts of
defiance, the more than savage yell of those in whose ranks alone the dead
and the dying were numbered, made up a mass of sights and sounds almost
maddening with their excitement. On we struggled; the mutilated bodies of
the leading files almost filling the way.

By this time the Third Division had joined us, and the crush of our
thickening ranks was dreadful; every moment some well-known leader fell
dead or mortally wounded, and his place was supplied by some gallant fellow
who, springing from the leading files, would scarcely have uttered his
cheer of encouragement, ere he himself was laid low. Many a voice with
whose notes I was familiar, would break upon my ear in tones of heroic
daring, and the next moment burst forth in a death-cry. For above an hour
the frightful carnage continued, fresh troops continually advancing, but
scarcely a foot of ground was made; the earth belched forth its volcanic
fires, and that terrible barrier did no man pass. In turn the bravest and
the boldest would leap into the whizzing flame, and the taunting cheers of
the enemy triumphed in derision at the effort.

“Stormers to the front! Only the bayonet! trust to nothing but the
bayonet!” cried a voice whose almost cheerful accents contrasted strangely
with the dead-notes around, and Gurwood, who led the forlorn hope of
the Fifty-second, bounded into the chasm; all the officers sprang
simultaneously after him; the men pressed madly on; a roll of withering
musketry crashed upon them; a furious shout replied to it. The British,
springing over the dead and dying, bounded like blood-hounds on their prey.
Meanwhile the ramparts trembled beneath the tramp of the light division,
who, having forced the lesser breach, came down upon the flank of the
French. The garrison, however, thickened their numbers, and bravely held
their ground. Man to man now was the combat. No cry for quarter, no
supplicating look for mercy; it was the death struggle of vengeance and
despair. At this instant an explosion louder than the loudest thunder shook
the air; the rent and torn up ramparts sprang into the sky; the conquering
and the conquered were alike the victims; for one of the greatest magazines
had been ignited by a shell; the black smoke, streaked with a lurid flame,
hung above the dead and the dying. The artillery and the murderous musketry
were stilled, paralyzed, as it were, by the ruin and devastation before
them. Both sides stood leaning upon their arms; the pause was but
momentary; the cries of wounded comrades called upon their hearts. A fierce
burst of vengeance rent the air; the British closed upon the foe; for one
instant they were met; the next, the bayonets gleamed upon the ramparts,
and Ciudad Rodrigo was won.



CHAPTER XXXVI.


THE RAMPART.

While such were the scenes passing around me, of my own part in them, I
absolutely knew nothing; for until the moment that the glancing bayonets
of the light division came rushing on the foe, and the loud, long cheer of
victory burst above us, I felt like one in a trance. Then I leaned against
an angle of the rampart, overpowered and exhausted; a bayonet wound, which
some soldier of our own ranks had given me when mounting the breach, pained
me somewhat; my uniform was actually torn to rags; my head bare; of my
sword, the hilt and four inches of the blade alone remained, while my left
hand firmly grasped the rammer of a cannon, but why or wherefore I could
not even guess. As thus I stood, the unceasing tide of soldiery pressed on;
fresh divisions came pouring in, eager for plunder, and thirsting for the
spoil. The dead and the dying were alike trampled beneath the feet of that
remorseless mass, who, actuated by vengeance and by rapine, sprang fiercely
up the breach.

Weak and exhausted, faint from my wound, and overcome by my exertions, I
sank among the crumbling ruin. The loud shouts which rose from the town,
mingled with cries and screams, told the work of pillage was begun; while
still a dropping musketry could be heard on the distant rampart, where even
yet the French made resistance. At last even this was hushed, but to it
succeeded the far more horrifying sounds of rapine and of murder; the
forked flames of burning houses rose here and there amidst the black
darkness of the night; and through the crackling of the timbers, and the
falling crash of roofs, the heart-rending shriek of women rent the very
air. Officers pressed forward, but in vain were their efforts to restrain
their men; the savage cruelty of the moment knew no bounds of restraint.
More than one gallant fellow perished in his fruitless endeavor to enforce
obedience; and the most awful denunciations were now uttered against those
before whom, at any other time, they dared not mutter.

Thus passed the long night, far more terrible to me than all the dangers of
the storm itself, with all its death and destruction dealing around it. I
know not if I slept: if so, the horrors on every side were pictured in my
dreams; and when the gray dawn was breaking, the cries from the doomed city
were still ringing in my ears. Close around me the scene was still
and silent; the wounded had been removed during the night, but the
thickly-packed dead lay side by side where they fell. It was a fearful
sight to see them as, blood-stained and naked (for already the
camp-followers had stripped the bodies), they covered the entire breach.
From the rampart to the ditch, the ranks lay where they had stood in life.
A faint phosphoric flame flickered above their ghastly corpses, making even
death still more horrible. I was gazing steadfastly, with all that stupid
intensity which imperfect senses and exhausted faculties possess, when the
sound of voices near aroused me.

“Bring him along,--this way, Bob. Over the breach with the scoundrel, into
the fosse.”

“He shall die no soldier’s death, by Heaven!” cried another and a deeper
voice, “if I lay his skull open with my axe.”

“Oh, mercy, mercy! as you hope for--”

“Traitor! don’t dare to mutter here!” As the last words were spoken, four
infantry soldiers, reeling from drunkenness, dragged forward a pale and
haggard wretch, whose limbs trailed behind him like those of palsy, his
uniform was that of a French chasseur, but his voice bespoke him English.

“Kneel down there, and die like a man! You were one once!”

“Not so, Bill, never. Fix bayonets, boys! That’s right! Now take the word
from me.”

“Oh, forgive me! for the love of Heaven, forgive me!” screamed the voice of
the victim; but his last accents ended in a death-cry, for as he spoke, the
bayonets flashed for an instant in the air, and the next were plunged into
his body. Twice I had essayed to speak, but my voice, hoarse from shouting,
came not; and I could but look upon this terrible murder with staring eyes
and burning brain. At last speech came, as if wrested by the very excess of
my agony, and I muttered aloud, “O God!” The words were not well-spoken,
when the muskets were brought to the shoulders, and reeking with the blood
of the murdered man, their savage faces scowled at me as I lay.

A short and heart-felt prayer burst from my lips, and I was still. The
leader of the party called out, “Be steady, and together. One, two! Ground
arms, boys! Ground arms!” roared he, in a voice of thunder; “it’s the
captain himself!” Down went the muskets with a crash; while, springing
towards me, the fellows caught me in their arms, and with one jerk mounted
me upon their shoulders, the cheer that accompanied the sudden movement
seeming like the yell of maniacs. “Ha, ha, ha! we have him now!” sang their
wild voices, as, with blood-stained hands and infuriated features, they
bore me down the rampart. My sensations of disgust and repugnance to the
party seemed at once to have evidenced themselves, for the corporal,
turning abruptly round, called out,--

“Don’t _pity_ him, Captain; the scoundrel was a deserter; he escaped from
the picket two nights ago, and gave information of all our plans to the
enemy.”

“Ay,” cried another, “and what’s worse, he fired through an embrasure near
the breach, for two hours, upon his own regiment. It was there we found
him. This way, lads.”

So saying, they turned short from the walls, and dashed down a dark
and narrow lane into the town. My struggles to get free were perfectly
ineffectual, and to my entreaties they were totally indifferent.

In this way, therefore, we made our entrance into the Plaza, where some
hundred soldiers, of different regiments, were bivouacked. A shout of
recognition welcomed the fellows as they came; while suddenly a party of
Eighty-eighth men, springing from the ground, rushed forward with drawn
bayonets, calling out, “Give him up this minute, or, by the Father of
Moses, we’ll make short work of ye!”

The order was made by men who seemed well disposed to execute it; and I was
accordingly grounded with a shock and a rapidity that savored much more
of ready compliance than any respect for my individual comfort. A roar of
laughter rang through the motley mass, and every powder-stained face around
me seemed convulsed with merriment. As I sat passively upon the ground,
looking ruefully about, whether my gestures or my words heightened the
absurdity of my appearance, it is hard to say; but certainly the laughter
increased at each moment, and the drunken wretches danced round me in
ecstasy.

“Where is your major? Major O’Shaughnessy, lads?” said I.

“He’s in the church, with the general, your honor,” said the sergeant of
the regiment, upon whom the mention of his officer’s name seemed at once
to have a sobering influence. Assisting me to rise (for I was weak as a
child), he led me through the dense crowd, who, such is the influence of
example, now formed into line, and as well as their state permitted, gave
me a military salute as I passed. “Follow me, sir,” said the sergeant;
“this little dark street to the left will take us to the private door of
the chapel.”

“Wherefore are they there, Sergeant?”

“There’s a general of division mortally wounded.”

“You did not hear his name?”

“No, sir. All I know is, he was one of the storming party at the lesser
breach.”

A cold, sickening shudder came over me; I durst not ask farther, but
pressed on with anxious steps towards the chapel.

“There, sir, yonder, where you see the light. That’s the door.”

So saying, the sergeant stopped suddenly, and placed his hand to his cap. I
saw at once that he was sufficiently aware of his condition not to desire
to appear before his officers; so, hurriedly thanking him, I walked
forward.

“Halt, there! and give the countersign,” cried a sentinel, who with fixed
bayonet stood before the door.

“I am an officer,” said I, endeavoring to pass in.

“Stand bock, stand bock!” said the harsh voice of the Highlander, for such
he was.

“Is Major O’Shaughnessy in the church?”

“I dinna ken,” was the short, rough answer.

“Who is the officer so badly wounded?”

“I dinna ken,” repeated he, as gruffly as before; while he added, in a
louder key, “Stand bock, I tell ye, man! Dinna ye see the staff coming?”

I turned round hastily, and at the same instant several officers, who
apparently from precaution had dismounted at the end of the street, were
seen approaching. They came hurriedly forward, but without speaking. He
who was in advance of the party wore a short, blue cape over an undress
uniform. The rest were in full regimentals. I had scarcely time to throw a
passing glance upon him, when the officer I have mentioned as coming first
called out in a stern voice,--

“Who are you, sir?”

I started at the sounds; it was not the first time those accents had been
heard by me.

“Captain O’Malley, Fourteenth Light Dragoons.”

“What brings you here, sir? Your regiment is at Caya.”

“I have been employed as acting aide-de-camp to General Crawfurd,” said I,
hesitatingly.

“Is that your staff uniform?” said he, as with compressed brow and stern
look he fixed his eyes upon my coat. Before I had time to reply, or,
indeed, before I well knew how to do so, a gruff voice from behind called
out,--

“Damn me! if that ain’t the fellow that led the stormers through a broken
embrasure! I say, my lord, that’s the yeoman I was telling you of. Is it
not so, sir?” continued he, turning towards me.

“Yes, sir. I led a party of the Eighty-eight at the breach.”

“And devilish well you did it, too!” added Picton, for it was he who
recognized me. “I saw him, my lord, spring down from the parapet upon a
French gunner, and break his sword as he cleft his helmet in two. Yes, yes;
I shall not forget in a hurry how you laid about you with the rammer of the
gun! By Jove! that’s it he has in his hand!”

While Picton ran thus hurriedly on, Lord Wellington’s calm but stern
features never changed their expression. The looks of those around were
bent upon me with interest and even admiration; but his evinced nothing of
either.

Reverting at once to my absence from my post, he asked me,--

“Did you obtain leave for a particular service, sir?”

“No, my lord. It was simply from an accidental circumstance that--”

“Then, report yourself at your quarters as under arrest.”

“But, my lord--” said Picton. Lord Wellington waited not for the
explanation, but walked firmly forward, and strode into the church. The
staff followed in silence, Picton turning one look of kindness on me as he
went, as though to say, “I’ll not forget you.”

“The devil take it,” cried I, as I found myself once more alone, “but
I’m unlucky! What would turn out with other men the very basis of their
fortune, is ever with me the source of ill-luck.”

It was evident, from Picton’s account, that I had distinguished myself
in the breach; and yet nothing was more clear than that my conduct had
displeased the commander-in-chief. Picturing him ever to my mind’s eye as
the _beau idéal_ of a military leader, by some fatality of fortune I was
continually incurring his displeasure, for whose praise I would have
risked my life. “And this confounded costume--What, in the name of every
absurdity, could have ever persuaded me to put it on. What signifies it,
though a man should cover himself with glory, if in the end he is to be
laughed at? Well, well, it matters not much, now my soldiering’s over! And
yet I could have wished that the last act of my campaigning had brought
with it pleasanter recollections.”

As thus I ruminated, the click of the soldier’s musket near aroused me:
Picton was passing out. A shade of gloom and depression was visible upon
his features, and his lip trembled as he muttered some sentences to
himself.

“Ha! Captain--I forget the name. Yes, Captain O’Malley; you are released
from arrest. General Crawfurd has spoken very well of you, and Lord
Wellington has heard the circumstances of your case.”

“Is it General Crawfurd, then, that is wounded, sir?” said I, eagerly.

Picton paused for a moment, while, with an effort, he controlled his
features into their stern and impassive expression, then added hurriedly
and almost harshly:--

Yes, sir; badly wounded through the arm and in the lung. He mentioned you
to the notice of the commander-in-chief, and your application for leave is
granted. In fact, you are to have the distinguished honor of carrying back
despatches. There, now; you had better join your brigade.”

“Could I not see my general once more? It may be for the last time.”

“No, sir!” sternly replied Picton. “Lord Wellington believes you under
arrest. It is as well he should suppose you obeyed his orders.”

There was a tone of sarcasm in these words that prevented my reply; and
muttering my gratitude for his well-timed and kindly interference in my
behalf, I bowed deeply and turned away.

“I say, sir!” said Picton, as he returned towards the church, “should
anything befall,--that is, if, unfortunately, circumstances should make you
in want and desirous of a staff appointment, remember that you are known to
General Picton.”

Downcast and depressed by the news of my poor general, I wended my way with
slow and uncertain steps towards the rampart. A clear, cold, wintry sky and
a sharp, bracing air made my wound, slight as it was, more painful, and
I endeavored to reach the reserves, where I knew the hospital-staff had
established, for the present, their quarters. I had not gone far when, from
a marauding party, I learned that my man Mike was in search of me through
the plain. A report of my death had reached him, and the poor fellow was
half distracted.

Longing anxiously to allay his fears on my account, which I well knew
might lead him into any act of folly or insanity, I pressed forward;
besides--shall I confess it?--amidst the manifold thoughts of sorrow and
affliction which weighed me down, I could not divest myself of the feeling
that so long as I wore my present absurd costume, I could be nothing but an
object of laughter and ridicule to all who met me.

I had not long to look for my worthy follower, for I soon beheld him
cantering about the plain. A loud shout brought him beside me; and
truly the poor fellow’s delight was great and sincere. With a thousand
protestations of his satisfaction, and reiterated assurances of what he
would not have done to the French prisoners if anything had happened me, we
took our way together towards the camp.



CHAPTER XXXVII.


THE DESPATCH.

I was preparing to visit the town on the following morning, when my
attention was attracted by a dialogue which took place beneath my window.

“I say, my good friend,” cried a mounted orderly to Mike, who was busily
employed in brushing a jacket,--“I say, are you Captain O’Malley’s man?”

“The least taste in life o’ that same,” replied he, with a half-jocular
expression.

“Well, then,” said the other, “take up these letters to your master. Be
alive, my fine fellow, for they are despatches, and I must have a written
return for them.”

“Won’t ye get off and take a drop of somethin’ refreshing; the air is cowld
this morning.”

“I can’t stay, my good friend, but thank you all the same; so be alive,
will you?”

“Arrah, there’s no hurry in life. Sure, it’s an invitation to dinner to
Lord Wellington or a tea-party at Sir Denny’s; sure, my master’s bothered
with them every day o’ th’ week: that’s the misfortune of being an
agreeable creature; and I’d be led into dissipation myself, if I wasn’t
rear’d prudent.”

“Well, come along, take these letters, for I must be off; my time is
short.”

“That’s more nor your nose is, honey,” said Mike, evidently piqued at the
little effect his advances had produced upon the Englishman. “Give them
here,” continued he, while he turned the various papers in every direction,
affecting to read their addresses.

“There’s nothing for me here, I see. Did none of the generals ask after
me?”

“You _are_ a queer one!” said the dragoon, not a little puzzled what to
make of him.

Mike meanwhile thrust the papers carelessly into his pocket, and strode
into the house, whistling a quick-step as he went, with the air of a man
perfectly devoid of care or occupation. The next moment, however, he
appeared at my door, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand, and
apparently breathless with haste.

“Despatches, Mister Charles, despatches from Lord Wellington. The orderly
is waiting below for a return.”

“Tell him he shall have it in one moment,” replied I. “And now bring me a
light.”

Before I had broken the seal of the envelope, Mike was once more at the
porch.

“My master is writing a few lines to say he’ll do it. Don’t be talking
of it,” added he, dropping his voice, “but they want him to take another
fortress.”

What turn the dialogue subsequently took, I cannot say, for I was entirely
occupied by a letter which accompanied the despatches. It ran as follows:--

    QUARTER-GENERAL,

    CIUDAD RODRIGO, Jan. 20, 1812.

    Dear Sir,--The commander-in-chief has been kind enough to accord you
    the leave of absence you applied for, and takes the opportunity
    of your return to England to send you the accompanying letters
    for his Royal Highness the Duke of York. To his approval of
    your conduct in the assault last night you owe this distinguished
    mark of Lord Wellington’s favor, which, I hope, will be duly
    appreciated by you, and serve to increase your zeal for that service
    in which you have already distinguished yourself.

    Believe me that I am most happy in being made the medium of
    this communication, and have the honor to be,

    Very truly yours,

    T. PICTON.


I read and re-read this note again and again. Every line was conned over by
me, and every phrase weighed and balanced in my mind. Nothing could be more
gratifying, nothing more satisfactory to my feelings; and I would not have
exchanged its possession for the brevet of a lieutenant-colonel.

“Halloo, Orderly!” cried I, from the window, as I hurriedly sealed my few
words of acknowledgment, “take this note back to General Picton, and here’s
a guinea for yourself.” So saying, I pitched into his ready hand one of the
very few which remained to me in the world. “This is, indeed, good news!”
 said I, to myself. “This is, indeed, a moment of unmixed happiness!”

As I closed the window, I could hear Mike pronouncing a glowing eulogium
upon my liberality, from which he could not, however, help in some degree
detracting, as he added:

“But the devil thank him, after all! Sure, it’s himself has the illigant
fortune and the fine place of it!”

Scarcely were the last sounds of the retiring horseman dying away in the
distance, when Mike’s meditations took another form, and he muttered
between his teeth, “Oh, holy Agatha! a guinea, a raal gold guinea to a
thief of a dragoon that come with the letter, and here am I wearing a
picture of the holy family for a back to my waistcoat, all out of economy;
and sure, God knows, but may be they’ll take their dealing trick out of
me in purgatory for this hereafter; and faith, it’s a beautiful pair of
breeches I’d have had, if I wasn’t ashamed to put the twelve apostles on
my legs.”

While Mike ran on at this rate, my eyes fell upon a few lines of postscript
in Picton’s letter, which I had not previously noticed.

    “The official despatches of the storming are, of course, intrusted to
    senior officers, but I need scarcely remind you that it will be a
    polite and proper attention to his Royal Highness to present your
    letters with as little delay as possible. Not a moment is to be lost
    on your landing in England.”

“Mike!” cried I, “how look the cattle for a journey?”

“The chestnut is a little low in flesh, but in great wind, your honor; and
the black horse is jumping like a filly.”

“And Badger?” said I.

“Howld him, if you can, that’s all; but it’s murthering work this, carrying
despatches day after day.”

“This time, however, Mike, we must not grumble.”

“May be it isn’t far?”

“Why, as to that, I shall not promise much. I’m bound for England, Mickey.”

“For England!”

“Yes, Mike, and for Ireland.”

“For Ireland! whoop!” shouted he, as he shied his cap into one corner of
the room, the jacket he was brushing into the other, and began dancing
round the table with no bad imitation of an Indian war dance.

    “How I’ll dance like a fairy,
    To see ould Dunleary,
    And think twice ere I leave it to be a dragoon.”

“Oh, blessed hour! Isn’t it beautiful to think of the illuminations and
dinners and speeches and shaking of hands, huzzaing, and hip-hipping. May
be there won’t be pictures of us in all the shops,--Mister Charles and his
man Mister Free. May be they won’t make plays out of us; myself dressed in
the gray coat with the red cuffs, the cords, the tops, and the Caroline hat
a little cocked, with a phiz in the side of it.” Here he made a sign with
his expanded fingers to represent a cockade, which he designated by this
word. “I think I see myself dining with the corporation, and the Lord Major
of Dublin getting up to propose the health of the hero of El Bodon, Mr.
Free; and three times three, hurra! hurra! hurra! Musha, but it’s dry I am
gettin’ with the thoughts of the punch and the poteen negus.”

“If you go on at this rate, we’re not likely to be soon at our journey’s
end. So be alive now; pack up my kit; I shall start by twelve o’clock.”

With one spring Mike cleared the stairs, and overthrowing everything and
everybody in his way, hurried towards the stable, chanting at the top of
his voice the very poetical strain he had indulged me with a few minutes
before.

My preparations were rapidly made; a few hurried lines of leave-taking to
the good fellows I had lived so much with and felt so strongly attached to,
with a firm assurance that I should join them again ere long, was all
that my time permitted. To Power I wrote more at length, detailing the
circumstances which my own letters informed me of, and also those which
invited me to return home. This done, I lost not another moment, but set
out upon my journey.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.


THE LEAVE.

After an hour’s sharp riding we reached the Aguada, where the river was yet
fordable; crossing this, we mounted the Sierra by a narrow and winding pass
which leads through the mountains towards Almeida. Here I turned once more
to cast a last and farewell look at the scene of our late encounter. It
was but a few hours that I had stood almost on the same spot, and yet how
altered was all around. The wide plain, then bustling with all the life and
animation of a large army, was now nearly deserted,--some dismounted guns,
some broken-up, dismantled batteries, around which a few sentinels seemed
to loiter rather than to keep guard; a strong detachment of infantry could
be seen wending their way towards the fortress, and a confused mass of
camp-followers, sutlers, and peasants following their steps for protection
against the pillagers and the still ruder assaults of their own Guerillas.
The fortress, too, was changed indeed. Those mighty walls before whose
steep sides the bravest fell back baffled and beaten, were now a mass of
ruin and decay; the muleteer could be seen driving his mule along through
the rugged ascent of that breach to win whose top the best blood of
Albion’s chivalry was shed; and the peasant child looked timidly from those
dark enclosures in the deep fosse below, where perished hundreds of our
best and bravest. The air was calm, clear, and unclouded; no smoke obscured
the transparent atmosphere; the cannon had ceased; and the voices that rang
so late in accents of triumphant victory were stilled in death. Everything,
indeed, had undergone a mighty change; but nothing brought the altered
fortunes of the scene so vividly to my mind as when I remembered that when
last I had seen those walls, the dark shako of the French grenadiers
peered above their battlements, and now the gay tartan of the Highlanders
fluttered above them, and the red flag of England waved boldly in the
breeze.

Up to that moment my sensations were those of unmixed pleasure. The thought
of my home, my friends, my country, the feeling that I was returning with
the bronze of the battle upon my cheek, and the voice of praise still
ringing in my heart,--these were proud thoughts, and my bosom heaved short
and quickly as I revolved them; but as I turned my gaze for the last time
towards the gallant army I was leaving, a pang of sorrow, of self-reproach,
shot through me, and I could not help feeling how far less worthily was
I acting in yielding to the impulse of my wishes, than had I remained to
share the fortunes of the campaign.

So powerfully did these sensations possess me, that I sat motionless for
some time, uncertain whether to proceed; forgetting that I was the bearer
of important information, I only remembered that by my own desire I was
there; my reason but half convinced me that the part I had adopted was
right and honorable, and more than once my resolution to proceed hung in
the balance. It was just at this critical moment of my doubts that Mike,
who had been hitherto behind, came up.

“Is it the upper road, sir?” said he, pointing to a steep and rugged path
which led by a zigzag ascent towards the crest of the mountain.

I nodded in reply, when he added:--

“Doesn’t this remind your honor of Sleibh More, above the Shannon, where we
used to be grouse shooting? And there’s the keeper’s house in the valley;
and that might be your uncle, the master himself, waving his hat to you.”

Had he known the state of my conflicting feelings at the moment, he could
not more readily have decided this doubt. I turned abruptly away, put
spurs to my horse, and dashed up the steep pass at a pace which evidently
surprised, and as evidently displeased, my follower.

How natural it is ever to experience a reaction of depression and lowness
after the first burst of unexpected joy! The moment of happiness is
scarce experienced ere come the doubts of its reality, the fears for its
continuance; the higher the state of pleasurable excitement, the more
painful and the more pressing the anxieties that await on it; the tension
of delighted feelings cannot last, and our overwrought faculties seek
repose in regrets. Happy he who can so temper his enjoyments as to view
them in their shadows as in their sunshine; he may not, it is true, behold
the landscape in the blaze of its noonday brightness, but he need not fear
the thunder-cloud nor the hurricane. The calm autumn of _his_ bliss, if it
dazzle not in its brilliancy, will not any more be shrouded in darkness and
in gloom.

My first burst of pleasure over, the thought of my uncle’s changed fortunes
pressed deeply on my heart, and a hundred plans suggested themselves in
turn to my mind to relieve his present embarrassments; but I knew how
impracticable they would all prove when opposed by his prejudices. To
sell the old home of his forefathers, to wander from the roof which had
sheltered his name for generations, he would never consent to; the law
might by force expel him, and drive him a wanderer and an exile, but of
his own free will the thing was hopeless. Considine, too, would encourage
rather than repress such feelings; his feudalism would lead him to any
lengths; and in defence of what he would esteem a right, he would as soon
shoot a sheriff as a snipe, and, old as he was, ask for no better amusement
than to arm the whole tenantry and give battle to the king’s troops on the
wide plain of Scariff. Amidst such conflicting thought, I travelled on
moodily and in silence, to the palpable astonishment of Mike, who could not
help regarding me as one from whom fortune met the most ungrateful returns.
At every new turn of the road he would endeavor to attract my attention by
the objects around,--no white-turreted château, no tapered spire in the
distance, escaped him; he kept up a constant ripple of half-muttered praise
and censure upon all he saw, and instituted unceasing comparisons between
the country and his own, in which, I am bound to say, Ireland rarely, if
ever, had to complain of his patriotism.

When we arrived at Almeida, I learned that the “Medea” sloop-of-war was
lying off Oporto, and expected to sail for England in a few days. The
opportunity was not to be neglected. The official despatches, I was aware,
would be sent through Lisbon, where the “Gorgon” frigate was in waiting to
convey them; but should I be fortunate enough to reach Oporto in time, I
had little doubt of arriving in England with the first intelligence of the
fall of Ciudad Rodrigo. Reducing my luggage, therefore, to the smallest
possible compass, and having provided myself with a juvenile guide for the
pass of La Reyna, I threw myself, without undressing, upon the bed, and
waited anxiously for the break of day to resume my journey.

As I ruminated over the prospect my return presented, I suddenly remembered
Frank Webber’s letter, which I had hastily thrust into a portfolio without
reading, so occupied was I by Considine’s epistle; with a little searching
I discovered it, and trimming my lamp, as I felt no inclination to sleep, I
proceeded to the examination of what seemed a more than usually voluminous
epistle. It contained four closely-written pages, accompanied by something
like a plan in an engineering sketch. My curiosity becoming further
stimulated by this, I sat down to peruse it. It began thus:--

    Official Despatch of Lieutenant-General Francis Webber to Lord
    Castlereagh, detailing the assault and capture of the old pump, in
    Trinity College, Dublin, on the night of the second of December,
    eighteen hundred and eleven, with returns of killed, wounded,
    and missing, with other information from the seat of war.

    HEADQUARTERS, No. 2, OLD SQUARE.

    My Lord,--In compliance with the instructions contained in your
    lordship’s despatch of the twenty-first ultimo, I concentrated the
    force under my command, and assembling the generals of division,
    made known my intentions in the following general order:--

      A. G. O.

      The following troops will this evening assemble at headquarters, and
      having partaken of a sufficient dinner for the next two days, with
      punch for four, will hold themselves in readiness to march in the
      following order:--

      Harry Nesbitt’s Brigade of Incorrigibles will form a blockading
      force, in the line extending from the vice-provost’s house to the
      library. The light division, under Mark Waller, will skirmish from
      the gate towards the middle of the square, obstructing the march of
      the Cuirassiers of the Guard, which, under the command of old Duncan
      the porter, are expected to move in that direction. Two columns of
      attack will be formed by the senior sophisters of the Old Guard, and
      a forlorn hope of the “cautioned” men at the last four examinations
      will form, under the orders of Timothy O’Rourke, beneath the shadow
      of the dining-hall.

      At the signal of the dean’s bell the stormers will move forward. A
      cheer from the united corps will then announce the moment of attack.

      The word for the night will be, “May the Devil admire me!”

      The commander-of-the-forces desires that the different corps should
      be as strong as possible, and expects that no man will rema
      any pretence whatever, in the rear with the lush. During the main
      assault, Cecil Cavendish will make a feint upon the provost’s
      windows, to be converted into a real attack if the ladies scream.

      GENERAL ORDER.

      The commissary-general, Foley, will supply the following articles for
      the use of the troops: Two hams; eight pair of chickens, the same to
      be roasted; a devilled turkey; sixteen lobsters; eight hundred of
      oysters, with a proportionate quantity of cold sherry and hot punch.

      The army will get drunk by ten o’clock to-night.

    Having made these dispositions, my lord, I proceeded to mislead
    the enemy as to our intentions, in suffering my servant to be taken
    with an intercepted despatch. This, being a prescription by Doctor
    Colles, would convey to the dean’s mind the impression that I was
    still upon the sick list. This being done, and four canisters of
    Dartford gunpowder being procured on tick, our military chest being in
    a most deplorable condition, I waited for the moment of attack.

    A heavy rain, accompanied with a frightful hurricane, prevailed
    during the entire day, rendering the march of the troops who came
    from the neighborhood of Merrion Square and Fitzwilliam Street, a
    service of considerable fatigue. The outlying pickets in College Green,
    being induced probably by the inclemency of the season, were rather
    tipsy on joining, and having engaged in a skirmish with old M’Calister,
    tying his red uniform over his head, the moment of attack
    was precipitated, and we moved to the trenches by half-past nine
    o’clock.

    Nothing could be more orderly, nothing more perfect, than the
    march of the troops. As we approached the corner of the commons-hall,
    a skirmish on the rear apprised us that our intentions had become
    known; and I soon learned from my aide-de-camp, Bob Moore,
    that the attack was made by a strong column of the enemy, under
    the command of old Fitzgerald.

    Perpendicular (as your lordship is aware he is styled by the army)
    came on in a determined manner, and before many minutes had
    elapsed had taken several prisoners, among others Tom Drummond,--Long
    Tom,--who, having fallen on all fours, was mistaken for a
    long eighteen. The success, however, was but momentary; Nesbitt’s
    Brigade attacked them in flank, rescued the prisoners, extinguished
    the dean’s lantern, and having beaten back the heavy porters, took
    Perpendicular himself prisoner.

    An express from the left informed me that the attack upon the
    provost’s house had proved equally successful; there wasn’t a whole
    pane of glass in the front, and from a footman who deserted, it was
    learned that Mrs. Hutchinson was in hysterics.

    While I was reading this despatch, a strong feeling of the line
    towards the right announced that something was taking place in that
    direction. Bob Moore, who rode by on Drummond’s back, hurriedly
    informed me that Williams had put the lighted end of his cigar to
    one of the fuses, but the powder, being wet, did not explode
    notwithstanding his efforts to effect it. Upon this, I hastened to the
    front, where I found the individual in question kneeling upon the
    ground, and endeavoring, as far as punch would permit him, to kindle a
    flame at the portfire. Before I could interfere, the spark had caught;
    a loud, hissing noise followed; the different magazines successively
    became ignited, and at length the fire reached the great four-pound
    charge.

    I cannot convey to your lordship, by any words of mine, an idea of
    this terrible explosion; the blazing splinters were hurled into the
    air, and fell in fiery masses on every side from the park to King
    William; Ivey the bell-ringer, was precipitated from the scaffold
    beside the bell, and fell headlong into the mud beneath; the
    surrounding buildings trembled at the shock; the windows were
    shattered, and in fact a scene of perfect devastation ensued on all
    sides.

    When the smoke cleared away, I rose from my recumbent position,
    and perceived with delight that not a vestige of the pump remained.
    The old iron handle was imbedded in the wall of the dining-hall, and
    its round knob stood out like the end of a queue.

    Our loss was, of course, considerable; and ordering the wounded
    to the rear, I proceeded to make an orderly and regular retreat. At
    this time, however, the enemy had assembled in force. Two battalions
    of porters, led on by Dr. Dobbin, charged us on the flank; a
    heavy brigade poured down upon us from the battery, and but for
    the exertions of Harry Nesbitt, our communication with our reserves
    must have been cut off. Cecil Cavendish also came up; for although
    beaten in his great attack, the forces under his command had penetrated
    by the kitchen windows, and carried oil a considerable quantity
    of cold meat.

    Concentrating the different corps, I made an echelon movement
    upon the chapel, to admit of the light division coming up. This they
    did in a few moments, informing me that they had left Perpendicular
    in the haha, which, as your lordship is aware, is a fosse of the
    very greenest and most stagnant nature. We now made good our retreat
    upon number “2,” carrying our wounded with us. The plunder
    we also secured; but we kicked the prisoners, and suffered them to
    escape.

    Thus terminated, my lord, one of the brightest achievements of the
    undergraduate career. I enclose a list of the wounded, as also an
    account of the various articles returned in the commissary-general’s
    list.

    Harry Nesbitt: severely wounded; no coat nor hat; a black-eye;
    left shoe missing.

    Cecil Cavendish: face severely scratched; supposed to have received
    his wound in the attack upon the kitchen.

    Tom Drummond: not recognizable by his friends; his features
    resembling a transparency disfigured by the smoke of the preceding
    night’s illumination.

    Bob Moore: slightly wounded.

    I would beg particularly to recommend all these officers to your
    lordship’s notice; indeed, the conduct of Moore, in kicking the dean’s
    lantern out of the porter’s hand, was marked by great promptitude
    and decision. This officer will present to H. R. H. the following
    trophies, taken from the enemy: The dean’s cap and tassel; the key
    of his chambers; Dr. Dobbin’s wig and bands; four porters’ helmets,
    and a book on the cellar.

    I have the honor to remain, my lord, etc.,

    FRANCIS WEBBER.

      G. O.

      The commander-of-the-forces returns his thanks to the various
      officers and soldiers employed in the late assault, for their
      persevering gallantry and courage. The splendor of the achievement
      can only be equalled by the humanity and good conduct of the troops.
      It only remains for him to add, that the less they say about the
      transaction, and the sooner they are severally confined to their beds
      with symptoms of contagious fever, the better.

      Meanwhile, to concert upon the future measures of the campaign, the
      army will sup to-night at Morrison’s.

Here ended this precious epistle, rendering one fact sufficiently
evident,--that, however my worthy friend advanced in years, he had not
grown in wisdom.

While ruminating upon the strange infatuation which could persuade a gifted
and an able man to lavish upon dissipation and reckless absurdity the
talents that must, if well directed, raise him to eminence and distinction,
a few lines of a newspaper paragraph fell from the paper I was reading. It
ran thus:--

      LATE OUTRAGE IN TRINITY COLLEGE, DUBLIN.

      We have great pleasure in stating that the serious disturbance which
      took place within the walls of our University a few evenings since,
      was in no wise attributable to the conduct of the students. A party
      of ill-disposed townspeople were, it would appear, the instigators
      and perpetrators of the outrage. That their object was the total
      destruction of our venerated University there can be but little
      doubt. Fortunately, however, they did not calculate upon the _esprit
      de corps_ of the students, a body of whom, under the direction of Mr.
      Webber, successfully opposed the assailants, and finally drove them
      from the walls.

      It is, we understand, the intention of the board to confer some mark
      of approbation upon Mr. Webber, who, independently of this, has
      strong claims upon their notice, his collegiate success pointing him
      out as the most extraordinary man of his day.

    This, my dear Charley, will give you some faint conception of one
    of the most brilliant exploits of modern days. The bulletin, believe
    me, is not Napoleonized into any bombastic extravagance of success.
    The tiling was splendid; from the brilliant firework of the old pump
    itself, to the figure of Perpendicular dripping with duckweed, like
    an insane river-god, it was unequalled. Our fellows behaved like
    trumps; and to do them justice, so did the enemy. But unfortunately,
    notwithstanding this, and the plausible paragraphs of the
    morning papers, I have been summoned before the board for Tuesday
    next.

    Meanwhile I employ myself in throwing off a shower of small
    squibs for the journals, so that if the board deal not mercifully with
    me, I may meet with sympathy from the public. I have just despatched
    a little editorial bit for the “Times,” calling, in terms of
    parental tenderness, upon the University to say--

      “How long will the extraordinary excesses of a learned funct
      be suffered to disgrace college? Is Doctor ---- to be permitted to
      exhibit an example of more riotous insubordination than would be
      endured in an undergraduate? More on this subject hereafter.”

      “‘Saunders’ News-letter.’--Dr. Barret appeared at the head
      police-office, before Alderman Darley, to make oath that neither he
      nor Catty were concerned in the late outrage upon the pump.” etc.,
      etc.

    Paragraphs like these are flying about in every provincial paper of
    the empire. People shake their heads when they speak of the University,
    and respectable females rather cross over by King William and
    the Bank than pass near its precincts.

    Tuesday Evening.

    Would you believe it, they’ve expelled me! Address your next
    letter as usual, for they haven’t got rid of me yet.

    Yours,                   F. W.

“So I shall find him in his old quarters,” thought I, “and evidently not
much altered since we parted.” It was not without a feeling of (I trust
pardonable) pride that I thought over my own career in the interval. My
three years of campaigning life had given me some insight into the world,
and some knowledge of myself, and conferred upon me a boon, of which I know
not the equal,--that, while yet young, and upon the very threshold of life,
I should have tasted the enthusiastic pleasures of a soldier’s fortune, and
braved the dangers and difficulties of a campaign at a time when, under
other auspices, I might have wasted my years in unprofitable idleness or
careless dissipation.



CHAPTER XXXIX.


LONDON.

Twelve hours after my arrival in England I entered London. I cannot attempt
to record the sensations which thronged my mind as the din and tumult of
that mighty city awoke me from a sound sleep I had fallen into in the
corner of the chaise. The seemingly interminable lines of lamplight, the
crash of carriages, the glare of the shops, the buzz of voices, made up a
chaotic mass of sights and sounds, leaving my efforts at thought vain and
fruitless.

Obedient to my instructions, I lost not a moment in my preparations to
deliver my despatches. Having dressed myself in the full uniform of my
corps, I drove to the Horse Guards. It was now nine o’clock, and I learned
that his Royal Highness had gone to dinner at Carlton House. In a few words
which I spoke with the aide-de-camp, I discovered that no information of
the fall of Ciudad Rodrigo had yet reached England. The greatest anxiety
prevailed as to the events of the Peninsula, from which no despatches had
been received for several weeks past.

To Carlton House I accordingly bent my steps, without any precise
determination how I should proceed when there, nor knowing how far
etiquette might be an obstacle to the accomplishment of my mission. The
news of which I was the bearer was, however, of too important a character
to permit me to hesitate, and I presented myself to the aide-de-camp in
waiting, simply stating that I was intrusted with important letters to his
Royal Highness, the purport of which did not admit of delay.

“They have not gone to dinner yet,” lisped out the aide-de-camp, “and if
you would permit me to deliver the letters--”

“Mine are despatches,” said I, somewhat proudly, and in no way disposed to
cede to another the honor of personally delivering them into the hands of
the duke.

“Then you had better present yourself at the levee to-morrow morning,”
 replied he, carelessly, while he turned into one of the window recesses,
and resumed the conversation with one of the gentlemen-in-waiting.

I stood for some moments uncertain and undecided; reluctant on the one
part to relinquish my claim as the bearer of the despatches, and equally
unwilling to defer their delivery till the following day.

Adopting the former alternative, I took my papers from my sabretasche,
and was about to place them in the hands of the aide-de-camp, when the
folding-doors at the end of the apartment suddenly flew open, and a large
and handsome man with a high bald forehead entered hastily.

The different persons in waiting sprang from their lounging attitudes upon
the sofas, and bowed respectfully as he passed on towards another door.
His dress was a plain blue coat, buttoned to the collar, and his only
decoration a brilliant star upon the breast. There was that air, however,
of high birth and bearing about him that left no doubt upon my mind he was
of the blood royal.

As the aide-de-camp to whom I had been speaking opened the door for him to
pass out, I could hear some words in a low voice, in which the phrases,
“letters of importance” and “your Royal Highness” occurred. The individual
addressed turned suddenly about, and casting a rapid glance around the
room, without deigning a word in reply, walked straight up to where I was
standing.

“Despatches for me, sir?” said he, shortly, taking, as he spoke, the packet
from my hand.

“For his Royal Highness the commander-in-chief,” said I, bowing
respectfully, and still uncertain in whose presence I was standing. He
broke the seal without answering, and as his eye caught the first lines of
the despatch, broke out into an exclamation of--

Ha, Peninsular news! When did you arrive, sir?”

“An hour since, sir.”

“And these letters are from--”

“General Picton, your Royal Highness.”

“How glorious! How splendidly done!” muttered he to himself, as he ran his
eyes rapidly over the letter. “Are you Captain O’Malley, whose name is
mentioned here so favorably?”

I bowed deeply in reply.

“You are most highly spoken of, and it will give me sincere pleasure to
recommend you to the notice of the Prince Regent. But stay a moment,” so
saying, he hurriedly passed from the room, leaving me overwhelmed at the
suddenness of the incident, and a mark of no small astonishment to the
different persons in waiting, who had hitherto no other idea but that my
despatches were from Hounslow or Knightsbridge.

“Captain O’Malley,” said an officer covered with decorations, and whose
slightly foreign accent bespoke the Hanoverian, “his Royal Highness
requests you will accompany me.” The door opened as he spoke, and I found
myself in a most splendidly lit-up apartment,--the walls covered with
pictures, and the ceiling divided, into panels resplendent with the richest
gilding. A group of persons in court dresses were conversing in a low tone
as we entered, but suddenly ceased, and saluting my conductor respectfully,
made way for us to pass on. The folding-doors again opened as we
approached, and we found ourselves in a long gallery, whose sumptuous
furniture and costly decorations shone beneath the rich tints of a massive
lustre of ruby glass, diffusing a glow resembling the most gorgeous sunset.
Here also some persons in handsome uniform were conversing, one of whom
accosted my companion by the title of “Baron;” nodding familiarly as he
muttered a few words in German, he passed forward, and the next moment the
doors were thrown suddenly wide, and we entered the drawing-room.

The buzz of voices and the sound of laughter reassured me as I came
forward, and before I had well time to think where and why I was there, the
Duke of York advanced towards me, with a smile of peculiar sweetness in its
expression, and said, as he turned towards one side:--

“Your Royal Highness--Captain O’Malley!”

As he spoke the Prince moved forward, and bowed slightly.

“You’ve brought us capital news, Mr. O’Malley. May I beg, if you’re not
too much tired, you’ll join us at dinner. I am most anxious to learn the
particulars of the assault.”

As I bowed my acknowledgments to the gracious invitation, he continued:--

“Are you acquainted with my friend here?--but of course you can scarcely
be; you began too early as a soldier. So let me present you to my friend,
Mr. Tierney,” a middle-aged man, whose broad, white forehead and deep-set
eyes gave a character to features that were otherwise not remarkable in
expression, and who bowed rather stiffly.

Before he had concluded a somewhat labored compliment to me, we were joined
by a third person, whose strikingly-handsome features were lit up with an
expression of the most animated kind. He accosted the Prince with an air
of easy familiarity, and while he led him from the group, appeared to be
relating some anecdote which actually convulsed his Royal Highness with
laughter.

Before I had time or opportunity to inquire who the individual could
be, dinner was announced, and the wide folding-doors being thrown open,
displayed the magnificent dining-room of Carlton House in all the blaze and
splendor of its magnificence.

The sudden change from the rough vicissitudes of campaigning life to all
the luxury and voluptuous elegance of a brilliant court, created too much
confusion in my mind to permit of my impressions being the most accurate
or most collected. The splendor of the scene, the rank, but even more the
talent of the individuals by whom I was surrounded, had all their full
effect upon me. And although I found, from the tone of the conversation
about, how immeasurably I was their inferior, yet by a delicate and
courteous interest in the scene of which I had lately partaken, they took
away the awkwardness which in some degree was inseparable from the novelty
of my position among them.

Conversing about the Peninsula with a degree of knowledge which I could
in no wise comprehend from those not engaged in the war, they appeared
perfectly acquainted with all the details of the campaign; and I heard on
every side of me anecdotes and stories which I scarcely believed known
beyond the precincts of a regiment. The Prince himself--the grace and charm
of whose narrative talents have seldom been excelled--was particularly
conspicuous, and I could not help feeling struck with his admirable
imitations of voice and manner. The most accomplished actor could not have
personated the canny, calculating spirit of the Scot, or the rollicking
recklessness of the Irishman, with more tact and _finesse_. But far above
all this, shone the person I have already alluded to as speaking to his
Royal Highness in the drawing-room. Combining the happiest conversational
eloquence with a quick, ready, and brilliant fancy, he threw from him in
all the careless profusion of boundless resource a shower of pointed and
epigrammatic witticisms. Now illustrating a really difficult subject by one
happy touch, as the blaze of the lightning will light up the whole surface
of the dark landscape beneath it; now turning the force of an adversary’s
argument by some fallacious but unanswerable jest, accompanying the whole
by those fascinations of voice, look, gesture, and manner which have made
those who once have seen, never able to forget Brinsley Sheridan.

I am not able, were I even disposed, to record more particularly the
details of that most brilliant evening of my life. On every side of me I
heard the names of those whose fame as statesmen or whose repute as men of
letters was ringing throughout Europe. They were then, too, not in the easy
indolence of ordinary life, but displaying with their utmost effort those
powers of wit, fancy, imagination, and eloquence which had won for them
elsewhere their high and exalted position. The masculine understanding
and powerful intellect of Tierney vied with the brilliant and dazzling
conceptions of Sheridan. The easy _bonhomie_ and English heartiness of Fox
contrasted with the cutting sarcasm and sharp raillery of O’Kelly. While
contesting the palm with each himself, the Prince evinced powers of mind
and eloquent facilities of expression that, in any walk of life, must
have made their possessor a most distinguished man. Politics, war, women,
literature, the turf, the navy, the opposition, architecture, and the
drama, were all discussed with a degree of information and knowledge that
proved to me how much of real acquirements can be obtained by those whose
exalted station surrounds them with the collective intellect of a nation.
As for myself, the time flew past unconsciously. So brilliant a display of
all that was courtly and fascinating in manner, and all that was brightest
in genius, was so novel to me, that I really felt like one entranced. To
this hour, my impression, however confused in details, is as vivid as
though that evening were but yesternight; and although since that period
I have enjoyed numerous opportunities of meeting with the great and the
gifted, yet I treasure the memory of that evening as by far the most
exciting of my whole life.

While I abstain from any mention of the many incidents of the evening,
I cannot pass over one which, occurring to myself, is valuable but as
showing, by one slight and passing trait, the amiable and kind feeling of
one whose memory is hallowed in the service.

A little lower than myself, on the opposite side of the table, I perceived
an old military acquaintance whom I had first met in Lisbon. He was then on
Sir Charles Stewart’s staff, and we met almost daily. Wishing to commend
myself to his recollection, I endeavored for some time to catch his eye,
but in vain; but at last when I thought I had succeeded, I called to him,--

“I say, Fred, a glass of wine with you.”

When suddenly the Duke of York, who was speaking to Lord Hertford, turned
quickly round, and taking the decanter in his hand, replied,--

“With pleasure, O’Malley. What shall it be, my boy?”

I shall never forget the manly good-humor of his look as he sat waiting for
my answer. He had taken my speech as addressed to himself, and concluding
that from fatigue, the novelty of the scene, my youth, etc., I was not over
collected, vouchsafed in this kind way to receive it.

“So,” said he, as I stammered out my explanation, “I was deceived. However,
don’t cheat me out of my glass of wine. Let us have it now.”

With this little anecdote, whose truth I vouch for, I shall conclude. More
than one now living was a witness to it, and my only regret in the mention
of it is my inability to convey the readiness with which he seized the
moment of apparent difficulty to throw the protection of his kind and
warm-hearted nature over the apparent folly of a boy.

It was late when the party broke up, and as I took my leave of the Prince,
he once more expressed himself in gracious terms towards me, and gave
me personally an invitation to a breakfast at Hounslow on the following
Saturday.



CHAPTER XL.


THE BELL AT BRISTOL.

On the morning after my dinner at Carlton House, I found my breakfast-table
covered with cards and invitations. The news of the storming of Ciudad
Rodrigo was published in all the morning papers, and my own humble name, in
letters of three feet long, was exhibited in placards throughout the city.
Less to this circumstance, however, than to the kind and gracious notice of
the Prince, was I indebted for the attentions which were shown me by
every one; and indeed, so flattering was the reception I met with, and so
overwhelming the civility showered on me from all sides, that it required
no small effort on my part not to believe myself as much a hero as they
would make me. An eternal round of dinners, balls, breakfasts, and
entertainments filled up the entire week. I was included in every
invitation to Carlton House, and never appeared without receiving from his
Royal Highness the most striking marks of attention. Captivating as all
this undoubtedly was, and fascinated as I felt in being the lion of London,
the courted and sought after by the high, the titled, and the talented of
the great city of the universe, yet amidst all the splendor and seduction
of that new world, my heart instinctively turned from the glare and
brilliancy of gorgeous saloons, from the soft looks and softer voice of
beauty, from the words of praise as they fell from the lips of those whose
notice was fame itself,--to my humble home amidst the mountains of the
west. Delighted and charmed as I felt by that tribute of flattery which
associated my name with one of the most brilliant actions of my country,
yet hitherto I had experienced no touch of home or fatherland. England was
to me as the high and powerful head of my house, whose greatness and whose
glory shed a halo far and near, from the proudest to the humblest of those
that call themselves Britons; but Ireland was-the land of my birth,--the
land of my earliest ties, my dearest associations,--the kind mother whose
breath had fanned my brow in infancy, and for her in my manhood my heart
beat with every throb of filial affection. Need I say, then, how ardently
I longed to turn homeward; for independent of all else, I could not avoid
some self-reproach on thinking what might be the condition of those I
prized the most on earth, at that very moment I was engaging in all the
voluptuous abandonment, and all the fascinating excesses of a life of
pleasure. I wrote several letters home, but received no answer; nor did I,
in the whole round of London society, meet with a single person who could
give me information of my family or my friends. The Easter recess had sent
the different members of Parliament to their homes; and thus, within a
comparatively short distance of all I cared for, I could learn nothing of
their fate.

The invitations of the Prince Regent, which were, of course, to be regarded
as commands, still detained me in London; and I knew not in what manner
to escape from the fresh engagements which each day heaped upon me. In
my anxiety upon the subject, I communicated my wishes to a friend on the
duke’s staff, and the following morning, as I presented myself at his
levee, he called me towards him and addressed me:--

“What leave have you got, Captain O’Malley?”

“Three months, your Royal Highness.”

“Do you desire an unattached troop; for if so, an opportunity occurs just
at this moment.”

“I thank you most sincerely, sir, for your condescension in thinking of me;
but my wish is to join my regiment at the expiration of my leave.”

“Why, I thought they told me you wanted to spend some time in Ireland?”

“Only sufficient to see my friends, your Royal Highness. That done, I’d
rather join my regiment immediately.”

“Ah, that alters the case! So then, probably, you’d like to leave us at
once. I see how it is; you’ve been staying here against your will all this
while. Then, don’t say a word. I’ll make your excuses at Carlton House; and
the better to cover your retreat, I’ll employ you on service. Here, Gordon,
let Captain O’Malley have the despatches for Sir Henry Howard, at Cork.” As
he said this, he turned towards me with an air of affected sternness in his
manner, and continued: “I expect, Captain O’Malley, that you will deliver
the despatches intrusted to your care without a moment’s loss of time. You
will leave London within an hour. The instructions for your journey will
be sent to your hotel. And now,” said he, again changing his voice to its
natural tone of kindliness and courtesy,--“and now, my boy, good-by, and a
safe journey to you. These letters will pay your expenses, and the occasion
save you all the worry of leave-taking.”

I stood confused and speechless, unable to utter a single word of gratitude
for such unexpected kindness. The duke saw at once my difficulty, and as he
shook me warmly by the hand, added, in a laughing tone,--

“Don’t wait, now; you mustn’t forget that your despatches are pressing.”

I bowed deeply, attempted a few words of acknowledgment, hesitated,
blundered, broke down, and at last got out of the room, Heaven knows how,
and found myself running towards Long’s at the top of my speed. Within that
same hour I was rattling along towards Bristol as fast as four posters
could burn the pavement, thinking with ecstasy over the pleasures of my
reception in England; but far more than all, of the kindness evinced
towards me by him who, in every feeling of his nature, and in every feature
of his deportment was “every inch a prince.”

However astonished I had been at the warmth, by which I was treated in
London, I was still less prepared for the enthusiasm which greeted me in
every town through which I passed. There was not a village where we stopped
to change horses whose inhabitants did not simultaneously pour forth to
welcome me with every demonstration of delight. That the fact of four
horses and a yellow chaise should have elicited such testimonies of
satisfaction, was somewhat difficult to conceive; and even had the
important news that I was the bearer of despatches been telegraphed from
London by successive postboys, still the extraordinary excitement was
unaccountable. It was only on reaching Bristol that I learned to what
circumstance my popularity was owing. My friend Mike, in humble imitation
of election practices, had posted a large placard on the back of the
chaise, announcing, in letters of portentous length, something like the
following:--

    “Bloody news! Fall of Ciudad Rodrigo! Five thousand prisoners
    and two hundred pieces of cannon taken!”

This veracious and satisfactory statement, aided by Mike’s personal
exertions, and an unwearied performance on the trumpet he had taken from
the French dragoon, had roused the population of every hamlet, and made our
journey from London to Bristol one scene of uproar, noise, and confusion.
All my attempts to suppress Mike’s oratory or music were perfectly
unavailing. In fact, he had pledged my health so many times during the day;
he had drunk so many toasts to the success of the British arms, so many to
the English nation, so many in honor of Ireland, and so many in honor of
Mickey Free himself,--that all respect for my authority was lost in his
enthusiasm for my greatness, and his shouts became wilder, and the blasts
from the trumpet more fearful and incoherent; and finally, on the last
stage of our journey, having exhausted as it were every tribute of his
lungs, he seemed (if I were to judge by the evidence of my ears) to be
performing something very like a hornpipe on the roof of the chaise.

Happily for me there is a limit to all human efforts, and even _his_ powers
at length succumbed; so that, when we arrived at Bristol, I persuaded him
to go to bed, and I once more was left to the enjoyment of some quiet. To
fill up the few hours which intervened before bedtime, I strolled into the
coffee room. The English look of every one, and everything around, had
still its charm for me; and I contemplated, with no small admiration, that
air of neatness and propriety so observant from the bright-faced clock that
ticked unwearily upon the mantelpiece, to the trim waiter himself, with
noiseless step and a mixed look of vigilance and vacancy. The perfect
stillness struck me, save when a deep voice called for “another
brandy-and-water,” and some more modestly-toned request would utter a
desire for “more cream.” The attention of each man, absorbed in the folds
of his voluminous newspaper, scarcely deigning a glance at the new-comer
who entered, was in keeping with the general surroundings,--giving, in
their solemnity and gravity, a character of almost religious seriousness,
to what, in any other land, would be a scene of riotous and discordant
tumult. I was watching all this with a more than common interest, when the
door opened, and the waiter entered with a large placard. He was followed
by another with a ladder, by whose assistance he succeeded in attaching the
large square of paper to the wall above the fireplace. Every one about rose
up, curious to ascertain what was going forward; and I myself joined in the
crowd around the fire. The first glance of the announcement showed me
what it meant; and it was with a strange mixture of shame and confusion I
read:--

    “_Fall of Ciudad Rodrigo: with a full and detailed account of the
    storming of the great breach, capture of the enemy’s cannon, etc., by
    Michael Free, 14th Light Dragoons_.”

Leaving the many around me busied in conjecturing who the aforesaid Mr.
Free might be, and what peculiar opportunities he might have enjoyed for
his report, I hurried from the room and called the waiter.

“What’s the meaning of the announcement you’ve just put up in the
coffee-room? Where did it come from?”

“Most important news, sir; exclusively in the columns of the ‘_Bristol
Telegraph_,’--the gentleman has just arrived--”

“Who, pray? What gentleman?”

“Mr. Free, sir, No. 13--large bed-room--blue damask--supper for
two--oysters--a devil--brandy-and-water-mulled port.”

“What the devil do you mean? Is the fellow at supper?”

Somewhat shocked by the tone I ventured to assume towards the illustrious
narrator, the waiter merely bowed his reply.

“Show me to his room,” said I; “I should like to see him.”

“Follow me, if you please, sir,--this way. What name shall I say, sir?”

“You need not mind announcing me,--I’m an old acquaintance,--just show me
the room.”

“I beg pardon, sir, but Mr. Meekins, the editor of the ‘_Telegraph_,’ is
engaged with him at present; and positive orders are given not to suffer
any interruption.”

“No matter; do as I bid you. Is that it? Oh, I hear his voice. There, that
will do. You may go down-stairs, I’ll introduce myself.”

[Illustration: CAPTAIN MICKEY FREE RELATING HIS HEROIC DEEDS.]

So saying, and slipping a crown into the waiter’s hand, I proceeded
cautiously towards the door, and opened it stealthily. My caution was,
however, needless; for a large screen was drawn across this part of the
room, completely concealing the door, closing which behind me, I took my
place beneath the shelter of this ambuscade, determined on no account to be
perceived by the parties.

Seated in a large arm-chair, a smoking tumbler of mulled port before him,
sat my friend Mike, dressed in my full regimentals, even to the helmet,
which, unfortunately however for the effect, he had put on back foremost; a
short “dudeen” graced his lip, and the trumpet so frequently alluded to lay
near him.

Opposite him sat a short, puny, round-faced little gentleman with rolling
eyes and a turned up nose. Numerous sheets of paper, pens, etc., lay
scattered about; and he evinced, by his air and gesture, the most marked
and eager attention to Mr. Free’s narrative, whose frequent interruptions,
caused by the drink and the oysters, were viewed with no small impatience
by the anxious editor.

“You must remember, Captain, time’s passing; the placards are all out. Must
be at press before one o’clock to-night,--the morning edition is everything
with us. You were at the first parallel, I think.”

“Devil a one o’ me knows. Just ring that bell near you. Them’s elegant
oysters; and you’re not taking your drop of liquor. Here’s a toast for you:
‘May--’ Whoop! raal Carlingford’s, upon my conscience! See now, if I won’t
hit the little black chap up there the first shot.”

Scarcely were the words spoken, when a little painted bust of Shakespeare
fell in fragments on the floor, as an oyster-shell laid him low.

A faint effort at a laugh at the eccentricities of his friend was all the
poor editor could accomplish, while Mike’s triumph knew no bounds.

“Didn’t I tell you? But come now, are you ready? Give the pen a drink, if
you won’t take one yourself.”

“I am ready, quite ready,” responded the editor.

“Faith, and it’s more nor I am. See now, here it is: The night was
murthering dark; you could not see a stim.”

“Not see a--a what?”

“A stim, bad luck to you; don’t you know English? Hand me the hot water.
Have you that down yet?”

“Yes. Pray proceed.”

“The Fifth Division was orthered up, bekase they were fighting chaps; the
Eighty-eighth was among them; the Rangers--Oh, upon my soul, we must drink
the Rangers! Here, devil a one o’ me will go on till we give them all the
honors--Hip!--begin.”

“Hip!” sighed the luckless editor, as he rose from his chair, obedient to
the command.

“Hurra! hurra! hurra! Well done! There’s stuff in you yet, ould foolscap!
The little bottle’s empty; ring again, if ye plaze.

    ‘Oh, Father Magan
    Was a beautiful man,
    But a bit of a rogue, a bit of a rogue!
    He was just six feet high,
    Had a cast in his eye,
    And an illigint brogue, an illigint brogue!

    ‘He was born in Killarney,
    And reared up in blarney--’

“Arrah, don’t be looking miserable and dissolute that way. Sure, I’m only
screwing myself up for you; besides, you can print the song av you like.
It’s a sweet tune, ‘Teddy, you Gander,’”

“Really, Mr. Free, I see no prospect of our ever getting done.”

“The saints in Heaven forbid!” interrupted Mike, piously; “the evening’s
young, and drink plenty. Here now, make ready!”

The editor once more made a gesture of preparation.

“Well, as I was saying,” resumed Mike, “it was pitch dark when the columns
moved up, and a cold, raw night, with a little thin rain falling. Have you
that down?”

“Yes. Pray go on.”

“Well, just as it might be here, at the corner of the trench, I met Dr.
Quill. ‘They’re waiting for you, Mr. Free,’ says he, ‘down there. Picton’s
asking for you.’ ‘Faith, and he must wait,’ says I, ‘for I’m terrible
dry.’ With that, he pulled out his canteen and mixed me a little
brandy-and-water. ‘Are you taking it without a toast?’ says Doctor Maurice.
‘Never fear,’ says I; ‘here’s Mary Brady--’”

“But, my dear sir,” interposed Mr. Meekins, “pray _do_ remember this is
somewhat irrelevant. In fifteen minutes it will be twelve o’clock.”

“I know it, ould boy, I know it. I see what you’re at. You were going to
observe how much better we’d be for a broiled bone.”

“Nothing of the kind, I assure you. For Heaven’s sake, no more eating and
drinking!”

“No more eating nor drinking! Why not? You’ve a nice notion of a convivial
evening. Faith, we’ll have the broiled bone sure enough, and, what’s more,
a half gallon of the strongest punch they can make us; an’ I hope that,
grave as you are, you’ll favor the company with a song.”

“Really, Mr. Free--”

“Arrah, none of your blarney! Don’t be misthering me! Call me Mickey, or
Mickey Free, if you like better.”

“I protest,” said the editor, with dismay, “that here we are two hours at
work, and we haven’t got to the foot of the great breach.”

“And wasn’t the army three months and a half in just getting that far, with
a battering train and mortars and the finest troops ever were seen? And
there you sit, a little fat creature, with your pen in your hand, grumbling
that you can’t do more than the whole British army. Take care you don’t
provoke me to beat you; for I am quiet till I’m roused. But, by the Rock o’
Cashel--”

Here he grasped the brass trumpet with an energy that made the editor
spring from his chair.

“For mercy’s sake, Mr. Free--”

“Well, I won’t; but sit down there, and don’t be bothering me about sieges
and battles and things you know nothing about.”

“I protest,” rejoined Mr. Meekins, “that, had you not sent to my office
intimating your wish to communicate an account of the siege, I never should
have thought of intruding myself upon you. And now, since you appear
indisposed to afford the information in question, if you will permit me,
I’ll wish you a very good-night.”

“Faith, and so you shall, and help me to pass one too; for not a step out
o’ that chair shall you take till morning. Do ye think I am going to be
left here by myself all alone?”

“I must observe--” said Mr. Meekins.

“To be sure, to be sure,” said Mickey; “I see what you mean. You’re not the
best of company, it’s true; but at a pinch like this--There now, take, your
liquor.”

“Once for all, sir,” said the editor, “I would beg you to recollect that,
on the faith of your message to me, I have announced an account of the
storming of Ciudad Rodrigo for our morning edition. Are you prepared, may I
ask, for the consequences of my disappointing ten thousand readers?”

“It’s little I care for one of them. I never knew much of reading myself.”

“If you think to make a jest of me--” interposed Mr. Meekins, reddening
with passion.

“A jest of you! Troth, it’s little fun I can get out of you; you’re as
tiresome a creature as ever I spent an evening with. See now, I told you
before not to provoke me; we’ll have a little more drink; ring the bell.
Who knows but you’ll turn out better by-and-by?”

As Mike rose at these words to summon the waiter, Mr. Meekins seized the
opportunity to make his escape. Scarcely had he reached the door, however,
when he was perceived by Mickey, who hurled the trumpet at him with all his
force, while he uttered a shout that nearly left the poor editor lifeless
with terror. This time, happily, Mr. Free’s aim failed him, and before he
could arrest the progress of his victim, he had gained the corridor,
and with one bound, cleared the first flight of the staircase, his pace
increasing every moment as Mike’s denunciations grew louder and louder,
till at last, as he reached the street, Mr. Free’s delight overcame his
indignation, and he threw himself upon a chair and laughed immoderately.

“Oh, may I never! if I didn’t frighten the editor. The little spalpeen
couldn’t eat his oysters and take his punch like a man. But sure if he
didn’t, there’s more left for his betters.” So saying, he filled himself
a goblet and drank it off. “Mr. Free, we won’t say much for your
inclinations, for maybe they are not the best; but here’s bad luck to the
fellow that doesn’t think you good company; and here,” added he, again
filling his glass,--“and here’s may the devil take editors and authors and
compositors, that won’t let us alone, but must be taking our lives and our
songs and our little devilments, that belongs to one’s own family, and tell
them all over the world. A lazy set of thieves you are, every one of you;
spending your time inventing lies, devil a more nor less; and here,” this
time he filled again,--“and here’s a hot corner and Kilkenny coals, that’s
half sulphur, to the villain--”

For what particular class of offenders Mike’s penal code was now devised, I
was not destined to learn; for overcome by punch and indignation, he gave
one loud whoop, and measured his length upon the floor. Having committed
him to the care of the waiters, from whom I learned more fully the
particulars of his acquaintance with Mr. Meekins, I enjoined them,
strictly, not to mention that I knew anything of the matter; and betook
myself to my bed sincerely rejoicing that in a few hours more Mike would
be again in that laud where even his eccentricities and excesses would be
viewed with a favorable and forgiving eye.



CHAPTER XLI.


IRELAND.

“You’d better call your master up,” said the skipper to Mickey Free, on the
second evening after our departure from Bristol; “he said he’d like to have
a look at the coast.”

The words were overheard by me, as I lay between sleeping and waking in the
cabin of the packet, and without waiting for a second invitation, I rushed
upon deck. The sun was setting, and one vast surface of yellow golden light
played upon the water, as it rippled beneath a gentle gale. The white foam
curled at our prow, and the rushing sound told the speed we were going at.
The little craft was staggering under every sheet of her canvas, and her
spars creaked as her white sails bent before the breeze. Before us, but to
my landsman’s eyes scarcely perceptible, were the ill-defined outlines of
cloudy darkness they called land, and which I continued to gaze at with a
strange sense of interest, while I heard the names of certain well-known
headlands assigned to apparently mere masses of fog-bank and vapor.

He who has never been separated in early years, while yet the budding
affections of his heart are tender shoots, from the land of his birth and
of his home, knows nothing of the throng of sensations that crowd upon him
as he nears the shore of his country. The names, familiar as household
words, come with a train of long-buried thoughts; the feeling of attachment
to all we call our own--that patriotism of the heart--stirs strongly within
him, as the mingled thrills of hope and fear alternately move him to joy or
sadness.

Hard as are the worldly struggles between the daily cares of him who carves
out his own career and fortune, yet he has never experienced the darkest
poverty of fate who has not felt what it is to be a wanderer, without a
country to lay claim to. Of all the desolations that visit us, this is the
gloomiest and the worst. The outcast from the land of his fathers, whose
voice must never be heard within the walls where his infancy was nurtured,
nor his step be free upon the mountains where he gambolled in his youth,
this is indeed wretchedness. The instinct of country grows and strengthens
with our years; the joys of early life are linked with it; the hopes of
age point towards it; and he who knows not the thrill of ecstasy some
well-remembered, long-lost-sight-of place can bring to his heart when
returning after years of absence, is ignorant of one of the purest sources
of happiness of our nature.

With what a yearning of the heart, then, did I look upon the dim and misty
cliffs, that mighty framework of my island home, their stern sides lashed
by the blue waters of the ocean, and their summits lost within the clouds!
With what an easy and natural transition did my mind turn from the wild
mountains and the green valleys to their hardy sons, who toiled beneath
the burning sun of the Peninsula; and how, as some twinkling light of the
distant shore would catch my eye, did I wonder within myself whether
beside that hearth and board there might not sit some whose thoughts
were wandering over the sea beside the bold steeps of El Bodon, or the
death-strewn plain of Talavera,--their memories calling up some trait of
him who was the idol of his home; whose closing lids some fond mother had
watched over; above whose peaceful slumber her prayers had fallen; but
whose narrow bed was now beneath the breach of Badajos, and his sleep the
sleep that knows not waking!

I know not if in my sad and sorrowing spirit I did not envy him who thus
had met a soldier’s fate,--for what of promise had my own! My hopes of
being in any way instrumental to my poor uncle’s happiness grew hourly
less. His prejudices were deeply rooted and of long standing; to have asked
him to surrender any of what he looked upon as the prerogatives of his
house and name, would be to risk the loss of his esteem. What then remained
for me? Was I to watch, day by day and hour by hour, the falling ruin of
our fortunes? Was I to involve myself in the petty warfare of unavailing
resistance to the law? And could I stand aloof from my best, my truest, my
earliest friend, and see him, alone and unaided, oppose his weak and final
struggle to the unrelenting career of persecution. Between these two
alternatives the former could be my only choice; and what a choice!

Oh, how I thought over the wild heroism of the battle-field, the reckless
fury of the charge, the crash, the death-cry, and the sad picture of the
morrow, when all was past, and a soldier’s glory alone remained to shed its
high halo over the faults and the follies of the dead.

As night fell, the twinkling of the distant lighthouses--some throwing
a column of light from the very verge of the horizon, others shining
brightly, like stars, from some lofty promontory--marked the different
outlines of the coast, and conveyed to me the memory of that broken and
wild mountain tract that forms the bulwark of the Green Isle against the
waves of the Atlantic. Alone and silently I trod the deck, now turning to
look towards the shore, where I thought I could detect the position of some
well-known headland, now straining my eyes seaward to watch some bright
and flitting star, as it rose from or merged beneath the foaming water,
denoting the track of the swift pilot-boat, or the hardy lugger of the
fisherman; while the shrill whistle of the floating sea-gull was the only
sound save the rushing waves that broke in spray upon our quarter.

What is it that so inevitably inspires sad and depressing thoughts as we
walk the deck of some little craft in the silence of the night’s dark
hours? No sense of danger near, we hold on our course swiftly and steadily,
cleaving the dark waves and bending gracefully beneath the freshening
breeze. Yet still the motion, which, in the bright sunshine of the noonday
tells of joy and gladness, brings now no touch of pleasure to our hearts.
The dark and frowning sky, the boundless expanse of gloomy water, spread
like some gigantic pall around us, and our thoughts either turn back upon
the saddest features of the past or look forward to the future with a
sickly hope that all may not be as we fear it.

Mine were, indeed, of the gloomiest; and the selfishness alone of the
thought prevented me from wishing that, like many another, I had fallen by
a soldier’s death on the plains of the Peninsula!

As the night wore on, I wrapped myself in my cloak and lay down beneath the
bulwark. The whole of my past life came in review before me, and I thought
over my first meeting with Lucy Dashwood; the thrill of boyish admiration
gliding into love; the hopes, the fears, that stirred my heart; the firm
resolve to merit her affection, which made me a soldier. Alas, how little
thought she of him to whose whole life she had been a guide-star and a
beacon! And as I thought over the hard-fought fields, the long, fatiguing
marches, the nights around the watch-fires, and felt how, in the whirl
and enthusiasm of a soldier’s life, the cares and sorrows of every day
existence are forgotten, I shuddered to reflect upon the career that might
now open before me. To abandon, perhaps forever, the glorious path I had
been pursuing for a life of indolence and weariness, while my name, that
had already, by the chance of some fortunate circumstances, begun to be
mentioned with a testimony of approval, should be lost in oblivion or
remembered but as that of one whose early promise was not borne out by the
deeds of his manhood.

As day broke, overcome by watching, I slept, but was soon awoke by the stir
and bustle around me. The breeze had freshened, and we were running under
a reefed mainsail and foresail; and as the little craft bounded above the
blue water, the white foam crested above her prow, and ran in boiling
rivulets along towards the after-deck. The tramp of the seamen, the hoarse
voice of the captain, the shrill cry of the sea-birds, betokened, however,
nothing of dread or danger; and listlessly I leaned upon my elbow and asked
what was going forward.

“Nothing, sir; only making ready to drop our anchor.”

“Are we so near shore, then?” said I.

“You’ve only to round that point to windward, and have a clear run into
Cork harbor.”

I sprang at once to my legs. The land-fog prevented my seeing anything
whatever, but I thought that in the breeze, fresh and balmy as it blew, I
could feel the wind off shore. “At last,” said I,--“at last!” as I stepped
into the little wherry which shot alongside of us, and we glided into the
still basin of Cove. How I remember every white-walled cottage, and the
beetling cliffs, and that bold headland beside which the valley opens, with
its dark-green woods, and then Spike Island. And what a stir is yonder,
early as it is; the men-of-war tenders seem alive with people, while still
the little village is sunk in slumber, not a smoke-wreath rising from its
silent hearths. Every plash of the oars in the calm water as I neared the
land, every chance word of the bronzed and hardy fisherman, told upon my
heart. I felt it was my home.

“Isn’t it beautiful, sir? Isn’t it illigant?” said a voice behind me, which
there could be little doubt in my detecting, although I had not seen the
individual since I left England.

“Is not what beautiful?” replied I, rather harshly, at the interruption of
my own thoughts.

“Ireland, to be sure; and long life to her!” cried he, with a cheer that
soon found its responsive echoes in the hearts of our sailors, who seconded
the sentiment with all their energy.

“How am I to get up to Cork, lads?” said I. “I am pressed for time, and
must get forward.”

“We’ll row your honor the whole way, av it’s plazing to you.”

“Why, thank you, I’d rather find some quicker mode of proceeding.”

“Maybe you’d have a chaise? There’s an elegant one at M’Cassidy’s.”

“Sure, the blind mare’s in foal,” said the bow oar. “The devil a step she
can go out of a walk; so, your honor, take Tim Riley’s car, and you’ll get
up cheap. Not that you care for money; but he’s going up at eight o’clock
with two young ladies.”

“Oh, be-gorra!” said the other, “and so he is. And faix, ye might do worse;
they’re nice craytures.”

“Well,” said I, “your advice seems good; but perhaps they might object to
my company.”

“I’ve no fear; they’re always with the officers. Sure, the Miss
Dalrymples--”

“The Miss Dalrymples! Push ahead, boys; it must be later than I thought. We
must get the chaise; I can’t wait.”

Ten minutes more brought us to land.


My arrangements were soon made, and as my impatience to press forward
became greater the nearer I drew to my destination, I lost not a moment.

The yellow chaise--sole glory of Cove--was brought forth at my request; and
by good fortune, four posters which had been down the preceding evening
from Cork to some gentleman’s seat near were about to return. These were
also pressed into my service; and just as the first early riser of the
little village was drawing his curtain to take a half-closed eye-glance
upon the breaking morning, I rattled forth upon my journey at a pace which,
could I only have secured its continuance, must soon have terminated my
weary way.

Beautiful as the whole line of country is, I was totally unconscious of it;
and even Mike’s conversational powers, divided as they were between myself
and the two postilions, were fruitless in arousing me from the deep
pre-occupation of my mind by thoughts of home.

It was, then, with some astonishment I heard the boy upon the wheeler ask
whither he should drive me to.

“Tell his honor to wake up; we’re in Cork now.”

“In Cork! Impossible, already!”

“Faith, may be so; but it’s Cork, sure enough.”

“Drive to the ‘George.’ It’s not far from the commander-in-chief’s
quarters.”

“‘Tis five minutes’ walk, sir. You’ll be there before they’re put to
again.”

“Horses for Fermoy!” shouted out the postilions, as we tore up to the door
in a gallop. I sprang out, and by the assistance of the waiter, discovered
Sir Henry Howard’s quarters, to whom my despatches were addressed. Having
delivered them into the hands of an aide-de-camp, who sat bolt upright in
his bed, rubbing his eyes to appear awake, I again hurried down-stairs, and
throwing myself into the chaise, continued my journey.

“Them’s beautiful streets, any how!” said Mike, “av they wasn’t kept so
dirty, and the houses so dark, and the pavement bad. That’s Mr. Beamish’s,
that fine house there with the brass rapper and the green lamp beside it;
and there’s the hospital. Faix, and there’s the place we beat the police
when I was here before; and the house with the sign of the Highlander is
thrown down; and what’s the big building with the stone posts at the door?”

“The bank, sir,” said the postilion, with a most deferential air as Mike
addressed him. “What bank, acushla?”

“Not a one of me knows, sir; but they call it the bank, though it’s only an
empty house.”

“Cary and Moore’s bank, perhaps?” said I, having heard that in days long
past some such names had failed in Cork for a large amount.

“So it is; your honor’s right,” cried the postilion; while Mike, standing
up on the box, and menacing the house with his clinched fist, shouted out
at the very top of his voice:

“Oh, bad luck to your cobwebbed windows and iron railings! Sure, it’s my
father’s son ought to hate the sight of you.”

“I hope, Mike, your father never trusted his property in such hands?”

“I don’t suspect he did, your honor. He never put much belief in the banks;
but the house cost him dear enough without that.”

As I could not help feeling some curiosity in this matter, I pressed Mickey
for an explanation.

“But maybe it’s not Cary and Moore’s, after all; and I may be cursing
dacent people.”

Having reassured his mind by telling him that the reservation he made by
the doubt would tell in their favor should he prove mistaken, he afforded
me the following information:--

“When my father--the heavens be his bed!--was in the ‘Cork,’ they put him
one night on guard at that same big house you just passed, av it was the
same; but if it wasn’t that, it was another. And it was a beautiful fine
night in August and the moon up, and plenty of people walking about,
and all kinds of fun and devilment going on,--drinking and dancing and
everything.

“Well, my father was stuck up there with his musket, to walk up and down,
and not say, ‘God save you kindly,’ or the time of day or anything, but
just march as if he was in the barrack-yard; and by reason of his being the
man he was he didn’t like it half, but kept cursing and swearing to himself
like mad when he saw pleasant fellows and pretty girls going by, laughing
and joking.

“‘Good-evening, Mickey,’ says one. ‘Fine sport ye have all to yourself,
with your long feather in your cap.’

“‘Arrah, look how proud he is,’ says another, ‘with his head up as if he
didn’t see a body.’

“‘Shoulder, hoo!’ cried a drunken chap, with a shovel in his hand. Then
they all began laughing away at my father.

“‘Let the dacent man alone,’ said an ould fellow in a wig. ‘Isn’t he
guarding the bank, wid all the money in it?’

“‘Faix, he isn’t,’ says another; ‘for there’s none left.’

“‘What’s that you’re saying?’ says my father.

“‘Just that the bank’s broke; devil a more!’ says he.

“‘And there’s no goold in it?’ says my father.

‘“Divil a guinea.’

“‘Nor silver?’

“‘No, nor silver; nor as much as sixpence, either.’

“‘Didn’t ye hear that all day yesterday when the people was coming in with
their notes, the chaps there were heating the guineas in a frying-pan,
pretending that they were making them as fast as they could; and sure, when
they had a batch red-hot they spread them out to cool; and what betune the
hating and the cooling, and the burning the fingers counting them, they
kept the bank open to three o’clock, and then they ran away.’

“‘Is it truth yer telling?’ says my father.

“‘Sorra word o’ lie in it! Myself had two-and-fourpence of their notes.’

“‘And so they’re broke,’ says my father, ‘and nothing left?’

“‘Not a brass farden.’

“‘And what am I staying here for, I wonder, if there’s nothing to guard?’

“‘Faix, if it isn’t for the pride of the thing--’

“‘Oh, sorra taste!’

“‘Well, may be for divarsion.’

“‘Nor that either.’

“‘Faix, then you’re a droll man, to spend the evening that way,’ says he;
and all the crowd--for there was a crowd--said the same. So with that my
father unscrewed his bayonet, and put his piece on his shoulder, and walked
off to his bed in the barrack as peaceable as need be. But well, when they
came to relieve him, wasn’t there a raal commotion? And faith, you see, it
went mighty hard with my father the next morning; for the bank was open
just as usual, and my father was sintinced to fifty lashes, but got
off with a week in prison, and three more rowling a big stone in the
barrack-yard.”

Thus chatting away, the time passed over, until we arrived at Fermoy.
Here there was some little delay in procuring horses; and during the
negotiation, Mike, who usually made himself master of the circumstances of
every place through which he passed, discovered that the grocer’s shop of
the village was kept by a namesake, and possibly a relation of his own.

“I always had a notion, Mister Charles, that I came from a good stock; and
sure enough, here’s ‘Mary Free’ over the door there, and a beautiful place
inside; full of tay and sugar and gingerbread and glue and coffee and bran,
pickled herrings, soap, and many other commodities.”

“Perhaps you’d like to claim kindred, Mike,” said I, interrupting; “I’m
sure she’d feel flattered to discover a relative in a Peninsular hero.”

“It’s just what I’m thinking; av we were going to pass the evening here,
I’d try if I couldn’t make her out a second cousin at least.”

Fortune, upon this occasion, seconded Mike’s wishes, for when the horses
made their appearance, I learned, to my surprise, that the near side one
would not bear a saddle, and the off-sider could only run on his own
side. In this conjuncture, the postilion was obliged to drive from what,
_Hibernicè_ speaking, is called the perch,--no ill-applied denomination to
a piece of wood which, about the thickness of one’s arm, is hung between
the two fore-springs, and serves as a resting-place in which the luckless
wight, weary of the saddle, is not sorry to repose himself.

“What’s to be done?” cried I. “There’s no room within; my traps barely
leave space for myself among them.”

“Sure, sir,” said the postilion, “the other gentleman can follow in the
morning coach; and if any accident happens to yourself on the road, by
reason of a break-down, he’ll be there as soon as yourself.”

This, at least, was an agreeable suggestion, and as I saw it chimed with
Mike’s notions, I acceded at once; he came running up at the moment.

“I had a peep at her through the window, Mister Charles, and, faix, she has
a great look of the family.”

“Well, Mickey, I’ll leave you twenty-four hours to cultivate the
acquaintance; and to a man like you the time, I know, is ample. Follow me
by the morning’s coach. Till then, good-by.”

Away we rattled once more, and soon left the town behind us. The wild
mountain tract which stretched on either side of the road presented one
bleak and brown surface, unrelieved by any trace of tillage or habitation;
an apparently endless succession of fern-clad hills lay on every side;
above, the gloomy sky of leaden, lowering aspect, frowned darkly; the sad
and wailing cry of the pewet or the plover was the only sound that broke
the stillness, and far as the eye could reach, a dreary waste extended.
The air, too, was cold and chilly; it was one of those days which, in our
springs, seemed to cast a retrospective glance towards the winter they have
left behind them. The prospect was no cheering one; from heaven above or
earth below there came no sight nor sound of gladness. The rich glow of the
Peninsular landscape was still fresh in my memory,--the luxurious verdure;
the olive, the citron, and the vine; the fair valleys teeming with
abundance; the mountains terraced with their vineyards; the blue
transparent sky spreading o’er all; while the very air was rife with the
cheering song of birds that peopled every grove. What a contrast was here!
We travelled on for miles, but no village nor one human face did we see.
Far in the distance a thin wreath of smoke curled upward; but it came from
no hearth; it arose from one of those field-fires by which spendthrift
husbandry cultivates the ground. It was, indeed, sad; and yet, I know not
how, it spoke more home to my heart than all the brilliant display and all
the voluptuous splendor I had witnessed in London. By degrees some traces
of wood made their appearance, and as we descended the mountain towards
Cahir, the country assumed a more cultivated and cheerful look,--patches of
corn or of meadow-land stretched on either side, and the voice of children
and the lowing of oxen mingled with the cawing of the rooks, as in dense
clouds they followed the ploughman’s track. The changed features of the
prospect resembled the alternate phases of temperament of the dweller on
the soil,--the gloomy determination; the smiling carelessness; the dark
spirit of boding; the reckless jollity; the almost savage ferocity of
purpose, followed by a child-like docility and a womanly softness; the
grave, the gay, the resolute, the fickle; the firm, the yielding, the
unsparing, and the tender-hearted,--blending their contrarieties into one
nature, of whose capabilities one cannot predicate the bounds, but to whom,
by some luckless fatality of fortune, the great rewards of life have been
generally withheld until one begins to feel that the curse of Swift was
less the sarcasm wrung from indignant failures than the cold and stern
prophecy of the moralist.

But how have I fallen into this strain! Let me rather turn my eyes forward
towards my home. How shall I find all there? Have his altered fortunes
damped the warm ardor of my poor uncle’s heart? Is his smile sicklied over
by sorrow; or shall I hear his merry laugh and his cheerful voice as in
days of yore? How I longed to take my place beside that hearth, and in the
same oak-chair where I have sat telling the bold adventures of a fox-chase
or some long day upon the moors, speak of the scenes of my campaigning
life, and make known to him those gallant fellows by whose side I have
charged in battle, or sat in the bivouac! How will he glory in the
soldier-like spirit and daring energy of Fred Power! How will he chuckle
over the blundering earnestness and Irish warmth of O’Shaughnessy! How will
he laugh at the quaint stories and quainter jests of Maurice Quill! And how
often will he wish once more to be young in hand as in heart to mingle with
such gay fellows, with no other care, no other sorrow, to depress him, save
the passing fortune of a soldier’s life!



CHAPTER XLII.


THE RETURN.

A rude shock awoke me as I lay asleep in the corner of the chaise; a shout
followed, and the next moment the door was torn open, and I heard the
postilion’s voice crying to me:--

“Spring out! Jump out quickly, sir!”

A whole battery of kicks upon the front panel drowned the rest of his
speech; but before I could obey his injunction, he was pitched upon the
road, the chaise rolled over and the pole snapped short in the middle,
while the two horses belabored the carriage and each other with all their
might. Managing, as well as I was able, to extricate myself, I leaped out
upon the road, and by the aid of a knife, and at the cost of some bruises,
succeeded in freeing the horses from their tackle. The postboy, who had
escaped without any serious injury, labored manfully to aid me, blubbering
the whole time upon the consequences his misfortune would bring down upon
his head.

“Bad luck to ye!” cried he, apostrophizing the off-horse, a tall, raw-boned
beast, with a Roman nose, a dipped back, and a tail ragged and jagged like
a hand-saw,--“bad luck to ye! there never was a good one of your color!”

This, for the information of the “unjockeyed,” I may add, was a species of
brindled gray.

“How did it happen, Patsey; how did it happen, my lad?”

“It was the heap o’ stones they left in the road since last autumn; and
though I riz him at it fairly, he dragged the ould mare over it and broke
the pole. Oh, wirra, wirra!” cried he, wringing his hands in an agony of
grief, “sure there’s neither luck nor grace to be had with ye since the day
ye drew the judge down to the last assizes!”

“Well, what’s to be done?”

“Sorra a bit o’ me knows; the shay’s ruined intirely, and the ould divil
there knows he’s conquered us. Look at him there, listening to every word
we’re saying! You eternal thief, may be its ploughing you’d like better!”

“Come, come,” said I, “this will never get us forward. What part of the
country are we in?”

“We left Banagher about four miles behind us; that’s Killimur you see with
the smoke there in the hollow.”

Now, although I did not see Killimur (for the gray mist of the morning
prevented me recognizing any object a few hundred yards distant), yet from
the direction in which he pointed, and from the course of the Shannon,
which I could trace indistinctly, I obtained a pretty accurate notion of
where we were.

“Then we are not very far from Portumna?”

“Just a pleasant walk before your breakfast.”

“And is there not a short cut to O’Malley Castle over that mountain?”

“Faix, and so there is; and ye can be no stranger to these parts if ye know
that.”

“I have travelled it before now. Just tell me, is the wooden bridge
standing over the little stream? It used to be carried away every winter in
my time.”

“It’s just the same now. You’ll have to pass by the upper ford; but it
comes to the same, for that will bring you to the back gate of the demesne,
and one way is just as short as the other.”

“I know it, I know it; so now, do you follow me with my luggage to the
castle, and I’ll set out on foot.”

So saying, I threw off my cloak, and prepared myself for a sharp walk of
some eight miles over the mountain. As I reached the little knoll of land
which, overlooking the Shannon, affords a view of several miles in every
direction, I stopped to gaze upon the scene where every object around was
familiar to me from infancy: the broad, majestic river, sweeping in bold
curves between the wild mountains of Connaught and the wooded hills and
cultivated slopes of the more fertile Munster, the tall chimneys of many a
house rose above the dense woods where in my boyhood I had spent hours and
days of happiness. One last look I turned towards the scene of my late
catastrophe ere I began to descend the mountain. The postboy, with the
happy fatalism of his country, and a firm trust in the future, had
established himself in the interior of the chaise, from which a blue curl
of smoke wreathed upward from his pipe; the horses grazed contentedly by
the roadside; and were I to judge from the evidence before me, I should say
that I was the only member of the party inconvenienced by the accident. A
thin sleeting of rain began to fall; the wind blew sharply in my face, and
the dark clouds, collecting in masses above, seemed to threaten a storm.
Without stopping for even a passing look at the many well-known spots
about, I pressed rapidly on. My old experience upon the moors had taught
me that sling trot in which jumping from hillock to hillock over the
boggy surface, you succeed in accomplishing your journey not only with
considerable speed, but perfectly dryshod.

By the lonely path which I travelled, it was unlikely I should meet any
one. It was rarely traversed except by the foot of the sportsman, or some
stray messenger from the castle to the town of Banagher. Its solitude,
however, was in no wise distasteful to me; my heart was full to bursting.
Each moment as I walked some new feature of my home presented itself
before me. Now it was all happiness and comfort; the scene of its ancient
hospitable board, its warm hearth, its happy faces, and its ready welcome
were all before me, and I increased my speed to the utmost, when suddenly a
sense of sad and sorrowing foreboding would draw around me, and the image
of my uncle’s sick-bed, his worn features, his pallid look, his broken
voice would strike upon my heart, and all the changes that poverty,
desertion, and decay can bring to pass would fall upon my heart, and weak
and trembling I would stand for some moments unable to proceed.

Oh, how many a reproachful thought came home to me at what I scrupled
not to call to myself the desertion of my home! Oh, how many a prayer I
uttered, in all the fervor of devotion, that my selfish waywardness and
my yearning for ambition might not bring upon me, in after-life, years
of unavailing regret! As I thought thus, I reached the brow of a little
mountain ridge, beneath which, at a distance of scarcely more than a mile,
the dark woods of O’Malley Castle stretched, before me. The house itself
was not visible, for it was situated in a valley beside the river. But
there lay the whole scene of my boyhood: there the little creek where my
boat was kept, and where I landed on the morning after my duel with Bodkin;
there stretched for many a mile the large, callow meadows, where I trained
my horses, and schooled them for the coming season; and far in the
distance, the brown and rugged peak of old Scariff was lost in the clouds.
The rain by this time had ceased, the wind had fallen, and an almost
unnatural stillness prevailed around; but yet the heavy masses of vapor
frowned ominously, and the leaden hue of land and water wore a gloomy and
depressing aspect. My impatience to get on increased every moment, and
descending the mountain at the top of my speed, I at length reached the
little oak paling that skirted the wood, opened the little wicket, and
entered the path. It was the self-same one I had trod in revery and
meditation the night before I left my home. I remember, too, sitting down
beside the little well which, enclosed in a frame of rock, ran trickling
across the path to be lost among the gnarled roots and fallen leaves
around. Yes, this was the very spot.

Overcome for the instant by my exertion and by my emotion, I sat down upon
the stone, and taking off my cap, bathed my heated and throbbing temples in
the cold spring, Refreshed at once, I was about to rise and press onward,
when suddenly my attention was caught by a sound which, faint from
distance, scarce struck upon my ear. I listened again; but all was still
and silent, the dull splash of the river as it broke upon the reedy shore
was the only sound I heard. Thinking it probably some mere delusion of my
heated imagination, I rose to push forward; but at the moment a slight
breeze stirred in the leaves around me, the light branches rustled and bent
beneath it, and a low moaning sound swelled upward, increasing each instant
as it came; like the distant roar of some mighty torrent it grew louder as
the wind bore it towards me, and now falling, now swelling, it burst
forth into one loud, prolonged cry of agony and grief. O God! it was the
death-wail! I fell upon my knees, my hands clasped in agony; the sweat
of misery dropped off my brow, and with a heart bleeding and breaking I
prayed--I know not what. Again the terrible cry smote upon my ear, and I
could mark the horrible cadences of the death-song, as the voices of the
mourners joined in chorus.

My suspense became too great to bear. I dashed madly forward, one sound
still ringing in my ears, one horrid image before my eyes. I reached the
garden wall; I cleared the little rivulet beside the flower-garden; I
traversed its beds (neglected and decayed); I gained the avenue, taking
no heed of the crowds before me,--some on foot, some on horseback, others
mounted upon the low country car, many seated in groups upon the grass,
their heads bowed upon their bosoms, silent and speechless. As I neared the
house the whole approach was crowded with carriages and horsemen. At the
foot of the large flight of steps stood the black and mournful hearse,
its plumes nodding in the breeze. With the speed of madness and the
recklessness of despair I tore my way through the thickly standing groups
upon the steps; I could not speak, I could not utter. Once more the
frightful cry swelled upward, and in its wild notes seemed to paralyze me;
for with my hands upon my temples, I stood motionless and still. A heavy
footfall as of persons marching in procession came nearer and nearer, and
as the sounds without sank into sobs of bitterness and woe, the black pall
of a coffin, borne on men’s shoulders, appeared at the door, and an old man
whose gray hair floated in the breeze, and across whose stern features a
struggle for self-mastery--a kind of spasmodic effort--was playing, held
out his hand to enforce silence. His eye, lack-lustre and dimmed with age,
roved over the assembled multitude, but there was no recognition in his
look until at last he turned it on me. A slight hectic flush colored his
pale cheek, his lip trembled, he essayed to speak, but could not. I sprang
towards him, but choked by agony, I could not utter; my look, however,
spoke what my tongue could not. He threw his arms around me, and muttering
the words, “Poor Godfrey!” pointed to the coffin.



CHAPTER XLIII.


HOME.

Many, many years have passed away since the time I am now about to speak
of, and yet I cannot revert, even for a moment, to the period without a sad
and depressing feeling at my heart. The wreck of fortune, the thwarting of
ambition, the failure in enterprise, great though they be, are endurable
evils. The never-dying hope that youth is blessed with will find its
resting-place still within the breast, and the baffled and beaten will
struggle on unconquered; but for the death of friends, for the loss of
those in whom our dearest affections were centred, there is no solace,--the
terrible “never” of the grave knows no remorse, and even memory, that in
our saddest hours can bring bright images and smiling faces before us,
calls up here only the departed shade of happiness, a passing look at that
Eden of our joys from which we are separated forever. And the desolation of
the heart is never perfect till it has felt the echoes of a last farewell
on earth reverberating within it.

Oh, with what tortures of self-reproach we think of all former intercourse
with him that is gone! How would we wish to live our lives once more,
correcting each passage of unkindness or neglect! How deeply do we blame
ourselves for occasions of benefit lost, and opportunities unprofited by;
and how unceasingly, through after-life, the memory of the departed recurs
to us! In all the ties which affection and kindred weave around us, one
vacant spot is there, unseen and unknown by others, which no blandishments
of love, no caresses of friendship can fill up; although the rank grass
and the tall weeds of the churchyard may close around the humble tomb,
the cemetery of the heart is holy and sacred, pure from all the troubled
thoughts and daily cares of the busy world. To that hallowed spot do we
retire as into our chamber, and when unrewarded efforts bring discomfiture
and misery to our minds, when friends are false, and cherished hopes are
blasted, we think on those who never ceased to love till they had ceased to
live; and in the lonely solitude of our affliction we call upon those who
hear not, and may never return.


Mine was a desolate hearth. I sat moodily down in the old oak parlor, my
heart bowed down with grief. The noiseless steps, the mourning garments of
the old servants; the unnatural silence of those walls within which from
my infancy the sounds of merriment and mirth had been familiar; the large
old-fashioned chair where he was wont to sit, now placed against the
wall,--all spoke of the sad past. Yet, when some footsteps would draw near,
and the door would open, I could not repress a thrill of hope that he was
coming; more than once I rushed to the window and looked out; I could have
sworn I heard his voice.

The old cob pony he used to ride was grazing peacefully before the door;
poor Carlo, his favorite spaniel, lay stretched upon the terrace, turning
ever and anon a look towards the window, and then, as if wearied of
watching for him who came not, he would utter a long, low, wailing cry, and
lie down again to sleep. The rich lawn, decked with field flowers of many
a hue, stretched away towards the river, upon whose calm surface the
white-sailed lugger scarce seemed to move; the sounds of a well-known Irish
air came, softened by distance, as some poor fisherman sat mending his net
upon the bank, and the laugh of children floated on the breeze. Yes, they
were happy.

Two months had elapsed since my return home; how passed by me I know not; a
lethargic stupor had settled upon me. Whole days long I sat at the window,
looking listlessly at the tranquil river, and watching the white foam as,
borne down from the rapids, it floated lazily along. The count had left me
soon, being called up to Dublin by some business, and I was utterly alone.
The different families about called frequently to ask after me, and would,
doubtless, have done all in their power to alleviate my sorrow, and lighten
the load of my affliction; but with a morbid fear, I avoided every one, and
rarely left the house except at night-fall, and then only to stroll by some
lonely and deserted path.

Life had lost its charm for me; my gratified ambition had ended in the
blackest disappointment, and all for which I had labored and longed was
only attained that I might feel it valueless.

Of my circumstances as to fortune I knew nothing, and cared not more;
poverty and riches could matter little now; all my day dreams were
dissipated now, and I only waited for Considine’s return to leave Ireland
forever. I had made up my mind, if by any unexpected turn of fate the war
should cease in the Peninsula, to exchange into an Indian regiment. The
daily association with objects which recalled but one image to my brain,
and that ever accompanied by remorse of conscience, gave me not a moment’s
peace. My every thought of happiness was mixed up with scenes which now
presented nothing but the evidences of blighted hope; to remain, then,
where I was, would be to sink into the heartless misanthropist, and I
resolved that with my sword I would carve out a soldier’s fortune and a
soldier’s grave.

Considine came at last. I was sitting alone, at my usual post beside the
window, when the chaise rattled up to the door; for an instant I started to
my legs; a vague sense of something like hope shot through me, the whole
might be a dream, and _he_--The next moment I became cold and sick, a
faintish giddiness obscured my sight, and though I felt his grasp as he
took my hand, I saw him not. An indistinct impression still dwells upon my
mind of his chiding me for my weakness in thus giving way; of his calling
upon me to assert my position, and discharge the duties of him whose
successor I now was. I heard him in silence; and when he concluded, faintly
pledging myself to obey him, I hurried to my room, and throwing myself upon
my bed burst into an agony of tears. Hitherto my pent up sorrow had wasted
me day by day; but the rock was now smote, and in that gush of misery my
heart found relief.

When I appeared the following morning, the count was struck with my altered
looks; a settled sorrow could not conceal the changes which time and
manhood had made upon me; and as from a kind of fear of showing how deeply
I grieved, I endeavored to conceal it, by degrees I was enabled to converse
calmly and dispassionately upon my fortunes.

“Poor Godfrey,” said he, “appointed me his sole executor a few days before
it happened; he knew the time was drawing near, and strange enough,
Charley, though he heard of your return to England, he would not let us
write. The papers spoke of you as being at Carlton House almost daily; your
name appeared at every great festival; and while his heart warmed at your
brilliant success, he absolutely dreaded your coming home. ‘Poor
fellow,’ he would say, ‘what a change for him, to leave the splendor
and magnificence of his Prince’s board for our meagre fare and altered
fortunes! And then,’ he added, ‘as for me--God forgive me!--I can go now;
but how should I bear to part with him if he comes back to me.’ And now,”
 said the count, when he had concluded a detailed history of my dear uncle’s
last illness,--“and now, Charley, what are your plans?”

Briefly, and in a few words, I stated to him my intentions. Without placing
much stress upon the strongest of my reasons--my distaste to what had once
been home--I avowed my wish to join my regiment at once.

He heard me with evident impatience, and as I finished, seized my arm
in his strong grasp. “No, no, boy, none of this; your tone of assumed
composure cannot impose on Bill Considine. You must not return to the
Peninsula--at least not yet awhile; the disgust of life may be strong at
twenty, but it’s not lasting; besides, Charley,” here his voice faltered
slightly, “_his_ wishes you’ll not treat lightly. Read this.”

As he spoke, he took a blotted and ill-written letter from his
breast-pocket, and handed it to me. It was in my poor uncle’s hand, and
dated the very morning of his death. It ran thus:--

    Dear Bill,--Charley must never part with the old house,
    come what will; I leave too many ties behind for a stranger’s heritage;
    he must live among my old friends, and watch, protect
    and comfort them. He has done enough for fame; let him now
    do something for affection. We have none of us been over good
    to these poor people; one of the name must try and save our
    credit. God bless you both! It is, perhaps, the last time I shall
    utter it.

    G. O’M.


I read these few and, to me, affecting lines over and over, forgetful of
all save of him who penned them; when Considine, who supposed that my
silence was attributable to doubt and hesitation, called out:--

“Well, what now?”

“I remain,” said I, briefly.

He seized me in his arms with transport, as he said:--

“I knew it, boy, I knew it. They told me you were spoiled by flattery, and
your head turned by fortune; they said that home and country would weigh
lightly in the balance against fame and glory; but I said no, I knew you
better. I told them indignantly that I had nursed you on my knee; that I
watched you from infancy to boyhood, from boy to man; that he of whose
stock you came had one feeling paramount to all, his love of his own
fatherland, and that you would not disgrace him. Besides, Charley, there’s
not an humble hearth for many a long mile around us, where, amidst the
winter’s blast, tempered not excluded, by frail walls and poverty,--there’s
not one such but where poor Godfrey’s name rises each night in prayer, and
blessings are invoked on him by those who never felt them themselves.”

“I’ll not desert them.”

“I know you’ll not, boy, I know you’ll not. Now for the means.”

Here he entered into a long and complicated exposure of my dear uncle’s
many difficulties, by which it appeared that, in order to leave the estate
free of debt to me, he had for years past undergone severe privations.
These, however,--such is the misfortune of an unguided effort,--had but
ill succeeded, and there was scarcely a farm on the property without its
mortgage. Upon the house and demesne a bond for three thousand pounds still
remained; and to pay off this, Considine advised my selling a portion of
the property.

“It’s old Blake lent the money; and only a week before your uncle died,
he served a notice for repayment. I never told Godfrey; it was no use. It
could only embitter his last few hours; and, besides, we had six months to
think of it. The half of that time has now elapsed, however; we must see to
this.”

“And did Blake really make this demand, knowing my poor uncle’s
difficulties?”

“Why, I half think he did not; for Godfrey was too fine a fellow ever to
acknowledge anything of the sort. He had twelve sheep killed for the poor
in Scariff, at a time when not a servant of the house tasted meat for
months; ay, and our own table, too, none of the most abundant, I assure
you.”

What a picture was this, and how forcibly did it remind me of what I had
witnessed in times past. Thus meditating, we returned to the house; and
Considine, whose activity never slumbered, sat down to con over the
rent-roll with old Maguire the steward.

When I joined the count in the evening, I found him surrounded by maps,
rent-rolls, surveys, and leases. He had been poring over these various
documents, to ascertain from which portion of the property we could best
recruit our failing finances. To judge from the embarrassed look and manner
with which he met me, the matter was one of no small difficulty. The
encumbrances upon the estate had been incurred with an unsparing hand; and
except where some irreclaimable tract of bog or mountain rendered a loan
impracticable, each portion of the property had its share of debt.

“You can’t sell Killantry, for Basset has above six thousand pounds on it
already. To be sure, there’s the Priest’s Meadows,--fine land and in good
heart; but Malony was an old tenant of the family, and I cannot recommend
your turning him over to a stranger. The widow M’Bride’s farm is perhaps
the best, after all, and it would certainly bring the sum we want; still,
poor Mary was your nurse, Charley, and it would break her heart to do it.”

Thus, wherever we turned, some obstacle presented itself, if not from
moneyed causes, at least from those ties and associations which, in an
attached and faithful tenantry, are sure to grow up between them and the
owner of the soil.

Feeling how all-important these things were--endeavoring as I was to fulfil
the will and work out the intentions of my uncle--I saw at once that to
sell any portion of the property must separate me, to a certain extent,
from those who long looked up to our house, and who, in the feudalism of
the west, could ill withdraw their allegiance from their own chief to swear
fealty to a stranger. The richer tenants were those whose industry and
habits rendered them objects of worth and attachment; to the poorer ones,
to whose improvidence and whose follies (if you will) their poverty was
owing, I was bound by those ties which the ancient habit of my house had
contracted for centuries. The bond of benefit conferred can be stronger
than the debt of gratitude itself. What was I then to do? My income would
certainly permit of my paying the interest upon my several mortgages, and
still retaining wherewithal to live; the payment of Blake’s bond was my
only difficulty, and small as it was, it was still a difficulty.

“I have it, Charley!” said Considine; “I’ve found out the way of doing it.
Blake will have no objection, I’m sure, to take the widow’s farm in payment
of his debt, giving you a power of redemption within five years. In that
time, what with economy, some management, perhaps,” added he, smiling
slightly,--“perhaps a wife with money may relieve all your embarrassments
at once. Well, well, I know you are not thinking of that just now; but
come, what say you to my plan?”

“I know not well what to say. It seems to be the best; but still I have my
misgivings.”

“Of course you have, my boy; nor could I love you if you’d part with an old
and faithful follower without them. But, after all, she is only a hostage
to the enemy; we’ll win her back, Charley.”

“If you think so--”

“I do. I know it.”

“Well, then, be it so; only one thing I bargain,--she must herself consent
to this change of masters. It will seem to her a harsh measure that the
child she had nursed and fondled in her arms should live to disunite her
from those her oldest attachments upon earth. We must take care, sir, that
Blake cannot dispossess her; this would be too hard.”

“No, no; that we’ll guard against. And now, Charley, with prudence and
caution, we’ll clear off every encumbrance, and O’Malley Castle shall yet
be what it was in days of yore. Ay, boy, with the descendant of the old
house for its master, and not that general--how do you call him?--that came
down here to contest the county, who with his offer of thirty thousand
pounds thought to uproot the oldest family of the west. Did I ever show you
the letter we wrote him?”

“No, sir,” replied I, trembling with agitation as I spoke; “you merely
alluded to it in one of yours.”

“Look here, lad!” said he, drawing it from the recesses of a black leather
pocket-book. “I took a copy of it; read that.”

The document was dated, “O’Malley Castle, December 9th.” It ran thus:--

    Sir,--I have this moment learned from my agent, that you, or
    some one empowered by you for the purpose, made an offer of several
    thousand pounds to buy up the different mortgages upon my property,
    with a subsequent intention of becoming its possessor. Now, sir, I
    beg to tell you, that if your ungentlemanlike and underhand plot
    had succeeded, you dared not darken with your shadow the door-sill
    of the house you purchased. Neither your gold nor your flattery--and
    I hear you are rich in both--could wipe out from the minds
    and hearts of my poor tenantry the kindness of centuries. Be advised,
    then, sir; withdraw your offer; let a Galway gentleman settle
    his own difficulties his own way; his troubles and cares are quite
    sufficient, without your adding to them. There can be but one
    mode in which your interference with him could be deemed acceptable:
    need I tell you, sir, who are a soldier, how that is? As I
    know your official duties are important, and as my nephew--who
    feels with me perfectly in this business--is abroad, I can only say
    that failing health and a broken frame shall not prevent my undertaking
    a journey to England, should my doing so meet your wishes
    on this occasion. I am, sir,

    Your obedient servant,              GODFREY O’MALLEY.

“This letter,” continued Considine, “I enclosed in an envelope, with the
following few lines of my own:”--

    “Count Considine presents his compliments to Lieutenant-General
    Dashwood; and feeling that as the friend of Mr. Godfrey O’Malley,
    the mild course pursued by that gentleman may possibly be attributed
    to his suggestion, he begs to assure General Dashwood that the reverse
    was the case, and that he strenuously counselled the propriety
    of laying a horsewhip upon the general’s shoulders, as a preliminary
    step in the transaction.

    “Count Considine’s address is No. 16 Kildare Street.”


“Great God!” said I, “is this possible?”

“Well may you say so, my boy: for--would you believe it?--after all that,
he writes a long blundering apology, protesting I know not what about
motives of former friendship, and terminating with a civil hint that we
have done with him forever. And of my paragraph he takes no notice; and
thus ends the whole affair.”

“And with it my last hope also!” muttered I to myself.

That Sir George Dashwood’s intentions had been misconstrued and mistaken I
knew perfectly well; that nothing but the accumulated evils of poverty and
sickness could have induced my poor uncle to write such a letter I was
well aware; but now the mischief was accomplished, the evil was done, and
nothing remained but to bear with patience and submission, and to endeavor
to forget what thus became irremediable.

“Sir George Dashwood made no allusion to me, sir, in his reply?” inquired
I, catching at anything like a hope.

“Your name never occurs in his letter. But you look pale, boy; all these
discussions come too early upon you; besides, you stay too much at home,
and take no exercise.”

So saying, Considine bustled off towards the stables to look after some
young horses that had just been taken up; and I walked out alone to ponder
over what I had heard, and meditate on my plans for the future.



CHAPTER XLIV.


AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE.

As I wandered on, the irritation of my spirit gradually subsided. It was,
to be sure, distressing to think over the light in which my uncle’s letter
had placed me before Sir George Dashwood, had even my reputation only with
him been at stake; but with my attachment to his daughter, it was
almost maddening. And yet there was nothing to be done; to disavow my
participation would be to throw discredit upon my uncle. Thus were my hopes
blighted; and thus, at that season when life was opening upon me, did I
feel careless and indifferent to everything. Had my military career still
remained to me, that at least would have suggested scenes sufficient to
distract me from the past; but now my days must be spent where every spot
teemed with memories of bygone happiness and joys never to come back again.

My mind was, however, made up; and without speaking a word to Considine, I
turned homeward, and sat down at my writing-table. In a few brief lines I
informed my army agent of my intention of leaving the service, and desired
that he would sell out for me at once. Fearing lest my resolution might not
be proof against the advice and solicitation of my friends, I cautioned him
against giving my address, or any clew by which letters might reach me.

This done, I addressed a short note to Mr. Blake, requesting to know the
name of his solicitor, in whose hands the bond was placed, and announcing
my intention of immediate repayment.

Trifling as these details were in themselves, I cannot help recording how
completely they changed the whole current of my thoughts. A new train of
interests began to spring up within me; and where so lately the clang of
the battle, the ardor of the march, the careless ease of the bivouac, had
engrossed every feeling, now more humble and homely thoughts succeeded; and
as my personal ambition had lost its stimulant, I turned with pleasure to
those of whose fate and fortunes I was in some sort the guardian. There may
be many a land where the verdure blooms more in fragrance and in richness,
where the clime breathes softer, and a brighter sky lights up the
landscape; but there is none--I have travelled through many a one--where
more touching and heart-bound associations are blended with the features
of the soil than in Ireland, and cold must be the spirit, and barren the
affections of him who can dwell amidst its mountains and its valleys, its
tranquil lakes, its wooded fens, without feeling their humanizing influence
upon him. Thus gradually new impressions and new duties succeeded; and ere
four months elapsed, the quiet monotony of my daily life healed up the
wounds of my suffering, and in the calm current of my present existence, a
sense of content, if not of happiness, crept gently over me, and I ceased
to long for the clash of arms and the loud blast of the trumpet.

Unlike all my former habits, I completely abandoned the sports of the
field. He who had participated in them with me was no longer there; and the
very sight of the tackle itself suggested sad and depressing thoughts.

My horses I took but little pleasure in. To gratify the good and kind
people about, I would walk through the stables, and make some passing
remark, as if to show some interest; but I felt it not. No; it was only by
the total change of all the ordinary channels of my ideas that I could bear
up; and now my days were passed in the fields, either listlessly strolling
along, or in watching the laborers as they worked. Of my neighbors I saw
nothing; returning their cards, when they called upon me, was the extent of
our intercourse; and I had no desire for any further. As Considine had left
me to visit some friends in the south, I was quite alone, and for the first
time in my life, felt how soothing can be such solitude. In each happy
face, in every grateful look around me, I felt that I was fulfilling my
uncle’s last behest; and the sense of duty, so strong when it falls upon
the heart accompanied by the sense of power, made my days pass rapidly
away.

It was towards the close of autumn, when I one morning received a letter
from London, informing me that my troop had been sold, and the purchase
money--above four thousand pounds--lodged to my credit at my banker’s.

As Mr. Blake had merely answered my former note by a civil message that the
matter in question was by no means pressing, I lost not a moment, when
this news reached me, to despatch Mike to Gurt-na-Morra with a few lines,
expressing my anxious desire to finish the transaction, and begging of Mr.
Blake to appoint a day for the purpose.

To this application Mr. Blake’s reply was, that he would do himself the
honor of waiting upon me the following day, when the arrangements I desired
could be agreed upon. Now this was exactly what I wished, if possible,
to avoid. Of all my neighbors, he was the one I predetermined to have no
intercourse with; I had not forgotten my last evening at his house, nor had
I forgiven his conduct to my uncle. However, there was nothing for it but
submission; the interview need not be a long, and it should be a last one.
Thus resolving, I waited in patience for the morrow.

I was seated at my breakfast the next morning, conning between whiles the
columns of the last paper, and feeding my spaniel, who sat upon a large
chair beside me, when the door opened, and the servant announced, “Mr.
Blake;” and the instant after that gentleman bustled in holding out both
his hands with all evidences of most friendly warmth, and calling out,--

“Charley O’Malley, my lad! I’m delighted to see you at last!”

Now, although the distance from the door to the table at which I sat
was not many paces, yet it was quite sufficient to chill down all my
respectable relative’s ardor before he approached: his rapid pace became
gradually a shuffle, a slide, and finally a dead stop; his extended arms
were reduced to one hand, barely advanced beyond his waistcoat; his voice,
losing the easy confidence of its former tone, got husky and dry, and broke
into a cough; and all these changes were indebted to the mere fact of
my reception of him consisting in a cold and distant bow, as I told the
servant to place a chair and leave the room.

Without any preliminary whatever, I opened the subject of our negotiation,
expressed my regret that it should have waited so long, and my desire to
complete it.

Whether it was that the firm and resolute tone I assumed had its effect at
once, or that disappointed at the mode in which I received his advances he
wished to conclude our interview as soon as need be, I know not; but he
speedily withdrew from a capacious pocket a document in parchment, which,
having spread at large upon the table, and having leisurely put on his
spectacles, he began to hum over its contents to himself in an undertone.

“Yes, sir, here it is,” said he. “‘Deed of conveyance between Godfrey
O’Malley, of O’Malley Castle, Esq., on the one part’--perhaps you’d like
your solicitor to examine it,--‘and Blake, of Gurt’--because there is no
hurry, Captain O’Malley--‘on the other.’ In fact, after all, it is a mere
matter of form between relatives,” said he, as I declined the intervention
of a lawyer. “I’m not in want of the money--‘all the lands and tenements
adjoining, in trust, for the payment of the said three thousand’--thank
God, Captain, the sum is a trifle that does not inconvenience me! The boys
are provided for; and the girls--the pickpockets, as I call them, ha,
ha, ha!--not ill off neither;--‘with rights of turbary on the said
premises’--who are most anxious to have the pleasure of seeing you. Indeed,
I could scarcely keep Jane from coming over to-day. ‘Sure he’s my cousin,’
says she; ‘and what harm would it be if I went to see him?’ Wild,
good-natured girls, Captain! And your old friend Matthew--you haven’t
forgot Matthew?--has been keeping three coveys of partridge for you
this fortnight. ‘Charley,’ says he,--they call you Charley still,
Captain,--‘shall have them, and no one else.’ And poor Mary--she was
a child when you were here--Mary is working a sash for you. But I’m
forgetting--I know you have so much business on your hands--”

“Pray, Mr. Blake, be seated. I know nothing of any more importance than the
matter before us. If you will permit me to give you a check for this money.
The papers, I’m sure, are perfectly correct.”

“If I only thought it did not inconvenience you--”

“Nothing of the kind, I assure you. Shall I say at sight, or in ten days
hence?”

“Whenever you please, Captain. But it’s sorry I am to come troubling you
about such things, when I know you are thinking of other matters. And, as
I said before, the money does not signify to me; the times, thank God, are
good, and I’ve never been very improvident.”

“I think you’ll find that correct.”

“Oh, to be sure it is! Well, well; I’m going away without saying half what
I intended.”

“Pray do not hurry yourself. I have not asked have you breakfasted, for I
remember Galway habits too well for that. But if I might offer you a glass
of sherry and water after your ride?”

“Will you think me a beast if I say yes, Captain? Time was when I didn’t
care for a canter of ten or fifteen miles in the morning no more than
yourself; and that’s no small boast; God forgive me, but I never see that
clover-field where you pounded the Englishman, without swearing there never
was a leap made before or since. Is this Mickey, Captain? Faith, and it’s
a fine, brown, hearty-looking chap you’re grown, Mickey. That’s mighty
pleasant sherry, but where would there be good wine if it wasn’t here? Oh,
I remember now what it was I wanted. Peter,--my son Peter, a slip of a boy,
he’s only sixteen,--well, d’you see, he’s downright deranged about the
army: he used to see your name in the papers every day, and that terrible
business at--what’s the name of the place?--where you rode on the chap’s
back up the breach.”

“Ciudad Rodrigo, perhaps,” said I, scarcely able to repress a laugh.

“Well, sir, since that he’ll hear of nothing but going into the army; ay,
and into the dragoons too. Now, Captain, isn’t it mighty expensive in the
dragoons?”

“Why, no, not particularly so,--at least in the regiment I served with.”

“I promised him I’d ask you; the boy’s mad, that’s the fact. I wish,
Captain, you’d just reason with him a little; he’ll mind what you say,
there’s no fear of that. And you see, though I’d like to do what’s fair,
I’m not going to cut off the girls for the sake of the boys; with the
blessing of Providence, they’ll never be able to reproach me for that. What
I say is this: treat _me_ well, and I’ll treat you the same. Marry the man
my choice would pick out for you, and it’s not a matter of a thousand or
two I’ll care for. There was Bodkin--you remember him?” said he, with a
grin; “he proposed for Mary, but since the quarrel with you, she could
never bear the sight of him, and Alley wouldn’t come down to dinner if he
was in the house. Mary’s greatly altered; I wish you heard her sing ‘I’d
mourn the hopes that leave me.’ Queer girl she is; she was little more
than a child when you were here, and she remembers you just as if it was
yesterday.”

While Mr. Blake ran on at this rate, now dilating upon my own manifold
virtues and accomplishments, now expatiating upon the more congenial
theme,--the fascinations of his fair daughters, and the various merits of
his sons,--I could not help feeling how changed our relative position was
since our last meeting; the tone of cool and vulgar patronage he then
assumed towards the unformed country lad was now converted into an air of
fawning and deferential submission, still more distasteful.

Young as I was, however, I had already seen a good deal of the world; my
soldiering had at least taught me something of men, and I had far less
difficulty in deciphering the intentions and objects of my worthy relative,
than I should have had in the enigmatical mazes of the parchment bond of
which he was the bearer. After all, to how very narrow an extent in life
are we fashioned by our own estimate of ourselves! My changed condition
affected me but little until I saw how it affected others; that the
position I occupied should seem better now that life had lost the great
stimulus of ambition, was somewhat strange; and that flattery should pay
its homage to the mourning coat which it would have refused to my soldier’s
garb, somewhat surprised me. Still my bettered fortunes shone only brightly
by reflected light; for in my own heart I was sad, spiritless, and
oppressed.

Feeling somewhat ashamed at the coldness with which I treated a man so much
my elder, I gradually assumed towards Mr. Blake a manner less reserved. He
quickly availed himself of the change, and launched out into an eloquent
_exposé_ of my advantages and capabilities; the only immediate effect of
which was to convince me that my property and my prospects must have been
very accurately conned over and considered by that worthy gentleman before
he could speak of the one or the other with such perfect knowledge.

“When you get rid of these little encumbrances, your rent-roll will be
close on four thousand a year. There’s Bassett, sure, by only reducing his
interest from ten to five per cent, will give you a clear eight hundred per
annum; let him refuse, and I’ll advance the money. And, besides, look at
Freney’s farm; there’s two hundred acres let for one third of the value,
and you must look to these tilings; for, you see, Captain, we’ll want you
to go into Parliament; you can’t help coming forward at the next election,
and by the great gun of Athlone, we’ll return you.”

Here Mr. Blake swallowed a full bumper of sherry, and getting up a little
false enthusiasm for the moment, grasped me by both hands and shook me
violently; this done, like a skilful general, who, having fired the last
shot of his artillery, takes care to secure his retreat, he retired towards
the door, where his hat and coat were lying.

“I’ve a hundred apologies to make for encroaching upon your time; but, upon
my soul, Captain, you are so agreeable, and the hours have passed away so
pleasantly--May I never, if it is not one o’clock!--but you must forgive
me.”

My sense of justice, which showed me that the agreeability had all been on
Mr. Blake’s side, prevented me from acknowledging this compliment as it
deserved; so I merely bowed stiffly, without speaking. By this time he had
succeeded in putting on his great-coat, but still, by some mischance or
other, the moment of his leaving-taking was deferred; one time he buttoned
it awry, and had to undo it all again; then, when it was properly adjusted,
he discovered that his pocket-handkerchief was not available, being left in
the inner coat-pocket; to this succeeded a doubt as to the safety of the
check, which instituted another search, and it was full ten minutes before
he was completely caparisoned and ready for the road.

“Good-by, Captain, good-by!” said he warmly, yet warily, not knowing at
what precise temperature the metal of my heart was fusible. At a mild heat
I had been evidently unsinged, and the white glow of his flattery seemed
only to harden me. The interview was now over, and as I thought sufficient
had been done to convince my friend that the terms of distant acquaintance
were to be the limits of our future intercourse, I assumed a little show of
friendliness, and shook his hand warmly.

“Good-by, Mr. Blake; pray present my respectful compliments to your
friends. Allow me to ring for your horse; you are not going to have a
shower, I hope.”

“No, no, Captain, only a passing cloud,” said he, warming up perceptibly
under the influence of my advances, “nothing more. Why, what is it I’m
forgetting now! Oh, I have it! May be I’m too bold; but sure an old friend
and relation may take a liberty sometimes. It was just a little request
of Mrs. Blake, as I was leaving the house.” He stopped here as if to take
soundings, and perceiving no change in my countenance, continued: “It was
just to beg, that, in a kind and friendly way, you’d come over and eat your
dinner with us on Sunday; nobody but the family, not a soul--Mrs. Blake and
the girls; a boiled leg of mutton; Matthew; a fresh trout, if we can catch
one! Plain and homely, but a hearty welcome, and a bottle of old claret,
may be, too--ah! ah! ah!”

Before the cadence of Mr. Blake’s laugh had died away, I politely but
resolutely declined the proffered invitation, and by way of setting the
question at rest forever, gave him to understand that, from impaired health
and other causes, I had resolved upon strictly confining myself to the
limits of my own house and grounds, at least for the present.

Mr. Blake then saluted me for the last time, and left the room. As he
mounted his hackney, I could not help overhearing an abortive effort he
made to draw Mike into something like conversation; but it proved an utter
failure, and it was evident he deemed the man as incorrigible as the
master.

“A very fine young man the captain is--remarkable!--and it’s proud I am to
have him for a nephew!”

So saying, he cantered down the avenue, while Mickey, as he looked after
him, muttered between his teeth, “And faix, it’s prouder you’d be av he was
your son-in-law!”

Mike’s soliloquy seemed to show me, in a new light, the meaning of my
relative’s manner. It was for the first time in my life that such a thought
had occurred to me, and it was not without a sense of shame that I now
admitted it.

If there be something which elevates and exalts us in our esteem, tinging
our hearts with heroism and our souls with pride, in the love and
attachment of some fair and beautiful girl, there is something equally
humiliating in being the object of cold and speculative calculation to a
match-making family: your character studied; your pursuits watched; your
tastes conned over; your very temperament inquired into; surrounded
by snares; environed by practised attentions; one eye fixed upon the
registered testament of your relative, the other riveted upon your own
caprices; and then those thousand little cares and kindnesses which come so
pleasurably upon the heart when the offspring of true affection, perverted
as they are by base views and sordid interest, are so many shocks to the
feeling and understanding. Like the Eastern sirocco, which seems to breathe
of freshness and of health, and yet bears but pestilence and death upon its
breezes,--so these calculated and well-considered traits of affection only
render callous and harden the heart which had responded warmly, openly, and
abundantly to the true outpourings of affection. At how many a previously
happy hearth has the seed of this fatal passion planted its discord! How
many a fair and lovely girl, with beauty and attractions sufficient to
win all that her heart could wish of fondness and devotion, has, by this
pernicious passion, become a cold, heartless, worldly coquette, weighing
men’s characters by the adventitious circumstances of their birth and
fortune, and scrutinizing the eligibility of a match with the practised
acumen with which a notary investigates the solvency of a creditor. How do
the traits of beauty, gesture, voice, and manner become converted into the
common-place and distasteful trickery of the world! The very hospitality of
the house becomes suspect, their friendship is but fictitious; those rare
and goodly gifts of fondness and sisterly affection which grow up in
happier circumstances, are here but rivalry, envy, and ill-conceived
hatred. The very accomplishments which cultivate and adorn life, that light
but graceful frieze which girds the temple of homely happiness, are here
but the meditated and well-considered occasions of display. All the bright
features of womanhood, all the freshness of youth, and all its fascinations
are but like those richly-colored and beautiful fruits, seductive to the
eye and fair to look upon, but which within contain nothing but a core of
rottenness and decay.

No, no; unblessed by all which makes a hearth a home, I may travel on my
weary way through life; but such a one as this I will not make the partner
of my sorrows and my joys, come what will of it!



CHAPTER XLV.


A SURPRISE.

From the hour of Mr. Blake’s departure, my life was no longer molested. My
declaration, which had evidently, under his auspices, been made the subject
of conversation through the country, was at least so far successful, as
it permitted me to spend my time in the way I liked best, and without the
necessity of maintaining the show of intercourse, when in reality I kept
up none, with the neighborhood. While thus, therefore, my life passed on
equably and tranquilly, many mouths glided over, and I found myself already
a year at home, without it appearing more than a few weeks. Nothing seems
so short in retrospect as monotony; the number, the variety, the interest
of the events which occupy us, making our hours pass glibly and flowingly,
will still suggest to the mind the impressions of a longer period than
when the daily routine of our occupations assumes a character of continued
uniformity. It seems to be the _amende_ made by hours of weariness and
tedium, that, in looking back upon them, they appear to have passed rapidly
over. Not that my life, at the period I speak of, was devoid of interest;
on the contrary, devoting myself with zeal and earnestness to the new
duties of my station, I made myself thoroughly acquainted with the
condition of my property, the interest of my tenantry, their prospects,
their hopes, their objects. Investigating them as only he can who is
the owner of the soil, I endeavored to remedy the ancient vices of the
land,--the habits of careless, reckless waste, of indifference for the
morrow; and by instilling a feature of prudent foresight into that
boundless confidence in the future upon which every Irishman of every
rank lives and trusts, I succeeded at last in so far ameliorating their
situation, that a walk through my property, instead of presenting--as it
at first did--a crowd of eager and anxious supplicants, entreating for
abatements in rent, succor for their sick, and sometimes even food itself,
showed me now a happy and industrious people, confident in themselves, and
firmly relying on their own resources.

Another spring was now opening, and a feeling of calm and tranquil
happiness, the result of my successful management of my estate, made my
days pass pleasantly along. I was sitting at a late breakfast in my little
library; the open window afforded a far and wide prospect of the country,
blooming in all the promise of the season, while the drops of the passing
shower still lingered upon the grass, and were sparkling like jewels under
the bright sunshine. Masses of white and billowy cloud moved swiftly
through the air, coloring the broad river with many a shadow as they
passed. The birds sang merrily, the trees shook their leaves in concert,
and there was that sense of movement in everything on earth and sky which
gives to spring its character of lightness and exhilaration. The youth of
the year, like the youth of our own existence, is beautiful in the restless
activity which marks it. The tender flower that seems to open as we look;
the grass that springs before our eyes,--all speak of promise. The changing
phases of the sky, like the smiles and tears of infancy, excite without
weariness, and while they engage our sympathies, they fatigue not our
compassion.

Partly lost in thought as I looked upon the fair and varied scene before
me, now turning to the pages of the book upon the breakfast-table, the
hours of the morning passed quickly over, and it was already beyond noon. I
was startled from my revery by sounds which I could scarcely trust my
ears to believe real. I listened again, and thought I could detect them
distinctly. It seemed as though some one were rapidly running over the keys
of a pianoforte, essaying with the voice to follow the notes, and sometimes
striking two or three bold and successive chords; then a merry laugh would
follow, and drown all other sounds. “What can it be?” thought I. “There is,
to be sure, a pianoforte in the large drawing-room; but then, who would
venture upon such a liberty as this? Besides, who is capable of it? There,
it can be no inexperienced performer gave that shake; my worthy housekeeper
never accomplished that!” So saying, I jumped from the breakfast-table,
and set off in the direction of the sound. A small drawing-room and the
billiard-room lay between me and the large drawing-room; and as I traversed
them, the music grew gradually louder. Conjecturing that, whoever it might
be, the performance would cease on my entrance, I listened for a few
moments before opening the door. Nothing could be more singular, nothing
more strange, than the effect of those unaccustomed sounds in that silent
and deserted place. The character of the music, too, contributed not
a little to this; rapidly passing from grave to gay, from the melting
softness of some plaintive air to the reckless hurry and confusion of an
Irish jig, the player seemed, as it were, to run wild through all the
floating fancies of his memory; now breaking suddenly off in the saddest
cadence of a song, the notes would change into some quaint, old-fashioned
crone, in which the singer seemed so much at home, and gave the queer
drollery of the words that expression of archness so eminently the
character of certain Irish airs. “But what the deuce is this?” said I, as,
rattling over the keys with a flowing but brilliant finger, she,--for
it was unquestionably a woman,--with a clear and sweet voice, broken by
laughter, began to sing the words of Mr. Bodkin’s song, “The Man for
Galway.” When she had finished the last verse, her hand strayed, as it
were, carelessly across the instrument, while she herself gave way to a
free burst of merriment; and then, suddenly resuming the air, she chanted
forth the following words, with a spirit and effect I can convey no idea
of:--

    “To live at home,
    And never roam;
    To pass his days in sighing;
    To wear sad looks,
    Read stupid books,
    And look half dead or dying;
    Not show his face,
    Nor join the chase,
    But dwell a hermit always:
    Oh, Charley, dear!
    To me ‘tis clear,
    You’re not the man for Galway!”

“You’re not the man for Galway!” repeated she once more, while she closed
the piano with a loud bang.

“And why not, my dear, why not the man for Galway?” said I, as, bursting
open the door, I sprang into the room.

“Oh, it’s you, is it?--at last! So I’ve unearthed you, have I?”

With these words she burst into an immoderate fit of laughter; leaving me,
who intended to be the party giving the surprise, amazed, confused, and
speechless, in the middle of the floor.

[Illustration: BABY BLAKE.]

That my reader may sympathize a little in my distresses, let me present him
with the _tableau_ before me. Seated upon the piano-stool was a young-lady
of at most eighteen years: her face, had it not been for its expression of
exuberant drollery and malicious fun, would have been downright beautiful;
her eyes, of the deepest blue, and shaded by long lashes, instead of
indulging the character of pensive and thoughtful beauty for which Nature
destined them, sparkled with a most animated brightness; her nose,
which, rather short, was still beautifully proportioned, gave, with
her well-curled upper lip, a look of sauciness to the features quite
bewitching; her hair--that brilliant auburn we see in a _Carlo Dolci_--fell
in wild and massive curls upon her shoulders. Her costume was a dark-green
riding-habit, not of the newest in its fashion, and displaying more than
one rent in its careless folds; her hat, whip, and gloves lay on the floor
beside her, and her whole attitude and bearing indicated the most perfect
ease and carelessness.

“So you are caught--taken alive!” said she, as she pressed her hands upon
her sides in a fresh burst of laughter.

“By Jove! this is a surprise indeed!” said I. “And, pray, into whose fair
hands have I fallen a captive?” recovering myself a little, and assuming a
half air of gallantry.

“So you don’t know me, don’t you?”

“Upon my life I do not!”

“How good! Why, I’m Baby Blake.”

“Baby Blake?” said I, thinking that a rather strange appellation for one
whose well-developed proportions betokened nothing of infancy,--“Baby
Blake?”

“To be sure; your cousin Baby.”

“Indeed!” said I, springing forward. “Let me embrace my relative.”
 Accepting my proffered salutation with the most exemplary coolness, she
said:--

“Get a chair, now, and let’s have a talk together.”

“Why the devil do they call you Baby?” said I, still puzzled by this
palpable misnomer.

“Because I am the youngest, and I was always the baby,” replied she,
adjusting her ringlets with a most rural coquetry. “Now tell me something.
Why do you live shut up here like a madman, and not come near us at
Gurt-na-Morra?”

“Oh, that’s a long story, Baby. But, since we are asking questions, how did
you get in here?”

“Just through the window, my dear; and I’ve torn my habit, as you see.”

So saying, she exhibited a rent of about two feet long, thrusting through
it a very pretty foot and ankle at the same time.

“As my inhospitable customs have cost you a habit, you must let me make you
a present of one.”

“No, will you though? That’s a good fellow. Lord! I told them I knew you
weren’t a miser; that you were only odd, that’s all.”

“And how did you come over, Baby?”

“Just cantered over with little Paddy Byrne. I made him take all the walls
and ditches we met, and they’re scraping the mud off him ever since. I’m
glad I made you laugh, Charley; they say you are so sad. Dear me, how
thirsty I am! Have you any beer?”

“To be sure, Baby. But wouldn’t you like some luncheon?”

“Of all things. Well, this is fun!” said she, as taking my arm, I led her
from the drawing-room. “They don’t know where I’m gone,--not one of them;
and I’ve a great mind not to tell them, if you wouldn’t blab.”

“Would it be quite proper?”

“Proper!” cried she, imitating my voice. “I like that! as if I was going to
run away with you! Dear me, what a pretty house, and what nice pictures!
Who is the old fellow up there in the armor?”

“That’s Sir Hildebrand O’Malley,” said I, with some pride in recognizing an
ancestor of the thirteenth century.

“And the other old fright with the wig, and his hands stuck in his
pockets?”

“My grandfather, Baby.”

“Lord, how ugly he is! Why, Charley, he hasn’t the look of you. One would
think, too, he was angry at us. Ay, old gentleman, you don’t like to see me
leaning on Cousin Charley’s arm! That must be the luncheon; I’m sure I hear
knives and forks rattling there.”

The old butler’s astonishment was not inferior to my own a few minutes
before, when I entered the dining-room with my fair cousin upon my arm.
As I drew a chair towards the table, a thought struck me that possibly
it might only be a due attention to my fair guest if I invited the
housekeeper, Mrs. Magra, to favor us with her presence; and accordingly, in
an undertone, so as not to be overheard by old Simon, I said,--

“Perhaps, Baby, you’d like to have Mrs. Magra to keep us company?”

“Who’s she?” was the brief answer.

“The housekeeper; a very respectable old matron.”

“Is she funny?”

“Funny! not a bit.”

“Oh, then, never mind her. What made you think of her?”

“Why, I thought, perhaps you’d think--That is people might say--In fact I
was doing a little bit proper on your account.”

“Oh, that was it, was it? Thank you for nothing, my dear; Baby Blake can
take care of herself. And now just help me to that wing there. Do you know,
Cousin Charley, I think you’re an old quiz, and not half as good a fellow
as you used to be?”

“Come, come, Baby, don’t be in such a hurry to pronounce upon me. Let us
take a glass of wine. Fill Miss Blake’s glass, Simon.”

“Well, you may be better when one comes to know you. I detest sherry. No,
never mind, I’ll take it, as it’s here. Charley, I’ll not compliment you
upon your ham; they don’t know how to save them here. I’ll give you such
a receipt when you come over to see us. But will you come? That’s the
question.”

“How can you ask me! Don’t you think I’ll return your visit?”

“Oh, hang your ceremony! Come and see us, like a good-natured fellow that
knew us since we played together and quarrelled over our toys on the grass.
Is that your sword up there? Did you hear that noise? That was thunder:
there it comes. Look at that!”

As she spoke, a darkness like night overspread the landscape; the waves of
the river became greatly agitated, and the rain, descending in torrents,
beat with tremendous force against the windows; clap after clap of thunder
followed; the lightning flashed fearfully through the gloom; and the wind,
growing every moment stronger, drove the rain with redoubled violence
against the glass. For a while we amused ourselves with watching the
effects of the storm without: the poor laborers flying from their work; the
dripping figures seeking shelter beneath the trees; the barques; the very
loaded carts themselves,--all interested Miss Baby, whose eye roved from
the shore to the Shannon, recognizing with a practised eye every house upon
its banks, and every barque that rocked and pitched beneath the gale.

“Well, this is pleasant to look out at,” said she, at length, and after the
storm had lasted for above an hour, without evincing any show of abatement;
“but what’s to become of _me?_”

Now that was the very question I had been asking myself for the last twenty
minutes without ever being able to find the answer.

“Eh, Charley, what’s to become of me?”

“Oh, never fear; one thing’s quite certain, you cannot leave this in such
weather. The river is certainly impassable by this time at the ford, and to
go by the road is out of the question; it is fully twelve miles. I have it,
Baby; you, as I’ve said before, can’t leave this, but I can. Now, I’ll go
over to Gurt-na-Morra, and return in the morning to bring you back; it will
be fine by that time.”

“Well, I like your notion. You’ll leave me all alone here to drink tea, I
suppose, with your friend Mrs. Magra. A pleasant evening I’d have of it;
not a bit--”

“Well, Baby, don’t be cross; I only meant this arrangement really for your
sake. I needn’t tell you how very much I’d prefer doing the honors of my
poor house in person.”

“Oh, I see what you mean,--more propers. Well, well, I’ve a great deal to
learn; but look, I think its growing lighter.”

“No, far from it; it’s only that gray mass along the horizon that always
bodes continual rain.”

As the prospect without had little cheering to look upon, we sat down
beside the fire and chatted away, forgetting very soon in a hundred mutual
recollections and inquiries, the rain and the wind, the thunder and the
hurricane. Now and then, as some louder crash would resound above our
heads, for a moment we would turn to the window, and comment upon the
dreadful weather; but the next, we had forgotten all about it, and were
deep in our confabulations.

As for my fair cousin, who at first was full of contrivances to pass
the time,--such as the piano, a game at backgammon, chicken hazard,
battledoor,--she at last became mightily interested in some of my
soldiering adventures, and it was six o’clock ere we again thought that
some final measure must be adopted for restoring Baby to her friends, or at
least, guarding against the consequences her simple and guileless nature
might have involved her in.

Mike was called into the conference, and at his suggestion, it was decided
that we should have out the phaeton, and that I should myself drive
Miss Blake home; a plan which offered no other difficulties than this
one,--namely, that of above thirty horses in my stables, I had not a single
pair which had ever been harnessed.

This, so far from proving the obstacle I deemed it, seemed, on the
contrary, to overwhelm Baby with delight.

“Let’s have them. Come, Charley, this will be rare fun; we couldn’t have a
team of four, could we?”

“Six, if you like it, my dear coz--only who’s to hold them? They’re young
thorough-breds,--most of them never backed; some not bitted. In fact, I
know nothing of my stable. I say, Mike, is there anything fit to take out?”

“Yes, sir; there’s Miss Wildespin, she’s in training, to be sure; but we
can’t help that; and the brown colt they call, ‘Billy the Bolter,’--they’re
the likeliest we have; without your honor would take the two chestnuts we
took up last week; they’re raal devils to go; and if the tackle will hold
them, they’ll bring you to Mr. Blake’s door in forty minutes.”

“I vote for the chestnuts,” said Baby, slapping her boot with her
horsewhip.

“I move an amendment in favor of Miss Wildespin,” said I, doubtfully.

“He’ll never do for Galway,” sang Baby, laying her whip on my shoulder with
no tender hand; “yet you used to cross the country in good style when you
were here before.”

“And might do so again, Baby.”

“Ah, no; that vile dragoon seat, with your long stirrup, and your heel
dropped, and your elbow this way, and your head that! How could you ever
screw your horse up to his fence, lifting him along as you came up through
the heavy ground, and with a stroke of your hand sending him pop over, with
his hind-legs well under him?” Here she burst into a fit of laughter at my
look of amazement, as with voice, gesture, and look she actually dramatized
the scene she described.

By the time that I had costumed my fair friend in my dragoon cloak and a
foraging cap, with a gold band around it, which was the extent of muffling
my establishment could muster, a distant noise without apprised us that the
phaeton was approaching. Certainly, the mode in which that equipage came
up to the door might have inspired sentiments of fear in any heart less
steeled against danger than my fair cousin’s. The two blood chestnuts (for
it was those Mike harnessed, having a groom’s dislike to take a racer out
of training) were surrounded by about twenty people: some at their heads;
some patting them on the flanks; some spoking the wheels; and a few, the
more cautious of the party, standing at a respectable distance and offering
advice. The mode of progression was simply a spring, a plunge, a rear,
a lounge, and a kick; and considering it was the first time they ever
performed together, nothing could be more uniform than their display.
Sometimes the pole would be seen to point straight upward, like a lightning
conductor, while the infuriated animals appeared sparring with their
fore-legs at an imaginary enemy. Sometimes, like the pictures in a
school-book on mythology, they would seem in the act of diving, while
with their hind-legs they dashed the splash-board into fragments behind
them,--their eyes flashing fire, their nostrils distended, their flanks
heaving, and every limb trembling with passion and excitement.

“That’s what I call a rare turn-out,” said Baby, who enjoyed the proceeding
amazingly.

“Yes; but remember,” said I, “we’re not to have all these running footmen
the whole way.”

“I like that near-sider with the white fetlock.”

“You’re right, Miss,” said Mike, who entered at the moment, and felt quite
gratified at the criticism,--“you’re right, Miss; it’s himself can do it.”

“Come, Baby, are you ready?”

“All right, sir,” said she, touching her cap knowingly with her forefinger.

“Will the tackle hold, Mike?” said I.

“We’ll take this with us, at any rate,” pointing, as he spoke, to a
considerable coil of rope, a hammer, and a basket of nails, he carried on
his arm. “It’s the break harness we have, and it ought to be strong enough;
but sure if the thunder comes on again, they’d smash a chain cable.”

“Now, Charley,” cried Baby, “keep their heads straight; for when they go
that way, they mean going.”

“Well, Baby, let’s start; but pray remember one thing,--if I’m not as
agreeable on the journey as I ought to be, if I don’t say as many pretty
things to my pretty coz, it’s because these confounded beasts will give me
as much as I can do.”

“Oh, yes, look after the cattle, and take another time for squeezing my
hand. I say, Charley, you’d like to smoke, now, wouldn’t you? If so, don’t
mind me.”

“A thousand thanks for thinking of it; but I’ll not commit such a trespass
on good breeding.”

When we reached the door, the prospect looked dark and dismal enough. The
rain had almost ceased, but masses of black clouds were hurrying across
the sky, and the low rumbling noise of a gathering storm crept along the
ground. Our panting equipage, with its two mounted grooms behind,--for to
provide against all accident, Mike ordered two such to follow us,--stood
in waiting. Miss Blake’s horse, held by the smallest imaginable bit of
boyhood, bringing up the rear.

“Look at Paddy Byrne’s face,” said Baby, directing my attention to the
little individual in question.

Now, small as the aforesaid face was, it contrived, within its limits, to
exhibit an expression of unqualified fear. I had no time, however, to give
a second look, when I jumped into the phaeton and seized the reins. Mike
sprang up behind at a look from me, and without speaking a word, the
stablemen and helpers flew right and left. The chestnuts, seeing all free
before them, made one tremendous plunge, carrying the fore-carriage clear
off the ground, and straining every nut, bolt, screw, and strap about us
with the effort.

“They’re off now,” cried Mickey.

“Yes, they are off now,” said Baby. “Keep them going.”

Nothing could be easier to follow than this advice; and in fact so little
merit had I in obeying it, that I never spoke a word. Down the avenue we
went, at the speed of lightning, the stones and the water from the late
rain flying and splashing about us. In one series of plunges, agreeably
diversified by a strong bang upon the splash-board, we reached the gate.
Before I had time to utter a prayer for our safety, we were through and
fairly upon the high road.

“Musha, but the master’s mad!” cried the old dame of the gate-lodge; “he
wasn’t out of this gate for a year and a half, and look now--”

The rest was lost in the clear ringing laugh of Baby, who clapped her hands
in ecstasy and delight.

“What a spanking pair they are! I suppose you wouldn’t let me get my hand
on them?” said she, making a gesture as if to take the reins.

“Heaven forbid, my dear!” said I; “they’ve nearly pulled my wrists off
already.”

Our road, like many in the west of Ireland, lay through a level tract of
bog; deep ditches, half filled with water, on either side of us, but,
fortunately, neither hill nor valley for several miles.

“There’s the mail,” said Baby, pointing to a dark speck at a long distance
off.

Ere many minutes elapsed, our stretching gallop, for such had our pace
sobered into, brought us up with it, and as we flew by, at top speed, Baby
jumped to her feet, and turning a waggish look at our beaten rivals, burst
out into a fit of triumphant laughter.

Mike was correct as to time; in some few seconds less than forty minutes we
turned into the avenue of Gurt-na-Morra. Tearing along like the very moment
of their starting, the hot and fiery animals galloped up the approach, and
at length came to a stop in a deep ploughed field, into which, fortunately
for us, Mr. Blake, animated less by the picturesque than the profitable,
had converted his green lawn. This check, however, was less owing to my
agency than to that of my servants; for dismounting in haste, they flew to
the horses’ heads, and with ready tact, and before I had helped my cousin
to the ground, succeeded in unharnessing them from the carriage, and led
them, blown and panting, covered with foam, and splashed with mud, into the
space before the door.

By this time we were joined by the whole Blake family, who poured forth in
astonishment at our strange and sudden appearance. Explanation on my part
was unnecessary, for Baby, with a volubility quite her own, gave the whole
recital in less than three minutes. From the moment of her advent to her
departure, they had it all; and while she mingled her ridicule at my
surprise, her praise of my luncheon, her jests at my prudence, the whole
family joined heartily in her mirth, while they welcomed, with most
unequivocal warmth, my first visit to Gurt-na-Morra.

I confess it was with no slight gratification I remarked that Baby’s visit
was as much a matter of surprise to them as to me. Believing her to have
gone to visit at Portumna Castle, they felt no uneasiness at her absence;
so that, in her descent upon me, she was really only guided by her own
wilful fancy, and that total absence of all consciousness of wrong which
makes a truly innocent girl the hardiest of all God’s creatures. I was
reassured by this feeling, and satisfied that, whatever the intentions of
the elder members of the Blake family, Baby was, at least, no participator
in their plots or sharer in their intrigues.



CHAPTER XLVI.


NEW VIEWS.

When I found myself the next morning at home, I could not help ruminating
over the strange adventures of the preceding day, and felt a kind of
self-reproach at the frigid manner in which I had hitherto treated all the
Blake advances, contrasting so ill for me with the unaffected warmth and
kind good-nature of their reception. Never alluding, even by accident, to
my late estrangement; never, by a chance speech, indicating that they
felt any soreness for the past,--they talked away about the gossip of
the country: its feuds, its dinners, its assizes, its balls, its
garrisons,--all the varied subjects of country life were gayly and
laughingly discussed; and when, as I entered my own silent and deserted
home, and contrasted its look of melancholy and gloom with the gay and
merry scene I so lately parted from, when my echoing steps reverberated
along the flagged hall,--I thought of the happy family picture I left
behind me, and could not help avowing to myself that the goods of fortune
I possessed were but ill dispensed, when, in the midst of every means and
appliance for comfort and happiness, I lived a solitary man, companionless
and alone.

I arose from breakfast a hundred times,--now walking impatiently towards
the window, now strolling into the drawing-room. Around, on every side, lay
scattered the prints and drawings, as Baby had thrown them carelessly
upon the floor; her handkerchief was also there. I took it up; I know not
why,--some lurking leaven of old romance perhaps suggested it,--but I hoped
it might prove of delicate texture, and bespeaking that lady-like coquetry
which so pleasantly associates with the sex in our minds. Alas, no! Nothing
could be more palpably the opposite: torn, and with a knot--some hint to
memory--upon one corner, it was no aid to my careering fancy. And yet--and
yet, what a handsome girl she is; how finely, how delicately formed that
Greek outline of forehead and brow; how transparently soft that downy pink
upon her cheek! With what varied expression those eyes can beam!--ay, that
they can: but, confound it, there’s this fault, their very archness, their
sly malice, will be interpreted by the ill-judging world to any but the
real motive. “How like a flirt!” will one say. “How impertinent! How
ill-bred!” The conventional stare of cold, patched, and painted beauty,
upon whose unblushing cheek no stray tinge of modesty has wandered, will be
tolerated, even admired; while the artless beamings of the soul upon the
face of rural loveliness will be condemned without appeal.

Such a girl may a man marry who destines his days to the wild west; but woe
unto him!--woe unto him, should he migrate among the more civilized and
less charitable _coteries_ of our neighbors!

“Ah, here are the papers, and I was forgetting. Let me see--‘Bayonne’--ay,
‘march of the troops--Sixth Corps.’ What can that be without? I say, Mike,
who is cantering along the avenue?”

“It’s me, sir. I’m training the brown filly for Miss Mary, as your honor
bid me last night.”

“Ah, very true. Does she go quietly?”

“Like a lamb, sir; barrin’ she does give a kick now and then at the sheet,
when it bangs against her legs.”

“Am I to go over with the books now, sir?” said a wild-looking shockhead
appearing within the door.

“Yes, take them over, with my compliments; and say I hope Miss Mary Blake
has caught no cold.”

“You were speaking about a habit and hat, sir?” said Mrs. Magra, curtsying
as she entered.

“Yes, Mrs. Magra; I want your advice. Oh, tell Barnes I really cannot be
bored about those eternal turnips every day of my life. And, Mike, I wish
you’d make them look over the four-horse harness. I want to try those
grays; they tell me they’ll run well together. Well, Freney, more
complaints, I hope? Nothing but trespasses! I don’t care, so you’d not
worry me, if they eat up every blade of clover in the grounds; I’m sick
of being bored this way. Did you say that we’d eight couple of good
dogs?--quite enough to begin with. Tell Jones to ride into Banagher and
look after that box; Buckmaster sent it from London two months ago, and it
has been lying there ever since. And, Mrs. Magra, pray let the windows be
opened, and the house well aired; that drawing-room would be all the better
for new papering.”

These few and broken directions may serve to show my readers--what
certainly they failed to convince myself of--that a new chapter of my life
had opened before me; and that, in proportion to the length of time
my feelings had found neither vent nor outlet, they now rushed madly,
tempestuously into their new channels, suffering no impediment to arrest,
no obstacle to oppose their current.

Nothing can be conceived more opposite to my late, than my present habits
now became. The house, the grounds, the gardens, all seemed to participate
in the new influence which beamed upon myself; the stir and bustle of
active life was everywhere perceptible; and amidst numerous preparations
for the moors and the hunting-field, for pleasure parties upon the river,
and fishing excursions up the mountains, my days were spent. The Blakes,
without even for a moment pressing their attentions upon me, permitted me
to go and come among them unquestioned and unasked. When, nearly every
morning, I appeared in the breakfast-room, I felt exactly like a member of
the family; the hundred little discrepancies of thought and habit which
struck me forcibly at first, looked daily less apparent; the careless
inattentions of my fair cousins as to dress, their free-and-easy boisterous
manner, their very accents, which fell so harshly on my ear, gradually made
less and less impression, until at last, when a raw English Ensign, just
arrived in the neighborhood, remarked to me in confidence, “What devilish
fine girls they were, if they were not so confoundedly Irish!” I could not
help wondering what the fellow meant, and attributed the observation more
to his ignorance than to its truth.

Papa and Mamma Blake, like prudent generals, so long as they saw the forces
of the enemy daily wasting before them; so long as they could with impunity
carry on the war at his expense,--resolved to risk nothing by a pitched
battle. Unlike the Dalrymples, they could leave all to time.

Oh, tell me not of dark eyes swimming in their own ethereal essence;
tell me not of pouting lips, of glossy ringlets, of taper fingers, and
well-rounded insteps; speak not to me of soft voices, whose seductive
sounds ring sweetly in our hearts; preach not of those thousand womanly
graces so dear to every man, and doubly to him who lives apart from all
their influences and their fascinations; neither dwell upon congenial
temperament, similarity of taste, of disposition, and of thought; these are
not the great risks a man runs in life. Of all the temptations, strong as
these may be, there is one greater than them all, and that is, propinquity!

Show me the man who has ever stood this test; show me the man, deserving
the name of such, who has become daily and hourly exposed to the breaching
artillery of flashing eyes, of soft voices, of winning smiles, and kind
speeches, and who hasn’t felt, and that too soon too, a breach within
the rampart of his heart. He may, it is true,--nay, he will, in many
cases,--make a bold and vigorous defence; sometimes will he re-intrench
himself within the stockades of his prudence; but, alas! it is only to
defer the moment when he must lay down his arms. He may, like a wise man
who sees his fate inevitable, make a virtue of necessity, and surrender at
discretion; or, like a crafty foe, seeing his doom before him, under the
cover of the night he may make a sortie from the garrison, and run for his
life. Ignominious as such a course must be, it is often the only one left.

But to come back. Love, like the small-pox, is most dangerous when you take
it in the natural way. Those made matches, which Heaven is supposed to
have a hand in, when placing an unmarried gentleman’s property in the
neighborhood of an unmarried lady’s, which destine two people for each
other in life, because their well-judging friends have agreed, “They’ll do
very well; they were made for each other,”--these are the mild cases of the
malady. This process of friendly vaccination takes out the poison of the
disease, substituting a more harmless and less exciting affection; but the
really dangerous instances are those from contact, that same propinquity,
that confounded tendency every man yields to, to fall into a railroad of
habit; that is the risk, that is the danger. What a bore it is to find that
the absence of one person, with whom you’re in no wise in love, will spoil
your morning’s canter, or your rowing party upon the river! How much put
out are you, when she, to whom you always gave your arm in to dinner,
does not make her appearance in the drawing-room; and your tea, too, some
careless one, indifferent to your taste, puts a lump of sugar too little,
or cream too much, while she--But no matter; habit has done for you what
no direct influence of beauty could do, and a slave to your own selfish
indulgences, and the cultivation of that ease you prize so highly, you fall
over head and ears in love.

Now, you are not, my good reader, by any means to suppose that this was my
case. No, no; I was too much what the world terms the “old soldier” for
that. To continue my illustration: like the fortress that has been often
besieged, the sentry upon the walls keeps more vigilant watch; his ear
detects the far-off clank of the dread artillery; he marks each parallel;
he notes down every breaching battery; and if he be captured, at least it
is in fair fight.

Such were some of my reflections as I rode slowly home one evening from
Gurt-na-Morra. Many a time, latterly, had I contrasted my own lonely and
deserted hearth with the smiling looks, the happy faces, and the merry
voices I had left behind me; and many a time did I ask myself, “Am I never
to partake of a happiness like this?” How many a man is seduced into
matrimony from this very feeling! How many a man whose hours have passed
fleetingly at the pleasant tea-table, or by the warm hearth of some old
country-house, going forth into the cold and cheerless night, reaches his
far-off home only to find it dark and gloomy, joyless and companionless?
How often has the hard-visaged look of his old butler, as, with sleepy eyes
and yawning face, he hands a bed-room candle, suggested thoughts of married
happiness? Of the perils of propinquity I have already spoken; the risks of
contrast are also great. Have you never, in strolling through some fragrant
and rich conservatory, fixed your eye upon a fair and lovely flower, whose
blossoming beauty seems to give all the lustre and all the incense of
the scene around? And how have you thought it would adorn and grace the
precincts of your home, diffusing fragrance on every side. Alas, the
experiment is not always successful. Much of the charm and many of the
fascinations which delight you are the result of association of time and of
place. The lovely voice, whose tones have spoken to your heart, may, like
some instrument, be delightful in the harmony of the orchestra, but, after
all, prove a very middling performer in a duet.

I say not this to deter men from matrimony, but to warn them from a
miscalculation which may mar their happiness. Flirtation is a very fine
thing, but it’s only a state of transition after all. The tadpole existence
of the lover would be great fun, if one was never to become a frog under
the hands of the parson. I say all this dispassionately and advisedly. Like
the poet of my country, for many years of my life,--

    “My only books were woman’s looks,”

and certainly I subscribe to a circulating library.

All this long digression may perhaps bring the reader to where it brought
me,--the very palpable conviction, that, though not in love with my cousin
Baby, I could not tell when I might eventually become so.



CHAPTER XLVII.


A RECOGNITION.

The most pleasing part about retrospect is the memory of our bygone hopes.
The past, however happy, however blissful, few would wish to live over
again; but who is there that does not long for, does not pine after the
day-dream which gilded the future, which looked ever forward to the time to
come as to a realization of all that was dear to us, lightening our present
cares, soothing our passing sorrows by that one thought?

Life is marked out in periods in which, like stages in a journey, we rest
and repose ourselves, casting a look, now back upon the road we have been
travelling, now throwing a keener glance towards the path left us. It is at
such spots as these remembrance comes full upon us, and that we feel how
little our intentions have swayed our career or influenced our actions;
the aspirations, the resolves of youth, are either looked upon as puerile
follies, or a most distant day settled on for their realization. The
principles we fondly looked to, like our guide-stars, are dimly visible,
not seen; the friends we cherished are changed and gone; the scenes
themselves seem no longer the sunshine and the shade we loved; and, in
fact, we are living in a new world, where our own altered condition gives
the type to all around us; the only link that binds us to the past being
that same memory that like a sad curfew tolls the twilight of our fairest
dreams and most cherished wishes.

That these glimpses of the bygone season of our youth should be but fitful
and passing--tinging, not coloring the landscape of our life--we should be
engaged in all the active bustle and turmoil of the world, surrounded by
objects of hope, love, and ambition, stemming the strong tide in whose
fountain is fortune.

He, however, who lives apart, a dreary and a passionless existence, will
find that in the past, more than in the future, his thoughts have found
their resting-place; memory usurps the place of hope, and he travels
through life like one walking onward; his eyes still turning towards some
loved forsaken spot, teeming with all the associations of his happiest
hours, and preserving, even in distance, the outline that he loved.

Distance in time, as in space, smooths down all the inequalities of
surface; and as the cragged and rugged mountain, darkened by cliff and
precipice, shows to the far-off traveller but some blue and misty mass,
so the long-lost-sight-of hours lose all the cares and griefs that tinged
them, and to our mental eye, are but objects of uniform loveliness and
beauty; and if we do not think of

    “The smiles, the tears,
    Of boyhood’s years,”

it is because, like April showers, they but checker the spring of our
existence.

For myself, baffled in hope at a period when most men but begin to feel it,
I thought myself much older than I really was; the disappointments of the
world, like the storms of the ocean, impart a false sense of experience to
the young heart, as he sails forth upon his voyage; and it is an easy error
to mistake trials for time.

The goods of fortune by which I was surrounded, took nothing from the
bitterness of my retrospect; on the contrary, I could not help feeling that
every luxury of my life was bought by my surrender of that career which had
elated me in my own esteem, and which, setting a high and noble ambition
before me, taught me to be a man.

To be happy, one must not only fulfil the duties and exactions of his
station, but the station itself must answer to his views and aspirations
in life. Now, mine did not sustain this condition: all that my life had
of promise was connected with the memory of her who never could share my
fortunes; of her for whom I had earned praise and honor; becoming ambitious
as the road to her affection, only to learn after, that my hopes were but a
dream, and my paradise a wilderness.

While thus the inglorious current of my life ran on, I was not indifferent
to the mighty events the great continent of Europe was witnessing. The
successes of the Peninsular campaign; the triumphant entry of the
British into France; the downfall of Napoleon; the restoration of the
Bourbons,--followed each other with the rapidity of the most common-place
occurrences; and in the few short years in which I had sprung from boyhood
to man’s estate, the whole condition of the world was altered. Kings
deposed; great armies disbanded; rightful sovereigns restored to their
dominions; banished and exiled men returned to their country, invested with
rank and riches; and peace, in the fullest tide of its blessings, poured
down upon the earth devastated and blood-stained.

Years passed on; and between the careless abandonment to the mere amusement
of the hour, and the darker meditation upon the past, time slipped away.
From my old friends and brother officers I heard but rarely. Power, who at
first wrote frequently, grew gradually less and less communicative. Webber,
who had gone to Paris at the peace, had written but one letter; while, from
the rest, a few straggling lines were all I received. In truth be it told,
my own negligence and inability to reply cost me this apparent neglect.

It was a fine evening in May, when, rigging up a sprit-sail, I jumped into
my yawl, and dropped easily down the river. The light wind gently curled
the crested water, the trees waved gently and shook their branches in the
breeze, and my little barque, bending slightly beneath, rustled on her
foamy track with that joyous bounding motion so inspiriting to one’s
heart. The clouds were flying swiftly past, tinging with their shadows the
mountains beneath; the Munster shore, glowing with a rich sunlight, showed
every sheep-cot and every hedge-row clearly out, while the deep shadow of
tall Scariff darkened the silent river where Holy Island, with its ruined
churches and melancholy tower, was reflected in the still water.

It was a thoroughly Irish landscape: the changeful sky; the fast-flitting
shadows; the brilliant sunlight; the plenteous fields; the broad and
swelling stream; the dark mountain, from whose brown crest a wreath of thin
blue smoke was rising,--were all there smiling yet sadly, like her own
sons, across whose lowering brow some fitful flash of fancy ever playing
dallies like sunbeams on a darkening stream, nor marks the depth that lies
below.

I sat musing over the strange harmony of Nature with the temperament of
man, every phase of his passionate existence seeming to have its type in
things inanimate, when a loud cheer from the land aroused me, and the
words, “Charley! Cousin Charley!” came wafted over the water to where
I lay. For some time I could but distinguish the faint outline of some
figures on the shore; but as I came nearer, I recognized my fair cousin
Baby, who, with a younger brother of some eight or nine years old, was
taking an evening walk.

“Do you know, Charley,” said she, “the boys have gone over to the castle to
look for you; we want you particularly this evening.”

“Indeed, Cousin Baby! Well, I fear you must make my excuses.”

“Then, once for all, I will not. I know this is one of your sulky moods,
and I tell you frankly I’ll not put up with them any more.”

“No, no, Baby, not so; out of spirits if you will, but not out of temper.”

“The distinction is much too fine for me, if there be any. But there now,
do be a good fellow; come up with us--come up with me!”

As she said this she placed her arm within mine. I thought, too,--perhaps
it was but a thought,--she pressed me gently. I know she blushed and turned
away her head to hide it.

“I don’t pretend to be proof to your entreaty, Cousin Baby,” said I, with
half-affected gallantry, putting her fingers to my lips.

“There, how can you be so foolish; look at William yonder; I am sure he
must have seen you!” But William, God bless him! was bird’s-nesting or
butterfly-hunting or daisy-picking or something of that kind.

O ye young brothers, who, sufficiently old to be deemed companions and
_chaperons_, but yet young enough to be regarded as having neither eyes nor
ears, what mischief have ye to answer for; what a long reckoning of tender
speeches, of soft looks, of pressed hands, lies at your door! What an
incentive to flirtation is the wily imp who turns ever and anon from his
careless gambols to throw his laughter-loving eyes upon you, calling up the
mantling blush to both your cheeks! He seems to chronicle the hours of your
dalliance, making your secrets known unto each other. We have gone through
our share of flirtation in this life: match-making mothers, prying aunts,
choleric uncles, benevolent and open-hearted fathers, we understand to the
life, and care no more for such man-traps than a Melton man, well mounted
on his strong-boned thorough-bred, does for a four-barred ox-fence that
lies before him. Like him, we take them flying; never relaxing the slapping
stride of our loose gallop, we go straight ahead, never turning aside,
except for a laugh at those who flounder in the swamps we sneer at. But we
confess honestly, we fear the little, brother, the small urchin who, with
nankeen trousers and three rows of buttons, performs the part of Cupid. He
strikes real terror into our heart; he it is who, with a cunning wink or
sly smile, seems to confirm the soft nonsense we are weaving; by some
slight gesture he seems to check off the long reckoning of our attentions,
bringing us every moment nearer to the time when the score must be settled
and the debt paid. He it is who, by a memory delightfully oblivious of
his task and his table-book, is tenacious to the life of what you said
to Fanny; how you put your head under Lucy’s bonnet; he can imitate to
perfection the way you kneeled upon the grass; and the wretch has learned
to smack his lips like a _gourmand_, that he, may convey another stage of
your proceeding.

Oh, for infant schools for everything under the age of ten! Oh, for
factories for the children of the rich! The age of prying curiosity is from
four-and-a-half to nine, and Fonché himself might get a lesson in _police_
from an urchin in his alphabet.

I contrived soon, however, to forget the presence of even the little
brother. The night was falling; Baby appeared getting fatigued with her
walk, for she leaned somewhat more heavily upon my arm, and I--I cannot
tell wherefore--fell into that train of thinking aloud, which somehow, upon
a summer’s eve, with a fair girl beside one, is the very nearest thing to
love-making.

“There, Charley, don’t now--ah, don’t! Do let go my hand; they are coming
down the avenue.”

I had scarcely time to obey the injunction, when Mr. Blake called out:--

“Well, indeed! Charley, this is really fortunate; we have got a friend to
take tea with us, and wanted you to meet him.”

Muttering an internal prayer for something not exactly the welfare of the
aforesaid friend, whom I judged to be some Galway squire, I professed aloud
the pleasure I felt in having come in so opportunely.

“He wishes particularly to make your acquaintance.”

“So much the worse,” thought I to myself; “it rarely happens that this
feeling is mutual.”

Evidently provoked at the little curiosity I exhibited, Blake added,--

“He’s on his way to Fermoy with a detachment.”

“Indeed! what regiment, pray?”

“The 28th Foot.”

“Ah, I don’t know them.”

By this time we reached the steps of the hall-door, and just as we did so,
the door opened suddenly, and a tall figure in uniform presented himself.
With one spring he seized my hand and nearly wrung it off.

“Why what,” said I, “can this be? Is it really--”

“Sparks,” said he,--“your old friend Sparks, my boy; I’ve changed into the
infantry, and here I am. Heard by chance you were in the neighborhood; met
Mr. Blake, your friend here, at the inn, and accepted his invitation to
meet you.”

Poor Sparks, albeit the difference in his costume, was the same as ever.
Having left the Fourteenth soon after I quitted them, he knew but little of
their fortunes; and he himself had been on recruiting stations nearly the
whole time since we had met before.

While we each continued to extol the good fortune of the other,--he mine as
being no longer in the service, and I his for still being so,--we learned
the various changes which had happened to each of us during our separation.
Although his destination was ultimately Fermoy, Portumua was ordered to
be his present quarter; and I felt delighted to have once more an old
companion within reach, to chat over former days of campaigning and nights
of merriment in the Peninsula.

Sparks soon became a constant visitor and guest at Gurt-na-Morra; his good
temper, his easy habits, his simplicity of character, rapidly enabled him
to fall into all their ways; and although evidently not what Baby would
call “the man for Galway,” he endeavored with all his might to please every
one, and certainly succeeded to a considerable extent.

Baby alone seemed to take pleasure in tormenting the poor sub. Long before
she met with him having heard much from me of his exploits abroad, she was
continually bringing up some anecdote of his unhappy loves or mis-placed
passions; which he evidently smarted under the more, from the circumstance
that he appeared rather inclined to like my fair cousin.

As she continued this for some time, I remarked that Sparks, who at
first was all gayety and high spirits, grew gradually more depressed and
dispirited. I became convinced that the poor fellow was in love; very
little management on my part was necessary to obtain his confession; and
accordingly, the same evening the thought first struck me, as we were
riding slowly home towards O’Malley Castle, I touched at first generally
upon the merits of the Blakes, their hospitality, etc., then diverged to
the accomplishments and perfections of the girls, and lastly, Baby herself,
in all form, came up for sentence.

“Ah, yes!” said Sparks, with a deep sigh, “it is quite as you say; she is a
lovely girl; and that liveliness in her character, that elasticity in her
temperament, chastened down as it might be, by the feeling of respect for
the man she loved! I say, Charley, is it a very long attachment of yours?”

“A long attachment of mine! Why, my dear Sparks, you can’t suppose that
there is anything between us! I pledge you my word most faithfully.”

“Oh, no, don’t tell me that; what good can there be in mystifying me?”

“I have no such intention, believe me. My cousin Baby, however I like and
admire her, has no other place in my affection than a very charming girl
who has lightened a great many dreary and tiresome hours, and made my
banishment from the world less irksome than I should have found it without
her.”

“And you are really not in love?”

“Not a bit of it!”

“Nor going to marry her either?”

“Not the least notion of it!--a fact. Baby and I are excellent friends, for
the very reason that we were never lovers; we have had no _petits jeux_
of fallings out and makings up; no hide-and-seek trials of affected
indifference and real disappointments; no secrets, no griefs, nor grudges;
neither quarrels nor keepsakes. In fact, we are capital cousins; quizzing
every one for our own amusement; riding, walking, boating together; in
fact, doing and thinking of everything save sighs and declarations; always
happy to meet, and never broken-hearted when we parted. And I can only add,
as a proof of my sincerity, that if you feel as I suspect you do from your
questions, I’ll be your ambassador to the court of Gurt-na-Morra with
sincere pleasure.”

“Will you really? Will you, indeed, Charley, do this for me? Will you
strengthen my wishes by your aid, and give me all your influence with the
family?”

I could scarcely help smiling at poor Sparks’s eagerness, or the
unwarrantable value he put upon my alliance, in a case where his own
unassisted efforts did not threaten much failure.

“I repeat it, Sparks, I’ll make a proposal for you in all form, aided and
abetted by everything recommendatory and laudatory I can think of; I’ll
talk of you as a Peninsular of no small note and promise; and observe rigid
silence about your Welsh flirtation and your Spanish elopement.”

“You’ll not blab about the Dalrymples, I hope?”

“Trust me; I only hope you will be always equally discreet: but now--when
shall it be? Should you like to consider the matter more?”

“Oh, no, nothing of the kind; let it be to-morrow, at once, if I am to
fail; even that--anything’s better than suspense.”

“Well, then, to-morrow be it,” said I.

So I wished him a good-night, and a stout heart to hear his fortune withal.



CHAPTER XLVIII.


A MISTAKE.

I ordered my horses at an early hour; and long before Sparks--lover that
he was--had opened his eyes to the light, was already on my way towards
Gurt-na-Morra. Several miles slipped away before I well determined how I
should open my negotiations: whether to papa Blake, in the first instance,
or to madame, to whose peculiar province these secrets of the home
department belonged; or why not at once to Baby?--because, after all, with
her it rested finally to accept or refuse. To address myself to the heads
of the department seemed the more formal course; and as I was acting
entirely as an “envoy extraordinary,” I deemed this the fitting mode of
proceeding.

It was exactly eight o’clock as I drove up to the door. Mr. Blake was
standing at the open window of the breakfast-room, sniffing the fresh air
of the morning. The Blake mother was busily engaged with the economy of the
tea-table; a very simple style of morning costume, and a nightcap with a
flounce like a petticoat, marking her unaffected toilet. Above stairs, more
than one head _en papillate_ took a furtive peep between the curtains; and
the butler of the family, in corduroys and a fur cap, was weeding turnips
in the lawn before the door.

Mrs. Blake had barely time to take a hurried departure, when her husband
came out upon the steps to bid me welcome. There is no physiognomist like
your father of a family, or your mother with marriageable daughters.
Lavater was nothing to them, in reading the secret springs of action, the
hidden sources of all character. Had there been a good respectable bump
allotted by Spurzheim to “honorable intentions,” the matter had been
all fair and easy,--the very first salute of the gentleman would have
pronounced upon his views. But, alas! no such guide is forthcoming; and the
science, as it now exists, is enveloped in doubt and difficulty. The gay,
laughing temperament of some, the dark and serious composure of others; the
cautious and reserved, the open and the candid, the witty, the sententious,
the clever, the dull, the prudent, the reckless,--in a word, every variety
which the innumerable hues of character imprint upon the human face divine
are their study. Their convictions are the slow and patient fruits of
intense observation and great logical accuracy. Carefully noting down
every lineament and feature,--their change, their action, and their
development,--they track a lurking motive with the scent of a bloodhound,
and run down a growing passion with an unrelenting speed. I have been
in the witness-box, exposed to the licensed badgering and privileged
impertinence of a lawyer, winked, leered, frowned, and sneered at with all
the long-practised tact of a _nisi prius_ torturer; I have stood before the
cold, fish-like, but searching eye of a prefect of police, as he compared
my passport with my person, and thought he could detect a discrepancy in
both,--but I never felt the same sense of total exposure as when glanced at
by the half-cautious, half-prying look of a worthy father or mother, in a
family where there are daughters to marry, and “nobody coming to woo.”

“You’re early, Charley,” said Mr. Blake, with an affected mixture of
carelessness and warmth. “You have not had breakfast?”

“No, sir. I have come to claim a part of yours; and if I mistake not, you
seem a little later than usual.”

“Not more than a few minutes. The girls will be down presently; they’re
early risers, Charley; good habits are just as easy as bad ones; and, the
Lord be praised! my girls were never brought up with any other.”

“I am well aware of it, sir; and indeed, if I may be permitted to take
advantage of the _apropos_, it was on the subject of one of your daughters
that I wished to speak to you this morning, and which brought me over at
this uncivilized hour, hoping to find you alone.”

Mr. Blake’s look for a moment was one of triumphant satisfaction; it was
but a glance, however, and repressed the very instant after, as he said,
with a well got-up indifference,--

“Just step with me into the study, and we’re sure not to be interrupted.”

Now, although I have little time or space for such dallying, I cannot help
dwelling for a moment upon the aspect of what Mr. Blake dignified with the
name of his study. It was a small apartment with one window, the panes of
which, independent of all aid from a curtain, tempered the daylight through
the medium of cobwebs, dust, and the ill-trained branches of some wall-tree
without.

Three oak chairs and a small table were the only articles of furniture,
while around, on all sides, lay the _disjecta membra_ of Mr. Blake’s
hunting, fishing, shooting, and coursing equipments,--old top-boots,
driving whips, odd spurs, a racing saddle, a blunderbuss, the helmet of the
Galway Light Horse, a salmon net, a large map of the county with a marginal
index to several mortgages marked with a cross, a stable lantern, the
rudder of a boat, and several other articles representative of his daily
associations; but not one book, save an odd volume of Watty Cox’s
Magazine, whose pages seemed as much the receptacle of brown hackles for
trout-fishing as the resource of literary leisure.

“Here we’ll be quite cosey, and to ourselves,” said Mr. Blake, as, placing
a chair for me, he sat down himself, with the air of a man resolved to
assist, by advice and counsel, the dilemma of some dear friend.

After a few preliminary observations, which, like a breathing canter before
a race, serves to get your courage up, and settle you well in your seat,
I opened my negotiation by some very broad and sweeping truisms about the
misfortunes of a bachelor existence, the discomforts of his position,
his want of home and happiness, the necessity for his one day thinking
seriously about marriage; it being in a measure almost as inevitable
a termination of the free-and-easy career of his single life as
transportation for seven years is to that of a poacher. “You cannot go on,
sir,” said I, “trespassing forever upon your neighbors’ preserves; you must
be apprehended sooner or later; therefore, I think, the better way is to
take out a license.”

Never was a small sally of wit more thoroughly successful. Mr. Blake
laughed till he cried, and when he had done, wiped his eyes with a snuffy
handkerchief, and cried till he laughed again. As, somehow, I could not
conceal from myself a suspicion as to the sincerity of my friend’s mirth,
I merely consoled myself with the French adage, that “he laughs best who
laughs last;” and went on:--

“It will not be deemed surprising, sir, that a man should come to the
discovery I have just mentioned much more rapidly by having enjoyed the
pleasure of intimacy with your family; not only by the example of perfect
domestic happiness presented to him, but by the prospect held out that
a heritage of the fair gifts which adorn and grace a married life may
reasonably be looked for among the daughters of those themselves the
realization of conjugal felicity.”

Here was a canter, with a vengeance; and as I felt blown, I slackened my
pace, coughed, and resumed:--

“Mary Blake, sir, is, then, the object of my present communication; she
it is who has made an existence that seemed fair and pleasurable before,
appear blank and unprofitable without her. I have, therefore, to come at
once to the point, visited you this morning, formally to ask her hand in
marriage; her fortune, I may observe at once, is perfectly immaterial, a
matter of no consequence [so Mr. Blake thought also]; a competence fully
equal to every reasonable notion of expenditure--”

“There, there; don’t, don’t!” said Mr. Blake, wiping his eyes, with a sob
like a hiccough,--“don’t speak of money! I know what you would say, a
handsome settlement,--a well-secured jointure, and all that. Yes, yes, I
feel it all.”

“Why, yes, sir, I believe I may add that everything in this respect will
answer your expectations.”

“Of course; to be sure. My poor dear Baby! How to do without her, that’s
the rub! You don’t know, O’Malley, what that girl is to me--you can’t know
it; you’ll feel it one day though--that you will!”

“The devil I shall!” said I to myself. “The great point is, after all, to
learn the young lady’s disposition in the matter--”

“Ah, Charley, none of this with me, you sly dog! You think I don’t know
you. Why, I’ve been watching,--that is, I have seen--no, I mean I’ve
heard--They--they,--people will talk, you know.”

“Very true, sir. But, as I was going to remark--”

Just at this moment the door opened, and Miss Baby herself, looking most
annoyingly handsome, put in her head.

“Papa, we’re waiting breakfast. Ah, Charley, how d’ye do?”

“Come in, Baby,” said Mr. Blake; “you haven’t given me my kiss this
morning.”

The lovely girl threw her arms around his neck, while her bright and
flowing locks fell richly upon his shoulder. I turned rather sulkily away;
the thing always provokes me. There is as much cold, selfish cruelty in
such _coram publico_ endearments, as in the luscious display of rich rounds
and sirloins in a chop-house to the eyes of the starved and penniless
wretch without, who, with dripping rags and watering lip, eats imaginary
slices, while the pains of hunger are torturing him!

“There’s Tim!” said Mr. Blake, suddenly. “Tim Cronin!--Tim!” shouted he
to, as it seemed to me, an imaginary individual outside; while, in the
eagerness of pursuit, he rushed out of the study, banging the door as he
went, and leaving Baby and myself to our mutual edification.

I should have preferred it being otherwise; but as the Fates willed it
thus, I took Baby’s hand, and led her to the window. Now, there is one
feature of my countrymen which, having recognized strongly in myself, I
would fain proclaim; and writing as I do--however little people may suspect
me--solely for the sake of a moral, would gladly warn the unsuspecting
against. I mean, a very decided tendency to become the consoler, the
confidant of young ladies; seeking out opportunities of assuaging their
sorrow, reconciling their afflictions, breaking eventful passages to
their ears; not from any inherent pleasure in the tragic phases of
the intercourse, but for the semi-tenderness of manner, that harmless
hand-squeezing, that innocent waist-pressing, without which consolation is
but like salmon without lobster,--a thing maimed, wanting, and imperfect.

Now, whether this with me was a natural gift, or merely a “way we have in
the army,” as the song says, I shall not pretend to say; but I venture
to affirm that few men could excel me in the practice I speak of some
five-and-twenty years ago. Fair reader, do pray, if I have the happiness
of being known to you, deduct them from my age before you subtract from my
merits.

“Well, Baby, dear, I have just been speaking about you to papa. Yes,
dear--don’t look so incredulous--even of your own sweet self. Well, do you
know, I almost prefer your hair worn that way; those same silky masses look
better falling thus heavily--”

“There, now, Charley! ah, don’t!”

“Well, Baby, as I was saying, before you stopped me, I have been asking
your papa a very important question, and he has referred me to you for the
answer. And now will you tell me, in all frankness and honesty, your mind
on the matter?”

She grew deadly pale as I spoke these words, then suddenly flushed up
again, but said not a word. I could perceive, however, from her heaving
chest and restless manner, that no common agitation was stirring her bosom.
It was cruelty to be silent, so I continued:--

“One who loves you well, Baby, dear, has asked his own heart the question,
and learned that without you he has no chance of happiness; that your
bright eyes are to him bluer than the deep sky above him; that your soft
voice, your winning smile--and what a smile it is!--have taught him that he
loves, nay, adores you! Then, dearest--what pretty fingers those are! Ah,
what is this? Whence came that emerald? I never saw that ring before,
Baby!”

“Oh, that,” said she, blushing deeply,--“that is a ring the foolish
creature Sparks gave me a couple of days ago; but I don’t like it--I don’t
intend to keep it.”

So saying, she endeavored to draw it from her finger, but in vain.

“But why, Baby, why take it off? Is it to give him the pleasure of putting
it on again? There, don’t look angry; we must not fall out, surely.”

“No, Charley, if you are not vexed with me--if you are not--”

“No, no, my dear Baby; nothing of the kind. Sparks was quite right in not
trusting his entire fortune to my diplomacy; but at least, he ought to have
told me that he had opened the negotiation. Now, the question simply is:
Do you love him? or rather, because that shortens matters: Will you accept
him?”

“Love who?”

“Love whom? Why Sparks, to be sure!”

A flash of indignant surprise passed across her features, now pale as
marble; her lips were slightly parted, her large full eyes were fixed
upon me steadfastly, and her hand, which I had held in mine, she suddenly
withdrew from my grasp.

“And so--and so it is of Mr. Sparks’s cause you are so ardently the
advocate?” she said at length, after a pause of most awkward duration.

“Why, of course, my dear cousin. It was at his suit and solicitation I
called on your father; it was he himself who entreated me to take this
step; it was he--”

But before I could conclude, she burst into a torrent of tears and rushed
from the room.

Here was a situation! What the deuce was the matter? Did she, or did she
not, care for him? Was her pride or her delicacy hurt at my being made the
means of the communication to her father? What had Sparks done or said to
put himself and me in such a devil of a predicament? Could she care for any
one else?

“Well, Charley!” cried Mr. Blake, as he entered, rubbing his hands in a
perfect paroxysm of good temper,--“well, Charley, has love-making driven
breakfast out of your head?”

“Why, faith, sir, I greatly fear I have blundered my mission sadly. My
cousin Mary does not appear so perfectly satisfied; her manner--”

“Don’t tell me such nonsense. The girl’s manner! Why, man, I thought you
were too old a soldier to be taken in that way.”

“Well, then, sir, the best thing, under the circumstances, is to send over
Sparks himself. Your consent, I may tell him, is already obtained.”

“Yes, my boy; and my daughter’s is equally sure. But I don’t see what we
want with Sparks at all. Among old friends and relatives as we are, there
is, I think, no need of a stranger.”

“A stranger! Very true, sir, he is a stranger; but when that stranger is
about to become your son-in-law--”

“About to become what?” said Mr. Blake, rubbing his spectacles, and placing
them leisurely on his nose to regard me,--“to become what?”

“Your son-in-law. I hope I have been sufficiently explicit, sir, in making
known Mr. Sparks’s wishes to you.”

“Mr. Sparks! Why damn me, sir--that is--I beg pardon for the
warmth--you--you never mentioned his name to-day till now. You led me to
suppose that--in fact, you told me most clearly--”

Here, from the united effects of rage and a struggle for concealment, Mr.
Blake was unable to proceed, and walked the room with a melodramatic stamp
perfectly awful.

“Really, sir,” said I at last, “while I deeply regret any misconception or
mistake I have been the cause of, I must, in justice to myself, say that
I am perfectly unconscious of having misled you. I came here this morning
with a proposition for the hand of your daughter in behalf of--”

“Yourself, sir. Yes, yourself. I’ll be--no! I’ll not swear; but--but just
answer me, if you ever mentioned one word of Mr. Sparks, if you ever
alluded to him till the last few minutes?”

I was perfectly astounded. It might be, alas, it was exactly as he stated!
In my unlucky effort at extreme delicacy, I became only so very mysterious
that I left the matter open for them to suppose that it might be the Khan
of Tartary was in love with Baby.

There was but one course now open. I most humbly apologized for my blunder;
repeated by every expression I could summon up, my sorrow for what had
happened; and was beginning a renewal of negotiation “in re Sparks,” when,
overcome by his passion, Mr. Blake could hear no more, but snatched up his
hat and left the room.

Had it not been for Baby’s share in the transaction I should have laughed
outright. As it was, I felt anything but mirthful; and the only clear and
collected idea in my mind was to hurry home with all speed, and fasten a
quarrel on Sparks, the innocent cause of the whole mishap. Why this thought
struck me let physiologists decide.

A few moments’ reflection satisfied me that under present circumstances,
it would be particularly awkward to meet with any others of the family.
Ardently desiring to secure my retreat, I succeeded, after some little
time, in opening the window-sash; consoling myself for any injury I was
about to inflict upon Mr. Blake’s young plantation in my descent, by the
thought of the service I was rendering him while admitting a little fresh
air into his sanctum.

For my patriotism’s sake I will not record my sensations as I took my way
through the shrubbery towards the stable. Men are ever so prone to revenge
their faults and their follies upon such inoffensive agencies as time and
place, wind or weather, that I was quite convinced that to any other but
Galway ears my _exposé_ would have been perfectly clear and intelligible;
and that in no other country under heaven would a man be expected to marry
a young lady from a blunder in his grammar.

“Baby may be quite right,” thought I; “but one thing is assuredly true,--if
I’ll never do for Galway, Galway will never do for me. No, hang it! I have
endured enough for above two years. I have lived in banishment, away from
society, supposing that, at least, if I isolated myself from the pleasures
of the world I was exempt from its annoyances.” But no; in the seclusion of
my remote abode troubles found their entrance as easily as elsewhere, so
that I determined at once to leave home; wherefor, I knew not. If life had
few charms, it had still fewer ties for me. If I was not bound by the bonds
of kindred, I was untrammelled by their restraints.

The resolution once taken, I burned to put it into effect; and so
impatiently did I press forward as to call forth more than one remonstrance
on the part of Mike at the pace we were proceeding. As I neared home, the
shrill but stirring sounds of drum and fife met me; and shortly after a
crowd of country people filled the road. Supposing it some mere recruiting
party, I was endeavoring to press on, when the sounds of a full military
band, in the exhilarating measure of a quick-step, convinced me of my
error; and as I drew to one side of the road, the advanced guard of an
infantry regiment came forward. The men’s faces were flushed, their
uniforms dusty and travel-stained, their knapsacks strapped firmly on, and
their gait the steady tramp of the march. Saluting the subaltern, I asked
if anything of consequence had occurred in the south that the troops were
so suddenly under orders. The officer stared at me for a moment or two
without speaking, and while a slight smile half-curled his lip, answered:--

“Apparently, sir, you seem very indifferent to military news, otherwise you
can scarcely be ignorant of the cause of our route.”

“On the contrary,” said I, “I am, though a young man, an old soldier, and
feel most anxious about everything connected with the service.”

“Then it is very strange, sir, you should not have heard the news.
Bonaparte has returned from Elba, has arrived at Paris, been received with
the most overwhelming enthusiasm, and at this moment the preparations for
war are resounding from Venice to the Vistula. All our forces, disposable,
are on the march for embarkation. Lord Wellington has taken the command,
and already, I may say, the campaign has begun.”

The tone of enthusiasm in which the young officer spoke, the astounding
intelligence itself, contrasting with the apathetic indolence of my own
life, made me blush deeply, as I, muttered some miserable apology for my
ignorance.

“And you are now _en route?_”

“For Fermoy; from which we march to Cove for embarkation. The first
battalion of our regiment sailed for the West Indies a week since, but a
frigate has been sent after them to bring them back; and we hope all to
meet in the Netherlands before the month is over. But I must beg your
pardon for saying adieu. Good-by, sir.”

“Good-by, sir; good-by,” said I, as still standing in the road, I was so
overwhelmed with surprise that I could scarcely credit my senses.

A little farther on, I came up with the main body of the regiment, from
whom I learned the corroboration of the news, and also the additional
intelligence that Sparks had been ordered off with his detachment early in
the morning, a veteran battalion being sent into garrison in the various
towns of the south and west.

“Do you happen to know a Mr. O’Malley, sir?” said the major, coming up with
a note in his hand.

“I beg to present him to you,” said I, bowing.

“Well, sir, Sparks gave me this note, which he wrote with a pencil as we
crossed each other on the road this morning. He told me you were an old
Fourteenth man. But your regiment is in India, I believe; at least Power
said they were under orders when we met him.”

“Fred Power! Are you acquainted with him? Where is he now, pray?”

“Fred is on the staff with General Vandeleur, and is now in Belgium.”

“Indeed!” said I, every moment increasing my surprise at some new piece of
intelligence. “And the Eighty-eighth?” said I, recurring to my old friends
in that regiment.

“Oh, the Eighty-eighth are at Gibraltar, or somewhere in the Mediterranean;
at least, I know they are not near enough to open the present campaign
with us. But if you’d like to hear any more news, you must come over to
Borrisokane; we stop there to-night.”

“Then I’ll certainly do so.”

“Come at six then, and dine with us.”

“Agreed,” said I; “and now, good-morning.”

So saying, I once more drove on; my head full of all that I had been
hearing, and my heart bursting with eagerness to join the gallant fellows
now bound for the campaign.



CHAPTER XLIX.


BRUSSELS.

I must not protract a tale already far too long, by the recital of my
acquaintance with the gallant Twenty-sixth. It is sufficient that I should
say that, having given Mike orders to follow me to Cove, I joined the
regiment on their march, and accompanied them to Cork. Every hour of
each day brought us in news of moment and importance; and amidst all the
stirring preparations for the war, the account of the splendid spectacle
of the _Champ de Mai_ burst upon astonished Europe, and the intelligence
spread far and near that the enthusiasm of France never rose higher in
favor of the Emperor. And while the whole world prepared for the deadly
combat, Napoleon surpassed even himself, by the magnificent conceptions for
the coming conflict, and the stupendous nature of those plans by which he
resolved on resisting combined and united Europe.

While our admiration and wonder of the mighty spirit that ruled the
destinies of the continent rose high, so did our own ardent and burning
desire for the day when the open field of fight should place us once more
in front of each other.

Every hard-fought engagement of the Spanish war was thought of and talked
over; from Talavera to Toulouse, all was remembered. And while among the
old Peninsulars the military ardor was so universally displayed, among the
regiments who had not shared the glories of Spain and Portugal, an equal,
perhaps a greater, impulse was created for the approaching campaign.

When we arrived at Cork, the scene of bustle and excitement exceeded
anything I ever witnessed. Troops were mustering in every quarter;
regiments arriving and embarking; fresh bodies of men pouring in; drills,
parades, and inspections going forward; arms, ammunition, and military
stores distributing; and amidst all, a spirit of burning enthusiasm
animated every rank for the approaching glory of the newly-arisen war.

While thus each was full of his own hopes and expectations, I alone felt
depressed and downhearted. My military caste was lost to me forever, my
regiment many, many a mile from the scene of the coming strife; though
young, I felt like one already old and bygone. The last-joined ensign
seemed, in his glowing aspiration, a better soldier than I, as, sad and
dispirited, I wandered through the busy crowds, surveying with curious eye
each gallant horseman as he rode proudly past. What was wealth and fortune
to me? What had they ever been, compared with all they cost me?--the
abandonment of the career I loved, the path in life I sought and panted
for. Day after day I lingered on, watching with beating heart each
detachment as they left the shore; and when their parting cheer rang high
above the breeze, turned sadly back to mourn over a life that had failed in
its promise, and an existence now shorn of its enjoyment.

It was on the evening of the 3d of June that I was slowly wending my way
back towards my hotel. Latterly I had refused all invitations to dine
at the mess. And by a strange spirit of contradiction, while I avoided
society, could yet not tear myself away from the spot where every
remembrance of my past life was daily embittered by the scenes around me.
But so it was; the movement of the troops, their reviews, their arrivals,
and departures, possessed the most thrilling interest for me. While I could
not endure to hear the mention of the high hopes and glorious vows each
brave fellow muttered.

It was, as I remember, on the evening of the 3d of June, I entered my hotel
lower in spirits even than usual. The bugles of the gallant Seventy-first,
as they dropped down with the tide, played a well-known march I had heard
the night before Talavera. All my bold and hardy days came rushing madly to
my mind; and my present life seemed no longer endurable. The last army
list and the newspaper lay on my table, and I turned to read the latest
promotions with that feeling of bitterness by which an unhappy man loves to
tamper with his misery.

Almost the first paragraph I threw my eyes upon ran thus:--

    OSTEND, May 24.

    The “Vixen” sloop-of-war, which arrived at our port this morning,
    brought among several other officers of inferior note
    Lieutenant-General Sir George Dashwood, appointed as
    Assistant-Adjutant-General
    on the staff of his Grace the Duke of Wellington. The gallant
    general was accompanied by his lovely and accomplished daughter,
    and his military secretary and aide-de-camp, Major Hammersley,
    of the 2d Life Guards. They partook of a hurried _déjeuné_
    with the Burgomaster, and left immediately after for Brussels.

Twice I read this over, while a burning, hot sensation settled upon my
throat and temples. “So Hammersley still persists; he still hopes. And
what then?--what can it be to me?--my prospects have long since faded and
vanished! Doubtless, ere this, I am as much forgotten as though we had
never met,--would that we never had!” I threw up the window-sash; a light
breeze was gently stirring, and as it fanned my hot and bursting head, I
felt cooled and relieved. Some soldiers were talking beneath the window and
among them I recognized Mike’s voice.

“And so you sail at daybreak, Sergeant?”

“Yes, Mister Free; we have our orders to be on board before the flood-tide.
The ‘Thunderer’ drops down the harbor to-night, and we are merely here to
collect our stragglers.”

“Faix, it’s little I thought I’d ever envy a sodger any more; but someway,
I wish I was going with you.”

“Nothing easier, Mike,” said another, laughing.

“Oh, true for you, but that’s not the way I’d like to do it. If my master,
now, would just get over his low spirits, and spake a word to the Duke of
York, devil a doubt but he’d give him his commission back again, and then
one might go in comfort.”

“Your master likes his feather pillow better than a mossy stone under his
head, I’m thinking; and he ain’t far wrong either.”

“You’re out there, Neighbor. It’s himself cares as little for hardship as
any one of you; and sure it’s not becoming me to say it, but the best blood
and the best bred was always the last to give in for either cold or hunger,
ay, or even complain of it.”

Mike’s few words shot upon me a new and a sudden conviction,--what was to
prevent my joining once more? Obvious as such a thought now was, yet never
until this moment did it present itself so palpably. So habituated does
the mind become to a certain train of reasoning, framing its convictions
according to one preconceived plan, and making every fact and
every circumstance concur in strengthening what often may be but a
prejudice,--that the absence of the old Fourteenth in India, the sale of
my commission, the want of rank in the service, all seemed to present an
insurmountable barrier to my re-entering the army. A few chance words now
changed all this, and I saw that as a volunteer at least, the path of glory
was still open, and the thought was no sooner conceived, than the resolve
to execute it. While, therefore, I walked hurriedly up and down, devising,
planning, plotting, and contriving, each instant I would stop to ask myself
how it happened I had not determined upon this before.

As I summoned Mike before me, I could not repress a feeling of false shame,
as I remembered how suddenly so natural a resolve must seem to have
been adopted; and it was with somewhat of hesitation that I opened the
conversation.

“And so, sir, you are going after all,--long life to you? But I never
doubted it. Sure, you wouldn’t be your father’s son, and not join divarsion
when there was any going on.”

The poor fellow’s eyes brightened up, his look gladdened, and before he
reached the foot of the stairs, I heard his loud cheer of delight that once
more we were off to the wars.

The packet sailed for Liverpool the next morning. By it we took our
passage, and on the third morning I found myself in the waiting-room at
the Horse Guards, expecting the moment of his Royal Highness’s arrival; my
determination being to serve as a volunteer in any regiment the duke might
suggest, until such time as a prospect presented itself of entering the
service as a subaltern.

The room was crowded by officers of every rank and arm in the service. The
old, gray-headed general of division; the tall, stout-looking captain of
infantry; the thin and boyish figure of the newly-gazetted cornet,--were
all there; every accent, every look that marked each trait of national
distinction in the empire, had its representative. The reserved and distant
Scotchman; the gay, laughing, exuberant Patlander; the dark-eyed, and
dark-browed North Briton,--collected in groups, talked eagerly together;
while every instant, as some new arrival would enter, all eyes would turn
to the spot, in eager expectation of the duke’s coming. At last the clash
of arms, as the guard turned out, apprised us of his approach, and we
had scarcely time to stand up and stop the buzz of voices, when the door
opened, and an aide-de-camp proclaimed in a full tone,--

“His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief!”

Bowing courteously on every side, he advanced through the crowd, turning
his rapid and piercing look here and there through the room, while with
that tact, the essential gift of his family, he recognized each person by
his name, directing from one to the other some passing observation.

“Ah, Sir George Cockburn, how d’ ye do?--your son’s appointment is made
out. Major Conyers, that application shall be looked to. Forbes, you must
explain that I cannot possibly put men in the regiment of their choice; the
service is the first thing. Lord L----, your memorial is before the Prince
Regent; the cavalry command will, I believe, however, include your name.”

While he spoke thus, he approached the place where I was standing, when,
suddenly checking himself, he looked at me for a moment somewhat sternly.
“Why not in uniform, sir?”

“Your Royal Highness, I am not in the army.”

“Not in the army--not in the army? And why, may I beg to know, have
you--But I’m speaking to _Captain_ O’Malley, if I mistake not?”

“I held that rank, sir, once; but family necessities compelled me to sell
out. I have now no commission in the service, but am come to beseech your
Royal Highness’s permission to serve as a volunteer.”

“As a volunteer, eh--a volunteer? Come, that’s right, I like that; but
still, we want such fellows as you,--the man of Ciudad Rodrigo. Yes, my
Lord L----, this is one of the stormers; fought his way through the trench
among the first; must not be neglected. Hold yourself in readiness,
Captain--hang it, I was forgetting; Mr. O’Malley, I mean--hold yourself
in readiness for a staff appointment. Smithson, take a note of this.”
 So saying, he moved on; and I found myself in the street, with a heart
bounding with delight, and a step proud as an emperor’s.

With such rapidity the events of my life now followed one upon the other,
that I could take no note of time as it passed. On the fourth day after
my conversation with the duke I found myself in Brussels. As yet I heard
nothing of the appointment, nor was I gazetted to any regiment or any
situation on the staff. It was strange enough, too, I met but few of my old
associates, and not one of those with whom I had been most intimate in my
Peninsular career; but it so chanced that very many of the regiments who
most distinguished themselves in the Spanish campaigns, at the peace of
1814 were sent on foreign service. My old friend Power was, I learned,
quartered at Courtrai; and as I was perfectly at liberty to dispose of my
movements at present, I resolved to visit him there.

It was a beautiful evening on the 12th of June. I had been inquiring
concerning post-horses for my journey, and was returning slowly through
the park. The hour was late--near midnight--but a pale moonlight, a calm,
unruffled air, and stronger inducements still, the song of the nightingales
that abound in this place, prevailed on many of the loungers to prolong
their stay; and so from many a shady walk and tangled arbor, the clank of
a sabre would strike upon the ear, or the low, soft voice of woman would
mingle her dulcet sound with the deep tones of her companion. I wandered
on, thoughtful and alone; my mind pre-occupied so completely with the
mighty events passing before me, I totally forgot my own humble career, and
the circumstances of my fortune. As I turned into an alley which leads from
the Great Walk towards the Palace of the Prince of Orange, I found my path
obstructed by three persons who were walking slowly along in front of me.
I was, as I have mentioned, deeply absorbed in thought, so that I found
myself close behind them before I was aware of their presence. Two of the
party were in uniform, and by their plumes, upon which a passing ray of
moonlight flickered, I could detect they were general officers; the
third was a lady. Unable to pass them, and unwilling to turn back, I
was unavoidably compelled to follow, and however unwilling, to overhear
somewhat of their conversation.

“You mistake, George, you mistake! Depend upon it, this will be no
lengthened campaign; victory will soon decide for one side or the other.
If Napoleon beats the Prussians one day, and beat us the next, the German
States will rally to his standard, and the old confederation of the Rhine
will spring up once more in all the plenitude of its power. The _Champ de
Mai_ has shown the enthusiasm of France for their Emperor. Louis XVIII fled
from his capital, with few to follow, and none to say, ‘God bless him!’ The
warlike spirit of the nation is roused again; the interval of peace, too
short to teach habits of patient and enduring industry, is yet sufficient
to whet the appetite for carnage; and nothing was wanting, save the
presence of Napoleon alone, to restore all the brilliant delusions and
intoxicating splendors of the empire.”

“I confess,” said the other, “I take a very different view from yours in
this matter; to me, it seems that France is as tired of battles as of the
Bourbons--”

I heard no more; for though the speaker continued, a misty confusion passed
across my mind. The tones of his voice, well-remembered as they were by me,
left me unable to think; and as I stood motionless on the spot, I muttered
half aloud, “Sir George Dashwood.” It was he, indeed; and she who leaned
upon his arm could be no other than Lucy herself. I know not how it was;
for many a long month I had schooled my heart, and taught myself to believe
that time had dulled the deep impression she had made upon me, and that,
were we to meet again, it would be with more sorrow on my part for my
broken dream of happiness than of attachment and affection for her who
inspired it; but now, scarcely was I near her--I had not gazed upon her
looks, I had not even heard her voice--and yet, in all their ancient force,
came back the early passages of my love; and as her footfall sounded gently
upon the ground, my heart beat scarce less audibly. Alas, I could no
longer disguise from myself the avowal that she it was, and she only, who
implanted in my heart the thirst for distinction; and the moment was ever
present to my mind in which, as she threw her arms around her father’s
neck, she muttered, “Oh, why not a soldier!”

As I thus reflected, an officer in full dress passed me hurriedly,
and taking off his hat as he came up with the party before me, bowed
obsequiously.

“My Lord ----, I believe, and Sir George Dashwood?” They replied by a
bow. “Sir Thomas Picton wishes to speak with you both for a moment; he is
standing beside the ‘Basin.’ If you will permit--” said he, looking towards
Lucy.

“Thank you, sir,” said Sir George; “if you will have the goodness to
accompany us, my daughter will wait our coming here. Sit down, Lucy, we
shall not be long away.”

The next moment she was alone. The last echoes of their retiring footsteps
had died away in the grassy walk, and in the calm and death-like stillness
I could hear every rustle of her silk dress. The moonlight fell in
fitful, straggling gleams between the leafy branches, and showed me her
countenance, pale as marble. Her eyes were upturned slightly; her brown
hair, divided upon her fair forehead, sparkled with a wreath of brilliants,
which heightened the lustrous effect of her calm beauty; and now I could
perceive her dress bespoke that she had been at some of the splendid
entertainments which followed day after day in the busy capital.

Thus I stood within a few paces of _her_, to be near to whom, a few hours
before, I would willingly have given all I possessed in the world; and yet
now a barrier, far more insurmountable than time and space, intervened
between us; still it seemed as though fortune had presented this incident
as a last farewell between us. Why should I not take advantage of it? Why
should I not seize the only opportunity that might ever occur of rescuing
myself from the apparent load of ingratitude which weighed on my memory?
I felt in the cold despair of my heart that I could have no hold upon her
affection; but a pride, scarce less strong that the attachment that gave
rise to it, urged me to speak. By one violent effort I summoned up my
courage; and while I resolved to limit the few words I should say merely
to my vindication, I prepared to advance. Just at this instant, however, a
shadow crossed the path; a rustling sound was heard among the branches, and
the tall figure of a man in a dragoon cloak stood before me. Lucy turned
suddenly at the sound; but scarcely had her eyes been bent in the
direction, when, throwing off his cloak, he sprang forward and dropped at
her feet. All my feeling of shame at the part I was performing was now
succeeded by a sense of savage and revengeful hatred. It was enough that
I should be brought to look upon her whom I had lost forever without the
added bitterness of witnessing her preference for a rival. The whirlwind
passion of my brain stunned and stupefied me. Unconsciously I drew my sword
from my scabbard, and it was only as the pale light fell upon the keen
blade that the thought flashed across me, “What could I mean to do?”

“No, Hammersley,”--it was he indeed,--said she, “it is unkind, it is
unfair, nay, it is unmanly to press me thus; I would not pain you, were
it not that, in sparing you now, I should entail deeper injury upon you
hereafter. Ask me to be your sister, your friend; ask me to feel proudly
in your triumphs, to glory in your success; all this I do feel; but, oh! I
beseech you, as you value your happiness, as you prize mine, ask me no more
than this.”

There was a pause of some seconds; and at length, the low tones of a man’s
voice, broken and uncertain in their utterance, said,--

“I know it--I feel it--my heart never bade me hope--and now--‘tis over.”

He stood up as he spoke, and while he threw the light folds of his mantle
round him, a gleam of light fell upon his features. They were pale as
death; two dark circles surrounded his sunken eyes, and his bloodless lip
looked still more ghastly, from the dark mustache that drooped above it.

“Farewell!” said he, slowly, as he crossed his arms sadly upon his breast;
“I will not pain you more.”

“Oh, go not thus from me!” said she, as her voice became tremulous with
emotion; “do not add to the sorrow that weighs upon my heart! I cannot,
indeed I cannot, be other than I am; and I do but hate myself to think that
I cannot give my love where I have given all my esteem. If time--” But
before she could continue further, the noise of approaching footsteps was
heard, and the voice of Sir George, as he came near. Hammersley disappeared
at once, and Lucy, with rapid steps, advanced to meet her father, while I
remained riveted upon the spot. What a torrent of emotions then rushed upon
my heart! What hopes, long dead or dying, sprang up to life again! What
visions of long-abandoned happiness flitted before me! Could it be
then--dare I trust myself to think it--that Lucy cared for me? The thought
was maddening! With a bounding sense of ecstasy, I dashed across the park,
resolving, at all hazards, to risk everything upon the chance, and wait
the next morning upon Sir George Dashwood. As I thought thus, I reached my
hotel, where I found Mike in waiting with a letter. As I walked towards the
lamp in the _porte cochere_, my eyes fell upon the address. It was General
Dashwood’s hand; I tore it open, and read as follows:--

    Dear Sir,--Circumstances into which you will excuse me entering,
    having placed an insurmountable barrier to our former terms of
    intimacy, you will, I trust, excuse me declining the honor of any
    nearer acquaintance, and also forgive the liberty I take in informing
    you of it, which step, however unpleasant to my feelings, will save
    us both the great pain of meeting.

    I have only this moment heard of your arrival in Brussels, and
    take thus the earliest opportunity of communicating with you.
    With every assurance of my respect for you personally, and an
    earnest desire to serve you in your military career, I beg to remain,

    Very faithfully yours,

    GEORGE DASHWOOD

“Another note, sir,” said Mike, as he thrust into my unconscious hands a
letter he had just received from an orderly.

Stunned, half stupefied, I broke the seal. The contents were but three
lines:--

    Sir,--I have the honor to inform you that Sir Thomas Picton has
    appointed you an extra aide-de-camp on his personal staff. You will,
    therefore, present yourself to-morrow morning at the Adjutant-General’s
    office, to receive your appointment and instructions.
    I have the honor to be, etc.,

    G. FITZROY.

Crushing the two letters in my fevered hand, I retired to my room, and
threw myself, dressed as I was, upon my bed. Sleep, that seems to visit us
in the saddest as in the happiest times of our existence, came over me,
and I did not wake until the bugles of the Ninety-fifth were sounding the
reveille through the park, and the brightest beams of the morning sun were
peering through the window.



CHAPTER L.


AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE.

“Mr. O’Malley,” said a voice, as my door opened, and an officer in undress
entered,--“Mr. O’Malley, I believe you received your appointment last night
on General Picton’s staff?”

I bowed in reply, as he resumed:--

“Sir Thomas desires you will proceed to Courtrai with these despatches in
all haste. I don’t know if you are well mounted, but I recommend you, in
any case, not to spare your cattle.”

So saying, he wished me a good-morning, and left me, in a state of no small
doubt and difficulty, to my own reflections. What the deuce was I to do?
I had no horse; I knew not where to find one. What uniform should I wear?
For, although appointed on the staff, I was not gazetted to any regiment
that I knew of, and hitherto had been wearing an undress frock and a
foraging cap; for I could not bring myself to appear as a civilian among
so many military acquaintances. No time was, however, to be lost; so I
proceeded to put on my old Fourteenth uniform, wondering whether my costume
might not cost me a reprimand in the very outset of my career. Meanwhile
I despatched Mike to see after a horse, caring little for the time, the
merits, or the price of the animal provided he served my present purpose.

In less than twenty minutes my worthy follower appeared beneath my window,
surrounded by a considerable mob, who seemed to take no small interest in
the proceedings.

“What the deuce is the matter?” cried I, as I opened the sash and looked
out.

“Mighty little’s the matter, your honor; it’s the savages, here,
that’s admiring my horsemanship,” said Mike, as he belabored a tall,
scraggy-looking mule with a stick which bore an uncommon resemblance to a
broom-handle.

“What do you mean to do with that beast?” said I. “You surely don’t expect
me to ride a mule to Courtrai?”

“Faith, and if you don’t, you are likely to walk the journey; for there
isn’t a horse to be had for love or money in the town; but I am told that
Mr. Marsden is coming up to-morrow with plenty, so that you may as well
take the journey out of the soft horns as spoil a better; and if he only
makes as good use of his fore-legs as he does of his hind ones, he’ll think
little of the road.”

[Illustration: MICKEY ASTONISHES THE NATIVES.]

A vicious lash out behind served in a moment to corroborate Mike’s
assertion, and to scatter the crowd on every side.

However indisposed to exhibit myself with such a turn-out, my time did not
admit of any delay; and so, arming myself with my despatches, and having
procured the necessary information as to the road, I set out from the Belle
Vue, amidst an ill-suppressed titter of merriment from the mob, which
nothing but fear of Mike and his broomstick prevented becoming a regular
shout of laughter.

It was near night-fall as, tired and weary of the road, I entered the
little village of Halle. All was silent and noiseless in the deserted
streets; nor a lamp threw its glare upon the pavement, nor even a solitary
candle flickered through the casement. Unlike a town, garrisoned by troops,
neither sentry nor outpost was to be met with; nothing gave evidence that
the place was held by a large body of men; and I could not help feeling
struck, as the footsteps of my mule were echoed along the causeway, with
the silence almost of desolation around me. By the creaking of a sign, as
it swung mournfully to and fro, I was directed to the door of the village
inn, where, dismounting, I knocked for some moments, but without success.
At length, when I had made an uproar sufficient to alarm the entire
village, the casement above the door slowly opened, and a head enveloped
in a huge cotton nightcap--so, at least, it appeared to me from the
size--protruded itself. After muttering a curse in about the most barbarous
French I ever heard, he asked me what I wanted there; to which I replied,
most nationally, by asking in return, where the British dragoons were
quartered.

“They have left for Nivelle this morning, to join some regiments of your
own country.”

“Ah! ah!” thought I, “he mistakes me for a Brunswicker;” to which, by
the uncertain light, my uniform gave me some resemblance. As it was now
impossible for me to proceed farther, I begged to ask where I could procure
accommodation for the night.

“At the burgomaster’s. Turn to your left at the end of this street, and
you will soon find it. They have got some English officers there, who, I
believe in my soul, never sleep.”

This was, at least, pleasant intelligence, and promised a better
termination to my journey than I had begun to hope for; so wishing my
friend a good-night, to which he willingly responded, I resumed my way
down the street. As he closed the window, once more leaving me to my own
reflections, I began to wonder within myself to what arm of the service
belonged these officers to whose convivial gifts he bore testimony. As I
turned the corner of the street, I soon discovered the correctness of his
information. A broad glare of light stretched across the entire pavement
from a large house with a clumsy stone portico before it. On coming nearer,
the sound of voices, the roar of laughter, the shouts of merriment that
issued forth, plainly bespoke that a jovial party were seated within.
The half-shutter which closed the lower part of the windows prevented my
obtaining a view of the proceedings; but having cautiously approached the
casement, I managed to creep on the window-sill and look into the room.

[Illustration: THE GENTLEMEN WHO NEVER SLEEP.]

There the scene was certainly a curious one. Around a large table sat a
party of some twenty persons, the singularity of whose appearance may
be conjectured when I mention that all those who appeared to be British
officers were dressed in the robes of the _échevins_ (or aldermen) of the
village; while some others, whose looks bespoke them as sturdy Flemings,
sported the cocked hats and cavalry helmets of their associates. He who
appeared the ruler of the feast sat with his back towards me, and wore, in
addition to the dress of burgomaster, a herald’s tabard, which gave him
something the air of a grotesque screen at its potations. A huge fire
blazed upon the ample hearth, before which were spread several staff
uniforms, whose drabbled and soaked appearance denoted the reason of the
party’s change of habiliments. Every imaginable species of drinking-vessel
figured upon the board, from the rich flagon of chased silver to the humble
_cruche_ we see in a Teniers picture. As well as I could hear, the language
of the company seemed to be French, or, at least, such an imitation of that
language as served as a species of neutral territory for both parties to
meet in.

He of the tabard spoke louder than the others, and although, from the
execrable endeavors he made to express himself in French, his natural voice
was much altered, there was yet something in his accents which seemed
perfectly familiar to me.

“Mosheer l’Abbey,” said he, placing his arm familiarly on the shoulder of
a portly personage, whose shaven crown strangely contrasted with a pair
of corked moustachios,--“Mosheer l’Abbey, nous sommes frères, et moi,
savez-vous, suis évèque,--‘pon my life it’s true; I might have been Bishop
of Saragossa, if I only consented to leave the Twenty-third. Je suis bong
Catholique. Lord bless you, if you saw how I loved the nunneries in Spain!
J’ai tres jolly souvenirs of those nunneries; a goodly company of little
silver saints; and this waistcoat you see--mong gilet--was a satin
petticoat of our Lady of Loretto.”

Need I say, that before this speech was concluded, I had recognized in the
speaker nobody but that inveterate old villain, Monsoon himself.

“Permettez, votre Excellence,” said a hale, jolly-looking personage on his
left, as he filled the major’s goblet with obsequious politeness.

“Bong engfong,” replied Monsoon, tapping him familiarly on the head.
“Burgomaster, you are a trump; and when I get my promotion, I’ll make
you prefect in a wine district. Pass the lush, and don’t look sleepy!
‘Drowsiness,’ says Solomon, ‘clothes a man in rags;’ and no man knew the
world better than Solomon. Don’t you be laughing, you raw boys. Never mind
them, Abbey; ils sont petits garçongs--fags from Eton and Harrow; better
judges of mutton broth than sherry negus.”

“I say, Major, you are forgetting this song you promised us.”

“Yes, yes,” said several voices together; “the song, Major! the song!”

“Time enough for that; we’re doing very well as it is. Upon my life,
though, they hold a deal of wine. I thought we’d have had them fit to
bargain with before ten, and see, it’s near midnight; and I must have my
forage accounts ready for the commissary-general by to-morrow morning.”

This speech having informed me the reason of the Major’s presence there,
I resolved to wait no longer a mere spectator of their proceedings; so
dismounting from my position, I commenced a vigorous attack upon the door.

It was some time before I was heard; but at length the door was opened, and
I was accosted by an Englishman, who, in a strange compound of French and
English, asked, “What the devil I meant by all that uproar?” Determining
to startle my old friend the major, I replied, that “I was aide-de-camp to
General Picton, and had come down on very unpleasant business.” By this
time the noise of the party within had completely subsided, and from a few
whispered sentences, and their thickened breathing, I perceived that they
were listening.

“May I ask, sir,” continued I, “if Major Monsoon is here?”

“Yes,” stammered out the ensign, for such he was.

“Sorry for it, for his sake,” said I; “but my orders are peremptory.”

A deep groan from within, and a muttered request to pass down the sherry,
nearly overcame my gravity; but I resumed:--

“If you will permit me, I will make the affair as short as possible. The
major, I presume, is here?”

So saying, I pushed forward into the room, where now a slight scuffling
noise and murmur of voices had succeeded silence. Brief as was the
interval of our colloquy, the scene within had, notwithstanding, undergone
considerable change. The English officers, hastily throwing off their
aldermanic robes, were busily arraying themselves in their uniforms, while
Monsoon himself, with a huge basin of water before him, was endeavoring to
wash the cork from his countenance in the corner of his tabard.

“Very hard upon me, all this; upon my life, so it is! Picton is always at
me, just as if we had not been school-fellows. The service is getting worse
every day. Regardez-moi, Curey, mong face est propre? Eh? There, thank you.
Good fellow the Curey is, but takes a deal of fluid. Oh, Burgomaster! I
fear it is all up with me! No more fun, no more jollification, no more
plunder--and how I did do it. Nothing like watching one’s little chances!
‘The poor is hated even by his neighbor.’ Oui, Curey, it is Solomon says
that, and they must have had a heavy poor-rate in his day to make him say
so. Another glass of sherry!”

By this time I approached the back of the chair, and slapping him heartily
on the shoulder, called out,--

“Major, old boy, how goes it?”

“Eh?--what--how!--who is this? It can’t be--egad, sure it is, though.
Charley! Charley O’Malley, you scapegrace, where have you been? When did
you join?”

“A week ago, Major. I could resist it no longer. I did my best to be a
country gentleman, and behave respectably, but the old temptation was too
strong for me. Fred Power and yourself, Major, had ruined my education; and
here I am once more among you.”

“And so Picton and the arrest and all that, was nothing but a joke?” said
the old fellow, rolling his wicked eyes with a most cunning expression.

“Nothing more, Major, set your heart at rest.”

“What a scamp you are,” said he, with another grin. “Il est mon fils--il
est mon fils, Curey,” presenting me, as he spoke, while the burgomaster, in
whose eyes the major seemed no inconsiderable personage, saluted me with
profound respect.

Turning at once towards this functionary, I explained that I was the
bearer of important despatches, and that my horse--I was ashamed to say my
mule--having fallen lame, I was unable to proceed.

“Can you procure me a remount, Monsieur?” said I, “for I must hasten on to
Courtrai.”

“In half an hour you shall be provided, as well as with a mounted guide for
the road. Le fils de son Excellence,” said he, with emphasis, bowing to the
major as he spoke; who, in his turn, repaid the courtesy with a still lower
obeisance.

“Sit down, Charley; here is a clean glass. I am delighted to see you, my
boy! They tell me you have got a capital estate and plenty of ready. Lord,
we so wanted you, as there’s scarcely a fellow with sixpence among us. Give
me the lad that can do a bit of paper at three months, and always be ready
for a renewal. You haven’t got a twenty-pound note?” This was said _sotto
voce_. “Never mind; ten will do. You can give me the remainder at Brussels.
Strange, is it not, I have not seen a bit of clean bank paper like this for
above a twelvemonth!” This was said as he thrust his hand into his pocket,
with one of those peculiar leers upon his countenance which, unfortunately,
betrayed more satisfaction at his success than gratitude for the service.
“You are looking fat--too fat, I think,” said he, scrutinizing me from head
to foot; “but the life we are leading just now will soon take that off. The
slave-trade is luxurious indolence compared to it. Post haste to Nivelle
one day; down to Ghent the next; forty miles over a paved road in a
hand-gallop, and an aide-de-camp with a watch in his hand at the end of it,
to report if you are ten minutes too late. And there is Wellington has his
eye everywhere. There is not a truss of hay served to the cavalry, nor a
pair of shoes half-soled in the regiment, that he don’t know of it. I’ve
got it over the knuckles already.”

“How so, Major? How was that?”

“Why, he ordered me to picket two squadrons of the Seventh, and a supper
was waiting. I didn’t like to leave my quarters, so I took up my telescope
and pitched upon a sweet little spot of ground on a hill; rather difficult
to get up, to be sure, but a beautiful view when you’re on it. ‘There is
your ground, Captain,’ said I, as I sent one of my people to mark the spot.
He did not like it much; however, he was obliged to go. And, would you
believe it?--so much for bad luck!--there turned out to be no water within
two miles of it--not a drop, Charley; and so, about eleven at night, the
two squadrons moved down into Grammont to wet their lips, and what is
worse, to report me to the commanding officer. And only think! They put me
under arrest because Providence did not make a river run up a mountain!”

Just as the major finished speaking, the distant clatter of horses’ feet
and the clank of cavalry was heard approaching. We all rushed eagerly to
the door; and scarcely had we done so, when a squadron of dragoons came
riding up the street at a fast trot.

“I say, good people,” cried the officer, in French, “where does the
burgomaster live here?”

“Fred Power, ‘pon my life!” shouted the major.

“Eh, Monsoon, that you? Give me a tumbler of wine, old boy; you are sure to
have some, and I am desperately blown.”

“Get down, Fred, get down! We have an old friend here.”

“Who the deuce d’ye mean?” said he, as throwing himself from the saddle he
strode into the room. “Charley O’Malley, by all that’s glorious!”

“Fred, my gallant fellow!” said I.

“It was but this morning, Charley, that I so wished for you here. The
French are advancing, my lad. They have crossed the frontier; Zeithen’s
corps have been attacked and driven in; Blucher is falling back upon Ligny;
and the campaign is opened. But I must press forward. The regiment is close
behind me, and we are ordered to push for Brussels in all haste.”

“Then these despatches,” said I, showing my packet, “‘tis unnecessary to
proceed with?”

“Quite so. Get into the saddle and come back with us.”

The burgomaster had kept his word with me; so mounted upon a strong
hackney, I set out with Power on the road to Brussels. I have had occasion
more than once to ask pardon of my reader for the prolixity of my
narrative, so I shall not trespass on him here by the detail of our
conversation as we jogged along. Of me and my adventures he already knows
enough--perhaps too much. My friend Power’s career, abounding as it did in
striking incidents, and all the light and shadow of a soldier’s life,
yet not bearing upon any of the characters I have presented to your
acquaintance, except in one instance,--of that only shall I speak.

“And the senhora, Fred; how goes your fortune in that quarter?”

“Gloriously, Charley! I am every day expecting the promotion in my regiment
which is to make her mine.”

“You have heard from her lately, then?”

“Heard from her! Why, man, she is in Brussels.”

“In Brussels?”

“To be sure. Don Emanuel is in high favor with the duke, and is now
commissary-general with the army; and the senhora is the _belle_ of the
Rue Royale, or at least, it’s a divided sovereignty between her and Lucy
Dashwood. And now, Charley, let me ask, what of her? There, there, don’t
blush, man. There is quite enough moonlight to show how tender you are in
that quarter.”

“Once for all, Fred, pray spare me on that subject. You have been far too
fortunate in your _affaire de coeur_, and I too much the reverse, to permit
much sympathy between us.”

“Do you not visit, then; or is it a cut between you?” “I have never met her
since the night of the masquerade of the villa--at least, to speak to--”

“Well, I must confess, you seem to manage your own affairs much worse than
your friends’; not but that in so doing you are exhibiting a very Irish
feature of your character. In any case, you will come to the ball? Inez
will be delighted to see you; and I have got over all my jealousy.”

“What ball? I never heard of it.”

“Never heard of it! Why, the Duchess of Richmond’s, of course. Pooh, pooh,
man! Not invited?--of course you are invited; the staff are never left out
on such occasions. You will find your card at your hotel on your return.”

“In any case, Fred--”

“I shall insist upon your going. I have no _arrière pensée_ about a
reconciliation with the Dashwoods, no subtle scheme, on my honor; but
simply I feel that you will never give yourself fair chances in the world,
by indulging your habit of shrinking from every embarrassment. Don’t be
offended, boy. I know you have pluck enough to storm a battery; I have seen
you under fire before now. What avails your courage in the field, if you
have not presence of mind in the drawing-room? Besides, everything else out
of the question, it is a breach of etiquette towards your chief to decline
such an invitation.”

“You think so?”

“Think so?--no; I am sure of it.”

“Then, as to uniform, Fred?”

“Oh, as to that, easily managed. And now I think of it, they have sent me
an unattached uniform, which you can have; but remember, my boy, if I put
you in my coat, I don’t want you to stand in my shoes. Don’t forget also
that I am your debtor in horseflesh, and fortunately able to repay you. I
have got such a charger; your own favorite color, dark chestnut, and
except one white leg, not a spot about him; can carry sixteen stone over a
five-foot fence, and as steady as a rock under fire.”

“But, Fred, how are you--”

“Oh, never mind me; I have six in my stable, and intend to share with you.
The fact is, I have been transferred from one staff to another for the last
six months, and four of my number are presents. Is Mike with you? Ah, glad
to hear it; you will never get on without that fellow. Besides, it is a
capital thing to have such a connecting link with one’s nationality. No
fear of your ever forgetting Ireland with Mr. Free in your company. You
are not aware that we have been correspondents. A fact, I assure you. Mike
wrote me two letters; and such letters they were! The last was a Jeremiad
over your decline and fall, with a very ominous picture of a certain Miss
Baby Blake.”

“Confound the rascal!”

“By Jove, though, Charley, you were coming it rather strong with Baby. Inez
saw the letter, and as well as she could decipher Mike’s hieroglyphics, saw
there was something in it; but the name Baby puzzled her immensely, and she
set the whole thing down to your great love of children. I don’t think that
Lucy quite agreed with her.”

“Did she tell it to Miss Dashwood?” I inquired, with fear and trembling.

“Oh, that she did; in fact, Inez never ceases talking of you to Lucy. But
come, lad, don’t look so grave. Let’s have another brush with the enemy;
capture a battery of their guns; carry off a French marshal or two; get the
Bath for your services, and be thanked in general orders,--and I will wager
all my _château en Espagne_ that everything goes well.”

Thus chatting away, sometimes over the past, of our former friends and
gay companions, of our days of storm and sunshine; sometimes indulging in
prospects for the future, we trotted along, and as the day was breaking,
mounted the ridge of low hills, from whence, at the distance of a couple of
leagues, the city of Brussels came into view.



CHAPTER LI.


THE DUCHESS OF RICHMOND’S BALL.

Whether we regard the illustrious and distinguished personages who thronged
around, or we think of the portentous moment in which it was given, the
Duchess of Richmond’s ball, on the night of the 15th of June, 1815, was not
only one of the most memorable, but, in its interest, the most exciting
entertainment that the memory of any one now living can compass.

There is always something of no common interest in seeing the bronzed and
war-worn soldier mixing in the crowd of light-hearted and brilliant
beauty. To watch the eye whose proud glance has flashed over the mail-clad
squadrons now bending meekly beneath the look of some timid girl; to hear
the voice that, high above the battle or the breeze, has shouted the
hoarse word “Charge!” now subdued into the low, soft murmur of flattery or
compliment. This, at any rate, is a picture full of its own charm; but when
we see these heroes of a hundred fights; when we look upon these hardy
veterans, upon whose worn brows the whitened locks of time are telling,
indulging themselves in the careless gayety of a moment, snatched as it
were from the arduous career of their existence, while the tramp of the
advancing enemy shakes the very soil they stand on, and where it may be
doubted whether each aide-de-camp who enters comes a new votary of pleasure
or the bearer of tidings that the troops of the foe are advancing, and
already the work of death has begun: this is, indeed, a scene to make the
heart throb, and the pulse beat high; this is a moment second in its proud
excitement only to the very crash and din of battle itself. And into this
entrancing whirlwind of passion and of pleasure, of brilliant beauty
and ennobled greatness, of all that is lovely in woman and all that is
chivalrous and heroic in man, I brought a heart which, young in years, was
yet tempered by disappointment; still, such was the fascination, such the
brilliancy of the spectacle, that scarcely had I entered, than I felt a
change come over me,--the old spirit of my boyish ardor, that high-wrought
enthusiasm to do something, to be something which men may speak of, shot
suddenly through me, and I felt my cheek tingle and my temples throb, as
name after name of starred and titled officers were announced, to think
that to me, also, the path of glorious enterprise was opening.

“Come along, come along,” said Power, catching me by the arm, “you’ve not
been presented to the duchess. I know her. I’ll do it for you; or perhaps
it is better Sir Thomas Picton should. In any case, _filez_ after me, for
the dark-eyed senhora is surely expecting us. There, do you see that dark,
intelligent-looking fellow leaning over the end of the sofa? That is Alava.
And there, you know who that is, that _beau ideal_ of a hussar? Look how
jauntily he carries himself; see the careless but graceful sling with which
he edges through the crowd; and look! Mark his bow! Did you see that,
Charley? Did you catch the quick glance he shot yonder, and the soft smile
that showed his white teeth? Depend upon it, boy, some fair heart is not
the better nor the easier for that look.”

“Who is it?” said I.

“Lord Uxbridge, to be sure; the handsomest fellow in the service; and there
goes Vandeleur, talking with Vivian; the other, to the left, is Ponsonby.”

“But stay, Fred, tell me who that is?” For a moment or two, I had some
difficulty in directing his attention to the quarter I desired. The
individual I pointed out was somewhat above the middle size; his uniform of
blue and gold, though singularly plain, had a look of richness about it;
besides that, among the orders which covered his breast, he wore one star
of great brilliancy and size. This, however, was his least distinction; for
although surrounded on every side by those who might be deemed the very
types and pictures of their _caste_, there was something in the easy but
upright carriage of his head, the intrepid character of his features, the
bold and vigorous flashing of his deep blue eye, that marked him as no
common man. He was talking with an old and prosy-looking personage in
civilian dress; and while I could detect an anxiety to get free from
a tiresome companion, there was an air of deferential, and even kind
attention in his manner, absolutely captivating.

“A thorough gentleman, Fred, whoever he be,” said I.

“I should think so,” replied Power, dryly; “and as our countrymen would
say, ‘The Devil thank him for it!’ That is the Prince of Orange; but see,
look at him now, his features have learned another fashion.” And true it
was; with a smile of the most winning softness, and with a voice, whose
slightly foreign accent took nothing from its interest, I heard him
engaging a partner for a waltz.

There was a flutter of excitement in the circle as the lady rose to take
his arm, and a muttered sound of, “How very beautiful, quelle est belle,
c’est un ange!” on all sides. I leaned forward to catch a glance as she
passed; it was Lucy Dashwood. Beautiful beyond anything I had ever seen
her, her lovely features lit up with pleasure and with pride, she looked in
every way worthy to lean upon the arm of royalty. The graceful majesty of
her walk, the placid loveliness of her gentle smile, struck every one
as she passed on. As for me, totally forgetting all else, not seeing or
hearing aught around me, I followed her with my eye until she was lost
among the crowd, and then, with an impulse of which I was not master,
followed in her steps.

“This way, this way,” said Power; “I see the senhora.” So saying, we
entered a little boudoir, where a party was playing at cards. Leaning on
the back of a chair, Inez was endeavoring, with that mixture of coquetry
and half malice she possessed, to distract the attention of the player. As
Power came near, she scarcely turned her head to give him a kind of saucy
smile; while, seeing me, she held out her hand with friendly warmth, and
seemed quite happy to meet me.

“Do, pray, take her away; get her to dance, to eat ice, or flirt with you,
for Heaven’s sake!” said the half-laughing voice of her victim. “I have
revoked twice, and misdealt four times since she has been here. Believe me,
I shall take it as the greatest favor, if you’ll--”

As he got thus far he turned round towards me, and I perceived it was Sir
George Dashwood. The meeting was as awkward for him as for me; and while a
deep flush covered my face, he muttered some unintelligible apology, and
Inez burst into a fit of laughter at the ludicrous _contretemps_ of our
situation.

“I will dance with you now, if you like,” said she, “and that will be
punishing all three. Eh, Master Fred?”

So saying, she took my arm as I led her toward the ball-room.

“And so you really are not friends with the Dashwoods? How very provoking,
and how foolish, too! But really, Chevalier, I must say you treat ladies
very ill. I don’t forget your conduct to me. Dear me, I wish we could move
forward, there is some one pushing me dreadfully!”

“Get on, Ma’am, get on!” said a sharp, decided voice behind me. I turned,
half smiling, to see the speaker. It was the Duke of Wellington himself,
who, with his eye fixed upon some person at a distance, seemed to care
very little for any intervening obstruction. As I made way for him to pass
between us, he looked hardly at me, while he said in a short, quick way,--

“Know your face very well: how d’ye do?” With this brief recognition he
passed on, leaving me to console Inez for her crushed sleeve, by informing
her who had done it.

The ball was now at its height. The waltzers whirled past in the wild
excitement of the dance. The inspiriting strains of the music, the sounds
of laughter, the din, the tumult, all made up that strange medley which,
reacting upon the minds of those who cause it, increases the feeling
of pleasurable abandonment, making the old feel young, and the young
intoxicated with delight.

As the senhora leaned upon me, fatigued with waltzing, I was endeavoring to
sustain a conversation with her; while my thoughts were wandering with my
eyes to where I had last seen Lucy Dashwood.

“It must be something of importance; I’m sure it is,” said she, at the
conclusion of a speech of which I had not heard one word. “Look at General
Picton’s face!”

“Very pretty, indeed,” said I; “but the hair is unbecoming,” replying to
some previous observation she had made, and still lost in a revery. A
hearty burst of laughter was her answer as she gently shook my arm,
saying,--

“You really are too bad! You’ve never listened to one word I’ve been
telling you, but keep continually staring with your eyes here and there,
turning this way and looking that, and with a dull, vacant, and unmeaning
smile, answering at random, in the most provoking manner. There now, pray
pay attention, and tell me what that means.” As she said this, she pointed
with her fan to where a dragoon officer, in splashed and spattered uniform,
was standing talking to some three or four general officers. “But here
comes the duke; it can’t be anything of consequence.”

At the same instant the Duke of Wellington passed with the Duchess of
Richmond on his arm.

“No, Duchess; nothing to alarm you. Did you say ice?”

“There, you heard that, I hope!” said Inez; “there is nothing to alarm us.”

“Go to General Picton at once; but don’t let it be remarked,” said an
officer, in a whisper, as he passed close by me.

“Inez, I have the greatest curiosity to learn what that new arrival has to
say for himself; and if you will permit me, I’ll leave you with Lady Gordon
for one moment--”

“Delighted, of all things. You are without exception, the most
tiresome--Good-by.”

“Sans adieu,” said I, as I hurried through the crowd towards an open
window, on the balcony outside of which Sir Thomas Picton was standing.

“Ah, Mr. O’Malley, have you a pencil? There, that’ll do. Ride down to
Etterbeeck with this order for Godwin. You have heard the news, I suppose,
that the French are in advance? The Seventy-ninth will muster in the Grando
Place. The Ninety-second and the Twenty-eighth along the Park and the
Boulevard. Napoleon left Fresnes this morning. The Prussians have fallen
back. Zeithen has been beaten. We march at once.”

“To-morrow, sir?”

“No, sir, to-night. There, don’t delay! But above all, let everything be
done quietly and noiselessly. The duke will remain here for an hour longer
to prevent suspicion. When you’ve executed your orders, come back here.”

I mounted the first horse I could find at the door, and galloped with top
speed over the heavy causeway to Etterbeeck. In two minutes the drum beat
to arms, and the men were mustering as I left. Thence I hastened to the
barracks of the Highland Brigade and the 28th Regiment; and before half an
hour, was back in the ball-room, where, from the din and tumult, I guessed
the scene of pleasure and dissipation continued unabated. As I hurried up
the staircase a throng of persons were coming down, and I was obliged to
step aside to let them pass.

“Ah, come here, pray,” said Picton, who, with a lady cloaked and hooded
leaning upon his arm, was struggling to make way through the crowd. “The
very man!”

“Will you excuse me if I commit you to the care of my aide-de-camp, who
will see you to your carriage? The duke has just desired to see me.” This
he said in a hurried and excited tone; and the same moment beckoned to me
to take the lady’s arm.

It was with some difficulty I succeeded in reaching the spot, and had only
time to ask whose carriage I should call for, ere we arrived in the hall.

“Sir George Dashwood’s,” said a low, soft voice, whose accents sank into
my very heart. Heaven! it was Lucy herself; it was her arm that leaned on
mine, her locks that fluttered beside me, her hand that hung so near, and
yet I could not speak. I tried one word; but a choking feeling in my throat
prevented utterance, and already we were upon the door-steps.

“Sir George Dashwood’s carriage,” shouted the footman, and the announcement
was repeated by the porter. The steps were hurried down; the footman stood
door in hand; and I led her forward, mute and trembling. Did she know me? I
assisted her as she stepped in; her hand touched mine: it was the work of a
second; to me it was the bliss of years. She leaned a little forward; and
as the servant put up the steps, said in her soft, sweet tone, “Thank you,
sir. Good-night.”

I felt my shoulder touched by some one who, it appeared, was standing close
to me for some seconds; but so occupied was I in gazing at her that I paid
no attention to the circumstance. The carriage drove away and disappeared
in the thick darkness of a starless night. I turned to re-enter the house,
and as I did so, the night lamp of the hall fell upon the features of
the man beside me, and showed me the pale and corpse-like face of Fred
Hammersley. His eye was bent upon me with an expression of fierce and fiery
passion, in which the sadness of long-suffering also mingled. His bloodless
lips parted, moved as though speaking, while yet no sound issued; and his
nostril, dilating and contracting by turns, seemed to denote some deep and
hidden emotion that worked within him.

“Hammersley,” said I, holding out my hand towards him,--“Hammersley, do not
always mistake me?”

He shook his head mournfully as it fell forward upon his breast, and
covering his arm, moved slowly away without speaking.

General Picton’s voice as he descended the stairs, accompanied by Generals
Vandeleur and Vivian, aroused me at once, and I hurried towards him.

“Now, sir, to horse. The troops will defile by the Namur gate, and meet me
there in an hour. Meanwhile tell Colonel Cameron that he must march with
the light companies of his own and the Ninety-second at once.”

“I say, Picton, they’ll say we were taken by surprise in England; won’t
they?” said a sharp, strong voice, in a half-laughing tone from behind.

“No, your Grace,” said Sir Thomas, bowing slightly; “they’ll scarcely do so
when they hear the time we took to get under arms.”

I heard no more; but throwing myself into the saddle of my troop horse,
once more rode back to the Belle Vue to make ready for the road.

The thin pale crescent of a new moon, across which masses of dark and inky
clouds were hurrying, tipped with its faint and sickly light the tall
minarets of the Hotel de Ville, as I rode into the Grande Place. Although
midnight, the streets were as crowded as at noonday; horse, foot, and
dragoons passing and hurrying hither; the wild pibroch of the Highlander;
the mellow bugle of the Seventy-first; the hoarse trumpet of the cavalry;
the incessant roll of the drum,--mingled their sounds with the tide of
human voices, in which every accent was heard, from the reckless cheer of
anticipated victory, to the heart-piercing shriek of woman’s agony. Lights
gleamed from every window; from the doors of almost every house poured
forth a crowd of soldiers and townsfolk. The sergeants, on one side,
might be seen telling off their men, their cool and steady countenances
evidencing no semblance of emotion; while near them some young ensign,
whose beardless cheek and vacant smile bespoke the mere boy, looked on with
mingled pride and wonder at the wild scene before him. Every now and then
some general officer with his staff came cantering past; and as the efforts
to muster and form the troops grew more pressing, I could mark how soon we
were destined to meet the enemy.

There are few finer monuments of the architecture of the Middle Ages than
the Grande Place of Brussels,--the rich façade of the Hôtel de Ville, with
its long colonnade of graceful arches, upon every keystone of which some
grim, grotesque head is peering; the massive cornices; the heavy corbels
carved into ten thousand strange and uncouth fancies; but finer than all,
the taper and stately spire, fretted and perforated like some piece of
silver filigree, stretches upward towards the sky, its airy pinnacle
growing finer and more beautiful as it nears the stars it points to.
How full of historic associations is every dark embrasure, every narrow
casement around! Here may have stood the great emperor, Charles the Fifth,
meditating upon that greatness he was about to forego forever; here from
this tall window, may have looked the sad and sickly features of Jeanne
Laffolle, as with wandering eye and idiot smile she gazed upon the gorgeous
procession beneath. There is not a stone that has not echoed to the tread
of haughty prince or bold baron; yet never, in the palmiest days of ancient
chivalry, did those proud dwellings of the great of old look out upon a
braver and more valiant host than now thronged beneath their shadow. It was
indeed a splendid sight, where the bright gleams of torch and lantern threw
the red light around, to watch the measured tread and steady tramp of the
Highland regiments as they defiled into the open space; each footstep as it
met the ground, seeming in its proud and firm tread, to move in more than
sympathy with the wild notes of their native mountains; silent and still
they moved along; no voice spoke within their ranks, save that of some
command to “Close up--take ground--to the right--rear rank--close order.”
 Except such brief words as these, or the low muttered praise of some
veteran general as he rode down the line, all was orderly and steady as
on a parade. Meanwhile, from an angle of the square, the band of an
approaching regiment was heard; and to the inspiriting quickness of “The
Young May Moon,” the gallant Twenty-eighth came forward and took up their
ground opposite to the Highlanders.

The deep bell of the Hôtel de Ville tolled one. The solemn sound rang out
and died away in many an echo, leaving upon the heart a sense of some
unknown depression; and there was something like a knell in the deep
cadence of its bay; and over many a cheek a rapid trace of gloomy thought
now passed; and true--too true, alas!--how many now listened for the last
time!

“March! march!” passed from front to rear; and as the bands burst forth
again in streams of spirit-stirring harmony, the Seventy-ninth moved on;
the Twenty-eighth followed; and as they debouched from the “Place” the
Seventy-first and the Ninety-second succeeded them. Like wave after wave,
the tide of armed men pressed on, and mounted the steep and narrow street
towards the upper town of Brussels. Here Pack’s Brigade was forming in the
Place Royale; and a crowd of staff officers dictating orders, and writing
hurriedly on the drum-heads, were also seen. A troop of dragoons stood
beside their horses at the door of the Belle Vue, and several grooms with
led horses walked to and fro.

“Ride forward, sir, to the Bois de Cambre,” said Picton, “and pivot the
troops on the road to Mont St. Jean. You will then wait for my coming up,
or further orders.”

This command, which was given to me, I hastened to obey; and with
difficulty forcing my way through the opposing crowd, at length reached the
Namur gate. Here I found a detachment of the Guards, who as yet had got no
orders to march, and were somewhat surprised to learn the forward movement.
Ten minutes’ riding brought me to the angle of the wood, whence I wrote a
few lines to my host of the Belle Vue, desiring him to send Mike after me
with my horses and my kit. The night was cold, dark, and threatening; the
wind howled with a low and wailing cry through the dark pine-trees; and as
I stood alone and in solitude, I had time to think of the eventful hours
before me, and of that field which ere long was to witness the triumph or
the downfall of my country’s arms. The road which led through the forest of
Soignies caught an additional gloom from the dark, dense woods around. The
faint moon only showed at intervals; and a lowering sky, without a single
star, stretched above us. It was an awful and a solemn thing to hear the
deep and thundering roll of that mighty column, awakening the echoes of
the silent forest as they went. So hurried was the movement that we had
scarcely any artillery, and that of the lightest calibre; but the clash and
clank of the cavalry, the heavy, monotonous tramp of infantry were there;
and as division followed after division, staff officers rode hurriedly to
and fro, pressing the eager troops still on.

“Move up there, Ninety-fifth. Ah, Forty-second, we’ve work before us!” said
Picton, as he rode up to the head of his brigade. The air of depression
which usually sat upon his careworn features now changed for a light and
laughing look, while his voice was softened and subdued into a low and
pleasing tone. Although it was midsummer, the roads were heavy and deep
with mud. For some weeks previously the weather had been rainy; and
this, added to the haste and discomfort of the night march, considerably
increased the fatigue of the troops. Notwithstanding these disadvantages,
not a murmur nor complaint was heard on any side.

“I’m unco glad to get a blink o’ them, onyhow,” said a tall, raw-boned
sergeant, who marched beside me.

“Faith, and may be you won’t be over pleased at the expression of their
faces, when you see them,” said Mike, whose satisfaction at the prospect
before him was still as great as that of any other amidst the thousands
there.

The day was slowly breaking, as a Prussian officer, splashed and covered
with foam, came galloping up at full speed past us. While I was yet
conjecturing what might be the intelligence he brought, Power rode up to my
side.

“We’re in for it, Charley,” said he. “The whole French army are in march;
and Blucher’s aide-de-camp, who has arrived, gives the number at one
hundred and fifty thousand men. The Prussians are drawn up between St.
Amand and Sombref, and the Nassau and Dutch troops are at Quatre Bras, both
expecting to be attacked.”

“Quatre Bras was the original rallying spot for our troops, was it not?”
 said I.

“Yes, yes. It is that we’re now marching upon; but our Prussian friend
seems to think we shall arrive too late. Strong French corps are already at
Fresnes, under the command, it is said, of Marshal Ney.”

The great object of the British commander-in-chief was to arrive at Quatre
Bras in sufficient time to effect his junction with Blucher before a battle
should be fought. To effect this no exertion was spared: efforts almost
super-human were made; for, however prepared for a forward movement, it was
impossible to have anticipated anything until the intentions of Napoleon
became clearly manifest. While Nivelles and Charleroi were exposed to him
on one side, Namur lay open on the other; and he could either march upon
Brussels, by Mons or Halle, or, as he subsequently attempted, by Quatre
Bras and Waterloo. No sooner, however, were his intentions unmasked, and
the line of his operations manifested, than Lord Wellington, with an energy
equal to the mighty occasion that demanded it, poured down with the whole
force under his command to meet him.

The march was a most distressing one; upward of three-and-twenty miles,
with deep and cut-up roads, in hot, oppressive weather, in a country almost
destitute of water. Still the troops pressed forward, and by noon came
within hearing of the heavy cannonade in front, which indicated the
situation of the battle. From this time aide-de-camp followed aide-de-camp
in quick succession, who, from their scared looks and hurried gestures,
seemed to bode but ill-fortune to the cause we cared for. What the precise
situation of the rival armies might be we knew not; but we heard the French
were in overwhelming numbers; that the Dutch troops had abandoned their
position; the Hanoverians being driven back, the Duke of Brunswick--the
brave sovereign of a gallant people--fell charging at the head of his black
hussars. From one phrase which constantly met our ears, it seemed that
the Bois de Bossu was the key of the position. This had been won and lost
repeatedly by both sides; and as we neared the battle-field a despatch
hurriedly announced to Picton the importance of at once recovering this
contested point. The Ninety-fifth were ordered up to the attack. Scarcely
was the word given, when fatigue, thirst, and exhaustion were forgotten;
with one cheer the gallant regiment formed into line, and advanced upon
the wood. Meanwhile the Highland Brigade moved down towards the right; the
Royals and the Twenty-eighth debouched upon the left of the road; and in
less than half an hour after our arrival our whole force was in action.

There is something appalling, to the bravest army, in coming up to battle
at the time that an overwhelming and conquering foe are carrying victory
triumphantly before them: such was our position at Quatre Bras. Bravely and
gloriously as the forces of the Prince of Orange fought, the day, however,
was not theirs. The Bois de Bossu, which opened to the enemy the road to
Brussels, was held by their tirailleurs; the valley to the right was rode
over by their mounted squadrons, who with lance and sabre carried all
before them; their dark columns pressed steadily on; and a death-dealing
artillery swept the allied ranks from flank to flank. Such was the field
when the British arrived, and throwing themselves into squares, opposed
their unaided force to the dreadful charges of the enemy. The batteries
showered down their storms of grape; Milhaud’s Heavy Dragoons, assisted by
crowds of lancers, rushed upon the squares, but they stood unbroken and
undaunted, as sometimes upon three sides of their position the infuriated
horsemen of the enemy came down. Once, and once only, were the French
successful; the 42d, who were stationed amidst tall corn-fields, were
surrounded with cavalry before they knew it. The word was given to form
square; the Lancers were already among them, and fighting back to back, the
gallant Highlanders met the foe. Fresh numbers poured down upon them, and
already half the regiment was disabled and their colonel killed. These
brave fellows were rescued by the 44th, who, throwing in a withering
volley, fixed bayonets and charged. Meanwhile the 95th had won and lost the
wood, which, now in the possession of the French tirailleurs, threatened to
turn the left of our position. It was at this time that a body of cavalry
were seen standing to the left of the Enghien road, as if in observation.
An officer sent forward to reconnoitre, returned with the intelligence that
they were British troops, for he had seen their red uniforms.

“I can’t think it, sir,” said Picton. “It is hardly possible that any
regiment from Enghien could have arrived already. Ride forward, O’Malley,
and if they be our fellows, let them carry that height yonder; there are
two guns there cutting the 92d to pieces.”

I put spurs to my horse, cleared the road at once, and dashing across
the open space to the left of the wood, rode on in the direction of the
horsemen. When I came within the distance of three hundred yards I examined
them with my glass, and could plainly detect the scarlet coats and bright
helmets. “Ha,” thought I, “the 1st Dragoon Guards, no doubt.” Muttering
to myself thus much, I galloped straight on; and waving my hand as I came
near, announced that I was the bearer of an order. Scarcely had I done so,
when four horsemen, dashing spurs into their steeds, plunged hastily out
from the line, and before I could speak, surrounded me. While the foremost
called out, as he flourished his sabre above his head, “Rendez-vous!” At
the same moment I was seized on each side, and led back a captive into the
hands of the enemy.

“We guess your mistake, Capitaine,” said the French officer before whom I
was brought. “We are the regiment of Berg, and our scarlet uniform cost us
dearly enough yesterday.”

This allusion, I afterwards learned, was in reference to a charge by a
cuirassier regiment, which, in mistaking them for English, poured a volley
into them, and killed and wounded about twenty of their number.



CHAPTER LII.


QUATRE BRAS.

Those who have visited the field of Quatre Bras will remember that on the
left of the high road, and nearly at the extremity of the Bois de Bossu,
stands a large Flemish farm-house, whose high pitched roof, pointed gables,
and quaint, old-fashioned chimneys, remind one of the architecture
so frequently seen in Tenier’s pictures. The house, which, with its
dependencies of stables, granaries, and out-houses, resembles a little
village, is surrounded by a large, straggling orchard of aged fruit-trees,
through which the approach from the high road leads. The interior of this
quaint dwelling, like all those of its class, is only remarkable for a
succession of small, dark, low-ceiled rooms, leading one into another;
their gloomy aspect increased by the dark oak furniture, the heavy
armories, and old-fashioned presses, carved in the grotesque taste of the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Those who visit it now may mark the
trace of cannon-shot here and there through the building; more than
one deep crack will attest the force of the dread artillery. Still the
traveller will feel struck with the rural peace and quietude of the scene;
the speckled oxen that stand lowing in the deep meadows; the splash of the
silvery trout as he sports in the bright stream that ripples along over its
gravelly bed; the cawing of the old rooks in the tall beech-trees; but more
than all, the happy laugh of children,--speak of the spot as one of retired
and tranquil beauty; yet when my eyes opened upon it on the morning of the
17th of June, the scene presented features of a widely different interest.
The day was breaking as the deep, full sound of the French bugles announced
the reveille. Forgetful of where I was, I sprang from my bed and rushed to
the window; the prospect before me at once recalled me to my recollection,
and I remembered that I was a prisoner. The exciting events around left me
but little time and as little inclination to think over my old misfortunes;
and I watched, with all the interest of a soldier, the movement of the
French troops in the orchard beneath. A squadron of dragoons, who seemed to
have passed the night beside their horses, lay stretched or seated in all
the picturesque groupings of a bivouac,--some already up and stirring;
others leaned half listlessly upon their elbows, and looked about as if
unwilling to believe the night was over; and some, stretched in deep
slumber, woke not with the noise and tumult around them. The room in which
I was confined looked out upon the road to Charleroi; I could therefore
see the British troops; and as the French army had fallen back during the
night, only an advanced guard maintaining the position, I was left to my
unaided conjectures as to the fortune of the preceding day of battle. What
a period of anxiety and agitation was that morning to me; what would I
not have given to learn the result of the action since the moment of my
capture! Stubborn as our resistance had been, we were evidently getting the
worst, of it; and if the Guards had not arrived in time, I knew we must
have been beaten.

I walked up and down my narrow room, tortured and agonized by my doubts,
now stopping to reason over the possibilities of success, now looking from
the window to try if, in the gesture and bearing of those without, I could
conjecture anything that passed. Too well I knew the vaunting character
of the French soldier, in defeat as in victory, to put much confidence in
their bearing. While, however, I watched them with an eager eye, I heard
the tramp of horsemen coming along the paved causeway. From the moment my
ear caught the sound to that of their arrival at the gate of the orchard,
but few minutes elapsed; their pace was indeed a severe one, and as they
galloped through the narrow path that led to the farm-house, they never
drew rein till they reached the porch. The party consisted of about a dozen
persons whose plumed hats bespoke them staff officers; but their uniforms
were concealed beneath their great-coats. As they came along the picket
sprang to their feet, and the guard at the door beneath presented arms.
This left no doubt upon my mind that some officer of rank was among them,
and as I knew that Ney himself commanded on the preceding day, I thought
it might be he. The sound of voices beneath informed me that the party
occupied the room under that in which I was, and although I listened
attentively I could hear nothing but the confused murmur of persons
conversing together without detecting even a word. My thoughts now fell
into another channel, and as I ruminated over my old position, I heard the
noise of the sentry at my door as he brought his musket to the shoulder,
and the next moment an officer in the uniform of the Chasseurs of the Guard
entered. Bowing politely as he advanced to the middle of the room, he
addressed me thus:--

“You speak French, sir?” and as I replied in the affirmative, continued:--

“Will you, then, have the goodness to follow me this way?”

Although burning with anxiety to learn what had taken place, yet somehow I
could not bring myself to ask the question. A secret pride mingled with my
fear that all had not gone well with us, and I durst not expose myself to
hear of our defeat from the lips of an enemy. I had barely time to ask into
whose presence I was about to be ushered, when with a slight smile of a
strange meaning, he opened the door and introduced me into the saloon.
Although I had seen at least twelve or fourteen horsemen arrive, there were
but three persons in the room as I entered. One of these, who sat writing
at a small table near the window, never lifted his head on my entrance, but
continued assiduously his occupation. Another, a tall, fine-looking man
of some sixty years or upward, whose high, bald forehead and drooping
mustache, white as snow, looked in every way the old soldier of the empire,
stood leaning upon his sabre; while the third, whose stature, somewhat
below the middle size, was yet cast in a strong and muscular mould, stood
with his back to the fire, holding on his arms the skirts of a gray surtout
which he wore over his uniform; his legs were cased in the tall _bottes à
l’écuyère_ worn by the _chasseur à cheval_, and on his head a low cocked
hat, without plume or feather, completed his costume. There was something
which, at the very moment of my entrance, struck me as uncommon in his air
and bearing, so much so that when my eyes had once rested on his pale but
placid countenance, his regular, handsome, but somewhat stern features, I
totally forgot the presence of the others and looked only at him.

“What’s your rank, sir?” said he, hurriedly, and with a tone which bespoke
command.

“I have none at present, save--”

“Why do you wear your epaulettes then, sir?” said he, harshly, while from
his impatient look, and hurried gesture, I saw that he put no faith in my
reply.

“I am an aide-de-camp to General Picton, but without regimental rank.”

“What was the British force under arms yesterday?”

“I do not feel at liberty to give you any information as to the number or
the movements of our army.”

“_Diantre! Diantre!_” said he, slapping his boot with his horsewhip, “do
you know what you’ve been saying there, eh? Cambronne, you heard him, did
you?”

“Yes, Sire, and if your Majesty would permit me to deal with him, I would
have his information, if he possess any, and that ere long, too.”

“Eh, _gaillard_,” said he, laughing, as he pinched the old general’s ear in
jest, “I believe you, with all my heart.”

The full truth flashed upon my mind. I was in presence of the Emperor
himself. As, however, up to this moment I was unconscious of his presence,
I resolved now to affect ignorance of it throughout.

“Had you despatches, sir?” said he, turning towards me with a look of stern
severity. “Were any despatches found upon him when he was taken?” This
latter question was directed to the aide-de-camp who introduced me, and who
still remained at the door.

“No, Sire, nothing was found upon him except this locket.”

As he said these words he placed in Napoleon’s hands the keepsake which St.
Croix had left with me years before in Spain, and which, as the reader may
remember, was a miniature of the Empress Josephine.

The moment the Emperor threw his eyes upon it, the flush which excitement
had called into his cheek disappeared at once. He became pale as death, his
very lips as bloodless as his wan cheek.

“Leave me, Lefebvre; leave me, Cambronne, for a moment. I will speak with
this gentleman alone.”

As the door closed upon them he leaned his arm upon the mantelpiece, and
with his head sunk upon his bosom, remained some moments without speaking.

“Augure sinistre!” muttered he within his teeth, as his piercing gaze was
riveted upon the picture before him. “Voilà la troisième fois peut-être
la dernière.” Then suddenly rousing himself, he advanced close to me, and
seizing me by the arm with a grasp like iron, inquired:--

“How came you by this picture? The truth, sir; mark me, the truth!”

Without showing any sign of feeling hurt at the insinuation of this
question, I detailed, in as few words as I could, the circumstance by which
the locket became mine. Long before I had concluded, however, I could mark
that his attention flagged, and finally wandered far away from the matter
before him.

“Why will you not give me the information I look for? I seek for no breach
of faith. The campaign is all but over. The Prussians were beaten at Ligny,
their army routed, their artillery captured, ten thousand prisoners taken.
Your troops and the Dutch were conquered yesterday, and they are in full
retreat on Brussels. By to-morrow evening I shall date my bulletin from
the palace at Laeken. Antwerp will be in my possession within twenty-four
hours. Namur is already mine. Cambronne, Lefebvre,” cried he, “cet homme-là
n’en sait rien,” pointing to me as he spoke; “let us see the other.” With
this he motioned slightly with his hand as a sign for me to withdraw, and
the next moment I was once more in the solitude of my prison-room, thinking
over the singular interview I had just had with the great Emperor.

How anxiously pass the hours of one who, deprived of other means of
information, is left to form his conjectures by some passing object or some
chance murmur. The things which, in the ordinary course of life, are passed
by unnoticed and unregarded, are now matters of moment,--with what scrutiny
he examines the features of those whom he dare not question; with what
patient ear he listens to each passing word. Thus to me, a prisoner,
the hours went by tardily yet anxiously; no sabre clanked; no war-horse
neighed; no heavy-booted cuirassier tramped in the courtyard beneath my
window, without setting a hundred conjectures afloat as to what was about
to happen. For some time there had been a considerable noise and bustle in
and about the dwelling. Horsemen came and went continually. The sounds of
galloping could be heard along the paved causeway; then the challenge of
the sentry at the gate; then the nearer tread of approaching stops, and
many voices speaking together, would seem to indicate that some messenger
had arrived with despatches. At length all these sounds became hushed and
still. No longer were the voices heard; and except the measured tread of
the heavy cuirassier, as he paced on the flags beneath, nothing was to be
heard. My state of suspense, doubly greater now than when the noise and
tumult suggested food for conjecture, continued till towards noon, when
a soldier in undress brought me some breakfast, and told me to prepare
speedily for the road.

Scarcely had he left the room, when the rumbling noise of wagons was heard
below, and a train of artillery carts moved into the little courtyard
loaded with wounded men. It was a sad and frightful sight to see these poor
fellows, as, crammed side by side in the straw of the _charrette_, they
lay, their ghastly wounds opening with every motion of the wagon, while
their wan, pale faces were convulsed with agony and suffering. Of every
rank, from the sous-lieutenant to the humble soldier, from every arm of the
service, from the heavy cuirassier of the guard to the light and intrepid
tirailleur, they were there. I well remember one, an artillery-man of
the guard, who, as they lifted him forth from the cart, presented the
horrifying spectacle of one both of whose legs had been carried away by a
cannon-shot. Pale, cold, and corpse-like, ha lay in their arms; his head
lay heavily to one side, his arms fell passively as in death. It was at
this moment a troop of lancers, the advanced guard of D’Erlon’s Division,
came trotting up the road; the cry of “Vive l’Empereur!” burst from them
as they approached; its echo rang within the walls of the farm-house, when
suddenly the dying man, as though some magic touch had called him back to
life and vigor, sprang up erect between his bearers, his filmy eye flashing
fire, a burning spot of red coloring his bloodless cheek. He cast one wild
and hurried look around him, like one called back from death to look
upon the living; and as he raised his blood-stained hand above his head,
shouted, in a heart-piercing cry, “Vive l’Empereur!” The effort was his
last. It was the expiring tribute of allegiance to the chief he adored. The
blood spouted in cataracts from his half-closed wounds, a convulsive spasm
worked through his frame, his eyes rolled fearfully, as his outstretched
hands seemed striving to clutch some object before them, and he was dead.
Fresh arrivals of wounded continued to pour in; and now I thought I could
detect at intervals the distant noise of a cannonade. The wind, however,
was from the southward, and the sounds were too indistinct to be relied on.

“Allons, aliens, mon cher!” said a rough but good-humored looking fellow,
as he strode into my room. He was the quartermaster of Milhaud’s Dragoons,
under whose care I was now placed, and came to inform me that we were to
set out immediately.

Monsieur Bonnard was a character in his way; and if it were not so near the
conclusion of my history, I should like to present him to my readers. As
it is, I shall merely say he was a thorough specimen of one class of
his countrymen,--a loud talker, a louder swearer, a vaporing, boasting,
overbearing, good-natured, and even soft-hearted fellow, who firmly
believed that Frenchmen were the climax of the species, and Napoleon the
climax of Frenchmen. Being a great _bavard_, he speedily told me all that
had taken place during the last two days. From him I learned that the
Prussians had really been beaten at Ligny, and had fallen back, he knew
not where. They were, however, he said, hotly pursued by Grouchy, with
thirty-five thousand men, while the Emperor himself was now following the
British and Dutch armies with seventy thousand more.

“You see,” continued he, “l’affaire est faite! Who can resist the Emperor?”

These were sad tidings for me; and although I did not place implicit
confidence in my informant, I had still my fears that much of what he said
was true.

“And the British, now,” said I, “what direction have they taken?”

“Bah, they’re in retreat on Brussels, and will probably capitulate
to-morrow.”

“Capitulate!”

“Oui, oui; ne vous fâchez pas, camarade,” said he, laughing. “What could
you do against Napoleon? You did not expect to beat him, surely? But come,
we must move on; I have my orders to bring you to Planchenoit this evening,
and our horses are tired enough already.”

“Mine, methinks, should be fresh,” said I.

“_Parbleu, mon!_” replied he; “he has twice made the journey to Fresnes
this morning with despatches for Marshal Ney; the Emperor is enraged
with the marshal for having retreated last night, having the wood in his
possession; he says he should have waited till daybreak, and then fallen
upon your retreating columns. As it is, you are getting away without much
loss. _Sacristie_, that was a fine charge!” These last words he muttered to
himself, adding, between his teeth, “Sixty-four killed and wounded.”

“What was that? Who were they?” said I.

“Our fellows,” replied he, frankly; “the Emperor ordered up two
twelve-pounders, and eight squadrons of lancers; they fell upon your light
dragoons in a narrow part of the high road. But suddenly we heard a noise
in front; your hussars fell back, and a column of your heavy dragoons came
thundering down upon us. _Parbleu!_ they swept over us as if we were broken
infantry; and there! there!” said he, pointing to the courtyard, from
whence the groans of the wounded still rose,--“there are the fruits of that
terrible charge.”

I could not restrain an outbreak of triumphant pleasure at this gallant
feat of my countrymen.

“Yes, yes,” said the honest quartermaster; “it was a fine thing; but a
heavy reckoning is at hand. But come, now, let us take the road.”

In a few moments more I found myself seated upon a heavy Norman horse,
whose lumbering demi-peak saddle was nearly cleft in two by a sabre-cut.

“Ay, ay,” said Monsieur Bonnard, as he saw my eye fixed on the spot, “it
was one of your fellows did that; and the same cut clove poor Pierre from
the neck to the seat.”

“I hope,” said I, laughing, “the saddle may not prove an unlucky one.”

“No, no,” said the Frenchman, seriously; “it has paid its debt to fate.”

As we pressed on our road, which, broken by the heavy guns, and ploughed up
in many places by the artillery, was nearly impassable, we could distinctly
hear from time to time the distant boom of the large guns, as the retiring
and pursuing armies replied to each other; while behind us, but still a
long way off, a dark mass appeared on the horizon: they were the advancing
columns of Ney’s Division.

“Have the troops come in contact more than once this morning?”

“Not closely,” said the quartermaster; “the armies have kept a respectful
distance; they were like nothing I can think of,” said the figurative
Frenchman, “except two hideous serpents wallowing in mire, and vomiting at
each other whole rivers of fire and flame.”

As we approached Planchenoit, we came up to the rear-guard of the French
army; from them we learned that Ney’s Division, consisting of the Eighth
Corps, had joined the Emperor; that the British were still in retreat, but
that nothing of any importance had occurred between the rival armies, the
French merely firing their heavy guns from time to time to ascertain by
the reply the position of the retreating forces. The rain poured down in
torrents; gusts of cold and stormy wind swept across the wide plains, or
moaned sorrowfully through the dense forest. As I rode on by the side of my
companion, I could not help remarking how little the effects of a fatiguing
march and unfavorable weather were apparent on those around me. The spirit
of excited gayety pervaded every rank; and unlike the stern features which
the discipline of our service enforces, the French soldiers were talking,
laughing and even singing, as they marched; the canteens passed freely from
hand to hand, and jests and toasts flew from front to rear along the dark
columns; many carried their loaves of dark rye-bread on the tops of their
bayonets; and to look upon that noisy and tumultuous mass as they poured
along, it would have needed a practised eye to believe them the most
disciplined of European armies.

The sun was just setting, as mounting a ridge of high land beside the high
road, my companion pointed with his finger to a small farm-house, which,
standing alone in the plain, commands an extensive view on every side of
it.

“There,” said he,--“there is the _quartier général_; the Emperor sleeps
there to-night. The King of Holland will afford him a bed to-morrow night.”

The dark shadows of the coming night were rapidly falling as I strained my
eyes to trace the British position. A hollow, rumbling sound announced the
movement of artillery in our front.

“What is it, Arnotte?” said the quartermaster to a dragoon officer who rode
past.

“It is nothing,” replied the other, laughing, “but a _ruse_ of the Emperor.
He wishes to ascertain if the enemy are in force, or if we have only a
strong rear-guard before us.”

As he spoke fifteen heavy guns opened there fire, and the still air
reverberated with a loud thunder. The sound had not died away, the very
smoke lay yet heavily upon the moist earth, when forty pieces of British
cannon rang out their answer, and the very plain trembled beneath the
shock.

“Ha, they are there, then!” exclaimed the dragoon, as his eyes flashed with
ecstasy. “Look! see! the artillery are limbering up already. The Emperor is
satisfied.”

And so it was. A dark column of twelve hundred horse that accompanied the
guns into the plain, now wheeled slowly round, and wound their long track
far away to the right. The rain fell in torrents; the wind was hushed;
and as the night fell in darkness, the columns moved severally to their
destinations. The bivouacs were formed; the watch-fires were lighted; and
seventy thousand men and two hundred pieces of cannon occupied the heights
of Planchenoit.

“My orders are to bring you to La Caillon,” said the quartermaster; “and if
you only can spur your jaded horse into a trot, we shall soon reach it.”

About a hundred yards from the little farm-house, stood a small cottage of
a peasant. Here some officers of Marshal Soult’s staff had taken up their
quarters; and thither my guide now bent his steps.

“Comment, Bonnard!” said an aide-de-camp, as we rode up. “Another prisoner?
_Sacrebleu!_ We shall have the whole British staff among us. You are
in better luck than your countryman, the general, I hope,” said the
aide-decamp. “His is a sad affair; and I’m sorry for it, too. He’s a fine,
soldier-like looking fellow.”

“Pray, what has happened?” said I. “To what do you allude?”

“Merely to one of your people who has just been taken with some letters and
papers of Bourmont’s in his possession. The Emperor is in no very amicable
humor towards the traitor, and resolves to pay off some part of his debt on
his British correspondent.”

“How cruel! How unjust!”

“Why, yes, it is hard, I confess, to be shot for the fault of another.
Mais, que voulez-vous?”

“And when is this atrocious act to take place?”

“By daybreak to-morrow,” said he, bowing, as he turned towards the hut.
“Meanwhile, let me counsel you, if you would not make another in the party,
to reserve your indignation for your return to England.”

“Come along,” said the quartermaster; “I find they have got quarters for
you in the granary of the farm. I’ll not forget you at supper-time.”

So saying, he gave his horse to an orderly, and led me by a little path
to a back entrance of the dwelling. Had I time or inclination for such a
scene, I might have lingered long to gaze at the spectacle before me. The
guard held their bivouac around the quarters of the Emperor; and here,
beside the watch-fires, sat the bronzed and scarred veterans who had braved
every death and danger, from the Pyramids to the Kremlin. On every side I
heard the names of those whom history has already consigned to immortality;
and as the fitful blaze of a wood-fire flashed from within the house, I
could mark the figure of one who, with his hands behind his back, walked
leisurely to and fro, his head leaned a little forward as though in deep
thought; but as the light fell upon his pale and placid features, there was
nothing there to indicate the stormy strife of hope and fear that raged
beneath. From the rapid survey I took around I was roused by an officer,
who, saluting me, politely desired me to follow him. We mounted a flight of
stone steps which, outside the wall of the building, led to the upper story
of a large but ruined granary. Here a sentry was posted, who permitting us
to pass forward, I found myself in a small, mean-looking apartment, whose
few articles of coarse furniture were dimly lighted by the feeble glimmer
of a lamp. At the farther end of the room sat a man wrapped in a large blue
cavalry cloak, whose face, covered with his hands as he bent downward,
was completely concealed from view. The noise of the opening door did not
appear to arouse him, nor did he notice my approach. As I entered, a faint
sigh broke from him, as he turned his back upon the light; but he spoke not
a word.

I sat for some time in silence, unwilling to obtrude myself upon the
sorrows of one to whom I was unknown; and as I walked up and down the
gloomy chamber, my thoughts became riveted so completely upon my own
fortunes that I ceased to remember my fellow-prisoner. The hours passed
thus lazily along, when the door suddenly opened, and an officer in the
dress of a lancer of the guard stood for an instant before me, and then,
springing forward, clasped me by both hands, and called out,--

“Charles, mon ami, c’est bien toi?”

The voice recalled to my recollections what his features, altered by time
and years, had failed to do. It was Jules St. Croix, my former prisoner in
the Peninsula. I cannot paint the delight with which I saw him again; his
presence now, while it brought back the memory of some of my happiest days,
also assured me that I was not friendless.

His visit was a brief one, for he was in attendance on Marshal Lobau’s
staff. In the few minutes, however, of his stay, he said,--

“I have a debt to pay, Charles, and have come to discharge it. In an hour
hence I shall leave this with despatches for the left of our line. Before
I go, I’ll come here with two or three others, as it were, to wish you a
good-night. I’ll take care to carry a second cloak and a foraging cap; I’ll
provide a fast horse; you shall accompany us for some distance. I’ll see
you safe across our pickets; for the rest, you must trust to yourself.
C’est arrangé, n’est-ce-pas?”

One firm grasp of his hand, to which I responded by another, followed, and
he was gone.

Everything concurred to show me that a tremendous battle must ensue on the
morrow, if the British forces but held their position. It was, then, with a
feeling of excitement approaching to madness that I saw my liberty before
me; that once more I should join in the bold charge and the rude shock
of arms, hear the wild cry of my gallant countrymen, and either live to
triumph with them in victory, or wait not to witness our defeat. Fast flew
my hopes, as with increasing impatience I waited St. Croix’s coming, and
with anxious heart listened to every sound upon the stairs which might
indicate his approach. At length he came. I heard the gay and laughing
voices of his companions as they came along; the door opened, and affecting
the familiarity of old acquaintance to deceive the sentry, they all shook
me by the hand and spoke in terms of intimacy.

“Labedoyère is below,” said St. Croix, in a whisper; “you must wait here a
few moments longer, and I’ll return for you; put on the cloak and cap, and
speak not a word as you pass out. The sentry will suppose that one of our
party has remained behind; for I shall call out as if speaking to him, as I
leave the room.”

The voice of an officer calling in tones of impatience for the party
to come down, cut short the interview; and again assuring me of their
determination to stand by me, they left the chamber and descended into the
court. Scarcely had the door closed behind them, when my fellow-prisoner,
whom I had totally forgotten, sprang on his legs and came towards me. His
figure screening the lamplight as he stood, prevented my recognizing his
features, but the first tones of his voice told me who he was.

“Stay, sir,” cried he, as he placed his hand upon my arm; “I have overheard
your project. In an hour hence you will be free. Can you---will you perform
a service for one who will esteem it not the less that it will be the last
that man can render him? The few lines which I have written here with my
pencil are for my daughter.”

I could bear no more, and called out in a voice broken as his own,--

“Oh, be not deceived, sir. Will you, even in an hour like this, accept a
service from one whom you have banished from your house?”

The old man started as I spoke; his hand trembled till it shook my very
arm, and after a pause and with an effort to seem calm and collected, he
added,--

“My hours are few. Some despatches of General Bourmont with which the duke
intrusted me were found in my possession. My sentence is a hurried one, and
it is death. By to-morrow’s sunrise--”

“Stay, stay!” said I. “You shall escape; my life is in no danger. I have,
as you see, even friends among the staff. Besides, I have done nothing to
compromise or endanger my position.”

“No, sir,” said he, sternly, “I will not act such a part as this. The tears
you have seen in these old eyes are not for myself. I fear not death.
Better it were it should have come upon the field of glorious battle; but
as it is, my soldier’s honor is intact, untainted.”

“You refuse the service on account of him who proffers it,” said I, as I
fell heavily upon a seat, my head bowed upon my bosom.

“Not so, not so, my boy,” replied he, kindly. “The near approach of death,
like the fading light of day, gives us a longer and a clearer view before
us. I feel that I have wronged you; that I have imputed to you the errors
of others; but, believe me, if I have wronged you, I have punished my own
heart; for, Charles, I have loved you like a son.”

“Then prove it,” said I, “and let me act towards you as towards a father.
You will not? You refuse me still? Then, by Heaven, I remain to share your
fate! I well know the temper of him who has sentenced you, and that, by one
word of mine, my destiny is sealed forever.”

“No, no, boy! This is but rash and insane folly. Another year or two, nay,
perhaps a few months more, and in the common course of Nature I had ceased
to be; but you, with youth, with fortune, and with hope--”

“Oh, not with hope!” said I, in a voice of agony.

“Nay, say not so,” replied he, calmly, while a sickly smile played sadly
over his face; “you will give this letter to my daughter, you will tell her
that we parted as friends should part; and if after that, when time shall
have smoothed down her grief, and her sorrow be rather a dark dream of the
past than a present suffering,--if then you love her, and if--”

“Oh, tempt me not thus!” said I, as the warm tears gushed from my eyes.
“Lead me not thus astray from what my honor tells me I should do. Hark!
They are coming already. I hear the clank of their sabres; they are
mounting the steps; not a moment is to be lost! Do you refuse me still?”

“I do,” replied he, firmly; “I am resolved to bide my fate.”

“Then so do I,” cried I, as folding my arms, I sat down beside the window,
determined on my course.

“Charley, Charley,” said he, stooping over me, “my friend, my last hope,
the protector of my child--”

“I will not go,” said I, in a hollow whisper.

Already they were at the door; I heard their voices as they challenged the
sentry; I heard his musket as he raised it to his shoulder. The thought
flashed across me. I jumped up, and throwing the loose mantle of the French
dragoon around him, and replacing his own with the foraging cap of St.
Croix, I sprang into a corner of the room, and seating myself so as to
conceal my face, waited the result. The door opened, the party entered
laughing and talking together.

“Come, Eugène,” said one, taking Sir George by the arm, “you have spent
long enough time here to learn the English language. We shall be late at
the outpost. Messieurs les Anglais, good-night, good-night!”

This was repeated by the others as they passed out with Sir George Dashwood
among them, who, seeing that my determination was not to be shaken, and
that any demur on his part must necessarily compromise both, yielded to a
_coup-de-main_ what he never would have consented to from an appeal to his
reason. The door closed; their steps died away in the distance. Again a
faint sound struck my ear; it was the challenge of the sentry beneath,
and I heard the tramp of horses’ feet. All was still, and in a burst of
heart-felt gratitude I sank upon my knees, and thanked God that he was
safe.

So soundly did I sleep, that not before I was shaken several times by the
shoulder could I awake on the following morning.

“I thought there were two prisoners here,” said a gruff voice, as an old
mustached-looking veteran cast a searching look about the room. “However,
we shall have enough of them before sunset. Get--get up; Monsieur le Duc de
Dalmatie desires some information you can give him.”

As he said this, he led me from the room; and descending the flight of
stone steps, we entered the courtyard. It was but four o’clock, the rain,
still falling in torrents, yet every one was up and stirring.

“Mount this horse,” said my gruff friend, “and come with me towards the
left; the marshal has already gone forward.”

The heavy mist of the morning, darkened by the lowering clouds which almost
rested on the earth, prevented our seeing above a hundred yards before
us; but the hazy light of the watch-fires showed me extent of the French
position, as it stretched away along the ridge towards the Halle road. We
rode forward at a trot, but in the deep clayey soil we sank at each moment
to our horses’ fetlocks. I turned my head as I heard the tramp and splash
of horsemen behind, and perceived that I was followed by two dragoons,
who, with their carbines on the rest, kept their eyes steadily upon me to
prevent any chance of escape. In a slight hollow of the ground before us
stood a number of horsemen, who conversed together in a low tone as we came
up.

“There, that is the marshal,” said my companion, in a whisper, as we joined
the party.

“Yes, Monsieur le Duc,” said an engineer colonel, who stood beside Soult’s
horse with a colored plan in his hand,--“yes, that is the Château de
Goumont, yonder. It is, as you perceive, completely covered by the rising
ground marked here. They will doubtless place a strong artillery force in
this quarter.”

“Ah, who is this?” said the marshal, turning his eyes suddenly upon me, and
then casting a look of displeasure around him, lest I should have overheard
any portion of their conversation. “You are deficient in cavalry, it would
appear, sir,” said he to me.

“You must feel, Monsieur le Duc,” said I, calmly, “how impossible it is for
me, as a man of honor and a soldier, to afford you any information as to
the army I belong to.”

“I do not see that, sir. You are a prisoner in our hands; your treatment,
your fortune, your very life depends on us. Besides, sir, when French
officers fall into the power of your people, I have heard they meet with no
very ceremonious treatment.”

“Those who say so, say falsely,” said I, “and wrong both your countrymen
and mine. In any case--”

“The Guards are an untried force in your service,” said he, with a mixture
of inquiry and assertion.

I replied not a word.

“You must see, sir,” continued he, “that all the chances are against you.
The Prussians beaten, the Dutch discouraged, the Belgians only waiting for
victory to incline to our standard, to desert your ranks and pass over to
ours; while your troops, scarcely forty thousand,--nay, I might say, not
more than thirty-five thousand. Is it not so?”

Here was another question so insidiously conveyed that even a change of
feature on my part might have given the answer. A half smile, however, and
a slight bow was all my reply; while Soult muttered something between his
teeth, which called forth a laugh from those around him.

“You may retire, sir, a little,” said he, dryly, to me.

Not sorry to be freed from the awkwardness of my position, I fell back to
the little rising ground behind. Although the rain poured down without
ceasing, the rising sun dispelled, in part, the heavy vapor, and by degrees
different portions of the wide plain presented themselves to view; and
as the dense masses of fog moved slowly along, I could detect, but still
faintly, the outline of the large, irregular building which I had heard
them call the Château de Goumont, and from whence I could hear the clank of
masonry, as, at intervals, the wind bore the sounds towards me. These were
the sappers piercing the walls for musketry; and this I could now perceive
was looked upon as a position of no small importance. Surrounded by a
straggling orchard of aged fruit-trees, the château lay some hundred yards
in advance of the British line, commanded by two eminences,--one of which,
in the possession of the French, was already occupied by a park of eleven
guns; of the other I knew nothing, except the passing glance I had obtained
of its position on the map. The Second Corps, under Jerome Bonaparte, with
Foy and Kellermann’s Brigade of light artillery, stretched behind us. On
the right of these came D’Erlon’s Corps, extending to a small wood, which
my companion told me was Frischermont; while Lobau’s Division was stationed
to the extreme right towards St. Lambert, to maintain the communication
with Grouchy at Wavre, or, if need be, to repel the advance of the
Prussians and prevent their junction with the Anglo-Dutch army. The
Imperial Guard, with the cavalry, formed the reserve. Such was, in
substance, the information given me by my guide, who seemed to expatiate
with pleasure over the magnificent array of battle, while he felt a pride
in displaying his knowledge of the various divisions and their leaders.

“I see the marshal moving towards the right,” said he; “we had better
follow him.”

It was now about eight o’clock as from the extremity of the line I could
see a party of horsemen advancing at a sharp canter.

“That must be Ney,” said my companion. “See how rashly he approaches the
English lines!”

And so it was. The party in question rode fearlessly down the slope, and
did not halt until they reached within about three hundred yards of what
appeared a ruined church.

“What is that building yonder?”

“That--that,” replied he, after a moment’s thought,--“that must be La Haye
Sainte; and yonder, to the right of it, is the road to Brussels. There,
look now! Your people are in motion. See, a column is moving towards the
right, and the cavalry are defiling on the other side of the road! I was
mistaken, that cannot be Ney. _Sacre Dieu!_ it was the Emperor himself, and
here he comes.”

As he spoke, the party galloped forward and pulled up short within a few
yards of where we stood.

“Ha!” cried he, as his sharp glance fell upon me, “there is my taciturn
friend of Quatre Bras. You see, sir, I can dispense with your assistance
now; the chess-board is before me;” and then added, in a tone he intended
not to be overheard, “Everything depends on Grouchy.”

“Well, Haxo,” he called out to an officer who galloped up, _chapeau_ in
hand, “what say you? Are they intrenched in that position?”

“No, Sire, the ground is open, and in two hours more will be firm enough
for the guns to manoeuvre.”

“Now, then, for breakfast,” said Napoleon, as with an easy and tranquil
smile he turned his horse’s head and cantered gently up the heights
towards La Belle Alliance. As he approached the lines, the cry of “Vive
l’Empereur!” burst forth. Regiment after regiment took it up; and from the
distant wood of Frischermont to the far left beside Merke-braine, the
shout resounded. So sudden, so simultaneous the outbreak, that he himself,
accustomed as he well was to the enthusiasm of his army, seemed as he
reined in his horse, and looked with proud and elated eye upon the
countless thousands, astounded and amazed. He lifted with slow and graceful
action his unplumed hat above his head, and while he bowed that proud front
before which kings have trembled, the acclamation burst forth anew, and
rent the very air.

At this moment the sun shone brilliantly from out the dark clouds, and
flashed upon the shining blades and glistening bayonets along the line. A
dark and lowering shadow hung gloomily over the British position, while the
French sparkled and glittered in the sunbeams. His quick glance passed with
lightning speed from one to the other; and I thought that, in his look,
upturned to heaven, I could detect the flitting thought which bade him hope
it was an augury. The bands of the Imperial Guard burst forth in joyous and
triumphant strains; and amidst the still repeated cries of “L’Empereur!
l’Empereur!” he rode slowly along towards La Belle Alliance.



CHAPTER LIII.


WATERLOO.

Napoleon’s first intention was to open the battle by an attack upon the
extreme right; but Ney, who returned from an observation of the ground,
informed him that a rivulet swollen by the late rains had now become a
foaming torrent perfectly impassable to infantry. To avoid this difficulty
he abandoned his favorite manoeuvre of a flank movement, and resolved to
attack the enemy by the centre. Launching his cavalry and artillery by the
road to Brussels, he hoped thus to cut off the communication of the British
with their own left, as well as with the Prussians, for whom he trusted
that Grouchy would be more than a match.

The reserves were in consequence all brought up to the centre. Seven
thousand cavalry and a massive artillery assembled upon the heights of La
Belle Alliance, and waited but the order to march. It was eleven o’clock,
and Napoleon mounted his horse and rode slowly along the line; again the
cry of “Vive l’Empereur!” resounded, and the bands of the various regiments
struck up their spirit-stirring strains as the gorgeous staff moved along.
On the British side all was tranquil; and still the different divisions
appeared to have taken up their ground, and the long ridge from Ter-la-Haye
to Merke-braine bristled with bayonets. Nothing could possibly be more
equal than the circumstances of the field. Each army possessed an eminence
whence their artillery might play. A broad and slightly undulating valley
lay between both. The ground permitted in all places both cavalry and
infantry movements, and except the crumbling walls of the Château of
Hougoumont, or the farm-house of La Haye Sainte, both of which were
occupied by the British, no advantage either by Nature or art inclined to
either side. It was a fair stand-up fight. It was the mighty tournament,
not only of the two greatest nations, but the two deadliest rivals and
bitterest enemies, led on by the two greatest military geniuses that the
world has ever seen; it might not be too much to say, or ever will see.
As for me, condemned to be an inactive spectator of the mighty struggle,
doomed to witness all the deep-laid schemes and well-devised plans of
attack which were destined for the overthrow of my country’s arms, my state
was one of torture and suspense. I sat upon the little rising ground of
Rossomme; before me in the valley, where yet the tall corn waved in ripe
luxuriance, stood the quiet and peaceful-looking old Château of Hougoumont,
and the blossoming branches of the orchard; the birds were gayly singing
their songs; the shrill whistle of the fatal musketry was to be heard; and
through my glass I could detect the uniform of the soldiers who held the
position, and my heart beat anxiously and proudly as I recognized the
Guards. In the orchard and the garden were stationed some riflemen,--at
least their dress and the scattered order they assumed bespoke them such.
While I looked, the tirailleurs of Jerome’s Division advanced from the
front of the line, and descending the hill in a sling trot, broke into
scattered parties, keeping up as they went a desultory and irregular fire.
The English skirmishers, less expert in this peculiar service, soon fell
back, and the head of Reille’s Brigade began their march towards the
château. The English artillery is unmasked and opens its fire. Kellermann
advances at a gallop his twelve pieces of artillery; the château is
concealed from view by the dense smoke, and as the attack thickens, fresh
troops pour forward, the artillery thundering on either side; the entire
lines of both armies stand motionless spectators of the terrific combat,
while every eye is turned towards that devoted spot from whose dense mass
of cloud and smoke the bright glare of artillery is flashing, as the
crashing masonry, the burning rafters, and the loud yell of battle add
to the frightful interest of the scene. For above an hour the tremendous
attack continues without cessation; the artillery stationed upon the height
has now found its range, and every ringing shot tells upon the tottering
walls; some wounded soldiers return faint and bleeding from the conflict,
but there are few who escape. A crashing volley of fire-arms is now heard
from the side where the orchard stands; a second, and a third succeed, one
after the other as rapid as lightning itself. A silence follows, when,
after a few moments, a deafening cheer bursts forth, and an aide-de-camp
gallops up to say that the orchard has been carried at the point of the
bayonet, the Nassau sharp-shooters who held it having, after a desperate
resistance, retired before the irresistible onset of the French infantry.
“A moi! maintenant!” said General Foy, as he drew his sabre and rode down
to the head of his splendid division, which, anxious for the word to
advance, was standing in the valley. “En avant! mes braves!” cried he,
while, pointing to the château with his sword, he dashed boldly forward.
Scarcely had he advanced a hundred yards, when a cannon-shot, “ricocheting”
 as it went, struck his horse in the counter and rolled him dead on the
plain. Disengaging himself from the lifeless animal, at once he sprang to
his feet, and hurried forward. The column was soon hid from my view, and I
was left to mourn over the seemingly inevitable fate that impended over my
gallant countrymen.

In the intense interest which chained me to this part of the field, I had
not noticed till this moment that the Emperor and his staff were standing
scarcely thirty yards from where I was. Napoleon, seated upon a gray,
almost white, Arabian, had suffered the reins to fall loosely on the neck
as he held with both hands his telescope to his eye; his dress, the usual
green coat with white facings, the uniform of the _chasseurs à cheval_,
was distinguished merely by the cross of the legion; his high boots were
splashed and mud-stained from riding through the deep and clayey soil; his
compact and clean-bred charger looked also slightly blown and heated, but
he himself, and I watched his features well, looked calm, composed, and
tranquil. How anxiously did I scrutinize that face; with what a throbbing
heart did I canvass every gesture, hoping to find some passing trait of
doubt, of difficulty, or of hesitation; but none was there. Unlike one who
looked upon the harrowing spectacle of the battle-field, whose all was
depending on the game before him; gambling with one throw his last his only
stake, and that the empire of the world. Yet, could I picture to myself one
who felt at peace within himself,--naught of reproach, naught of regret to
move or stir his spirit, whose tranquil barque had glided over the calm sea
of life, unruffled by the breath of passion,--I should have fancied such
was he.

Beside him sat one whose flashing eye and changing features looked in every
way his opposite; watching with intense anxiety the scene of the deadly
struggle round the château, every look, every gesture told the changing
fortune of the moment; his broad and brawny chest glittered with orders and
decorations, but his heavy brow and lowering look, flushed almost black
with excitement, could not easily be forgotten. It was Soult, who, in his
quality of major-general, accompanied the Emperor throughout the day.

“They have lost it again, Sire,” said the marshal, passionately; “and see,
they are forming beneath the cross-fire of the artillery; the head of the
column keeps not its formation two minutes together; why does he not move
up?”

“Domont, you know the British; what troops are those in the orchard? They
use the bayonet well.”

The officer addressed pointed his glass for a moment to the spot. Then,
turning to the Emperor, replied, as he touched his hat, “They are the
Guards, Sire.”

During this time Napoleon spoke not a word; his eye ever bent upon the
battle, he seemed to pay little if any attention to the conversation about
him. As he looked, an aide-de-camp, breathless and heated, galloped up.

“The columns of attack are formed, Sire; everything is ready, and the
marshal only waits the order.”

Napoleon turned upon his saddle, and directing his glass towards Ney’s
Division, looked fixedly for some moments at them. His eye moved from front
to rear slowly, and at last, carrying his telescope along the line, he
fixed it steadily upon the far left. Here, towards St. Lambert, a slight
cloud seemed to rest on the horizon, as the Emperor continued to gaze
steadfastly at it. Every glass of the staff was speedily turned in that
direction.

“It is nothing but a cloud; some exhalation from the low grounds in that
quarter,” whispered one.

“To me,” said another, “they look like trees, part of the Bois de Wavre.”

“They are men,” said the Emperor, speaking for the first time. “Est-ce
Grouchy? Est-ce Blucher?”

Soult inclines to believe it to be the former, and proceeds to give his
reasons; but the Emperor, without listening, turns towards Domont, and
orders him, with his division of light cavalry and Subervic’s Brigade, to
proceed thither at once. If it be Grouchy, to establish a junction with
him; to resist, should it prove to be the advanced guard of Marshal
Blucher. Scarcely is the order given when a column of cavalry, wheeling
“fours about,” unravels itself from the immense mass, and seems to
serpentine like an enormous snake between the squares of the mighty army.
The pace increases at every moment, and at length we see them emerge from
the extreme right and draw up, as if on parade, above half a mile from the
wood. This movement, by its precision and beauty, attracted our entire
attention, not only from the attack upon Hougoumont, but also from an
incident which had taken place close beside us. This was the appearance
of a Prussian hussar who had been taken prisoner between Wavre and
Planchenoit; he was the bearer of a letter from Bulow to Wellington,
announcing his arrival at St. Lambert, and asking for orders.

This at once explains the appearance on the right; but the prisoner also
adds, that the three Prussian corps were at Wavre, having pushed their
patrols two leagues from that town without ever encountering any portion of
the force under the command of Grouchy. For a moment not a word is spoken.
A silence like a panic pervades the staff; the Emperor himself is the first
to break it.

“This morning,” said he, turning towards Soult, “the chances were ninety to
one in our favor; Bulow’s arrival has already lost us thirty of the number;
but the odds are still sufficient, if Grouchy but repair the _horrible
fault_ he has committed.”

He paused for a moment, and as he lifted up his own hand, and turned a look
of indignant passion towards the staff, added, in a voice the sarcasm of
whose tone there is no forgetting:--

“Il s’amuse à Gembloux! Still,” said he, speaking rapidly and with more
energy than I had hitherto noticed, “Bulow may be entirely cut off. Let
an officer approach. Take this letter, sir,” giving as he spoke, Bulow’s
letter to Lord Wellington,--“give this letter to Marshal Grouchy; tell him
that at this moment he should be before Wavre; tell him that already, had
he obeyed his orders--but no, tell him to march at once, to press forward
his cavalry, to come up in two hours, in three at farthest. You have but
five leagues to ride; see, sir, that you reach him within an hour.”

As the officer hurries away at the top of his speed, an aide-de-camp from
General Domont confirms the news; they are the Prussians whom he has before
him. As yet, however, they are debouching from the wood, and have attempted
no forward movement.

“What’s Bulow’s force, Marshal?”

“Thirty thousand, Sire.”

“Let Lobau take ten thousand, with the Cuirassiers of the Young Guard, and
hold the Prussians in check.”

“Maintenant, pour les autres,” this he said with a smile, as he turned his
eyes once more towards the field of battle. The aide-de-camp of Marshal
Ney, who, bare-headed and expectant, sat waiting for orders, presented
himself to view. The Emperor turned towards him as he said, with a clear
and firm voice:--

“Tell the marshal to open the fire of his batteries; to carry La Haye
Sainte with the bayonet, and leaving an infantry division for its
protection, to march against La Papelotte and La Haye. They must be carried
by the bayonet.”

The aide-de-camp was gone; Napoleon’s eye followed him as he crossed the
open plain and was lost in the dense ranks of the dark columns. Scarcely
five minutes elapsed when eighty guns thundered out together, and as the
earth shook and trembled beneath, the mighty movement of the day began its
execution. From Hougoumont, where the slaughter and the carnage continued
unslackened and unstayed, every eye was now turned towards the right. I
knew not what troops occupied La Haye Sainte, or whether they were British
who crowned the heights above it; but in my heart how fervently did I pray
that they might be so. Oh, in that moment of suspense and agonizing doubt,
what would I not have given to know that Picton himself and the fighting
Fifth were there; that behind that ridge the Greys, the Royals, and the
Enniskilleners sat motionless, but burning to advance; and the breath
of battle waved among the tartans of the Highlanders, and blew upon the
flashing features of my own island countrymen. Had I known this, I could
have marked the onset with a less failing spirit.

“There goes Marcognet’s Division,” said my companion, springing to his
legs; “they’re moving to the right of the road. I should like to see the
troops that will stand before them.”

So saying, he mounted his horse, and desiring me to accompany him, rode to
the height beside La Belle Alliance. The battle was now raging from the
Château de Hougoumont to St. Lambert, where the Prussian tirailleurs, as
they issued from the wood, were skirmishing with the advanced posts of
Lobau’s Brigade. The attack upon the centre, however, engrossed all my
attention, and I watched the dark columns as they descended into the plain,
while the incessant roll of the artillery played about them. To the right
of Ney’s attack, D’Erlon advanced with three divisions, and the artillery
of the Guard. Towards this part of the field my companion moved. General le
Vasseur desired to know if the division on the Brussels road were English
or Hanoverian troops, and I was sent for to answer the question. We passed
from square to square until at length we found ourselves upon the flank of
D’Erlon’s Division. Le Vasseur, who at the head of his cuirassiers waited
but the order to charge, waved impatiently with his sword for us to
approach. We were now to the right of the high road, and about four hundred
yards from the crest of the hill where, protected by a slight hedge,
Picton, with Kempt’s Brigade, waited the attack of the enemy.

Just at this moment an incident took place which, while in itself one of
the most brilliant achievements of the day, changed in a signal manner my
own fortunes. The head of D’Erlon’s column pressed with fixed bayonets up
the gentle slope. Already the Belgian infantry give way before them. The
brave Brunswickers, overwhelmed by the heavy cavalry of France, at first
begin to waver, then are broken; and at last retreat in disorder up the
road, a whirlwind of pursuing squadrons thundering behind them. “En avant!
en avant! la victoire est ènous,” is shouted madly through the impatient
ranks; and the artillery is called up to play upon the British squares;
upon which, fixed and immovable, the cuirassiers have charged without
success. Like a thunderbolt, the flying artillery dashes to the front;
but scarcely has it reached the bottom of the ascent, when, from the deep
ground, the guns become embedded in the soil, the wheels refuse to move. In
vain the artillery drivers whip and spur their laboring cattle. Impatiently
the leading files of the column prick with their bayonets the struggling
horses. The hesitation is fatal; for Wellington, who, with eager glance,
watches from an eminence beside the high road the advancing column, sees
the accident. An order is given; and with one fell swoop, the heavy cavalry
brigade pour down. Picton’s Division deploys into line; the bayonets glance
above the ridge; and with a shout that tells above the battle, on they
come, the fighting Fifth. One volley is exchanged; but the bayonet is now
brought to the charge, and the French division retreat in close column,
pursued by their gallant enemy. Scarcely have the leading divisions fallen
back, and the rear pressed down upon, or thrown into disorder, when the
cavalry trumpets sound a charge; the bright helmets of the Enniskilleners
come flashing in the sunbeams, and the Scotch Greys, like a white-crested
wave, are rolling upon the foe. Marcognet’s Division is surrounded; the
dragoons ride them down on every side; the guns are captured; the drivers
cut down; and two thousand prisoners are carried off. A sudden panic seems
to seize upon the French, as cavalry, infantry, and artillery are hurried
back on each other. Vainly the French attempt to rally; the untiring enemy
press madly on; the household brigade, led on by Lord Uxbridge, came
thundering down the road, riding down with their gigantic force the mailed
cuirassiers of France. Borne along with the retreating torrents, I was
carried on amidst the densely commingled mass. The British cavalry, which,
like the lightnings that sever the thunder-cloud, pierces through in every
direction, plunged madly upon us. The roar of battle grew louder, as hand
to hand they fought. Milhaud’s Heavy Dragoons, with the 4th Lancers, came
up at a gallop. Picton presses forward, waving his plumed hat above his
head; his proud eye flashes with the fire of victory. That moment is his
last. Struck in the forehead by a musket-ball, he falls dead from the
saddle; and the wild yell of the Irish regiments, as they ring his
death-cry, are the last sounds which he hears. Meanwhile the Life Guards
are among us; prisoners of rank are captured on every side; and I, seizing
the moment, throw myself among the ranks of my countrymen, and am borne to
the rear with the retiring squadrons.

As we reached the crest of the hill above the road, a loud cheer in the
valley beneath us burst forth, and from the midst of the dense smoke a
bright and pointed flame shot up towards the sky. It was the farm-house La
Haye Sainte, which the French had succeeded in setting fire to with hot
shot. For some time past the ammunition of the corps that held it had
failed, and a dropping irregular musketry was the only reply to the
incessant rattle of the enemy. As the smoke cleared away we discovered that
the French had carried the position; and as no quarter was given in that
deadly hand-to-hand conflict, not one returned to our ranks to toll the
tale of their defeat.

“This is the officer that I spoke of,” said an aide-decamp, as he rode up
to where I was standing bare-headed and without a sword. “He has just made
his escape from the French lines, and will be able to give your lordship
some information.”

The handsome features and gorgeous costume of Lord Uxbridge were known
to me; but I was not aware, till afterward, that a soldier-like,
resolute-looking officer beside him was General Graham. It was the latter
who first addressed me.

“Are you aware, sir,” said he, “if Grouchy’s force have arrived?”

“They have not; on the contrary, shortly before I escaped, an aide-de-camp
was despatched to Gembloux, to hasten his coming. And the troops, for they
must be troops, were debouching from the wood yonder. They seem to form a
junction with the corps to the right; they are the Prussians. They arrived
there before noon from St. Lambert, and are part of Bulow’s Corps. Count
Lobau and his division of ten thousand men were despatched, about an hour
since, to hold them in check.”

“This is great news,” said Lord Uxbridge. “Fitzroy must know it at once.”

So saying, he dashed spurs into his horse, and soon disappeared amidst the
crowd on the hill-top.

“You had better see the duke, sir,” said Graham. “Your information is too
important to be delayed. Captain Calvert, let this officer have a horse;
his own is too tired to go much farther.”

“And a cap, I beg of you,” added I in an undertone, “for I have already
found a sabre.”

By a slightly circuitous route we reached the road, upon which a mass
of dismounted artillery-carts, baggage-wagons, and tumbrils were heaped
together as a barricade against the attack of the French dragoons, who more
than once had penetrated to the very crest of our position. Close to this
and on a little rising ground, from which a view of the entire field
extended, from Hougoumont to the far left, the Duke of Wellington stood
surrounded by his staff. His eye was bent upon the valley before him, where
the advancing columns of Ney’s attack still pressed onward; while the fire
of sixty great guns poured death and carnage into his lines. The Second
Belgian Division, routed and broken, had fallen back upon the 27th
Regiment, who had merely time to throw themselves into square, when
Milhaud’s cuirassiers, armed with their terrible long, straight swords,
came sweeping down upon them. A line of impassable bayonets, a living
_chevaux-de-frise_ of the best blood of Britain, stood firm and motionless
before the shock. The French _mitraille_ played mercilessly on the ranks;
but the chasms were filled up like magic, and in vain the bold horsemen of
Gaul galloped round the bristling files. At length the word, “Fire!” was
heard within the square, and as the bullets at pistol-range rattled upon
them, the cuirass afforded them no defence against the deadly volley. Men
and horses rolled indiscriminately upon the earth. Then would come a charge
of our clashing squadrons, who, riding recklessly upon the foe, were in
their turn to be repulsed by numbers, and fresh attacks poured down upon
our unshaken infantry.

“That column yonder is wavering. Why does he not bring up his supporting
squadrons?” inquired the duke, pointing to a Belgian regiment of light
dragoons, who were formed in the same brigade with the 7th Hussars.

“He refuses to oppose his light cavalry to cuirassiers, my lord,” said an
aide-de-camp, who had just returned from the division in question.

“Tell him to march his men off the ground,” said the duke in a quiet and
impassive tone.

In less than ten minutes the “Belgian regiment” was seen to defile from the
mass and take the road to Brussels, to increase the panic of that city by
circulating and strengthening the report that the English were beaten, and
Napoleon in full march upon the capital.

“What’s Ney’s force; can you guess, sir?” said the Duke of Wellington,
turning to me.

“About twelve thousand men, my lord.”

“Are the Guard among them?”

“No, sir; the Guard are in reserve above La Belle Alliance.”

“In what part of the field is Bonaparte?”

“Nearly opposite to where we stand.”

“I told you, gentlemen, Hougoumont never was the great attack. The battle
must be decided here,” pointing as he spoke to the plain beneath us, where
Ney still poured on his devoted columns, where yet the French cavalry rode
down upon our firm squares.

As he spoke, an aide-de-camp rode up from the valley.

“The Ninety-second requires support, my lord. They cannot maintain their
position half an hour longer with out it.”

“Have they given way, sir?”

“No--”

“Well, then, they must stand where they are. I hear cannon towards the
left; yonder, near Frischermont.”

At this moment the light cavalry swept past the base of the hill on which
we stood, hotly followed by the French heavy cuirassier brigade. Three
of our guns were taken; and the cheering of the French infantry, as they
advanced to the charge, presaged their hope of victory.

“Do it, then,” said the duke, in reply to some whispered question of Lord
Uxbridge; and shortly after the heavy trot of advancing squadrons was heard
behind.

They were the Life Guards and the Blues, who, with the 1st Dragoon Guards
and the Enniskilleners, were formed into close column.

“I know the ground, my lord,” said I to Lord Uxbridge.

“Come along, sir, come along,” said he, as he threw his hussar jacket
loosely behind him to give freedom to his sword arm. “Forward, my men,
forward; but steady, hold your horses in hand, threes about, and together,
charge!

“Charge!” he shouted; while as the word flew from squadron to squadron,
each horseman bent upon his saddle, and that mighty mass, as though
instinct with but one spirit, dashed like a thunderbolt upon the column
beneath them. The French, blown and exhausted, inferior besides in weight,
both of man and horse, offered but a short resistance. As the tall corn
bends beneath the sweeping hurricane, wave succeeding wave, so did the
steel-clad squadrons of France fall before the nervous arm of Britain’s
cavalry. Onward they went, carrying death and ruin before them, and never
stayed their course until the guns were recaptured, and the cuirassiers,
repulsed, disordered, and broken, had retired beneath the protection of
their artillery.

There was, as a brilliant and eloquent writer on the subject mentions, a
terrible sameness in the whole of this battle. Incessant charges of cavalry
upon the squares of our infantry, whose sole manoeuvre consisted in either
deploying into line to resist the attack of the infantry, or falling back
into square when the cavalry advanced; performing those two evolutions
under the devastating fire of artillery, before the unflinching heroism of
that veteran infantry whose glories have been reaped upon the blood-stained
fields of Austerlitz, Marengo, and Wagram, or opposing an unbroken front
to the whirlwind swoop of infuriated cavalry. Such were the enduring and
devoted services demanded from the English troops; and such they failed not
to render. Once or twice had temper nearly failed them, and the cry ran
through the ranks, “Are we never to move forward? Only let us at them!” But
the word was not yet spoken which was to undam the pent-up torrent, and
bear down with unrelenting vengeance upon the now exulting columns of the
enemy.

It was six o’clock; the battle had continued with unchanged fortune for
three hours. The French, masters of La Haye Sainte, could never advance
farther into our position. They had gained the orchard of Hougoumont; but
the château was still held by the British Guards, although its blazing
roof and crumbling walls made its occupation rather the desperate stand of
unflinching valor than the maintenance of an important position. The smoke
which hung upon the field rolled in slow and heavy masses back upon the
French lines, and gradually discovered to our view the entire of the army.
We quickly perceived that a change was taking place in their position. The
troops, which on their left stretched far beyond Hougoumont, were now moved
nearer to the centre. The attack upon the château seemed less vigorously
supported, while the oblique direction of their right wing, which, pivoting
upon Planchenoit, opposed a face to the Prussians, all denoted a change in
their order of battle. It was now the hour when Napoleon, at last convinced
that nothing but the carnage he could no longer support could destroy the
unyielding ranks of British infantry; that although Hougoumont had been
partially, La Haye Sainte completely won; that upon the right of the road
the farm-houses Papolotte and La Haye were nearly surrounded by his troops,
which with any other army must prove the forerunner of defeat,--yet still
the victory was beyond his grasp. The bold stratagems, whose success the
experience of a life had proved, were here to be found powerless. The
decisive manoeuvre of carrying one important point of the enemy’s lines, of
turning him upon the flank, or piercing him through the centre, were here
found impracticable. He might launch his avalanche of grape-shot, he might
pour down his crashing columns of cavalry, he might send forth the iron
storm of his brave infantry; but though death in every shape heralded their
approach, still were others found to fill the fallen ranks, and feed with
their hearts’ blood the unslaked thirst for slaughter. Well might the
gallant leader of this gallant host, as he watched the reckless onslaught
of the untiring enemy, and looked upon the unflinching few who, bearing the
proud badge of Britain, alone sustained the fight, well might he exclaim,
“Night or Blucher!”

It was now seven o’clock, when a dark mass was seen to form upon the
heights above the French centre, and divide into three gigantic columns,
of which the right occupied the Brussels road. These were the reserves,
consisting of the Old and Young Guards, and amounting to twelve
thousand,--the _élite_ of the French army,--reserved by the Emperor for
a great _coup-de-main_. These veterans of a hundred battles had been
stationed from the beginning of the day, inactive spectators of the fight;
their hour was now come, and with a shout of “Vive l’Empereur!” which rose
triumphantly over the din and crash of battle, they began their march.
Meanwhile aides-de-camp galloped along the lines announcing the arrival of
Grouchy, to reanimate the drooping spirits of the men; for at last a doubt
of victory was breaking upon the minds of those who never before, in the
most adverse hour of fortune, deemed _his_ star could be set that led them
on to glory.

“They are coming; the attack will be made on the centre, my lord,” said
Lord Fitzroy Somerset, as he directed his glass upon the column. Scarcely
had he spoken when the telescope fell from his hand, as his arm, shattered
by a French bullet, fell motionless to his side.

“I see it,” was the cool reply of the duke, as he ordered the Guards to
deploy into line and lie down behind the ridge, which now the French
artillery had found the range of, and were laboring at their guns. In front
of them the Fifty-second, Seventy-first, and Ninety-fifth were formed; the
artillery stationed above and partly upon the road, loaded with grape, and
waited but the word to open.

It was an awful, a dreadful moment. The Prussian cannon thundered on our
left; but so desperate was the French resistance, they made but little
progress. The dark columns of the Guard had now commenced the ascent, and
the artillery ceased their fire as the bayonets of the grenadiers showed
themselves upon the slope. Then began that tremendous cheer from right
to left of our line, which those who heard never can forget. It was the
impatient, long-restrained burst of unslaked vengeance. With the instinct
which valor teaches, they knew the hour of trial was come; and that wild
cry flew from rank to rank, echoing from the blood-stained walls of
Hougoumont to the far-off valley of La Papelotte. “They come! they come!”
 was the cry; and the shout of “Vive l’Empereur!” mingled with the out-burst
of the British line.

Under an overwhelming shower of grape, to which succeeded a charge of
cavalry of the Imperial Guard, the head of Ney’s column fired its volley
and advanced with the bayonet. The British artillery now opened at half
range, and although the plunging fire scathed and devasted the dark ranks
of the Guard, on they came, Ney himself on foot at their head. Twice the
leading division of that gallant column turned completely round, as the
withering fire wasted and consumed them; but they were resolved to win.

Already they gained the crest of the hill, and the first line of the
British were falling back before them. The artillery closes up; the
flanking fire from the guns upon the road opens upon them; the head of
their column breaks like a shell; the duke seizes the moment, and advances
on foot towards the ridge.

“Up, Guards, and at them!” he cried.

The hour of triumph and vengeance had arrived. In a moment the Guards were
on their feet; one volley was poured in; the bayonets were brought to
the charge; they closed upon the enemy; then was seen the most dreadful
struggle that the history of all war can present. Furious with
long-restrained passion, the Guards rushed upon the leading divisions; the
Seventy-first and Ninety-fifth and Twenty-sixth overlapped them on the
flanks. Their generals fell thickly on every side; Michel, Jamier, and
Mallet are killed; Friant lies wounded upon the ground; Ney, his dress
pierced and ragged with balls, shouts still to advance; but the leading
files waver; they fall back; the supporting divisions thicken; confusion,
panic succeeds. The British press down; the cavalry come galloping up to
their assistance; and at last, pell-mell, overwhelmed and beaten, the
French fell back upon the Old Guard. This was the decisive moment of the
day; the duke closed his glass, as he said,--

“The field is won. Order the whole line to advance.”

On they came, four deep, and poured like a torrent from the height.

“Let the Life Guards charge them,” said the duke; but every aide-de-camp on
his staff was wounded, and I myself brought the order to Lord Uxbridge.

Lord Uxbridge had already anticipated his orders, and bore down with four
regiments of heavy cavalry upon the French centre. The Prussian artillery
thundered upon their flank and at their rear. The British bayonet was in
their front; while a panic fear spread through their ranks, and the cry of
“Sauve qui peut!” resounded on all sides. In vain Ney, the bravest of the
brave, in vain Soult, Bertrand, Gourgaud, and Labedoyère, burst from the
broken, disorganized mass, and called on them to stand fast. A battalion
of the Old Guard, with Cambronne at their head, alone obeyed the summons;
forming into square, they stood between the pursuers and their prey,
offering themselves a sacrifice to the tarnished honor of their arms. To
the order to surrender they answered with a cry of defiance; and as our
cavalry, flushed and elated with victory, rode round their bristling
ranks, no quailing look, no craven spirit was there. The Emperor himself
endeavored to repair the disaster; he rode with lightning speed hither and
thither, commanding, ordering, nay, imploring, too; but already the night
was falling, the confusion became each moment more inextricable, and the
effort was a fruitless one. A regiment of the Guards, and two batteries
were in reserve behind Planchenoit. He threw them rapidly into position;
but the overwhelming impulse of flight drove the mass upon them, and they
were carried away upon the torrent of the beaten army. No sooner did the
Emperor see this his last hope desert him, than he dismounted from his
horse, and drawing his sword, threw himself into a square, which the first
regiment of Chasseurs of the Old Guard had formed with a remnant of the
battalion. Jerome followed him, as he called out,--

“You are right, brother; here should perish all who bear the name of
Bonaparte.”

The same moment the Prussian light artillery rend the ranks asunder, and
the cavalry charge down upon the scattered fragments. A few of his staff,
who never left him, place the Emperor upon a horse and fly through the
death-dealing artillery and musketry. A squadron of the Life Guards, to
which I had attached myself, came up at the moment, and as Blucher’s
hussars rode madly here and there, where so lately the crowd of staff
officers had denoted the presence of Napoleon, expressed their rage and
disappointment in curses and cries of vengeance.

Cambronne’s battalion stood yet unbroken, and seemed to defy every attack
that was brought against them. To the second summons to surrender they
replied as indignantly as at first; and Vivian’s Brigade was ordered to
charge them. A cloud of British horse bore down on every face of the
devoted square; but firm as in their hour of victory, the heroes of Marengo
never quailed; and twice the bravest blood of Britian recoiled, baffled and
dismayed. There was a pause for some minutes, and even then, as we surveyed
our broken and blood-stained squadrons, a cry of admiration burst from our
ranks at the gallant bearing of that glorious infantry. Suddenly the tramp
of approaching cavalry was heard; I turned my head and saw two squadrons of
the Second Life Guards. The officer who led them on was bare-headed; his
long dark hair streaming wildly behind him, and upon his pale features,
to which not even the headlong enthusiasm of battle had lent one touch of
color. He rode straight to where I was standing, his dark eyes fixed upon
me with a look so fierce, so penetrating, that I could not look away.
The features, save in this respect, had almost a look of idiocy. It was
Hammersley.

“Ha!” he cried at last, “I have sought you out the entire day, but in vain.
It is not yet too late. Give me your hand, boy. You once called on me to
follow _you_, and I did not refuse; I trust you’ll do the like by _me_. Is
it not so?”

[Illustration: DEATH OF HAMMERSLEY.]

A terrible perception of his meaning shot through my mind as I clasped his
clay-cold hand in mine, and for a moment I did not speak.

“I hoped for better than this,” said he, bitterly, and as a glance of
withering scorn flashed from his eye. “I did trust that he who was
preferred before me was at least not a coward.”

As the word fell from his lips I nearly leaped from my saddle, and
mechanically raised my sabre to cleave him on the spot.

“Then follow me!” shouted he, pointing with his sword to the glistening
ranks before us.

“Come on!” said I, with a voice hoarse with passion, while burying my spurs
in my horse’s flanks, I sprang on a full length before him, and bore down
upon the enemy. A loud shout, a deafening volley, the agonizing cry of the
wounded and the dying, were all I heard, as my horse, rearing madly upward,
plunged twice into the air, and then fell dead upon the earth, crushing me
beneath his cumbrous weight, lifeless and insensible.


The day was breaking; the cold, gray light of morning was struggling
through the misty darkness, when I once more recovered my consciousness.
There are moments in life when memory can so suddenly conjure up the whole
past before us, that there is scarcely time for a doubt ere the disputed
reality is palpable to our senses. Such was this to me. One hurried glance
upon the wide, bleak plain before me, and every circumstance of the
battle-field was present to my recollection. The dismounted guns, the
broken wagons, the heaps of dead or dying, the straggling parties who on
foot or horseback traversed the field, and the dark litters which carried
the wounded, all betokened the sad evidences of the preceding day’s battle.

Close around me where I lay the ground was marked with the bodies of our
cavalry, intermixed with the soldiers of the Old Guard. The broad brow and
stalwart chest of the Saxon lay bleaching beside the bronzed and bearded
warrior of Gaul, while the torn-up ground attested the desperation of that
struggle which closed the day.

As my eye ranged over this harrowing spectacle, a dreadful anxiety shot
through me as I asked myself whose had been the victory. A certain confused
impression of flight and of pursuit remained in my mind; but at the moment,
the circumstances of my own position in the early part of the day increased
the difficulty of reflection, and left me in a state of intense and
agonizing uncertainty. Although not wounded, I had been so crushed by my
fall that it was not without pain I got upon my legs. I soon perceived
that the spot around me had not yet been visited by those vultures of the
battle-field who strip alike the dead and dying. The distance of the place
from where the great conflict of the battle had occurred was probably the
reason; and now, as the straggling sunbeams fell upon the earth, I could
trace the helmet of the Enniskilleners, or the tall bearskin of the Scotch
Greys, lying in thick confusion where the steel cuirass and long sword of
the French dragoons showed the fight had been hottest. As I turned my eyes
hither and thither I could see no living thing near me. In every attitude
of struggling agony they lay around; some buried beneath their horses, some
bathed in blood, some, with clinched hands and darting eyeballs, seemed
struggling even in death; but all was still,--not a word, not a sigh, not a
groan was there. I was turning to leave the spot, and uncertain which way
to direct my steps, looked once more around, when my glance rested upon
the pale and marble features of one who, even in that moment of doubt and
difficulty, there was no mistaking. His coat, torn widely open, was grasped
in either hand, while his breast was shattered with balls and bathed in
gore. Gashed and mutilated as he lay, still the features wore no trace of
suffering; cold, pale, motionless, but with the tranquil look of sleep, his
eyelids were closed, and his half-parted lips seemed still to quiver in
life. I knelt down beside him; I took his hand in mine; I bent over and
whispered his name; I placed my hand upon his heart, where even still the
life blood was warm,--but he was dead. Poor Hammersley! His was a gallant
soul; and as I looked upon his blood-stained corpse, my tears fell fast and
hot upon his brow to think how far I had myself been the cause of a life
blighted in its hope, and a death like his.



CHAPTER LIV.


BRUSSELS.

Once more I would entreat my reader’s indulgence for the prolixity of
a narrative which has grown beneath my hands to a length I had never
intended. This shall, however, be the last time for either the offence or
the apology. My story is now soon concluded.

After wandering about for some time, uncertain which way to take, I at
length reached the Charleroi road, now blocked by carriages and wagons
conveying the wounded towards Brussels. Here I learned, for the first time,
that we had gained the battle, and heard of the total annihilation of the
French army, and the downfall of the Emperor. On arriving at the farm-house
of Mont St. Jean, I found a number of officers, whose wounds prevented
their accompanying the army in its forward movement. One of them, with whom
I was slightly acquainted, informed me that General Dashwood had spent
the greater part of the night upon the field in search of me and that my
servant Mike was in a state of distraction at my absence that bordered on
insanity. While he was speaking, a burst of laughter and the tones of a
well-remembered voice behind attracted my attention.

“Made a very good thing of it, upon my life. A dressing-case,--not gold,
you know, but silver-gilt,--a dozen knives with blood-stone handles, and a
little coffee-pot, with the imperial arms,--not to speak of three hundred
Naps in a green silk purse--Lord! it reminds me of the Peninsula. Do you
know those Prussians are mere barbarians, haven’t a notion of civilized
war. Bless your heart, my fellows in the Legion would have ransacked the
whole coach, from the boot to the sword-case, in half the time they took to
cut down the coachman.”

“The major, as I live!” said I. “How goes it, Major?”

“Eh, Charley! when did you turn up? Delighted see you. They told me you
were badly wounded or killed or something of that kind. But I should have
paid the little debt to your executors all the same.”

“All the same, no doubt, Major; but where, in Heaven’s name, did you fall
upon that mine of pillage you have just been talking of?”

“In the Emperor’s carriage, to be sure, boy. While the duke was watching
all day the advance of Ney’s column and keeping an anxious look-out for the
Prussians, I sat in a window in this old farm-house, and never took my eye
off the garden at Planchenoit. I saw the imperial carriage there in the
morning; it was there also at noon; and they never put the horses to it
till past seven in the evening. The roads were very heavy, and the crowd
was great. I judged the pace couldn’t be a fast one; and with four of the
Enniskilleners I charged it like a man. The Prussians, however, had the
start of us; and if they hadn’t thought, from my seat on horseback and
my general appearance, that I was Lord Uxbridge, I should have got but a
younger son’s portion. However, I got in first, filled my pockets with a
few little _souvenirs_ of the Emperor, and then laying my hands upon what
was readiest, got out in time to escape being shot; for two of Blucher’s
hussars, thinking I must be the Emperor, fired at me through the window.”

“What an escape you had!”

“Hadn’t I though? Fortunate, too, my Enniskilleners saw the whole thing;
for I intend to make the circumstance the ground of an application for a
pension. Hark ye, Charley, don’t say anything about the coffee-pot and
the knives. The duke, you know, has strange notions of his own on these
matters. But isn’t that your fellow fighting his way yonder?”

“Tear and ages! don’t howld me--that’s himself,--devil a one else!”

This exclamation came from Mickey Free, who, with his dress torn and
dishevelled, his eyes bloodshot and strained, was upsetting and elbowing
all before him, as he made his way towards me through the crowd.

“Take that fellow to the guard-house! Lay hold of him, Sergeant! Knock him
down! Who is the scoundrel?”

Such were the greetings he met with on every side. Regardless of everything
and everybody, he burst his way through the dense mass.

“Oh, murther! oh, Mary! oh, Moses! Is he safe here after all?”

The poor fellow could say no more, but burst into a torrent of tears.
A roar of laughter around him soon, however, turned the current of his
emotions; when, dashing the scalding drops from his eyelids, he glared
fiercely like a tiger on every side.

“Ye’re laughing at me, are ye,” cried he, “bekase I love the hand that fed
me, and the master that stood to me? But let us see now which of us two has
the stoutest heart,--you with your grin on you, or myself with the salt
tears on my face.”

As he spoke, he sprang upon them like a madman, striking right and left at
everything before him. Down they went beneath his blows, levelled with the
united strength of energy and passion, till at length, rushing upon him
in numbers, he was overpowered and thrown to the ground. It was with some
difficulty I accomplished his rescue; for his enemies felt by no means
assured how far his amicable propensities for the future could be relied
upon; and, indeed, Mike himself had a most constitutional antipathy to
binding himself by any pledge. With some persuasion, however, I reconciled
all parties; and having, by the kindness of a brother officer, provided
myself with a couple of troop horses, I mounted, and set out for Brussels,
followed by Mickey, who had effectually cured his auditory of any tendency
to laughter at his cost.

As I rode up to the Belle Vue, I saw Sir George Dashwood in the window. He
was speaking to the ambassador, Lord Clancarty, but the moment he caught my
eye, he hurried down to meet me.

“Charley, safe,--safe, my boy! Now am I really happy. The glorious day had
been one of sorrow to me for the rest of my life had anything happened to
you. Come up with me at once; I have more than one friend here who longs to
thank you.”

So saying, he hurried me along; and before I could well remember where I
was, introduced me to a number of persons in the saloon.

“Ah, very happy to know you, sir,” said Lord Clancarty. “Perhaps we had
better walk this way. My friend Dashwood has explained to me the very
pressing reasons there are for this step; and I, for my part, see no
objection.”

“What, in Heaven’s name, can he mean?” thought I, as he stopped short,
expecting me to say something, while, in utter confusion, I smiled,
simpered, and muttered some common-places.

“Love and war, sir,” resumed the ambassador, “very admirable associates,
and you certainly have contrived to couple them most closely together. A
long attachment, I believe?”

“Yes, sir, a very long attachment,” stammered I, not knowing which of us
was about to become insane.

“A very charming person, indeed; I have seen the lady,” replied his
lordship, as he opened the door of a small room, and beckoned me to follow.
The table was covered with paper and materials for writing; but before
I had time to ask for any explanation of this unaccountable mystery, he
added, “Oh, I was forgetting; this must be witnessed. Wait one moment.”

With these words he left the room, while I, amazed and thunderstruck,
vacillating between fear and hope, trembling lest the delusive glimmering
of happiness should give way at every moment, and yet totally unable to
explain by any possible supposition how fortune could so far have favored
me.

While yet I stood hesitating and uncertain, the door opened, and the
senhora entered. She looked a little pale though not less beautiful than
ever; and her features wore a slight trace of seriousness, which rather
heightened than took from the character of her loveliness.

“I heard you had come, Chevalier,” said she, “and so I ran down to shake
hands with you. We may not meet again for some time.”

“How so, Senhora? You are not going to leave us, I trust?”

“Then you have not seen Fred. Oh, I forgot; you know nothing of our plans.”

“Here we are at last,” said the ambassador, as he came in followed by Sir
George, Power, and two other officers. “Ah, _ma belle_, how fortunate to
find you here! I assure you, it is a matter of no small difficulty to get
people together at such a time as this.”

“Charley, my dear friend,” cried Power, “I scarcely hoped to have had a
shake hands with you ere I left.”

“Do, Fred, tell me what all this means? I am in a perfect maze of doubt and
difficulty, and cannot comprehend a word I hear about me.”

“Faith, my boy, I have little time for explanation. The man who was at
Waterloo yesterday, is to be married to-morrow, and to sail for India in a
week, has quite enough upon his hands.”

“Colonel Power, you will please to put your signature here,” said Lord
Clancarty, addressing himself to me.

“If you will allow me,” said Fred, “I had rather represent myself.”

“Is not this the colonel, then? Why, confound it, I have been wishing him
joy the last quarter of an hour!”

A burst of laughter from the whole party, in which it was pretty evident I
took no part, followed this announcement.

“And so you are not Colonel Power? Nor going to be married, either?”

I stammered out something, while, overwhelmed with confusion, I stooped
down to sign the paper. Scarcely had I done so, when a renewed burst of
laughter broke from the party.

“Nothing but blunders, upon my soul,” said the ambassador, as he handed the
paper from one to another.

What was my confusion to discover that instead of Charles O’Malley, I had
written the name of Lucy Dashwood. I could bear no more. The laughing and
raillery of my friends came upon my wounded and irritated feelings like the
most poignant sarcasm. I seized my cap and rushed from the room. Desirous
of escaping from all that knew me, anxious to bury my agitated and
distracted thoughts in solitude and quiet, I opened the first door before
me, and seeing it an empty and unoccupied room, throw myself upon a sofa,
and buried my head within my hands. Oh, how often had the phantom of
happiness passed within my reach, but still glided from my grasp! How often
had I beheld the goal I aimed at, as it were before me, and the next moment
all the bleak reality of my evil fortune was lowering around me!

“Oh, Lucy, Lucy!” I exclaimed aloud, “but for you and a few words
carelessly spoken, I had never trod that path of ambition whose end has
been the wreck of all my happiness. But for you, I had never loved so
fondly; I had never filled my mind with one image which, excluding every
other thought, leaves no pleasure but in it alone. Yes, Lucy, but for you I
should have gone tranquilly down the stream of life with naught of grief or
care, save such as are inseparable from the passing chances of mortality;
loved, perhaps, and cared for by some one who would have deemed it no
disgrace to have linked her fortune to my own. But for you, and I had never
been--”

“A soldier, you would say,” whispered a soft voice, as a light hand gently
touched my shoulder. “I had come,” continued she, “to thank you for a gift
no gratitude can repay,--my father’s life; but truly, I did not think to
hear the words you have spoken; nor having heard them, can I feel their
justice. No, Mr. O’Malley, deeply grateful as I am to you for the service
you once rendered myself, bound as I am by every tie of thankfulness, by
the greater one to my father, yet do I feel that in the impulse I had given
to your life, if so be that to me you owe it, I have done more to repay
my debt to you, than by all the friendship, all the esteem I owe you; if,
indeed, by my means, you became a soldier, if my few and random words
raised within your breast that fire of ambition which has been your
beacon-light to honor and to glory, then am I indeed proud.”

“Alas, alas, Lucy!--Miss Dashwood, I would say,--forgive me, if I know not
the very words I utter. How has my career fulfilled the promise that gave
it birth? For you, and you only, to gain your affection, to win your heart,
I became a soldier; hardship, danger, even death itself were courted by me,
supported by the one thought that you had cared for or had pitied me; and
now, and now--”

“And now,” said she, while her eyes beamed upon me with a very flood of
tenderness, “is it nothing that in my woman’s heart I have glowed with
pride at triumphs I could read of, but dared not share in? Is it nothing
that you have lent to my hours of solitude and of musing the fervor of that
career, the maddening enthusiasm of that glorious path my sex denied me?
I have followed you in my thoughts across the burning plains of the
Peninsula, through the long hours of the march in the dreary nights, even
to the battle-field. I have thought of you; I have dreamed of you; I have
prayed for you.”

“Alas, Lucy, but not loved me!”

The very words, as I spoke them, sank with a despairing cadence upon my
heart. Her hand, which had fallen upon mine, trembled violently; I pressed
my lips upon it, but she moved it not. I dared to look up; her head was
turned away, but her heaving bosom betrayed her emotion.

“No, no, Lucy,” cried I, passionately, “I will not deceive myself; I ask
for more than you can give me. Farewell!”

Now, and for the last time, I pressed her hand once more to my lips; my hot
tears fell fast upon it. I turned to go, and threw one last look upon her.
Our eyes met; I cannot say what it was, but in a moment the whole current
of my thoughts was changed; her look was bent upon me beaming with softness
and affection, her hand gently pressed my own, and her lips murmured my
name.

The door burst open at this moment, and Sir George Dashwood appeared. Lucy
turned one fleeting look upon her father, and fell fainting into my arms.

“God bless you, my boy!” said the old general, as he hurriedly wiped a tear
from his eye; “I am now, indeed, a happy father.”

[Illustration: THE WELCOME HOME.]



CHAPTER LV.


CONCLUSION.

       *       *       *       *       *

The sun had set about half an hour. Already were the dusky shadows blending
with the faint twilight, as on a lovely July evening we entered the little
village of Portumna,--we, I say; for Lucy was beside me. For the last few
miles of the way I had spoken little; thoughts of the many times I had
travelled that same road, in how many moods, occupied my mind; and
although, as we flew rapidly along, some well-known face would every now
and then present itself, I had but time for the recognition ere we were
past. Arousing myself from my revery, I was pointing out to Lucy certain
well-known spots in the landscape, and directing her attention to places
with the names of which she had been for some time familiar, when suddenly
a loud shout rent the air, and the next moment the carriage was surrounded
by hundreds of country people, some of whom brandished blazing pine
torches; others carried rude banners in their hands,--but all testified
the most fervent joy as they bade us welcome. The horses were speedily
unharnessed, and their places occupied by a crowd of every age and sex,
who hurried us along through the straggling street of the village, now a
perfect blaze of bonfires.

Mounds of turf, bog-fir, and tar-barrels sent up their ruddy blaze, while
hundreds of wild, but happy faces, flitted around and through them,--now
dancing merrily in chorus; now plunging madly into the midst of the fire,
and scattering the red embers on every side. Pipers were there too, mounted
upon cars or turf-kishes; even the very roof-tops rang out their merry
notes; the ensigns of the little fishing-craft waved in the breeze, and
seemed to feel the general joy around them; while over the door of the
village inn stood a brilliantly lighted transparency, representing the head
of the O’Malleys holding a very scantily-robed young lady by the tips of
the fingers; but whether this damsel was intended to represent the genius
of the west, or my wife, I did not venture to inquire.

If the welcome were rude, assuredly it was a hearty one. Kind wishes and
blessings poured in on every side, and even our own happiness took a
brighter coloring from the beaming looks around us. The scene was wild;
the lurid glare of the red torchlight, the frantic gestures, the maddening
shouts, the forked flames rising amidst the dark shadows of the little
hamlet, had something strange and almost unearthly in their effect; but
Lucy showed no touch of fear. It is true she grasped my hand a little
closer, but her fair cheek glowed with pleasure, and her eye brightened as
she looked; and as the rich light fell upon her beauteous features, how
many a blessing, heart-felt and deep, how many a word of fervent praise was
spoken.

“Ah, then, the Lord be good to you; it’s yourself has the darling blue
eyes! Look at them, Mary; ain’t they like the blossoms on a peacock’s tail?
Musha, may sorrow never put a crease in that beautiful cheek! The saints
watch over you, for your mouth is like a moss-rose! Be good to her, yer
honor, for she’s a raal gem: devil fear you, Mr. Charles, but you’d have a
beauty!”

We wended our way slowly, the crowd ever thickening around us, until we
reached the market-place. Here the procession came to a stand, and I could
perceive, by certain efforts around me, that some endeavor was making to
enforce silence.

“Whisht, there! Hould your prate! Be still, Paddy! Tear an’ ages, Molly
Blake, don’t be holding me that way; let us hear his reverence. Put him up
on the barrel. Haven’t you got a chair for the priest? Run, and bring a
table out of Mat Haley’s. Here, Father--here, your reverence; take care,
will you,--you’ll have the holy man in the blaze!”

By this time I could perceive that my worthy old friend Father Rush was in
the midst of the mob with what appeared to be a written oration, as long as
the tail of a kite, between his hands.

“Be aisy, there, ye savages! Who’s tearing the back of my neck? Howld me up
straight! Steady, now--hem!”

“Take the laste taste in life to wet your lips, your riverence,” said a
kind voice, while at the same moment a smoking tumbler of what seemed to be
punch appeared on the heads of the crowd.

“Thank ye, Judy,” said the father, as he drained the cup. “Howld the light
up higher; I can’t read my speech. There now, be quiet, will ye! Here goes.
Peter, stand to me now and give me the word.”

This admonition was addressed to a figure on a barrel behind the priest,
who, as well as the imperfect light would permit me to descry, was the
coadjutor of the parish, Peter Nolan. Silence being perfectly established,
Father Rush began:--

    “When Mars, the god of war, on high,
    Of battles first did think,
    He girt his sword upon his thigh,
    And--

and--what is’t, Peter?”

    “And mixed a drop of drink.”

“And mixed a drop of drink,” quoth Father Rush, with great emphasis; when
scarcely were the spoken words than a loud shout of laughter showed him his
mistake, and he overturned upon the luckless curate the full vial of his
wrath.

“What is it you mean, Father Peter? I’m ashamed of ye; faith, it’s may be
yourself, not Mars, you are speaking of.”

The roar of merriment around prevented me hearing what passed; but I could
see by Peter’s gestures--for it was too dark to see his face--that he was
expressing deep sorrow for the mistake. After a little time, order was
again established, and Father Rush resumed:--

    “But love drove battles from his head,
    And sick of wounds and scars,
    To Venus bright he knelt, and said--

and said--and said; what the blazes did he say?”

    “I’ll make you Mrs. Mars,”

shouted Peter, loud enough to be heard.

“Bad luck to you, Peter Nolan, it’s yourself’s the ruin of me this blessed
night! Here have I come four miles with my speech in my pocket, _per imbres
et ignes_.” Here the crowd crossed themselves devoutly. “Ay, just so; and
he spoiled it for me entirely.” At the earnest entreaty, however, of the
crowd, Father Rush, with renewed caution to his unhappy prompter, again
returned to the charge:

    “Thus love compelled the god to yield
    And seek for purer joys;
    He laid aside his helm and shield,
    And took--took--took--”

    “And took to corduroys,”

cried Father Nolan.

This time, however, the good priest’s patience could endure no more, and he
levelled a blow at his luckless colleague, which, missing his aim, lost him
his own balance, and brought him down from his eminence upon the heads of
the mob.

Scarcely had I recovered the perfect convulsion of laughter into which this
scene had thrown me, when the broad brim of Father Nolan’s hat appeared at
the window of the carriage. Before I had time to address him, he took it
reverently from his head, disclosing in the act the ever-memorable features
of Master Frank Webber!

“What! Eh! Can it be?” said I.

“It is surely not--” said Lucy, hesitating at the name.

“Your aunt, Miss Judy Macan, no more than the Rev. Peter Nolan, I assure
you; though, I confess, it has cost me much more to personate the latter
character than the former, and the reward by no means so tempting.”

Here poor Lucy blushed deeply at the remembrance of the scene alluded to;
and anxious to turn the conversation, I asked by what stratagem he had
succeeded to the functions of the worthy Peter.

“At the cost of twelve tumblers of the strongest punch ever brewed at the
O’Malley Arms. The good father gave in only ten minutes before the oration
began, and I had barely time to change my dress and mount the barrel,
without a moment’s preparation.”

The procession once more resumed its march; and hurried along through the
town, we soon reached the avenue. Here fresh preparations for welcoming us
had also been made; but regardless of blazing tar-barrels and burning logs,
the reckless crowd pressed madly on, their wild cheers waking the echoes as
they went. We soon reached the house; but with a courtesy which even
the humblest and poorest native of this country is never devoid of, the
preparations of noise and festivity had not extended to the precincts of
the dwelling. With a tact which those of higher birth and older blood might
be proud of, they limited the excesses of their reckless and careless
merriment to their own village; so that as we approached the terrace, all
was peaceful, still, and quiet.

I lifted Lucy from the carriage, and passing my arm around her, was
assisting her to mount the steps, when a bright gleam of moonlight burst
forth and lit up the whole scene. It was, indeed, an impressive one. Among
the assembled hundreds there who stood bare-headed, beneath the cold
moonlight, not a word was now spoken, not a whisper heard. I turned from
the lawn, where the tall beech-trees were throwing their gigantic shadows,
to where the river, peering at intervals through the foliage, was flowing
on its silvery track, plashing amidst the tall flaggers that lined its
banks,--all were familiar, all were dear to me from childhood. How doubly
were they so now! I lifted up my eyes towards the door, and what was my
surprise at the object before them! Seated in a large chair was an old man,
whose white hair, flowing in straggling masses upon his neck and shoulders,
stirred with the night air; his hands rested upon his knees, and his eyes,
turned slightly upward, seemed to seek for some one he found it difficult
to recognize. Changed as he was by time, heavily as years had done their
work upon him, the stern features were not to be mistaken; but as I looked,
he called out in a voice whose unshaken firmness seemed to defy the touch
of time,--

“Charley O’Malley, come here, my boy! Bring her to me, till I bless you
both. Come here, Lucy,--I may call you so. Come here, my children. I have
tried to live on to see this day, when the head of an old house comes back
with honor, with fame, and with fortune, to dwell amidst his own people in
the old home of his fathers.”

The old man bent above us, his white hair falling upon the fair locks of
her who knelt beside him, and pressed his cold and quivering hand within
her own.

“Yes, Lucy,” said I, as I led her within the house, “this is home.”


Here now ends my story. The patient reader who has followed me so far
deserves at my hands that I should not trespass upon his kindness one
moment beyond the necessity; if, however, any lurking interest may remain
for some of those who have accompanied me through this my history, it
may be as well that I should say a few words farther, ere they disappear
forever.

Power went to India immediately after his marriage, distinguished himself
repeatedly in the Burmese war, and finally rose to a high command that he
this moment holds, with honor to himself and advantage to his country.

O’Shaughnessy, on half-pay, wanders about the Continent, passing his
summers on the Rhine, his winters at Florence or Geneva. Known to and by
everybody, his interest in the service keeps him _au courant_ to every
change and regulation, rendering him an invaluable companion to all to whom
an army list is inaccessible. He is the same good fellow he ever was, and
adds to his many excellent qualities the additional one of being the only
man who can make a bull in French!

Monsoon, the major, when last I saw him, was standing on the pier at
Calais, endeavoring, with a cheap telescope, to make out the Dover cliffs,
from a nearer prospect of which certain little family circumstances might
possibly debar him. He recognized me in a moment, and held out his hand,
while his eye twinkled with its ancient drollery.

“Charley, my son, how goes it? Delighted to see you. What a pity I did not
meet you yesterday! Had a little dinner at Crillon’s. Harding, Vivian, and
a few others. They all wished for you; ‘pon my life they did.”

“Civil, certainly,” thought I, “as I have not the honor of being known to
them.”

“You are at Meurice’s,” resumed he; “a very good house, but give you bad
wine, if they don’t know you. They know me,” added he, in a whisper; “never
try any tricks upon me. I’ll just drop in upon you at six.”

“It is most unfortunate, Major; I can’t have the pleasure you speak of; we
start in half an hour.”

“Never mind, Charley, never mind; another time. By-the-bye, now I think of
it, don’t you remember something of a ten-pound note you owe me?”

“As well as I remember, Major, the circumstance was reversed. You are the
debtor.”

“Upon my life, you are right; how droll. No matter; let me have the ten,
and I’ll give you a check for the whole.”

The major thrust his tongue into his cheek as he spoke, gave another leer,
pocketed the note, and sauntered down the pier, muttering something to
himself about King David and greenhorns; but how they were connected I
could not precisely overhear.

Baby Blake, or Mrs. Sparks,--to call her by her more fitting
appellation,--is as handsome as ever, and not less good-humored and
light-hearted, her severest trials being her ineffectual efforts to convert
Sparks into something like a man for Galway.

Last of all, Mickey Free. Mike remains attached to our fortune firmly, as
at first he opened his career; the same gay, rollicksome Irishman, making
songs, making love, and occasionally making punch, he spends his days and
his nights pretty much as he was wont to do some thirty years ago. He
obtains an occasional leave of absence for a week or so, but for what
precise purpose, or with what exact object, I have never been completely
able to ascertain. I have heard, it as true, that a very fascinating
companion and a most agreeable gentleman frequents a certain oyster-house
in Dublin called Burton Bindon’s. I have also been told of a distinguished
foreigner, whose black mustache and broken English were the admiration of
Cheltenham for the last two winters. I greatly fear from the high tone of
the conversation in the former, and for the taste in continental characters
in the latter resort, that I could fix upon the individual whose convivial
and social gifts have won so much of their esteem and admiration; but were
I to run on thus, I should recur to every character of my story, with each
and all of whom you have, doubtless, grown well wearied. So here for the
last time, and with every kind wish, I say, adieu!



L’ENVOI.


Kind friends,--It is somewhat unfortunate that the record of the happiest
portion of my friend’s life should prove the saddest part of my duty as
his editor, and for this reason, that it brings me to that spot where my
acquaintance with you must close, and sounds the hour when I must say,
good-bye.

They, who have never felt the mysterious link that binds the solitary
scribe in his lonely study, to the circle of his readers, can form no
adequate estimate of what his feelings are when that chain is about to be
broken; they know not how often, in the fictitious garb of his narrative,
he has clothed the inmost workings of his heart; they know not how
frequently he has spoken aloud his secret thoughts, revealing, as though to
a dearest friend, the springs of his action, the causes of his sorrow, the
sources of his hope; they cannot believe by what a sympathy he is bound to
those who bow their heads above his pages; they do not think how the ideal
creations of his brain are like mutual friends between him and the world,
through whom he is known and felt and thought of, and by whom he reaps in
his own heart the rich harvest of flattery and kindness that are rarely
refused to any effort to please, however poor, however humble. They know
not this, nor can they feel the hopes, the fears, that stir within him, to
earn some passing word of praise; nor think they, when won, what brightness
around his humble hearth it may be shedding. These are the rewards for
nights of toil and days of thought; these are the recompenses which pay the
haggard cheek, the sunken eye, the racked and tired head. These are the
stakes for which one plays his health, his leisure, and his life, yet not
regrets the game.

Nearly three years have now elapsed since I first made my bow before you.
How many events have crowded into that brief space! How many things of
vast moment have occurred! Only think that in the last few months you’ve
frightened the French; terrified M. Thiers; worried the Chinese; and are,
at this very moment, putting the Yankees into a “_most uncommon fix_;” not
to mention the minor occupations of ousting the Whigs; reinstating the
Tories, and making O’Connell Lord Mayor,--and yet, with all these and a
thousand other minor cares, you have not forgotten your poor friend, the
Irish Dragoon. Now this was really kind of you, and in my heart I thank you
for it.

Do not, I entreat you, construe my gratitude into any sense of future
favors,--no such thing; for whatever may be my success with you hereafter,
I am truly deeply grateful for the past. Circumstances, into which I
need not enter, have made me for some years past a resident in a foreign
country, and as my lot has thrown me into a land where the reputation of
writing a book is pretty much on a par with that of picking a pocket, it
may readily be conceived with what warm thankfulness I have caught at any
little testimonies of your approval which chance may have thrown in my way.

Like the reduced gentlewoman who, compelled by poverty to cry fresh eggs
through the streets, added after every call, “I hope nobody hears me;” so
I, finding it convenient, for a not very dissimilar reason, to write books,
keep my authorship as quietly to myself as need be, and comfort me with the
assurance that nobody knows me.

A word now to my critics. Never had any man more reason to be satisfied
with that class than myself. As if you knew and cared for the temperament
of the man you were reviewing; as if you were aware of the fact that it was
at any moment in your power, by a single article of severe censure, to have
extinguished in him forever all effort, all ambition for success,--you have
mercifully extended to him the mildest treatment, and meted out even your
disparagement, with a careful measure.

While I have studied your advice with attention, and read your criticisms
with care, I confess I have trembled more than once before your more
palpable praise; for I thought you might be hoaxing me.

Now and then, to be sure, I have been accused of impressing real
individuals, and compelling them to serve in my book; that this reproach
was unjust, they who know me can best vouch for, while I myself can
honestly aver, that I never took a portrait without the consent of the
sitter.

Others again have fallen foul of me, for treating of things, places, and
people with which I had no opportunity of becoming personally acquainted.
Thus one of my critics has showed that I could not have been a Trinity
College man; and another has denied my military matriculation. Now,
although both my Latin and my learning are on the peace establishment, and
if examined in the movements for cavalry, it is perfectly possible I should
be cautioned, yet as I have both a degree and a commission I might have
been spared this reproach.

“Of coorse,” says Father Malachi Brennan, who leans over my shoulder while
I write,--“of coorse you ought to know all about these things as well as
the Duke of Wellington or Marshal Soult himself. UNDE DERYVATUR MILES.
Ain’t you in the Derry militia?” I hope the Latin and the translation will
satisfy every objection.

While, then, I have nothing but thankfulness in my heart respecting the
entire press of my own country, I have a small grudge with my friends of
the far west; and as this is a season of complaint against the Yankees,
“Why shouldn’t I roll my tub also?” A certain New York paper, called the
“Sunday Times,” has thought fit for some time past to fill its columns with
a story of the Peninsular war, announcing it as “by the author of Charles
O’Malley.” Heaven knows that injured individual has sins enough of his own
to answer for, without fathering a whole foundling hospital of American
balderdash; but this kidnapping spirit of brother Jonathan would seem to be
the fashion of the day! Not content with capturing Macleod, who unhappily
ventured within his frontier, he must come over to Ireland and lay hands
on Harry Lorrequer. Thus difficulties are thickening every day. When they
dispose of the colonel, then comes the boundary question; after that there
is Grogan’s affair, then me. They may liberate Macleod; [3] they may
abandon the State of Maine,--but what recompense can be made to me for this
foul attack on my literary character? It has been suggested to me from the
Foreign Office that the editor might be hanged. I confess I should like
this; but after all it would be poor satisfaction for the injury done me.
Meanwhile, as Macleod has the _pas_ of me, I’ll wait patiently, and think
the matter over.

[Footnote 3: I have just read that Macleod and Grogan have been liberated.
May I indulge a hope that _my_ case will engage the sympathies of the
world during the Christmas holidays. H. L.]

It was my intention, before taking leave of you, to have apologized
separately for many blunders in my book; but the errors of the press are
too palpable to be attributed to me. I have written letters without end,
begged, prayed, and entreated that more care might be bestowed; but
somehow, after all, they have crept in in spite of me. Indeed, latterly I
began to think I had found out the secret of it. My publisher, excellent
man, has a kind of pride about printing in Ireland, and he thinks the
blunders, like the green cover to the volume, give the thing a national
look. I think it was a countryman of mine of whom the story is told, that
he apologized for his spelling by the badness of his pen. This excuse, a
little extended, may explain away anacronisms, and if it won’t I am sorry
for it, for I have no other.

Here then I conclude: I must say, adieu! Yet can I not do so before I
again assure you that if perchance I may have lightened an hour of _your_
solitude, you, my kind friends, have made happy whole weeks and days of
_mine_; and if happily I have called up a passing smile upon _your_ lip,
your favor has spoken joy and gladness to many a heart around _my_ board.
Is it, then, strange that I should be grateful for the past; be sorrowful
for the present?

To one and all, then, a happy Christmas; and if before the new year, you
have not forgotten me, I shall be delighted to have your company at OUR
MESS.

Meanwhile believe me most respectfully and faithfully yours,

    HARRY LORREQUER.

    BRUSSELS, November, 1841.

THE END.





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