Charles O'Malley, The Irish Dragoon Volume Ii Part 69

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"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.

Charles O'Malley, The Irish Dragoon Volume Ii Part 69

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Charles O'Malley, The Irish Dragoon Volume Ii Part 69 summary

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