The World's Greatest Books, Vol VI.
Part 1 out of 7
Produced by John Hagerson, Kevin Handy and PG Distributed Proofreaders
THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS
ARTHUR MEE Editor and Founder of the Book of Knowledge
J.A. HAMMERTON Editor of Harmsworth's Universal Encyclopaedia
VOL. VI FICTION
* * * * *
_Table of Contents_
LE FANU, SHERIDAN
Tom Burke of Ours
Ambrosio, or the Monk
LINTON, MRS. LYNN
LYTTON, EDWARD BULWER
Last Days of Pompeii
The Last of the Barons
Man of Feeling
MAISTRE, COUNT XAVIER DE
A Journey Round my Room
MALORY, SIR THOMAS
Household of Sir Thomas More
Mr. Midshipman Easy
Melmoth the Wanderer
MENDOZA, DIEGO DE
Lazarillo de Tonnes
Death of the Gods
MITFORD, MARY RUSSELL
MURRAY, DAVID CHRISTIE
Way of the World
Under Two Flags
Lost Sir Massingberd
A Complete Index of THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS will be found at the end
of Volume XX.
* * * * *
Acknowledgment and thanks for permission to use the following selections
are herewith tendered to G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, for "The Death of
the Gods," by Dmitri Merejkowski; and to Doubleday, Page & Company, New
York, for "The Pit," by Frank Norris.
* * * * *
SHERIDAN LE FANU
Joseph Sheridan le Fanu, Irish novelist, poet, and journalist,
was born at Dublin on August 28, 1814. His grandmother was a
sister of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, his father a dean.
Educated at Trinity College, Dublin, Le Fanu became a
contributor to the "Dublin University Magazine," afterwards
its editor, and finally its proprietor. He also owned and
edited a Dublin evening paper. Le Fanu first came into
prominence in 1837 as the author of the two brilliant Irish
ballads, "Phaudhrig Croohore" and "Shamus O'Brien." His
novels, which number more than a dozen, were first published
in most cases in his magazine. His power of producing a
feeling of weird mystery ranks him with Edgar Allan Poe. It
may be questioned whether any Irish novelist has written with
more power. The most representative of his stories is "Uncle
Silas, a Tale of Bartram-Haugh," which appeared in 1864. Le
Fanu died on February 7, 1873.
_I.--Death, the Intruder_
It was winter, and great gusts were rattling at the windows; a very dark
night, and a very cheerful fire, blazing in a genuine old fire-place in
a sombre old room. A girl of a little more than seventeen, slight and
rather tall, with a countenance rather sensitive and melancholy, was
sitting at the tea-table in a reverie. I was that girl.
The only other person in the room was my father, Mr. Ruthyn, of Knowl.
Rather late in life he had married, and his beautiful young wife had
died, leaving me to his care. This bereavement changed him--made him
more odd and taciturn than ever. There was also some disgrace about his
younger brother, my Uncle Silas, which he felt bitterly, and he had
given himself up to the secluded life of a student.
He was pacing the floor. I remember the start with which, not suspecting
he was close by me, I lifted my eyes, and saw him stand looking fixedly
on me from less than a yard away.
"She won't understand," he whispered, "no, she won't. _Will_ she? They
are easily frightened--ay, they are. I'd better do it another way, and
she'll not suspect--she'll not suppose. See, child?" he said, after a
second or two. "_Remember_ this key."
It was oddly shaped, and unlike others.
"It opens that." And he tapped sharply on the door of a cabinet. "You
will tell nobody what I have said, under pain of my displeasure."
"Oh, no, sir!"
"Good child! _Except_ under one contingency. That is, in case I should
be absent and Dr. Bryerly--you recollect the thin gentleman in
spectacles and a black wig, who spent three days here last
month?--should come and enquire for the key, you understand, in my
"But you will then be absent, sir," I said. "How am I to find the key?"
"True, child. I am glad you are so wise. _That_, you will find, I have
provided for. I have a very sure friend--a friend whom I once
misunderstood, but now appreciate."
I wondered silently whether it would be Uncle Silas.
"He'll make me a call some day soon, and I must make a little journey
with him. He's not to be denied; I have no choice. But on the whole I
rather like it. Remember, I say, I rather like it."
I think it was about a fortnight after this conversation that I was one
night sitting in the great drawing-room window, when on a sudden, on the
grass before me stood an odd figure--a very tall woman in grey
draperies, courtesying rather fantastically, smiling very unpleasantly
on me, and gabbling and cackling shrilly--I could not distinctly hear
_what_--and gesticulating oddly with her long arms and hands. This was
Madame de la Rougierre, my new governess.
I think all the servants hated her. She was by no means a pleasant
_gouvernante_ for a nervous girl of my years. She was always making
excuses to consult my father about my contumacy and temper. She
tormented me by ghost stories to cover her nocturnal ramblings, and she
betrayed a terrifying curiosity about his health and his will. My cousin
Monica, Lady Knollys, who visited us about this time, was shocked at her
presence in the house; it was the cause of a rupture between my father
and her. But not even a frustrated attempt to abduct me during one of
our walks--which I am sure madame connived at--could shake my father's
confidence in her, though he was perfectly transported with fury on
hearing what had happened. It was not until I found her examining his
cabinet by means of a false key that he dismissed her; but madame had
contrived to leave her glamour over me, and now and then the memory of
her parting menaces would return with an unexpected pang of fear.
My father never alluded again to Madame de la Rougierre, but, whether
connected with her exposure and dismissal or not, there appeared to be
some new trouble at work in his mind.
"I am anxious about you, Maud," he said. "_You_ are more interested than
_I_ can be in vindicating his character."
"Whose character, sir?" I ventured to inquire during the pause that
"Whose? Your Uncle Silas's. In course of nature he must survive me. He
will then represent the family name. Would you make some sacrifice to
clear that name, Maud?"
I answered briefly; but my face, I believe, showed my enthusiasm.
"I can tell you, Maud, if my life could have done it, it should not have
been undone. But I had almost made up my mind to leave all to time to
illuminate, or _consume_. But I think little Maud would like to
contribute to the restitution of her family name. It may cost you
something. Are you willing to buy it at a sacrifice? Your Uncle Silas,"
he said, speaking suddenly in loud and fierce tones that sounded almost
terrible, "lies under an intolerable slander. He troubles himself little
about it; he is selfishly sunk in futurity--a feeble visionary. I am not
so. The character and influence of an ancient family are a peculiar
heritage--sacred, but destructible. You and I, we'll leave one proof on
record which, fairly read, will go far to convince the world."
That night my father bade me good-night early. I had fallen into a doze
when I was roused by a dreadful crash and a piercing scream from Mrs.
Rusk. Scream followed scream, pealing one after the other unabated,
wilder and more terror-stricken. Then came a strange lull, and the dull
sounds of some heavy body being moved.
What was that dreadful sound? Who had entered my father's chamber? It
was the visitor whom he had so long expected, with whom he was to make
the unknown journey, leaving me alone. The intruder was Death!
_II.--The Sorceries of Bartram-Haugh_
One of those fearful aneurisms that lie close to the heart had given way
in a moment. He had fallen, with the dreadful crash I had heard, dead
upon the floor. He fell across the door, which caused a difficulty in
opening it. Mrs. Rusk could not force it open. No wonder she had given
way to terror. I think I should have lost my reason.
I do not know how those awful days, and still more awful nights, passed
over. Lady Knollys came, and was very kind. She was odd, but her
eccentricity was leavened with strong commonsense; and I have often
thought since with gratitude of the tact with which she managed my
I did not know where to write to Dr. Bryerly, to whom I had promised the
key, but in accordance with my father's written directions, his death
was forthwith published in the principal London papers. He came at
midnight, accordingly, and on the morrow the will was read. Except for a
legacy of L10,000 to his only brother, Silas Ruthyn, and a few minor
legacies to relations and servants, my father had left his whole estate
to me, appointing my Uncle Silas my sole guardian, with full parental
authority over me until I should have reached the age of twenty-one, up
to which time I was to reside under his care at Bartram-Haugh, with the
sum of L2,000 paid yearly to him for my suitable maintenance and
I was startled by the expression of cousin Monica's face. She looked
ghastly and angry.
"To whom," she asked, with an effort, "will the property belong in
case--in case my cousin should die before she comes of age?"
"To the next heir, her uncle, Mr. Silas Ruthyn. He's both heir-at-law
and next-of-kin," replied the attorney.
She was anxious to persuade my uncle to relinquish his guardianship to
her; but the evening of the funeral a black-bordered letter came from
him, bidding me remain at Knowl until he could arrange for my journey to
him. There was a postscript, which made my cheek tingle.
"Pray present my respects to Lady Knollys, who, I understand, is
sojourning at Knowl. I would observe that a lady who cherishes, I have
reason to fear, unfriendly feelings against your uncle is not the most
desirable companion for his ward. But, upon the express condition that I
am not made the subject of your discussions, I do not interpose to bring
your intercourse to an immediate close."
"Did I ever hear! Well, if this isn't impertinent!" exclaimed Lady
Knollys. "I did not intend to talk about him, but now I _will_." And so
it was that I heard the story of that enigmatical person--martyr, angel,
demon--Uncle Silas, with whom my fate was now so strangely linked.
It was twenty years ago. He was not a reformed rake, but a ruined one
then. My father had helped him again and again, until his marriage with
a barmaid. After that he allowed him five hundred a year, and the use of
his estate of Bartram-Haugh. Then Mr. Charke, a gentleman of the turf,
who was staying with my uncle for Doncaster Races, was found dead in his
room--he had committed suicide by cutting his throat. And Uncle Silas
was suspected of having killed him.
This wretched Mr. Charke had won heavy wagers at the races from Uncle
Silas, and at night they had played very deep at cards. Next morning his
servant could not enter his room; it was locked on the inside, the
window was fastened by a screw, and the chimney was barred with iron. It
seemed that he had hermetically sealed himself in, and then killed
himself. But he had been in boisterous spirits. Also, though his own
razor was found near his right hand, the fingers of his left hand were
cut to the bone. Then the memorandum-book in which his bets were noted
was nowhere to be found. Besides, he had written two letters to a
friend, saying how profitable he had found his visit to Bartram-Haugh,
and that he held Uncle Silas's I O U's for a frightful sum; and although
my uncle stoutly alleged he did not owe him a guinea, there had scarcely
been time in one evening for him to win back so much money. In a moment
the storm was up, and although my uncle met it bravely, he failed to
overcome it, and became a social outcast, in spite of all my father's
And now I was to rehabilitate him before the world, and accordingly all
preparations were made for my departure from Knowl; and at last the
morning came--a day of partings, a day of novelty, and regrets.
I remember we passed a gypsy bivouac on our journey, with fires alight,
on the edge of a great, heathy moor. I had my fortune told, and I am
ashamed to confess I paid the gypsy a pound for a brass pin with a round
bead for a head--a charmed pin, which would keep away rat, and cat, and
snake, a malevolent spirit, or "a cove to cut my throat," from hurting
me. The purchase was partly an indication of the trepidations of that
period Of my life. At all events, I had her pin and she my pound, and I
venture to say I was the gladder of the two.
It was moonlight when we reached Bartram-Haugh. It had a forlorn
character of desertion and decay, contrasting almost awfully with the
grandeur of its proportions and richness of its architecture. A shabby
little old man, a young plump, but very pretty female figure in
unusually short petticoats, and a dowdy old charwoman, all stood in the
door among a riot of dogs. I sat shyly back, peeping at the picture
"Will you tell me--yes or no--is my cousin in the coach?" screamed the
young lady. She received me with a hug and a hearty "buss," as she
called that salutation, and was evidently glad to see me. Then, after
leading me to my bed-room to make a hurried toilet, she conducted me to
a handsome wainscotted room, where my Uncle Silas awaited me.
A singular looking old man--a face like marble, with a fearful
monumental look--an apparition, drawn, as it seemed, in black and white,
venerable, bloodless, fiery-eyed, with its strange look of power and an
expression so bewildering. Was it derision, or anguish, or cruelty, or
He said something in his clear, gentle, but cold voice, and, taking both
my hands, led me affectionately to a chair near his own. He was a
miserable invalid, he told me, after speaking a little eulogy of his
brother and examining me closely, respecting his illness and its
symptoms. At last, remarking that I must be fatigued, he rose and kissed
me with a solemn tenderness, and, placing his hand on a large Bible,
bade me "Remember that book; in it lives my only hope. Consult it, my
beloved niece, day and night as the only oracle."
"I'm awful afraid of the governor, I am," said Cousin Milly, when we had
left him. "I was in a qualm. When he spies me a-napping maybe he don't
fetch me a prod with his pencil-case over the head."
But Milly was a pretty and a clever creature in spite of her uncouth
dialect, and I liked her very much. We spent much time taking long
country rambles and exploring the old house, many of whose rooms were
closed and shuttered. Of my uncle we saw little. He was "queerish,"
Milly said, and I learnt afterwards he took much laudanum.
My other cousin, Dudley, I did not meet till later. To my horror, I
beheld in him one of the party of ruffians who had terrified me so much
the day of the attempted abduction at Knowl; but he stoutly denied ever
having been there with an air so confident that I began to think I must
be the dupe of a chance resemblance. My uncle viewed him with a strange,
paternal affection. But dear Cousin Monica had written asking Milly and
me to go to her, and we had some of the pleasantest and happiest days of
our lives at her house of Elverston, for there Milly met her good little
curate, the Rev. Sprigge Biddlepen, and Lord Ilbury.
Uncle Silas was terribly ill when we returned to Bartram-Haugh, the
result of an overdose of opium; but for the doctor's aid he would have
died. Remembering how desperate Lady Knollys had told me his monetary
position was, a new and dreadful suspicion began to haunt me.
"Had he attempted to poison himself?"
I remember I was left alone with him while his attendant fetched a fresh
candle. A small thick Bible lay on the mantle-shelf. I turned over its
leaves, and lighted on two or three odd-looking papers--promissory
notes, I believe--when Uncle Silas, dressed in a long white
morning-gown, slid over the end of the bed and stood behind me with a
deathlike scowl and simper. Diving over my shoulder, with his long, thin
hand he snatched the Bible from me, and whispered over my head, "The
serpent beguiled her, and she did eat."
It seemed an hour before Wyat came back. You may be sure I did not
prolong my watch. I had a long, hysterical fit of weeping when I got to
my room: the sorceries of Bartram-Haugh were enveloping.
About this time Dudley began to persecute me with his odious attentions.
I was obliged to complain of him to my uncle. He was disposed to think
well of the match; but I could not consent, and it was arranged that my
cousin should go abroad. And then that night I had the key to some of
the mysterious doings at Bartram-Haugh--the comings and goings in the
darkness which had so often startled me--the face of Madame de la
Rougierre peeped into the room.
_III.--A Night of Terror_
Shortly afterwards I lost Milly, who was sent to a French school, where
I was to follow her in three months. I bade her farewell at the end of
Windmill Wood, and was sitting on the trunk of a tree when Meg Hawkes, a
girl to whom I had once been kind, passed by.
"Don't ye speak, nor look; fayther spies us," she said quickly. "Don't
ye be alone wi' Master Dudley nowhere, for the world's sake!"
The injunction was so startling that I had many an hour of anxious
conjecture, and many a horrible vigil by night. But ten days later I was
summoned to my uncle's room. He implored me once more to wed Dudley--to
listen to the appeal of an old and broken-hearted man.
"You see my suspense--my miserable and frightful suspense," he said.
"I'm very miserable, nearly desperate. I stand before you in the
attitude of a suppliant."
"Oh, I must--I must--I _must_ say no!" I cried. "Don't question me,
don't press me. I could not--I _could_ not do what you ask!"
"I yield, Maud--I yield, my dear. I will _not_ press you. I have spoken
to you frankly, perhaps too frankly; but agony and despair will speak
out and plead, even with the most obdurate and cruel!"
He shut the door, not violently, but with a resolute hand, and I thought
I heard a cry.
The discovery that Dudley was already married spared me further
importunity. I was anxious to relieve my uncle's necessities, which, I
knew were pressing; and the attorney from Feltram was up with him all
night, trying in vain to devise some means by which I might do so. The
morning after, I was told I must write to Lady Knollys to ask if I might
go to her, as there was shortly to be an execution in the house.
I met Dudley on my way through the hall. He spoke oddly about his
father, and made a very strange proposal to me--that I should give him
my written promise for twenty thousand pounds, and he would "take me
cleverly out o' Bartram-Haugh and put me wi' my cousin Knollys!"
I refused indignantly, but he caught me by the wrist.
"Don't ye be a-flyin' out," he said peremptorily. "Take it or leave
it--on or off! Can't ye speak wi' common sense for once? I'll take ye
out o' all this, if you'll gi'e me what I say."
He looked black when I refused again. I judged it best to tell my uncle
of his offer. He was startled, but made what excuse he could, smiling
askance, a pale, peaked smile that haunted me. And then, once more,
entering an unfrequented room, I came upon the great bony figure of
Madame de la Rougierre. She was to be my companion for a week or two, I
was told, and shortly after her coming I found my walks curtailed. I
wrote again to my Cousin Knollys, imploring her to take me away. This
letter my uncle intercepted, and when she came in reply to my former
letter, I had but the sight of her carriage driving swiftly away.
The morning after I was informed madame was to take me to join Milly in
France. As Uncle Silas had directed, I wrote to Cousin Monica from
London. I know madame asked me what I would do for her if she took me to
Lady Knollys. I was inwardly startled, but refused, seeing before me
only a tempter and betrayer; and together we ended our journey, driving
from the station through the dark and starless night to find ourselves
at last in Mr. Charke's room at Bartram-Haugh.
There were bailiffs in the house, I was told. I was locked in. I
entreated madame wildly, piteously, to save me; but she mocked me in my
agony. I escaped for a brief moment, and sought my uncle. I can never
forget the look he fixed on me.
"What is the meaning of this? Why is she here?" he asked, in a stern,
icy tone. "You were always odd, niece. I begin to believe you are
insane. There's no evil intended you, by--, there is none! Go to your
room, and don't vex me, there's a good girl!"
I went upstairs with madame, like a somnambulist. She was to leave me to
sleep alone that night. I had lost the talismanic pin I always stuck in
the bolster of my bed. Uncle Silas sent up spiced claret in a little
silver flagon. Madame abstractedly drank it off, and threw herself on my
bed. I believed she was feigning sleep only, and really watching me; but
now I think the claret was drugged.
About an hour afterwards I heard them digging in the courtyard. Like a
thunder-bolt it smote my brain. "They are making my grave!"
After the first dreadful stun, I grew wild, running up and down wringing
my hands, and gasping prayers to heaven. Then a dreadful calm stole over
_IV.--The Open Door_
It was a very still night. A peculiar sound startled me and I saw a man
descend by a rope, and take his stand on the windowsill. In a moment
more, window, bars and all, swung noiselessly open, and Dudley Ruthyn
stepped into the room.
He stole, in a groping way, to the bed, and stooped over it. Nearly at
the same moment there came a scrunching blow; an unnatural shriek,
accompanied by a convulsive sound, as of the motion of running, and the
arms drumming on the bed, and then another blow--and silence. The
diabolical surgery was over. There came a little tapping at the door.
"Who's that?" whispered Dudley hoarsely.
"A friend," answered a sweet voice, and Uncle Silas entered.
Coolness was given me in that dreadful moment. I knew that all depended
on my being prompt and resolute. With a mental prayer for help, I glided
from the room and descended the stairs. I tried the outer door. To my
wild surprise it was open. In a moment I was in the free air--and as
instantaneously was seized by Tom Brice, Meg's sweetheart, who was
waiting to drive the guilty father and son away.
"They shan't hurt ye, miss. Get ye in; I don't care a d----!" he said in
a wild, fierce whisper. To me it was the voice of an angel. He drove
over the grass so that our passage was noiseless; then, on reaching the
highway, at a gallop. At length we entered Elverston. I think I was half
wild. I could not speak, but ran, with a loud, long scream, into Cousin
Monica's arms. I forget a great deal after that.
* * * * *
It was not till two years afterwards that I learnt that Uncle Silas was
found next morning dead of an overdose of laudanum, and that Dudley had
Milly married her good little clergyman. I am Lady Ilbury now, happy in
the affection of a beloved and noble-hearted husband. A tiny voice is
calling "Mamma;" the shy, useless girl you have known is now a mother,
thinking, and trembling while she smiles, how strong is love, how frail
* * * * *
RENE LE SAGE
Except that he was born at Sarzeau, in Brittany, on May 8,
1668, and that he was the son of the novelist Claude le Sage,
little is known of the youth of Alain Rene le Sage. Until he
was eighteen he was educated with the Jesuits at Vannes, when,
it is conjectured he went to Paris to continue his studies for
the Bar. An early marriage drove him to seek a livelihood by
means of literature, and shortly afterwards he found a
valuable and sympathetic friend and patron in the Abbe de
Lyonne, who not only bestowed upon him a pension of about
L125, but also gave him the use of his library. The first
results of this favour were adaptations of two plays from
Rojas and Lope de Vega, which appeared some time during the
first two or three years of the eighteenth century. Le Sage's
reputation as a playwright and as a novelist rests, oddly
enough, in each case on one work. As the author of "Tuscaret,"
produced in 1709, he contributed to the stage one of the best
comedies in the French language; as author of "The Adventures
of Gil Blas of Santillana" he stands for all time in the front
rank of the world's novelists. Here he brought the art of
story-writing to the highest level of artistic truth. The
first and second parts of the work appeared in 1715, the third
in 1724, and the fourth in 1735. Le Sage died at Boulogne on
November 17, 1747.
_I.--I Start on my Travels_
My uncle, Canon Perez, was a worthy priest. To live well was, in his
opinion, the chief duty of man. He lived very well. He kept the best
table in the town of Oviedo. I was very glad of this, as I lived with
him, my parents being too poor to keep me.
My uncle gave me an excellent education. He even learned to read so as
to be able to teach me himself. There were few ecclesiastics of his rank
in Spain in the early part of the seventeenth century who could read a
breviary as well as he could when I left him, at the age of seventeen,
to continue my duties at the University of Salamanca.
"Here are forty ducats, Gil Blas," he said to me when we parted. "And
you can take my old mule and sell it when you reach Salamanca. Then you
will be able to live comfortable until you obtain a good position."
It is, I suppose, about two hundred miles from Oviedo to Salamanca. Not
very far, you will say, but it took me two years to cover the distance.
When one travels along a high road at the age of seventeen, master of
one's actions, of an old mule, and forty ducats, one is bound to meet
with adventures on the way. I was out to see the world, and I meant to
see it; my self-confidence was equalled only by my utter inexperience.
Out of my first misadventure came an extraordinary piece of good luck. I
fell into the hands of some brigands, and lost my mule and my money.
Among my fellow prisoners was a wealthy lady, Dona Mencia, of Burgos. I
helped her to escape and got away myself, and when I came to Zurgos she
rewarded me very handsomely with a diamond ring and a thousand ducats.
This changed my plan of life completely. Why should I go and study at
Salamanca? Did I want to become a priest or a pedant? I was now sure
that I didn't.
"Gil Blas," I said, "you are a good-looking lad, clever, well-educated,
and ambitious. Why not go to Madrid and try to get some place at the
court of King Philip the Third?"
I spent sixty ducats in dressing myself out gaily in the manner of a
rich cavalier, and I engaged a man of about thirty years of age to come
with me as my servant.
Lamela, as he was called, was quite different from the other valets who
applied for the position. He did not demand any sum as wages.
"Only let me come with you, sir," he said. "I shall be content with
whatever you give me."
It seemed to me that I had got a very good servant We slept at Duengas
the first night, and on the second day we arrived at Valladolid. As I
was sitting in my inn, a charming lady entered and asked to see me.
"My dear Gil Blas," she exclaimed "Lamela has just told me of your
arrival. I am a cousin of Dona Mencia, and I received a letter from her
this morning. How brave it was of you to rescue her from those wicked
brigands! I can't leave you in this inn. You must come at once to my
house. My brother, Don Raphael, will be delighted to see you when he
returns in an hour or two from our country castle."
Dona Camilla, as the lady was called, led me to a great house in the
best part of the town, and at the door we met Don Raphael. "What a
handsome young cavalier you are, my dear Gil Blas!" he said. "You must
make up your mind to stay with us for some weeks."
The supper was a pleasant affair. Dona Camilla and her brother found
something to admire in everything I said, and I began to fancy myself as
a wit. It was very late when Lamela led me to my bed-room and helped me
to undress. And it was very late when I awoke next day. I called to
Lamela, but he did not come, so I arose and dressed myself and went
downstairs. To my surprise there was nobody in the house, and all my
baggage had disappeared. I looked at my hand--the diamond ring had gone.
Then I understood why Lamela had been willing to come with me without
troubling about wages. I had fallen for a second time into the hands of
thieves. They had hired the furnished house for a week, and had trapped
me in it. It was clear that I had boasted too much at Burgos about the
thousand ducats which Dona Mencia gave me. Now I found myself at
Valladolid quite penniless.
As I walked along the street in a very despondent mood, not knowing how
to get a meal, someone tapped me on the shoulder, and said, "Good
gracious, Gil Blas, I hardly knew you! What a princely dress you've got
on. A fine sword, silk stockings, a velvet mantle and doublet with
silver lacings! Have you come into a fortune?"
I turned around, and found it was Fabrice, an old schoolfellow, the son
of a barber at Oviedo. I told him of my adventure.
"Pride comes before a fall, you see," he said with a laugh. "But I can
get you a place if you care to take it. One of the principal physicians
of the town, Dr. Sang-Tado, is looking for a secretary. I know you write
a very good hand. Sell your fine raiment and buy some plain clothes, and
I will take you to the doctor."
I am glad to say that I obtained the post, but I wasn't altogether
satisfied with it. Dr. Sangrado believed in vegetarianism, and he gave
me only peas and beans and baked apples to eat, and not much of those.
At the end of a fortnight I resolved to go as a servant in some house:
where meat and wine were to be had.
"Don't be foolish," said Sangrado. "Your fortune is made if you only
stay with me. I am getting old and I require someone to help me in my
practice. You can do it. You need not waste your time in studying all
the nonsense written by other doctors. You have only to follow my
method. Never give a patient medicine. Bleed him well, and tell him to
drink a pint of hot water every half hour. If that doesn't cure
him--well, it's time he died."
So I donned one of Sangrado's gowns, which gave me a very original
appearance, as it was much too long and ample for me, and then I began
to attend his patients. A few of them, I believe, managed to recover.
One day a woman stopped me and took me into her house to look at her
niece. I recognised the girl as soon as I saw her. It was the pretty
adventuress, Camilla, who had decoyed me and helped to rob me of my
thousand ducats. When I took her hand to feel her pulse I perceived that
she was wearing my diamond ring. Happily, she was too ill to know me.
After ordering her to be bled and given a pint of warm water every half
hour, I went out and talked the matter over with Fabrice. We resolved
not to call in the police, as they would certainly keep whatever money
of mine they recovered. The ways of the law in Spain in the seventeenth
century are very strange and intricate.
Nevertheless, I returned late at night to the house accompanied by a
sergeant of the police and five of his men, all well armed. I then awoke
Camilla, and told her to dress herself and attend before the magistrate.
"Oh, Gil Blas," she cried, "have pity on me. Lamela and Raphael have run
off with the money, and left me alone here on a bed of sickness."
I knew this was true, as I had made inquiries; but I also knew that
Camilla had had a share of the spoil, and had bought some valuable
jewelry with it. So I said, "Very well, I won't be hard on you. But you
must give me back the diamond ring which you are wearing, and you must
satisfy these officers of the police."
Poor Camilla understood what I meant. It is a costly matter to satisfy
the Spanish police. She gave me the ring, and then, with a sigh, she
opened a casket and handed the sergeant everything it contained--a
necklace of beautiful pearls, a pair of fine earrings, and some other
"Isn't this better than calling in the police?" said the sergeant when
we had left the house. "There are the jewels. Two hundred ducats' worth,
I'll be bound!"
No doubt, dear reader, you have seen through this little plot. The
supposed sergeant was my old friend, Fabrice, and his five men were five
young barbers of his acquaintance. They quickly changed their clothes,
and we all went to an inn and spent a merry evening together.
_II.--In Male Attire_
A few days afterwards I took up the plan which I had formed at Burgos,
and bravely set out for Madrid in the hope of making my fortune there.
But my money did not last long, for on reaching the capital I fell in
with a wild company of fashionable actors and actresses.
As my purse grew lighter my conscience became tenderer, and at length I
humbly accepted the position of lackey in the house of a rich old
nobleman, Don Vincent de Guzman. He was a widower, with an only child,
Aurora--a lovely, gay, and accomplished girl of twenty-six years of age.
I had hardly been with him a month when he died, leaving his daughter
mistress of all his wealth, and free to do what she liked with it. To my
surprise, Aurora then began to distinguish me from all the other
servants. I could see by the way she looked at me that there was
something about me that attracted her. Great ladies, I knew, sometimes
fall in love with their lackeys, and one evening my hopes were raised to
the highest pitch; for Aurora's maid then whispered to me that somebody
would like to talk to me alone at midnight in the garden. Full of wild
impatience, I arrived at the spot two hours before the time. Oh, those
two hours! They seemed two eternities.
At midnight Aurora appeared, and I threw myself at her feet, exclaiming,
"Oh, my dear lady! Even in my wildest dreams of love I never thought of
such happiness as this!"
"Don't talk so loud!" said Aurora, stepping back and laughing. "You will
rouse all the household. So you thought I was in love with you? My dear
boy, I am in love with somebody else. Knowing how clever and ingenious
you are, I want you to come at once with me to Salamanca and help me to
win my love."
Naturally, I was much disconcerted by this strange turn of affairs.
However, I managed to recover myself and listen to my mistress. She had
fallen in love with a gallant young nobleman, Don Luis Pacheco, who was
unaware of the passion he inspired. He was going the next day to
Salamanca to study at the university, and Aurora had resolved to go
there also, dressed as a young nobleman, and make his acquaintance. She
had fallen in love with him at sight, and had never found an opportunity
to speak to him.
"I shall get two sets of rooms in different parts of the town," she said
to me. "In one I shall live as Aurora de Guzman, with my maid, who must
play the part of an aunt. In the other, I shall be Don Felix de Mendoc,
a gallant cavalier, and you must be my valet."
We set off for Salamanca at daybreak, and arrived before Don Luis.
Aurora took a furnished mansion in the fashionable quarter, and I called
at the principal inns, and found the one where Don Luis had arranged to
stay, Aurora then hid her pretty brown tresses under a wig, and put on a
dashing cavalier's costume, and came and engaged a room at the place
where her lover was.
"So you have come to study at the university, sir?" said the innkeeper.
"How lucky! Another gallant young nobleman has just taken a room here
for the same purpose. You will be able to dine together and entertain
He introduced his two guests, and they quickly became fast friends.
"Do you know, Don Felix, you're uncommonly good-looking," said Don Luis,
as they sat talking over the wine. "Between us we shall set on fire the
hearts of the pretty girls of Salamanca."
"There's really a lovely girl staying in the town," said my mistress.
"She's a cousin of mine, Aurora de Guzman. We are said to resemble each
other in a remarkable way."
"Then she must be a beautiful creature," said Don Luis, "for you have
fine, regular features and an admirable colour. When can I see this
"This afternoon, if you like," said my mistress.
They went together to the mansion, where the maid received them, dressed
as an elderly noblewoman.
"I'm very sorry, Don Felix," said the maid, "but my niece has a bad
headache, and she has gone to lie down."
"Very well," said the pretended cousin. "I will just introduce my
friend, Don Luis, to you. Tell Aurora we will call to-morrow morning."
Don Luis was much interested in the lovely girl whom he had not been
able to see. He talked about her to his companion late into the night.
The next day, as they were about to set out to visit her, I rushed in,
as arranged, with a note for my mistress.
"What a nuisance!" she said. "Here is some urgent business I must at
once attend to. Don Luis, just run round and tell my cousin that I
cannot come until this afternoon!"
Don Luis retired to put some final touches to his dress, and my mistress
hurried off with me to her mansion, and there, with the help of her
maid, she quickly got into her proper clothes. She received Don Luis
very kindly, and they talked together for quite two hours. Don Luis then
went away, and Aurora slipped into her cavalier's costume and met him at
"My dear Felix," said Don Luis, "your cousin is an adorable lady. I'm
madly in love with her. If I can only win her, I'll marry and settle
down on my estates."
Aurora gazed at him very tenderly, and then, with a gay laugh, she shook
off her wig and let her curls fall about her shoulders.
Don Felix knelt at her feet and kissed her hands, crying, "Oh, my
beautiful Aurora! Do you really care for me? How happy we shall be
The two lovers resolved to return at once to Madrid, and make
preparations for the wedding. At the end of a fortnight my mistress was
married, and I again set out on my travels with a well-lined purse.
I had always had a particular desire to see the famous town of Toledo. I
arrived there in three days, and lodged at a good inn, where, by reason
of my fine dress, I passed for a gentleman of importance. But I soon
discovered that Toledo was one of those places in which it is easier to
spend money than to gain it.
So I set out for Aragon. On the road I fell in with a young cavalier
going in the same direction. He was a man of a frank and pleasant
disposition, and we soon got on a friendly footing. His name, I learned,
was Don Alfonso; he was, like me, seeking for means of livelihood.
It came on to rain very heavily as we were skirting the base of a
mountain, and, in looking about for some place of shelter, we found a
cave in which an aged, white-haired hermit was living. At first he was
not pleased to see us, but something about me seemed to strike him
favourably, and he then gave us a kind welcome. We tied our horses to a
tree, and prepared to stay the night. The hermit began to talk to us in
a very pious and edifying way, when another aged anchorite ran into the
cave, and said, "It is all over; we're discovered. The police are after
The first hermit tore off his white beard and his hair, and took off his
long robe, showing a doublet beneath; and his companion followed his
example. In a few moments they were changed into a couple of young men
whose faces I recognised.
"Raphael! Lamela! What mischief are you working now? And where are my
thousand ducats, you rascals?"
"Ah, Gil Blas, I knew you at once!" said Raphael blandly. "One comes on
old acquaintances when one least expects them. I know we treated you
badly. But the money's gone, and can't be recovered. Come with us, and
we will soon make up to you all that you have lost."
It was certainly unwise to remain in a cave which the police were about
to visit, and, as the rain had ceased and the night had fallen, we all
set out in the darkness to find some better shelter. We took the road to
Requena, and came to a forest, where we saw a light shining in the
distance. Don Alfonso crept up to the spot, and saw four men sitting
round a fire, eating and quarrelling. It was easy to see what they were
quarrelling about. An old gentleman and a lovely young girl were bound
to a tree close by, and by the tree stood a fine carriage.
"They are brigands," said Alfonso, when he returned, "who have captured
a nobleman and his daughter, I think. Let us attack them. In order, no
doubt, to prevent their quarrelling turning into a deadly affray, they
have piled all their arms in a heap some yards away from the fire. So
they cannot make much of a fight."
And they did not. We quietly surrounded them, and shot them down before
they were able to move. Don Alfonso and I then set free the captives,
while Raphael and Lamela rifled the pockets of the dead robbers.
"I am the Count of Polan, and this is my daughter Seraphina," said the
old gentleman. "If you will help me to get my carriage ready, I will
drive back to an inn which we passed before entering the forest."
When we came to the inn, the count begged us all to stay with him.
Raphael and Lamela, however, were afraid that the police would track
them out; Don Alfonso, who had been talking very earnestly to Seraphina,
was, for some strange reason, also unwilling to remain; so I fell in
with their views.
"Why didn't you stay?" I said to Don Alfonso.
"I was afraid the count would recognise me, as Seraphina has done," he
said. "I killed his son in a duel, just when I was trying to win
Seraphina's love. Heaven grant that the service I have now rendered will
make him inclined to forgive me."
The day was breaking when we reached the mountains around Requena. There
we hid till nightfall, and then we made our way in the darkness to the
town of Xeloa. We found a quiet, shady retreat beside a woodland stream,
and there we stayed, while Lamela went into the town to buy provisions.
He did not return until evening. He brought back some extraordinary
He opened a great bundle containing a long black mantle and robe,
another costume, a roll of parchment, a quill, and a great seal in green
"Do you remember the trick you played on Camilla?" he said to me. "I
have a better scheme than that. Listen. As I was buying some provisions
at a cook-shop, a man entered in a great rage and began abusing a
certain Samuel Simon, a converted Jew and a cruel usurer. He had ruined
many merchants at Xeloa, and all the towns-people would like to see him
ruined in turn. Then, my dear Gil Blas, I remembered your clever trick,
and brought these clothes so that we might visit this Jew dressed up as
the officers of the Inquisition."
After we had made a good meal, Lamela put on the robe and mantle of the
Inquisitor, Raphael the costume of the registrar, and I took the part of
a sergeant of the police. We walked very solemnly to the house of the
usurer; Simon opened the door himself, and started back in affright.
"Master Simon," said Lamela, in a grave imperative tone of voice, "I
command you, on behalf of the Holy Inquisition, to deliver to these
officers the key of your cabinet. I must have your private papers
closely examined. Serious charges of heresy have been brought against
The usurer grew pale with fear. Far from doubting any deceit on our
part, he imagined that some of his enemies had informed the Holy Office
against him. He obeyed without the least resistance, and opened his
"I am glad to see," said Lamela, "that you do not rebel against the
orders of the Holy Inquisition. Retire now to another room, and let me
carry out the examination without interference."
Simon withdrew into a farther room, and Lamela and Raphael quickly
searched in the cabinet for the strongbox. It was unlocked, being so
full of money that it could not be closed. We filled all our pockets;
then our hose; and then stuffed the coins in any place in our clothes
that would hold them. After this, we closed the cabinet, and our
pretended Inquisitor sealed it down with a great seal of green wax, and
said very solemnly to the usurer, "Master Simon, I have sealed your
cabinet with the seal of the Holy Office. Let me find it untouched when
I return to-morrow morning to inform you of the decision arrived at in
The next morning we were a good many leagues from Xeloa. At breakfast,
we counted over the money which we had taken from Simon. It came to
three thousand ducats, of which we each took a fourth part. Raphael and
Lamela then desired to carry out a similar plot against someone in the
next town; but Don Alfonso and I would not agree to take any part in the
affair, and set out for Toledo. There, Don Alfonso was reconciled to the
Count of Polan, and soon afterwards he and Seraphina were happily
I retired to Lirias, a pleasant estate that Don Alfonso gave me, and
there I married happily, and grew old among my children. In the reign of
Philip IV., I went to the court, and served under the great minister,
Olivarez. But I have now returned to Lirias, and I do not intend to go
to Madrid again.
* * * * *
The author of "Charles O'Malley," perhaps the most typical of
Irish novelists, was of English descent on his father's side.
But Charles James Lever himself was Irish by birth, being born
at Dublin on August 31, 1806--Irish in sentiment and
distinctly Irish in temperament. In geniality and extravagance
he bore much resemblance to the gay, riotous spirits he has
immortalised in his books. "Of all the men I have ever
encountered," says Trollope, "he was the surest fund of
drollery." Lever was intended for medicine; but financial
difficulties forced him to return to literature. His first
story was "Harry Lorrequer," published in 1837. It was
followed in 1840 by "Charles O'Malley, the Irish Dragoon,"
which established his reputation as one of the first humorists
of his day. The story is the most popular of all Lever's
works, and in many respects the most characteristic. The
narrative is told with great vigour, and the delineation of
character is at once subtle and life-like. Lever died on June
_I.--O'Malley of O'Malley Castle_
It was in O'Malley Castle, a very ruinous pile of incongruous masonry
that stood in a wild and dreary part of Galway, that I passed my infancy
and youth. When a mere child I was left an orphan to the care of my
worthy uncle. My father, whose extravagance had well sustained the
family reputation, had squandered a large and handsome property in
contesting elections for his native county, and in keeping up that
system of unlimited hospitality for which Ireland in general, and Galway
more especially, was renowned. The result was, as might be expected,
ruin and beggary. When he died the only legacy he left to his brother
was a boy of four years of age, entreating him, with his last breath,
"Be anything you like to him, Godfrey, but a father--or, at least, such
a one as I have proved."
Godfrey O'Malley sometime previous had lost his wife, and when this new
trust was committed to him he resolved never to re-marry, but to rear me
as his own child.
From my earliest years his whole anxiety was to fit me for the part of a
country gentleman, as he regarded that character--_viz._, I rode boldly
with the fox-hounds; I was about the best shot within twenty miles; I
could swim the Shannon at Holy Island; I drove four-in-hand better than
the coachman himself; and from finding a hare to hooking a salmon my
equal could not be found from Killaloe to Banagher. These were the
staple of my endowments; besides which, the parish priest had taught me
a little Latin, a little French, and a little geometry.
When I add to this portraiture of my accomplishments that I was nearly
six feet high, with more than a common share of activity and strength
for my years, and no inconsiderable portion of good looks, I have
finished my sketch, and stand before my reader.
We were in the thick of canvassing the county for the parliamentary seat
in my uncle's interest. O'Malley Castle was the centre of operations;
while I, a mere stripling, and usually treated as a boy, was entrusted
with an important mission, and sent off to canvass a distant relation,
Mr. Matthew Blake, who might possibly be approachable by a younger
branch of the family, with whom he had never any collision.
I arrived at his house while the company were breakfasting. After the
usual shaking of hands and hearty greetings were over, I was introduced
to Sir George Dashwood, a tall and singularly handsome man of about
fifty, and his daughter, Lucy Dashwood.
If the sweetest blue eyes that ever beamed beneath a forehead of snowy
whiteness, over which dark brown and waving hair fell, less in curls
than masses of locky richness, could only have known what wild work they
were making of my poor heart, Miss Dashwood, I trust, would have looked
at her teacup or her muffin rather than at me, as she actually did, on
that fatal morning.
Beside her sat a tall, handsome man of about five-and-thirty, or perhaps
forty, years of age, with a most soldierly air, who, as I was presented
to him, scarcely turned his head, and gave me a half-nod of unequivocal
coldness. As I turned from the lovely girl, who had received me with
marked courtesy, to the cold air and repelling hauteur of the
dark-browed captain, the blood rushed throbbing to my forehead; and as I
walked to my place at the table, I eagerly sought his eye, to return him
a look of defiance and disdain, proud and contemptuous as his own.
Captain Hammersly, however, never took further notice of me, and I
formed a bitter resolution, which I endeavoured to carry into effect
during the next day's hunt. Mounted on my best horse, I deliberately led
him across the worst and roughest country, river, and hills, and walls,
and ditches, till I finished up with a broken head and he with a broken
arm, and a horse that had to be slaughtered.
On the fourth day after this adventure I was able to enter the
drawing-room again. Sir George Dashwood made the kindest inquiries about
"They tell me you are to be a lawyer, Mr. O'Malley," said he; "and, if
so, I must advise you to take better care of your headpiece."
"A lawyer, papa? Oh, dear me!" said his daughter. "I should never have
thought of his being anything so stupid."
"Why, silly girl, what would you have a man to be?"
"A dragoon, to be sure, papa," said the fond girl, as she pressed her
arm around him, and looked up in his face with an expression of mingled
pride and affection.
That word sealed my destiny.
_II.--I Join the Dragoons_
I had been at Mr. Blake's house five days before I recollected my
uncle's interests; but with one hole in my head and some half-dozen in
my heart my memory was none of the best. But that night at dinner I
discovered, to my savage amazement, that Mr. Blake and all the company
were there in the interest of the opposition candidate, and that Sir
George Dashwood was their candidate. In my excitement I hurled my
wineglass at the head of one of the company who expressed himself in
regard to my uncle in a manner insulting to a degree. In the duel which
followed I shot my opponent.
I had sprung into man's estate. In three short days I had fallen deeply,
desperately, in love, and had wounded, if not killed, an antagonist in a
duel. As I meditated on these things I was aroused by the noise of
horses' feet. I opened the window, and beheld no less a person than
Captain Hammersly. I begged of him to alight and come in.
"I thank you very much," he said; "but, in fact, my hours are now
numbered here. I have just received an order to join my regiment. I
could not, however, leave the country without shaking hands with you. I
owe you a lesson in horsemanship, and I'm only sorry that we are not to
have another day together. I'm sorry you are not coming with us."
"Would to heaven I were!" said I, with an earnestness that almost made
my brain start.
"Then why not?"
"Unfortunately, my worthy uncle, who is all to me in this world, would
be quite alone if I were to leave him; and, although he has never said
so, I know he dreads the possibility of my suggesting such a thing."
"Devilish hard; but I believe you are right. Something, however, may
turn up yet to alter his mind. And so good-bye, O'Malley, good-bye."
During the contest for the seat--which was frankly fought in pitched
battles and scrimmages, and by corruption and perjury--I managed to save
Miss Dashwood's life. When polling-time came, Sir George found the
feeling against him was so strong, and we were so successful in beating
his voters out of the town, in spite of police and soldiers, that he
resigned his candidature.
Afterwards I spent some time in Dublin, nominally in preparation for the
law, at Trinity College. But my college career convinced my uncle that
my forte did not lie in the classics, and Sir George succeeded in
inducing him to yield to my wishes, and interested himself so strongly
for me that I obtained a cornetcy in the 14th Light Dragoons a week
before the regiment sailed for Portugal. On the morning of my last day
in Dublin I met Miss Dashwood riding in the park. For some minutes I
could scarcely speak. At last I plucked up courage a little, and said,
"Miss Dashwood, I have wished most anxiously, before I parted for ever
with those to whom I owe already so much, that I should, at least, speak
"But when do you think of going?"
"To-morrow. Captain Power, under whose command I am, has received orders
to embark immediately for Portugal."
I thought--perhaps it was but a thought--that her cheek grew somewhat
paler as I spoke; but she remained silent.
Fixing my eyes full upon her I spoke.
"Lucy, I feel I must confess it, cost what it may--I love you. I know
the fruitlessness, the utter despair, that awaits such a sentiment. My
own heart tells me that I am not, cannot be, loved in return. I ask for
nothing; I hope for nothing. I see that you at least pity me. Nay, one
word more. Do not, when time and distance have separated us, think that
the expressions I now use are prompted by a mere sudden ebullition of
boyish feeling; for I swear to you that my love to you is the source and
spring of every action in my life, and, when I cease to love you, I
shall cease to feel. And now, farewell; farewell for ever."
I pressed her hand to my lips, gave one long, last look, turned my horse
rapidly away, and, ere a minute, was out of sight.
_III.--I Smell Gunpowder_
What a contrast to the dull monotony of our life at sea did the scene
present which awaited us on landing at Lisbon! The whole quay was
crowded with hundreds of people, eagerly watching the vessel which bore
from her mast the broad ensign of Britain.
The din and clamour of a mighty city mingled with the far-off sounds of
military music; and, in the vistas of the opening streets, masses of
troops might be seen, in marching order. All betokened the near approach
On the morning after we landed, Power rode off with dispatches to
headquarters, leaving me to execute two commissions with which he had
been entrusted--a packet for Hammersly from Miss Dashwood and an epistle
from a love-sick midshipman who could not get on shore, to the Senhora
Inez da Silviero. I took up the packet for Hammersly with a heavy heart.
Alas! thought I, how fatally may my life be influenced by it!
The loud call of a cavalry trumpet roused me, and I passed out into the
street for the morning's inspection. The next day I delivered the packet
to the Senhora Inez, by whom I was warmly received--rather more on my
own account than on that of the little midshipman, I fancied. Certainly
I never beheld a being more lovely, and I found myself paying her some
attentions. Yet she was nothing to me. It is true, she had, as she most
candidly informed me, a score of admirers, among whom I was not even
reckoned; she was evidently a coquette. On May 7, 1809, we set off for
Oporto. The 14th were detailed to guard the pass to the Douro until the
reinforcements were up, and then I saw my first engagement. Never till
now, as we rode to the charge, did I know how far the excitement reaches
when, man to man, sabre to sabre, we ride forward to the battlefield. On
we went, the loud shout of "Forward!" still ringing in our ears. One
broken, irregular discharge from the French guns shook the head of our
advancing column, but stayed us not as we galloped madly on.
I remember no more. The din, the smoke, the crash--the cry for quarter,
mingled with the shout of victory, the flying enemy--are all commingled
in my mind, but leave no trace of clearness or connection between them;
and it was only when the column wheeled to re-form that I awoke from my
trance of maddening excitement, and perceived that we had carried the
position and cut off the guns of the enemy.
The scene was now beyond anything, maddening in its interest. From the
walls of Oporto the English infantry poured forth in pursuit; while the
whole river was covered with boats, as they still continued to cross
over. The artillery thundered from the Sierra, to protect the landing,
for it was even still contested in places; and the cavalry, charging in
flank, swept the broken ranks and bore down their squares. Then a final
impetuous charge carried the day.
From that fight I got my lieutenancy, and then was sent off by Sir
Arthur Wellesley on special duty to the Lusitanian Legion in
Alcantara--a flattering position opened to my enterprise. Before I set
out, I was able to deliver Miss Dashwood's packet to Captain Hammersly,
barely recovered from a sabre wound. His agitation and his manner in
receiving it puzzled me greatly, though my own agitation was scarcely
When I returned after a month with the Legion, during which my services
were of no very distinguished character, I found a letter from Galway
which saddened my thoughts greatly. A lawsuit had gone against my uncle,
and what I had long foreseen was gradually accomplishing--the wreck of
an old and honoured house. And I could only look on and watch the
progress of our downfall without power to arrest it.
Having been sent to the rear with dispatches, I did not reach Talavera
till two days' hard fighting had left the contending armies without
decided advantage on either side.
I had scarcely joined my regiment before the 14th were ordered to
We came on at a trot. The smoke of the cannonade obscured everything
until we had advanced some distance, but suddenly the splendid panorama
of the battlefield broke upon us.
"Charge! Forward!" cried the hoarse voice of our colonel; and we were
upon them. The French infantry, already broken by the withering musketry
of our people, gave way before us, and, unable to form a square, retired
fighting, but in confusion and with tremendous loss, to their position.
One glorious cheer from left to right of our line proclaimed the
victory, while a deafening discharge of artillery from the French
replied to this defiance, and the battle was over.
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, and
retired, mystified and disappointed, to Torres Vedras.
Wounded in a somewhat scatter-brain night expedition to the lines of
Ciudad Rodrigo, my campaigning--for some time, at least--was concluded;
for my wound began to menace the loss of my arm, and I was ordered back
to Lisbon. Fred Power was the first man I saw, and almost the first
thing he told me was that Sir George Dashwood was in Lisbon, and that
his daughter was with him. And then, with conflicting feelings, I found
that all Lisbon mentioned my name in connection with the senhora, and
Sir George himself, in appointing me an aide-de-camp, threw increased
gloom over my thoughts by referring to the report Power had spoken of.
My torment was completed by meeting Miss Dashwood in the Senhora Inez's
house under circumstances which led to treat me with stiff, formal
The next night a letter from a Dublin friend reached me which told me
that "Hammersly had got his _conge_."
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. His own were the letters I had delivered into Hammersly's hands. A
flood of light poured at once across all the dark passages of my
history; and Lucy, too--dare I think of her? What if she had really
cared for me! 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 head, and I fell. My arm was again broken, and
ere day I was delirious.
Hours, days, weeks rolled over, and when I returned to consciousness and
convalescence I found I had been removed to the senhora's villa, and to
her I owed, in a large part, my recovery. I was deeper in my dilemma
than ever. Nevertheless, before I returned to the front, I found an
opportunity to vindicate to Lucy my unshaken faith, reconciling the
conflicting evidences with the proofs I proffered of my attachment. We
were interrupted before I could learn how my protestations were
received. Power, I found soon after, was the one favoured by the fair
_V.--A Desolate Hearth_
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 duties of 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.
So I pass over the details of the retreat of the French, and the great
battle of Fuentes D'Onoro. In the storming of Ciudad Rodrigo, that death
struggle of vengeance and despair, I gained some notoriety in leading a
party of stormers through a broken embrasure, and found myself under
Lord Wellington's displeasure for having left my duties as aide-de-camp.
However, the exploit gained me leave to return to England, and the
additional honour of carrying dispatches to the Prince Regent.
When I arrived in London with the glorious news of the capture of Ciudad
Rodrigo, the kind and gracious notice of the prince obtained me
attentions on all sides. Indeed, so flattering was the reception I met
with, and so overwhelming the civility showered on me, 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, and entertainments
filled up an entire week.
At last I obtained the Prince Regent's permission to leave London, and a
few mornings after landed in Cork. Hastening my journey, I was walking
the last eight miles--my chaise having broken down--when suddenly my
attention was caught by a sound which, faint from the distance, scarce
struck upon my ear. Thinking it probably some delusion of my heated
imagination, I rose to push forward; but at the moment a slight breeze
stirred, and a low, moaning sound swelled upward, increasing each
instant as it came. 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!
My suspense became too great to bear; I dashed madly forward. 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, 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,
a life-long friend of my uncle, across whose features a struggle for
self-mastery was playing, held out his hand to enforce silence. I sprang
toward him, choked by agony. He threw his arms around me, and muttering
the words, "Poor Godfrey!" pointed to the coffin.
Mine was a desolate hearth. In respect to my uncle's last wishes, I sold
out of the army and settled down to a quieter life than the clang of
battle, the ardour of the march. 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 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.
But three years later a regiment of infantry marching to Cork for
embarkation for the Continent after Bonaparte's return from Elba, roused
all the eagerness of my old desires, and I volunteered for service
A few days after I was in Brussels, and attending that most memorable
and most exciting entertainment, the Duchess of Richmond's ball, on the
night of June 15, 1815. Lucy Dashwood was there, beautiful beyond
anything I had ever seen her. When the word came of the advance of
Napoleon I was sent off with the major-general's orders, and then joined
the night march to Quatre Bras. There I fell into the hands of a French
troop and missed the fighting, though I saw Napoleon himself, and had
the good fortune to effect the escape of Sir George Dashwood, who lay a
prisoner under sentence of death in the same place as myself. Early in
the day of Waterloo I contrived my own escape, and was able to give Lord
Wellington much information as to the French movements.
After the battle I wandered back into Brussels and learned that we had
gained the day. As I came into the city Sir George met me and took me
into his hotel, where were Power and the senhora, about to be married.
Wounded by the innocent raillery of my friends, I escaped into an empty
room and buried my head in my hands. Oh, how often had the phantom of
happiness passed within my reach, but glided from my grasp!
"Oh, Lucy, Lucy!" I exclaimed aloud. "But for you, and a few words
carelessly spoken, I had never trod the path of ambition whose end has
been the wreck of all my happiness! But for you I had never loved so
fondly! 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. "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 have given to your life I have done more to repay my
debt to you than by all the friendship, all the esteem I owe you. If,
indeed, by any means, you became a soldier, then I am indeed proud."
"Alas! Lucy--Miss Dashwood, I would say--how has my career fulfilled the
promise that gave it birth? For you, and you only, to gain your
affection, I became a soldier. And now, and now----"
"And now," said she, while her eyes beamed upon me with a very flood of
tenderness, "is it nothing that I have glowed with pride at triumphs I
could read of, but dared not share in? I have thought of you. I have
dreamed, I have prayed for you."
"Alas! Lucy, but not loved me."
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 emotion.
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
"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."
* * * * *
Tom Burke of "Ours"
In 1840 Charles Lever, on an invitation from Sir John
Crompton, Secretary to the British Embassy in Belgium, forsook
Ireland for Brussels, where for a time he followed his
profession of medicine. Two years later an offer of the
editorship of the "Dublin University Magazine" recalled him to
Ireland, when he definitely abandoned a medical career and
settled down to literature permanently. The first fruit of
that appointment was "Tom Burke of Ours," published, after
running serially in the magazine, in 1844. It is more serious
in tone than any of his preceding works; in it the author
utilises the rich colouring gained from his long residence in
France, and the book is less remarkable for the complex, if
vigorous, story it contains than for its graphic and exciting
pictures of men and events in the campaigns of Napoleon Many
of its episodes are conceived in the true spirit of romance.
_I.--The Boy Rebel_
"Be advised by me," said De Meudon earnestly; "do not embark with these
Irish rebels in their enterprise! They have none. Their only daring is
some deed of rapine and murder. No; liberty is not to be achieved by
such bands as these. France is your country--there liberty has been won;
there lives one great man whose notice, were it but passingly bestowed,
He sank back exhausted. The energy of his speech was too great for his
weak and exhausted frame to bear. Captain de Meudon had come to Ireland
in 1798 to aid in the rebellion; he had seen its failure, but had
remained in Ireland trying vainly to give to the disaffection some
military organization. He had realized the hopelessness of his efforts.
He was ill, and very near to death. Now I stood by his bedside in a
little cottage in Glenmalure.
Boy as I was, I had already seen enough to make me a rebel in feeling
and in action. I had stood a short time before the death-bed of my
father, who disliked me, and who had left nearly all his property to my
elder brother, who was indifferent to me. My father had indentured me as
apprentice to his lawyer, and sooner than submit to the rule of this
man--the evil genius of our family--I had taken flight. The companion of
my wanderings was Darby M'Keown, the piper, the cleverest and cunningest
of the agents of rebellion. Then I had met De Meudon, who had turned my
thoughts and ambitions into another channel.
My companion grew steadily worse.
"Take my pocket-book," he whispered; "there is a letter you'll give my
sister Marie. There are some five or six thousand francs--they are
yours; you must be a pupil at the Polytechnique at Paris. If it should
be your fortune to speak with General Bonaparte, say to him that when
Charles de Meudon was dying--in exile--with but one friend left--he held
his portrait to his lips, and, with his last breath, he kissed it."
A shivering ran through his limbs--a sigh--and all was still. He was
"Halloa, there!" said a voice. The door opened, and a sergeant entered.
"I have a warrant to arrest Captain de Meudon, a French officer who is
concealed here. Where is he?"
I pointed to the bed.
"I arrest you in the king's name!" said the sergeant, approaching.
"What----" He started back in horror. "He is dead!"
Then entered one I had seen before--Major Barton, the most pitiless of
the government's agents in suppressing insurrection.
The sergeant whispered to him, and his eye ranged the little chamber
till it fell on me.
"Ha!" he cried. "You here! Sergeant, here's one prisoner for you, at any
Two soldiers seized me, and I was marched away towards Dublin. About
noon the party halted, and the soldiers lay down and chatted on a patch
of grass, while my own thoughts turned sadly back to the friend I had
Suddenly I heard a song sung by a voice I knew, and afterwards a loud
clapping of hands. Darby M'Keown was there in the midst of the soldiers,
and as I turned to look at him, my hand came in contact with a
clasp-knife. I managed with it to free my arms from the ropes that
fastened them, but what was to be done next?
"I didn't think much of that song of yours," said one of the soldiers.
"Give us 'The British Grenadiers.'"
"I never heard them play but onst, sir," said Darby, meekly, "and they
were in such a hurry I couldn't pick up the tune."
"What d'you mean?"
"'Twas the day but one after the French landed, and the British
Grenadiers was running away."
The party sprang to their legs, and a shower of curses fell upon the
"And sure," continued Darby, "'twasn't my fault av they took to their
heels. Wouldn't anyone run for his life av he had the opportunity?"
These words were uttered in a raised voice, and I took the hint. While
Darby was scuffling with the soldiers, I slipped away.
For miles I pressed forward without turning, and in the evening I found
myself in Dublin. The union with England was being debated in the
Parliament House; huge and angry crowds raged without. Remembering the
tactics De Meudon had taught me, I sought to organize the crowd in a
kind of military formation against the troops; but a knock on the head
with a musket-butt ended my labours, and I knew nothing more until I
came to myself in the quarters of an old chance acquaintance--Captain
Here, in the house of this officer--an eccentric and impecunious man,
but a most loyal friend--I was discovered by Major Barton and dragged to
prison. I was released by the intervention of my father's lawyer, who
claimed me as his apprentice.
For weeks I lived with Captain Bubbleton and his brother officers, and
nothing could be more cordial than their treatment of me. "Tom Burke of
'Ours,'" the captain used proudly to call me. Only one officer held
aloof from me, and from all Irishmen--Montague Crofts--through whom it
came about that I left Ireland.
One day an uncouth and ragged woman entered the barracks, and addressed
me. It was Darby M'Keown, and he brought me nothing less precious than
De Meudon's pocket-book, which had been taken from me, and had been
picked up by him on the road. A few minutes later Bubbleton lost a sum
at cards to Crofts; knowing he could not pay, I passed a note quietly to
him. When Bubbleton had gone, Crofts held up the note before me. It was
a French note of De Meudon's! I demanded my property back. He refused,
and threatened to inform against me. On my seeking to prevent him from
leaving the room, he drew his sword, and wounded me; but in the nick of
time a blow from a strong arm laid him senseless--dead, perhaps--on the
"We must be far from this by daybreak," whispered Darby.
I walked out of the barracks as steadily as I could. For all I knew, I
was implicated in murder--and Ireland was no place for me. In a few days
I stood on the shores of France.
_II.--A Blow for the Emperor_
By means of a letter of introduction to the head of the Polytechnique,
which De Meudon had placed for me in his pocket-book, I was able to
enter that military college, and, after a spell of earnest study, I was
appointed to a commission in the Eighth Hussars. Proud as I was to
become a soldier of France, yet I could not but feel that I was a
foreigner, and almost friendless--unlucky, indeed, in the choice of the
few friends I possessed. Chief of them was the Marquis de Beauvais,
concerning whom I soon made two discoveries--that he was in the thick of
an intrigue against the republic I served, and its First Consul, and
that he was in love with Marie de Meudon, my dead friend's sister.
To her, as soon as an opportunity came, I gave the news of her brother's
end, and his last message. She was terribly affected; and the love we
bore in common to the dead, and her own wonderful beauty, aroused in me
a passion that was not the less fervent because I felt it was almost
hopeless. I did not dare to ask her love, but I had her friendship
without asking. She it was who warned me of the dangerous intrigues of
De Beauvais and his associates. She it was who, when I fell a victim to
their intrigues, laboured with General d'Auvergne, who had befriended me
while I was at college, to restore me to liberty.
I had heard that De Beauvais and his fellow royalists were plotting in a
chateau near Versailles, and that a scheme was afoot to capture them. In
hot haste I rode to the chateau, hoping secretly to warn my friend. He
did indeed escape, but it was my lot to be caught with the conspirators.
For the second time in my short life I saw the inside of a prison; I was
in danger of the guillotine; despair had almost overpowered me, when I
learnt that my friends had prevailed--my sword was returned to me. I
became again an officer of the army of him who was now emperor, and I
set forth determined to wipe out on the battlefield the doubts that
still clung to my loyalty. Marie de Meudon was wedded, by the emperor's
wish, to the gallant and beloved soldier on whose staff I proudly
In four vast columns of march, the mighty army poured into the heart of
Germany. But not until we reached Mannheim did we learn the object of
the war. We were to destroy the Austro-Russian coalition, and the first
blow was to be struck at Ulm. When Ulm had capitulated, General
d'Auvergne and his staff returned to Elchingen, and on the night when we
reached the place I was on the point of lying down supperless in the
open air, when I met an old acquaintance, Corporal Pioche, a giant
cuirassier of the Guard, who had fought in all Bonaparte's campaigns.
"Ah, mon lieutenant," said he, "not supped yet, I'll wager. Come along
with me; Mademoiselle Minette has opened her canteen!"
Presently we entered a large room, at one end of which sat a very pretty
Parisian brunette, who bade me a gracious welcome. The place was crowded
with captains and corporals, lieutenants and sergeants, all hobnobbing,
hand-shaking, and even kissing each other. "Each man brings what he can
find, drinks what he is able, and leaves the rest," remarked Pioche, and
invited me to take my share in the common stock.
All went well until I absent-mindedly called out, as if to a waiter, for
bread. There was a roar of laughter at my mistake, and a little
dark-whiskered fellow stuck his sword into a loaf and handed it to me.
As I took the loaf, he disengaged his point, and scratched the back of
my hand with it. Obviously an insult was intended.
"Ah, an accident, _morbleu_!" said he, with an impertinent shrug.
"So is this!" said I, as I seized his sword and smashed it across my
"It's Francois, _maitre d'armes_ of the Fourth," whispered Pioche; "one
of the cleverest duellists of the army."
I was hurried out to the court, one adviser counselling me to beware of
Francois's lunge in tierce, another to close on him at once, and so on.
For a long time after we had crossed swords, I remained purely on the
defensive; at last, after a desperate rally, he made a lunge at my
chest, which I received in the muscles of my back; and, wheeling round,
I buried my blade in his body.
Francois lingered for a long time between life and death, and for
several days I was incapacitated, tenderly nursed by Minette.
As soon as I was recovered the order came to advance.
Not many days passed ere the chance came to me for which I had longed--
the chance of striking a blow for the emperor. Hand-to-hand with the
Russian dragoons on the field of Austerlitz, sweeping along afterwards
with the imperial hosts in the full tide of victory, I learnt for the
first time the exhilaration of military glory; and I had the good
fortune to receive the emperor's favour--not only was I promoted, but I
was appointed to the _compagnie d'elite_ that was to carry the spoils of
victory to Paris.
A few weeks after my return to Paris, the whole garrison was placed in
review order to receive the wounded of Austerlitz.
As the emperor rode forward bareheaded to greet his maimed veterans, I
heard laughter among the staff that surrounded him. Stepping up, I saw
my old friend Pioche, who had been dangerously wounded, with his hand in
"Thou wilt not have promotion, nor a pension," said Napoleon, smiling.
"Hast any friend whom I could advance?"
"Yes," answered Pioche, scratching his forehead in confusion. "She is a
brave girl, and had she been a man----"
"Whom can he mean?"
"I was talking of Minette, our _vivandiere_."
"Dost wish I should make her my aide-de-camp?" said Napoleon, laughing.
"_Parbleu_! Thou hast more ill-favoured ones among them," said Pioche,
with a glance at the grim faces of Rapp and Daru. "I've seen the time
when thou'd have said, 'Is it Minette that was wounded at the Adige and
stood in the square at Marengo? I'll give her the Cross of the Legion!'"
"And she shall have it!" said Napoleon. Minette advanced, and as the
emperor's own cross was attached to her buttonhole she sat pale as
death, overcome by her pride.
For two hours waggon after waggon rolled on, filled with the shattered
remnants of an army. Every eye brightened as the emperor drew near, the
feeblest gazed with parted lips when he spoke, and the faint cry of
"_Vive l'Empereur_" passed along the line.
Ere I had left Paris to join in the campaign against Prussia, I had
made, and broken off, another dangerous friendship. In the _compagnie
d'elite_ was an officer named Duchesne who took a liking to me--a
royalist at heart, and a cynic who was unfailing in his sneers at all
the doings of Napoleon. His attitude was detected, and he was forced to
resign his commission; and his slights upon the uniform I wore grew so
unbearable that I abandoned his company--little guessing the revenge he
would take upon me.
Once more the Grand Army was set in motion, and the hosts of France
pressed upon Russia from the south and west. Napoleon turned the enemy's
right flank, and compelled him to retire and concentrate his troops
around Jena, which was plainly to be the scene of a great battle.
My regiment was ordered on September 13, 1806, to proceed without delay
to the emperor's headquarters at Jena, and I was sent ahead to make
arrangements for quarters. In the darkness I lost my way, and came upon
an artillery battery stuck fast in a ravine, unable to move back or
forwards. The colonel was in despair, for the whole artillery of the
division was following him, and would inevitably be involved in the same
mishap. Wild shouting had been succeeded by a sullen silence, when a
stern voice called out: "Cannoniers, dismount; bring the torches to the
When the order was obeyed, the light of the firewood fell upon the
features of Napoleon himself. Instantly the work began afresh, directed
by the emperor with a blazing torch in his hand. Gradually the
gun-carriages were released, and began to move slowly along the ravine.
Napoleon turned, and rode off at full speed in the darkness towards
Jena. It was my destination, and I followed him.
He preceded me by about fifty paces--the greatest monarch of the world,
alone, his thoughts bent on the great events before him. On the top of
an ascent the brilliant spectacle of a thousand watch-fires met the eye.
Napoleon, lost in meditation, saw nothing, and rode straight into the
lines. Twice the challenge "_Qui vive?"_ rang out. Napoleon heard it
not. There was a bang of a musket, then another, and another. Napoleon
threw himself from his horse, and lay flat on the ground. I dashed up,
shouting, "The emperor! The emperor!" My horse was killed, and I was
wounded in the shoulder; but I repeated the cry until Napoleon stepped
"Ye are well upon the alert, _mes enfants_," he said, smiling. Then,
turning to me, he asked quickly, "Are you wounded?"
"A mere scratch, sire."
"Let the surgeon see to it, and do you come to headquarters when you are
In the morning I went to headquarters, but the emperor was busy;
seemingly I was forgotten. My regiment was out of reach, so, at the
invitation of my old duelling antagonist, Francois, I joined the
Voltigeurs. My friends could not understand why, after tasting the
delights of infantry fighting, I should wish to rejoin the hussars; but
I went back to my old regiment after the victory, and rode with it to
Soon after our arrival there I read my name in a general order among
those on whom the Cross of the Legion was to be conferred. On the
morning of the day when I was to receive the decoration, I was requested
to attend the bureau of the adjutant-general. There I was confronted
with Marshal Berthier, who held up a letter before me. I saw, by the
handwriting, it was Duchesne's.
"There, sir, that letter belongs to you," he said. "There is enough in
it to make your conduct the matter of a court-martial; but I am
satisfied that a warning will be sufficient. I need hardly say that you
will not receive the Cross of the Legion."
I glanced at the letter, and realised Duchesne's treachery. Knowing that
all doubtful letters were opened and read by the authorities, he had
sent me a letter bitterly attacking the emperor, and professing to
regard me as a royalist conspirator.
Exasperated, I drew my sword.
"I resign, sir," I said. "The career I can no longer follow honourably
and independently, I shall follow no more."
With a half-broken heart and faltering step, I regained my quarters; the
whole dream of life was over. Broken in spirit, I made my way slowly
back through Germany to Paris, and back to Ireland.
_IV.--The Call of the Sword_
On reaching my native country I found that my brother had died, and that
I had inherited an income of L4,000 a year. I sought to forget the past.
But a time came when I could resist the temptation no longer, and the
first fact I read of was the burning of Moscow. As misfortune followed
misfortune, an impulse came to me that it was useless to resist. My
heart was among the glittering squadrons of France. I thought suddenly,
was this madness? And the thought was followed by a resolve as sudden. I
wrote some lines to my agent, saddled my horse, and rode away. At
Verviers I offered my sword to the emperor as an old officer, and went
forward in charge of a squadron to Brienne. This place was held by the
Prussians, and Bluecher and his Prussians were near at hand. Once more I
beheld the terrific spectacle of an attack by the army of Napoleon. But
alas! the attack was vain; I heard the trumpet sound a retreat. And as I
turned, I saw the body of an aged general officer among a heap of slain.
With a shriek of horror, I recognized the friend of my heart, General
d'Auvergne. Round his neck he wore a locket with a portrait of his
wife--Marie de Meudon. I detached the locket, and bade the dead a last
Why should I dwell on a career of disaster? Retreat followed retreat,
until the fate of Napoleon's empire depended on the capture of the
bridge of Montereau. Regiment after regiment strove to cross, only to be
shattered and mangled by the tremendous fire of the enemy. Four sappers
at length laid a petard beneath the gate at the other side of the
bridge. But the fuse went out.
"This to the man who lights the fuse!" cried Napoleon, holding up his
great Cross of the Legion.
I snatched a burning match from a gunner beside me, and rushed across
the bridge. Partly protected by the high projecting parapet, I lit the
fuse, and then fell, shot in the chest. My senses reeled; for a time I
knew nothing; then I felt a flask pressed to my lips. I looked up, and
saw Minette. "Dear, dear girl, what a brave heart is thine!" said I, as
she pressed her handkerchief to my wound.
Her fingers became entangled in the ribbon of the general's locket that
I had tied round my neck, and by accident the locket opened. She became
deathly pale as she saw its contents; then, springing to her feet, she
gave me one glance--fleeting, but how full of sorrow!--and ran to the
middle of the bridge. The petard had done its work. She beckoned to the
column to come on; they answered with a cheer. Presently four grenadiers
fell to the rear, carrying between them the body of Minette.
They gave her a military funeral; and I was told that a giant soldier, a
corporal it was thought, kneeled down to kiss her before she was covered
with the earth, then lay quietly down in the grass. When they sought to
move him, he was stone dead.
When I had recovered from my wound, it was nothing to me that Napoleon,
besides giving me his Grand Cross, had made me general of brigade. For
Napoleon was no longer emperor, and I would not serve the king who
succeeded him. But ere I left France I saw Marie de Meudon, it might be,
I thought, for the last time. At the sight of her my old passion
returned, and I dared to utter it. I know not how incoherently the tale
was told; I can but remember the bursting feeling of my bosom, as she
placed her hand in mine, and said, "It is yours."
* * * * *
Ambrosio, or the Monk
There was a time--of no great duration--when Lewis' "Monk" was
the most popular book in England. At the end of the eighteenth
century the vogue of the "Gothic" romance of ghosts and
mysteries was at its height; and this work, written in ten
weeks by a young man of nineteen, caught the public fancy
tremendously, and Matthew Gregory Lewis was straightway
accepted as an adept at making the flesh creep. Taste changes
in horrors, as in other things, and "Ambrosio, or The Monk,"
would give nightmares to few modern readers. Its author, who
was born in London on July 9, 1775, and published "The Monk"
in 1795, wrote many supernatural tales and poems, and also
several plays--one of which, "The Castle Spectre," caused the
hair of Drury Lane audiences to stand on end for sixty
successive nights, a long run in those days. Lewis, who was a
wealthy man, sat for some years in Parliament; he had many
distinguished friends among men of letters--Scott and Southey
contributed largely to the first volume of his "Tales of
Wonder." He died on May 13, 1818.
The Church of the Capuchins in Madrid had never witnessed a more
numerous assembly than that which gathered to hear the sermon of
Ambrosio, the abbot. All Madrid rang with his praises. Brought
mysteriously to the abbey door while yet an infant, he had remained for
all the thirty years of his life within its precincts. All his days had
been spent in seclusion, study, and mortification of the flesh; his
knowledge was profound, his eloquence most persuasive; his only fault
was an excess of severity in judging the human feelings from which he
himself was exempted.
Among the crowd that pressed into the church were two women--one
elderly, the other young--who had seats offered them by two richly
habited cavaliers. The younger cavalier, Don Lorenzo, discovered such
exquisite beauty and sweetness in the maiden to whom he had given his
seat--her name was Antonia--that when she left the church he was
desperately in love with her.
He had promised to see his sister Agnes, a nun in the Convent of St.
Clare; so he remained in the church, whither the nuns were presently to
come to confess to the Abbot Ambrosio. As he waited he observed a man
wrapped up in a cloak hurriedly place a letter beneath a statue of St.
Francis, and then retire.
The nuns entered, and removed their veils out of respect to the saint to
whom the building was dedicated. One of the nuns dropped her rosary
beside the statue, and, as she stooped to pick it up, she dexterously
removed the letter and placed it in her bosom. As she did so, the light
flashed full in her face.
"Agnes, by Heaven!" cried Lorenzo.
He hastened after the cloaked stranger, and overtook him with drawn
sword. Suddenly the cloaked man turned and exclaimed, "Is it possible?
Lorenzo, have you forgotten Raymond de las Cisternas?"
"You here, marquis?" said the astonished Lorenzo. "You engaged in a
clandestine correspondence with my sister?"
"Her affections have ever been mine, and not the Church's. She entered
the convent tricked into a belief that I had been false to her; but I
have proved to her that it is otherwise. She had agreed to fly with me,
and my uncle, the cardinal, is securing for her a dispensation from her
Raymond told at length the story of his love, and at the end Lorenzo
said, "Raymond, there is no one on whom I would bestow Agnes more
willingly than on yourself. Pursue your design, and I will accompany
Meanwhile, Agnes tremblingly advanced toward the abbot, and in her
nervousness let fall the precious letter. She turned to pick it up. The
abbot claimed and read it; it was the proposal of Agnes's escape with
her lover that very night.
"This letter must to the prioress!" said he sternly.
"Hold father, hold!" cried Agnes, flinging herself at his feet. "Be
merciful! Do not doom me to destruction!"
"Hence, unworthy wretch! Where is the prioress?"
The prioress, when she came, gazed upon Agnes with fury. "Away with her
to the convent!" she exclaimed.
"Oh, Raymond, save me, save me!" shrieked the distracted Agnes. Then,
casting upon the abbot a frantic look, "Hear me," she continued, "man of
a hard heart! Insolent in your yet unshaken virtue, your day of trial
will arrive. Think then upon your cruelty; and despair of pardon!"
_II.--The Abbot's Infatuation_
Leaving the church, Ambrosio bent his steps towards a grotto in the
abbey garden, formed in imitation of a hermitage. On reaching the
grotto, he found it already occupied. Extended upon one of the seats,
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