Read CHAPTER LXI - ALL RIGHT of Charles O' Malley‚ The Irish Dragoon Volume 1, free online book, by Charles Lever, on

Some days after coming back to headquarters, I was returning from a visit I had been making to a friend at one of the outposts, when an officer whom I knew slightly overtook me and informed me that Major O’Shaughnessy had been to my quarters in search of me, and had sent persons in different directions to find me.

Suspecting the object of the major’s haste, I hurried on at once, and as I rode up to the spot, found him in the midst of a group of officers, engaged, to all appearance, in most eager conversation.

“Oh, here he comes!” cried he, as I cantered up. “Come, my boy, doff the blue frock as soon as you can, and turn out in your best-fitting black. Everything has been settled for this evening at seven o’clock, and we have no time to lose.”

“I understand you,” said I, “and shall not keep you waiting.” So saying, I sprang from my saddle and hastened to my quarters. As I entered the room I was followed by O’Shaughnessy, who closed the door after him as he came in, and having turned the key in it, sat down beside the table, and folding his arms, seemed buried in reflection. As I proceeded with my toilet he returned no answers to the numerous questions I put to him, either as to the time of Trevyllian’s return, the place of the meeting, or any other part of the transaction. His attention seemed to wander far from all around and about him; and as he muttered indistinctly to himself, the few words I could catch bore not in the remotest degree upon the matter before us.

“I have written a letter or two here, Major,” said I, opening my writing-desk. “In case anything happens, you will look to a few things I have mentioned here. Somehow, I could not write to poor Fred Power; but you must tell him from me that his noble conduct towards me was the last thing I spoke of.”

“What confounded nonsense you are talking!” said O’Shaughnessy, springing from his seat and crossing the room with tremendous strides, “croaking away there as if the bullet was in your thorax. Hang it, man, bear up!”

“But, Major, my dear friend, what the deuce are you thinking of? The few things I mentioned ”

“The devil! you are not going over it all again, are you?” said he, in a voice of no measured tone.

I now began to feel irritated in turn, and really looked at him for some seconds in considerable amazement. That he should have mistaken, the directions I was giving him and attributed them to any cowardice was too insulting a thought to bear; and yet how otherwise was I to understand the very coarse style of his interruption?

At length my temper got the victory, and with a voice of most measured calmness, I said, “Major O’Shaughnessy, I am grateful, most deeply grateful, for the part you have acted towards me in this difficult business; at the same time, as you now appear to disapprove of my conduct and bearing, when I am most firmly determined to alter nothing, I shall beg to relieve you of the unpleasant office of my friend.”

“Heaven grant that you could do so!” said he, interrupting me, while his clasped hands and eager look attested the vehemence of the wish. He paused for a moment, then, springing from his chair, rushed towards me, and threw his arms around me. “No, my boy, I can’t do it, I can’t do it. I have tried to bully myself into insensibility for this evening’s work, I have endeavored to be rude to you, that you might insult me, and steel my heart against what might happen; but it won’t do, Charley, it won’t do.”

With these words the big tears rolled down his stern cheeks, and his voice became thick with emotion.

“But for me, all this need not have happened. I know it; I feel it. I hurried on this meeting; your character stood fair and unblemished without that, at least they tell me so now; and I still have to assure you ”

“Come, my dear, kind friend, don’t give way in this fashion. You have stood manfully by me through every step of the road; don’t desert me on the threshold of ”

“The grave, O’Malley?”

“I don’t think so, Major; but see, half-past six! Look to these pistols for me. Are they likely to object to hair-triggers?”

A knocking at the door turned off our attention, and the next moment Baker’s voice was heard.

“O’Malley, you’ll be close run for time; the meeting-place is full three miles from this.”

I seized the key and opened the door. At the same instant, O’Shaughnessy rose and turned towards the window, holding one of the pistols in his hand.

“Look at that, Baker, what a sweet tool it is!” said he, in a voice that actually made me start. Not a trace of his late excitement remained; his usually dry, half-humorous manner had returned, and his droll features were as full of their own easy, devil-may-care fun as ever.

“Here comes the drag,” said Baker. “We can drive nearly all the way, unless you prefer riding.”

“Of course not. Keep your hand steady, Charley, and if you don’t bring him down with that saw-handle, you’re not your uncle’s nephew.”

With these words we mounted into the tax-cart, and set off for the meeting-place.