Chapter 195861366

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Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article195861366
Full Date1841-12-01
Page Number4
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Word Count3798
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Newspaper TitleAdelaide Chronicle and South Australian Literary Record (SA : 1840 - 1842)
Trove TitleA Chapter from Charles O'Malley the Irish Dragoon
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2Tf)e Qitcravn Beecrfr,

A CHAPTER FROM CHARLES O'MALLEY, THE DRAGOON. IRISH

THERE was once a great banker in London, w ho had a very fine house in Portland-place, and a very dirty old house in the city ; and if tbe latter looked the image of business and riches, the former looked the picture of luxury and display. He himself was a mild man, whose ostentation was of a quiet, but not the less of an acrtive kind. His movements were always calm and tranquil and bis clothes plain ; but the former were stately, the latter were in the best fashion. Holditch was his coachmaker in those days ; Ude's first cousin was his cook ; his servants walked upstairs to announce a visitor to the tune of the Dead March in Saul, and opened both valves of the folding doers at once with a grace that could only be acquired by long: practice. Everything seemed to move in this house by rale, and nothing was ever seen to go wrong. All the lackeys wore powder, and the women-servants had tlieir caps prescribed to them. His wife was the daughter of a country gentleman of very old raee, a woman of good manners and a warm heart. Though there were two carriages^ always at her special command, she sometimes walked on her feet even in London, and would not suffer an account of her parties to find its way into 'the Morning Post. The banker and his wife had but one child, a daughter—and a very pretty and very sweet girl she was as ever my eyes saw. She was not, very tall, though very beautifully formed, and exquisitely graceful. She was'the least affected person that ever was seen ; for, accustomed from her earliest days to perfect ease in every respect—denied nothing that was virtuous and ^ right—taught by "her mother to estimate high qualities—too much habituated to wealth to regard it as an object—and too frequently brought in contact wjih rank to estimate it above its value- she had nothing to covet and nothing to assume. Ber face was Sweet and thoughtful, though the thoughts were evidently cheerful ones, and her voice was full of meiodj and gentleness. Her name was Alice Herbert, and she was soon the admired of all admirers. People looked for her at the opera and the park, declared her beautiful, adorable, divine : she.becatne the wonder, the rage, the fashion; and everybody added] when they spoke about her, that she would have half a million at. the least. Now, Mr Herbert himself w?s !not at alt'anxious that his daughter should marry any of the men that, first presented themselves, because none of them were above the rank of a baron; nor was Mrs Herbert anxious either, because she did not wish to part with her daughter; nor was

Alice herself—I do not well."know why—perhaps she thought that a part of the menwho surrounded her were fops, and as many were libertines, and the rest were fool?, and Alice did not feel more inclined to choose out of these three classes than her father did out of the three inferior grades of our nobility. 1 Ther» was, indeed, a-young man in the Guards, distantly connected with her motner'a family, who was neither fop, libertine, nor fool—a gentleman, an accomplished man, and a man of good feeling, who was often at Mr Herbert's house, but father, motherland daughter, all thought him quite out of the question : the father, because he was not a duke-; her mother, because he was a soldier; the daughter, because he had never given her the slightest reason to believe that he either admired 01 loved her. As he bad some two thousand f year, he might have been a good match for e clergyman's daughter, but could not. pretend to Miss Herbert. Alice certainly liked bin; better thao any man she had ever *een, ane once she found his eyes fixed upon her fron. the other side of a ball-room with aii expression that made her forget what her partnei was saying to her. The col<ir came up inte her cheek, too, and that seemed to give Henry Ashton courage to come up, and ask her to .iance. She danced with him on the following night, too ; and Mr Herbert, who remarked the fact, judged that it would be but right to give Henry Ashton a hint. Two da\s after, as Alice's father was just about to go out, the voimg guardsman himself- was ushered into iiis lit rary, and the banker prepared to give his hint, a&il give it plainly too. He wa?- saved the trouble, however; forAshton's first, sneech was. " I have come to hid'you farewell, Mr Herbert. We are ordered to Canada to put dawn the evil spirit there. I set» ut in an hour to take leave of my n>other, in Staffordshire, and tben embark with all speed.' Mr Herbert economised his hint, and wished his young friend all success. " By the way,*' he added, " Mrs Herbert may like to write a few lines by ynu to her brother at Montreal You know he is ber only brother : he made a sad business of it, what with building and planting, and farming, and such things. So I got him an appointment in t -anada just that he might retrieve. -You will find her up stairs. 1 must go out myself. Good fortune attend you" Good fortune did attend him, for he found Alice Herbert alotie in the very first room he entered. There was a table before her, and she was leaning over it, as if very busy, bu' when Henry Ashton approached her, he found that she had been carelessly drawing wild leaves on*a scraff of paper,- while her thoughts were far away. She. colored:when she saw him, and was evidently agitated ; but she was Siill" more so when he repeated, what he told her father. She turned red, and she turned pale, and she sat still, and she .said nothing Henry Ashton became agitated himself. " It is all in vain,** he said to himself. *** It is all •in vain. 11 now her fat her; too well;" and he rose, asking where he should find hermother Alice answered in a faint voice, in the

little room beyond the back drawing room." Henry paused a moment longer: the temptstion was ton great to be resisted; be took the sweet girl's hind ; he passed.it to his lips, and said, " Farewell, Miss Herbert! farewell! I know I shall never see any one; like you again; bnt, at least it is a blessing to have known you—though it be but to regret that fortune has not favored me still farther ! farewell! farewell!'' Henry Ashton sailed for Canada, and saw some service there. He distinguished himself as an officer, and his name was in several despatches. A remnant of the old chivalrous spirits made him often think when he was attacking a fortified village, or charging a body of insurgents, "Alice Herbert will hear of this]" but often too, he would ask himself. "I wonder if she he married yet?" and hi:- companions used to jest with him upon always looking first at the women's part of the newspaper ; the births, deaths, and marriages. His fears, if we can venture to call them such, were vain. Alice did not marry, although about a year after Henry Ashton had quitted England, her father desce&ded .a little from lb high ambition, and hinted that if she thought fit, she might l'sten to the young Earl of . Alice was not inclined to lwten,. and gave the Earl plainly to understand that she was uot inclined to become his countess. The Earl however, persevered, and Mr Herbert now began to fedd his ii.fluence ; but Alice wa? obdurate, and reminded her fither of a promise he had made, never to press her marriage with any one.- Mr Herbert seemed more annoyed than Alice expected, walked up and down tbe room in silence, and on hearing it, shut him • self up with Mrs Herbert for nearly two hours What took place Alice did not know ; but Mrs Herbert from that moment looked grave and anxious. Mr Herbert insisted (hat the Earl should be received at the house: as a friend, though" he urg<?d his daughter no more ; and'balls and parties succeeded each other so rap ; dly, that the quieter inhabitant? of Portland place wished the banker and his family, where Alice herself wished to'be—in Canada,. In the meantime, Alice became alarmed for her mother, whose health was 1 evidently fufferinp from some cause ; but. Mrs Herbert would consult no physician, and her hpsband seemed never to perceive the.:s.tate of weakness and depressi-)n into which she was linking. A lice resolved to call the matter to her father'snotice, and as he now went* out every morfiing at an early hour, she rose one day sooner ^han usual,- and knocked at the door of his dressing room: There was no; answer, and tmj&biing the door, she looked into pee if h| were already gone.'.^Thc curtains /were stiff drawaji&uf througD%them some <of the morning ||§!ams found; their way, and by the dim sickfyulight Alice beheld an object that made her cfc&ptfief hands and tremble violently. " Her faffrer's chair.^before the dresging stable, was vi^nt; but besid.e it/lay,:,upon tfe floor something like die'figure or man asleep. Alice approached, with her heart' beating so violently that she ciuild hear it; --abd^hero was n^i^he^ sound iu the -room. Sfcejknelt, dowu ijesid^ him \ it was her father.;: She could nqlj lieat him breathe, and she drew4)ack the curtains. He was as pale a^ioafbler and his eyes were

open, but fixed. , with wild ej¥84_ of what she should' ^o. Her mother was in the chamber, at the side of (he dressing room ; but Alice, -6V6D ID lllC ^ifefipfiSt 3^1**- tation, feared to call her," and -rang the bell br her father's valet. The man came and raised his master, -but Mr Herbert had evidently been dead some hours. Poor Alice wept terribly, -but when she thought of her mother, she made no noise, and the valet was silent too; -for in lifting the dead" body to the sofa, he had found a small vial, and was gazing on it intently. - " 1 had better put this away, Miss Herbert,'' he said at length, in a low voice ; " I had better put this away^ before any one else comes " Alice gazed at the : vial with her tearful eyes. It was matked prussic acid! poison 1 This was but the commencement of many sorrows. Though the coroners jury pronoun - ced that Mr -Herbert had died a natural death, yet every one declared he had poisoned him-" .self', especially when it was found that he had : died utterly insolvent, that all his last great speculations had failed, and that the news of; his ab olute beggary had Reached hi«n on the night pr6ecdiog bis decease. Then came all the horrors of such circumstances to poor Alice and her mother : the ; funeral, the examination of the papers, the sale of . the house and furniture, the tiger claws of the law rending op?n the house in ailita-dearest associations ; the commiseration of j&iends, the tannts" and scoffs of those who had envied and hated in silencel Then, for poor Alice herself, came the last worse b!o«% the sietntaSs and deathbed of a mother: sickness, and death in poverty. The last scene was jpst over: tbe earth was just la;d upon the coign of. Mrs Herbert, and Alice sat with her eyes dropping.fast, thinking of the said " What nextP* when a letter:was •riven to her, and she-saw the hand-writing of her uncle in Canada. Shteitiad written to iiim on her: father's death, 'and; now'he ansWitSred full of tenderness atad -affectioh, begging his sister and niece instantly to join him in the new land which he ha& made his ; country. AH the topics of consolation which phiiosopy ever discovered or devised to soothe man under the manifold sorrows and cares oflife are not worth a blade of rye grass in comparison with one wotd of true affection. It was die only balm that ilice Herbert's heart canld have received, and though it did no?, heal the wound, it tranquilised its aching. "Mrs Herbert, though not rich, had not been altogether portionless, and her small fortune was all tliat Alice now condescended to call her' own. There had been, indeed, a considerable jointure, but that Alice renounced with fellings that you will understand. Economy, however, was now a necessity, and after taking-a passage in one of the . cheapest vessels she could find bound for Quebec—a vessel that all tbe world has heard of, named the St. Lawrence—she set out for the good city of Bristrtl, where she arrived in safety on the 16th day of May, 183-. I must now, however, turn to the history of Henry Ashton.

It was just after the business iu Canada was settled that he' entered a room in Quebec, where several of the officers of his regiment were assembled iu various occupations—one writing a letter to goby the packet which was just about to sail; two looking out of the window at the nothing whieh was doing in the streets ; and one reading the newspaper. There were three or four other journals on the table, and Ashton took up one of them. As usual he turned to tbe record of the thr.ee great thing* in life, and read—first the marriages, then the deaths, and. as be did so, he saw—" Suddenly, at his house in Portlandplace, William Anthony Herberty Esq." The paper did not drop from his hand, although he was much moved and surprised j but - his sensations were very mixed; and although, be it said truly, he gave his first thoughts, and they were sorrowful, to the dead, the second were given to Alice Herbert, and he asked limself—" Is it possible that she can ever be mine ? She was certainly much agitated when x I left her 1" " Here's a bad business r* cried the man who was reading the other newspaper—" the Herberts are all gone to smash, and J had six hundred pounds there. Yon are in for it, too, Ashton. Look there 1 They talk of three sbiliings' in the pound." Henry Ashton took the.paper and read., the account ot all that had occurred in London, and he then took his hat and walked" to headquarters*. What he saio or did there is nobody's business but his own; but certaijn it is that by the beginning of ^the very next week he was in the Gulf of St Lawrence. Fair i winds wafted him soon' to England, but in' in St George's Channel : all went contrary,, 1 and Ihe ship was knocked about for three days' without making much way. A fit of 7 impatience had come upon Henry Ashton, and when he thought of Alice Herbert and all she must* havertf&ffenadj his heart beat strangely. One of those little Incidents occurred about this time that make or mar men's destinies.! A coasting boat from Swansea to Wiston came within hail, and Ashton, tired of the other vessel, put a portmanteau,' a servant, and himsel£ into the little skimmer of the seas, and was in a few hours landed safely at the pleasant watering-place of Wistpn-super-mare. It wanted jet an hour or two of night, and^ therefore'a post-chaise was soon rolling the young officer, his servant,'and bis portmanteau towards fcr|stu], on thgir way to London. If arrived.dt a reasonable hour, but yet some on of tHe many thiegs t^at fill inns had happen in ^Bristol that day,$and:'Henfy drove to tb Bush, to the Falcon, and tbe Eountain, anL «everil ijthers, befoi4i he could get a place of length h# found two comf&rtable rooms In a small jtotel near the port, and had sat-flown to hig supper bj a warm fire, wheii an }rish sailor put his head into the room and asked if he werc the jlady that was to gp dowq to the St Lawrence the.next.day ? iH^nry Asliton informed, him that be was &ot a^ lady j and tbat as he had jus§ come fi^m the St Lawrence, he was not g<Mgtack agfaini upo which the man*withdrew to seek'far&er^ f Ten, eleven, twelve «*clcck stiUcki and Henry Ashton pulled off bis boots &nd wen^ to bed. At two o'clock he awoke, feeling

lieatsl and ifprmni Jbegantothibkof it by-no^means Uhan ttefore, an Snv..' * W Vl.«I|U| KJm | anA <11111 smell of fcurriing wi ,one of those uofor! are placed under the e'Ciare.' and pro- 1 1option of a sitting-room, whi.cn, like a Spapi&h 'duenna, will let jiobody in who does not pass by their door. He put on his dressing-gpwn, therefore, and issued out into the sitting-room, and there the smell was stronger^ there was a considerablejcrackling and roaring too; which bad something alarming In It, and he consequently opened -the outer door. All he could now see was a thick smoke ^iUrig^he <^rTidor; rtirougli; j - - sounds of burning ^f^'m^^fMn ^api mistaken, and in a minufeafteiy loud kfjo^qig at doors, ringing of bells, and shouts of " Fire I fire !'* showed that the calaroity had bf«pm& apparent to the people in the sti^. ; ^ al 11 faerushingfort h«f' nskedrnenandwomen which generally follows such a catas^|fte, and th? opening all tlie^^rfi^f-'^vi^^e;^. 1 if for the express purpose of blowing the fire into a flame. . . There were hallooings and shnutin^^—therewerescreamin^and. tears— and what between the rushing spub^§f the devouring element, and the voice of human sufiiering or fear, the noise was enough to iralie the dead. . - • .-.:'.. ; Henry Ashton thought of his portmanteau, and wondered where his .servant was ; but s'-eing, by a number of-people- driven back from the great staircases by flames, that there was n.o time to be lost, he tnadei Iiis way di-vra by a smaller one, and' in a minute or "two reached the street. The engirieis by this time had arrived; an immense crowd was gathering together—the terrified tenants of-the inn were rushing forth—and in the midst Ilenry Ashton remarked one young woman wringing her hands, and exclaiming—" Oh, my poor young mistress! my poor young lady !" " Where is she,, my good girl?" demanded the voting soldier. . In number eleven," cried the girl, " in number eleven ! Her bed-room is within the sitting-room, and. she will seyer hear the noise.*' " There she is," cried one of fhe hyestanders who overheard; "there she is, I daresay." Ashton looked up towards the house, through the lower windows of which the flames were pouring forth ; and, across the casement which seemed next to the very room he himself had occupied, he saw the figure of a woman, in he* night dress, pass rapidly. " A .ladder," he cried, " a ladder tor God's sakol" . No ladder could be got, and Henry Ashton lopkedroundinv^in. " The back staircase is of stooe," he cried j ** she may be saved that way.'' " Ay, lint the corridor is on fire/' said one of the waiters; " yiou'd better not try, sir; it ; cannot bfe done** f. " Vf^b":

Henry Ashton darted away into the inn* and up the Staircase; but the corridor was on lire, as the man had. said, and Jthe flames rushing up to the very door of the rooms hf had lately tenanted. He rushed on, however, recollecting that he had seen a f>idedoor out of his own sitting-room. He dastied in, caught the handle of the lock of the side door, and shook it violently, for it was-fastened. " I will open it," cried a voice from within, that sounded strangely familiar to his earl The locked turned—the door opened—and Henry Ashton and Alice Herbert stood face to face. ".God of Heaven," he exclaimed, catching her in his arms. But he. gave /no time for explanation, and hurried back with'ber,towards the door of his own room. The corridor, however, .was impassable. " You will he lost! you will be lost!" he exchimed, holding her to his heart. " " And you have thrown away your own life to gave mine 1 *' said Alice. "I will die with you, it least! " replied Henry Ashton; ' 4< that is some consolation. But no! thank God, they have got a ladder— they are raising it up—dear girl you are saved! " He felt Alice lie heavy on his hosnm, and when he looked down, whether it wa« fear or ^be effect of the stifling heat, prehearing such words from his lips, he found that she bad fainted. ' ; . ^ , " P is as well,*' hi saH f ahdf as sooii as the? the.ladder was raided, hehorehir out, holding hei firmly yet tepderly to his bosoiii. There was a death-like stilloess below. The ladder shopk undfr his feet ; th,e fi imes came forth apd licked the rounds oo which his steps were placed ; but steadily, firmly, calmly, the young soldier pursued his way. He bore all that be valued on earth in his hrms, and it was no moment to give one thought to fear. .. When bin last footstep touched ihe ground, an'universal shout burst from the crowd, and even reached the ear of. Alice herself; bnt ere she could recover completely, she was in the comfut table drawing room of a good merchant's, house, some way further down the same street. ThB St. Lawrence sailed on the following dayfor Quebec, and, you well know, went diwmin the terrible hurricane which swept the Atlanticinthe summerof thatyear.bearine with her to the depths of ttceab everything that she had carried T>ut from England. But an the day that she weighed anchor, Alice sat in the drawing room bf the merchant's house, with Ijfer hand claS^«l in ftiat of Henry Ashtoti; atfd, ere in^nf mojatns ,wpre over, (lie tears for tbose^ejajr b^iugs she Jbaja, lost were chased by happier drpps, asshe ^ave her faa^d tp the man she loyed^ith.alji t)ie depth of fir^t affection, but whpm she wpuld;/iever lu^ been again, hadit not beeu^r^lhe £re< mm. rm, ADELAIDE-; Printed and Published fbrilteTiropHetorby Konsar Tmoxas & G04 at their Printitit)Oi«L Hiadley^tim, nhere all «tlers,»<tT^rtiiipaa5ju! n cdnHnnmcatioiistotbe Edi tor;m««be ^ddrsaoL > • 1 ,J * junnst' Mr Halts, Hind!<y-Mreet, Adclal^, Mr Abbott, Nortti Adelaide. ' ' Mr S. P. Cooperj Hjwlm«jr?h. UrDtmc^ i*on Ade^i^e,