Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray - HTML preview
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Chapter 4In Which Barry Takes A Near View Of Military Glory
I never had a taste for anything but genteel company, and hate all descriptions of low life. Hence my account of the society in which I at present found myself must of necessity be short; and, indeed, the recollection of it is profoundly disagreeable to me. Pah! the reminiscences of the horrid black-hole of a place in which we soldiers were confined; of the wretched creatures with whom I was now forced to keep company; of the ploughmen, poachers, pickpockets, who had taken refuge from poverty, or the law (as, in truth, I had done myself), is enough to make me ashamed even now, and it calls the blush into my old cheeks to think I was ever forced to keep such company. I should have fallen into despair, but that, luckily, events occurred to rouse my spirits, and in some measure to console me for my misfortunes.
The first of these consolations I had was a good quarrel, which took place on the day after my entrance into the transport-ship, with a huge red-haired monster of a fellow--a chairman, who had enlisted to fly from a vixen of a wife, who, boxer as he was, had been more than a match for him. As soon as this fellow--Toole, I remember, was his name--got away from the arms of the washerwoman his lady, his natural courage and ferocity returned, and he became the tyrant of all round about him. All recruits, especially, were the object of the brute's insult and ill-treatment.
I had no money, as I said, and was sitting very disconsolately over a platter of rancid bacon and mouldy biscuit, which was served to us at mess, when it came to my turn to be helped to drink, and I was served, like the rest, with a dirty tin noggin, containing somewhat more than half a pint of rum-and-water. The beaker was so greasy and filthy that I could not help turning round to the messman and saying, 'Fellow, get me a glass!' At which all the wretches round about me burst into a roar of laughter, the very loudest among them being, of course, Mr. Toole. 'Get the gentleman a towel for his hands, and serve him a basin of turtle-soup,' roared the monster, who was sitting, or rather squatting, on the deck opposite me; and as he spoke he suddenly seized my beaker of grog and emptied it, in the midst of another burst of applause.
'If you want to vex him, ax him about his wife the washerwoman, who BATES him,' here whispered in my ear another worthy, a retired link- boy, who, disgusted with his profession, had adopted the military life.'Is it a towel of your wife's washing, Mr. Toole?' said I. 'I'm told she wiped your face often with one.'
'Ax him why he wouldn't see her yesterday, when she came to the ship,' continued the link-boy. And so I put to him some other foolish jokes about soapsuds, henpecking, and flat-irons, which set the man into a fury, and succeeded in raising a quarrel between us. We should have fallen to at once, but a couple of grinning marines, who kept watch at the door, for fear we should repent of our bargain and have a fancy to escape, came forward and interposed between us with fixed bayonets; but the sergeant coming down the ladder, and hearing the dispute, condescended to say that we might fight it out like men with FISTES if we chose, and that the fore-deck should be free to us for that purpose. But the use of fistes, as the Englishman called them, was not then general in Ireland, and it was agreed that we should have a pair of cudgels; with one of which weapons I finished the fellow in four minutes, giving him a thump across his stupid sconce which laid him lifeless on the deck, and not receiving myself a single hurt of consequence.
This victory over the cock of the vile dunghill obtained me respect among the wretches of whom I formed part, and served to set up my spirits, which otherwise were flagging; and my position was speedily made more bearable by the arrival on board our ship of an old friend. This was no other than my second in the fatal duel which had sent me thus early out into the world, Captain Fagan. There was a young nobleman who had a company in our regiment (Gale's foot), and who, preferring the delights of the Mall and the clubs to the dangers of a rough campaign, had given Fagan the opportunity of an exchange; which, as the latter had no fortune but his sword, he was glad to make. The sergeant was putting us through our exercise on deck (the seamen and officers of the transport looking grinning on) when a boat came from the shore bringing our captain to the ship; and though I started and blushed red as he recognised me--a descendant of the Barrys--in this degrading posture, I promise you that the sight of Fagan's face was most welcome to me, for it assured me that a friend was near me. Before that I was so melancholy that I would certainly have deserted had I found the means, and had not the inevitable marines kept a watch to prevent any such escapes. Fagan gave me a wink of recognition, but offered no public token of acquaintance; it was not until two days afterwards, and when we had bidden adieu to old Ireland and were standing out to sea, that he called me into his cabin, and then, shaking hands with me cordially, gave me news, which I much wanted, of my family. 'I had news of you in Dublin,' he said. ''Faith you've begun early, like your father's son; and I think you could not do better than as you have done. But why did you not write home to your poor mother? She has sent a half-dozen letters to you at Dublin.'I said I had asked for letters at the post-office, but there were none for Mr. Redmond. I did not like to add that I had been ashamed, after the first week, to write to my mother.
'We must write to her by the pilot,' said he, 'who will leave us in two hours; and you can tell her that you are safe, and married to Brown Bess.' I sighed when he talked about being married; on which he said with a laugh, 'I see you are thinking of a certain young lady at Brady's Town.'
'Is Miss Brady well?' said I; and indeed, could hardly utter it, for I certainly WAS thinking about her: for, though I had forgotten her in the gaieties of Dublin, I have always found adversity makes man very affectionate.'There's only seven Miss Bradys now,' answered Fagan, in a solemn voice. 'Poor Nora'--
'Good heavens! what of her?' I thought grief had killed her. 'She took on so at your going away that she was obliged to console herself with a husband. She's now Mrs. John Quin.''Mrs. John Quin! Was there ANOTHER Mr. John Quin?' asked I, quite wonder-stricken.
'No; the very same one, my boy. He recovered from his wound. The ball you hit him with was not likely to hurt him. It was only made of tow. Do you think the Bradys would let you kill fifteen hundred a year out of the family?' And then Fagan further told me that, in order to get me out of the way--for the cowardly Englishman could never be brought to marry from fear of me--the plan of the duel had been arranged. 'But hit him you certainly did, Redmond, and with a fine thick plugget of tow; and the fellow was so frightened, that he was an hour in coming to. We told your mother the story afterwards, and a pretty scene she made; she despatched a half-score of letters to Dublin after you, but I suppose addressed them to you in your real name, by which you never thought to ask for them.'
'The coward!' said I (though, I confess, my mind was considerably relieved at the thoughts of not having killed him). 'And did the Bradys of Castle Brady consent to admit a poltroon like that into one of the most ancient and honourable families in the world?'
'He has paid off your uncle's mortgage,' said Fagan; 'he gives Nora a coach-and-six; he is to sell out, and Lieutenant Ulick Brady of the Militia is to purchase his company. That coward of a fellow has been the making of your uncle's family. 'Faith! the business was well done.' And then, laughing, he told me how Mick and Ulick had never let him out of their sight, although he was for deserting to England, until the marriage was completed and the happy couple off on their road to Dublin. 'Are you in want of cash, my boy?' continued the good-natured Captain. 'You may draw upon me, for I got a couple of hundred out of Master Quin for my share, and while they last you shall never want.'
And so he bade me sit down and write a letter to my mother, which I did forthwith in very sincere and repentant terms, stating that I had been guilty of extravagances, that I had not known until that moment under what a fatal error I had been labouring, and that I had embarked for Germany as a volunteer. The letter was scarcely finished when the pilot sang out that he was going on shore; and he departed, taking with him, from many an anxious fellow besides myself, our adieux to friends in old Ireland.
Although I was called Captain Barry for many years of my life, and have been known as such by the first people of Europe, yet I may as well confess I had no more claim to the title than many a gentleman who assumes it, and never had a right to an epaulet, or to any military decoration higher than a corporal's stripe of worsted. I was made corporal by Fagan during our voyage to the Elbe, and my rank was confirmed on TERRA FIRMA. I was promised a halbert, too, and afterwards, perhaps, an ensigncy, if I distinguished myself; but Fate did not intend that I should remain long an English soldier: as shall appear presently. Meanwhile, our passage was very favourable; my adventures were told by Fagan to his brother officers, who treated me with kindness; and my victory over the big chairman procured me respect from my comrades of the fore-deck. Encouraged and strongly exhorted by Fagan, I did my duty resolutely; but, though affable and goodhumoured with the men, I never at first condescended to associate with such low fellows: and, indeed, was called generally amongst them 'my Lord.' I believe it was the ex- linkboy, a facetious knave, who gave me the title; and I felt that I should become such a rank as well as any peer in the kingdom.
It would require a greater philosopher and historian than I am to explain the causes of the famous Seven Years' War in which Europe was engaged; and, indeed, its origin has always appeared to me to be so complicated, and the books written about it so amazingly hard to understand, that I have seldom been much wiser at the end of a chapter than at the beginning, and so shall not trouble my reader with any personal disquisitions concerning the matter. All I know is, that after His Majesty's love of his Hanoverian dominions had rendered him most unpopular in his English kingdom, with Mr. Pitt at the head of the anti-German war-party, all of a sudden, Mr. Pitt becoming Minister, the rest of the empire applauded the war as much as they had hated it before. The victories of Dettingen and Crefeld were in every-body's mouths, and 'the Protestant hero,' as we used to call the godless old Frederick of Prussia, was adored by us as a saint, a very short time after we had been about to make war against him in alliance with the Empress-queen. Now, somehow, we were on Frederick's side: the Empress, the French, the Swedes, and the Russians, were leagued against us; and I remember, when the news of the battle of Lissa came even to our remote quarter of Ireland, we considered it as a triumph for the cause of Protestantism, and illuminated and bonfired, and had a sermon at church, and kept the Prussian king's birthday; on which my uncle would get drunk: as indeed on any other occasion. Most of the low fellows enlisted with myself were, of course, Papists (the English army was filled with such, out of that never-failing country of ours), and these, forsooth, were fighting the battles of Protestantism with Frederick; who was belabouring the Protestant Swedes and the Protestant Saxons, as well as the Russians of the Greek Church, and the Papist troops of the Emperor and the King of France. It was against these latter that the English auxiliaries were employed, and we know that, be the quarrel what it may, an Englishman and a Frenchman are pretty willing to make a fight of it.
We landed at Cuxhaven, and before I had been a month in the Electorate I was transformed into a tall and proper young soldier, and having a natural aptitude for military exercise, was soon as accomplished at the drill as the oldest sergeant in the regiment. It is well, however, to dream of glorious war in a snug arm-chair at home; ay, or to make it as an officer, surrounded by gentlemen, gorgeously dressed, and cheered by chances of promotion. But those chances do not shine on poor fellows in worsted lace: the rough texture of our red coats made me ashamed when I saw an officer go by; my soul used to shudder when, on going the rounds, I would hear their voices as they sat jovially over the mess-table; my pride revolted at being obliged to plaster my hair with flour and candle- grease, instead of using the proper pomatum for a gentleman. Yes, my tastes have always been high and fashionable, and I loathed the horrid company in which I was fallen. What chances had I of promotion? None of my relatives had money to buy me a commission, and I became soon so low-spirited, that I longed for a general action and a ball to finish me, and vowed that I would take some opportunity to desert. When I think that I, the descendant of the kings of Ireland, was threatened with a caning by a young scoundrel who had just joined from Eton College--when I think that he offered to make me his footman, and that I did not, on either occasion, murder him! On the first occasion I burst into tears (I do not care to own it) and had serious thoughts of committing suicide, so great was my mortification. But my kind friend Fagan came to my aid in the circumstance, with some very timely consolation. 'My poor boy,' said he, 'you must not take the matter to heart so. Caning is only a relative disgrace. Young Ensign Fakenham was flogged himself at Eton School only a month ago: I would lay a wager that his scars are not yet healed. You must cheer up, my boy; do your duty, be a gentleman, and no serious harm can fall on you.' And I heard afterwards that my champion had taken Mr. Fakenham very severely to task for this threat, and said to him that any such proceedings for the future he should consider as an insult to himself; whereon the young ensign was, for the moment, civil. As for the sergeants, I told one of them, that if any man struck me, no matter who he might be, or what the penalty, I would take his life. And, 'faith! there was an air of sincerity in my speech which convinced the whole bevy of them; and as long as I remained in the English service no rattan was ever laid on the shoulders of Redmond Barry. Indeed, I was in that savage moody state, that my mind was quite made up to the point, and I looked to hear my own dead march played as sure as I was alive. When I was made a corporal, some of my evils were lessened; I messed with the sergeants by special favour, and used to treat them to drink, and lose money to the rascals at play: with which cash my good friend Mr. Fagan punctually supplied me.
Our regiment, which was quartered about Stade and Luneburg, speedily got orders to march southwards towards the Rhine, for news came that our great General, Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, had been defeated- no, not defeated, but foiled in his attack upon the French under the Duke of Broglio, at Bergen, near Frankfort-on-the-Main, and had been obliged to fall back. As the allies retreated the French rushed forward, and made a bold push for the Electorate of our gracious monarch in Hanover, threatening that they would occupy it; as they had done before, when D'Estrees beat the hero of Culloden, the gallant Duke of Cumberland, and caused him to sign the capitulation of Closter Zeven. An advance upon Hanover always caused a great agitation in the Royal bosom of the King of England; more troops were sent to join us, convoys of treasure were passed over to our forces, and to our ally's the King of Prussia; and although, in spite of all assistance, the army under Prince Ferdinand was very much weaker than that of the invading enemy, yet we had the advantage of better supplies, one of the greatest Generals in the world: and, I was going to add, of British valour, but the less we say about THAT the better. My Lord George Sackville did not exactly cover himself with laurels at Minden; otherwise there might have been won there one of the greatest victories of modern times.
Throwing himself between the French and the interior of the Electorate, Prince Ferdinand wisely took possession of the free town of Bremen, which he made his storehouse and place of arms; and round which he gathered all his troops, making ready to fight the famous battle of Minden.
Were these Memoirs not characterised by truth, and did I deign to utter a single word for which my own personal experience did not give me the fullest authority, I might easily make myself the hero of some strange and popular adventures, and, after the fashion of novel-writers, introduce my reader to the great characters of this remarkable time. These persons (I mean the romance-writers), if they take a drummer or a dustman for a hero, somehow manage to bring him in contact with the greatest lords and most notorious personages of the empire; and I warrant me there's not one of them but, in describing the battle of Minden, would manage to bring Prince Ferdinand, and my Lord George Sackville, and my Lord Granby, into presence. It would have been easy for me to have SAID I was present when the orders were brought to Lord George to charge with the cavalry and finish the rout of the Frenchmen, and when he refused to do so, and thereby spoiled the great victory. But the fact is, I was two miles off from the cavalry when his Lordship's fatal hesitation took place, and none of us soldiers of the line knew of what had occurred until we came to talk about the fight over our kettles in the evening, and repose after the labours of a hard-fought day. I saw no one of higher rank that day than my colonel and a couple of orderly officers riding by in the smoke--no one on our side, that is. A poor corporal (as I then had the, disgrace of being) is not generally invited into the company of commanders and the great; but, in revenge, I saw, I promise you, some very good company on the FRENCH part, for their regiments of Lorraine and Royal Cravate were charging us all day; and in THAT sort of MELEE high and low are pretty equally received. I hate bragging, but I cannot help saying that I made a very close acquaintance with the colonel of the Cravates; for I drove my bayonet into his body, and finished off a poor little ensign, so young, slender, and small, that a blow from my pigtail would have despatched him, I think, in place of the butt of my musket, with which I clubbed him down. I killed, besides, four more officers and men, and in the poor ensign's pocket found a purse of fourteen louis-d'or, and a silver box of sugar-plums; of which the former present was very agreeable to me. If people would tell their stories of battles in this simple way, I think the cause of truth would not suffer by it. All I know of this famous fight of Minden (except from books) is told here above. The ensign's silver bonbon box and his purse of gold; the livid face of the poor fellow as he fell; the huzzas of the men of my company as I went out under a smart fire and rifled him; their shouts and curses as we came hand in hand with the Frenchmen,--these are, in truth, not very dignified recollections, and had best be passed over briefly. When my kind friend Fagan was shot, a brother captain, and his very good friend, turned to Lieutenant Rawson and said, 'Fagan's down; Rawson, there's your company.' It was all the epitaph my brave patron got. 'I should have left you a hundred guineas, Redmond,' were his last words to me, 'but for a cursed run of ill luck last night at faro.' And he gave me a faint squeeze of the hand; then, as the word was given to advance, I left him. When we came back to our old ground, which we presently did, he was lying there still; but he was dead. Some of our people had already torn off his epaulets, and, no doubt, had rifled his purse. Such knaves and ruffians do men in war become! It is well for gentlemen to talk of the age of chivalry; but remember the starving brutes whom they lead--men nursed in poverty, entirely ignorant, made to take a pride in deeds of blood--men who can have no amusement but in drunkenness, debauch, and plunder. It is with these shocking instruments that your great warriors and kings have been doing their murderous work in the world; and while, for instance, we are at the present moment admiring the 'Great Frederick,' as we call him, and his philosophy, and his liberality, and his military genius, I, who have served him, and been, as it were, behind the scenes of which that great spectacle is composed, can only look at it with horror. What a number of items of human crime, misery, slavery, go to form that sum-total of glory! I can recollect a certain day about three weeks after the battle of Minden, and a farmhouse in which some of us entered; and how the old woman and her daughters served us, trembling, to wine; and how we got drunk over the wine, and the house was in a flame, presently; and woe betide the wretched fellow afterwards who came home to look for his house and his children!
Chapter 5Barry Far From Military Glory
After the death of my protector, Captain Fagan, I am forced to confess that I fell into the very worst of courses and company. Being a rough soldier of fortune himself, he had never been a favourite with the officers of his regiment; who had a contempt for Irishmen, as Englishmen sometimes will have, and used to mock his brogue, and his blunt uncouth manners. I had been insolent to one or two of them, and had only been screened from punishment by his intercession; especially his successor, Mr. Rawson, had no liking for me, and put another man into the sergeant's place vacant in his company after the battle of Minden. This act of injustice rendered my service very disagreeable to me; and, instead of seeking to conquer the dislike of my superiors, and win their goodwill by good behaviour, I only sought for means to make my situation easier to me, and grasped at all the amusements in my power. In a foreign country, with the enemy before us, and the people continually under contribution from one side or the other, numberless irregularities were permitted to the troops which would not have been allowed in more peaceable times. I descended gradually to mix with the sergeants, and to share their amusements: drinking and gambling were, I am sorry to say, our principal pastimes; and I fell so readily into their ways, that though only a young lad of seventeen, I was the master of them all in daring wickedness; though there were some among them who, I promise you, were far advanced in the science of every kind of profligacy. I should have been under the provost- marshal's hands, for a dead certainty, had I continued much longer in the army: but an accident occurred which took me out of the English service in rather a singular manner.
The year in which George II died, our regiment had the honour to be present at the battle of Warburg (where the Marquis of Granby and his horse fully retrieved the discredit which had fallen upon the cavalry since Lord George Sackville's defalcation at Minden), and where Prince Ferdinand once more completely defeated the Frenchmen. During the action, my lieutenant, Mr. Fakenham, of Fakenham, the gentleman who had threatened me, it may be remembered, with the caning, was struck by a musket-ball in the side. He had shown no want of courage in this or any other occasion where he had been called upon to act against the French; but this was his first wound, and the young gentleman was exceedingly frightened by it. He offered five guineas to be carried into the town, which was hard by; and I and another man, taking him up in a cloak, managed to transport him into a place of decent appearance, where we put him to bed, and where a young surgeon (who desired nothing better than to take himself out of the fire of the musketry) went presently to dress his wound.
In order to get into the house, we had been obliged, it must be confessed, to fire into the locks with our pieces; which summons brought an inhabitant of the house to the door, a very pretty and black-eyed young woman, who lived there with her old half-blind father, a retired Jagdmeister of the Duke of Cassel, hard by. When the French were in the town, Meinherr's house had suffered like those of his neighbours; and he was at first exceedingly unwilling to accommodate his guests. But the first knocking at the door had the effect of bringing a speedy answer; and Mr. Fakenham, taking a couple of guineas out of a very full purse, speedily convinced the people that they had only to deal with a person of honour.
Leaving the doctor (who was very glad to stop) with his patient, who paid me the stipulated reward, I was returning to my regiment with my other comrade--after having paid, in my German jargon, some deserved compliments to the black-eyed beauty of Warburg, and thinking, with no small envy, how comfortable it would be to be billeted there--when the private who was with me cut short my reveries by suggesting that we should divide the five guineas the lieutenant had given me.
'There is your share,' said I, giving the fellow one piece; which was plenty, as I was the leader of the expedition. But he swore a dreadful oath that he would have half; and when I told him to go to a quarter which I shall not name, the fellow, lifting his musket, hit me a blow with the butt-end of it, which sent me lifeless to the ground: when I awoke from my> trance, I found myself bleeding with a large wound in the head, and had barely time to stagger back to the house where I had left the lieutenant, when I again fell fainting at the door.
Here I must have been discovered by the surgeon on his issuing out; for when I awoke a second time I found myself in the ground-floor of the house, supported by the black-eyed girl, while the surgeon was copiously bleeding me at the arm. There was another bed in the room where the lieutenant had been laid,--it was that occupied by Gretel, the servant; while Lischen, as my fair one was called, had, till now, slept in the couch where the wounded officer lay.'Who are you putting into that bed?' said he languidly, in German; for the ball had been extracted from his side with much pain and loss of blood. They told him it was the corporal who had brought him.
'A corporal?' said he, in English; 'turn him out.' And you may be sure I felt highly complimented by the words. But we were both too faint to compliment or to abuse each other much, and I was put to bed carefully; and, on being undressed, had an opportunity to find that my pockets had been rifled by the English soldier after he had knocked me down. However, I was in good quarters: the young lady who sheltered me presently brought me a refreshing drink; and, as I took it, I could not help pressing the kind hand that gave it me; nor, in truth, did this token of my gratitude seem unwelcome.
This intimacy did not decrease with further acquaintance. I found Lischen the tenderest of nurses. Whenever any delicacy was to be provided for the wounded lieutenant, a share was always sent to the bed opposite his, and to the avaricious man's no small annoyance. His illness was long. On the second day the fever declared itself; for some nights he was delirious; and I remember it was when a commanding officer was inspecting our quarters, with an intention, very likely, of billeting himself on the house, that the howling and mad words of the patient overhead struck him, and he retired rather frightened. I had been sitting up very comfortably in the lower apartment, for my hurt was quite subsided; and it was only when the officer asked me, with a rough voice, why I was not at my regiment, that I began to reflect how pleasant my quarters were to me, and that I was much better here than crawling under an odious tent with a parcel of tipsy soldiers, or going the nightrounds or rising long before daybreak for drill.
The delirium of Mr. Fakenham gave me a hint, and I determined forthwith to GO MAD. There was a poor fellow about Brady's Town called 'Wandering Billy,' whose insane pranks I had often mimicked as a lad, and I again put them in practice. That night I made an attempt upon Lischen, saluting her with a yell and a grin which frightened her almost out of her wits; and when anybody came I was raving. The blow on the head had disordered my brain; the doctor was ready to vouch for this fact. One night I whispered to him that I was Julius Caesar, and considered him to be my affianced wife Queen Cleopatra, which convinced him of my insanity. Indeed, if Her Majesty had been like my Aesculapius, she must have had a carroty beard, such as is rare in Egypt.
A movement on the part of the French speedily caused an advance on our part. The town was evacuated, except by a few Prussian troops, whose surgeons were to visit the wounded in the place; and, when we were well, we were to be drafted to our regiments. I determined that I never would join mine again. My intention was to make for Holland, almost the only neutral country of Europe in those times, and thence to get a passage somehow to England, and home to dear old Brady's Town.
If Mr. Fakenham is now alive, I here tender him my apologies for my conduct to him. He was very rich; he used me very ill. I managed to frighten away his servant who came to attend him after the affair of Warburg, and from that time would sometimes condescend to wait upon the patient, who always treated me with scorn; but it was my object to have him alone, and I bore his brutality with the utmost civility and mildness, meditating in my own mind a very pretty return for all his favours to me. Nor was I the only person in the house to whom the worthy gentleman was uncivil. He ordered the fair Lischen hither and thither, made inpertinent love to her, abused her soups, quarrelled with her omelettes, and grudged the money which was laid out for his maintenance; so that our hostess detested him as much as, I think, without vanity, she regarded me.
For, if the truth must be told, I had made very deep love to her during my stay under her roof; as is always my way with women, of whatever age or degree of beauty. To a man who has to make his way in the world, these dear girls can always be useful in one fashion or another; never mind, if they repel your passion; at any rate, they are not offended with your declaration of it, and only look upon you with more favourable eyes in consequence of your misfortune. As for Lischen, I told her such a pathetic story of my life (a tale a great deal more romantic than that here narrated,-- for I did not restrict myself to the exact truth in that history, as in these pages I am bound to do), that I won the poor girl's heart entirely, and, besides, made considerable progress in the German language under her instruction. Do not think me very cruel and heartless, ladies; this heart of Lischen's was like many a town in the neighbourhood in which she dwelt, and had been stormed and occupied several times before I came to invest it; now mounting French colours, now green and yellow Saxon, now black and white Prussian, as the case may be. A lady who sets her heart upon a lad in uniform must prepare to change lovers pretty quickly, or her life will be but a sad one.
The German surgeon who attended us after the departure of the English only condescended to pay our house a visit twice during my residence; and I took care, for a reason I had, to receive him in a darkened room, much to the annoyance of Mr. Fakenham, who lay there: but I said the light affected my eyes dreadfully since my blow on the head; and so I covered up my head with clothes when the doctor came, and told him that I was an Egyptian mummy, or talked to him some insane nonsense, in order to keep up my character.'What is that nonsense you were talking about an Egyptian mummy, fellow?' asked Mr. Fakenham peevishly. 'Oh! you'll know soon, sir,' said I.
The next time that I expected the doctor to come, instead of receiving him in a darkened room, with handkerchiefs muffled, I took care to be in the lower room, and was having a game at cards with Lischen as the surgeon entered. I had taken possession of a dressingjacket of the lieutenant's, and some other articles of his wardrobe, which fitted me pretty well; and, I flatter myself, was no ungentlemanlike figure.'Good-morrow, Corporal,' said the doctor, rather gruffly, in reply to my smiling salute. 'Corporal! Lieutenant, if you please,' answered I, giving an arch look at Lischen, whom I had instructed in my plot. 'How lieutenant?' asked the surgeon. 'I thought the lieutenant was'- -
'Upon my word, you do me great honour,' cried I, laughing; 'you mistook me for the mad corporal upstairs. The fellow has once or twice pretended to be an officer, but my kind hostess here can answer which is which.''Yesterday he fancied he was Prince Ferdinand,' said Lischen; 'the day you came he said he was an Egyptian mummy.' 'So he did,' said the doctor; 'I remember; but, ha! ha! do you know, Lieutenant, I have in my notes made a mistake in you two?' 'Don't talk to me about his malady; he is calm now.'
Lischen and I laughed at this error as at the most ridiculous thing in the world; and when the surgeon went up to examine his patient, I cautioned him not to talk to him about the subject of his malady, for he was in a very excited state.
The reader will be able to gather from the above conversation what my design really was. I was determined to escape, and to escape under the character of Lieutenant Fakenham; taking it from him to his face, as it were, and making use of it to meet my imperious necessity. It was forgery and robbery, if you like; for I took all his money and clothes,--I don't care to conceal it; but the need was so urgent, that I would do so again: and I knew I could not effect my escape without his purse, as well as his name. Hence it became my duty to take possession of one and the other.
As the lieutenant lay still in bed upstairs, I did not hesitate at all about assuming his uniform, especially after taking care to inform myself from the doctor whether any men of ours who might know me were in the town. But there were none that I could hear of; and so I calmly took my walks with Madame Lischen, dressed in the lieutenant's uniform, made inquiries as to a horse that I wanted to purchase, reported myself to the commandant of the place as Lieutenant Fakenham, of Gale's English regiment of foot, convalescent, and was asked to dine with the officers of the Prussian regiment at a very sorry mess they had. How Fakenham would have stormed and raged, had he known the use I was making of his name!
Whenever that worthy used to inquire about his clothes, which he did with many oaths and curses that he would have me caned at the regiment for inattention, I, with a most respectful air, informed him that they were put away in perfect safety below; and, in fact, had them very neatly packed, and ready for the day when I proposed to depart. His papers and money, however, he kept under his pillow; and, as I had purchased a horse, it became necessary to pay for it.
At a certain hour, then, I ordered the animal to be brought round, when I would pay the dealer for him. (I shall pass over my adieux with my kind hostess, which were very tearful indeed). And then, making up my mind to the great action, walked upstairs to Fakenham's room attired in his full regimentals, and with his hat cocked over my left eye.
'You gWeat scoundWel!' said he, with a multiplicity of oaths; 'you mutinous dog! what do you mean by dWessing yourself in my Wegimentals? As sure as my name's Fakenham, when we get back to the Wegiment, I'll have your soul cut out of your body.'
'I'm promoted, Lieutenant,' said I, with a sneer. 'I'm come to take my leave of you;' and then going up to his bed, I said, 'I intend to have your papers and purse.' With this I put my hand under his pillow; at which he gave a scream that might have called the whole garrison about my ears. 'Hark ye, sir!' said I, 'no more noise, or you are a dead man!' and taking a handkerchief, I bound it tight around his mouth so as well-nigh to throttle him, and, pulling forward the sleeves of his shirt, tied them in a knot together, and so left him; removing the papers and the purse, you may be sure, and wishing him politely a good day.
'It is the mad corporal,' said I to the people down below who were attracted by the noise from the sick man's chamber; and so taking leave of the old blind Jagdmeister, and an adieu (I will not say how tender) of his daughter, I mounted my newly purchased animal; and, as I pranced away, and the sentinels presented arms to me at the town-gates, felt once more that I was in my proper sphere, and determined never again to fall from the rank of a gentleman.
I took at first the way towards Bremen, where our army was, and gave out that I was bringing reports and letters from the Prussian commandant of Warburg to headquarters; but, as soon as I got out of sight of the advanced sentinels, I turned bridle and rode into the Hesse-Cassel territory, which is luckily not very far from Warburg: and I promise you I was very glad to see the blue-and-red stripes on the barriers, which showed me that I was out of the land occupied by our countrymen. I rode to Hof, and the next day to Cassel, giving out that I was the bearer of despatches to Prince Henry, then on the Lower Rhine, and put up at the best hotel of the place, where the field-officers of the garrison had their ordinary. These gentlemen I treated to the best wines that the house afforded, for I was determined to keep up the character of the English gentleman, and I talked to them about my English estates with a fluency that almost made me believe in the stories which I invented. I was even asked to an assembly at Wilhelmshohe, the Elector's palace, and danced a minuet there with the Hofmarshal's lovely daughter, and lost a few pieces to his excellency the first huntmaster of his Highness.
At our table at the inn there was a Prussian officer who treated me with great civility, and asked me a thousand questions about England; which I answered as best I might. But this best, I am bound to say, was bad enough. I knew nothing about England, and the Court, and the noble families there; but, led away by the vaingloriousness of youth (and a propensity which I possessed in my early days, but of which I have long since corrected myself, to boast and talk in a manner not altogether consonant with truth), I invented a thousand stories which I told him; described the King and the Ministers to him, said the British Ambassador at Berlin was my uncle, and promised my acquaintance a letter of recommendation to him. When the officer asked me my uncle's name, I was not able to give him the real name, and so said his name was O'Grady: it is as good a name as any other, and those of Kilballyowen, county Cork, are as good a family as any in the world, as I have heard. As for stories about my regiment, of these, of course, I had no lack. I wish my other histories had been equally authentic.
On the morning I left Cassel, my Prussian friend came to me with an open smiling countenance, and said he, too, was bound for Dusseldorf, whither I said my route lay; and so laying our horses' heads together we jogged on. The country was desolate beyond description. The prince in whose dominions we were was known to be the most ruthless seller of men in Germany. He would sell to any bidder, and during the five years which the war (afterwards called the Seven Years' War) had now lasted, had so exhausted the males of his principality, that the fields remained untilled: even the children of twelve years old were driven off to the war, and I saw herds of these wretches marching forwards, attended by a few troopers, now under the guidance of a red-coated Hanovarian sergeant, now with a Prussian sub-officer accompanying them; with some of whom my companion exchanged signs of recognition.
'It hurts my feelings,' said he, 'to be obliged to commune with such wretches; but the stern necessities of war demand men continually, and hence these recruiters whom you see market in human flesh. They get five-and-twenty dollars from our Government for every man they bring in. For fine men--for men like you,' he added, laughing, 'we would go as high as a hundred. In the old King's time we would have given a thousand for you, when he had his giant regiment that our present monarch disbanded.'
''Faith this was an Irishman, and a great deal too sharp for them; as you shall hear. Morgan was taken, then, and drafted into the giant guard, and was the biggest man almost among all the giants there. Many of these monsters used to complain of their life, and their caning, and their long drills, and their small pay; but Morgan was not one of the grumblers. "It's a deal better," said he, "to get fat here in Berlin, than to starve in rags in Tipperary!"''Where is Tipperary?' asked my companion.
'That is exactly what Morgan's friends asked him. It is a beautiful district in Ireland, the capital of which is the magnificent city of Clonmel: a city, let me tell you, sir, only inferior to Dublin and London, and far more sumptuous than any on the Continent. Well, Morgan said that his birthplace was near that city, and the only thing which caused him unhappiness, in his present situation, was the thought that his brothers were still starving at home, when they might be so much better off in His Majesty's service.'"'Faith," says Morgan to the sergeant, to whom he imparted the information, "it's my brother Bin that would make the fine sergeant of the guards, entirely!" '"Is Ben as tall as you are?" asked the sergeant.
'"As tall as ME, is it? Why, man, I'm the shortest of my family! There's six more of us, but Bin's the biggest of all. Oh! out and out the biggest. Seven feet in his stockin-FUT, as sure as my name's Morgan!"'"Can't we send and fetch them over, these brothers of yours?"
'"Not you. Ever since I was seduced by one of you gentlemen of the cane, they've a mortal aversion to all sergeants," answered Morgan: "but it's a pity they cannot come, too. What a monster Bin would be in a grenadier's cap!"
'He said nothing more at the time regarding his brothers, but only sighed as if lamenting their hard fate. However, the story was told by the sergeant to the officers, and by the officers to the King himself; and His Majesty was so inflamed by curiosity, that he actually consented to let Morgan go home in order to bring back with him his seven enormous brothers.'
'Do you suppose,' cried I, 'that Morgan ever came back? No, no; once free, he was too wise for that. He has bought a snug farm in Tipperary with the money that was given him to secure his brothers; and I fancy few men of the guards ever profited so much by it.'
The Prussian captain laughed exceedingly at this story, said that the English were the cleverest nation in the world, and, on my setting him right, agreed that the Irish were even more so. We rode on very well pleased with each other; for he had a thousand stories of the war to tell, of the skill and gallantry of Frederick, and the thousand escapes, and victories, and defeats scarcely less glorious than victories, through which the King had passed. Now that I was a gentleman, I could listen with admiration to these tales: and yet the sentiment recorded at the end of the last chapter was uppermost in my mind but three weeks back, when I remembered that it was the great general got the glory, and the poor soldier only insult and the cane.'By the way, to whom are you taking despatches?' asked the officer.
It was another ugly question, which I determined to answer at hap- hazard; and so I said 'To General Rolls.' I had seen the general a year before, and gave the first name in my head. My friend was quite satisfied with it, and we continued our ride until evening came on; and our horses being weary, it was agreed that we should come to a halt.'There is a very good inn,' said the Captain, as we rode up to what appeared to me a very lonely-looking place. 'This may be a very good inn for Germany,' said I, 'but it would not pass in old Ireland. Corbach is only a league off: let us push on for Corbach.'
'Do you want to see the loveliest woman in Europe?' said the officer. 'Ah! you sly rogue, I see THAT will influence you;' and, truth to say, such a proposal WAS always welcome to me, as I don't care to own. 'The people are great farmers,' said the Captain, 'as well as innkeepers;' and, indeed, the place seemed more a farm than an inn yard. We entered by a great gate into a Court walled round, and at one end of which was the building, a dingy ruinous place. A couple of covered waggens were in the court, their horses were littered under a shed hard by, and lounging about the place were some men and a pair of sergeants in the Prussian uniform, who both touched their hats to my friend the Captain. This customary formality struck me as nothing extraordinary, but the aspect of the inn had something exceedingly chilling and forbidding in it, and I observed the men shut to the great yard-gates as soon as we were entered. Parties of French horsemen, the Captain said, were about the country, and one could not take too many precautions against such villains.
We went into supper, after the two sergeants had taken charge of our horses; the Captain, also, ordering one of them to take my valise to my bedroom. I promised the worthy fellow a glass of schnapps for his pains.
A dish of fried eggs-and-bacon was ordered from a hideous old wench that came to serve us, in place of the lovely creature I had expected to see; and the Captain, laughing, said, 'Well, our meal is a frugal one, but a soldier has many a time a worse:' and, taking off his hat, sword-belt, and gloves, with great ceremony, he sat down to eat. I would not be behindhand with him in politeness, and put my weapon securely on the old chest of drawers where his was laid.The hideous old woman before mentioned brought us in a pot of very sour wine, at which and at her ugliness I felt a considerable ill- humour. 'Where's the beauty you promised me?' said I, as soon as the old hag had left the room.
'Bah!' said he, laughing, and looking hard at me: 'it was my joke. I was tired, and did not care to go farther. There's no prettier woman here than that. If she won't suit your fancy, my friend, you must wait a while.'This increased my ill-humour. 'Upon my word, sir,' said I sternly, 'I think you have acted very coolly!' 'I have acted as I think fit!' replied the captain. 'Sir,' said I, 'I'm a British officer!'
'It's a lie!' roared the other, 'you're a DESERTER! You're an impostor, sir; I have known you for such these three hours. I suspected you yesterday. My men heard of a man escaping from Warburg, and I thought you were the man. Your lies and folly have confirmed me. You pretend to carry despatches to a general who has been dead these ten months: you have an uncle who is an ambassador, and whose name forsooth you don't know. Will you join and take the bounty, sir; or will you be given up?'
'Neither!' said I, springing at him like a tiger. But, agile as I was, he was equally on his guard. He took two pistols out of his pocket, fired one off, and said, from the other end of the table where he stood dodging me, as it were,--
'Advance a step, and I send this bullet into your brains!' In another minute the door was flung open, and the two sergeants entered, armed with musket and bayonet to aid their comrade.
The game was up. I flung down a knife with which I had armed myself; for the old hag on bringing in the wine had removed my sword.
'I was once with the Irish brigade, Roche's,' said the recruiter, sneering, 'trying if I could get any likely fellows among the few countrymen of yours that are in the brigade, and there was scarcely one of them that was not descended from the kings of Ireland.''Sir,' said I, 'king or not, I am a gentleman, as you can see.' 'Oh! you will find plenty more in our corps,' answered the Captain, still in the sneering mood. 'Give up your papers, Mr. Gentleman, and let us see who you really are.'
As my pocket-book contained some bank-notes as well as papers of Mr. Fakenham's, I was not willing to give up my property; suspecting very rightly that it was but a scheme on the part of the Captain to get and keep it.'It can matter very little to you,' said I, 'what my private papers are: I am enlisted under the name of Redmond Barry.' 'Give it up, sirrah!' said the Captain, seizing his cane. 'I will not give it up!' answered I.
'HOUND! do you mutiny?' screamed he, and, at the same time, gave me a lash across the face with the cane, which had the anticipated effect of producing a struggle. I dashed forward to grapple with him, the two sergeants flung themselves on me, I was thrown to the ground and stunned again; being hit on my former wound in the head. It was bleeding severely when I came to myself, my laced coat was already torn off my back, my purse and papers gone, and my hands tied behind my back.
The great and illustrious Frederick had scores of these white slave- dealers all round the frontiers of his kingdom, debauching troops or kidnapping peasants, and hesitating at no crime to supply those brilliant regiments of his with food for powder; and I cannot help telling here, with some satisfaction, the fate which ultimately befell the atrocious scoundrel who, violating all the rights of friendship and good-fellowship, had just succeeded in entrapping me. This individual was a person of high family and known talents and courage, but who had a propensity to gambling and extravagance, and found his calling as a recruit-decoy far more profitable to him than his pay of second captain in the line. The sovereign, too, probably found his services more useful in the former capacity. His name was Monsieur de Galgenstein, and he was one of the most successful of the practisers of his rascally trade. He spoke all languages, and knew all countries, and hence had no difficulty in finding out the simple braggadocio of a young lad like me.
About 1765, however, he came to his justly merited end. He was at this time living at Kehl, opposite Strasburg, and used to take his walk upon the bridge there, and get into conversation with the French advanced sentinels; to whom he was in the habit of promising 'mountains and marvels,' as the French say, if they would take service in Prussia. One day there was on the bridge a superb grenadier, whom Galgenstein accosted, and to whom he promised a company, at least, if he would enlist under Frederick.
'Ask my comrade yonder,' said the grenadier; 'I can do nothing without him. We were born and bred together, we are of the same company, sleep in the same room, and always go in pairs. If he will go and you will give him a captaincy, I will go too.''Bring your comrade over to Kehl,' said Galgenstein, delighted. 'I will give you the best of dinners, and can promise to satisfy both of you.' 'Had you not better speak to him on the bridge?' said the grenadier. 'I dare not leave my post; but you have but to pass, and talk over the matter.'
Galgenstein, after a little parley, passed the sentinel; but presently a panic took him, and he retraced his steps. But the grenadier brought his bayonet to the Prussian's breast and bade him stand: that he was his prisoner.
The Prussian, however, seeing his danger, made a bound across the bridge and into the Rhine; whither, flinging aside his musket, the intrepid sentry followed him. The Frenchman was the better swimmer of the two, seized upon the recruiter, and bore him to the Strasburg side of the stream, where he gave him up.
'You deserve to be shot,' said the general to him, 'for abandoning your post and arms; but you merit reward for an act of courage and daring. The King prefers to reward you,' and the man received money and promotion.
As for Galgenstein, he declared his quality as a nobleman and a captain in the Prussian service, and applications were made to Berlin to know if his representations were true. But the King, though he employed men of this stamp (officers to seduce the subjects of his allies) could not acknowledge his own shame. Letters were written back from Berlin to say that such a family existed in the kingdom, but that the person representing himself to belong to it must be an impostor, for every officer of the name was at his regiment and his post. It was Galgenstein's death-warrant, and he was hanged as a spy in Strasburg.'Turn him into the cart with the rest,' said he, as soon as I awoke from my trance.
Chapter 6The Crimp Waggon--Military Episodes
The covered waggon to which I was ordered to march was standing, as I have said, in the courtyard of the farm, with another dismal vehicle of the same kind hard by it. Each was pretty well filled with a crew of men, whom the atrocious crimp who had seized upon me, had enlisted under the banners of the glorious Frederick; and I could see by the lanterns of the sentinels, as they thrust me into the straw, a dozen dark figures huddled together in the horrible moving prison where I was now to be confined. A scream and a curse from my opposite neighbour showed me that he was most likely wounded, as I myself was; and, during the whole of the wretched night, the moans and sobs of the poor fellows in similar captivity kept up a continual painful chorus, which effectually prevented my getting any relief from my ills in sleep. At midnight (as far as I could judge) the horses were put to the waggons, and the creaking lumbering machines were put in motion. A couple of soldiers, strongly armed, sat on the outer bench of the cart, and their grim faces peered in with their lanterns every now and then through the canvas curtains, that they might count the number of their prisoners. The brutes were half-drunk, and were singing love and war songs, such as 'O Gretchen mein Taubchen, mein Herzenstrompet, Mein Kanon, mein Heerpauk und meine Musket,' 'Prinz Eugen der edle Ritter.' and the like; their wild whoops and jodels making doleful discord with the groans of us captives within the waggons. Many a time afterwards have I heard these ditties sung on the march, or in the barrack-room, or round the fires as we lay out at night.
I was not near so unhappy, in spite of all, as I had been on my first enlisting in Ireland. At least, thought I, if I am degraded to be a private soldier there will be no one of my acquaintance who will witness my shame; and that is the point which I have always cared for most. There will be no one to say, 'There is young Redmond Barry, the descendant or the Barrys, the fashionable young blood of Dublin, pipeclaying his belt and carrying his brown Bess.' Indeed, but for that opinion of the world, with which it is necessary that every man of spirit should keep upon equal terms, I, for my part, would have always been contented with the humblest portion. Now here, to all intents and purposes, one was as far removed from the world as in the wilds of Siberia, or in Robinson Crusoe's Island. And I reasoned with myself thus:--'Now you are caught, there is no use in repining: make the best of your situation, and get all the pleasure you can out of it. There are a thousand opportunities of plunder, &c., offered to the soldier in war-time, out of which he can get both pleasure and profit: make use of these, and be happy. Besides, you are extraordinarily brave, handsome, and clever: and who knows but you may procure advancement in your new service?'
In this philosophical way I looked at my misfortunes, determining not to be cast down by them; and bore woes and my broken head with perfect magnanimity. The latter was, for the moment, an evil against which it required no small powers of endurance to contend; for the jolts of the waggon were dreadful, and every shake caused a throb in my brain which I thought would have split my skull. As the morning dawned, I saw that the man next me, a gaunt yellow-haired creature, in black, had a cushion of straw under his head.'Are you wounded, comrade?' said I. 'Praised be the Lord,' said he, 'I am sore hurt in spirit and body, and bruised in many members; wounded, however, am I not. And you, poor youth?'
'I am wounded in the head,' said I, 'and I want your pillow: give it me--I've a clasp-knife in my pocket!' and with this I gave him a terrible look, meaning to say (and mean it I did, for look you, A LA GUERRE C'EST A LA GUERRE, and I am none of your milksops) that, unless he yielded me the accommodation, I would give him a taste of my steel.'I would give it thee without any threat, friend,' said the yellow- haired man meekly, and handed me over his little sack of straw.
He then leaned himself back as comfortably as he could against the cart, and began repeating, 'Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott,' by which I concluded that I had got into the company of a parson. With the jolts of the waggon, and accidents of the journey, various more exclamations and movements of the passengers showed what a motley company we were. Every now and then a countryman would burst into tears; a French voice would be heard to say, 'O mon Dieu!--mon Dieu!' a couple more of the same nation were jabbering oaths and chattering incessantly; and a certain allusion to his own and everybody else's eyes, which came from a stalwart figure at the far corner, told me that there was certainly an Englishman in our crew.
But I was spared soon the tedium and discomforts of the journey. In spite of the clergyman's cushion, my head, which was throbbing with pain, was brought abruptly in contact with the side of the waggon; it began to bleed afresh: I became almost lightheaded. I only recollect having a draught of water here and there; once stopping at a fortified town, where an officer counted us:--all the rest of the journey was passed in a drowsy stupor, from which, when I awoke, I found myself lying in a hospital bed, with a nun in a white hood watching over me.
'They are in sad spiritual darkness,' said a voice from the bed next to me, when the nun had finished her kind offices and retired: 'they are in the night of error, and yet there is the light of faith in those poor creatures.'It was my comrade of the crimp waggon, his huge broad face looming out from under a white nightcap, and ensconced in the bed beside. 'What! you there, Herr Pastor?' said I.
'Only a candidate, sir,' answered the white nightcap. 'But, praised be Heaven! you have come to. You have had a wild time of it. You have been talking in the English language (with which I am acquainted) of Ireland, and a young lady, and Mick, and of another young lady, and of a house on fire, and of the British Grenadiers, concerning whom you sung us parts of a ballad, and of a number of other matters appertaining, no doubt, to your personal history.''It has been a very strange one,' said I; 'and, perhaps, there is no man in the world, of my birth, whose misfortunes can at all be compared to mine.'
I do not object to own that I am disposed to brag of my birth and other acquirements; for I have always found that if a man does not give himself a good word, his friends will not do it for him.
'Well,' said my fellow-patient, 'I have no doubt yours is a strange tale, and shall be glad to hear it anon; but at present you must not be permitted to speak much, for your fever has been long, and your exhaustion great.'
'Where are we?' I asked; and the candidate informed me that we were in the bishopric and town of Fulda, at present occupied by Prince Henry's troops. There had been a skirmish with an out-party of French near the town, in which a shot entering the waggon, the poor candidate had been wounded.
As the reader knows already my history, I will not take the trouble to repeat it here, or to give the additions with which I favoured my comrade in misfortune. But I confess that I told him ours was the greatest family and finest palace in Ireland, that we were enormously wealthy, related to all the peerage descended from the ancient kings, &c.; and, to my surprise, in the course of our conversation, I found that my interlocutor knew a great deal more about Ireland than I did. When, for instance, I spoke of my descent,--'From which race of kings?' said he. 'Oh!' said I (for my memory for dates was never very accurate), 'from the old ancient kings of all.' 'What! can you trace your origin to the sons Japhet?' said he. ''Faith, I can,' answered I, 'and farther too,--Nebuchadnezzar, if you like.'
'I see,' said the candidate, smiling, 'that you look upon those legends with incredulity. These Partholans and Nemedians, of whom your writers fondly make mention, cannot be authentically vouched for in history. Nor do I believe that we have any more foundation for the tales concerning them, than for the legends relative to Joseph of Arimathea and King Bruce which prevailed two centuries back in the sister island.
And then he began a discourse about the Phoenicians anon; but at present you must not be permitted to speak much, for your fever has been long, and your exhaustion great.' 'Where are we?' I asked; and the candidate informed me that we were in the bishopric and town of Fulda, at present occupied by Prince Henry's troops. There had been a skirmish with an out-party of French near the town, in which a shot entering the waggon, the poor candidate had been wounded.
As the reader knows already my history, I will not take the trouble to repeat it here, or to give the additions with which I favoured my comrade in misfortune. But I confess that I told him ours was the greatest family and finest palace in Ireland, that we were enormously wealthy, related to all the peerage descended from the ancient kings, &c.; and, to my surprise, in the course of our conversation, I found that my interlocutor knew a great deal more about Ireland than I did. When, for instance, I spoke of my descent,--'From which race of kings?' said he. 'Oh!' said I (for my memory for dates was never very accurate), 'from the old ancient kings of all.' 'What! can you trace your origin to the sons Japhet?' said he. ''Faith, I can,' answered I, 'and farther too,--Nebuchadnezzar, if you like.'
'I see,' said the candidate, smiling, 'that you look upon those legends with incredulity. These Partholans and Nemedians, of whom your writers fondly make mention, cannot be authentically vouched for in history. Nor do I believe that we have any more foundation for the tales concerning them, than for the legends relative to Joseph of Arimathea and King Brute which prevailed two centuries back in the sister island.'
And then he began a discourse about the Phoenicians, the Scyths or Goths, the Tuath de Danans, Tacitus, and King MacNeil; which was, to say the truth, the very first news I had heard of those personages. As for English, he spoke it as well as I, and had seven more languages, he said, equally at his command; for, on my quoting the only Latin line that I knew, that out of the poet Homer, which says,--'As in praesenti perfectum fumat in avi,' he began to speak to me in the Roman tongue; on which I was fain to tell him that we pronounced it in a different way in Ireland, and so got off the conversation. My honest friend's history was a curious one, and it may be told here in order to show of what motley materials our levies were composed:--
'I am,' said he, 'a Saxon by birth, my father being pastor of the village of Pfannkuchen, where I imbibed the first rudiments of knowledge. At sixteen (I am now twenty-three), having mastered the Greek and Latin tongues, with the French, English, Arabic, and Hebrew; and having come into possession of a legacy of a hundred rixdalers, a sum amply sufficient to defray my University courses, I went to the famous academy of Gottingen, where I devoted four years to the exact sciences and theology. Also, I learned what worldly accomplishments I could command; taking a dancing-tutor at the expense of a groschen a lesson, a course of fencing from a French practitioner, and attending lectures on the great horse and the equestrian science at the hippodrome of a celebrated cavalry professor. My opinion is, that a man should know everything as far as in his power lies: that he should complete his cycle of experience; and, one science being as necessary as another, it behoves him.
'I am not of a saving turn, hence my little fortune of a hundred rixdalers, which has served to keep many a prudent man for a score of years, barely sufficed for five years' studies; after which my studies were interrupted, my pupils fell off, and I was obliged to devote much time to shoe-binding in order to save money, and, at a future period, resume my academic course. During this period I contracted an attachment' (here the candidate sighed a little) 'with a person, who, though not beautiful, and forty years of age, is yet likely to sympathise with my existence; and, a month since, my kind friend and patron, University Prorector Doctor Nasenbrumm, having informed me that the Pfarrer of Rumpelwitz was dead, asked whether I would like to have my name placed upon the candidate list, and if I were minded to preach a trial sermon? As the gaining of this living would further my union with my Amalia, I joyously consented, and prepared a discourse.
'If you like I will recite it to you--No?--Well, I will give you extracts from it upon our line of march. To proceed, then, with my biographical sketch, which is now very near a conclusion; or, as I should more correctly say, which has very nearly brought me to the present period of time: I preached that sermon at Rumpelwitz, in which I hope that the Babylonian question was pretty satisfactorily set at rest. I preached it before the Herr Baron and his noble family, and some officers of distinction who were staying at his castle. Mr. Doctor Moser of Halle followed me in the evening discourse; but, though his exercise was learned, and he disposed of a passage of Ignatius, which he proved to be a manifest interpolation, I do not think his sermon had the effect which mine produced, and that the Rumpelwitzers much relished it. After the sermon, all the candidates walked out of church together, and supped lovingly at the "Blue Stag" in Rumpelwitz.
'While so occupied, a waiter came in and said that a person without wished to speak to one of the reverend candidates, "the tall one." This could only mean me, for I was a head and shoulders higher than any other reverend gentleman present. I issued out to see who was the person desiring to hold converse with me, and found a man whom I had no difficulty in recognising as one of the Jewish persuasion.
'"Sir," said this Hebrew, "I have heard from a friend, who was in your church to-day, the heads of the admirable discourse you pronounced there. It has affected me deeply, most deeply. There are only one or two points on which I am yet in doubt, and if your honour could but condescend to enlighten me on these, I think--I think Solomon Hirsch would be a convert to your eloquence."
'"What are these points, my good friend?" said I; and I pointed out to him the twenty-four heads of my sermon, asking him in which of these his doubts lay.
'We had been walking up and down before the inn while our conversation took place, but the windows being open, and my comrades having heard the discourse in the morning, requested me, rather peevishly, not to resume it at that period. I, therefore, moved on with my disciple, and, at his request, began at once the sermon; for my memory is good for anything, and I can repeat any book I have read thrice.
'I poured out, then, under the trees, and in the calm moonlight, that discourse which I had pronounced under the blazing sun of noon. My Israelite only interrupted me by exclamations indicative of surprise, assent, admiration, and increasing conviction. "Prodigious!" said he;--"Wunderschon!" would he remark at the conclusion of some eloquent passage; in a word, he exhausted the complimentary interjections of our language: and to compliments what man is averse? I think we must have walked two miles when I got to my third head and my companion begged I would enter his house, which we now neared, and partake of a glass of beer; to which I was never averse.
'That house, sir, was the inn at which you, too, if I judge aright, were taken. No sooner was I in the place, than three crimps rushed upon me, told me I was a deserter, and their prisoner, and called upon me to deliver up my money and papers; which I did with a solemn protest as to my sacred character. They consisted of my sermon in MS., Prorector Nasenbrumm's recommendatory letter, proving my identity, and three groschen four pfennigs in bullion. I had already been in the cart twenty hours when you reached the house. The French officer, who lay opposite you (he who screamed when you trod on his foot, for he was wounded), was brought in shortly before your arrival. He had been taken with his epaulets and regimentals, and declared his quality and rank; but he was alone (I believe it was some affair of love with a Hessian lady which caused him to be unattended); and as the persons into whose hands he fell will make more profit of him as a recruit than as a prisoner, he is made to share our fate. He is not the first by many scores so captured. One of M. de Soubise's cooks, and three actors out of a troop in the French camp, several deserters from your English troops (the men are led away by being told that there is no flogging in the Prussian service), and three Dutchmen were taken besides.''And you,' said I--'you who were just on the point of getting a valuable living,--you who have so much learning, are you not indignant at the outrage?'
'I am a Saxon,' said the candidate, 'and there is no use in indignation. Our government is crushed under Frederick's heel these five years, and I might as well hope for mercy from the Grand Mogul. Nor am I, in truth, discontented with my lot; I have lived on a penny bread for so many years, that a soldier's rations will be a luxury to me. I do not care about more or less blows of a cane; all such evils are passing, and therefore endurable. I will never, God willing, slay a man in combat; but I am not unanxious to experience on myself the effect of the war-passion, which has had so great an influence on the human race. It was for the same reason that I determined to marry Amalia, for a man is not a complete Mensch until he is the father of a family; to be which is a condition of his existence, and therefore a duty of his education. Amalia must wait; she is out of the reach of want, being, indeed, cook to the Frau Prorectorinn Nasenbrumm, my worthy patron's lady. I have one or two books with me, which no one is likely to take from me, and one in my heart which is the best of all. If it shall please Heaven to finish my existence here, before I can prosecute my studies further, what cause have I to repine? I pray God I may not be mistaken, but I think I have wronged no man, and committed no mortal sin. If I have, I know where to look for forgiveness; and if I die, as I have said, without knowing all that I would desire to learn, shall I not be in a situation to learn EVERYTHING, and what can human soul ask for more?'Pardon me for putting so many _I_'s in my discourse,' said the candidate, 'but when a man is talking of himself, 'tis the briefest and simplest way of talking.'
In which, perhaps, though I hate egotism, I think my friend was right. Although he acknowledged himself to be a mean-spirited fellow, with no more ambition than to know the contents of a few musty books, I think the man had some good in him; especially in the resolution with which he bore his calamities. Many a gallant man of the highest honour is often not proof against these, and has been known to despair over a bad dinner, or to be cast down at a ragged- elbowed coat. MY maxim is to bear all, to put up with water if you cannot get Burgundy, and if you have no velvet to be content with frieze. But Burgundy and velvet are the best, bien entendu, and the man is a fool who will not seize the best when the scramble is open.
The heads of the sermon which my friend the theologian intended to impart to me, were, however, never told; for, after our coming out of the hospital, he was drafted into a regiment quartered as far as possible from his native country, in Pomerania; while I was put into the Bulow regiment, of which the ordinary headquarters were Berlin. The Prussian regiments seldom change their garrisons as ours do, for the fear of desertion is so great, that it becomes necessary to know the face of every individual in the service; and, in time of peace, men live and die in the same town. This does not add, as may be imagined, to the amusements of the soldier's life. It is lest any young gentleman like myself should take a fancy to a military career, and fancy that of a private soldier a tolerable one, that I am giving these, I hope, moral descriptions of what we poor fellows in the ranks really suffered.
As soon as we recovered, we were dismissed from the nuns and the hospital to the town prison of Fulda, where we were kept like slaves and criminals, with artillerymen with lighted matches at the doors of the courtyards and the huge black dormitory where some hundreds of us lay; until we were despatched to our different destinations. It was soon seen by the exercise which were the old soldiers amongst us, and which the recruits; and for the former, while we lay in prison, there was a little more leisure: though, if possible, a still more strict watch kept than over the broken-spirited yokels who had been forced or coaxed into the service. To describe the characters here assembled would require Mr. Gilray's own pencil. There were men of all nations and callings. The Englishmen boxed and bullied; the Frenchmen played cards, and danced, and fenced; the heavy Germans smoked their pipes and drank beer, if they could manage to purchase it. Those who had anything to risk gambled, and at this sport I was pretty lucky, for, not having a penny when I entered the depot (having been robbed of every farthing of my property by the rascally crimps), I won near a dollar in my very first game at cards with one of the Frenchmen; who did not think of asking whether I could pay or not upon losing. Such, at least, is the advantage of having a gentlemanlike appearance; it has saved me many a time since by procuring me credit when my fortunes were at their lowest ebb.
Among the Frenchmen there was a splendid man and soldier, whose real name we never knew, but whose ultimate history created no small sensation, when it came to be known in the Prussian army. If beauty and courage are proofs of nobility, as (although I have seen some of the ugliest dogs and the greatest cowards in the world in the noblesse) I have no doubt courage and beauty are, this Frenchman must have been of the highest families in France, so grand and noble was his manner, so superb his person. He was not quite so tall as myself, fair, while I am dark, and, if possible, rather broader in the shoulders. He was the only man I ever met who could master me with the small-sword; with which he would pink me four times to my three. As for the sabre, I could knock him to pieces with it; and I could leap farther and carry more than he could. This, however, is mere egotism. This Frenchman, with whom I became pretty intimate-- for we were the two cocks, as it were, of the depot, and neither had any feeling of low jealousy--was called, for want of a better name, Le Blondin, on account of his complexion. He was not a deserter, but had come in from the Lower Rhine and the bishoprics, as I fancy; fortune having proved unfavourable to him at play probably, and other means of existence being denied him. I suspect that the Bastile was waiting for him in his own country, had he taken a fancy to return thither.
He was passionately fond of play and liquor, and thus we had a considerable sympathy together: when excited by one or the other, he became frightful. I, for my part, can bear, without wincing, both ill luck and wine; hence my advantage over him was considerable in our bouts, and I won enough money from him to make my position tenable. He had a wife outside (who, I take it, was the cause of his misfortunes and separation from his family), and she used to be admitted to see him twice or thrice a week, and never came empty- handed---a little brown bright-eyed creature, whose ogles had made the greatest impression upon all the world.
This man was drafted into a regiment that was quartered at Neiss in Silesia, which is only at a short distance from the Austrian frontier; he maintained always the same character for daring and skill, and was, in the secret republic of the regiment--which always exists as well as the regular military hierarchy--the acknowledged leader. He was an admirable soldier, as I have said; but haughty, dissolute, and a drunkard. A man of this mark, unless he takes care to coax and flatter his officers (which I always did), is sure to fall out with them. Le Blondin's captain was his sworn enemy, and his punishments were frequent and severe.
His wife and the women of the regiment (this was after the peace) used to carry on a little commerce of smuggling across the Austrian frontier, where their dealings were winked at by both parties; and in obedience to the instructions of her husband, this woman, from every one of her excursions, would bring in a little powder and ball: commodities which are not to be procured by the Prussian soldier, and which were stowed away in secret till wanted. They WERE to be wanted, and that soon.
Le Blondin had organised a great and extraordinary conspiracy. We don't know how far it went, how many hundreds or thousands it embraced; but strange were the stories told about the plot amongst us privates: for the news was spread from garrison to garrison, and talked of by the army, in spite of all the Government efforts to hush it up--hush it up, indeed! I have been of the people myself; I have seen the Irish rebellion, and I know what is the free-masonry of the poor.
He made himself the head of the plot. There were no writings nor papers. No single one of the conspirators communicated with any other than the Frenchman; but personally he gave his orders to them all. He had arranged matters for a general rising of the garrison, at twelve o'clock on a certain day: the guard-houses in the town were to be seized, the sentinels cut down, and--who knows the rest? Some of our people used to say that the conspiracy was spread through all Silesia, and that Le Blondin was to be made a general in the Austrian service.
At twelve o'clock, and opposite the guard-house by the Bohmer-Thor of Neiss, some thirty men were lounging about in their undress, and the Frenchman stood near the sentinel of the guard-house, sharpening a wood hatchet on a stone. At the stroke of twelve, he got up, split open the sentinel's head with a blow of his axe, and the thirty men, rushing into the guard-house, took possession of the arms there, and marched at once to the gate. The sentry there tried to drop the bar, but the Frenchman rushed up to him, and, with another blow of the axe, cut off his right hand, with which he held the chain. Seeing the men rushing out armed, the guard without the gate drew up across the road to prevent their passage; but the Frenchman's thirty gave them a volley, charged them with the bayonet, and brought down several, and the rest flying, the thirty rushed on. The frontier is only a league from Neiss, and they made rapidly towards it.
But the alarm was given in the town, and what saved it was that the clock by which the Frenchman went was a quarter of an hour faster than any of the clocks in the town. The generale was beat, the troops called to arms, and thus the men who were to have attacked the other guard-houses, were obliged to fall into the ranks, and their project was defeated. This, however, likewise rendered the discovery of the conspirators impossible, for no man could betray his comrade, nor, of course, would he criminate himself.
Cavalry was sent in pursuit of the Frenchman and his thirty fugitives, who were, by this time, far on their way to the Bohemian frontier. When the horse came up with them, they turned, received them with a volley and the bayonet, and drove them back. The Austrians were out at the barriers, looking eagerly on at the conflict. The women, who were on the look-out too, brought more ammunition to these intrepid deserters, and they engaged and drove back the dragoons several times. But in these gallant and fruitless combats much time was lost, and a battalion presently came up, and surrounded the brave thirty; when the fate of the poor fellows was decided. They fought with the fury of despair: not one of them asked for quarter. When their ammunition failed, they fought with the steel, and were shot down or bayoneted where they stood. The Frenchman was the very last man who was hit. He received a bullet in the thigh, and fell, and in this state was overpowered, killing the officer who first advanced to seize him.
He and the very few of his comrades who survived were carried back to Neiss, and immediately, as the ringleader, he was brought before a council of war. He refused all interrogations which were made as to his real name and family. 'What matters who I am?' said he; 'you have me and will shoot me. My name would not save me were it ever so famous.' In the same way he declined to make a single discovery regarding the plot. 'It was all my doing,' he said; 'each man engaged in it only knew me, and is ignorant of every one of his comrades. The secret is mine alone, and the secret shall die with me.' When the officers asked him what was the reason which induced him to meditate a crime so horrible?--'It was your infernal brutality and tyranny,' he said. 'You are all butchers, ruffians, tigers, and you owe it to the cowardice of your men that you were not murdered long ago.'
At this his captain burst into the most furious exclamations against the wounded man, and rushing up to him, struck him a blow with his fist. But Le Blondin, wounded as he was, as quick as thought seized the bayonet of one of the soldiers who supported him, and plunged it into the officer's breast. 'Scoundrel and monster,' said he, 'I shall have the consolation of sending you out of the world before I die.' He was shot that day. He offered to write to the King, if the officers would agree to let his letter go sealed into the hands of the postmaster; but they feared, no doubt, that something might be said to inculpate themselves, and refused him the permission. At the next review Frederick treated them, it is said, with great severity, and rebuked them for not having granted the Frenchman his request. However, it was the King's interest to conceal the matter, and so it was, as I have said before, hushed up--so well hushed up, that a hundred thousand soldiers in the army knew it; and many's the one of us that has drunk to the Frenchman's memory over our wine, as a martyr for the cause of the soldier. I shall have, doubtless, some readers who will cry out at this, that I am encouraging insubordination and advocating murder. If these men had served as privates in the Prussian army from 1760 to 1765, they would not be so apt to take objection. This man destroyed two sentinels to get his liberty; how many hundreds of thousands of his own and the Austrian people did King Frederick kill because he took a fancy to Silesia? It was the accursed tyranny of the system that sharpened the axe which brained the two sentinels of Neiss: and so let officers take warning, and think twice ere they visit poor fellows with the cane.
I could tell many more stories about the army; but as, from having been a soldier myself, all my sympathies are in the ranks, no doubt my tales would be pronounced to be of an immoral tendency, and I had best, therefore, be brief. Fancy my surprise while in this depot, when one day a well-known voice saluted my ear, and I heard a meagre young gentleman, who was brought in by a couple of troopers and received a few cuts across the shoulders from one of them, say in the best English, 'You infernal WASCAL, I'll be wevenged for this. I'll WITE to my ambassador, as sure as my name's Fakenham of Fakenham.' I burst out laughing at this: it was my old acquaintance in MY corporal's coat. Lischen had sworn stoutly, that he was really and truly the private, and the poor fellow had been drafted off, and was to be made one of us. But I bear no malice, and having made the whole room roar with the story of the way in which I had tricked the poor lad, I gave him a piece of advice, which procured him his liberty. 'Go to the inspecting officer,' said I; 'if they once get you into Prussia it is all over with you, and they will never give you up. Go now to the commandant of the depot, promise him a hundred--five hundred guineas to set you free; say that the crimping captain has your papers and portfolio' (this was true); 'above all, show him that you have the means of paying him the promised money, and I will warrant you are set free.' He did as I advised, and when we were put on the march Mr. Fakenham found means to be allowed to go into hospital, and while in hospital the matter was arranged as I had recommended. He had nearly, however, missed his freedom by his own stinginess in bargaining for it, and never showed the least gratitude towards me his benefactor.
I am not going to give any romantic narrative of the Seven Years' War. At the close of it, the Prussian army, so renowned for its disciplined valour, was officered and underofficered by native Prussians, it is true; but was composed for the most part of men hired or stolen, like myself, from almost every nation in Europe. The deserting to and fro was prodigious. In my regiment (Bulow's) alone before the war, there had been no less than 600 Frenchmen, and as they marched out of Berlin for the campaign, one of the fellows had an old fiddle on which he was flaying a French tune, and his comrades danced almost, rather than walked, after him, singing, 'Nous allons en France.' Two years after, when they returned to Berlin, there were only six of these men left; the rest had fled or were killed in action. The life the private soldier led was a frightful one to any but men of iron courage and endurance. There was a corporal to every three men, marching behind them, and pitilessly using the cane; so much so that it used to be said that in action there was a front rank of privates and a second rank of sergeants and corporals to drive them on. Many men would give way to the most frightful acts of despair under these incessant persecutions and tortures; and amongst several regiments of the army a horrible practice had sprung up, which for some time caused the greatest alarm to the Government. This was a strange frightful custom of CHILD-MURDER. The men used to say that life was unbearable, that suicide was a crime; in order to avert which, and to finish with the intolerable misery of their position, the best plan was to kill a young child, which was innocent, and therefore secure of heaven, and then to deliver themselves up as guilty of the murder. The King himself--the hero, sage, and philosopher, the prince who had always liberality on his lips and who affected a horror of capital punishments--was frightened at this dreadful protest, on the part of the wretches whom he had kidnapped, against his monstrous tyranny; but his only means of remedying the evil was strictly to forbid that such criminals should be attended by any ecclesiastic whatever, and denied all religious consolation.
The punishment was incessant. Every officer had the liberty to inflict it, and in peace it was more cruel than in war. For when peace came the King turned adrift such of his officers as were not noble; whatever their services might have been. He would call a captain to the front of his company and say, 'He is not noble, let him go.' We were afraid of him somehow, and were cowed before him like wild beasts before their keeper. I have seen the bravest men of the army cry like children at a cut of the cane; I have seen a little ensign of fifteen call out a man of fifty from the ranks, a man who had been in a hundred battles, and he has stood presenting arms, and sobbing and howling like a baby, while the young wretch lashed him over the arms and thighs with the stick. In a day of action this man would dare anything. A button might be awry THEN and nobody touched him; but when they had made the brute fight, then they lashed him again into subordination. Almost all of us yielded to the spell--scarce one could break it. The French officer I have spoken of as taken along with me, was in my company, and caned like a dog. I met him at Versailles twenty years afterwards, and he turned quite pale and sick when I spoke to him of old days. 'For God's sake,' said he, 'don't talk of that time: I wake up from my sleep trembling and crying even now.'
As for me, after a very brief time (in which it must be confessed I tasted, like my comrades, of the cane) and after I had found opportunities to show myself to be a brave and dexterous soldier, I took the means I had adopted in the English army to prevent any further personal degradation. I wore a bullet around my neck, which I did not take the pains to conceal, and I gave out that it should be for the man or officer who caused me to be chastised. And there was something in my character which made my superiors believe me; for that bullet had already served me to kill an Austrian colonel, and I would have given it to a Prussian with as little remorse. For what cared I for their quarrels, or whether the eagle under which I marched had one head or two? All I said was, 'No man shall find me tripping in my duty; but no man shall ever lay a hand upon me.' And by this maxim I abided as long as I remained in the service.
I do not intend to make a history of battles in the Prussian any more than in the English service. I did my duty in them as well as another, and by the time that my moustache had grown to a decent length, which it did when I was twenty years of age, there was not a braver, cleverer, handsomer, and I must own, wickeder soldier in the Prussian army. I had formed myself to the condition of the proper fighting beast; on a day of action I was savage and happy; out of the field I took all the pleasure I could get, and was by no means delicate as to its quality or the manner of procuring it. The truth is, however, that there was among our men a much higher tone of society than among the clumsy louts in the English army, and our service was generally so strict that we had little time for doing mischief. I am very dark and swarthy in complexion, and was called by our fellows the 'Black Englander,' the 'Schwartzer Englander,' or the English Devil. If any service was to be done, I was sure to be put upon it. I got frequent gratifications of money, but no promotion; and it was on the day after I had killed the Austrian colonel (a great officer of Uhlans, whom I engaged--singly and on foot) that General Bulow, my colonel, gave me two Frederics-d'or in front of the regiment, and said, 'I reward thee now; but I fear I shall have to hang thee one day or other.' I spent the money, and that I had taken from the colonel's body, every groschen, that night with some jovial companions; but as long as war lasted was never without a dollar in my purse.
Chapter 7Barry Leads A Garrison Life, And Finds Many Friends There
After the war our regiment was garrisoned in the capital, the least dull, perhaps, of all the towns of Prussia: but that does not say much for its gaiety. Our service, which was always severe, still left many hours of the day disengaged, in which we might take our pleasure had we the means of paying for the same. Many of our mess got leave to work in trades; but I had been brought up to none: and besides, my honour forbade me; for as a gentleman, I could not soil my fingers by a manual occupation. But our pay was barely enough to keep us from starving; and as I have always been fond of pleasure, and as the position in which we now were, in the midst of the capital, prevented us from resorting to those means of levying contributions which are always pretty feasible in wartime, I was obliged to adopt the only means left me of providing for my expenses: and in a word became the ORDONNANZ, or confidential military gentleman, of my captain. I spurned the office four years previously, when it was made to me in the English service; but the position is very different in a foreign country; besides, to tell the truth, after five years in the ranks, a man's pride will submit to many rebuffs which would be intolerable to him in an independent condition.
The captain was a young man and had distinguished himself during the war, or he would never have been advanced to rank so early. He was, moreover, the nephew and heir of the Minister of Police, Monsieur de Potzdorff, a relationship which no doubt aided in the young gentleman's promotion. Captain de Potzdorff was a severe officer enough on parade or in barracks, but he was a person easily led by flattery. I won his heart in the first place by my manner of tying my hair in queue (indeed, it was more neatly dressed than that of any man in the regiment), and subsequently gained his confidence by a thousand little arts and compliments, which as a gentleman myself I knew how to employ. He was a man of pleasure, which he pursued more openly than most men in the stern Court of the King; he was generous and careless with his purse, and he had a great affection for Rhine wine: in all which qualities I sincerely sympathised with him; and from which I, of course, had my profit. He was disliked in the regiment, because he was supposed to have too intimate relations with his uncle the Police Minister; to whom, it was hinted, he carried the news of the corps.
Before long I had ingratiated myself considerably with my officer, and knew most of his affairs. Thus I was relieved from many drills and parades, which would otherwise have fallen to my lot, and came in for a number of perquisites; which enabled me to support a genteel figure and to appear with some ECLAT in a certain, though it must be confessed very humble, society in Berlin. Among the ladies I was always an especial favourite, and so polished was my behaviour amongst them, that they could not understand how I should have obtained my frightful nickname of the Black Devil in the regiment. 'He is not so black as he is painted,' I laughingly would say; and most of the ladies agreed that the private was quite as well-bred as the captain: as indeed how should it be otherwise, considering my education and birth?
When I was sufficiently ingratiated with him, I asked leave to address a letter to my poor mother in Ireland, to whom I had not given any news of myself for many many years; for the letters of the foreign soldiers were never admitted to the post, for fear of appeals or disturbances on the part of their parents abroad. My captain agreed to find means to forward the letter, and as I knew that he would open it, I took care to give it him unsealed; thus showing my confidence in him. But the letter was, as you may imagine, written so that the writer should come to no harm were it intercepted. I begged my honoured mother's forgiveness for having fled from her; I said that my extravagance and folly in my own country I knew rendered my return thither impossible; but that she would, at least, be glad to know that I was well and happy in the service of the greatest monarch in the world, and that the soldier's life was most agreeable to me: and, I added, that I had found a kind protector and patron, who I hoped would some day provide for me as I knew it was out of her power to do. I offered remembrances to all the girls at Castle Brady, naming them from Biddy to Becky downwards, and signed myself, as in truth I was, her affectionate son, Redmond Barry, in Captain Potzdorffs company of the Bulowisch regiment of foot in garrison at Berlin. Also I told her a pleasant story about the King kicking the Chancellor and three judges downstairs, as he had done one day when I was on guard at Potsdam, and said I hoped for another war soon, when I might rise to be an officer. In fact, you might have imagined my letter to be that of the happiest fellow in the world, and I was not on this head at all sorry to mislead my kind parent.
I was sure my letter was read, for Captain Potzdorff began asking me some days afterwards about my family, and I told him the circumstances pretty truly, all things considered. I was a cadet of a good family, but my mother was almost ruined and had barely enough to support her eight daughters, whom I named. I had been to study for the law at Dublin, where I had got into debt and bad company, had killed a man in a duel, and would be hanged or imprisoned by his powerful friends, if I returned. I had enlisted in the English service, where an opportunity for escape presented itself to me such as I could not resist; and hereupon I told the story of Mr. Fakenham of Fakenham in such a way as made my patron to be convulsed with laughter, and he told me afterwards that he had repeated the story at Madame de Kamake's evening assembly, where all the world was anxious to have a sight of the young Englander.
'Was the British Ambassador there?' I asked, in a tone of the greatest alarm, and added, 'For Heaven's sake, sir, do not tell my name to him, or he might ask to have me delivered up: and I have no fancy to go to be hanged in my dear native country.' Potzdorff, laughing, said he would take care that I should remain where I was, on which I swore eternal gratitude to him.
Some days afterwards, and with rather a grave face, he said to me, 'Redmond, I have been talking to our colonel about you, and as I wondered that a fellow of your courage and talents had not been advanced during the war, the general said they had had their eye upon you: that you were a gallant soldier, and had evidently come of a good stock; that no man in the regiment had had less fault found with him; but that no man merited promotion less. You were idle, dissolute, and unprincipled; you had done a deal of harm to the men; and, for all your talents and bravery, he was sure would come to no good.' 'Sir!' said I, quite astonished that any mortal man should have formed such an opinion of me, 'I hope General Bulow is mistaken regarding my character. I have fallen into bad company, it is true; but I have only done as other soldiers have done; and, above all, I have never had a kind friend and protector before, to whom I might show that I was worthy of better things. The general may say I am a ruined lad, and send me to the d--l: but be sure of this, I would go to the d--l to serve YOU.' This speech I saw pleased my patron very much; and, as I was very discreet and useful in a thousand delicate ways to him, he soon came to have a sincere attachment for me. One day, or rather night, when he was tete-a-tete with the lady of the Tabaks Rath von Dose for instance, I--But there is no use in telling affairs which concern nobody now.
Four months after my letter to my mother, I got, under cover to the Captain, a reply, which created in my mind a yearning after home, and a melancholy which I cannot describe. I had not seen the dear soul's writing for five years. All the old days, and the fresh happy sunshine of the old green fields in Ireland, and her love, and my uncle, and Phil Purcell, and everything that I had done and thought, came back to me as I read the letter; and when I was alone I cried over it, as I hadn't done since the day when Nora jilted me. I took care not to show my feelings to the regiment or my captain: but that night, when I was to have taken tea at the Garden-house outside Brandenburg Gate, with Fraulein Lottchen (the Tabaks Rathinn's gentlewoman of company), I somehow had not the courage to go; but begged to be excused, and went early to bed in barracks, out of which I went and came now almost as I willed, and passed a long night weeping and thinking about dear Ireland.
Next day, my spirits rose again and I got a ten-guinea bill cashed, which my mother sent in the letter, and gave a handsome treat to some of my acquaintance. The poor soul's letter was blotted all over with tears, full of texts, and written in the wildest incoherent way. She said she was delighted to think I was under a Protestant prince, though she feared he was not in the right way: that right way, she said, she had the blessing to find, under the guidance of the Reverend Joshua Jowls, whom she sat under. She said he was a precious chosen vessel; a sweet ointment and precious box of spikenard; and made use of a great number more phrases that I could not understand; but one thing was clear in the midst of all this jargon, that the good soul loved her son still, and thought and prayed day and night for her wild Redmond. Has it not come across many a poor fellow, in a solitary night's watch, or in sorrow, sickness, or captivity, that at that very minute, most likely, his mother is praying for him? I often have had these thoughts; but they are none of the gayest, and it's quite as well that they don't come to you in company; for where would be a set of jolly fellows then?-- as mute as undertakers at a funeral, I promise you. I drank my mother's health that night in a bumper, and lived like a gentleman whilst the money lasted. She pinched herself to give it me, as she told me afterwards; and Mr. Jowls was very wroth with her. Although the good soul's money was very quickly spent, I was not long in getting more; for I had a hundred ways of getting it, and became a universal favourite with the Captain and his friends. Now, it was Madame von Dose who gave me a Frederic-d'or for bringing her a bouquet or a letter from the Captain; now it was, on the contrary, the old Privy Councillor who treated me with a bottle of Rhenish, and slipped into my hand a dollar or two, in order that I might give him some information regarding the liaison between my captain and his lady. But though I was not such a fool as not to take his money, you may be sure I was not dishonourable enough to betray my benefactor; and he got very little out of ME. When the Captain and the lady fell out, and he began to pay his addresses to the rich daughter of the Dutch Minister, I don't know how many more letters and guineas the unfortunate Tabaks Rathinn handed over to me, that I might get her lover back again. But such returns are rare in love, and the Captain used only to laugh at her stale sighs and entreaties. In the house of Mynheer Van Guldensack I made myself so pleasant to high and low, that I came to be quite intimate there: and got the knowledge of a state secret or two, which surprised and pleased my captain very much. These little hints he carried to his uncle, the Minister of Police, who, no doubt, made his advantage of them; and thus I began to be received quite in a confidential light by the Potzdorff family, and became a mere nominal soldier, being allowed to appear in plain clothes (which were, I warrant you, of a neat fashion), and to enjoy myself in a hundred ways, which the poor fellows my comrades envied. As for the sergeants, they were as civil to me as to an officer: it was as much as their stripes were worth to offend a person who had the ear of the Minister's nephew. There was in my company a young fellow by the name of Kurz, who was six feet high in spite of his name, and whose life I had saved in some affair of the war. What does this lad do, after I had recounted to him one of my adventures, but call me a spy and informer, and beg me not to call him DU any more, as is the fashion with young men when they are very intimate. I had nothing for it but to call him out; but I owed him no grudge. I disarmed him in a twinkling; and as I sent his sword flying over his head, said to him, 'Kurz, did ever you know a man guilty of a mean action who can do as I do now?' This silenced the rest of the grumblers; and no man ever sneered at me after that.
No man can suppose that to a person of my fashion the waiting in antechambers, the conversation of footmen and hangers-on, was pleasant. But it was not more degrading than the barrack-room, of which I need not say I was heartily sick. My protestations of liking for the army were all intended to throw dust into the eyes of my employer. I sighed to be out of slavery. I knew I was born to make a figure in the world. Had I been one of the Neiss garrison, I would have cut my way to freedom by the side of the gallant Frenchman; but here I had only artifice to enable me to attain my end, and was not I justified in employing it? My plan was this: I may make myself so necessary to M. de Potzdorff, that he will obtain my freedom. Once free, with my fine person and good family, I will do what ten thousand Irish gentlemen have done before, and will marry a lady of fortune and condition. And the proof that I was, if not disinterested, at least actuated by a noble ambition, is this. There was a fat grocer's widow in Berlin with six hundred thalers of rent, and a good business, who gave me to understand that she would purchase my discharge if I would marry her; but I frankly told her that I was not made to be a grocer, and thus absolutely flung away a chance of freedom which she offered me.
And I was grateful to my employers; more grateful than they to me. The Captain was in debt, and had dealings with the Jews, to whom he gave notes of hand payable on his uncle's death. The old Herr von Potzdorff, seeing the confidence his nephew had in me, offered to bribe me to know what the young man's affairs really were. But what did I do? I informed Monsieur George von Potzdorff of the fact; and we made out, in concert, a list of little debts, so moderate, that they actually appeased the old uncle instead of irritating, and he paid them, being glad to get off so cheap.
And a pretty return I got for this fidelity. One morning, the old gentleman being closeted with his nephew (he used to come to get any news stirring as to what the young officers of the regiment were doing: whether this or that gambled; who intrigued, and with whom; who was at the ridotto on such a night; who was in debt, and what not; for the King liked to know the business of every officer in his army), I was sent with a letter to the Marquis d'Argens (that afterwards married Mademoiselle Cochois the actress), and, meeting the Marquis at a few paces off in the street, gave my message, and returned to the Captain's lodging. He and his worthy uncle were making my unworthy self the subject of conversation.'He is noble,' said the Captain. 'Bah!' replied the uncle (whom I could have throttled for his insolence). 'All the beggarly Irish who ever enlisted tell the same story.' 'He was kidnapped by Galgenstein,' resumed the other. 'A kidnapped deserter,' said M. Potzdorff; 'la belle affaire!' 'Well, I promised the lad I would ask for his discharge; and I am sure you can make him useful.'
'You HAVE asked his discharge,' answered the elder, laughing. 'Bon Dieu! You are a model of probity! You'll never succeed to my place, George, if you are no wiser than you are just now. Make the fellow as useful to you as you please. He has a good manner and a frank countenance. He can lie with an assurance that I never saw surpassed, and fight, you say, on a pinch. The scoundrel does not want for good qualities; but he is vain, a spendthrift, and a bavard. As long as you have the regiment in terrorem over him, you can do as you like with him. Once let him loose, and the lad is likely to give you the slip. Keep on promising him; promise to make him a general, if you like. What the deuce do I care? There are spies enough to be had in this town without him.'
It was thus that the services I rendered to M. Potzdorff were qualified by that ungrateful old gentleman; and I stole away from the room extremely troubled in spirit, to think that another of my fond dreams was thus dispelled; and that my hopes of getting out of the army, by being useful to the Captain, were entirely vain. For some time my despair was such, that I thought of marrying the widow; but the marriages of privates are never allowed without the direct permission of the King; and it was a matter of very great doubt whether His Majesty would allow a young fellow of twenty-two, the handsomest man of his army, to be coupled to a pimplefaced old widow of sixty, who was quite beyond the age when her marriage would be likely to multiply the subjects of His Majesty. This hope of liberty was therefore vain; nor could I hope to purchase my discharge, unless any charitable soul would lend me a large sum of money; for, though I made a good deal, as I have said, yet I have always had through life an incorrigible knack of spending, and (such is my generosity of disposition) have been in debt ever since I was born.
My captain, the sly rascal! gave me a very different version of his conversation with his uncle to that which I knew to be the true one; and said smilingly to me, 'Redmond, I have spoken to the Minister regarding thy services,[Footnote: The service about which Mr. Barry here speaks has, and we suspect purposely, been described by him in very dubious terms. It is most probable that he was employed to wait at the table of strangers in Berlin, and to bring to the Police Minister any news concerning them which might at all interest the Government. The great Frederick never received a guest without taking these hospitable precautions; and as for the duels which Mr. Barry fights, may we be allowed to hint a doubt as to a great number of these combats. It will be observed, in one or two other parts of his Memoirs, that whenever he is at an awkward pass, or does what the world does not usually consider respectable, a duel, in which he is victorious, is sure to ensue; from which he argues that he is a man of undoubted honour.] and thy fortune is made. We shall get thee out of the army, appoint thee to the police bureau, and procure for thee an inspectorship of customs; and, in fine, allow thee to move in a better sphere than that in which Fortune has hitherto placed thee.
Although I did not believe a word of this speech, I affected to be very much moved by it, and of course swore eternal gratitude to the Captain for his kindness to the poor Irish castaway.
'Your service at the Dutch Minister's has pleased me very well. There is another occasion on which you may make yourself useful to us; and if you succeed, depend on it your reward will be secure.''What is the service, sir?' said I; 'I will do anything for so kind a master.'
'There is lately come to Berlin,' said the Captain, 'a gentleman in the service of the Empress-Queen, who calls himself the Chevalier de Balibari, and wears the red riband and star of the Pope's order of the Spur. He speaks Italian or French indifferently; but we have some reason to fancy this Monsieur de Balibari is a native of your country of Ireland. Did you ever hear such a name as Balibari in Ireland?''Balibari? Balyb--?' A sudden thought flashed across me. 'No, sir,' said I, 'I never heard the name.'
'You must go into his service. Of course you will not know a word of English: and if the Chevalier asks as to the particularity of your accent, say you are a Hungarian. The servant who came with him will be turned away to-day, and the person to whom he has applied for a faithful fellow will recommend you. You are a Hungarian; you served in the Seven Years' War. You left the army on account of weakness of the loins. You served Monsieur de Quellenberg two years; he is now with the army in Silesia, but there is your certificate signed by him. You afterwards lived with Doctor Mopsius, who will give you a character, if need be; and the landlord of the "Star" will, of course, certify that you are an honest fellow: but his certificate goes for nothing. As for the rest of your story, you can fashion that as you will, and make it as romantic or as ludicrous as your fancy dictates. Try, however, to win the Chevalier's confidence by provoking his compassion. He gambles a great deal, and WINS. Do you know the cards well?''Only a very little, as soldiers do.'
'I had thought you more expert. You must find out if the Chevalier cheats; if he does, we have him. He sees the English and Austrian envoys continually, and the young men of either Ministry sup repeatedly at his house. Find out what they talk of; for how much each plays, especially if any of them play on parole: if you can read his private letters, of course you will; though about those which go to the post, you need not trouble yourself; we look at them there. But never see him write a note without finding out to whom it goes, and by what channel or messenger. He sleeps with the keys of his despatch-box on a string round his neck. Twenty Frederics, if you get an impression of the keys. You will, of course, go in plain clothes. You had best brush the powder out of your hair, and tie it with a riband simply; your moustache you must of course shave off.
With these instructions, and a very small gratuity, the Captain left me. When I again saw him, he was amused at the change in my appearance. I had, not without a pang (for they were as black as jet, and curled elegantly), shaved off my moustaches; had removed the odious grease and flour, which I always abominated, out of my hair; had mounted a demure French grey coat, black satin breeches, and a maroon plush waistcoat, and a hat without a cockade. I looked as meek and humble as any servant out of place could possibly appear; and I think not my own regiment, which was now at the review at Potsdam, would have known me. Thus accoutred, I went to the 'Star Hotel,' where this stranger was,--my heart beating with anxiety, and something telling me that this Chevalier de Balibari was no other than Barry, of Ballybarry, my father's eldest brother, who had given up his estate in consequence of his obstinate adherence to the Romish superstition. Before I went in to present myself, I went to look in the remises at his carriage. Had he the Barry arms? Yes, there they were: argent, a bend gules, with four escallops of the field,--the ancient coat of my house. They were painted in a shield about as big as my hat, on a smart chariot handsomely gilded, surmounted with a coronet, and supported by eight or nine Cupids, cornucopias, and flower-baskets, according to the queer heraldic fashion of those days. It must be he! I felt quite feint as I went up the stairs. I was going to present myself before my uncle in the character of a servant!'You are the young man whom M. de Seebach recommended?'
I bowed, and handed him a letter from that gentleman, with which my captain had taken care to provide me. As he looked at it I had leisure to examine him. My uncle was a man of sixty years of age, dressed superbly in a coat and breeches of apricot-coloured velvet, a white satin waistcoat embroidered with gold like the coat. Across his breast went the purple riband of his order of the Spur; and the star of the order, an enormous one, sparkled on his breast. He had rings on all his fingers, a couple of watches in his fobs, a rich diamond solitaire in the black riband round his neck, and fastened to the bag of his wig; his ruffles and frills were decorated with a profusion of the richest lace. He had pink silk stockings rolled over the knee, and tied with gold garters; and enormous diamond buckles to his red-heeled shoes. A sword mounted in gold, in a white fish-skin scabbard; and a hat richly laced, and lined with white feathers, which were lying on a table beside him, completed the costume of this splendid gentleman. In height he was about my size, that is, six feet and half an inch; his cast of features singularly like mine, and extremely distingue. One of his eyes was closed with a black patch, however; he wore a little white and red paint, by no means an unusual ornament in those days; and a pair of moustaches, which fell over his lip and hid a mouth that I afterwards found had rather a disagreeable expression. When his beard was removed, the upper teeth appeared to project very much; and his countenance wore a ghastly fixed smile, by no means pleasant.
It was very imprudent of me; but when I saw the splendour of his appearance, the nobleness of his manner, I felt it impossible to keep disguise with him; and when he said, 'Ah, you are a Hungarian, I see!' I could hold no longer.
'Sir,' said I, 'I am an Irishman, and my name is Redmond Barry, of Ballybarry.' As I spoke, I burst into tears; I can't tell why; but I had seen none of my kith or kin for six years, and my heart longed for some one.
Chapter 8Barry's Adieu To Military Profession
You who have never been out of your country, know little what it is to hear a friendly voice in captivity; and there's many a man that will not understand the cause of the burst of feeling which I have confessed took place on my seeing my uncle. He never for a minute thought to question the truth of what I said. 'Mother of God!' cried he, 'it's my brother Harry's son.' And I think in my heart he was as much affected as I was at thus suddenly finding one of his kindred; for he, too, was an exile from home, and a friendly voice, a look, brought the old country back to his memory again, and the old days of his boyhood. 'I'd give five years of my life to see them again,' said he, after caressing me very warmly. 'What?' asked I. 'Why,' replied he, 'the green fields, and the river, and the old round tower, and the burying-place at Ballybarry. 'Twas a shame for your father to part with the land, Redmond, that went so long with the name.'
He then began to ask me concerning myself, and I gave him my history at some length; at which the worthy gentleman laughed many times, saying, that I was a Barry all over. In the middle of my story he would stop me, to make me stand back to back, and measure with him (by which I ascertained that our heights were the same, and that my uncle had a stiff knee, moreover, which made him walk in a peculiar way), and uttered, during the course of the narrative, a hundred exclamations of pity, and kindness, and sympathy. It was 'Holy Saints!' and 'Mother of Heaven!' and 'Blessed Mary!' continually; by which, and with justice, I concluded that he was still devotedly attached to the ancient faith of our family.
It was with some difficulty that I came to explain to him the last part of my history, viz., that I was put into his service as a watch upon his actions, of which I was to give information in a certain quarter. When I told him (with a great deal of hesitation) of this fact, he burst out laughing, and enjoyed the joke amazingly. 'The rascals!' said he; 'they think to catch me, do they? Why, Redmond, my chief conspiracy is a faro-bank. But the King is so jealous, that he will see a spy in every person who comes to his miserable capital in the great sandy desert here. Ah, my boy, I must show you Paris and Vienna!'
I said there was nothing I longed for more than to see any city but Berlin, and should be delighted to be free of the odious military service. Indeed, I thought, from his splendour of appearance, the knickknacks about the room, the gilded carriage in the remise, that my uncle was a man of vast property; and that he would purchase a dozen, nay, a whole regiment of substitutes, in order to restore me to freedom.
But I was mistaken in my calculations regarding him, as his history of himself speedily showed me. 'I have been beaten about the world,' said he, 'ever since the year 1742, when my brother your father (and Heaven forgive him) cut my family estate from under my heels, by turning heretic, in order to marry that scold of a mother of yours. Well, let bygones be bygones. 'Tis probable that I should have run through the little property as he did in my place, and I should have had to begin a year or two later the life I have been leading ever since I was compelled to leave Ireland. My lad, I have been in every service; and, between ourselves, owe money in every capital in Europe. I made a campaign or two with the Pandours under Austrian Trenck. I was captain in the Guard of His Holiness the Pope, I made the campaign of Scotland with the Prince of Wales--a bad fellow, my dear, caring more for his mistress and his brandy-bottle than for the crowns of the three kingdoms. I have served in Spain and in Piedmont; but I have been a rolling stone, my good fellow. Play-- play has been my ruin; that and beauty' (here he gave a leer which made him, I must confess, look anything but handsome; besides, his rouged cheeks were all beslobbered with the tears which he had shed on receiving me). 'The women have made a fool of me, my dear Redmond. I am a soft-hearted creature, and this minute, at sixty- two, have no more command of myself than when Peggy O'Dwyer made a fool of me at sixteen.'
''Faith sir,' says I, laughing, 'I think it runs in the family!' and described to him, much to his amusement, my romantic passion for my cousin, Nora Brady. He resumed his narrative.
'The cards now are my only livelihood. Sometimes I am in luck, and then I lay out my money in these trinkets you see. It's property, look you, Redmond; and the only way I have found of keeping a little about me. When the luck goes against me, why, my dear, my diamonds go to the pawnbrokers, and I wear paste. Friend Moses the goldsmith will pay me a visit this very day; for the chances have been against me all the week past, and I must raise money for the bank to-night. Do you understand the cards?'I replied that I could play as soldiers do, but had no great skill. 'We will practise in the morning, my boy,' said he, 'and I'll put you up to a thing or two worth knowing.' Of course I was glad to have such an opportunity of acquiring knowledge, and professed myself delighted to receive my uncle's instruction.
The Chevalier's account of himself rather disagreeably affected me. All his show was on his back, as he said. His carriage, with the fine gilding, was a part of his stock in trade. He HAD a sort of mission from the Austrian Court:--it was to discover whether a certain quantity of alloyed ducats which had been traced to Berlin, were from the King's treasury. But the real end of Monsieur de Balibari was play. There was a young attache of the English embassy, my Lord Deuceace, afterwards Viscount and Earl of Crabs in the English peerage, who was playing high; and it was after hearing of the passion of this young English nobleman that my uncle, then at Prague, determined to visit Berlin and engage him. For there is a sort of chivalry among the knights of the dice-box: the fame of great players is known all over Europe. I have known the Chevalier de Casanova, for instance, to travel six hundred miles, from Paris to Turin, for the purpose of meeting Mr. Charles Fox, then only my Lord Holland's dashing son, afterwards the greatest of European orators and statesmen.
It was agreed that I should keep my character of valet; that in the presence of strangers I should not know a word of English; that I should keep a good look-out on the trumps when I was serving the champagne and punch about; and, having a remarkably fine eyesight and a great natural aptitude, I was speedily able to give my dear uncle much assistance against his opponents at the green table. Some prudish persons may affect indignation at the frankness of these confessions, but Heaven pity them! Do you suppose that any man who has lost or won a hundred thousand pounds at play will not take the advantages which his neighbour enjoys? They are all the same. But it is only the clumsy fool who CHEATS; who resorts to the vulgar expedients of cogged dice and cut cards. Such a man is sure to go wrong some time or other, and is not fit to play in the society of gallant gentlemen; and my advice to people who see such a vulgar person at his pranks is, of course, to back him while he plays, but never--never to have anything to do with him. Play grandly, honourably. Be not, of course, cast down at losing; but above all, be not eager at winning, as mean souls are. And, indeed, with all one's skill and advantages, winning is often problematical; I have seen a sheer ignoramus that knows no more of play than of Hebrew, blunder you out of five thousand pounds in a few turns of the cards. I have seen a gentleman and his confederate play against another and HIS confederate. One never is secure in these cases: and when one considers the time and labour spent, the genius, the anxiety, the outlay of money required, the multiplicity of bad debts that one meets with (for dishonourable rascals are to be found at the play- table, as everywhere else in the world), I say, for my part, the profession is a bad one; and, indeed, have scarcely ever met a man who, in the end, profited by it. I am writing now with the experience of a man of the world. At the time I speak of I was a lad, dazzled by the idea of wealth, and respecting, certainly too much, my uncle's superior age and station in life.
There is no need to particularise here the little arrangements made between us; the playmen of the present day want no instruction, I take it, and the public have little interest in the matter. But simplicity was our secret. Everything successful is simple. If, for instance, I wiped the dust off a chair with my napkin, it was to show that the enemy was strong in diamonds; if I pushed it, he had ace, king; if I said, 'Punch or wine, my Lord?' hearts was meant; if 'Wine or punch?' clubs. If I blew my nose, it was to indicate that there was another confederate employed by the adversary; and THEN, I warrant you, some pretty trials of skill would take place. My Lord Deuceace, although so young, had a very great skill and cleverness with the cards in every way; and it was only from hearing Frank Punter, who came with him, yawn three times when the Chevalier had the ace of trumps, that I knew we were Greek to Greek, as it were.
My assumed dulness was perfect; and I used to make Monsieur de Potzdorff laugh with it, when I carried my little reports to him at the Garden-house outside the town where he gave me rendezvous. These reports, of course, were arranged between me and my uncle beforehand. I was instructed (and it is always far the best way) to tell as much truth as my story would possibly bear. When, for instance, he would ask me, 'What does the Chevalier do of a morning?'
'He goes to church regularly' (he was very religious), 'and after hearing mass comes home to breakfast. Then he takes an airing in his chariot till dinner, which is served at noon. After dinner he writes his letters, if he have any letters to write: but he has very little to do in this way. His letters are to the Austrian envoy, with whom he corresponds, but who does not acknowledge him; and being written in English, of course I look over his shoulder. He generally writes for money. He says he wants it to bribe the secretaries of the Treasury, in order to find out really where the alloyed ducats come from; but, in fact, he wants it to play of evenings, when he makes his party with Calsabigi, the lotterycontractor, the Russian attaches, two from the English embassy, my Lords Deuceace and Punter, who play a jeu d'enfer, and a few more. The same set meet every night at supper: there are seldom any ladies; those who come are chiefly French ladies, members of the corps de ballet. He wins often, but not always. Lord Deuceace is a very fine player. The Chevalier Elliot, the English Minister, sometimes comes, on which occasion the secretaries do not play. Monsieur de Balibari dines at the missions, but en petit comite, not on grand days of reception. Calsabigi, I think, is his confederate at play. He has won lately; but the week before last he pledged his solitaire for four hundred ducats.''Do he and the English attaches talk together in their own language?' 'Yes; he and the envoy spoke yesterday for half-an-hour about the new danseuse and the American troubles: chiefly about the new danseuse.'
It will be seen that the information I gave was very minute and accurate, though not very important. But such as it was, it was carried to the ears of that famous hero and warrior the Philosopher of Sans Souci; and there was not a stranger who entered the capital but his actions were similarly spied and related to Frederick the Great.
As long as the play was confined to the young men of the different embassies, His Majesty did not care to prevent it; nay, he encouraged play at all the missions, knowing full well that a man in difficulties can be made to speak, and that a timely rouleau of Frederics would often get him a secret worth many thousands. He got some papers from the French house in this way: and I have no doubt that my Lord Deuceace would have supplied him with information at a similar rate, had his chief not known the young nobleman's character pretty well, and had (as is usually the case) the work of the mission performed by a steady roturier, while the young brilliant bloods of the suite sported their embroidery at the balls, or shook their Mechlin ruffles over the green tables at faro. I have seen many scores of these young sprigs since, of these and their principals, and, mon Dieu! what fools they are! What dullards, what fribbles, what addle-headed simple coxcombs! This is one of the lies of the world, this diplomacy; or how could we suppose, that were the profession as difficult as the solemn red-box and tape-men would have us believe, they would invariably choose for it little pink- faced boys from school, with no other claim than mamma's title, and able at most to judge of a curricle, a new dance, or a neat boot?
When it became known, however, to the officers of the garrison that there was a farotable in town, they were wild to be admitted to the sport; and, in spite of my entreaties to the contrary, my uncle was not averse to allow the young gentlemen their fling, and once or twice cleared a handsome sum out of their purses. It was in vain I told him that I must carry the news to my captain, before whom his comrades would not fail to talk, and who would thus know of the intrigue even without my information.'Tell him,' said my uncle. 'They will send you away,' said I; 'then what is to become of me?'
'Make your mind easy,' said the latter, with a smile; 'you shall not be left behind, I warrant you. Go take a last look at your barracks, make your mind easy; say a farewell to your friends in Berlin. The dear souls, how they will weep when they hear you are out of the country; and, as sure as my name is Barry, out of it you shall go!''But how, sir?' said I.
'Recollect Mr. Fakenham of Fakenham,' said he knowingly. ''Tis you yourself taught me how. Go get me one of my wigs. Open my despatch- box yonder, where the great secrets of the Austrian Chancery lie; put your hair back off you forehead; clap me on this patch and these moustaches, and now look in the glass!''The Chevalier de Balibari,' said I, bursting with laughter, and began walking the room in his manner with his stiff knee.
The next day, when I went to make my report to Monsieur de Potzdorff, I told him of the young Prussian officers that had been of late gambling; and he replied, as I expected, that the King had determined to send the Chevalier out of the country.'He is a stingy curmudgeon,' I replied; 'I have had but three Frederics from him in two months, and I hope you will remember your promise to advance me!' 'Why, three Frederics were too much for the news you have picked up,' said the Captain, sneering. 'It is not my fault that there has been no more,' I replied. 'When is he to go, sir?'
'The day after to-morrow. You say he drives after breakfast and before dinner. When he comes out to his carriage, a couple of gendarmes will mount the box, and the coachman will get his orders to move on.'
'And his baggage, sir?' said I. 'Oh! that will be sent after him. I have a fancy to look into that red box which contains his papers, you say; and at noon, after parade, shall be at the inn. You will not say a word to any one there regarding the affair, and will wait for me at the Chevalier's rooms until my arrival. We must force that box. You are a clumsy hound, or you would have got the key long ago!'
I begged the Captain to remember me, and so took my leave of him. The next night I placed a couple of pistols under the carriage seat; and I think the adventures of the following day are quite worthy of the honours of a separate chapter.