Barry Lyndon HTML version

Chapter 7
Barry 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?