On the morning of the 10th July a
despatch reached us announcing that Sir Arthur Wellesley
had taken up his headquarters at Placentia for the
purpose of communicating with Cuesta, then at Casa
del Puerto; and ordering me immediately
to repair to the Spanish headquarters and await Sir
Arthur’s arrival, to make my report upon the
effective state of our corps. As for me, I was
heartily tired of the inaction of my present life,
and much as I relished the eccentricities of my friend
the major, longed ardently for a different sphere
Not so Monsoon; the prospect of active
employment and the thoughts of being left once more
alone, for his Portuguese staff afforded him little
society, depressed him greatly; and as the hour of
my departure drew near, he appeared lower in spirits
than I had ever seen him.
“I shall be very lonely without
you, Charley,” said he, with a sigh, as we sat
the last evening together beside our cheerful wood
fire. “I have little intercourse with the
dons; for my Portuguese is none of the best, and only
comes when the evening is far advanced; and besides,
the villains, I fear, may remember the sherry affair.
Two of my present staff were with me then.”
“Is that the story Power so
often alluded to, Major; the King of Spain’s ”
“There, Charley, hush; be cautious,
my boy. I’d rather not speak about that
till we get among our own fellows.”
“Just as you like, Major; but,
do you know, I have a strong curiosity to hear the
“If I’m not mistaken,
there is some one listening at the door, gently;
that’s it, eh?”
“No, we are perfectly alone;
the night’s early; who knows when we shall have
as quiet an hour again together? Let me hear it,
by all means.”
“Well, I don’t care; the
thing, Heaven knows! is tolerably well known; so if
you’ll amuse yourself making a devil of the turkey’s
legs there, I’ll tell you the story. It’s
very short, Charley, and there’s no moral; so
you’re not likely to repeat it.”
So saying, the major filled up his
glass, drew a little closer to the fire, and began:
“When the French troops, under
Laborde, were marching, upon Alcobaca, in concert
with Loison’s corps, I was ordered to convey
a very valuable present of sherry the Duo d’Albu-querque
was making to the Supreme Junta, no less
than ten hogsheads of the best sherry the royal cellars
of Madrid had formerly contained.
“It was stored in the San Vincente
convent; and the Junta, knowing a little about monkish
tastes and the wants of the Church, prudently thought
it would be quite as well at Lisbon. I was accordingly
ordered, with a sufficient force, to provide for its
safe conduct and secure arrival, and set out upon
my march one lovely morning in April with my precious
“I don’t know, I never
could understand, why temptations are thrown in our
way in this life, except for the pleasure of yielding
to them. As for me, I’m a stoic when there’s
nothing to be had; but let me get a scent of a well-kept
haunch, the odor of a wine-bin once in my nose, I forget
everything except appropriation. That bone smells
deliciously, Charley; a little garlic would improve
“Our road lay through cross-paths
and mountain tracts, for the French were scouring
the country on every side, and my fellows, only twenty
altogether, trembled at the very name of them; so
that our only chance was to avoid falling in with
any forage parties. We journeyed along for several
days, rarely making more than a few leagues between
sunrise and sunset, a scout always in advance to assure
us that all was safe. The road was a lonesome
one and the way weary, for I had no one to speak to
or converse with, so I fell into a kind of musing
fit about the old wine in the great brown casks.
I thought on its luscious flavor, its rich straw tint,
its oily look as it flowed into the glass, the mellow
after-taste warming the heart as it went down, and
I absolutely thought I could smell it through the wood.
“How I longed to broach one
of them, if it were only to see if my dreams about
it were correct. ‘May be it’s brown
sherry,’ thought I, ’and I am all wrong.’
This was a very distressing reflection. I mentioned
it to the Portuguese intendant, who travelled with
us as a kind of supercargo; but the villain only grinned
and said something about the Junta and the galleys
for life, so I did not recur to it afterwards.
Well, it was upon the third evening of our march that
the scout reported that at Merida, about a league
distant, he had fallen in with an English cavalry regiment,
who were on their march to the northern provinces,
and remaining that night in the village. As soon,
therefore, as I had made all my arrangements for the
night, I took a fresh horse and cantered over to have
a look at my countrymen, and hear the news. When
I arrived, it was a dark night, but I was not long
in finding out our fellows. They were the 11th
Light Dragoons, commanded by my old friend Bowes,
and with as jolly a mess as any in the service.
“Before half an hour’s
time I was in the midst of them, hearing all about
the campaign, and telling them in return about my convoy,
dilating upon the qualities of the wine as if I had
been drinking it every day at dinner.
“We had a very mellow night
of it; and before four o’clock the senior major
and four captains were under the table, and all the
subs, in a state unprovided for by the articles of
war. So I thought I’d be going, and wishing
the sober ones a good-by, set out on my road to join
my own party.
“I had not gone above a hundred
yards when I heard some one running after, and calling
out my name.
“‘I say, Monsoon; Major, confound you,
“‘Well, what’s the
matter? Has any more lush turned up?’ inquired
I, for we had drank the tap dry when I left.
“‘Not a drop, old fellow!’
said he; ’but I was thinking of what you’ve
been saying about that sherry.’
“‘Well! What then?’
“‘Why, I want to know how we could get
a taste of it?’
“‘You’d better get
elected one of the Cortes,’ said I, laughing;
’for it doesn’t seem likely you’ll
do so in any other way.’
“‘I’m not so sure
of that,’ said he, smiling. ’What
road do you travel to-morrow?’
“‘By Cavalhos and Reina.’
“‘Whereabouts may you happen to be towards
“‘I fear we shall be in
the mountains,’ said I, with a knowing look,
’where ambuscades and surprise parties would
be highly dangerous.’
“‘And your party consists of ’
“‘About twenty Portuguese, all ready to
run at the first shot.’
“‘I’ll do it, Monsoon; I’ll
be hanged if I don’t.’
“‘But, Tom,’ said
I, ’don’t make any blunder; only blank
cartridge, my boy.’
“‘Honor bright!’ cried he.
‘Your fellows are armed of course?’
“’Never think of that;
they may shoot each other in the confusion. But
if you only make plenty of noise coming on, they’ll
never wait for you.’
“‘What capital fellows they must be!’
“‘Crack troops, Tom; so don’t hurt
them. And now, good-night.’
“As I cantered off, I began
to think over O’Flaherty’s idea; and upon
my life, I didn’t half like it. He was
a reckless, devil-may-care fellow; and it was just
as likely he would really put his scheme into practice.
“When morning broke, however,
we got under way again, and I amused myself all the
forenoon in detailing stories of French cruelty; so
that before we had marched ten miles, there was not
a man among us not ready to run at the slightest sound
of attack on any side. As evening was falling
we reached Morento, a little mountain pass which follows
the course of a small river, and where, in many places,
the mule carts had barely space enough to pass between
the cliffs and the stream. ’What a place
for Tom O’Flaherty and his foragers!’
thought I, as we entered the little mountain gorge;
but all was silent as the grave, except
the tramp of our party, not a sound was heard.
There was something solemn and still in the great brown
mountain, rising like vast walls on either side, with
a narrow streak of gray sky at top and in the dark,
sluggish stream, that seemed to awe us, and no one
spoke. The muleteer ceased his merry song, and
did not crack or flourish his long whip as before,
but chid his beasts in a half-muttered voice, and urged
them faster, to reach the village before nightfall.
“Egad, somehow I felt uncommonly
uncomfortable; I could not divest my mind of the impression
that some disaster was impending, and I wished O’Flaherty
and his project in a very warm climate. ‘He’ll
attack us,’ thought I, ’where we can’t
run; fair play forever. But if they are not able
to get away, even the militia will fight.’
However, the evening crept on, and no sign of his
coming appeared on any side; and to my sincere satisfaction,
I could see, about half a league distant, the twinkling
light of the little village where we were to halt
for the night. It was just at this time that
a scout I had sent out some few hundred yards in advance
came galloping up, almost breathless.
“‘The French, Captain;
the French are upon us!’ said he, with a face
like a ghost.
“‘Whew! Which way?
How many?’ said I, not at all sure that he might
not be telling the truth.
“‘Coming in force!’
said the fellow. ‘Dragoons! By this
“‘Dragoons? By this
road?’ repeated every man of the party, looking
at each other like men sentenced to be hanged.
“Scarcely had they spoken when
we heard the distant noise of cavalry advancing at
a brisk trot. Lord, what a scene ensued!
The soldiers ran hither and thither like frightened
sheep; some pulled out crucifixes and began to say
their prayers; others fired off their muskets in a
panic; the mule-drivers cut their traces, and endeavored
to get away by riding; and the intendant took to his
heels, screaming out to us, as he went, to fight manfully
to the last, and that he’d report us favorably
to the Junta.
“Just at this moment the dragoons
came in sight; they came galloping up, shouting like
madmen. One look was enough for my fellows; they
sprang to their legs from their devotions, fired a
volley straight at the new moon, and ran like men.
“I was knocked down in the rush.
As I regained my legs, Tom O’Flaherty was standing
beside me, laughing like mad.
“’Eh, Monsoon! I’ve
kept my word, old fellow! What legs they have!
We shall make no prisoners, that’s certain.
Now, lads, here it is! Put the horses to, here.
We shall take but one, Monsoon; so that your gallant
defence of the rest will please the Junta. Good-night,
good-night! I will drink your health every night
these two months.’
“So saying, Tom sprang to his
saddle; and in less time than I’ve been telling
it, the whole was over and I sitting by myself in the
gray moonlight, meditating on all I saw, and now and
then shouting for my Portuguese friends to come back
again. They came in time, by twos and threes;
and at last the whole party re-assembled, and we set
forth again, every man, from the intendant to the
drummer, lauding my valor, and saying that Don Monsoon
was a match for the Cid.”
“And how did the Junta behave?”
“Like trumps, Charley.
Made me a Knight of Battalha, and kissed me on both
cheeks, having sent twelve dozen of the rescued wine
to my quarters, as a small testimony of their esteem.
I have laughed very often at it since. But hush,
Charley? What’s that I hear without there?”
“Oh, it’s my fellow Mike.
He asked my leave to entertain his friends before
parting, and I perceive he is delighting them with
“But what a confounded air it is! Are the
“Irish, Major; most classical Irish, too, I’ll
“Irish! I’ve heard
most tongues, but that certainly surprises me.
Call him in, Charley, and let us have the canticle.”
In a few minutes more, Mr. Free appeared
in a state of very satisfactory elevation, his eyebrows
alternately rising and falling, his mouth a little
drawn to one side, and a side motion in his knee-joints
that might puzzle a physiologist to account for.
“A sweet little song of yours,
Mike,” said the major; “a very sweet thing
indeed. Wet your lips, Mickey.”
“Long life to your honor and
Master Charles there, too, and them that belongs to
both of yez. May a gooseberry skin make a nightcap
for the man would harm either of ye.”
“Thank you, Mike. And now about that song.”
“It’s the ouldest tune
ever was sung,” said Mike, with a hiccough, “barring
Adam had a taste for music; but the words the
poethry is not so ould.”
“And how comes that?”
“The poethry, ye see, was put
to it by one of my ancesthors, he was a
great inventhor in times past, and made beautiful songs, and
ye’d never guess what it’s all about.”
“Love, mayhap?” quoth Monsoon.
“Sorra taste of kissing from beginning
“A drinking song?” said I.
“Whiskey is never mentioned.”
“Fighting is the only other
national pastime. It must be in praise of sudden
“You’re out again; but
sure you’d never guess it,” said Mike.
“Well, ye see, here’s what it is.
It’s the praise and glory of ould Ireland in
the great days that’s gone, when we were all
Phenayceans and Armenians, and when we worked all
manner of beautiful contrivances in gold and silver, bracelets
and collars and teapots, elegant to look at, and
read Roosian and Latin, and played the harp and the
barrel-organ, and eat and drank of the best, for nothing
“Blessed times, upon my life!”
quoth the major; “I wish we had them back again.”
“There’s more of your
mind,” said Mike, steadying himself. “My
ancesthors was great people in them days; and sure
it isn’t in my present situation I’d be
av we had them back again, sorra
bit, faith! It isn’t, ’Come
here, Mickey, bad luck to you, Mike!’ or, ‘That
blackguard, Mickey Free!’ people’d be
calling me. But no matter; here’s your health
again, Major Monsoon ”
“Never mind vain regrets, Mike.
Let us hear your song; the major has taken a great
fancy to it.”
“Ah, then, it’s joking
you are, Mister Charles,” said Mike, affecting
an air of most bashful coyness.
“By no means; we want to hear you sing it.”
“To be sure we do. Sing
it by all means; never be ashamed. King David
was very fond of singing, upon my life
“But you’d never understand a word of
“No matter; we know what it’s
about. That’s the way with the Legion; they
don’t know much English, but they generally guess
what I’m at.”
This argument seemed to satisfy all
Mike’s remaining scruples; so placing himself
in an attitude of considerable pretension as to grace,
he began, with a voice of no very measured compass,
an air of which neither by name nor otherwise can
I give any conception; my principal amusement being
derived from a tol-de-rol chorus of the major,
which concluded each verse, and indeed in a lower
key accompanied the singer throughout.
Since that I have succeeded in obtaining
a free-and-easy translation of the lyric; but in my
anxiety to preserve the metre and something of the
spirit of the original, I have made several blunders
and many anachronisms. Mr. Free, however, pronounces
my version a good one, and the world must take his
word till some more worthy translator shall have consigned
it to immortal verse.
With this apology, therefore, I present Mr. Free’s
Guilloch y’ Goulen.
Oh, once we were illigint
Though we now
live in cabins of mud;
And the land that ye see from
Belonged to us
all from the Flood.
My father was then King of
Viceroy of Tralee;
But the Sassenach came, and
signs on it,
The devil an acre
The least of us then were
And jewels we
wore without name;
We drank punch out of rubies
Mr. Petrie can
tell you the same.
But except some turf mould
nothing our own we can call;
And the English, bad
luck to them! hate us,
more fun than them all!
My grand-aunt was niece to
reason my name’s Mickey Free!
Priest’s nieces, but
sure he’s in heaven,
And his failins
is nothin’ to me.
And we still might get on
let the ould Island alone;
And if purple-men, priests,
Were crammed down
the great gun of Athlone.
As Mike’s melody proceeded,
the major’s thorough bass waxed beautifully
less, now and then, it’s true, roused
by some momentary strain, it swelled upwards in full
chorus, but gradually these passing flights grew rarer,
and finally all ceased, save a long, low, droning
sound, like the expiring sigh of a wearied bagpipe.
His fingers still continued mechanically to beat time
upon the table, and still his head nodded sympathetically
to the music; his eyelids closed in sleep; and as
the last verse concluded, a full-drawn snore announced
that Monsoon, if not in the land of dreams, was at
least in a happy oblivion of all terrestrial concerns,
and caring as little for the woes of green Erin and
the altered fortunes of the Free family as any Saxon
that ever oppressed them.
There he sat, the finished decanter
and empty goblet testifying that his labors had only
ceased from the pressure of necessity; but the broken,
half-uttered words that fell from his lips evinced
that he reposed on the last bottle of the series.
“Oh, thin, he’s a fine
ould gentleman!” said Mike, after a pause of
some minutes, during which he had been contemplating
the major with all the critical acumen Chantrey or
Canova would have bestowed upon an antique statue, “a
fine ould gentleman, every inch of him; and it’s
the master would like to have him up at the Castle.”
“Quite true, Mike; but let us
not forget the road. Look to the cattle, and
be ready to start within an hour.”
When he left the room for this purpose
I endeavored to shake the major into momentary consciousness
ere we parted.
“Major, Major,” said I, “time is
up. I must start.”
“Yes, it’s all true, your
Excellency: they pillaged a little; and if they
did change their facings, there was a great temptation.
All the red velvet they found in the churches ”
“Good-by, old fellow, good-by!”
“Stand at ease!”
yet awhile; so farewell. I’ll make a capital
report of the Legion to Sir Arthur; shall I add anything
particularly from yourself?”
This, and the shake that accompanied
it, aroused him. He started up, and looked about
him for a few seconds.
“Eh, Charley! You didn’t say Sir
Arthur was here, did you?”
“No, Major; don’t be frightened;
he’s many a league off. I asked if you had
anything to say when I met him?”
“Oh, yes, Charley! Tell
him we’re capital troops in our own little way
in the mountains; would never do in pitched battles, skirmishing’s
our forte; and for cutting off stragglers, or sacking
a town, back them at any odds.”
“Yes, yes, I know all that; you’ve nothing
“Nothing,” said he, once
more closing his eyes and crossing his hands before
him, while his lips continued to mutter on, “nothing
more, except you may say from me, he knows
me, Sir Arthur does. Tell him to guard himself
from intemperance; a fine fellow if he wouldn’t
“You horrid old humbug, what
nonsense are you muttering there?”
“Yes, yes; Solomon says, ‘Who
hath red eyes and carbuncles?’ they that mix
their lush. Pure Sneyd never injured any
one. Tell him so from me, it’s
an old man’s advice, and I have drunk some hogsheads
With these words he ceased to speak,
while his head, falling gently forward upon his chest,
proclaimed him sound asleep.
“Adieu, then, for the last time,”
said I, slapping him gently on the shoulder.
“And now for the road.”