Bracebridge Hall, vol. I

The Library

Washington Irving

YESTERDAY the fair Julia made her first appearance downstairs since her accident; and the sight of her spread an universal cheerfulness through the household. She was extremely pale, however, and could not walk without pain and difficulty. She was assisted, therefore, to a sofa in the library, which is pleasant and retired, looking out among trees; and so quiet, that the little birds come hopping upon the windows, and peering curiously into the apartment. Here several of the family gathered round, and devised means to amuse her, and make the day pass pleasantly. Lady Lillycraft lamented the want of some new novel to while away the time; and was almost in a pet, because the “Author of Waverley” had not produced a work for the last three months.

There was a motion made to call on the parson for some of his old legends or ghost stories; but to this Lady Lillycraft objected, as they were apt to give her the vapours. General Harbottle gave a minute account, for the sixth time, of the Disaster of a friend in India, who had his leg bitten off by a tiger, whilst he was hunting; and was proceeding to menace the company with a chapter or two about Tippoo Saib.

At length the captain bethought himself and said, he believed he had a manuscript tale lying in one corner of his campaigning trunk, which, if he could find, and the company were desirous, he would read to them. The offer was eagerly accepted. He retired, and soon returned with a roll of blotted manuscript, in a very gentlemanlike, but nearly illegible, hand, and a great part written on cartridge-paper.

“It is one of the scribblings,” said he, “of my poor friend, Charles Lightly, of the dragoons. He was a curious, romantic, studious, fanciful fellow; the favourite, and often the unconscious butt of his fellow-officers, who entertained themselves with his eccentricities. He was in some of the hardest service in the peninsula, and distinguished himself by his gallantry. When the intervals of duty permitted, he was fond of roving about the country, visiting noted places, and was extremely fond of Moorish ruins. When at his quarters, he was a great scribbler, and passed much of his leisure with his pen in his hand.

“As I was a much younger officer, and a very young man, he took me, in a manner, under his care, and we became close friends. He used often to read his writings to me, having a great confidence in my taste, for I always praised them. Poor fellow! he was shot down close by me, at Waterloo. We lay wounded together for some time, during a hard contest that took place near at hand. As I was least hurt, I tried to relieve him, and to stanch the blood which flowed from a wound in his breast. He lay with his head in my lap, and looked up thankfully in my face, but shook his head faintly, and made a sign that it was all over with him; and, indeed, he died a few minutes afterwards, just as our men had repulsed the enemy, and came to our relief. I have his favourite dog and his pistols to this day, and several of his manuscripts, which he gave to me at different times. The one I am now going to read, is a tale which he said he wrote in Spain, during the time that he lay ill of a wound received at Salamanca.”

We now arranged ourselves to hear the story. The captain seated himself on the sofa, beside the fair Julia, who I had noticed to be somewhat affected by the picture he had carelessly drawn of wounds and dangers in a field of battle. She now leaned her arm fondly on his shoulder, and her eye glistened as it rested on the manuscript of the poor literary dragoon. Lady Lillycraft buried herself in a deep, well-cushioned elbow-chair. Her dogs were nestled on soft mats at her feet; and the gallant general took his station in an armchair, at her side, and toyed with her elegantly ornamented work-bag. The rest of the circle being all equally well accommodated, the captain began his story; a copy of which I have procured for the benefit of the reader.

Bracebridge Hall vol. I - Contents    |     The Student of Salamanca

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