ERRORS OF ECCENTRICITY.
VOLUME THE SECOND.
ERRORS OF ECCENTRICITY.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
WHY I can smile, and murder while I smile!
And cry content to that which grieves my heart;
And frame my face to all occasions.
I can add colours to the cameleon,
And wet my cheek with artificial tears.
Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme,
As we wish to avoid any affectation of mystery in the events before us, however those events may appear in the first instance, (connected as they are with others of a domestic and political nature; and as they were subjects of terror, pity, and indignation to many distinguished families in Portugal, who suffered about the middle of the last century, in the persons, estates, and characters of their dearest relatives,) it may be necessary to investigate what actuated the fawning hypocritical Polygon, and induced him to commit deeds of such nefarious villainy, as we shall have occasion to detail; and also to state the circumstances that enabled him to triumph over a gentleman of high birth, honourable principles, and sound reason.
Great, indeed, must have been Sir Henry Tillotson’s necessity for an agent which could enforce him as it were, to go along with a wretch so mean in his notions, so puerile in the sentiments he ventured to express, and so very unlike in manners and appearance to his unhappily deceived employer; joining to, as the Baronet did, with such a character, in promoting the misery of a young couple, whose claims upon Sir Henry Tillotson’s protection warranted more generous treatment. It has already appeared that the infamous Polygon would stick at nothing to gratify an avarice that strengthened with his years, and admitted no opponent in his bosom, but the one which offered no violence to this ruling vice; since his design upon Anica’s hand kept but an inferior pace with those upon her fortune. Accident, or rather the operation of an almighty Providence, for some awfully wise purpose, had introduced this fellow to the presence of Sir Henry Tillotson; who having heard him formerly mentioned by the curate of Amesbury as one not wholly unacquainted with Captain Derrick, and a trader to the different ports of Lisbon and the Brazils, thought he could with his assistance, effect a total separation between the unfortunate couple. It was impossible for a gentleman so truly liberal in his notions, to bear the narrow souled observations and awkward deportment of Isaac Polygon, without secretly despising the emissary he felt half afraid to trust: yet, as a tool in the hands of an artist, he found his assistance indispensable. Lady Tillotson knew not how to endure a society for which she conceived a sincere antipathy, nor could she reconcile Sir Henry’s fine qualities with the predelection he shewed for a fellow so truly his opposite. The Baronet saw, and allowed for this very natural dislike; nor did he once attempt to overcome it, as her presence was by no means necessary to his schemes.
However, it was not till after the union took place, which he so ardently deprecated, that Sir Henry ventured to open his intentions to Isaac; nor till that indefatigable mortal had learned enough from Rachel, formerly housekeeper to Mr. Dawson, that her young mistress was gone to London with the Irish Captain, and that Mr. Signor De Lima had been at Amesbury with a gentleman in black. Convinced by this important intelligence of Polygon’s sincerity, as well as capability as to the service he required, Sir Henry disclosed his intention of sending that gentleman to the Brazils, as there were circumstances occurring in his situation, as the husband of Almeria, too horrible to be permitted; therefore a little deception must be practised to separate the culpable pair. “At present,” added the self deluded Baronet, “I do not chuse to send him to Lisbon: it is too near home: besides there exists at present an objection to that measure which cannot be removed, and which might endanger his liberty, if not his life! On you, therefore, I depend not only to accompany him to Pernambucco, but to secure his residence in that town till certain difficulties are removed.” While Polygon gave a hearty acquiescence to the Baronet’s request, his whole sordid soul was absorbed by a hope, the completion of which would render him greatly independent: a hope which the name of De Lima encouraged. It was true that Sir Henry had received a vague report of the suspicions Portugal entertained respecting the death of its sovereign, but he knew not that emissaries were actually dispatched to the different European states to imprison all strangers of Portuguese descent, whose names corroborated with those contained in a list given to each of the destestable informers employed on that horrid business. With one of these villains Isaac had formerly been well acquainted; nay, he had assisted our man of science in some of his dishonest transactions.
As it was the interest of all concerned in this cruel commission to extend their pursuits in every direction, the coffee-houses and taverns were particularly attended; and at one of the former Jacobus Storace congratulated himself on the discovery of his old friend; but cautious from a consciousness of guilt, Polygon’s retreat kept pace with Storace’s advances; till hoping some benefit from his companion’s evident disposition to be communicable, Isaac ventured to close with him, and they immediately adjourned to a tavern, where, over a flask of the best claret, Jacobus, who was well aware of his quondam friend’s will to do wrong, if the good he worshipped could possibly arise from any erring measures, entrusted him with his errand to London, and even put into his hand the fatal list. Although strongly tempted to draw with this fellow in the precious mischief, he remitted not his usual caution; and even expressed a sort of compassion for the fate of those implicated in the black mandate! nay, he absolutely forced a tear, while dwelling upon the dreadful lot of those who might be convicted. Jacobus received the tear and reflection with a grin of contempt, which he took no pains to conceal; Polygon saw his mistake, and dropped the veil in time.—The flask was replaced: a sumptuous supper followed at the informer’s expence, and Isaac, (after copying the list) engaged to give a good account of several therein specified; of these De Lima was one. The name struck him as being familiar to his imagination, although he could not exactly say where he had heard it used, till Sir Henry furnished him with the clue by which he was enabled to identify the unhappy Frederico, whose situation in St. James’s Street was made known to this infernal accomplice; and a scheme was immediately planned, which would, if effected involve in it De Lima’s destruction as the design and apparent consequence of the Baronet’s wishes.
It has already been premised, that the devoted Portuguese had mentioned a promise given to attend some friends but recently arrived at the Lothian Hotel: here he met with several people whose appearance by no means corroborated with his idea of what gentlemen should be; but their errand was of a nature to preclude suspicion, while a recital of the circumstances which composed it, roused every feeling of anxiety and tenderness. From the representation of the people, it appeared that a younger brother of the deceased Count De Lima who had, as it was supposed, lost his life when a very young man in the East Indies, but that, as it afterwards proved, he recovered of his wounds, and had been detained as a prisoner till fourteen months previous to the present era. They then went on to state that wholly ignorant both of Joseph’s intended assassination in the year 1758, and the suspicions recently entertained by his daughter, he had unconciously announced his claim to the Lima estates as a relative not only to that house, but those of D’Aveiro and De Tavora. In consequence he was arraigned, imprisoned, and put to the question. On this part of the business Jacobus, who was the narrator, dwelt with unnecessary prolixity,—not a tear or groan supposed to be excited by the torturing rack but what was fully described; and when he had wound up De Lima’s feelings to a pitch nearly beyond endurance, he concluded this part of his tale with informing him, that notwithstanding the pain and excessive debility arising from corporeal sufferings, he had been enabled by the assistance of Jacobus, whose father had been entrusted with the care of the prisoner, to escape any further trial of his bodily strength and mental fortitude, by being put on board a vessel in the Tagus at midnight, which sailing immediately without a passport, luckily got out of the river before it was missed.—“And where,” said the heart struck De Lima, “is this dear tortured relative?” “Waiting” replied Jacobus, “opposite a place called Deptford, where the ship is moored, and where he impatiently expects the only relation who now dares to acknowledge him.”
The caution which had in a degree governed De Lima’s engagements since his marriage, was wholly suspended; and he readily consented to meet Jacobus in two hours at Irongate, from whence they were to be conveyed to the ship. They then separated: when it immediately occurred to our bewildered youth, to ask Derrick’s company upon the painful expedition; but unwilling to leave his wife without a protector, and equally so to give her any unnecessary disturbance, he settled to conceal the whole matter from both, till enabled to prepare her for a scene so inimical to her tender spirits, till he knew the extent of what might be required of him.
Thus then, was the noble victim trepanned by his belief of a story, the fallacy of which might have easily been detected by any one less impetuously guided by the impulse of the moment. To describe his horror, his indignation, when undeceived, will be best effected by a detail of future consequences: it may only be necessary at present to say, that in three weeks from the execution of this diabolical act, he was landed in Lisbon, and committed to a person equal in the security of its internal contrivances to that in which his wretched ancestors had formerly been shut up. Perhaps even Polygon himself, if fully aware of the fatal mischief his destable avarice would produce, might have shrunk from the prosecution of his infernal plan, since to gain money was his sole aim in this business; actuated by no malice prepense, urged by no inducement but that of accumulating riches, he had proceeded to lengths which had not the destruction of another for its object, but only the aggrandizement of himself. If then, the terrible certainty of De Lima’s intended sufferings, was sufficient to extort a feeble pang of pity from Isaac Polygon, what would Sir Henry Tillotson’s agonies have been, if made acquainted with the effect of his misguided confidence? Even the necessity of separating a couple whom he sincerely esteemed, was dreadful in the extreme; nor could any motive short of that which impelled him to such severity, justify what he had done, or reconcile his upright principles to the sad necessity. Terrible indeed was the circumstance which enforced it, as committed to him by the deceased Count De Lima, from whom he learned the following particulars: namely, That it had been his unhappy fortune in early life, to fix upon Alzira Gonsales, a woman of various accomplishments, as his future Countess: his suit was accepted by the lady, and De Lima felt no difficulty in announcing his wishes to her father, a rich old Castilian of Burgos, who very well satisfied to see his daughter a countess, authorized De Lima’s addresses by his cheerful suffrage. In consequence of this arrangement, Don Arthurio made the most splendid preparations for Alzira’s nuptials, at his country seat near Valladolid, on the banks of the little river Pisuerga, in Old Castile; while De Lima collected a numerous train of visitors to do honour to the marriage. Among these appeared the Marquis De Tavora, and Duke D’Aveiro, who was nearly allied to De Tavora and Count De Lima.—Impetuous, amorous, and preferring the Spanish ladies to those of Portugal, the Marquis could not behold Alzira without emotion; and devoid of every principle of honourable friendship, he scrupled not to make such proposals on his own behalf, as shook the integrity even of an old Castilian: his daughter rejected De Tavora’s offer with disdain, but overawed by a tyrannical despot, she submitted to become the wife of a father’s unjust choice.
The consequences of this vile duplicity to De Lima, was a long and settled illness, which prevented the accomplishment of his intention to avenge so gross an insult; and when recovered to a perfect sense of the injury such an attempt would do his still beloved Alzira, the generous Count dropped every revengeful resolution; and after three years had elapsed, found charms sufficient in the sister of the Marchioness to compensate, in a degree, for the loss of her who still occupied his warmest affections. Don Arthurio, Alzira’s father, rejoiced to find an affair which he dreaded would be productive of some terrible event, was likely to terminate so favourably, gave a glad consent to the marriage; and De Lima continued at Lisbon, till the horrible conspiracy which implicated the safety of all De Tavora’s relations, induced him to conceal himself from those who were employed in tracing the steps of such as were suspected. That Alzira had lost an infant son through the carelessness of its attendants, or rather terror, in consequence of the fatal earthquake in 55, he had heard with inexpressible pain: he also knew that she had borne a female child about two or three years previous to her own cruel catastrophe; which child had been given by its nurse’s husband, (when the Marquis De Tavora’s family was imprisoned) to a person exactly tallying with Derrick’s description. Struck to the soul, by an event so perfectly agreeing with that which gave the little Sothades to his knowledge, Sir Henry made no scruple of telling the Count De Lima all he knew of Abraham Dawson’s foreign protegèe; and the Count decidedly pronounced her to be the identical offspring of his lamented Alzira. This eclaircissement which took place about the time of Frederico being adopted by his uncle, did not produce equal advantages to Almeria; as a female, Patrick Derrick, who was unmarried, could not protect her in Portugal so certainly as Sir Henry might do in England; and although the Baronet conceived there was but little doubt of her claims on the late unfortunate Marchioness De Tavora, yet it was possible she might be Duke D’Aveiro’s offspring, whose very name was odious to Count De Lima; for the Duke had been the leading conspirator in the fatal attack which involved Alzira and her husband, with two of her children, (who were executed with their parents) in that most horrid catastrophe.
With an eye to this possibility, Sir Henry was commissioned to keep the innocent creature at a frigid distance, till De Lima could discover her real descent; and this he thought he had done a few months previous to Sir Henry’s arrival in Lisbon, after that nobleman’s supposed decease; but fearful of exposing her to those dangers her relatives had experienced, he had left no document of that discovery to the Baronet. However he forgot not to charge the nurse, by whose means the birth of Almeria had been ascertained, to inform his friend of those particulars, with a strict order to keep the brother and sister apart, till the death of Joseph should render an acknowledgement of their connexions no longer dangerous, well knowing the affectionate impetuosity of Frederico, and how very unable he would be to conceal his love and admiration for a creature so fascinating.—True, she was announced to Derrick by the name of D’Aveiro as he thought, but the variation was so trifling, that Patrick might easily mistake De Tavora for that of D’Aveiro.
It would doubtless have been extremely agreeable to the woman who had this commission to execute, to visit England, and embrace the dear creature so miraculously preserved; but for that time she was spared the pleasure, as her finances, through the Count’s rather sudden decease, would not allow of such an indulgence, and she was obliged to hazard this important intelligence by the very means De Lima so much dreaded to employ. Sir Henry upon the receipt of this unhappy confirmation, felt a poignant disquietude; for owing to Laura the nurse’s successless attempts to see the Baronet in Portugal, and to secure a passage to England, her account did not reach him till Frederico’s attachment to Almeria amounted to conviction. With such a dreadful impression upon his mind, it seemed impossible to Sir Henry to act otherwise than he did; since to entrust Lady Tillotson, the good Curate, or his adopted child and De Lima, with his real motives for setting his face against this union, would have militated against his high sense of honour; and, when convinced of the terrible consequence of this forbearance, he could only endeavour to extenuate his error by the means already described.
The sudden abdication of Mrs. Cleveland from his family, did not occasion him that acute pain which a doubt that she had joined her husband would have done; for tolerably well convinced that she could not follow him, the Baronet had only to lament the loss of a young creature whom he really loved, and whose society gave to Lady Tillotson a delight she could not cease to regret, when so unexpectedly deprived of it. With an eye to the hope of reclaiming that sweet society, she had accompanied the Baronet to town, who being informed by Polygon, of Almeria’s residence, meant to offer her an assylum at Wallbrook Tower, when assured of De Lima’s departure; and this plan was to have taken place on the day succeeding his accidental meeting with her in Bridge street. Disappointed, then, in this part of his scheme, Sir Henry staid no longer in London than was necessary to the hope they both encouraged that she might return; but time as it gradually extinguished that hope, pointed out the necessity of leaving town; and the well meaning pair quitted it with a melancholy impression, suggested indeed by her ladyship, that the helpless wanderer to whom every part of the metropolis was comparatively strange, might have fallen into bad hands; or still worse, have terminated her sorrows by a violent death. To these notions Sir Henry opposed every argument his good sense could furnish; and though far from satisfied with her strange elopement, contrived by several well managed appeals to his Lady’s reason, to deprive these fearful forebodings of their greatest bitterness.
Although not entirely pleased with Polygon’s return, Sir Henry upon the whole felt grateful for his services; and thrown off of his guard by the success of this plan, he dropped a hint respecting the affinity of the wretched couple, which to Polygon was a mine of intelligence; but many circumstances were necessary to spring it to advantage. At present, his voyage to Lisbon claimed immediate attention; where he had not long arrived, when by a line from Sir Henry he was made acquainted with Mrs. Cleveland’s elopement; and meeting with Derrick not long after, accompanied by such an interesting youth, whose mysterious story and feminine appearance, it gave rise to indefinable suspicions. Isaac employed every engine his crooked politics could furnish, to investigate a matter which Derrick’s odd expressions and blundering attempts to conceal a secret, soon made no secret at all; and Polygon began to calculate the advantages this discovery might produce. That the search set on foot for every descendant from De Tavora extended to both sexes he well knew; but as he had been instructed by Jacobus, that no act of violence would be inflicted upon a female branch, he soon settled with those feelings that were once feebly excited by De Lima’s fate, not to let a mistaken tenderness interfere with his interest. In consequence, he once more sought his good friend Jacobus, to whom he related the circumstance which threw Mrs. Cleveland within his knowledge, and also the grounds he went upon for supposing she had married her brother. The detestable informer instantly caught at intelligence so agreeable to his hope of further profit, after assuring Polygon her imprisonment must conclude with her examination, entreated him to intrust the person of that helpless innocent to himself and another wretch, his equal in villany.
DECEIT IN LOVE.
WE have already stated the keenness of Mrs. Cleveland’s disappointment on the morning of her intended elopement with Signor Jerome; also how inefficient were her attempts to trace it to its source. The mystery too of Polygon’s appearance in the hall at a time so unusual for him to quit his bed, with his evident confusion at being discovered in conversation with two such suspicious beings, were circumstances which created additional surprise and terror; and the few hours of disturbed repose that followed those uneasy reflections, were embittered by visions of an alarming nature, to which the view of Derrick at her chamber door gave a welcome interruption. From him she learned that “cunning Isaac had insinuated his belief of Cavalier Jerome’s being in custody of those keen-scented blood hounds who were running up and down the country in pursuit of food for their masters.” Stunned with this cruel information, and scarcely able to endure her mental sufferings, Mrs. Cleveland looked the picture of despair; she was now too fatally certain that Polygon had overheard them on the preceding day, and that the foreboding appearance of the dreadful triumvirate which she so recently beheld, was in consequence of a plan laid to ensnare the generous Portuguese; struck with a thought so horrible, she felt as if the fangs of tyranny were already fixed in her heart. With a heavy sigh, and in an attitude of fervent entreaty, she requested the Captain to excuse her presence at the breakfast table; but Patrick would listen to no evasion of his wishes:—“Sure now, my little girl, you wouldn’t go to blow yourself quite up, for what will the owld viper think if *** but I tell you what it is” interrupting himself with a droll cast of features that very ill accorded with the intelligence he had brought, “I have got a nice cat for this man of science that shall tickle his conscience, I warrant him; but not a lash will tell unless you are present to give them effect, so try to put on a fair-weather countenance and come down.”—“For pity’s sake dear uncle, spare your jests for the present, and permit me to remain in this room at least till I can adopt the means you recommend;—my heart is bursting, and my tears will flow for the fate of that invaluable friend, who, like every one that interests themselves in my fate, is sure to suffer for his disinterested kindness.”—“Nonsense, you talk like a fool, child! aye, indeed—no, no, let the scald horse wink, as Otello, the blackymoor said, but honest white’s not ashamed of his colour; so prithee come down, and niver trust me if I don’t shew owld Isaac as pretty sport as he would wish to see on a summer’s day, honey.”
Convinced from common experience that this correct vendor of Shakespear’s phrases would carry his point, she accompanied him to the borander, where the family usually sat to take their breakfast, where a new apprehension took possession of her mind, as she beheld the low triumph that lurked in Polygon’s eye, when he mentioned Jerome’s capture as the current topic of the morning, for it seemed to announce her fate as involved in his; and she absolutely threw a look of agony towards the door, as it opened to an anti-room, in fearful expectation of the entrance of Polygon’s tremendous satellites; but as nothing of that kind occurred, she recovered recollection enough to shift the subject of her dread, to that which Derrick’s threatened cat and nine tails created; whose laughing expressive countenance formed a striking contrast to that of his artful antagonist, who began an elaborate description of a transit of Venus which either had, (or was soon expected) to take place. Derrick listened, impatient to begin the operation of the cat; while his eye as anxiously turned now towards the street, now to the door, when Almeria surprised at his apparent neglect of an opportunity to laugh at the astronomer, contrived to obtain the lovely young Signora’s attention by a constrained effort to converse.
Heedless of Polygon’s rising anger at this visible neglect of his ignorant disquisition, Francisca happy to be the object of the English youth’s attention, uttered several fearless sarcasms upon her uncle’s subject, when a sudden exclamation from Anica, who sat near the window, alarmed the company, and before she could well account for it, Derrick darted from his seat, rushed into the anti-chamber, and re-entered accompanied by Signor Jerome, who cheerfully advancing saluted the company with that high grace so natural to him as a soldier and gentleman.
Overwhelmed with confusion, (which our Irishman was preparing to increase), Polygon stammered out something that he hoped might pass for congratulation; while his nieces, with Almeria, offered a more sincere tribute of their joy for the escape which they supposed him so providentially to have experienced. These effusions of pleasure were soon interrupted by Derrick, who brimful of his intended scheme, abruptly addressed the object of his justly provoked satire with “Why what’s the matter owld one? sure now you look as if some unlucky counter breeze had checked your rapid course towards the latitude of a certain hot climate, your sails are all aback man, but niver heed, the divil will have his due yet; you’ll soon get out of shoal water, and then hey for the port of * * *—By the mast-head, Charles,” turning from his mortified adversary, “My cat has tickled the owld fellow’s conscience a bit, though I despair of bringing it to life!” “Let me tell you, Mr. Derrick,” cried the solemn deceiver, “I shall no longer suffer my house to be contaminated by such profaneness.”—“No! why then leave it yourself, and it will be as clane as ever, sure.” Polygon would not suffer an interruption, for he dreaded what might follow; but went on, “yes, sir, you are a disgrace to, to”—“The sciences Mr. Aldebaran, hay! sure now, and which of the stars were you consulting when you made over this gentleman to the claws of your owld friend? sure now, neither Mars nor Venus would have any thing to do in Beelzebub’s compact: no, no, it was Plutus, that mortal divil, shaped your course, and Satan filled the sails; and if a nice little angel,” pointing upwards, “had not directed that same breeze to drive your vessel upon another tack, why Signor Jerome must have”—“Must have, what sir,” repeated the enraged Polygon, “what have I to do with the Cavalier’s danger, and what particular cause can you have for addressing me so rudely upon the subject?” “Particular cause! oh no, indeed, ’tis a general cause; ’tis the cause of humanity; one that will obtain no relief in your court of conscience, owld Midas.” There was such a forcible expression in the loud tones which conveyed this spirited reproof, so much generous indignation in the eye that flushed its angry beams upon the pitiful object of it, that while Polygon shrunk beneath the pointed attack, Signor Jerome mechanically extended his arms towards his animated friend, who eagerly catching his hand, and shaking it with more than his usual vehemence, protested he would lose more than his life’s blood in defending such a noble fellow from the gripe of a monster more eager for prey than a Newfoundland bear, who had lived by sucking his paws and licking the ice a whole Lapland winter.
Derrick was not very happy in this similitude, but the circumstance of the preceding night had not only thrown him completely from his guard, but confounded his ideas; and during this natural triumph, even the interest of his poor little girl was forgotten; who saw in his countenance a fund of restrained information; in the Cavalier’s, a mixture of admiration and apprehension; and in Polygon’s, an encrease of malignity towards herself. That Jerome had been in some signal danger she could easily credit, and that it had fallen upon him at the moment of giving the signal she doubted not; but by what means liberated, or why he should again commit himself to the power of a man against whom he had formed a decided ill opinion, she could not ascertain. In the conversation that followed the last stroke of Derrick’s daring imagination, she traced a fearlesness of deportment which though natural to him, could not do away her fears for his future safety; and in the slow, sullen, cold replies of Polygon, when obliged to answer, she read something of the deep workings of his plotting heart. Involved therefore in such a perplexed train of ideas, she could no longer support even the appearance of a tranquility so foreign to her feelings, and sat heedless of Patrick’s occasional gibes, the pleasant effusions of her favourite Francisca, or the sensible and tempered observation of the Cavalier; till awakened from her reverie by that gentleman’s motion to depart, she found new cause for uneasiness in the very particular glance he threw, first upon the door, and then towards her; this look she thought signified a wish to speak to her, and she immediately arose to attend him, till perceiving an eye which her indignant imagination likened to that of a basilisk fixed upon them both, she shrunk back irresolute and trembling. Jerome penetrated her motive and passing as near as prudence would allow the seat to which she was returning, whispered a few words calculated to strengthen every fear, and throw into confusion a mind already struggling with inexplicable terrors,—“Escape, no matter where or how?” “Good God,” exclaimed the unfortunate Almeria, “what expressions are those: escape; alone, unprotected, for so it seems I am requested to do, what can he mean?” and then bursting into tears, she dropped into a chair in the garden, whither she retired, when Derrick, who accompanied the Cavalier, had left the house; where she remained in the full indulgence of unrestrained sorrow, for it now appeared to her distracted sense, that impressed by the dread of future evil, Jerome had given up any further intention to serve her; and upon Derrick, though his affection and fidelity were absolutely unquestionable, she dared not place any dependance;—loquacious, open, disdaining to qualify when prudence itself demanded it, he had already she feared, contributed to Polygon’s suspicions of her situation, and even took a mischievous delight in defying the man to whose power he had so incautiously committed her.
Aware of these dangerous propensities, neither Jerome or herself had entrusted him with their luckless plan; convinced they could undeceive him time enough to prevent any mischief ensuing from his incautious indignation, when her absence should be first discovered, they had settled to inform him in a way and at a time that should not subject him to Polygon’s penetrating eye. Was it possible then, to advise with, or even communicate to that thoughtless man, the intelligence so evidently intended to be conveyed, without his knowledge? “Alas, no!” said the desolate creature, “alone—in an enemy’s country, which is hostile to my safety—unfitted by sex and disposition to endure even the distresses I have already encountered—an embargo laid upon my escape from this place—where shall I shape my dangerous course?—Snatched from certain destruction by one generous being—supported, and for some time protected by that worthy soul, I am now called upon to leave him, uncertain of my fate! Yet, ‘escape, no matter where or how.’—Ah! who can say I shall escape; gentle Francisca, from thy native tenderness much might be expected; but oh! with what propriety could I make a confession so repugnant to the female character.”
Almeria’s apostrophe now received an unexpected interruption from the object of her perplexed thoughts, the amiable S-forza; and here we may find a new motive for Polygon’s dislike of his helpless inmate, who, wholly unconscious of the mischief she had occasioned, had given much of her time and attention to Francisca; whose cheerfulness, and excessive partiality to our supposed midshipman, naturally created a strong interest in Mrs. Cleveland’s bosom. This, the jealous eye of Polygon discovered while uncertain of Almeria’s sex; and although when he became more convinced of the harmlesness of such an attachment, every fear of such an attachment became truly ridiculous; yet he could not behold with patience the lively Signora’s preference, for he dared not undeceive her. It is true, that his had long fallen upon the languishing Anica; but wearied by her melancholy gloom and cold disgust, he turned his thoughts towards her more sprightly sister; and without making his intentions known, waited till his once dreaded rival should have quitted the Casa. Devoid of any suspicion so degrading to her personal charms, Francisca committed herself most completely in her ridicule of Polygon, and affectionate manners to Mrs. Cleveland; who, hardly aware of the station she so imperfectly filled, received these pleasant testimonies of her friend’s regard with reciprocal good will. Thus deluded we can scarcely wonder at the Signora’s pursuit of her supposed lover, to the seat which was so placed as to exclude the appearance of any one till they were close to it: indeed she had heard enough of Almeria’s soliloquy, to strengthen her opinion of the young officer being absolutely enslaved. It was a moment big with importance to both. The gaiety of the enamoured maid was softened into a graceful timidity; a rosy blush marked the delight with which she accepted part of the garden chair; while overcome with the pain of arranging in her tortured bosom, the various sensations arising from fears encouraged, hope delayed, and the vexatious difficulties her awkward disguise continually produced, the object of the Signora’s hope betrayed a confusion but too likely to countenance it. To entrust the enamoured Portuguese with the truth of her terrible situation, was a scheme that promised a probable relief to her difficulties, and was the first idea that occurred to her bewildered imagination, when she beheld her, impatient (as it should seem) to offer that consolation her heart demanded. She even ventured to detain the willing hand which trembled to the pressure;—a thousand nameless indications of success gave courage to her apprehensive heart in Francisca’s manner, her features, and the broken voice in which she ventured by way of relief to her anxious doubts to express her pleasure at the escape of Signor Jerome. “Yes,” replied our agitated heroine, “he has escaped; but there still remains a victim to—to—dare I say,—to your guardian’s cruel policy?—One who must, without your generous assistance, be reduced to a state far worse than death itself.” None but a creature determined to translate the most improbable hint in her own favour, could have given this speech a meaning so wide of its true import. That victim in Francisca’s opinion, was her youthful lover, who possibly had mentioned his pretensions to Polygon, and they were refused. The blush which had left her animated countenance, again returned, while she flatteringly declared her resolution to defeat the tyrant’s malicious views in whatever sense they might implicate the happiness of one so dear to her.
“Ever kind and considerate Signora,” returned the delighted creature, “I am not deceived in the sentiment I had formed of your tenderness for a poor devoted wanderer; you will assist me to counteract the schemes of a monster, whose aim is to unite me, in one fatal irreparable ruin, with the object of my every hope, every wish, every idea of pure felicity.—Without whose society, not all the world calls pleasure, can produce a moment’s satisfaction.—With it, O Francisca!” dropping her head upon the shoulder of her empassioned auditor, “with it, light, life, joy, would bless my gloomiest hours. To gain this object, I have precipitated myself into dangers which no description can magnify, and the bitterest disappointment succeeds my endeavours to recover it.” “What then is your particular intention, my inestimable friend,” asked the enraptured Signora, who could scarcely restrain her joy at this equivocal encouragement of her fondest expectations. “First, to explain my real situation to you, with the motives that induced me to adopt it; and those which have obliged me to continue a disguise so hateful in appearance:” a disguise, thought Francisca, “Love,” continued Mrs. Cleveland, “love for the worthiest, the best of human beings.” The tear which now trembled on her cheek, the blush which added lustre to her brilliant eye, as she pronounced a word so tender, served but to increase her deluded companion’s delirium, for were they not appropriated to her as the forerunner of a confession she momently expected. “The sad destiny of this dear object, with an eager though painful desire to discover relatives now perhaps amenable to a dreadful sentence, have not only thrown me into a line disgraceful to delicacy,”—again, delicacy, thought Francisca, might not that word too be spared; Almeria continued, “but into the power of a man who has, I greatly dread, been instrumental to the misfortunes of that being.”
“Too true indeed,” cried Signora S-forza, bursting into tears, “too true, my friend, he has behaved most vilely, and we are not the only victims to his avarice and malice; but I interrupt your communication:”—“The discovery I am meditating,” replied Mrs. Cleveland, who knew not how to word it, “must be followed by”—“One of another nature,” said the vindictive Polygon, who had overheard enough to heighten his resolution against Almeria, and create something extremely unlike affection in conduct towards Francisca; “By all the sciences, you are a forward young baggage, Signora, and”—“And what, owld Vulcan, hay?” retorted the Captain, as he bounced upon the unfortunate Isaac, whom he had traced to the unlucky recess: “What I warrant you are in a fume, and for nothing at all, at all; O but I see how it is now,—a transit of Venus over the sun; or mayhap, Mars and her goddesship in conjunction, and you are studying to make a gowlden net for the poor things out of some cast iron? O, well, niver heed: all’s well that ends well!”
Without noticing Derrick’s unapt observation, Mr. Polygon after throwing a diabolical look upon Patrick and his protegée, withdrew (but not without a little resistance, which our Irishman longed to strengthen) the indignant Francisca from her real friends, and left the one to her comfortless reflections, the other to a fresh display of his talents at good humoured ridicule and awkward consolation. His attempt at the latter had Jerome’s liberation for its object, which he said was owing to the following circumstance, namely; A disinclination in himself to quit a party, whose wit and libations to the jolly dog Bacchus he had enjoyed, till a visit from the hyenas, as he called the government spies, induced them to separate; and after awhile, he strolled down to the vineyards, as was his usual custom, where he had not continued many minutes, when the approach of two men dragging another towards a solitary house, appropriated at that time to the purpose of confining state prisoners previous to their first examination, induced him to take a nearer survey of the unhappy person thus forcibly compelled. It was the Cavalier: who spoke somewhat indignantly to Derrick, when he addressed him. However, it was the immediate determination of poor Patrick to deliver him from those blood hounds; which, in consequence of personal courage and great muscular strength, he soon effected; and sent, as he expressed himself, the cowardly dogs with hanging ears and bloody noses to their dens. “But why, my dear sir, did the Cavalier again hazard his safety, by venturing among those who would undoubtedly try more certain means to secure him, if they could produce any proof of his criminality, and how came he at first to be committed to their power?” “At first! why that was his own fault, d’ye see; and as for his coming hither this afternoon, mayhap it was to please me, to mortify Signor grey beard, and upon my conscience his other reason was, to tell you some great sacret, honey.”
Almeria comprehended the nature of Jerome’s errand, and silently blessed that generosity which prompted him to defy such signal danger: she could now account too for his mysterious caution, and hasty departure; but these were subjects too sacred for Derrick’s animadversions, and she resumed the conversation with a wish to know why the Signor should look indignantly upon one to whom he owed his recent deliverance. “Why!” answered the Irishman, looking most expressively foolish, “why, for the matter of that, it was odd enough to be sure; but if owld fellows will go a serenading”—“Serenading, Captain, pray explain yourself?” “Well, and if I do, will you forgive me?” “Forgive you! most certainly; since I am sure if you injured a friend, it would be unknowingly.” “Injure! sure now and you ought to know, that if the heart of a sailor is bent on a good action, he’ll make his way though the wind were fully in his teeth, and this was my case, honey; and now I’ll tell you all about it: Well then, just as I was coming along by that same square just by, with the crabbed name, I saw a fellow in a great dark black capota and a gutter or flute in his hand, faith and I don’t know which now, but its all one, being both wind instruments, for the air that goes into the one and out of tother makes them both alike; sure now and I didn’t like his gait as he stood leaning against a rail, for I thought his face, which was covered with a great black handkerchief, looked pretty much like their what d’ye call ’em bravadoes: well, just in the nick, comes up two of that owld gontlemin’s body-guards,—(Mr. Nick’s, I mean,) but before they came near, I put a civil question to my musical knight; when instead of answering, for he neither heard nor saw me, he threw some gravel against one of Isaac’s windows, which to be sure didn’t look very well, and then I suppose seeing me advance, he would have slipped away, but I stopped him in the square, and he gave me such a douse of the chops; then it was that the divil’s body-guards came up, who seeing the blow, would have taken my part, but I pegged away till they bid me desist; and oh! to be sure now, and I wasn’t ready to hang myself when the prisoner said ‘You have ruined a friend!’ but as I say, who’d have expected to a seen a starched stately owld Cavalier, playing tweedle dee and tweedle dum, to some of cunning Isaac’s tawney spalpeens, or what is rather more likely, to his pretty Francisca!” “O then.” cried Almeria, whose agony made her incautious, “it was to you, my dear mistaken friend, I owed a disappointment that cost me so dear.”—“Cost you? why it cost nobody any thing but me; and I am sure when I knew it was Jerome, it cost me many a salt tear.” “But why not endeavour to rescue him then?” “Why! why because I saw owld Polygon, with two other ill looking fellows, dart out upon the luckless Signor; and five to two made the odds too powerful; but when I met them by the vineyards, O to be sure little Patrick didn’t do his best.”
Almeria, with all her strong affection for this amiable character, could not help bitterly lamenting that trait in it which, for aught she knew, might eventually prove the destruction of herself and those she loved. However, to remonstrate or condemn was equally useless; and she took the first opportunity of retiring to her room, for the purpose of arranging another and still more hazardous plan than that her thoughtless friend had so recently overturned. To expect the assistance of Francisca, was an idea she dared not encourage;—impetuously attached to her cause, and competent in some instances to resolute deeds, that spirited girl was still a minor, still a ward of, and dependant upon, the wary Polygon; against whom the shafts of her ridicule had flown harmless, while armed only with satyrical points; but he would certainly oppose a tolerated authority to every scheme that carried on its face an open defiance of his interest or pleasure. From her interference, then, nothing was to be hoped; and it rested wholly with Mrs. Cleveland to accelerate the means of her departure: again, the warning of the Cavalier pressed upon her anxious heart,—that heart which trembled to the awful sounds, as they seemed repeatedly to strike the chords of memory. Bred by the pure and guileless Abraham in all the simplicity of our protestant faith, and taught in every exigence to carry her petitions to that court, where true christianity was sure of encouragement, she had in all her succeeding distresses submitted her cause to an unerring judge. Even now, when dangers accumulated on every side; when her highest expectations were founded upon the hope of returning to that country she had hazarded so much to quit; her search after her natural friends suspended, if not for ever prevented; her design of seeking the object of a most tender attachment totally superceded; no probable means of escaping a criminal process against her own person;—even now, so prevalent are good habits, she forgot not to pass a few precious minutes in the exercise of prayer and praise.—Thus strengthened, her task appeared to lose some of its difficulties, her fortitude revived, her powers of reflection grew clearer, and the prospect of remaining for some time exposed to the miseries arising from a detection, lost somewhat of its horrors: no longer time, then, was to be given to self commiseration: she was to act for herself; and the wardrobe again became subject to a fresh examination.
Anica’s English dress, however, according with Almeria’s sense of delicacy, comfort, and convenience, offered no protection against illiberal attentions; her own, so well known to Polygon and his emissaries, could not be thought of.—How then was a difficulty so serious in its consequences to be annihilated? Several suits presented themselves, but all equally improper. At last, as her eager eye dwelt with minute inspection upon the different contents, it caught the view of a plain brown garment beneath the bottom slider, when drawing it forth, it appeared to be the dress of a female pilgrim. Certainly, even that would carry an appearance of singularity, at a period when superstition was beginning to lose its ground in many places, and vows to perform a painful pilgrimage, became of less consequence; still the habit preserved its sacred influence, and Almeria had reason to hope, that under its powerful shelter, she might elude any particular examination. Hastily, therefore, she set about transferring the cockle shells which were sewed about the cape, to a large hat that lay upon the tester of her bed apparently unregarded, and after as much preparation as was necessary to her purpose, she ventured once more into Polygon’s presence. He was alone, and performed the duties of hospitality with a silent reluctance.
Mrs. Cleveland, wisely considering the necessity of partaking of the refreshments before her, accepted his coldly offered viands; and even forced herself to appear not only tranquil, but grateful for his niggardly attention. There is at all times something so irresistibly attractive in the soft manners of the young and lovely, as to create even in the most fastidious, a momentary pleasure; but although his pensive guest exerted herself to obtain his approbation, Polygon while he felt his rigid temper unbend, and even his stern countenance relax into an awkward smile, preserved his diabolical intentions in their utmost rigour. He could even join in conversation, counterfeit a reciprocity of sentiment, and even affect a parity of thinking with a sweet and lovely creature, whom he was plotting to destroy. The melancholy cast of her features, which indicated a deep seated sorrow, moved not the wretch whose dreadful machinations had given them that turn: her situation so inimical to delicacy, so heavily distinguished by various dangers, produced no real compunction in his bosom; and when he returned her polite wish of a safe repose, he scarcely endured a pang from the baleful consideration, that he was about springing a mine, which must effectually and perpetually destroy hers.
Almeria felt a degree of happiness in a release from the society she detested, and immediately set about altering her dress; there was imminent hazard in leaving her masculine habit behind, she was therefore obliged to cover it with the pilgrim’s, and once more sat down to wait for an opportunity to quit a habitation so pregnant with evils. The friendship of Francisca bore hard upon her feelings, and she wished to have taken a tender leave of that amiable girl, whose extraordinary behaviour to Mrs. Cleveland, considered as a man, must in circumstances less overwhelming, have excited some very particular animadversions; for the present, she could only place it to the account of national fire, and a wish to mortify her guardian. Leaving, therefore, this subject to a future discussion, our poor intended wanderer adverted to the business which gave a tremour to her heart, and filled every thought with the magnitude of its design.
EFFECTS OF CRITICAL FORTITUDE.
AS the nights were still excessively sultry, there were some doubts of Polygon’s retiring soon enough to permit of Mrs. Cleveland’s reaching the vineyards before daylight; for although she could promise herself no safety so near the city, she recollected several little cottages, in one of which she might be permitted to stay till night should again render her progress less difficult. Without a certain object in view, without any knowledge of the geography of Portugal, she had some indistinct design of passing its frontiers into Spain; she had heard of mountains to cross, which seemed impossible to her delicate frame;—but a trial must be made, and that immediately. To the heavy step of Isaac, as he slowly ascended the oaken staircase, her throbbing bosom responded; the echo of his closing door electrified her disordered nerves, while the indications of the house being soon in a state of perfect stillness, communicated an inferior degree of agitation to her limbs, which partly subsiding with the cause, left her at liberty to settle, (as near as the case would admit) or, rather reduce to practice her plan of operations. Again, then, she sunk upon her knees, while a fervent but brief ejaculation to heaven for its direction, produced a gleam of fortitude which, if not equal to the trying occasion, at least enabled our anxious heroine to make the dreaded experiment, and she ventured to unclose the heavy door, when a strong flash of lightning, which filled the hall and gallery with its sulphureous scent, threatened once more to defeat her intentions, and to render her resolution incompetent to the task of braving these elementary terrors.
From a window that admitted the bright exhalation, Almeria beheld a succession of heavy clouds, to which repeated flashes gave a lurid and deep crimson appearance; but stimulated by no common motive, and prefering any situation short of dishonour, to that of remaining under Polygon’s roof, she hastily passed the oaken staircase, while her whispering steps, as she lightly tripped along, created a momentary alarm; but heedless of a burst of thunder which really shook the old Casa, she advanced to a door that Jerome had pointed out on the former occasion, which opening to a court secured by high walls, was seldom fastened; at the further end of which was a low arch, partly filled with rubbish, but not so as to prevent an agile person from making their way through it. Arrived at the door, Almeria, with her hand placed upon a light bolt, was in the act of drawing it back, when a low sound from the gallery she had quitted, induced her to turn a fearful glance that way, and the figure of a man to whom her terror gave the hated form of Polygon, again revived her dread of nameless evils;—to stir even from the spot would have been the certain means of detection, and to remain promised no greater degree of safety. Silent, then, she watched his progress between the pillars of the corridor, but as he slowly wound down the unsteady stairs, which shaken by the great earthquake, trembled beneath his step, she felt both her courage and strength ready to forsake her, and in almost unconscious resignation awaited his arrival; but a momentary hope played about her heart as she perceived him cautiously walk towards the great entrance, for the purpose, as she fervently prayed, of quitting the house,—open the door, and—but who can express her disappointment, when he immediately closed it again, and returned with the same two ill-looking fellows she had seen him with on the foregoing morning,—ascend the stairs, and stop before her apartment. In this instance her perception was assisted by the incessant flashes, although they had not discovered her to Polygon; and still further, they helped her to descry a lattice belonging to a window on the opposite side, which, unhinged from its situation by a strong wind, seemed to offer a possibility of escape.
Stealing, therefore, cautiously beneath the open gallery, till she arrived at a part from whence she could not be discerned by those above, Almeria ventured to creep towards the window, and lightly removing the lattice, as it depended only by one hinge, she easily obtained a footing upon the jamb, and soon found herself in comparative security, although exposed to a hurricane that nearly deprived her of any power to contend against it. However, she exerted her utmost strength and courage to keep her feet, and proceeded with all the resolution she could assume along the gloomy deserted streets; till leaving the city behind her, and rendered almost breathless by the opposing winds, the distressed creature began to hope her progress would meet with no farther interruption, and she slackened her pace; yet continually throwing her anxious looks upon the road she had passed. Even the pitiless storm she recollected had been of service in preventing those amourous serenaders (who chose to express their passion by that ancient custom,) from performing their wonted service; and it as effectually deprived the love-lorn warblers from passing any time amongst the vineyards, to which she was hastening. It was now, while a tear of gratitude for her unhoped escape suffused her cheek, she blessed the chance or rather providence, which discovered to her a habit so serviceable as the pilgrim’s garment; for added to its usefulness as a disguise, its course thick texture was of real service in keeping out much of the heavy rain that followed, and she once more encouraged the faint dawning of a hope which ever springs within the human breast.*
Pursuing, then, her course towards the east, she was soon gratified by the tender tint of opening day; this gave her additional satisfaction, and she entered the treillages that supported innumerous vines with a sensation bordering upon pleasure. True, they hung in great disorder, and in many places had been torn from their support by that furious wind which had levelled the heavy clusters to the ground, whose delicate stems were ill calculated for an attack so rude; yet the mischief was reparable, and the scene still picturesque: she even found an inclination to taste those charming productions, and proved in their cooling sweetness an unexpected refreshment. Already the cottages were in sight, in one of which she had planned to stop till the shades of night should render her departure less hazardous.
Already the industrious vine dressers had left their beds to repair the ravages of the cruel tempest; and Almeria beheld in their active efforts a strong contrast to the poor inhabitants of Lisbon, who in the midst of luxurious plenty, suffered the diligent stranger to carry off the profit themselves might have reaped; if, instead of thrumming an old guittar before the doors of their miserable dwellings, they had put a helping hand to the ripened harvest. It also brought to her recollection, that indolence and pride so often manifested in their hiring a market woman to follow them with the morsel they disdained to carry; while the haughty fool strutted on before, his ragged capota thrown over his arm to expose an old and rusty spado, as it dangled in useless state from a leathern belt. But these were reflections which she soon discarded;—at less than three miles distant from her bitter enemy, with a weight of grief pressing upon her weakened mind she found little leisure for contemplation. The fatigue too, of two night’s almost sleepless anxiety, pressed hard for indulgent respite; but her natural timidity, which had yielded to the desperate effort that freed her from Polygon’s power, again returned as she slowly passed the little assylum of a family, who were in the act of training those vines nearest to their abode.
Surprised at an appearance so seldom exhibited amongst them, the children left their employment to gaze at the melancholy pilgrim, who in faint accents saluted the nearest in St. Anthony’s name; while a sudden blush passed along her faded cheek, at the idea of a deception her sincerity could not justify. Happily for her present design, the man who overheard her benediction, was a bigot of the first order;—often had he detailed to his astonished auditors St. Anthony’s sermon to the little fishes, a tradition which he most devoutly credited: a pilgrim then upon her journey to the shrine of that precious saint, was a being inferior only to the object of her worship; and Juan in an attitude nearly approaching to adoration, entreated the willing wanderer to follow his wife, who would accommodate her with a bed and such refreshment as his poor hut could afford. Thankful for an offer so friendly and unexpected, she entered with Diana, and cheerfully accepted some goat’s milk and bread, nor fastidiously refused the mean and scarcely decent couch, which Juan had distinguished by the name of bed. Here a difficulty of no small magnitude presented itself: Diana, who imagined her sacred guest must have suffered from the heavy rain, begged she would permit her to hang up her hat and weeds to dry, which a bright sun that had then advanced some degrees above the horizon would soon effect;—this was impossible, unless she could elude the good woman’s curiosity; who observing Almeria’s reluctance to part with her dress, offered a gown of her own to supply its place.
As the little back room where she was to repose could not be overlooked, Mrs. Cleveland thought she might venture to accept the gown; indeed a plan now suggested itself of still greater consequence than a dry garment;—Diana, it was possible, would for a couple of moidores (which she could very well spare) supply her also with linen sufficient to render the hateful masculine disguise she still wore, totally unnecessary. To a request of this nature, Diana demurred: she had so little for herself, and that little was so mean,—but if the holy pilgrim would put up with one article of a sort, she would try to oblige her. The simple creature then set about to muster up the particulars her guest had named, who returning with them to her poor cabin, gladly assumed a habit so congenial to her sense of propriety; when hastily tying up her rejected dress, she delivered her outside garment to Diana with the promised gold, and then prepared to avail herself of the comfort a quiet sleep she trusted would procure.
Scarcely had three hours elapsed since this harassed wanderer placed herself upon the hard mattress, when the voice of Diana, as if answering some one superior to herself, created a degree of uneasiness. She listened: and again Diana spoke with a certain air of positiveness, devoid of that humility she at first replied with: “I tell you no, Signor,” was her third repetition, “I know nothing about your runaway sparks; we have nobody here but a poor pilgrim who is travelling to the shrine of our blessed St. Anthony;—see her! no, not for a moidore! she is very ill, and must not be disturbed.—I wish, Juan,” speaking to her husband, as he stood at some little distance, “I wish you would give the Signor his answer; here he is teazing me about a young spark that has left his friends; now St. Anthony” curtseying at the repetition of a name, her spouse held in such veneration, “can testify that no such person ever came here.” To this assertion some objection was made in an inarticulate voice, which called forth Diana’s indignation against unbelievers and troublesome Signors, who could not take an answer; and then turning him over to Juan’s management, she went to inform the good pilgrim of what she had heard.
To Almeria’s enquiry respecting this unwelcome interrupter, which was couched in such trembling accents, as would have betrayed her to any one less discriminating, Diana could only reply, that he was a strange looking Signor, covered with a large handsome capota, under which she verily believed he held a poignard, for she saw something like a great knife glitter in his hand.
Mrs. Cleveland was now confirmed in her belief that she was pursued, and felt an emotion of grateful piety towards that pitying providence which had suggested the idea of changing her apparel, and most likely had by that means preserved herself even from the cottager’s suspicions. In a low voice, she then went on to enforce the necessity of Diana’s silence respecting her temporary abode with them. This was readily engaged for by her friendly entertainer, who running hastily to a small window, exclaimed “Yonder he goes: see, pilgrim, there he is, just with outside the north treillage.—See how he looks back and loiters: and there, I declare, he has met another stranger, who seems talking with Carlo, Anthony, Lissardo, and I know not who besides:—aye, aye, I thought as much, it bodes no good;—they are gone off together, hand in glove, as we say.” As Diana’s bulky frame completely filled up the little recess which contained the broken casement, Almeria could derive no benefit from the efforts she made to obtain a view of that simple matron’s disturbers; and could only judge from her description, that the one was Isaac Polygon who had so closely followed her; the other, she thought, might be a friend of that treacherous mortal. At any rate, this portentous appearance would enhance her difficulty of proceeding unsuspected; and the course she contemplated to pursue, seemed totally beyond her ability to undertake. An attempt to reach Badajos, which was her first intention, now wore a discouraging aspect; even her departure from Juan’s cottage she now considered as replete with dangers; and the evening had already given a gloomy tint to the distant hills before she could resolve to scale their trackless heights.
Too anxious to get the repose so necessary for one who might seek in vain for such another hospitable roof, our poor traveller quitted her couch to watch the declining sun, as it hung over the country she dreaded, yet wished to reach. It is true, she thought, that in Spain I may be safe from those terrible persecutions, which my native country meditates against a harmless life; but ah! this country, fatal as it is to my interests, contains an object dear, ah! how very dear to my aching heart. In flying to yonder nation, I leave—a suffering, imprisoned,—O no, perhaps a martyred husband!—friends, who have evinced the most tender attachment to my cause;—relatives, that one day, when the cloud a jealous government has drawn before their smiling prospects, may be able to acknowledge the helpless Almeria. Yet to stay,—to resign myself a willing victim to diabolical baseness, Who among those valued beings would be gratified by such a sacrifice?—In Spain, unnoticed and unknowing, I may at least be safe; and in substituting St. Jago for St. Anthony, may find my little wants supplied, till enabled to arrive either at St. Lucar or Cadiz; where some favorable opportunity may present itself to facilitate my passage to England;—England! that dear, that friendly island where I have passed so many peaceful happy years. Retrospection then became too painful for further indulgence, and her tears, which still continued to flow from a sad recollection of her friends and the unhappy Frederico, still streamed with unrestrained impetuosity; while the lovely scenes which were spread beneath her eye, appeared one mass of undistinguished confusion. However, it now became necessary to put in practice her intention of undertaking a journey, which was to separate her from all the ties of love and friendship; or rather, prevent the possibility of knowing the fate of her sincerely lamented Cleveland. True, she was not totally without money; but with such an undertaking in prospect, and without a friend on whom she could draw for a supply, it became extremely necessary to preserve some pecuniary resource should her claims as a pilgrim be denied by those whose prudence or avarice set at nought the authority either of St. Jago or St. Anthony.
Thus meditated our traveller, as she watched the mists that arose from the little rills, which intersecting each other, were cut for the purpose of conveying water among the numerous vines. They were signals for her departure, and she quitted her apartment to plunge into unknown difficulties. Surprised as Diana and her husband might be at Almeria’s intimation of her design, their reverence for St. Anthony prevented the questions they would have put; indeed, Juan settled it with his curiosity that, to travel only by night, was a clause in her vow; and he respectfully accompanied her several miles, without committing himself in St. Anthony’s estimation by one improper observation. From the eminence on which she parted with her kind conductor, Mrs. Cleveland caught a faint view of Lisbon, Bellisle, and their environs; even Cabo de Roco partly exhibited its whitened top, as the moon’s clear beams touched its various protuberances. Beneath her feet, in the valley of Shelloes, the nightingales continued to pour their melodious strains; and on a rising ground, near a clump of cork trees, she beheld the stately remains of a Moorish palace; the marble pillars of which gave a striking variety to the deep masses of shade which the neighbouring wood occasioned. The sumptuous ruin detained her eye, while an agonizing pang shot through her heart; for she had heard of this building in a way calculated to inspire the most awful ideas. It had been a summer residence for a Moor of quality, previous to their expulsion from Spain and Portugal; who used it only when the excessive heats made an excursion to the north of Morocco particularly agreeable; and for many years after the conquest, remained in a declining state, till a nobleman of the house of Tavora pleased with its situation, repaired it; and it was only in consequence of that fatal edict, which comprised all the estates of the last Marquis, that it was reduced to such a mutilated appearance. Amongst the ignorant and superstitious, a report had recently been circulated that it was nightly visited by the late owner, in a supernatural way; and she recollected Francisca’s ridicule of Polygon, who had mentioned this circumstance in a way that indicated his belief of the report. Juan too, while pointing out the path she was to take, charged her to descend a winding path leading from the melancholy ruin.
Perhaps the idle legend in other instances, might have produced a discredit of its truth equal with that of the Signora’s, but impressed by an affecting notion that it might have been the temporary abode of her father also; a solemn terror stole upon her mind, and she turned with disgust from the dismal contemplation. Yet, said reason, if I could discard those timid apprehensions and pass a few hours, at least till the dawn, even in that desolate place, it would be preferable to exploring yonder lonely plains, where neither hut or shelter of any kind holds out a hope of safety. In this instance, reason failed with her of its usual effect; she turned another look towards the cork wood, nor felt the smallest inclination to explore its desolate interior, to which the sombre tint of those aged trees communicated a dark and solemn appearance. The Moorish ruin too, whose sullen bosom once sheltered those lamented progenitors now mouldering in dust,—Could she venture within or near its delapidated walls? How very impossible, thought the irresolute Almeria, it will be to repose in an edifice whose history comprises such circumstances; how awful the desolation I must witness, if in compliance with the advice so reluctantly given by Juan, I should defy the legendary story he so awkwardly touched upon, and wait beneath that tottering roof till morning shall render my progress less difficult. She was then within full view of that inauspicious building: her eye unsteadily glancing over the declining pediment, as it hung ready to overwhelm the curious gazer, abruptly changed its object, and she attempted to take another direction, but there was no visible path, owing to the brush-wood that grew over it. The ground too, was so unequal as to form several little reservoirs for the rain that had so recently fallen; so as to make any other tract both inconvenient and uncertain, except that which led to the subject of her not unreasonable terror. Again she turned, and threw an anxious look upon its mouldering walls, and still her reluctance to pass a night within their gloomy environs grew stronger.
The uncommonly severe destiny which had thrown our forlorn wanderer into situations so inimical to common life, did not bring with it a sufficient share of stoicism, romantic courage, or apathy. She was in every proper light a truly modest female. Every step that untoward destiny had urged her to take, which was not sanctioned by the approbation of feminine delicacy, struck a pang to her heart, which the most imperious necessity failed to ameliorate. Too young to have imbibed the lofty sentiment of a proud Portuguese in a censurable degree, and thrown even in a state of infancy, into a train of education the most unfitly calculated for those scenes she was so soon to realise, no wonder her apprehensive heart should anticipate horrors yet unexperienced, or, that her fears should urge her to return back to Juan’s cottage, and venture a discovery which she trembled but to think upon, rather than encounter evils still superior to death itself.
THUS determined, Almeria again attempted to quit the dreary wood, and comfortless prospect of passing some hours in the dismal Casa; when a sudden emotion, too dignified by its motive to arise from caprice, induced her to pause a moment upon the arrangement she was making:—would the once dear instructor of her infant years, were he then in being, admit that excuse her fears suggested for plunging into certain dangers? Was it possible, that a dread of supernatural appearances should obtain power sufficient to make her slight others so truly formidable?—Blush, Almeria, she mentally exclaimed, for a conduct which he so good, so venerated, would have highly condemned; nor let another thought so puerile, weaken or set aside thine important design; nor forget to whom thou didst commit thy cause. Yes, Powers of Benevolence, and she clasped her hands in all the energy of genuine piety, I feel most painfully the effects of a foolish superstition; it clings to my nature; it exerts a tyrannical sway over the understanding which ye have enlightened; but it shall not prevail, it shall not overcome the principles so early implanted by a gracious Providence. With a resolution strengthened by these and similar reflections, Mrs. Cleveland again turned her steps towards the once dreaded Casa; whose contour lost much of the chilling influence it so lately acquired in her well regulated mind; and in this victory over a natural propensity, she evinced the consequence of early and well grounded cautions, for Mr. Dawson had ever made the existence of ghosts, &c. the theme of his keenest ridicule, serious expostulation, and unequivocal contempt.
Recovering sufficient fortitude for what she still considered as a trial, Mrs. Cleveland entered the solemn recess by an airy hall which opened to the east, carefully avoiding that part which reason pointed out as insecure. The steps, the pillars, were all of polished granite. The ceiling of this still beautiful apartment, exhibited in its remaining light, yet rich ornaments, a taste that would not have disgraced the greatest modern artist; and although the impervious shades without had thrown a gloom upon our wondering pilgrim’s spirits, she found nothing within to correspond with that sombre prospect;—no dark passages, dreary damp dungeons, or blood-stained walls detained her curious eye, all was light and cheerful. The bright beams of the moon, which now pervaded many of the eastern windows, (for it was only that side she ventured to explore) rendered Juan’s lamp and tinder box which he had given her, nearly useless; and as she remarked the tolerable degree of preservation every ornament stood in, her heart reminded her, that there the Tavora family had probably passed some pleasant months; and while she paced the marble pavement, or viewed the bason which once received the waters of a refreshing fountain, she sighed to the memory of those who had long since their first formation, received a superior pleasure in contemplating its more perfect state.
To enjoy a degree of comfort in this lonely place, was quite beyond Mrs. Cleveland’s hope; but to while away those hours which remained, she had recourse to her little basket, and eat her grapes and bread in tolerable tranquility; a book too, which was a gift from Signora Francisca, offered its mite of consolation, and placing herself upon a low bench that ran round the hall, or rather vestibule, she felt herself insensibly attracted by its subject, nor found the smallest difficulty in reading by moonlight; till fatigued with her walk, her former fears, and even her intense application, Almeria felt an irresistible desire to sleep; but unused to repose Al fresco, and aware of the consequences resulting from an exposure to the night air, she ascended a light staircase, and cautiously entering a magnificent bed-chamber, beheld to her great satisfaction, a bed in the Moorish style; the hangings of which, though torn and spoiled, exhibited a fresh proof of elegance, and were the only remaining traces of its superb adornments. Commending then her innocent soul to that protection she so constantly invoked, she gave way to the momentary indulgence; which indeed was but momentary, for her eyes were scarcely closed, when a slight noise induced her to turn a look towards the part from whence it came, and she beheld with a terror too acute for description, a figure enveloped in a loose garment slowly cross the spacious room as if fearful of disturbing her, and then disappear by a door on the opposite side. Convulsively agonized by a sight so appalling, and with only one idea present to her affrighted imagination, (for of supernatural appearances she thought not) Polygon and his criminal pursuers occupying her whole soul, she darted from the bed and was making her way to the stairs, when casting a look upon the window near which she was obliged to pass, our terrified wanderer beheld the object of her alarm slowly walking through the court, on that side leading to Juan’s cottage. Convinced from this that he had not seen her, and also that he was about to quit the place, she paused in almost breathless agitation till he had gradually descended from her view; but in contradiction to her hope that a pursuit after her was not his motive for visiting the dilapidated dwelling, she observed him anxiously surveying the northern front, for so her fears interpreted his settled gaze, as he stood near the angle which soon after hid him from her sight. That he should pass through the room in which she must be exposed to any common observer,—that he should quietly leave the old palace without any particular search, and yet prove by his earnest examination of it at last, that he encouraged suspicions of a tendency destructive to her safety, were circumstances from which Almeria deduced a sweet proof, that she was guided and protected by that superintending Benevolence she had so often experienced; and after a short but fervent ejaculation and prayer for a continuance of heaven’s undeserved bounty, she turned her thoughts upon the surest method of avoiding this dreaded being. Short sighted woman! for once thy prudence and excessive caution defeated a great exertion in thy favour, for in thine eagerness to avoid an unwelcome disturber thou didst prolong the fears and terrors which he could have soothed and lessened! but we must not anticipate. In Juan’s description of a path he sedulously implored her to shun, he had pointed the necessity of going through a hall, at one end of which a few steps descended into what had been an extensive garden, ‘And still where many a garden flower grew wild.’ This she was also to cross, to where a ruined gateway opened upon a private road leading towards the frontiers of Spain.
Recollecting therefore these hints, and availing herself of a brightening dawn, Mrs. Cleveland prepared to quit her dangerous assylum, when suddenly missing the small bundle that contained her masculine disguise, she was again obliged to revisit the deserted chamber, for to leave it behind might empower its finder to trace her rout, should that finder be one of Polygon’s emissaries; but it was no where to be found:—the book too, that she had thrown into her little basket was gone likewise. Perhaps they were left below, and indeed she did not remember taking them up with her,—again she was disappointed; and although exceedingly disturbed at the idea of leaving such a clue to her flight, she dared not waste any more time in fruitless search, but hastily repaired to the vast and weedy inclosure, which still bore the vestiges of formal parterres, strait walks profusely sheltered by overshadowing trees, and hedges once clipped with tasteless nicety, that exhibited an appearance no longer exactly correct, but wild and uncouth; while the boundaries of the whole, marked by ivy-covered walls, were too imperfect to keep out the nightly prowler, or mid-day wanderer.
Following Juan’s description, Almeria soon entered a rough but visible road, apparently intended for the use of those who in higher times inhabited the palace. In this she continued, till perceiving it led towards one rather too public for her purpose, she struck into a broken irregular track, which there was a probability to hope would not deviate very much from the the one she meant to explore. It was then she began to feel the loss of her little viands that Diana had culled from her dried stores, of a peculiar kind of fish very much admired by the Portuguese; to these were added coarse bread, a flask of wine, and a cup: Mrs. Cleveland was truly mortified to lose a basket, the contents of which might have lasted till she had found an opportunity of replenishing it.
The sun already began to exert his influence on her sandy path, and soon dried up the remaining traces of the heavy rain; neither tree nor shrub appeared to offer that shelter she began to want;—it was all one wide and scorching waste; nor could the earth itself afford a momentary relief to her aching eye, returning as it did the refracted beam. Advanced to the brow of a hill, she sat down on its sunless side, under the faint hope of succour; for she could easily perceive, through vast clouds of dust that were caught in whirling eddies, and which however did not diminish the excessive heat, a drove of mules approaching, while the sound of their bells met her ear; but to her utter disappointment, they kept on their steady course for Lisbon, and Almeria found her utmost fortitude insufficient to prevent a dread of suffering even by famine. Yet the consolation she derived from eluding her enemy’s pursuit, allayed, if it could not destroy her most foreboding fear: but how little did she at that time suppose, that in her successful flight from Polygon’s hateful Casa, she had fled from a friend who could have protected her; or, that in her subsequent escape from a supposed villain at the Moorish palace, she had thrown fresh obstacles in her path to an honourable family.
It was indeed a cruel certainty, that Polygon grounded his intention of securing her person on the preceding night to that of her elopement, upon Derrick’s unconscious remarks, and the conversation he overheard between her and Jerome; but misled by her feminine appearance that night, and luckily (so she thought) mistaking her for Francisca, he suspended his design, and the following one was fixed upon for the horrible business; for the conversation the Signora held with her supposed lover had likewise reached his ear, and quickened in a considerable degree his nefarious resolution. How they missed their prey we have already recited; but they were not the only people who had to lament her departure, for Jerome, who truly understood the scope of Isaac’s designs, and who in consequence of that knowledge, had too hastily given Almeria the intimation she so precipitately obeyed, immediately repented the abrupt procedure; while with a brave contempt of that dreadful punishment attached to a suspicion of abetting treason, he formed the desperate resolution of rescuing her, if possible from Isaac’s power; and this he thought might be accomplished by watching at her window for the light which would give him notice of her retiring, but in consequence of his being visibly dogged by a suspicious looking figure, he took so large a circuit to elude the object of his fear, that he arrived not at her residence till the very moment she had left it; and after waiting for a considerable period, he was driven from his post by Polygon and his satellites, whose manner as they hastily separated, seemed to denote disappointment and confusion. To return to his occupation of watching for Mrs. Cleveland would have been totally useless, and he retired excessively mortified at his ill success; but too earnest in the cause of suffering innocence to take any repose, he staid no longer in his noble assylum than to make a necessary alteration in his appearance, and once more bent his steps to Polygon’s Casa.
The family were just assembled at the breakfast table: a heavy gloom overspread Francisca’s features, while her eyes as she sternly fixed them upon her detested guardian, flashed with the most contemptuous disdain; Anica sat as usual, listless, indisposed, and inattentive. With a heart foreboding every evil to Almeria, Signor Jerome ventured an enquiry respecting the cause of his young friend’s absence; but before he could receive the answer which Polygon was evidently framing to assist his own purpose, Derrick joined the ill matched society: when looking earnestly round, he also put a similar question to Francisca:—“Ask your friend, Signor, my guardian” and haughtily she spoke, “may be competent to answer your question.” “My friend! that’s a good one, Signora; but what I warrant now owld Vulcan can’t bear the sight of our little man till he had finished his gowlden net for the loving pair; however I’ll unmoor the lazy varlet:” and then nodding to his favourite Francisca, he immediately arose to execute his threat, when Polygon advancing with a slow step and awkward solemnity of aspect, told him all enquiry was useless; for that in consequence, as he imagined, of some private agreement between that youth and his imprudent nieces, he had left the house before day-light, and doubtless the indelicate Francisca knew pretty well where to find him. “No, savage!—monster!—hell-hound!” exclaimed the half frantic Derrick, “it is you and your infernal companions only that can do that;” and then flying upon the trembling deceiver, whose collar he grasped with inconceivable violence, while his shook his retreating frame in all the agony of raging passion, “Tell me,” he went on, “in what dungeon,—with what miscreants have you hid that incomparable creature?—blood-thirsty wretch, where is her husband? you, who inveigled away that fine spirited fellow; you, who”—“Forbear, my dear Sir,” interrupted Jerome, perceiving Derrick had alarmed Francisca with his hint about Mrs. Cleveland’s husband, “forbear to”—“O but I won’t forbear, Mr. Cavalier, I tell you what it is now, if the breath was out of my body I wouldn’t forbear, till this villain (again shaking the speechless Polygon) has confessed what he has done with my swate dear little, swate love;—I know—I know” and he sobbed with rage and tenderness, “I know she is confined in some cursed dark dungeon, where they will rack every bone in her tender body!” “She?” repeated Francisca, “of whom do you talk?” “O no matter, honey, this owld varlet could tell well enough if he would but spake.” “But he cannot speak, Captain,” cried Anica, whose soft heart felt for the terrible situation of her guardian, “his life is in danger; you will suffocate him!” “No matter, my pretty dear, and if I did; and yet by my sowl now, it would be a pity to rob Jack Ketch of his fees:—Spake then, shark, and tell us where we may find my precious Charles?”—“Charles! in the name of all that is dear to you, explain yourself Captain?”
Derrick, who now found that he had raised a spirit of painful curiosity in Francisca’s bosom, would have retracted; but Polygon in the bitterness of revenge for the injury he had received, and again possessed of the power of speech, accused Patrick of encouraging a young traitress, and smiling malignantly upon Francisca, told her not to trust in appearances for the future. Derrick was again upon the point of flying at his detested enemy, but Jerome interfered with a resolution that afforded Isaac an opportunity to escape. “Yes,” said the enraged Irishman, “for once the owld monster is right; for my poor little swate midshipman is a woman indeed; but all’s one for that Signora, she would have made you a very good wife!” Francisca could scarcely bear her sensations when apprised of an incident so fatal to her hopes; and regardless of the well-meaning Derrick’s awkward attempts to reconcile her to this discovery, she left the room with Anica, to Jerome and his almost distracted friend, who immediately promulged his intentions to pursue her to the world’s end, and beyond it, till he should find her.
While Jerome was combating this useless rashness with a coolness that made a prominent part in his character, his eye fell upon a small paper, which in his scuffle with the Irishman, had escaped Polygon’s bosom; he snatched it up, ran over the contents, and catching Derrick’s hand, bid him take comfort, for Mrs. Cleveland was not in her enemies power: a violent exclamation composed of various joyous expletives, followed this discovery on the part of Patrick; but the Cavalier alive to every contingence, and dreading that power which in Polygon’s hands might eventually procure their own destruction, forcibly dragged away his reluctant companion, who pleaded but for one moment just to touch up the old sinner, and congratulate him upon the loss he had so unluckily gained, in missing the great reward he had secured for nabbing his poor little prisoner; this our Cavalier would by no means admit of, but urged the necessity of seeking her immediately, lest, ignorant of the country, beset as it was with spies of different descriptions, she might fall into hands equally pernicious with those she had just escaped. Derrick grumbled, but soon grew reconciled to Jerome’s plan; namely, to separate for the present to avoid suspicion, and afterwards to make the utmost speed by different circuits towards the vineyards, enquiring in a guarded way as they passed along, for the object of their pursuit. The latter part of this arrangement was performed by Patrick exactly in his usual stile, and might have produced the most distressing consequences, but as nobody had seen “A pretty little smock-faced maid, just run away from her guardian, and one owld Polygon that ought to be hanged for his wickedness, and who by the by was nothing at all at all but a poor girl that was come to Lisbon to look for her husband,” he was lucky enough (using his own expression) to hear nothing about her; nor was the Cavalier sti