ERRORS OF ECCENTRICITY.
VOLUME THE FIRST.
ERRORS OF ECCENTRICITY.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
The dearest friend to me—the kindest man,
The best conditioned; and unwearied spirit
In doing courtesies—and one in whom
any that draws breath in
Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme,
AS it is by no means probable that the Author of the following sheets should again resume an occupation, which has formed the amusement (and in some degree the employment) of more than twenty years, she feels herself induced to offer her sincere thanks to a generous public, for their liberal reception of her humble attempts in the literary line; as well as for its forbearance of censure in various points, where candour itself obliges her to confess her many difficiencies. She also owns herself highly indebted to those Reviewers, for whose mild strictures, liberal decisions, and gentle reproofs, she retains a high sense of obligation;—an indulgence the more valuable, from its being awarded to a female, whose confined education, and want of patronage, has often raised difficulties, which an ardent love of writing only could have enabled her, in some measure to conquer: added to which, is the superiority of those contemporaries, whose genius, language, and invention, have left her moderate endeavours quite in the shade; yet, the consideration that if they were not brilliant, they were at least harmless, (and at the worst, they were only what a lambent moon-beam is to the brilliant sun) encouraged her to pursue a path in which she had found some pleasure, and her innocent readers no danger.
At the same time, she is well aware that Novel Writers have often, and in some instances too justly afforded much food for the severity of criticism; while Novel Readers have incurred a plentiful share of that opprobrium so indiscriminately bestowed upon this species of entertainment; but who will dare to place the “GOSSIP’S STORY,” “TALE OF THE TIMES,” “INFIDEL FATHER,” “PLAIN SENSE,” or “SARACEN,” with many others equally worthy, in the same predicament with some that might be mentioned? Therefore, while such examples of beautiful writing as the above, are so numerous, they must surely do away much of that prejudice so strongly maintained. But again: it is considered as the lowest of literary pursuits:—granted. Yet, if we are to believe that
Example draws where precept fails,
And sermons are less read than tales,
If we discover a purity of sentiment, a professed abhorrence of every insinuation, however artfully introduced, that can alarm the rectitude of mind so indispensable in a virtuous female,—a steady adherence to true, not fastidious delicacy, firmness of principle, with an avoidance of every subject which may lead to abstruse and unnecessary points—who shall deem such works unworthy the pen, or perusal of our British Ladies? It is too true, she has heard all Novels condemned, by more than one censurer, as totally unworthy the perusal of a sensible man; yet, with all due deference be it spoken, she has witnessed a conversation supported by two of those fastidious beings, delivered in language that would have disgraced a school boy, and replete with ideas and principles, that no novel writer would dare to intrude on the public.
Respecting her own little efforts to obtain notice, she can venture to claim the suffrage of every lady who may honor them with a perusal; and feels justified in observing, that whatever deficiency may appear in her diction, plots, or taste, no blame can attach to the principles they inculcate, the sentiments they enforce, or the manners they would recommend. Vice is not arrayed in the garb of seductive loveliness, nor is virtue driven to exert itself beyond the bounds of possibility; and though void of that sort of distress, which arises from amorous disappointments, or impracticable events, she flatters herself that there are traits of character in her humble essays, not wholly uninteresting to a rational reader. Of her “IRISH GUARDIAN,” she can only observe, that the errors of his conduct arise from the goodness of his heart; and hopes his characteristic blunders, will give no offence to the generous individuals of a nation to whom they are an honor.
The Author perceives she cannot conclude without paying a feeble tribute of praise to those male writers, who have thought it no degradation of their dignity, as scholars or gentlemen, to relax from their severer studies, and improve and amuse in the form of a novel: as witness, the elegant productions of Dr. Moore, Mr. Dallas, &c. In the full hope therefore, that a liberal public will not refuse to her honest Hibernian, that tribute so kindly bestowed upon his predecessors,
She presumes to subscribe herself,
Their most grateful and obedient servant,
ANNA MARIA MACKENZIE.
DETACHED from the society of mankind by misfortunes which gave to his countenance the cast of misanthropy, a person bearing the name of Favorita, sought refuge from a world he dreaded in the intricate recesses of Cabo Roco, commonly denominated Cintra; a promontory well known to English traders by the appellation of the Rock of Lisbon, situated near the mouth of the Tagus; where he meditated upon those dreadful events which alone could make such a lofty retreat endurable. It is true that from its summit one may command an almost unlimited space, but it is a view that partakes more of the awful and sublime, than the softened features of variegated scenery; now displaying all the horrors of winds and waves; now presenting a tame stillness but seldom enlivened by the distant sail, or nearer vessel; and the far-seen view of that celebrated land-mark Dos Clerigos, comprised the whole variety of his station.
Of the few beings to whom this lonely desart presented a temporary refuge from corroding anxiety, or the justice of their country, there were scarcely any attentive enough either to disturb his repose, or lessen his attachment to retirement, and Favorita wandered about the rocky base or climbed its dangerous acclivities uninterrupted and uncontrolled. Yet although the features of this unhappy recluse bore to an indifferent observer the sullen marks of a heart hardened even to stoical apathy, that heart still glowed with the noblest feelings, and its dictates were guided by melancholy despondency rather than the torpor of despair.
As a proof of the pity which lingered in his aching bosom for his fellow creatures who were suffering more immediately within his power of redress, it was our hermit’s constant custom after a storm to visit the shore, in the anxious hope of assisting any one who might chance to escape its effects by gaining the rock; this indeed was a deliverance that rarely occurred, but his want of success was no inducement to Favorita to resign his charitable intentions, and he constantly pursued them. Habituated by general observation to the prognostics of bad weather, he was seldom mistaken in his calculations; and the morning of a sultry day was employed in watching a small vessel, apparently making for Tagus, but impeded by an off-shore wind: He soon perceived her endeavours were fruitless; and, with concern, our hermit beheld a dark halo forming around the sun, which was soon obscured by clouds of a lurid aspect; the waves gradually assumed a turbulent appearance; the winds roared among the cavities of the rock; and the ship now gliding over the edge of a mountainous surge; now lost in the horrid chasm it formed; soon, by encreasing darkness, became totally hidden from his view.
Disturbed and uneasy for the fate of those whose doom seemed inevitable, he returned to his comfortless cabin, determined to revisit the strand with the approaching dawn; though, from all he could conjecture, little else was to be expected, than that mournful task of rendering the last sad offices to some poor creature, who, as the wind had suddenly shifted, might be driven to shore; but when, in consequence of this resolution, he had risen with haste to examine every place within reach, it appeared too plainly, that both vessel and crew were beyond all human assistance.
Favorita then ascended the highest accessible point of his station, and throwing an anxious eye over the still turbulent deep, felt more strongly convinced of their complete destruction; waves rolling over waves in awful succession; their upper parts tinged with a silvery foam, seemed to threaten death to all who should venture to contend against their violence. Sometimes he fancied a distant sail labouring through opposing seas, and could only lament the fate of those who might be struggling against the ruin they vainly tried to shun: Hopeless then of gratifying his benevolent principle, he slowly descended; but what was his surprize, when upon turning a sharp angle, he beheld in the valley before him, a figure bearing with seeming difficulty the body of a youth, which he gently deposited upon a seat hewn out of the chalky cliff; and who, while contemplating the insensible burthen so lately quitted, discovered a poignant grief; which upon Favorita’s hasty approach, broke into outrageous exclamations; and with tears of anguish running down an honest, though rough looking countenance, he begged the stranger’s attention to his fainting companion; at the same time applying himself what he conceived to be a certain, though very ungentle restorative, by shaking the poor creature in a way which denoted no great skill in physical operations; but his attempts proved ineffectual, till a deep sigh which followed the hermit’s application of a very powerful volatile, relieved his eager apprehensions; and in a few moments after, the feeble invalid recovered sufficiently to gaze about with a wild unsettled look.
Delighted with a consequence which his frantic despair had forbidden him to hope for; the elder stranger poured out, but in very imperfect Portuguese, a confused mixture of thanks, congratulations, and enquiries respecting their benefactor’s situation on that desolate spot; to all which, he received the most laconic replies; but when the delicate and graceful youth added his modest acknowledgements in the English tongue, Favorita betrayed an agitation that apparently exceeded the occasion; and which, he attempted to hide by asking some questions relative to the ship he had seen the preceding day, and to which he imagined they belonged. This observation, which was made also in English, gave much delight to Capt. Derrick, the loquacious sailor, who seemed happy to indulge his turn for frank communication, and after expressing his joy to meet with an ould Reverendissimo who could understand him, went on in a brogue peculiar to himself; to say, “that in consequence of some particular business, he had been dispatched to Lisbon, but now indeed, he knew not how to get thither; as he had staid by his ship poor dear sowl, till he could howld out no longer; and he had brought this faint-hearted milksop to shore upon his back; for the ship was stranded near a part of the Cape, at some distance from their present situation: howsoever, if his reverence could any how look to Charles, why, belike he might find his way to Lisbon by some means or other.”
Here his young companion cast a look of anguish towards him, which evidently pleaded for silence; but it was impossible to check the Irishman’s volubility, although he might mean to be prudent; but Charles, as he stiled him, expressing a wish to repose a few hours, Favorita advised the Captain to hasten to Lisbon; which he might do in a small vessel appropriated by his brethren to the purpose of fetching such necessaries as their secluded spot denied. Derrick seemed struck by this proposal; but declared his inability to procure a comfortable abode for his young friend; adding, that it was true he had been recommended to a family in that city, but as his employer had mistaken his character in giving him a commission which none but a rogue could act under, why he could not appear in a light in which no honest Irishman ever yet shone: For sure my dear little countrymen, that is, to say in general, if ever they are guilty of a bad action, do it with a good intent; so that the consequence, be what it may, can reflect no disgrace upon us at all—at all, honey. Derrick would have proceeded in his unfortunate endeavour to prove that an Hibernian could do no wrong, but Favorita, who had perceived the bitter agony that had settled in Charles’s features, interrupted him with a faint congratulation upon his Amor patria; and then, with a heart fully alive to the tender impression, communicated by the young stranger’s visible distress candidly offered him a shelter till Derrick could place him in a better situation. A tear of gratitude marked the acceptance of his favour; but there was an appearance of anguish mixed with horror in his speaking eye, which could not escape our hermit’s notice; nor was it lost upon the Captain, who heartily advised him to follow the ould Reverendissimo, and mount to his eagle’s nest. “Ay, ay, yonder it is, perched upon that little bit of a rock, d’ye see; well, to be sartain,” added this blunt observer, “I say Charles, to be sartain this ancient Jontlemun will live an hundred and fifty years, if one may judge by his ould youthful countenance; so up to your airy garret, my dear; why, what the divil ails you now, sappy?” perceiving his reluctance to follow Favorita, “first pining and whining for shelter, and then hanging back, and looking like a dog that’s burnt his ears.” “You know my motive,” replied the youth, expressively. “Your motive! O, none of this palaver, child; don’t I know you are unhappy, and fale it visibly? come, come,” (drawing nearer, as the hermit, who perceived a mystery in Charles’s manner, had retired to a little distance, to give him an opportunity of speaking his sentiments) “come, I say, cheer up, he is somewhere in Lisbon depend upon it, my pretty dove, and sure now I will not be long absent: But I say (putting on an arch good-humoured smile) what do you think now, of our romantic expedition?”
“Think! O, sir, (bursting into tears) why, that I have indeed undertaken a romantic expedition; but it has been with the best design, and thro’ your persuasions. O, my uncle, on your friendship rests all my earthly dependence; you, however, will not desert a woman in distress.”
“An Irishman and lave a woman in distress! indeed, honey, and by my sowl now, and I won’t; belave me, child, I never yet saw the famale who could raise a blush on my chake; no, nor the man who could make it look pale; becase, why I never did an injury to your sex, or was afeard of my own.”
“Best of friends!” cried the grateful young creature, who had assumed a masculine dress for a purpose that will gradually unfold itself “I know your goodness; I have experienced the tenderness of a heart impressed with every generous feeling in those points admitted by true delicacy.”
“Delicacy! nonsense, all stuff; a word niver to be found in a sailor’s creed; and so I’ll lave all that to the fops and the women, d’ye see; and now, good bye? but harkee, don’t think too much of that Frederica: By the ghost of my grandfather, things have niver gone right since we went to London.”
“Cruel Frederico!” responded the wretched Almeria, for that was indeed her feminine appellation, “thus to force me upon this hateful subterfuge; for, O, sir! you, as a man, cannot feel that portion of my misery, which arises from this improper disguise; and the necessity there is for my dependance upon strangers: Who are, and I beseech you to remember, must be ignorant of my story. For the present, I am too well aware of the obligation I am under to accept that good man’s offer: Hasten then to procure me, if possible, a more eligible asylum; for indeed the fatigues of the preceding night and day, render me nearly unable to contend with any farther difficulties.”
Here she was interrupted by Favorita’s approach; who, hastily demanded if the Captain were certain his vessel had not outrid the storm? to this question he received an unconnected, yet voluble, reply; from which, he gathered that Derrick and his companion were the last who quitted her, which they did in a small wherry; the crew having secured the jolly-boat; and, that immediately after their landing, the wherry was beaten to pieces by a terrible surf; but whether the brig went down, he could not tell, as it was impossible to distinguish her in a sea so rough.
A loud shout issuing as it should seem from many voices, completely electrified the impatient Captain; who, darting away, rushed toward the spot which Favorita had just quitted; and in a few minutes again joined them at the head of that crew he never more expected to command.
Rejoiced beyond the power of distinct articulation, he could only shake the hermit’s hand, with a roughness scarcely bearable—clasp his trembling friend, somewhat in the Cornish style—throw up his hat—vociferate three cheers—and exclaim “she’s safe, my little darling is safe! upon my conscience she’s a lucky one; there she rides. Come along Alme—I mane Charles, come along; all’s right again; (seizing his terrified niece, as he stiled her, who dreaded what this effusion of joy might produce) cheer up my girl—O faith and that’s a bull now; no matter, girl or boy, all’s one for that.”
Favorita started at the appellation of girl; while Almeria could not restrain an apprehensive tear; which Derrick perceiving, and struck with the blunder he had committed, awkwardly observed, “that his joy in finding his lovely Peggy once more, had made him talk nonsense very wisely; adding, why it was only last night the poor creature went to the bottom, and yet, for all that, she is come to her moorings just beyond that turning.”
From the boatswain, Favorita received a somewhat clearer account of this mysterious business; importing, that himself and companions had safely weathered the opposite point, from whence he beheld the ship in a perilous situation; but as the wind had veered to almost every part of the compass, it had driven her on to the shore, where she continued till the tide came in; and, owing to another change of the wind, they were enabled to turn her head toward the rock; for they expected to find their commander somewhere thereabouts, as, on their returning on board, neither himself nor Mr. Cleveland could be found; but they had discovered a safe anchorage behind that point which so completely sheltered her from our hermit’s most diligent search.
It also appeared, that drawn by the sound of their voices, Favorita discovered several of the men reposing upon his territory; when questioning them upon the subject of the supposed lost vessel, and hinting at Captain Derrick’s safety, they immediately followed him to make that worthy being as happy as themselves.
Concerned for the poor agitated creature, who sunk nearly helpless before him, Favorita tenderly entreated the Captain to consider the best means for accommodating his languid companion: Derrick was rather puzzled at the request, but thought it was better for her to stay with the hermit, at least, till he had examined his vessel, and discovered whether she was fit for sailing. To this, she reluctantly consented; and was led by her new friend to a cavity in the rock; for he thought her strength would be unequal to the performance of a journey, to what he so aptly stiled an eagle’s nest.
In this recess, which had formerly belonged to a hermit, she found a tolerable couch formed out of some rough boards, and covered with a sort of long grass: The place, though open in front, was free from damp; and with due gratitude to her entertainer, she seated herself upon the homely receptacle. He then left her, but soon returned with grapes, bread, and a small flask of wine: She looked up, as he attentively surveyed her features, and perceived a tear moisten his cheek; Almeria also wept, but she could not at that moment ascertain the stimulus which provoked that sign of sorrow.
“You weep my child,” said Favorita, “and no wonder, your situation is productive of those tears; but you will again rejoice with those you love. While I,—nay look not so piercingly tender, those humid eyes, that soft impressive gaze, reminds me of an angel; recals to my imagination scenes which ought never to be repeated; but you will pardon the effusions of a distempered mind, adieu, repose in safety: I will be your guardian while you sleep, and till your friend returns, this humble cavern shall afford a comfortable shelter.”
“My thanks, benevolent stranger,” returned Almeria, “are not adequate to such generous attentions; a higher power, (and she meekly lifted her hands) will ratify the charitable deed, and reward it. I can only pray, that peace and resignation may shed their balm upon a heart, which, like my own, seems a prey to untold grief.”
“Ha!” cried the hermit, (catching her hand, and fixing a wild empassioned look upon her languid countenance) “can you, a youth at such an age, have cause for sorrow?” but, suddenly recollecting himself, “sacred be it! for if like my distress, it can neither be relieved, or even soothed; I would not tear the painful secret from thy bosom.”
He then quitted the recess, followed by her eye, till the jutting of a craggy point prevented a longer view of his plain brown garment, venerable beard, and snowy locks. If Favorita had discovered such strong emotion while contemplating features which seemed to strike him with horror, Almeria in the bending yet dignified form, the stern glance, and solemn manners of this stranger, found equal reason for wonder and curiosity; and her heart acknowledged an impulse in his favour, which reason and prudence strove to destroy. Even her reluctance to accept his protection had given way to this new sentiment, and while she partook of the welcome refreshment he had procured, that sentiment acquired additional strength. Indeed her present asylum was not devoid of inducements for gratitude. A total calm had succeeded the hurricane. A sight of the sparkling surf which rolled gently inwards, and contrasted by its pure tincture the deep green that appeared beyond in a long perspective view, with the balmy air which cooled and invigorated her wearied limbs, were advantages by no means to be neglected; and while she contemplated and enjoyed them with apparent satisfaction, her ear was struck by the soft and tinkling strains of a guitar: astonished beyond description she listened with trembling delight, till convinced by its proximity that her unknown friend was the musician; the perturbation it excited was so far allayed, that she listened with sweet composure to the following lines, sung in a fine soprano voice; the melody, strength, and softness of which, appeared more adapted to the middle age, than the debility and ancient appearance of that mysterious being:
To the lily’s soft tint, once the rich blushing rose,
United its bloom, to adorn
The fair face of my love; but her elegant mind
Display’d more than the beauties of morn:
Those charms which nor sun-beams nor sickness could
Depictured the mind of my innocent maid;
Yet she died, and I lost my dear innocent maid.
To think how I lov’d her, how ardent I burn’d,
Does but heighten extravagant grief;
And to say with what truth that fond love was return’d,
Forbids ev’ry hope of relief:
Since each moment the tribute of anguish is paid,
To the mem’ry of her, my dear innocent maid:
Ah she died! and I lost my sweet angel,
My innocent maid.
A SOLEMN pause succeeded the ceasing cadence of an air calculated to excite the most affecting ideas: There was a path in Favorita’s voice which created sensations of a peculiar tendency in Almeria’s bosom. She listened, but the delirium of those touching feelings was no longer encouraged; heavy sighs, and, half stifled groans, now broke on her ear; but the hermit appeared not: Nay, she could hear his stealing steps as he departed from a sort of niche in the rock, near her temporary habitation, which seem to be shut out from society.
This indeed, was not considered by her as an evil; for totally overcome with lassitude and depending upon her new guardian’s promise of protection, she submitted to the demands of imperious nature, and sunk into an unquiet repose. How long our poor heroine continued in a state of mental torpor, might be ascertained by the darkness, which on her suddenly awaking, conveyed a sort of terror to her heart;—but how was this terror encreased, when in the next instant she perceived a figure holding up a lamp to her bosom with one hand, while the other grasped a valuable miniature which was suspended by a ribband. A thousand confused fears now rushed to her mind, as she viewed the countenance and action of Favorita, for he it was who thus rudely forfeited the rights of hospitality by intruding on her privacy. His countenance was wild, even ghastly. His attempt to tear the picture away was so abrupt, so fierce, and so unlike the gentleness of his former conduct, that Almeria began to suppose her very life in danger; at least she dreaded a discovery of her sex, which would probably follow, as the collar of her shirt had been loosened by this intemperate attack; but starting from the couch and flinging herself upon her knees, she besought him to respect his promise of guarding her from every violence. “Say but,” he cried in a convulsed terrific voice, “Say wretched youth, whose picture is that you wear so near your heart?” “Mine, rude man, mine!” she replied; a momentary gleam of courage animating her soul. “It is dearer to me than existence itself. It is the solace of my lonely hours. It is, O it is,” and she burst into tears;—“the last, last consolation, my fate has left me,” and she clasped it with an energy which seemed to mock his attempts to get it from her.— “Keep off,” she resumed, “approach me not;—my life is in your power, but this dear resemblance, never.” “Your life,” repeated Favorita, shuddering as it appeared, at his own temerity;—“and has my unguarded impetuosity given rise to such an apprehension? Perish the idea.”—He then paced the cell with wild disordered steps, muttering at intervals, reflections upon his rashness;—when suddenly turning to her. “I see,” said he, “you still dread my violence, but fear not. Return to your couch, it yet wants some hours to morning; rest in the sure confidence that you shall not again be disturbed;—but ah! that portrait. Would you but trust it for one moment to my care; at least inform me if the original (for I cannot be mistaken in those features) is a relative of yours?”—“I can do neither sir;—yet this much I will declare, that to you the original never could be interesting. The glimpse you obtained misleads imagination, and throws an erroneous light upon what fancy paints as real.” “Fancy,” exclaimed Favorita. “Oh, that I were indeed mislead by her;—that deceived by the rainbow-colouring of her mimic illusions, I had no real foundation for such a hoard of anguish.
“Youth,” and he fixed a settled gaze upon her varying countenance,—“didst thou know my motives for this outrage—couldst thou trace on my heart the source of;—but wherefore this appeal, say only that I am forgiven for an action which nothing short of those motives can excuse, and I will retire immediately.”
“I do pardon you, sir,” replied Almeria, who felt comparatively happy in the possession of her own secret; for it was plain that Favorita mistrusted not her sex, “and trust you also will excuse a tenacity which perhaps can plead equally powerful motives for its support.”
Dissatisfied and reluctant, the hermit, after placing his lamp upon a lodge in the cavity, slowly retired, leaving Almeria a prey to sensations that threatened to produce despair. The opinion she had encouraged of Favorita’s rectitude, had no longer any support; nor could she depend even for safety, upon one whose actions and words were tinctured with insanity.—The same reason which induced his untimely visit, might again operate to produce still more dreadful consequences, and that portrait taken by force which she held so sacred.—“No, thou tenderly beloved,” addressing the miniature of a handsome youth; “never shalt thou quit this bosom while life trembles within its precincts.”
She then committed it to its usual situation, and endeavouring to collect her fortitude, began to arrange, if possible, a scheme, the completion of which, should convey her for ever beyond the sight or power of Favorita; yet to reach the main land without assistance, she knew was impossible. Even to wait till day-light, would produce only the certainty of being prevented in her design by him, who in other circumstances, could have obviated every difficulty;—however, after a fervent ejaculation to heaven for its guidance of her devious steps, she ventured to the shore undisturbed by aught but her reasonable apprehensions.
It was perfectly calm, no sounds broke on the sober silence, save from the advancing and retreating restless surf. With a trembling heart, she contemplated the vast expanse so lately agitated by furious winds, now scarcely in motion, and the lucid heavens illumined by innumerable stars; then raising her fearful eye to the overhanging rock, almost fancied, she beheld the eccentric hermit, placed upon a jutting point, and bending over to catch a view of his terrified guest; but the illusion soon vanished, and Almeria was convinced he was ignorant of her absence, and proceeded to the spot which he had mentioned, as containing a boat appropriated to the use of himself and brethren.
Scarcely had she reached a small Cove, described by Favorita as he passed it while conveying her to the recess, when a rustling noise aroused her fears to an agonizing degree. Uncertain whether it arose from the Cove, she dared not advance, and to retreat was equally dangerous.
Again the dissonant sounds came on the air, which she thought resembled those of a captured wild beast. While the approach of dawn gave new force to her terrors, Almeria determined to hazard every thing rather than return to her cell, and cautiously advancing, she discovered with new sensations, a human figure extended upon his back in the boat, whose uncomfortable position had produced those sonorous sounds, and occasioned the cause of her alarm. As the dawn strengthened, she was enabled to make a remark that revived her hopes of escaping; for it was evident the sleeper belonged to the vessel, and was either waiting for fresh orders, or had been prevented from returning to Lisbon, by the sudden approach of night.
To awake him, and endeavour by a considerable bribe to gain his confidence, was Almeria’s first idea; but totally ignorant of the country language, how was she to make her purpose known?—When happily, for the success of her plan, he hastily awoke, and starting up, began to make arrangements for putting to sea. This was an unexpected and pleasing circumstance, and it only remained for her to disclose her intention of going with him. As soon as his business was nearly completed, she timidly advanced, and holding up a moidore, pointed to the quarter to which she guessed he was bound. Devoid of all curiosity respecting her appearance at such an hour, and in such a spot, he only endeavoured to understand her meaning, which after some difficulty he accomplished, and seizing the money, with avidity he launched his boat in the water, and after placing his mysterious passenger at the stern, hoisted sail, and was soon out of sight of that part of the rock.
But Almeria’s terrors were by no means subsided. A total stranger to Lisbon, its language, people or customs, how was she to discover Captain Derrick, since all description would be useless, unless she could apply to the English factory, most of whom resided in different quarters of the city, and she was landed at Bellem, before the confusion of her mind would permit her to adopt a feasible plan. From her boatman no lights could be obtained, nor were the market women, who were now passing upon their Boriqua’s, at all likely to assist her. True, the appearance of a beautiful youth, pale, languid, and evidently a stranger to the country, clad in an English naval uniform, excited curiosity in those uncouth females, but that was all. They gazed, laughed and talked; yet as Almeria could not understand either their words or actions, those marks of attention were of little use;—nay, they added in a degree to her difficulties, by shewing the inutility of an application to a Portuguese native, and a hopelessness of relief from such a source, gave new terrors to her situation. Tears of bitter anguish poured along her faded cheek as she slowly passed the silent village; whose inhabitants, too indolent to take advantage of a lovely morning, were yet invisible. The prospect of fields, burnt up by a July sun, and scantily varied by several vineyards, could boast but few charms to attract an inhabitant of a more temperate clime, by Almeria they were totally neglected; who, sinking upon a stone that rested near the foot of a cross, encouraged a state of mind, to which insensibility would have been a relief;—when lifting up her swollen eyes towards a magnificent building at some paces distant, she perceived several Cavaliers advancing from it; when an eager desire of making them understand her signs, induced her to arise, and with a downcast look and palpitating heart, she ventured to approach the group.
If Almeria’s appearance had attracted the notice of the insensible and ignorant market folks, it did more for her with the Cavaliers, whose earnest looks she had already excited, and whose serviceable pity she was solicitous to obtain; but when one of them addressed her in tolerable English, her joy prevented immediate utterance, and the tears which fell upon his hand as she respectfully accepted it, made a strong interest for the gentle midshipman in his worthy bosom.
Recovered to a sense of her awkward situation, Almeria gave a brief account of her landing at Cabo Roco; describing as briefly, her reception by the hermit, Captain Derrick’s confidence in him, his hasty departure, and her successful attempt to leave the rock in quest of that blunt, but friendly relative. At the mention of Favorita, the Cavalier assumed an air of tender melancholy; observing, that he had been more unfortunate than criminal; and yet there were circumstances in his history which countenanced the world’s neglect, even their contempt. “You know him, then,” demanded Almeria, forgetful at that moment of her own strong claim to the stranger’s assistance. “I do,” he replied, “but sacred be those sorrows which I am not at liberty to communicate; for yourself young Sennor, I can only say, my endeavours to contribute to your ease, shall be exerted to the utmost; only declare how they may be best directed.
“I belong to yonder noble mansion. My brethren (pointing to his companions, who had walked to a respectful distance) are like myself, indebted to his Portuguese Majesty, whom we have served with fidelity and bravery, for a comfortable support in that building, where we are empowered to receive and entertain any friend who may oblige us with their company;—now if you are disposed to accept of an asylum there till we can discover your uncle, I can promise better accommodation than the unhappy hermit could afford.”—Almeria recollected her confidence in the hermit, and was silent; yet this proposal carried an air of sincerity, and certain comfort in it which Favorita’s, she thought, had truly wanted.
“I see you hesitate my friend,” said the generous Portuguese, “but believe me you will be perfectly safe; I venerate the English; I honor their invincible navy;—nay,” and a sigh escaped him. “I am half an Englishman myself;—fear not then.” An exclamation from Almeria, who darted towards the group of Cavaliers, astonished her benefactor, and interrupted his panegyric; but when he saw her return, led by Captain Derrick, he evinced tokens of the sincerest pleasure.
The honest sailor, with his usual unreserve, began to question his delighted niece respecting her strange departure from the ould Reverendissimo, as he chose to stile him, and before she could answer, described the comforts of a residence he had just secured for her, in consequence of which he was hastening to fetch her from the rock.
The poor girl would have waved the subject by presenting the Cavalier to him, and repeating the friendly offer he had so recently made, but to her utter dismay he ridiculed her nicety, in a way so pointed, respecting her flight from Favorita, that it gave her character as a man the cast of effeminacy; or what was still worse, might create suspicions of a disguise of which he was heartily weary;—however, observing her significant looks, he added,—“Well, well, don’t I know how it is? Ould Methusalem did not like solitude and a companion, and thought it very hard d’ye see, that he couldn’t be alone when there was nobody with him; or may be you was afear’d that ****** but a word to the wise—so come away Almy—Charles I mane—come away; and as to you Sennor, for I take you to be one of our native farreners, Oh let me but see you along side my lovely Peggy, and I warrant we’ll drink to the honor of little England; ay, and Ireland too, and the land we live on till ****. O Honey,” interrupting himself, “I could tell you such things about this little girl,—tho—” “Girl,” repeated the amazed gentleman, who felt a sensation equal to that of Favorita upon a similar occasion. “Girl, ay, girl’s companion, faith now and you don’t understand me; for Charles, though I say it, is as pretty a companion for the girls;—but what signify’s boggling at a word—we Irish gontlemin are apt to blunder a little but no matter for the head if the heart be right.”
Highly as Captain Derrick rated his talents as a wit, or his abilities as a retainer of secrets, the veteran officer, unable to keep his visible muscles in order, saw in Almeria’s expressive features, and the confused, but droll countenance of her friend, a confirmation of those suspicions his unhappy bull had excited;—however, recovering that gravity of mien which had been so forcibly attacked, he felicitated them upon this happy meeting, and after renewing his serviceable invitation, which was extended to Derrick, whose native good humour made its way to the generous heart, he joined his company in their morning peregrination.
During our Irishman’s short walk to the apartments he had taken for Almeria, he submitted pretty quietly to those remonstrances, which she ventured to press upon him, and which were mixed with bitter reflections upon her own conduct, in adopting an appearance that subjected her so continually through his disregard to propriety, to perpetual terror; “and now,” supplicated she, holding up her hands with eager earnestness, “I entreat my dear and ever kind uncle’s silence, respecting this detested disgrace which becomes every hour more hateful, more insupportable, and more dangerous, and has precipitated me into such a disagreeable situation; already you have awakened suspicions in the bosoms of two perfect strangers, which have exposed me in one instance to danger; indeed I might say, (had it not been for a providential interference) to destruction itself.” “Destruction did you say,” vociferated the impetuous Derrick, who directly comprehended her allusion, “Why I’ll tear the ould eagle out of his nest, I’ll * * * *;” “Patience, dear sir,—the evil I complain of, originated in your mistakes, but it was magnified by insanity, for the attack he made upon this dear memento of past affection (drawing the portrait from her bosom, and wiping from it a tear which recollection produced) can be attributed to no other cause.” “O then,” cried Derrick, his features settling into a calm—“the poor divil was mad, and that was his reason for disliking a single duet;—why my dear little girl, I never shall forgive myself for * * * * but hollo, don’t you remember ould Polygon who lived at Killalee Castle, when you was a chicken, and afterwards juggled with Sir Harry about?”
“Not much of him I must confess.” “Well, well, so much the better, for happening to meet him this morning accidentally on purpose as one may say, I told him our case; that is, with a proper reservation, (winking with an arch grin at his niece) and he has promised to accommodate you, at least while you stay at Lisbon; ay, and longer too if so be as you like Seniora Francisca, and her pretty sister, who by the by * * *, but stop, yonder is his Casa as he calls it; look’e now, don’t you see a great house for all the world like a prison; ha, don’t you?” “O yes, I do indeed, and shall be happy to reach it, for I am fatigued beyond endurance.” “You do see it?”—“Yes, yes, my dear teasing uncle,” “Very well—but that is not it. Here, now look this way up the avenue; don’t you see another that stands out of sight?” “Ridiculous,” said the unhappy Almeria, whose feelings were by no means in unison with her facetious conductor’s, “for mercy’s sake consider my uneasiness, and once more let me repeat my appeal to your prudence for back again.” “O,” cried he, interrupting her as usual,—“Prudence and I quarrel’d so heartily in former days, that we have never been friends since, and now when I am continually making advances for her friendship, she flies me, as, as * * * but no matter, reason shall supply her place;—but I’ll tell you what it is now, that little smock-faced visage, contradicts all I say, whether I speak or howld my tongue; therefore, I think you had better drop a disguise that misbecomes you so well.” “Alas! no,” she replied, shuddering at the ideas which this proposal excited, and which originated in his advice at first, “Alas! no, it must be continued for the present.
“At this house (they were then fronting Polygon’s Casa) I may be permitted to indulge in a solitude so necessary to my safety; at any rate, I cannot assume a female dress while under his roof; who, I fear, but too justly deserves the suspicion you entertain of him, and whose notice nothing short of absolute necessity, could induce either of us to accept.” “Enough of that child, I know more than you do of the ould Hyena;—but look up, in yonder eastern borander are the young ladies. Ah, poor little sowl! there sits Seniora Anica, as sad as ever.”
The Captain’s introduction of his pretended nephew, although in his usual stile, was wholly devoid of the smallest hint that could cause any apprehension; and Almeria, who was not fastidious as to the elegancies of life, felt little other difficulty than what arose from her ignorance of the language, but even this was obviated in a great measure by Francisca’s receiving her in broken, but tolerable English; and when Derrick awkwardly placed his nephew’s confusion to that sourse, the sprightly Portuguese entered into a conversation, which added by a brilliant and expressive countenance, threw a gleam of cheerfulness over this first interview.
“I suppose,” said the animated girl, “Senior Charles understands by what lucky chance we have obtained the pleasure of your society.” “O yes,” cried Derrick, “but I have not told him what an original ould Polygon is, and that we never meet without sparring, nor part without making it up;” “True Capitano; but this gentleman must pardon me for observing, it is but a natural consequence when two originals meet.” “Why yes, jewel, we were flint and steel to each other; and no wonder, for he was always provoking me with some bitter gibe, nor could I when a boy, partake of his dull amusements, which consisted in measuring the superficies of trees that he could’nt grasp, or peeping at the stars in a cloudy night through an eighteen penny microscope—O, but here he comes his own self now. Well little Isaac, and what’s the best news from above?” “Hay, Captain Derrick, by all the rules of architecture.” “And Isaac Polygon, by all the rules of formality;—and now ould boy I have announced you to my nephew, do pray tell us the subject of your present meditations.” “Whatever they were, I am indebted to you for their interruption.”—“Why to be sure now its divilish hard that a man must be interrupted when thinking of, of mischief; but perhaps you were only inventing a new dress for your mortal goddesses.” “Why I do think something might be invented even for their advantage, though to hazard an opinion, I will venture to assert that the English women have improved in that article, since the year 75, when their heads resembled an Egyptian Pyramid reversed; but now their whole appearance is more conformable to the rules of architecture for the petticoat I say, for the petticoat forms an exact radius in front, and the head answers to a parallelogram.” “So then sir, you are determining our dress by scientific rules, and defining it by tropes and metaphors, but indeed this is the first time I have heard a lady’s head bore any affinity to a long square.” “O simple chit,” cried the man of science, “what have I to do with thy flimsy parrot’s eloquence?” “Why nothing at all indeed,” replied Derrick, who was truly impatient to enter the lists, “since ’tis well known your observations are as heavy as the brain which produces them.” “As to the matter of brains,” retorted Polygon. “I have reason to know that your’s were never solid enough to comprehend, or conceive, or contain, the noble spirit that actuates my researches; for if I am right in my definition of the empty ball which finishes that inelegant form, it is what may be vulgarly denominated a paper scull.”—“There you’re out ould manufacturer of rhetoric, for I’ll warrant little Patrick’s scull is as thick as your own now.”
A good humoured smile from the Captain’s female auditors;—for even the melancholy Anica could not refuse this tribute to his endeavours, for their amusement gave a zest to Derrick’s blundering talent, although he could not be ignorant of its absurdity, and the delicate reproof produced no other effect than another attempt to rally his slow methodical adversary, whose eagerness to establish a favourite hypothesis, would, he well knew, furnish a large field for the display of its ridiculous pomposity. Resuming therefore, the theme which had pointed Polygon’s last attempt to be witty, he threw a humorous archness into his countenance, which partook equally of an expression of humility, and begged Mr. Isaac would favour the company with his notion on that business, who, notwithstanding their love of English fashions, would certainly sacrifice their opinions to one so able to direct them, what a woman’s dress ought to be. Satisfied by an address, whose concealed sarcasm escaped notice, and assuming an air of self complacency, “Why,” replied the man of science, at the same instant replacing the cup of chocolate which he had just taken from the pensive Anica’s hand, settling his frill, and rising with awkward dignity, “I do aver that a woman’s paraphernalia should be regulated by the square and compass;—for instance now, how much more gratifying to the taste of a person of discrimination?” Again adjusting his frill and raising his short unwieldy frame to catch a look of admiration from the noble pier glass opposite to which he stood “I repeat how much more gratifying would be this lady’s appearance (touching Anica’s pale averted cheek) could we trace the Composite, Ionic, Tuscan, or Corinthian order in her dress?” “Why I don’t know,” cried the arch Francisca, “whether this notion would be so very outre, provided we are allowed to chuse the mode, in that case I should vote for the Corinthian.” “Doubtless, Seniora Butterfly; but had I any influence in this important business, you should be confined to the Doric. I say Corinthian indeed, with its flowery ornaments.” “Thank you good sir, but if I must resemble a pillar of statuary, it should be once of the gayest model.” “St. Anthony grant you were but as chaste in appearance, and as cold in constitution, as the beautiful figures you so foolishly gibe at; but I do not wonder at your flippancy, while encouraged by the grin of ignorant contempt, which defaces your coadjutor’s no-meaning features, (glancing at Derrick a look of displeasure) he, I dare aver, would rather contemplate that roguish twist of the lips which you intend for a smile, than that sublime, though distant object, the planet Mercury.”—“O faith and that’s what I would now, for belave little Derrick or not, he would sooner gaze at the love-inspiring countenance of a pretty girl, than stare with aching neck, blind eyes, and half starved limbs, at those luminaries, which after all, nobody can ever be the better for; for they mock the Philosopher’s toil, and elude his utmost researches.”
“Egregious ignorance,” cried the would-be Philosopher, again striving to catch another look at the mirror which reflected two such opposites, as if to find a motive for triumph in the comparison, “Thou enemy to the sublime and intricate study of astronomy; stranger to the mysterious operations of Aldebaran, Castor, Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury, Venus.” “Not so fast, Old One, clap a stopper on your tongue; though faith it is seldom so unruly, except when Venus is the subject.” “Venus,” repeated Isaac, with fastidious scorn,—“Depreciate not that lovely planet by such inviduous reflection.”—“O to be sure she is a swate crater, but why I can’t tell, seeing as how she is nothing at all in a single duet; and then as to the matter of those mysterious appearances you talk of—why what does it all signify to Patrick Derrick, so as he can but see the polar star in a foggy night. The mystery indeed, of a deep head, and designing heart, may be worth investigating, and before long I will endeavour to ******”. Here he made an abrupt pause, though the significant nod and expressive leer which supplied that pause, was not lost upon Almeria, who read in the deep crimson hue of Polygon’s cheek, a consciousness of some dishonourable transaction alluded to by Derrick. Anica also sighed so heavily, and turned a look of such abhorrent disgust upon her guardian, as if she likewise participated in the Captain’s motive for an observation so dark, and yet so pointed. Be that as it would, the conversation was immediately terminated by Isaac in a very unceremonious way, while Derrick rubbed his hands in visible triumph, nodding sagaciously at this crest-fallen antagonist as he quitted the room. The encreasing languor of our quondam midshipman, now excited her uncle’s attention, who after an awkward attempt to cheer her spirits, and warmingly recommending her to the two Senioras, hastily departed for the purpose of beginning a search in which her happiness and his sincere friendship were jointly and deeply implicated.
TRIALS OF TENDERNESS.
IT may now be necessary not only to account for Almeria Cleveland’s retention of a disguise, so improperly calculated for her feminine appearance and natural delicacy, but to trace also, the circumstances which introduced her to the notice of a being so rough (though so guileless) as Captain Derrick; and to do this, we must advert to a period when that estimable creature figured in a station, extremely subordinate to that in which he has been so recently viewed.
Enthusiastically attached to the amor patrie, Patrick found all his fund of native good humour, and fraternal tenderness, scarcely equal to the violence done to it, by his favorite and only sister’s abdication of a country so precious in his estimation; and when pressed to give her hand to Abraham Dawson, a simple Wiltshire curate, who had spent both time and money to no purpose, endeavouring to obtain a more wealthy curacy than his own, in the north of Ireland; Derrick demurred to a proposal that carried on the face of it, the destruction of his dearest hope; but Mary pleaded, and Mary when she appealed to Patrick’s feelings, had never pleaded in vain, consequently she became the wife of Abraham Dawson, and an alien from her affectionate brother, and dear little Ireland, leaving him without one tie of consanguinity to detain him at Killalee Castle; within whose domains, his predecessors had cultivated a spot of ground, sufficient to produce the necessaries of existence. Derrick again prepared to reassume an occupation that had been previously interrupted by Mary’s establishment, and soon found himself an almost solitary wanderer, as he described his situation in the Mediterranean, where he met with various success for several years, during the lapse of which, the affection of his once loved Mary, met with repeated trials, which the fervent attention of her guileless Abraham, could not always avert.
The letters of her brother, were short and unsatisfactory, and after the first twelvemonth, he ceased to write at all. Added to this trouble, she had to contend with certain habits and peculiar ideas, not exactly consonant to her own notions of the dignity attached to Mr. Dawson’s profession.
By the poorer sort, his advice was most humbly solicited; by the middling class, his opinions, if not always adopted, were never openly opposed; and, as if to encourage the predominant foible of his wife, the doors of Wallbrook Tower, a modern ruin, as Derrick would have stiled it) were never shut upon the worthy curate, nor would Mary have been excluded, if she could have persuaded the despotic Abraham to grant that to her self importance, which his own modesty denied to himself; but seldom as Sir Henry Tillotson admitted his refusal of an invitation, calculated to raise the good pastor in the general opinion, there were times when he strenuously determined not to accept the kindly intended honor. Upon these occasions, Mary would sometimes argue, infer, draw conclusions, and without a single idea of the powers of rhetoric, as defined and employed by the logician, run nearly through the whole of that not very comprehensive science; but her arguments were unanswered, her inferences useless, and her conclusions vague; at other times she would content herself with a gentle insinuation, a shrewd remark, or a pompous display of the rose-coloured damask, faced with yellow padusoy, as a proof of her taste in dress and ability, to shine in Lady Tillotson’s parties.
Alas, for Mary, neither her eloquence of speech, nor the splendor of her habiliments, could prevail upon the stubborn Abraham, to relax either in his judgment or determination, when a certain dignitary and his lady, with several other distinguished families, made an occasional visit at Wallbrook Tower, or indeed at any other season, except those in which the numerous tenantry were invited according to their different ranks, either as guests of the landlord, or his steward.
It was a positive article in Mary’s creed, that every one of the sacred profession was, or ought to be, upon an equal footing; to be forbidden then to mix with a society, of which (such was her veneration of Abraham’s talents) she positively believed her husband to be its greatest ornament, was a circumstance, almost too grievous to be borne; but Abraham was tenacious, and Mary found every effort to establish her own opinion weak and ineffectual.
On one of those memorable days, when Mrs. Dawson had exhibited an extraordinary portion of fruitless eloquence, she found herself compelled to an unwilling silence, by the sudden departure of Abraham, who, extremely loth to enter the field against an opponent, that notwithstanding this childish foible, he tenderly esteemed, or rather loved, had quitted his comfortable cottage, in a heavy rain, to avoid any further useless altercation.— Conscious of the motive which induced him to desert his social board, and the comforts of a cheerful fire-side, Mary lamented with tears of bitterness, her ridiculous obstinacy, and while she gave the glowing embers a hasty stir, pictured to herself the situation of her husband, who, driven by her folly, was encountering upon the almost trackless plain, a penetrating shower and piercing wind.
While thus indulging in useless reflections, the miserable matron was completely roused by a clattering of hoofs, the beating of a stick against the low pales which enclosed her little garden, and a halloo that perfectly restored the use of every dormant faculty. Starting suddenly from her feet, and careless of the rain which descended in torrents, she ran to the gate, and hastily withdrawing a little bolt, was instantly recognized by Patrick Derrick; whose rough tones conveyed to her affectionate heart, a pleasure it had long mourned for.
To the joy her brother’s appearance excited, Mary speedily added an eager, but painful curiosity. Even Abraham, the injured Abraham, wandering perhaps, amongst the noble druidical reliques of Stonehenge, which lay nearly two miles south-west of their cottage, or vainly seeking a shelter beneath its massive pillars, was for that instant forgotten.
Derrick, whom she had not seen for three years, returned in visible distress, mounted upon a wretched animal; his head armed with no other defence from a raging storm, than what a red cap afforded; his person partly covered by an old roquelaure; beneath which, he seemed to bear a considerable burden, drenched with wet. This Derrick was a subject that totally engrossed her present feelings, and she welcomed him with uplifted hands and a flood of tears.
Not quite so delicate in his expression of tenderness, was her unexpected visitor; who giving the bridle an awkward twitch, he brought the horses heels in contact with Mary’s spotless apron; but she, by hastily starting backwards, escaped with no other mishap, than a considerable portion of mud upon her cloaths. This extorted a hearty laugh from the thoughtless sailor; while he swore by his “Sowle he had not met with a foot of dry land all the way from Salisbury, but what was knee-deep in mud;” adding, that he had been twice landed in a wet ditch, only the day before; therefore, he supposed she might fancy he had been keelhauled; and then turning suddenly round upon a boy who was uneasily and dangerously placed behind him, he bid him bring his feet to an anchor, and hold the mettlesome jade, while he dismounted.
Happy to be freed from a companion so uncomfortable, the lad immediately obeyed his orders, and Derrick was soon upon his legs; while Mary, who was more than satisfied with the specimen he had given of his skill in horsemanship, kept a respectful distance till he had discharged the boy, and had reached the entrance of her keeping room. She then ventured to approach, with an intent to take the bundle, which he visibly endeavoured to detain from her sight, till putting back her extended hands, with the one he kept at liberty, and retreating a step or two, he asked with a dry and solemn aspect, “if she could keep a secret?” Mary, though somewhat astonished, simply replied, “she could not tell, for she had never tried.”— “O well, then my dear, I have got a bit of one now, d’ye see, that you may keep till doom’s-day, and longer too if you please, for nobody will try to get it from you belike.” He then, to her great amazement, slowly and cautiously unfolded the ragged roquelaure, from which he drew a little creature, wrapt in a man’s surtout, which added to a small bundle that was fastened about Patrick’s arm, made his burthen of a tolerable magnitude.
From the swoll’n lids and wet cheeks, of this hapless child, it appeared as if she had cried herself into a sleep, which Derrick’s vociferation and unruly motions at the gate, could scarcely disturb; however, she was then sufficiently awakened to gaze with fearful astonishment, upon the surrounding objects; till settling her sweet eyes upon Mrs. Dawson’s good humoured countenance, she extended her arms towards her, broke into a suppressed whimper, and then turned a reluctant glance upon her rough nurse, as if desirous to escape his caresses, of which Patrick was by no means sparing. “Pretty sowle,” cried he, endeavouring to detain her, “Why will you leave your own dear uncle?”—“Mama,” exclaimed the child, still struggling to get from him. “Mina rica mama—sothades—sothades.”— “What does she say brother?” asked the simple Mary, clasping the little foreigner to her bosom; “but no matter, she shall be my child; though I cannot help crying when I think.” “O now, I beg you will make no apologies for crying, becase as why, I myself can never see clearer than when I am blinded with the tear of sympathy. But hollo, where’s Abraham—what will he say to my little Portuguese. O Molly, I have a long story to tell about her; but let’s have a drop of grog first.”— “I have good ale brother, which you may like better perhaps, as it was brewed by my husband,” replied Mary, who felt all her solicitude for her husband, awakened by this malapropos enquiry. “Well, well, no odds for that, they are all the same so as a man can but have enough. But Abraham I say” “O don’t mention his name * * * * * * *” cried Mrs. Dawson, “He is; I know not where he is, but my folly has driven him away.” “Then my prudence shall fetch him back Molly,” retorted the kind-hearted sailor, (who mindless of the grog, and the various comforts his situation demanded, was sallying forth in pursuit of his absent brother). “What, I suppose he has taken a short walk to give your tongue a little holiday. O but, I can spy him already in the offing with his sails all aback, and hulling to and fro, like a ship that has lost her rudder.” So saying, Patrick hastened to meet Mr. Dawson, who was indeed, returning to the wife he already began to feel for.
Almost overborne by the rough congratulations of his visitor, the tearful acknowledgment of his Mary’s error, and the astonishing acquisition of an infant guest, Abraham, scarcely knew whether to rejoice or lament, over such singular events; but compassion soon destroyed the apathy of worldly wisdom, and in less than an hour, he contemplated in Derrick’s laughing features, his Mary’s contented countenance, and the sparkling eye of the little unknown, the happy effect of a blazing hearth, warm cloathing, a well covered table, and his own native sweetness of disposition.
With a share of caution, that was by no means Mrs. Dawson’s general characteristic, she avoided any question relative to her brother’s young companion (who wearied with her journey, and refreshed by proper nutriment, soon sunk into a pleasing repose) until himself should be willing to satisfy her curiosity, which had received another stimulus from his own wretched appearance; but in her visible agitation, Abraham soon traced the latent wish, and after ordering a fresh supply of ale and grog, he undertook to relieve their joint anxiety, by putting a few necessary questions, to which Derrick, in his hurrying way, gave short and not very clear replies; but determined to be completely satisfied in every particular, Mary added her mite of inquiry, and at length extorted the following account of those transactions that led to, and succeeded this important business.
From all that could be gathered in a desultory communication, it appeared that Derrick, when he quitted Ireland after his sister’s marriage, made several voyages to and from the Levant; after which, he received a lucrative offer to take the command of a vessel bound to Lisbon, where he occasionally resided during the very little time he remained on shore, which were a few weeks, more or less, as the ship might be detained while unloading.
Derrick in his narrative, failed not to confess a degree of negligence in his epistolary correspondence; acknowledging he had written but twice in the last two years, and as he received no answer, concluded he was forgotten. He then went on to say, that on the 22d of September, after having been sumptuously regaled by some of the British factory, he was returning to the beach, where a boat waited his arrival, he was to sail on the following day, but that he was induced by the serenity of the hour, to stroll towards a vineyard, which at that season was generally enlivened by parties of both sexes, to enjoy its cool delights, as well as to partake of the festivities of those, whose business it was to strip the vines of their delicious incumbrances. Already the voice of merriment stole upon his ear, and the tones of various rustic instruments, now heightened by the evening breeze, grew gradually stronger. The quick step of hilarity then became distinguishable, and in a few minutes more our light-hearted Irishman, found himself encompassed by a troop of lads and lasses, some of whom belonging to the factory, welcomed his arrival with apparent pleasure, and in the gaiety of a moment so congenial to his temper, he forget every thing but the scene before him; till startled by an early dawn, he suddenly recollected his obligation to leave Portugal before the next night. As his way to the beach lay wide of his companion’s intended rout, they pointed out a path, which leading through a narrow defile, would bring him to the spot where he expected to find his boat, and Derrick, after a hearty adieu, hastened forward, not extremely well satisfied with the folly that had occasioned a delay so inconvenient. Advanced to the utmost depth of that gloomy valley, he felt a sensation not unlike awe, creeping about his heart, and looked on every side with a dread for which he could not account, when suddenly his courage was completely put to the test, by the appearance of a figure, who rapidly descended by a path near which he must pass. Derrick would have fled, for some how his fortitude (as he nautically expressed himself) was at the lowest ebb, and at the dead of the neaps; but when this unwelcome interrupter entreated him, “for St. Anthony’s sake, to stop and rescue an innocent and devoted babe, from a cruel death,” his courage returned, beat his ancient opposer Prudence, out of the field, and left him totally under the dominion of pity;—actuated by that lovely principle, Patrick took the wretched little creature in his arms, vowing at the same instant, never to desert it. “Now then,” exclaimed the miserable object who conveyed it thither, “I will hope that one branch of a persecuted race may be spared the tortures which hang over its misguided parent.”
“Senior,” continued he, “To-morrow’s sun will behold the destruction of an entire family, already the wheels are preparing to receive their miserable bodies. Even this child would have shared their horrid fate, and must have suffered with her once noble father. Adieu then, pity and preserve the young Almeria D’Aveiro’s Heir.”
As Derrick knew enough of Portuguese to comprehend the nature of this request, and as he knew that in consequence of an attack upon the King of Portugal’s life, a whole family, whether guilty or not, were to share in the awful punishment; he had no difficulty in crediting this information, and wrapping his adopted child in his own capota, hastened to the boat, which luckily had not changed her station. As it was the very first occasion on which poor Patrick’s talents as a nurse, had been called into action, his awkward acquittal of that office may be easily imagined; nor did he wonder at his Protegee’s tearful reluctance, to accept the tasteful viands prepared for her by the no less awkward cabin boy, but as there were no alternative, little Almeria Sothades, as Derrick called her, became rather better reconciled to her rough attendants, before they had cleared Cabo de Roco; and by the period of their entering the Bay of Biscay, she began to address her preserver by the name of uncle, another whim of that excentric being.
Till they had cleared considerably more than two thirds of this dangerous Bay, a soft and steady gale made their passage serenely pleasant, but Derrick, whose judgment respecting the weather, was seldom erroneous, beheld a halo form itself about the sun, with no very pleasurable sensations. The wind sunk to a dead calm, while the water appeared agitated without any visible means. A number of aquatic birds too, by their incessant screams and eagerness to seek some sheltering rocks, were so many omens of a speedy change. It was in vain to croud sails, which flapped against the mast; all then that could be done, was to prepare the dead lights, to put his vessel into such a trim, as might best suit the expected occasion, and to wait patiently for the issue of those prognostics.
Soon, very soon, were our experienced seaman’s fears verified; the storm approached, or rather overtook them, with a rapidity not to be opposed, and more than once the ship was laid upon her beam ends; so that it required the utmost skill to keep its cargo from shifting entirely.
Notwithstanding Derrick’s restless activity, which like lightning, pervaded every part of the vessel, he forgot not his poor little charge; and when, in consequence of a violent blast, the main-mast went by the board, and he was morally certain they should soon go to pieces, he ran down into the cabin, snatched up the screaming child, wrapped her in his capota, and with a small bundle which contained part of the rich attire she wore when he first received her, carried her upon deck, nor parted with her, till he could do it with safety.
To depicture the horrors of inevitable shipwreck. To paint the despair, the extravagance, the inebriation of men no longer under subordinate discipline, is a task unequal to a mind unused to such scenes of anarchy and confusion; and Derrick’s description was so interlarded with nautical epithets and allusions, as to be nearly unintelligible to his attentive auditors.
The only hope left to our unfortunate Captain, was that of hailing some vessel better calculated to withstand a tempest so destructive. Anxiously then did he (after fruitlessly attempting to reason with creatures acting under the joint influence of intoxication and despair) examine, when the lurid flashes permitted, every part of the horizon within his ken, but it appeared as if they alone were left to contend with the wild effects of winds and waves; and many hours elapsed in doubt and fearful forebodings. Not a hand but his own, would ply the pump. The water was already three foot in the hold, gaining rapidly upon Derrick’s endeavours to supply the place of a maddening crew; and indeed, cried he, at this part of his narrative, “I found enough to do, supporting with one hand the poor little Portuguese, and pumping with the other, till my strength was exhausted. O but, and I cannot forget my surprise to find when the day broke upon us, it was still midnight, for after the ship began to settle, I found it was all over, and I ran to her stern, which by that time beat so hard against a rock, while her head seemed every moment ready to part, owing to the shock of such a heavy sea; and as I could do no good below, I thought I would just see how the land lay.”
Poor Derrick’s observation in this particular, encreased his surprise to a painful degree. The morning, although not quite so gloomy as midnight, would barely permit him to discover a sort of huge excavation in the monstrous cliffs, which frowned dreadfully above his devoted vessel; but as the dawn strengthened, he perceived a high coast, which trended rather northward, and while musing in much perplexity, upon his local situation, the mate, who had recovered recollection sufficient to feel, ran distractedly towards his Captain, swearing they would all be lost, and food for Davy Jones; “for see ye now,” exclaimed the terrified Scot, “yon frightful beach where I was wreck’d some few years since, which men ca Chesil Bank, so that you mun guess we are noo under Portland Island.”
This information Derrick could scarcely credit, as it seemed impossible for the vessel to have made so much way in four and twenty hours, although the wind had shifted to the east, within the first six of their perilous situation—but there was little time for argument; a violent crash announced their impending doom. The ship’s back was broke by the straining of her timbers; in consequence, she parted almost immediately; and Derrick, with his infant charge, and Michal Hamilton, being providentially on her stern, supported themselves by the broken gallery, till they obtained a sure footing upon a ledge of the tremendous rock, while a short and mingled shriek from the sinking vessel, just reached their ears as they were struggling to preserve themselves from an equally dreadful fate.
Divided at that awful moment, between gratitude for this almost miraculous preservation, and pity for those who were not so fortunate, our ship-wrecked Captain adverted not to the dangers which still awaited them. Three biscuits and a small bottle of cordial, was all the refreshment they possessed; not that it would have added to their security had there been ten times as much. Other consequences besides those arising from unsatisfied hunger, threatened still more alarming mischief.
The tide was out, but would soon return; and although a higher ledge of rock might be gained, even that was within reach of the waves, and above this temporary security, no farther means of escape offered; for the cliff projected so much beyond their station, and the dangerous navigation beneath, so effectually excluded every hope of permitting any vessel to come with the vortex of waves, whose confined powers of acting, occasioned a sort of whirlpool near the awful excavation, that Derrick frankly acknowledged he gave up every hope of deliverance, and indeed, said he, “when I look down upon the little thing who rested within my wet bosom, and moaned as if its poor heart was breaking, I thought ***** but no matter what I thought, when the noise of the waves prevented my thinking at all, or seeing any thing indeed by the big rock which dangled over my head like—O indeed now it was like, nothing at all at all that I had ever seen before.”
Derrick’s observation upon this part of his narrative, though simple and blundering, went to the hearts of his feeling auditors. Abraham dashed a tear from his cheek, while Mary wept over the hand of her sleeping charge, who had unconsciously extended it towards her mouth, from whence it sunk upon the friendly bosom
The attention of our ship-wrecked wanderers, soon became anxiously confined to the swelling surge, as it gradually pervaded their recess; not a word was uttered by either of them, while a hopeless eye attentively directed to each other’s pallid countenance, declared the anguish they endured. And now the restless foam began to dash against the rock beneath, covering their shivering bodies with its silver spray, and then retiring with a terrifying noise.—While thus awfully employed, the Captain was interrupted by his infant companion’s inarticulate complaint of hunger; and Michal’s biscuits were produced, and her lips welted with Derrick’s cordial, tears of compassion pouring from his eyes, at the idea of the instant destruction which awaited her. Again he threw a despairing look over the southern horison, which a brilliant sun and unclouded sky, would have rendered (after the opposite extreme) truly delightful; but to those devoted men, it only exaggerated the horrors of their situation.
A solemn silence now succeeded the late turbulance of the surge; for the tide had arisen to a heighth which prevented its dashing noise, and it stole forward and retired in soft succession. “Ten minutes more,” cried Michal, “and all will be feenushed, for my lags are in the sea already.” “And my feet,” cried Patrick, “are knee-deep, so *****. But avast Michal, I hear a noise.” Michal listened, when the roar of several deep voices reached their delighted ears, and they returned the shout with all their might; a short pause ensued. Derrick’s fears returned, but suddenly a thick rope was seen with a great weight attached to it, depending from the cliff, which by the motion given to it from above, sometimes swung within their reach, although they could not catch the noose, till after several attempts, when Michal luckily obtained a firm hold, and carefully following the direction of their deliverers, the almost exhausted creatures were safely drawn from their perilous station.
Although not much in the habits of high-wrought compassion, the men who had seen on the foregoing day, the vessel struggling in vain against a storm, which they were convinced she could not weather, had assembled by day-break on the cliff surmounting Derrick’s dangerous situation; when certain of the ships destruction, they thought some of her crew might have gained the rock beneath; a circumstance, which had occurred more than once before; but having called till hope itself could no longer encourage their efforts, owing to the roaring of the waves and lowering the rope, which till that providential moment, had been frequently caught by the rocky asperities, they were just retiring, when Derrick and Michal were happily heard, who gratefully thanked those brave and active fellows, for that assistance, of which they had totally despaired; but as soon as the dread of immediate death subsided, our Captain’s troublesome charge became an object of serious inconvenience. True, these friendly people conducted them to a cot where they might dry and refresh themselves, but as nothing remained to Derrick of all his possessions, but the little bundle which fastened to his arm, had escaped with him, and contained nothing but some rich apparel of the child’s, already spoiled by the sea water, he could not in reason expect any further assistance than what might be obtained by begging, a mode of relief which his generous heart detested;—but how were they to be supported in their journey to Amebury, the residence of his sister?
Michal indeed, had an acquaintance in the Isle of Wight, to whom he directly repaired, yet unable to use his influence in behalf of his Captain, nor did Derrick expect it; but partly by telling his melancholy tale, and partly by the interest his infant dependant created in the feeling heart, they reached a decent looking Inn upon the edge of Salisbury Plain, in tolerable comfort; where after announcing himself as brother to the Amesbury curate, he was accommodated with a horse, a guide, and a hat; which however, was taken from his head by an untoward gust; nor could the thoughtless creature permit his guide to seek it, declaring it was a poor top gallant sail that couldn’t stand that little flurry of wind.
The conclusion of Derrick’s narrative, had left no common impression upon the hearts of his relatives. Abraham, after a moment’s silence, piously acknowledged that goodness which had preserved them; while Mary, after adding her ejaculation, tenderly congratulated Patrick upon his deliverance.
WHILE tenderly impressed with a sense of little Almeria’s desolate situation, Mr. Dawson suffered not a blind philanthropy to supercede necessary prudence. It was true, that by the strictest economy, he contrived not only to keep up the respectability of his professional character, but maintained his title to independence, by a punctual discharge of every pecuniary matter; yet, he had little to spare, and the addition of a helpless individual, must encroach upon, if not positively do away every claim his poor neighbours had formerly made upon his charity.
Derrick indeed, saw nothing of all this. Ruined, as he had every reason to suppose, in his own circumstances, he considered not that it was possible to injure those of a sister, whose appearance betrayed no poverty; and therefore, made little scruple to share for some weeks, the pittance of our good curate of Amesbury. With a delicacy then, characteristic of his kindness to Mary, Abraham, at the conclusion of a month, ventured to communicate his sentiments, respecting this unexpected acquisition to his family, and gently hinted his hope of a different arrangement.
Mary saw it exactly in the same light; “but some how the little thing was so engaging, began to prattle so pretty, and her poor brother seemed so happy over their nice ale, that in short, she could not find in her heart to send them away.” Now there was my Lady Tillotson had taken great notice of the child, when she stopped to rest after a long walk one day, and seemed so surprised when it said something in its own lingo, that she thought mayhap * * * *. To what Mary thought, she could not just then give utterance, as Derrick, with a brotherly importance in his manner, abruptly entered to inform them, “he had seen an advertisement in the paper, describing the San Diego, her cargo, and destruction, with a reward to any one who might bring intelligence of the safety of any of the crew, particularly identifying Patrick Derrick, commander, as one whose information respecting the fate of that vessel, would be singularly useful.”
“I thought brother,” observed Mr. Dawson, “you had written to the rest of her owners, immediately after your arrival amongst us?” “Well, and to be sure I did now, and directed it to the Seniors, Josepha Francisco, and Martin Cavallo.”—“Why then your letter went to Lisbon?” “Upon my conscience and so it did Abraham, but all’s one for that; couldn’t they send it to their Agents in London? Bad news flies fast enough, and sorrow takes the heart that gives it wings, I say.” Even Mary could not smother her inclination to laugh at the characteristic blunder; while Derrick, regardless of that, and her husband’s good humoured expostulation, abruptly requested the loan of some cash to new rigg, and set him on his way to London.
This occasioned a small demur; for, as Derrick would have observed, Mr. Dawson possessed a plentiful lack of that useful commodity, nor did he just then know how to raise four guineas, but a claim of this nature was irresistable; and after frankly confessing his insufficiency, the good creature applied to his own wardrobe, from which he furnished the thoughtless sailor with a change of linen, a respectable wig, a faded black coat, and a flat crown’d clergyman’s hat, none of which received any advantage from Patrick’s seaman-like figure, and the arch stile of his droll features. However, he was so affected at Abraham’s reluctant confession of temporary poverty, that in a tone of voice, equally expressive of joy or sorrow, he frankly confessed that “where it was not to be had, why the king must lose his right;” then giving his sister and Almeria, a hearty salute, and shaking her husband’s hand with the violence, rather than the delicacy of friendship, he set out upon his pedestrian expedition, with half Abraham’s ready cash in his pocket, promising, as soon as he got to Chancery Lane, the abode of the Agent, he would draw a bill upon his partners, and Dawson should have all he could get, and more if it was in his power.
This assurance from a man, whose claim since the ship and cargo were irrecoverably lost, was not only vague, but might meet with something worse than a refusal, since there was only his testimony and Michal’s, respecting their trying every means to preserve them; an expectation so premature, was quite in unison with his feelings, but totally rejected by the curate’s understanding, and he could only look upon his young inmate, as sent to urge a fresh exertion of his benevolent principle, to foster a helpless being, to whose infant wants, no other hearts would probably administer relief.
“Now then,” cried Abraham with a sigh, “She must share, if not wholly engross, the trifling overplus we used to dedicate to our indigent neighbours.” To this Mary consented with all her soul, and Almeria became the darling pet of her worthy protectors.
The silence of Derrick for several weeks succeeding his departure, gave pain to his relations, only from a dread that it might be owing to a suspicion of his integrity encouraged by the Agents employed on the Sans Diego’s business; for, under common circumstances, they had no reason to admire Patrick’s punctuality in his correspondence, “and who knows,” cried the curate, “but he may now be confined under the supposition of sinking a vessel, whose cargo might not have been equal to its insurance, admitting Derrick to have acted fraudulently, I will write at least, to Chancery Lane.” While Abraham was deciding upon the subject of his letter, Derrick’s arrival did away every fear. His dress was modern and appropriate to his profession; and with spirits considerably above par, which gave to his words and actions, a force his auditors could well have spared, he informed them that in the second week of his arrival in town, Mr. Welsbury, the Agent, had received from Senior Josepha, an honourable acquittal of Patrick’s conduct, in consequence of the good character he had always sustained among them, with proper credit for any sum, not exceeding one hundred moidores, and a commission to take the command of another Lisbon trader, which was to leave London shortly, with a cargo consigned to Isaac Polygon, of European extraction, then residing at the Brazils, but daily expected to arrive at Portugal.
Thus fully exculpated from every shadow of blame, and possessed of means to assist his infant friend; with a prospect also, of future prosperity, it was no wonder our Captain should act and talk somewhat extravagantly; but for a man he really loved, Abraham could make great allowance; and when the generous sailor threw a heavy purse, containing nearly the whole of his riches, into Mary’s lap, the curate seriously remonstrated against taking more than a third of its contents, which would be quite sufficient, he declared, for Almeria’s present exigencies. “O bub a boo,” exclaimed Derrick, who, from certain appearances, began to fancy his brother’s finances not quite so plentiful as when he paid his first visit, “don’t I know you to be the poorest rich parson in little England, that is honey, I mane rich in good works. Well then, and will these good works clothe and feed my pretty girl? No by my conscience—a few broad pieces will go farther than all the piety of all the poor parsons in Great Britain.”
Still the curate contended, and Derrick opposed, till wearied with the controversy, Mary finished their argument by dividing the spoil, and absolutely forcing his share upon her obstinate brother, who soon after quitted them with one of his usual apothegms.
Left to the protection of such disinterested friends, the young Portuguese felt no want of luxuries, which she could not remember to have enjoyed. Even her favorite term of sothades, which in her own language, comprehends every thing sweet, tender or lovely, became merely habitual, from its being attached to her first name, for she soon ceased to think at all of those incidents, which gave consequence to that endearing expression. A sort of confused idea of her nurse’s agonies, when she gave her up to the person who delivered her to Derrick, sometimes threw a shade upon her infant brow, but as other objects, and the pursuits of tender youth succeeded, she lost every recollection of that circumstance, nor would the considerate Abraham advert to any subject that might refer to it.
Delighted with her sprightly charge, Mary gave up her propensity to grand company, and found sufficient employment in giving her those rudiments of learning, upon which the curate built a useful and solid system of education. “She is not handsome Mary, but she will be interesting, and our endeavours shall not be wanting to make her good.” “Not handsome,” repeated Mrs. Dawson. “To be sure she is rather dark, and rather short for a child in her third year; as my brother said the man told him she was no more. She is very pale and very thin too, but mark her sweet eyes Abraham; look at her fine ringlets, her pretty teeth and charming brows, and then say if she wont be pretty; already her skin looks clearer; nay, my Lady Tillotson says, she will be a beauty.”
To oppose what Lady Tillotson said, and Mary thought, was inimical to Mr. Dawson’s wish to oblige, and he quietly withdrew his objections to Almeria’s personal acquirements; although several years passed by, before her improvement in that particular, did any credit to Mary’s prognostications. Her complexion still retained much of its sallow hue, but she grew tall. A certain air of dignity, gave force to what she said, and graced the most puerile action. She was docile to her instructors, but there was a hauteur about her, of which no document could divest her, when familiarly addressed by the vulgar, or proudly neglected by her superiors. To the humble supplicant, her manners were sweet, her expression soft as dove-eyed pity could make them; but she was still in principle, in person, in disposition the great D’Aveiro’s heir.
Her story had been told at Wallbrook Tower, with all its interesting particulars. Sir Henry had read the dreadful fate of her relatives, with a concern, which was encreased by circumstances, himself only could explain. Often would this little girl’s features, create an overwhelming melancholy in his manner towards her, but he shewed no other marks of attachment, and Almeria, who saw the effect her appearance produced, soon became averse to seeing him at all.
To Lady Tillotson, her grateful heart became naturally devoted, and when of an age to understand the value of such society, she was permitted to pass whole days in her presence; where she acquired such habits and such a polish as, added to the curate’s continual instructions, made her a most estimable character.
The small parcel which Derrick had preserved, was examined by her Ladyship, with a maternal attention. A rich silk dress, superbly ornamented with trimmings and fringes of gold, while it marked a heavy taste in the middle of the last century, upon the Continent, denoted also the magnificence of those who had provided such splendid adornments, but that was all; there was no clue to the hint given that she was D’Aveiro’s heir, excepting the arms of that family worked into the gold net that confined her pretty ringlets; a title, which if she undoubtedly possessed, could only be productive of shame and sorrow; for the noble Duke had suffered a most painful death, in consequence of firing (as they chose to assert) the very ball which entered king Joseph’s coach.
Wretched old man, how terrible was thy fate? What availed thy professions of innocence—thy natural dignity—thy venerable figure? When callous to every sentiment of humanity, thy unpitying executioner mangled the trembling frame, and in despite of shrieks, groans, and tears, which awakened in the numerous populace, a lively sense of such acute sufferings, thy right hand was first cut off, thy shivering body placed upon a wheel, and every limb leisurely broken by the torturing iron.* Was this a fate to be communicated to a helpless child, as that of her parent?—Were tortures such as those, to be dwelt upon as endured by the being, whom both duty and affection pointed out as entitled to tender commisseration?—Certainly not. Happy therefore, in her ignorance of events, a knowledge of which, whether attached to her by consanguinity, or only the feelings of humanity, must have roused her keenest feelings.
Almeria passed twelve years of her existence, without experiencing any particular uneasiness than what arose from a visible declension in Mrs. Dawson’s health. Her husband’s manly, but ill concealed distress upon that head, and the long silence of her thoughtless (yet otherways) friendly protector; for Derrick had as usual, been extremely remiss in his correspondence. However, as these were matters which no exertion of her’s could alter, she satisfied her own sense of the moral duties, by paying the strictest attention to Mary’s dangerous situation, and stealing by every laudable endeavour, the mind of Abraham, from his painful contemplation of expected evils.
While thus affectionately employed, she scarcely heeded the departure of Lady Tillotson, who with the Baronet, had been absent upon a three years tour; in the course of which time, they had made a long visit to Spain and Portugal; places which are generally omitted in the fashionable tourists list; and by the period of their return, Almeria had completed her sixteenth year, and Mary concluded the last of her mortal pilgrimage.
Engaged in the sweetest offices of pious consolation, our young heroine felt no vacuum in her heart, no torpor of action, nor regret at losing the various humble amusements of the few chosen companions her good pastor had recommended to her attention. To him alone, she dedicated the hours formerly devoted to youthful hilarity; nor was Abraham ungrateful for a notice so soothing to his desolate state. Every attempt to cheer his spirits, was received with a faint smile of tender melancholy; and not seldom would a tear mark his love of a creature, supposed to be so nobly descended, and so unfortunately deserted by her natural friends; for he could not imagine the knowledge of her existence could implicate the safety of those relatives, or her own life.
Almeria, who beheld with soft pity, the tear she wrongly attributed to hopeless recollections, made no scruple to wipe it away, and kiss the moistened cheek that was somewhat wrinkled by premature age, and stationary grief; and in the execution of this pious office, she was one evening so deeply engaged, as not to heed the entrance of Lady Tillotson, whose return was daily expected, and who, accompanied by a fine young foreigner, was silently contemplating a scene, so honourable to the subjects of it; but Abraham, whose face was so situated as to catch the first glance of his visitors, suddenly exclaimed, “Almeria, my child, see you not who is present?”
Totally abashed at a surprise so unexpected, the amiable girl started from her seat, and bent with a grace which D’Aveiro’s self might have acknowledged, while Lady Tillotson turned a look upon the gentleman, expressive of her sentiments of this lovely young woman; and then advancing, she affectionately embraced her; declaring sportively, that if three years had deprived her of so many charms as they had added to Almeria’s person, she could never appear again as a competitor, even among her own contemporaries.
The blush which such an encomium had raised, soon subsided, and Almeria again resumed her natural complexion, but it had lost its sallow hue; clear, yet not fair; it was really pleasing, and animated with eyes of the deepest black and most piercing lustre; the want of high colour was hardly perceptable. Her form was majestic, her countenance impressively fascinating. The excessive fragility of her earlier years, no longer conveyed indications of precarious health. Her person was now formed into elegance, whilst she preserved in her manners, much of that deportment, which marks a Portuguese extraction.
To a remark uttered by her companion in a tone of admiration, Lady Tillotson returned a few words unintelligible to all but themselves; and then adverting to Mrs. Dawson’s irreparable loss, she apologized for that cheerfulness, which a first view of his darling girl’s improvements had excited.
Abraham bowed, and shunning a conversation he could not join in, spoke only of the pleasure Almeria would derive from the arrival of her estimable benefactress.—Lady Tillotson’s countenance fell at this observation; she sighed deeply, and to their utter surprise, soon after quitted the cottage, without giving her young sothades the smallest hint that her company would be desirable at Wallbrook Tower, though she promised to call again on the following morning.
To Almeria’s innocent reflections upon a conduct so extraordinary, Abraham offered no elucidation. He was grave, silent, and abstracted, till thoroughly awakened by her repeated hints. He bid her be patient. “There is a motive, my child, but it rests with Sir Henry. I have suspicions, yet hardly know upon what to fix them.”
“This young man too, was formerly * * * but pardon me love, I have no right over Sir Henry’s secrets.” “Sir Henry,” exclaimed she, in a tone impatient and indignant, “is no friend of your poor orphan. Perhaps, because she is poor.” “Almeria,” said her venerated adviser, his accent reproving, his features grave, “recollect yourself. Sir Henry Tillotson is my friend and yours.” “Mine, dear sir, in what instance?” “What proof has he given of his kindness—in what way am I indebted to him—and what do I owe him for?” “For your support, and those parts of your education, Almeria Southades, which came not within my powers.” “I thought,” cried the trembling girl, “that to you alone, since Captain Derrick left England, I was obliged for a maintenance.” Here she burst into a passionate fit of grief, which effectually conquered Mr. Dawson’s temporary displeasure, and while he pressed her to his paternal bosom, informed her, “that in consequence of his Mary’s long illness, and certain inconveniences prior to that, he had drawn even the necessaries of life, from Sir Henry’s bounty; who charged him to omit no opportunity of rendering his young ward every service her uncommon talents and situation demanded. “And have I then,” asked she, lifting up her head while a fresh agony of tears denoted the bitterest accusation of fancied ingratitude, “Have I dared to censure a being so benevolent? O my father, can you forgive such a blind, such detestable, arrogance?” “Yes, for you are Meryc’s softest pleader.” “But can I forgive myself?” “Cease, dear self accuser, these reproaches, which indeed, are but the usual consequence of passions, somewhat too irritable, and remember, that she who draws conclusions from empty or fallacious opinions, will often be forced to retract, covered with the ingenuous shame you display, and now let me offer my sentiments upon this intricate business.
“Should Lady Tillotson again renew her invitation to Wallbrook Tower, accept it, for she is competent to the task of discriminating particular circumstances. To Sir Henry, I charge you, behave as to an individual whom merit and fortune (birth perhaps, is out of the question) have placed in a superior light; but upon no account, let aught of what I have told you, pass your lips; and now sweetest comforter, resume the pleasing occupation of * * * need I say what?” “No, my beloved, my best of friends. I know the nature of request—you have pardoned me. I will try now to forget my folly, and will read, sing or talk, as you may think either of those means will suit your present feelings.”—“Read then, and compose by your subject those feelings which * * * but read, and all may be well again.”
Delighted to find she had recovered the power to administer a degree of consolation to her friend, Almeria chose those passages from the inimitable Paradise Lost, which she thought best calculated to give that repose, a wounded mind required; yet although interested herself by the solemn theme, it could not wholly steal from her mind, the scene she had so recently been engaged in.—Lady Tillotson, Sir Henry, even the elegant foreigner, whose sallow complexion, and eyes equally brilliant with her own, had not been wholly unnoticed, obtained some place in her imagination; but to the former object of a transient meditation, he bore no comparison, and when she closed her book, Sir Henry’s beneficence, and his Lady’s recent omission of the common forms of politeness, engrossed every idea * * * while Abraham was counselling her to wait with patience, the effect of his cautions. This she fervently promised to do; and although nothing transpired of an explanatory nature in Lady Tillotson’s second call at the little parsonage, to bring those cautions forward, the good girl betrayed no awkward surprise, expressed no improper reserve, but exhibited the same respectful freedom, the same innocent propriety of manners, which had ever rendered her society so pleasing to her elegant friend.
Abraham beheld his darling with eyes expressive of love and admiration, mentally exclaiming, “Can such a creature, so unaffectedly graceful, so charmingly distinguished by an exertion of every female talent, be of low descent?—Impossible! No doubt then can arise from a quarter, which the fastidious Sir Henry, if any suspicions be true, seems to guard with a watchful care.”
This apostrophe was interrupted by her Ladyship’s repeated adieus; who, as she passed the threshold prevented, with a good humoured violence, Almeria’s attempts to accompany her part of the way home; telling her, that she expected Signor Lima, to meet her, if he could surmount the laziness, peculiar to his country and climate.
This hint was sufficient; the poor girl retreated, a deep blush overspread her cheek, which Mr. Dawson, whose infirmities prevented his offering the same compliment, beheld a similar emotion upon his respected visitants features, who guessing what passed in her candid mind, lamented the impossibility of resolving points, unknown in their source, even to himself; that the young foreigner whom Lady Tillotson announced, as a Signor Frederico De Lima, was connected in some mysterious degree, to Sir Henry, our curate well knew; for he had seen him formerly at Amesbury, and heard him mentioned in his way, which led Abraham to suspect a very strong degree of affinity between them, as Sir Henry had passed several years in Lisbon, prior to this young man’s birth; under this persuasion, he was ready to attribute the pointed neglect of his beloved child to the Baronet; who, dreading the influence of youth, beauty, and a common predelection in favor of country upon his foreign friend, might have interdicted Almeria’s visits during De Lima’s abode at Wallbrook Tower, but if such had been Sir Henry’s motive, there was little reason to suppose it had been trusted to his Lady’s confidence; since, in that instance, she would not have introduced a relative to her husband,—to one against whom he seemed to have taken an unaccountable prejudice. At all events, Abraham thought himself equally justified in doing away Almeria’s suspicions of neglect.
FOR several weeks succeeding Sir Henry’s return to England, his sentiments respecting our heroine appeared to have undergone no alteration: true—he visited the curate, and persevered in his benevolence to that worthy man; but when politeness obliged him to notice Almeria, the same impenetrable gloom pervaded his manner, and she could almost have fancied herself an object of his hatred, had not the implicit veneration she had for Mr. Dawson’s superior knowledge of mankind, stepped in to reconcile the seeming contradiction.
Lady Tillotson also made them occasional visits, but always accompanied by Signor De Lima, who was not the least interested amongst them in the fate of his lovely countrywoman. Impetuous, and unused of late years to controul, and by no means devoid of attention to whatever carried an appearance of mystery; attached too, with all the enthusiastic energy of his nation, to the young and lovely of the female sex, who are in general the objects of an homage almost amounting to adoration, the well informed Portuguese Frederico could not behold such native dignity, such unaffected sweetness, without an eager desire to cultivate a respectful intimacy with the charming cottager. Nor was the pale and tender melancholy of her foster parent’s features without its interest; his evident languor and almost helpless situation, were finely supported by manners the most touchingly simple; and De Lima with all the romance of a character calculated to shine in the annals of chivalry, saw in these singular people, subjects of esteem, respect, and love. It had never occurred to this foreigner that Almeria, whose talents, figure, and acquirements, had been the topic of Lady Tillotson’s conversations, after their first visit to the curate, could be deemed an improper visitor at Wallbrook Tower; but when he, with all the ardour of an inflamed imagination, added the most liberal tribute to the those encomiums, and declared his intention of passing many hours at the minister’s cottage, a cloud rose upon his noble companion’s countenance, which acted like electricity upon his vulnerable heart, and effectually disturbed his too sanguine hope.
De Lima chose not to give her frigid reception of his unbounded praise an unfavorable turn: Almeria Sothades, although of doubtful birth, (for so it had been hinted) obscure origin, and confessedly dependent upon those friends her desolate circumstances had procured, was still an object of his fondest attachment; and Frederico soon established a sort of compromise between his reason and his passions, in which the former, too impotent for resistance, strove to give this preference a plausible colour, and to obtain an interest in the affections of his lovely Portuguese was (to speak in modern terms) “the order of the day.”
Determining therefore to lose no opportunity of identifying his ardent claim, our impetuous foreigner scarcely suffered a day to pass, in which he strove not to indulge himself in that society so precious to his heart. Opportunities, indeed, did not occur quite so often as he could wish, as Abraham’s increasing infirmities rendered Almeria’s attentions more unremitting than before; but when he could see her, they were without witnesses, and Almeria scarcely knew how to put a chilling negative upon hopes and wishes which appeared to have her security and future happiness for their principal subject.
Of that world which opens such fairy scenes of bliss and love to the young unpractised heart, she had hitherto been totally ignorant. Of Abraham and Mary she had learned; from the latter, habits of cleanliness and good housewifery; from the former, latin, arithmetic, geography, and writing; and to Lady Tillotson, she was indebted for the polish of education and manners: but neither from those or her innocent companions had she caught the spirit of coquetry or intrigue.—To Almeria such follies were unknown; consequently, the virtues she daily contemplated, (if we except the mystery of Sir Henry’s behaviour, which from her inability to discover its source, soon faded on her mind;) was that of sincerity and guileless affection; and as De Lima’s professions carried in the implication the finest effects of truth and love, his adored Sothades found no difficulty in giving them credit, nor once thought of questioning the reality of those ardent protestations. But if this amiable simplicity strengthened De Lima’s interest in one instance, it greatly impeded its success in another; and Abraham, through his sweet attendant’s artlesness, soon became master of her thoughts, her wishes, and her opinions upon that head.
That this was an arrangement totally inimical to the intention of his noble benefactor, our good curate was well assured; he saw what an ascendancy Frederico had already obtained over his dear child, and trembled to imagine the consequence.—To tax the enamoured Portuguese with a dishonorable proceeding, was to awaken passions that might overwhelm them all with destruction: and feeble, from bodily pain and useless grief, he dreaded to encounter a violence which was a natural characteristic. However, confiding in Lady Tillotson’s discretion, he ventured to consult her upon the painful business. The communication was received with unpropitious silence: and Abraham soon defined its cause; for her countenance exhibited such signs of horror, as precluded instant speech.—At length “This must not reach my husband’s ears,” cried the astonished Lady; “The cause I know not; but when our child’s name has occasionally passed De Lima’s lips, I have noticed in Sir Henry such marks of indignation, and * * * But merciful heaven, what do I hear?” “Most assuredly Sir Henry’s voice,” said the agitated curate, “and raised to an unusual pitch of violence;” a few incoherent sentences followed, and immediately the Baronet, foaming with passion, entered the inner apartment where his Lady waited with motionless expectation, of some dreadful solution of her fears. In De Lima’s countenance, who appeared at the same instant, was an alarming expression of rage; and Abraham could have fancied the poignard of a disappointed Portuguese ready to avenge its owner’s wrongs. But his attention was soon turned towards Sir Henry, who, grasping his arm with no very conciliatory meaning, haughtily charged him with encouraging the heir of a noble house, in an act of the most glaring disobedience,—nay, of horrid tendency.
The evil our unhappy invalid had deprecated, now approached from a quarter against which he had not guarded; and in Sir Henry’s indignant address, he felt that a tacit, though undeserved reproach was conveyed. Conscious therefore of his own innocence as well as the motive for this address, he meekly, though firmly disclaimed every title to Sir Henry’s anger; “For I am aware of your suspicions,” added he, “and also of their cause; and frankly confess myself acquainted with that gentleman’s attachment to my child, but—” and his voice assumed a fuller and still firmer tone, while he threw a look upon De Lima, not exactly corresponding with the boldness of his expression,—“It has never had my sanction. Almeria, poor and unprotected as she may be, is a stranger to dissimulation; from her I learned the Signor’s intentions; and to this Lady I have just now communicated them.—Look up, then, sweetest Sothades,” raising the poor girl to his bosom as she sat leaning her face upon his shoulder, behind the couch, which station she had just taken upon her entrance from a room beyond her feeble friends, at the moment Abraham began his defence,—“look up my dearest, no blame is attributable to thee; thy guileless heart suspects no deceit, harbours no ungenerous sentiments?”
De Lima, who felt sensations he could neither repress nor controul, stepped forward,—caught her trembling hand, and approaching his angry judge, bid him “Look well upon the object of a choice which every meeting, seldom as they occurred, so fully justified. If, in the establishment you seek for De Lima, beauty, dignity, and innate excellence can atone for supposed obscurity of birth and great wealth, where can the eye rest upon, the mind imagine, the heart delight in perfections more unrivalled than these? I know the weight attached to hereditary honors; I am sensible how much they obtain with our nation, as well as with the still haughtier Spaniards;—but in England, the soul of liberality, the patron of genius, the support of the unprotected, those distinctions lose their influence.—Give me then,—nay, I demand your consent to a union which” * * “Never shall be realised;” protested the enraged Sir Henry, “away rash fool, nor dare to provoke me further,—quit this syren,—leave her to * * but what would I say!—Selfish Lima, thus to involve a creature whose merits compel my love, while they increase my regrets.—But leave her, I repeat!—force me not to curse the hour which * * * Lima,—my brain is on fire;—love, pity, horror, indignation, threaten to destroy my reason, and I could curse” * * * “Not her my guardian: not my Sothades: me: this good man:—the world? But spare,” cried the furious youth, “spare this weeping innocence?”
“If you have pity,” said Lady Tillotson, who could no longer bear a scene so trying, “extend it now:—to us all: and you, De Lima be not so selfish! view that shattered frame; so unable to endure the storms of various passions? (For Abraham had sunk upon his couch exhausted and miserable.) “Behold the object of your ungovernable admiration! detain her not in a situation so painful to her feelings! Let us retire, and discuss this ungrateful subject without these innocent witnesses of a violence so disgraceful?” The tone, the manner, the countenance of that respectable pleader had their full effect;—Sir Henry silently pressed the hand she offered; while De Lima, (whose generosity, independent of those passion to which however it certainly contributed, now urged a sense of such turbulent impropriety) after joining with his friends in a tolerable kind adieu to Abraham, eagerly kissed the hand of his adored, and quitted the cottage with a lingering look and reluctant step;—leaving to those objects the full consciousness of a rectitude, which this abrupt attack had rather confirmed than shaken.
After a few minutes passed by Almeria and her beloved friend in recovering the composure necessary to calm discrimination, she explained to him the circumstance which so completely excited Sir Henry’s wrath, by confessing that “De Lima had accompanied Lady Tillotson in her walk, through a hope of procuring her society for a few minutes; in consequence she was prevailed to join him in a lane which led towards the plain, but a sudden shower had driven them back, and they were encountered by Sir Henry at the moment they reached the cottage; declaring that she eagerly sought to shun any farther view of one she dreaded, and sought shelter in her own room, till some unknown motive impelled her to them.” A faint blush of vexation fled across Abraham’s cheeks at this explanation; even a dread that this discovery would implicate his honoured patroness, and disturb her domestic tranquillity, but he spoke not; and Almeria proceeded to state her terror, when she encountered the contracted brow, and hear him accuse De Lima of duplicity, ingratitude, and a baseness of conduct which would bring the most awful destruction upon them both. “But what destruction,” asked the frank hearted girl, “could be the consequence of such an union? and what could be the horrid tendency he hinted at?”
This artless question, renewed in Dawson’s bosom, his former suspicions; but as they were only suspicions, and he could not trust them to his child, whose singular simplicity might render a more perfect elucidation necessary, than prudence chose to give; waving therefore a satisfactory reply, he continued to insinuate a delicate hint respecting any future correspondence with De Lima, and slightly touched upon Sir Henry’s evident reluctance; nay, if his child would pardon a term so strange, he would venture to say abhorrence of such an establishment. Almeria started at the dreadful phrase! from Sir Henry such an epithet appeared to be the effect of ungoverned passion; but from her friend!—her adopted father!—what could it import? Pride suggested even the refusal of a hand offered under such humiliating circumstances, to which the obligation she should confer upon her superiors, added to a latent motive for it, brought before her the approving smile of Lady Tillotson, the softened features of her husband, the tender sweetness of Mr. Dawson’s acceptance of this renunciation; and she was upon the point of making it, when a sentiment composed of respect for the lover who so nobly persisted in an honourable attachment; of pity for his sufferings, and a little consideration for herself, put a partial negative upon the fiat she was about to pronounce, and she affected not to notice the strength of the expression; but fervently protested she would be wholly governed by Lady Tillotson and her venerable protector, in every point respecting De Lima’s pretensions.
Abraham, though simply good and conceiving the highest opinion of his child’s rectitude, saw a limitation in this promise not quite according to that opinion, for it excluded Sir Henry from the distinction to which he was so well entitled by his benevolence and situation: but totally exhausted by the exertion of faculties that were daily losing strength, he endeavored to content himself with a hope, that she would still preserve a friend in Lady Tillotson when he was no more; whose influence might keep her to the solemn engagement she had just ratified.
Upon Sir Henry’s return to Wallbrook Tower, the subject so interesting to De Lima, was renewed with an impetuosity that set all rational argument at defiance. “You hint,” said the rash foreigner, “at consequences which I can neither understand or admit, supposing I could develope them. If they be such as reason, the objection arising from a doubtful origin, or pecuniary motives, may urge you to bring forward, why not explain them? If they be obnoxious to delicacy, or productive of danger to either party, why not remove the veil your caution interposes? You possibly are jealous of my honour—the dignity of De Lima’s house, which in my person has been entrusted to your care? but of what avail is dignity or wealth, if its possessor be deprived of the sweetest blessings they can bestow? Better I was still the muleteer’s slave, than Sir Henry Tillotson’s Ward, if subject to such painful, such despotic restrictions.—Speak madam; exert your irresistible powers; speak for that lovely creature; plead for your Frederico; but no!—the Baronet’s will must not be opposed; and even his Lady would plead in vain.”—“She would indeed, presumptuous Sir, if inclined to favour a suit so disagreeable to her husband: but recollect yourself De Lima: and while you prefer Diego’s protection to mine, forget not, that to me is owing your present claims to wealth and grandeur.—Lost for so many years to the family whose consequence you slight; bred up to a supposition that you was inferior to the muleteer you served; indebted for the improvements which do not disgrace an heir of Count De Lima, who accompanied by me, rescued you from a situation so obscure;—how is it, that no sense of gratitude opposes such headstrong passions? Trifling in the estimation of a sober judgement is the sacrifice required merely to give up a pursuit which, if persisted in, must, I repeat, involve us all in tenfold destruction.”
“Yes,” retorted the inflamed Signor, “I am not insensible of my obligations to Sir Henry Tillotson.—He discovered in the little muleteer, a nephew of the Count De Lima; he restored that unfortunate child to his right; he, after rearing and educating me at Wallbrook Tower, sailed back with me to Lisbon; and he, upon that nobleman’s decease, again returned me to a spot where, with his permission, I might enjoy extatic happiness. But I have done. This opposition cancels every obligation; and wretchedness, without Almeria, must be my portion.” Unable to contend against fury so ungovernable and unjust, the venerable gentleman quitted the scene of altercation; leaving to his Lady the task of ameliorating, if possible, the fiery passions of this rash Portuguese.
It was a task which she dreaded to attempt, and almost equally despaired of performing; but won by her gentleness, and softened by the compassion she expressed for his misfortune, Signor De Lima gradually listened to her tender judicious representations, and even admitted a possibility of being wrong in such an obstinate perseverance. Yet still persisted in his determination to wed his beloved Sothades, unless Sir Henry would come forward and substantiate those objections, which carried on their face more of the petulance of disappointed pride, than the real weight he attempted to give them. To this statement her Ladyship gave no reply. She had often regretted her husband’s strange conduct towards that innocent girl, and more than once ventured to expostulate upon the subject, but was always silenced in a way that while it increased a painful curiosity, proved the fruitlesness of those endeavours, and she had long ceased to renew them, firmly believing his dislike arose from a cause she should live to see investigated. But to his fondness for De Lima, she could give an easy solution, for he was endeared to Sir Henry in various lights; whose chance it was to travel from Gibraltar about ten years before, to take upon him the office of English Consul at Seville, and was directed by several muleteers, one of which, although scarcely big enough to stride the animal on which he rode, was yet so sharp and witty in his observations, that the discriminating Baronet felt reluctant to separate from a child that promised to credit his benevolence in whatever way it was exerted; and when he arrived at Seville, that regret was increased to a degree which rendered a separation extremely irksome. Diego, the chief muleteer, was mercenary;—Sir Henry, liberal;—and Frederico soon became that gentleman’s property, who looked upon himself as engaged to reside in Spain; but a war breaking out, he soon returned to England, bringing the little stranger in his suite.
For seven years the young Portuguese enjoyed every advantage an English education could bestow; but as he had received those advantages at a public school, neither his person or situation was at all known to Almeria, previous to his last arrival at Wallbrook Tower. She recollected indeed an extraordinary bustle at that place, occasioned by a visit from a foreign nobleman; but, as upon those occasions neither the curate, Mary, or her darling were permitted (for so Abraham would have it) to be present, the consequences of that visit were unknown to her.
This nobleman was the Count De Lima, a native of Lisbon, and one who had enjoyed Sir Henry’s friendship and confidence: he had heard much of the little muleteer; and to see a child by whose history he was indefinably interested, was his first motive for accepting an invitation the Baronet had often repeated.
Frederico had just completed his fourteenth year. His aspect sweet, but commanding; his complexion dark; his features tolerable; his person tall and thin. To the Count’s eager enquiries respecting what he knew of himself prior to Sir Henry’s adoption, he replied with a deep blush, that he had every reason to suppose himself the offspring of a beggar of Andalusia, who, when he was a mere child, had left him upon a steep narrow road which wound along the side of a mountain, in the pass from Gibraltar to Seville.—Here he was found by Diego, at the very moment when one of the mules was about to turn him aside with his nose, when he must have gone over the precipice. Diego, who had seen the beggar deposit something, and then rush down the hill, attempted to overtake him, but in vain; and moved by the infant’s cries, he flung him into a pannier and conveyed him to a house near the old aqueduct; where from residing pretty much with the mules, he in a very few years was enabled to lead or drive them. He added, that Diego often threatened to send him to the hospital for deserted children; but although niggardly and severe, he ought not to complain of one whose care of him had eventually procured him that more than parent’s protection and assistance. Here he bowed, and kissed the hand of his excellent benefactor. While he was thus ingenuously owning the obscurity of his infancy, Count De Lima surveyed him with an air keen penetrating and melancholy: and then turning aside, softly articulated “How like my Alzira.—But say, (in a hurried tone) do you recollect any particular garment or mark about you at the time Diego saved your life?” “None my Lord.” “We will go to this Diego, Sir Henry, I feel miserable till Frederico’s rights are ascertained.”—“I will accompany you, Count,” said the almost equally interested Baronet, “I see your agitation,—I guess your suspicions!” De Lima sighed, turned aside, and wept. And the youth, who comprehended nothing of those suspicions, felt delighted at the idea of a voyage to Seville, an interview with Diego, and an exhibition of his person, his improvements and advantages to those who once thought him so much their inferior.
After a pleasant sail of three weeks, his eye was gratified by a distant view of St. Lucar, at which port they soon after disembarked, and proceeded towards Seville; when young Frederico began to experience those emotions so natural to one in his situation. The prospect of its environs, its stately spires and several ancient mementos of Moorish grandeur were familiar to his eager eye; and when upon their nearer approach he caught a faint view of that celebrated piece of antiquity, the noble aqueduct, his heart beat high with the hope of meeting Diego Varni, whose severities in early youth could not obliterate the benefits this morose muleteer had actually procured to him. The Count who was little less agitated than his protégée, asked if he recollected Diego’s place of abode,—“I do,” cried the impatient stripling,—and impetuously spurring his strong but sluggish mule—“Yonder to the right of the bridge, it leans against that side of the arch: follow me my lord, we shall reach it in a few minutes.” Sir Henry smiled at the ardent boy, and readily, with his friend, obeyed his request; when Frederico (who beheld Diego at the door of his cottage busily preparing to set out upon his usual route with baggage for Madrid) abruptly exclaimed, “I see him,—the very man you want!” Astonished at the appearance of several strangers evidently making up to him, Diego Varni relinquished his employment of loading the mules, to gaze at them; when the foremost of the troop darted from his animal, and hastily addressing Varni by name, made him acquainted in a few words with the quality of his visitors.
From the muleteer’s appearance and occupation, Count De Lima drew no sanguine hopes of success; since from all he had heard, this man even in his kindest efforts towards the boy’s preservation, had been actuated as much by curiosity and avarice as humanity; for instigated by a sordid hope of the wretched infant’s being claimed he had given it a chance for its life with all the mules, pigs, and boriques, till discouraged in his continual enquiries after the beggar, he strove to exonerate himself of the burthen so rashly undertaken, by forcing the unhappy child upon the performance of such dirty little offices, as he conceived were properly adapted to the offspring of poverty. All then that could now be done was to enquire if the pauper had ever been discovered by Diego; and if he had, whether that discovery tended to throw a light upon Frederico’s birth. This question, which was put with an interested eagerness, produced an alarming expression upon Varni’s countenance; and he ventured to own that two years prior to this enquiry, he had overtaken the identical beggar in his road to Madrid, who candidly confessed he found that child among the rubbish of some stately house near the Terrieres de Passe at Lisbon, on the morning succeeding that tremendous earthquake which so nearly destroyed every building of consequence.—“The Terrieres de Passe,” repeated De Lima, in wild and tremulous accents, “Are you sure they were his words?” “I am, my lord; and more than that, he said the child who seemed almost expiring, had several jewels fastened about him, one of which certainly belonged to some great family, for it was impressed with the arms of Portugal; he also had a small badge tied about his neck representing a red cross within a white one—”“The order of Christ,” interrupted the Count. “So old Alberto said, my lord; for not being able to find out Frederico’s relations, he was forced to sell all those fine things to support him; and the jeweller explained both the seal and the cross, telling Alberto he also would make enquiries about the right owner of them,—moreover, he would keep them till there was no possible chance of their being claimed.” “And this jeweller,—know you not where he may be found?” “At Madrid; but he did not tell me exactly where, though I think he mentioned his having a country seat near Casa del Campo, and his name is Ildefenso.”—“I recollect him well, Sir Henry,” cried the delighted Count, who now gave way to the most lively hopes,—“Yes, yes, we shall certainly find him; I will depart this very evening; the nights are serene and lovely; I cannot rest till this matter is investigated.” “But the distance, my Lord, is two hundred miles!” “Diego, I know it—no matter.—I will leave Sir Henry and this youth at Seville, and travel post.” Sir Henry disliked this arrangement, but his strength was unequal to any farther exertion; and Frederico (healthy, vigorous, and ardent in the cause) dare not advance an objection to the Count’s plan; in consequence of which, he, after administering to Varni’s prevailing quality—avarice, accompanied his friends to a large hotel near the cathedral, where he quitted them on the following morning, and entered upon a journey which he fondly expected would terminate every anxious doubt respecting a youth whom he so much desired to recognise as a dear relative.
During an absence of several weeks, his friends experienced a degree of anxiety for his safety which rendered that period extremely irksome; nor could the few amusements Seville afforded, hold out any temptation equal to that of wandering about its environs, or rambling in a wood of olives, whose shady walks attracted all who had a taste for simple grandeur; but at the expiration of the third week, even this pleasure lost it charms. Sir Henry dreaded the effect of De Lima’s enquiries; for if his suspicions respecting the lad were realised, there was a mystery in his fate that might produce awful consequences, and perhaps what that nobleman most hoped, ought to be most feared.
While thus contemplating an event so important, Sir Henry saw, by the light of a brilliant moon which threw its beams over a large extent of plain, that facing the window of his chamber, overlooked from the back of his residence, the olive wood and plains beyond, a chaise driving furiously along the road; it stopped, as he could hear, near the gate of the hotel, and before he could descend to the drawing room, he saw Count De Lima enter with a hurried and impatient air. Sir Henry immediately followed, and beheld him embracing the young Frederico with an almost frantic wildness; exclaiming, “My child, dearest relic of one most precious to remembrance!—only male survivor of that invaluable creature whose loss has shaded every succeeding hour with sorrow. Here, Sir Henry,” he cried, and holding out a hand of the weeping boy, invited his reception of it,—“here is a treasure which I owe to you; but for you he had been neglected, suffered to live in ignorance, poverty, and unfeeling contempt. The heir of De Lima’s vast possessions would have disgraced his origin; now”—and he passionately caught him to his bosom,—“now, you may glory in the work of pure benevolence, and I can present Alzira’s offspring to her proud race with exulting joy. And yet” here his voice and countenance fell, “that mystery which clouds my brightest prospect for him must still remain; he shall enjoy my favour, my protection, but, alas! I had forgotten!—nor must Alzira’s race as yet acknowledge De Lima’s heir. With you, Sir Henry, that motive rests which urges me to secrecy; in England he might receive the honours due to his descent; but in Portugal, never: at least while Joseph lives. But joy, extatic joy, deprives me both of prudence and politeness; forgive your friend, dear Tillotson, for this egotism, and O forgive him for declaring he cannot at present part with Alzira’s son.” “Forgive you Count! I do most heartily; Frederico is yours; I love the youth too well to lament the cause which will detain him from me, and sincerely respect the motives that give him such an interest in your bosom.”
Delighted with a prospect of those advantages a young ambitious heart must contemplate with rapture, the happy boy, while he gratefully returned the caresses of his uncle, for such he announced himself, forgot not to offer with the most winning affection, his dutiful acknowledgements to Sir Henry; who, after a suitable expression of tenderness, adverted to his friend’s embassy to the jeweller. “I found him” said the Count, “after waiting near a fortnight, owing to his absence upon business, at Madrid, which the celebrity of his name rendered no difficult matter. The cross and seal were then in his possession; but on hearing my story, he easily admitted the claim I made, allowed of my right, but possitively refused even to accept the money he had advanced to Alberto the beggar; but my objection to this generous rejection overbalanced Ildefonso’s, and we parted well satisfied with each other.”
The rest of an evening so interesting to our friends, was employed, after Frederico retired, on the part of De Lima, in a fuller explanation than he had before given to Sir Henry of that youth’s origin and peculiar situation, the melancholy fate of Alzira, and his motives for taking the title of uncle to Frederico. Sir Henry shook with horror at several parts of this relation; and agreed to the necessity of an absolute concealment of the whole, till a certain alteration in the Portuguese government should take place, and render a public disclosure no longer formidable. He then consented to accompany them to Lisbon, where he soon after left them with the most tender impression of his goodness and that disinterestedness which rendered every pecuniary acknowledgment for the improvement bestowed upon Frederico inadmissable.
For several years following these events, a constant correspondence was observed amongst these friends; when in consequence of Count De Lima’s decease, which his nephew stated in a melancholy epistle, had occurred during a mysterious expedition undertaken by that nobleman; and a request he had made prior to his death, that in case of such an event Sir Henry would again receive the young gentleman, the good man returned to Lisbon, where he resided for some time, and once more brought his favorite to Wallbrook Tower.
FROM this brief retrospect of Frederico’s obligations to Sir Henry, it should seem that gratitude was not the most striking feature in his character; or, that love, inconsiderate and impetuous, had clouded the sweet emanation. But if we consider his warm and somewhat rash propensity, the severe and unaccountable opposition this violent affection sustained, persisted in against reason itself, and which struck at his own dearest hopes, and the establishment of an innocent unoffending being, we shall be ready to make full allowance for those starts of passion that cast an implied censure upon De Lima’s generosity; nor wonder, that in defiance of all he had been told to dread, this ardent lover continued his persevering addresses even in the presence of Mr. Dawson, who could hardly resist a claim so just and honourable to his child, and so essential to her future welfare. Yet the denunciation of Sir Henry upon an union so contrary to his wishes; the reluctance of Lady Tillotson, who in her frequent visits took great care to remind them of the Baronet’s aversion; and his own dislike to clandestine engagements still obtained too forcibly with Abraham to allow of his suffrage; and without it, Almeria’s inflexibility was uniformly firm.—True, she beheld this dear friend making rapid advances to a better world.—Already she saw herself comparatively deserted, or left to the power of him alone to whom she was forbidden to look up for protection—Derrick, still absent; or if present, too inadequate to the task of advice; the doors of Wallbrook Tower forever shut against her; still amidst the torturing confusion occasioned by De Lima’s entreaties; her own keen reflections; her guardian’s silent yet strong enforcement of the precepts he had inculcated, (for in the mild yet speaking eye she read his sentiments) still she preserved that rectitude of principle, which directed her to withhold the compliance her difficult situation most powerfully enforced; and amidst scenes calculated to overcome a common fortitude, Almeria Sothades displayed the energies of an heroic soul. But in the unannounced arrival of Captain Derrick, who without the necessary preparation of a single line, abruptly presented himself at Amesbury, she found her difficulties increased; and was a painful witness to the various altercations which passed between her exhausted friend and that thoughtless, but worthy soul.
From De Lima, who was present at his abrupt introduction, he soon learned the obstinacy, as he politely termed it, of his favorite little girl; and heard with an indignation that gave force to some strange expressions, De Lima’s account of the curate’s refusal, and Almeria’s rejection of a suit to which he gave that importance it really merited. “I tell you what it is now, Abraham,” cried the literal Derrick, “she is a tight little vessel, just off the stocks, colours flying, and quite ready to hoist sail for the coast of matrimony;—sure now, and because your old crazy hulk is too much shattered to venture out of port, this lovely lass must lie to, to watch your motions, when a fine young gallant commander waits to convoy her to a snug harbour, where she may ride secure from storms and tempests for the rest of her life.” “My dear friend,” cried the blushing girl, “for pity do not”—“O! pity did you say,—and pray how much of that precious article have you bestowed upon this young gontlemin, who looks as if butter would not melt in his mouth, and all owing to brother’s cruelty, for sure!” “Patrick,” faintly articulated the feeble Dawson, “you take this matter in a wrong light; hear Almeria’s reasons for our conduct?”—“Not I faith, Abraham, I take it in no light at all, at all; or if I do, it’s a light as dark as pitch, now,—and how should I see it?” In the rough and blundering Derrick, De Lima who could discriminate with precision when uninfluenced by his darling passion, discovered a mine of treasure; for he saw in him, the curate’s successor to a trust that good man had so worthily discharged, and felt secure of a consent he had already found would be immediately bestowed. Waving, therefore, a too critical examination of Patrick’s right to this important office, he only sought to impress him with a sense of the advantages arising to Almeria in this marriage. In this he succeeded so completely as to overrule, through his Irish friend’s medium, several of Abraham’s serious objections; while Almeria, whose prudence would have dictated a possitive refusal, avoided entering into an argument in which she felt it impossible consistent with prudence (and the avowed preference of her heart) to cooperate with either party.
The arrival of Derrick with power to assist De Lima in his choice, soon reached Wallbrook Tower; nay, it was represented to Sir Henry that in consequence of his successes at sea, he meant to make his young favourite entirely independent. Alarmed beyond measure at this intelligence, he attempted to try his influence upon the obstinate Irishman, but with no better effect than the curate’s representations had produced. Derrick was too much enraged even to convey his meaning by metaphor; and roundly swore Sir Henry might do his worst and ould Abraham too for the matter of that; adding in his usual way, “The Baronet was worse than a shark,—a wolf,—even a devouring Lapland bear, to go for to try to separate a parted couple.”— Foiled in this endeavour, and properly appreciating the Captain’s generous motives for supporting De Lima’s suit, Sir Henry passed over his rude behaviour, and was somewhat consoled to find Abraham had withheld his suffrage; he tried the last resort; and to that good man confided what he thought sufficient reasons for defeating Frederico’s wishes; but, incapable of offering his sentiments either of opposition or submission, the speechless Dawson could only press his visitor’s hand, and cast an expressive look on Almeria, (who sat weeping bitterly at his bed’s head), as if recommending her in some sort of way to the Baronet, to whom this unexpected and solemn scene was extremely unpleasant, and he quitted the cottage under a just impression that the guileless curates’s last hour was approaching. In this opinion he was confirmed by Patrick, who not at all conceiving himself amenable to Sir Henry for his late conduct, addressed himself to that gentleman, as he joined him upon his leaving the house, perfectly in the stile of equality; observing, “That the ould hulk was very near foundering;—true, he had niver weathered a tough gale, but no odds for that, his timbers couldn’t bear much straining; and ever since poor Molly gave it in, he had been too crank to carry any sail; however, though he hadn’t seen much sarvice, he had kept off the smuggling crew, and always acted fair and above board.”—“To the very last I should hope,” interrupted the Baronet, referring to the subject of Derrick’s contention with him.—“To the last ould boy; aye, and longer too mayhap; he’ll have a snug birth I warrant,” cried the blubbering sailor, whose tears would mar his proceeding, when finding himself incapable of farther conversation, he hastily left Sir Henry to his unpleasant cogitations, and hastened back to the distressed Almeria.
To apply his usual restorative of native, yet blunt generosity, was quite beyond poor Patrick. The good, the paternal Abraham had breathed his last, and his tender nurse was in a keen paroxysm of grief when her friendly guardian re-entered.—“Hollo!” exclaimed the poor fellow, “what’s amiss now, my girl?” she pointed to the venerable corpse,—“Yes, yes, he’s gone sure enough now.” “He is dear sir; but see, he yet retains that peaceful smile?”—“Smile! that’s a good one; who ever saw a dead man laugh? but come don’t cry child, I’ll send for the Signor.”—“Not for the world, it may create a suspicion which”—“Suspicion! of what?” Derrick would have proceeded, but Almeria’s anguish, added to the awful sight, so far conquered his powers of consolation, that he could only sympathize with her in a way more congenial to her agonized feelings. That this unhappy young creature should resign herself a prey to excessive sorrow upon the deprivation of a dear, a tender, a rational friend, could be readily allowed for by all who knew her real circumstances. Left only to the guidance of her own inexperience, and the guardianship of one who knew still less of the delicate usages of life; deserted by the only respectable female of whose attention she could no longer boast, (since that lady had ventured to offer an argument in favour of the marriage and which had drawn upon her Sir Henry’s indignation;) uncertain whether she ought to accept a protection against which he had announced a most tremendous anathema; and dreading, should she decide in favour of De Lima, that he also might at some future period behold their union in a light no less unfavourable; can it be wondered at, if tortured by so many different sensations, she could do ought but weep the singularly cruel state to which she was reduced?
In Derrick’s estimation, all these evils would be totally done away by her acceptance of De Lima. And as soon as the good curate was interred, he took especial care to signify his opinion. Frederico had been absent for more than a week previous to the melancholy event; but what of that, he was only upon a visit at Westminster, and he could soon fetch him, if so be she did but know her own mind. The poor girl entreated his forbearance of a subject to which she dreaded to advert; but Derrick found a multitude of reasons for pressing his suit; the most prevailing of which was, his positive intention to quit England in less than a month, when she would be left totally unprotected. “And sure now,” added he, “If there isn’t the Signor himself!” turning about to De Lima, whose features and whole appearance bespoke the most ungovernable impatience. He had received a note from the Captain to enforce the necessity of his presence at Amesbury; and in defiance to Sir Henry’s positive commands, had secretly quitted Westminster accompanied by a clergyman, whose assistance he had solicited to procure a special license. Almeria was affected beyond description when he produced the important documents; nay, so reluctant was she to accede to this wild indelicate plan, as to meditate upon the propriety of acquainting Lady Tillotson with the whole; at any rate she insisted upon being left to herself that evening, nor would admit of an exception in favour of De Lima. It was with real difficulty he acceded to a request that carried on the face of it an appearance of indifference, at least, that of indetermination; but Almeria was resolved to act for herself in this instance; and after enduring a few strange remarks from Derrick, and a painful contention with her lover, she obtained her purpose, and wandered insensibly up the avenue leading to Wallbrook Tower.
The evening was not altogether such as gives a solitary walk peculiar charms; a cold wind announced the approach of winter; the want of a moon was insufficiently supplied by an aurora borealis, and the ground was crisped with frost: but these were no impediments to our fair mourner’s progress. Too deeply occupied by unpleasant reflections to heed trifles, she found herself in front of the Tower, and shrunk from the bare possibility of encountering its incomprehensible possessor; yet, conscious of no wilful offence, she was half inclined to trust her cause even with him, who doubtless would strengthen by every argument in his power, her modest reluctance to a step so precipitate. Without the supporting countenance of one prudent female, she felt the necessity of exerting that resolution and spirit, on which perhaps her temporal comforts entirely depended; yet dreaded the opposition she must encounter both from Derrick and De Lima, if her conclusion should not exactly coincide with theirs. Thus seriously involved in settling the claims of affection and prudence, she perceived not a tall figure slowly advancing from the house, till it came near enough to discover the person of Sir Henry Tillotson; to escape his notice was impossible; to account for her appearance in that spot seemed equally so; and dreading the interrogation she could not parry; Almeria stood as if undetermined whether to recognise him as a benevolent friend, or an unprovoked enemy.—Without reading her sentiments, the Baronet passed her arm through his, and courteously enquired her motives for venturing so far from the cottage alone, and consequently unprotected? at the same time declaring he would not leave her till she was in safety. Trembling, and confounded by an attention so unusual, the poor girl could not trust her voice with an answer, but attempted by a swift unequal pace to hasten her arrival at home. Another consideration too increased her anxiety; De Lima was returned unknown to Sir Henry, who had sent him from Amesbury, in the hope of lessening an attachment so obnoxious; and this De Lima, she thought, would probably be alarmed at her stay, and might be on the way to meet her; should, then, the Baronet discover the imposition, what could shield the terrified maid from his wrath? Under this dreadful impression, she felt her faculties nearly suspended;—her conductor was now alarmed in his turn; “You tremble,—you are faint child,” he cried, “we will stop at the lodge, Jemima will procure something that may relieve your spirits;” so saying, he led her to the door, which was immediately opened by the porter’s wife, whose business it was to attend the gates which led from the private road to the avenue.
Revived by the idea that Frederico would never seek her in that place, Almeria soon recovered recollection sufficient to thank Sir Henry for his kindness, and expressed her intention of sitting with Jemima, who would afterwards accompany her home. Upon this intention he put a decided negative; she should not leave him yet, she was not fit to walk; nay, he wanted to have a little conversation with her;—Almeria curtsied, but felt an increasing agitation at this hint, for the apprehension of De Lima’s or Derrick’s appearance there would produce some terrible consequence, made her excessively uneasy; yet she dare not refuse to stop. Seating herself therefore, for she had risen from her chair without exactly knowing her motive for it, she cast an eager look on Jemima, who directly quitted the room, in consequence of her master’s hint. “Be composed, my dear,” said he, “I see you are disturbed; this disorder is natural in one who possibly considers the man before her as an enemy to her plans of future greatness; but, however the addresses of my ward may have encouraged your hope of realising those plans, I can do Almeria Sothades the justice to believe, that she at least is not amenable for this fatal partiality; and she I am free to declare, if left to her own high sense of justice, would not withstand an opposition which has the peace, the honour, the happiness of both, for its existence; nay, shall I venture to affirm without offending your delicacy, that such an alliance would insure to Signor De Lima the contempt—a strong word, but you must forgive it, of those, yes, all those noble personages who wait only for an event in the politics of Portugal, to receive that misguided young man as the support of an illustrious family, declining in its male branches.—Mistake not my inducement for this representation, would to heaven I dare explain myself! but till the event I hinted at occurs, this cannot be; I pity your situation, and if authorized by your determined refusal of Frederico, will deprive it of all its bitterness. Desolate indeed it is in every instance but one,—if we accept this infatuated love, and that is an exception which gives you to the power and protection of a being whose interest in its highest zenith, can in no degree advance yours. I have often contemplated this application to you, as to a reasonable creature; for of De Lima’s coincidence to any plan which embraces not an union with Almeria Sothades, I have long despaired, and stimulated by Lady Tillotson’s admiration of your inflexible adherence to points of true delicacy, (the emphasis upon these words could not be mistaken) have placed this unhappy attachment in a light best calculated to convince;—Speak then, dear child, speak your sentiments without mental reservation; what have I to hope?” “Every thing, Sir Henry,” returned the indignant sufferer, who felt in this elaborate oration, a sense of insult strong enough not only to alarm that spirit of delicacy to which he had made such a forcible appeal, but almost to ensure him the accomplishment of his wishes; “every thing,” she repeated, “that the author of such an application has a right to demand. My situation in indeed unenviable; I was introduced as a poor deserted orphan to one of the best of human beings; he preserved me at the hazard of his life; and to complete the inestimable obligation, procured me the assistance of * * of * *” she could not proceed: her tears and sighs half smothered her voice, and Sir Henry felt a sensation nearly allied to shame; while pity for a creature he could not but admire, made him silently repent the language he had used: yet eager to hear the full effect of it, he waited patiently till she could speak. “Yes Sir,” she cried, when reflection had conquered this sally of passionate grief, “to the protectors of my early youth, among whom be the ever honoured Lady Tillotson, gratefully remembered, to those protectors I was possibly indebted for the few accomplishments which the Signor Frederico had been pleased to * * to * *,” again she hesitated; and again resumed, “To Sir Henry Tillotson I am also to look up for the means that procured”—“What mean you, child?” in a tone of displeasure, “but go on; I guess the good curate has suffered his gratitude to outrun prudence.” “I have only to add,” she replied, “after expressing my thanks for such favours, and which are indelibly impressed on this heart, a few words upon Sir Henry’s expostulation.” An innate pride now reddened her cheeks; her bosom throbbed; her eyes recovered their usual brilliancy; and she modestly advanced a few steps towards the Baronet, who absolutely contemplated the interesting creature as a superior being, “To avoid the contempt, the destruction in which an union with Signor Frederico De Lima threatens to involve a hapless stranger, the guardian of that gentleman had condescended to persuade, to terrify, to flatter! In the event of my refusal, I am to recover the affection of Lady Tillotson,—O powerful temptation! the assistance of her husband, and my own approbation; but, if allured by prospects of grandeur, I should dare to act in unison with that affection which hazards so much for an unknown foreigner, I should defy contempt, then” * * “And what then, honey,” cried Captain Derrick, who at that instant popped his round unthinking face in at the door, and effectually prevented the solemn engagement with which this poor girl had meditated to conclude her spirited address.
Encouraged by the presence of this rough and honest friend, Almeria immediately, after respectfully noticing the silent and mortified Baronet, put herself under Derrick’s protection; and although sincerely perplexed by his numerous interrogations relative to her long absence and the company he found her with, contrived to elude his searching questions upon the subject of their conversation. She had likewise ability sufficient to convince him of her right to pass that evening alone, and brought forward De Lima’s allowance of this privilege as a rule for his conduct; “Oh, as to my conduct, why that d’ye see has little to do in this business; for instance now,—I would have you marry that fine spirited fellow without any further delay; but nobody is to be regarded but that ould ninny, who looked for all the world, with his half crying phiz, like St. Lawrence upon the gridiron!” Almeria sighed at the recollection of her late resolution to give up Patrick’s favourite, and already began to find that resolution waver; however, after hearing him confess he had much to do to prevent the Signor’s following him in pursuit of her, and that he, Derrick, happened to hear her voice as he was passing the lodge, she tried to persuade him to join his companion, for by this time they had reached the cottage; this he refused to do, till Almeria’s only attendant, Rachael, who stood watching for her at the door, promised she would not leave her dear young lady any more that night; when satisfied with this assurance he quitted her arm, and she retired to resume her painful meditations upon Sir Henry’s cruel plan of separating her from a lover so sincere and honourable. Incapable of obtaining that repose her exhausted faculties required, she arose with the dawn, and descending to the little sitting room, found De Lima already arrived from an obscure lodging, which Rachel had procured for himself and his clerical coadjutor. He had heard of her interview with his guardian, and read in her pale cheek and languid eye the effect of that gentleman’s expostulations; “I guess,” he cried, faintly smiling, “the subject of your last night’s conference; speak then, my beloved! has that unfeeling man strengthened your decision against a speedy union with your devotedly zealous adorer?—Has he heard of my return?” “No, Signor,” turning aside and wiping off a tear, “much as he condemns your conduct in thus persisting to oppose his will, he suspects you not of such a glaring impropriety.” “But,” said the impatient Frederico, “does he relent? Is he overcome by that resistless innocence, those winning graces, and the affecting situation of my sweet Sothades?” “Sir Henry,” and she hesitated as she spoke, “is still the same,—steady, indignant, unconciliatory; and so much reason appeared in his arguments, that I am convinced we ought to separate.” “Never! oh never!—May I perish in that awful moment which shall witness the hateful recantation, if ever I give you up. But is it possible that she, whose tenderness I once thought proof against the most subtle reasoning, should yield her sober judgement to the false sophisty of an ambitious pleader?”—“O no, it is not possible,” roared out the valiant Derrick, as he descended from his little chamber, having somewhat overslept himself, “Sure now, nothing can be possible that isn’t true; because what can’t be cured must be endured; and as it is very possible, aye, and very true too, that this your little girl loves you dearly, why is it not possible she should ever give you up? So you see now Signor, that when she tells a falsehood, why its nothing more than the truth disguised!” Satisfied with his own rhetoric, Derrick attributed the half smile which played upon his auditors features to another cause; who, involved as they were in various perplexities, could not avoid observing the Captain’s incomprehensible logic.
Encouraged therefore by the faint emanation of cheerfulness, Derrick proceeded to prove in a number of ways, the necessity there was of their speedy marriage; and expressing his fears that the ould rhinoceros, as he called Sir Henry, would run them aground before they could clap on sail enough to escape him.—“Faith now, and he may soon do that,” argued this literal logician, “if you boggle at every trifle; first steering upon this tack to avoid a shoal, then laying-too for a frigate in the offing, frightened at every signal gun or the dashing of a silly porpoise, but its all owing to that squeamishness which you fine fangled gentry call famale delicacy.”
“Indeed, my dear sir,” said the distressed maid, “you cannot appreciate the justice of those objections which make against your generous wishes.” “Praech at now, by my faith, you are quite a fool, Almeria, and the Signor is no better than a jackanapes, to be praeched at by such a little toad: but here it is now, there’s more enemies near you than you are aware of; I met ould Polygon to-day, who sailed with me from the Brazils; he was standing close in for Wallbrook Tower, and soon after I saw him broadside with that Sir Henry. The cunning shark was so deeply engaged, that he didn’t discover me, entrenched as I was behind a barricado of—what d’ye call ’ems—niver greens, I believe. Upon my sowl now, he looked for all the world like—* * oh, like a lion at the head of a Dutch brig: and the other gaped as though he would have snapped Mr. Sir Henry’s head off. Well sure, I listened with all my might and main, and overheard little Isaac say such things! but I wont tell you what I heard; for he spoke so low, I couldn’t cleverly understand him; howsimdiver, there’s this in it, that I must be off soon, Signor De Lima will be sent upon his travels, and my little obstinate wench here will be left to the mercy of the sharks—the remoras; of faith, and the accusations of her wise conscience too!”
Strange as this uncertain intelligence appeared to his young friends, it was accompanied with gestures so peculiarly enforcing, that Almeria, who was better acquainted with Patrick’s oddities, felt her apprehensions increase, and her reluctance to a speedy union relax; and after a warm and bitter contest on the part of her quondam uncle, supported by De Lima’s empassioned entreaties, she consented to give their cause a cool unprejudiced trial. “Then all’s right, and the day’s our own,” cried the happy Irishman, “Bub-a-boo, no crying girl;” for Almeria dropped a tear as she was quitting the room, “upon my conscience now, I don’t see but the wisest of us all are mighty foolish beings! that is, when we don’t know how to be otherwise.” He then hugged the enraptured Portuguese, danced a jig with Rachel to the utter demolition of the breakfast apparatus which she had just placed upon the table, and left her to whisk Frederico’s Reverend companion into the figure; observing, it was the best substitute for whisky in a frosty morning. The priest smiled at a vehemence he could scarcely condemn, while he professed his incapacity for such a boisterous entertainment, and gently shaking off the impetuous creature, he advanced towards a comfortable fire, which the frosty atmosphere rendered somewhat necessary. “Just in time Reverendissimo, for a hop,” exclaimed the half crazy Derrick, “Come, come, foot it away,” again seizing the reluctant gentleman, “O, no matter for the slop cups—soon have more; there now, upon my sowle a little more of this exercise will glow in a man’s stomach like a good breakfast before he eats it! O, here’s Almeria with a face as long and as rueful as poor Rachel’s; there my girl,” pointing to the slaughtered china, “this is all your doings.” “Mine! uncle?” “Yes, to be sure; ’twas done upon your account, and faith I see no difference between doing mischief ones’ self, or causing it in another.” De Lima, who had witnessed this broad effusion of ungovernable joy, congratulated with a pleased, yet doubtful air, his dear Sothades upon the effect of—“Shall I” he cried, “venture to say, your compliance with all our wishes?” “Poh! silence gives consent,” said the officious Captain, Hey Mr. Parson? look at the blushing little rogue and tell me— “I’ll tell you nothing Captain, till Rachel replaces the damaged crockery.” “Hey Doctor, well now and here she comes.” He then set about to arrange them with a blundering dexterity, and handed the tea with a humorous grace; for upon this occasion he chose to supply the place of his child, who felt relieved by the attention his singular manner excited.
Presuming, upon the modest acquiescence of his adored Sothades, De Lima ventured to name the following morning for their nuptials; to this arrangement she tacitly consented, for wholly devoid of that affectation of protracting her own happiness, to enhance the value of a consent already given, she never thought of any farther opposition; and Derrick, wild with transport, consigned the delight of his existence to the care of one who received her with a gratitude no selfish principle could have excited. It was then settled that he should return to Westminster as secretly as he left that noble city, where he was to remain till Sir Henry should recall him. This was a conditional agreement, and depended upon Derrick’s engagement to carry his wife to London in the following week. De Lima was dissatisfied, but submitted; and on the fifth day following their separation, he had the pleasure to receive her and the friendly Irishman at a very genteel apartment in St. James’s Street, where he was to visit her occasionally as a brother. To this plan Almeria’s right spirit could not accede, nor would appear in a doubtful light among strangers; at Amesbury, greatly as that spirit militated against improper concealment, she was indispensably bound to submit; but in London, far from all who knew her situation, no such motive obtained, and on the second day succeeding their arrival, she was announced as the wife of Mr. Cleveland. Even this subterfuge hurt her delicacy; but as Frederico had made it appear absolutely necessary to their safety, she reluctantly submitted; and by this name only they must be known through the greater part of this history.
Derrick, happy beyond expression, beheld his most ardent wishes completed; yet felt rather awkward at the idea of a separation. He had enquired into the state of his Almeria’s finances, when finding the good Dawson had left little behind him, excepting some plain but useful furniture with the cottage, which previous to his death he had made over to Mrs. Cleveland, by the appellation of Sothades, added to these, Patrick placed in the funds somewhat above three thousand pounds for her sole and separate use; characteristically depriving himself of the necessary means of support. Although ignorant of this latter circumstance, the young people would have refused the donation, as Frederico’s appointment was fully equal to the expenditure of both; but Derrick was resolute and contention useless. This conduct, however, produced in Mr. Cleveland’s bosom a degree of esteem nearly amounting to veneration, for a man whose affection for his beloved wife was so unequivocal; and he even felt reluctant to part with such a friend; for he could not resist his admiration of such excellent principles, although contrasted by many eccentric oddities.
Already seven weeks had rolled away and Derrick was still a resident with his favourites, though daily urging the necessity of his departure; but Almeria prevailed for one week longer, and Mr. Cleveland had always some plan of amusement to detain him. At length Derrick’s favourite play of “The Tempest,” was fixed upon as the last entertainment he would partake of in England; and this anxious trio, (for happy it could not be called, upon the eve of a separation, which none of them liked to think of) agreed to pass the whole of the following day together, which was to close with a diversion so pleasant to each of the parties; for of all the amusements London could boast, a rational play stood foremost with Almeria, her husband, and even the honest Irishman.
A DREADFUL MYSTERY.
DESIROUS of securing a comfortable situation at the theatre, Mrs. Cleveland proposed to dine early, that they might resort to an upper box, which was the only one they could engage. To this her husband objected, as, contrary to his intentions, he was compelled to pass a long morning with several people whose business required immediate attention; Almeria readily submitted: but on lifting her eyes from a little ornament she was preparing by way of a remembrancer for Captain Derrick, she suddenly exclaimed, “You are indisposed, my love?” Pale indeed, and almost terrific was the countenance of Frederico, who hesitatingly replied, “Not in the least,” and then directly left the room. She would have pursued him, for her heart was impressed with ideas of no very cheerful import, but the entrance of Patrick checked her, and following the impulse of a rapid conception, she eagerly told him “Sir Henry was in town! I know he is Captain, and we are lost!” “And where did you get did you get that big falsity, my pretty dove?” “Would to heaven I was mistaken! but indeed it must be so, or why should Cleveland * *” “Psha! foolish! it is your husband that you mane.” “Well then, I saw the unwelcome truth in every working features of that beloved husband.” “Well now, upon my conscience this is a good one!—Here, my dear nephew, answer for yourself, and clear your features from that confounded lie to which Almeria had given such a comical maning?”
Cleveland, who had heard Derrick’s exclamation, re-entered the room, and with some little difficulty removed his wife’s suspicions, but still a shade of melancholy clouded his countenance; his accents were faint and hurried, while he attempted to rally away her suspicions. “Enough, enough,” said Patrick, “why what the divil ails the man? he takes as much pains to make that unhappy phiz of his a liar, as he had done to make it speak truth in her way. Sure now, and you are both laughing at honest Derrick! no matter, that’s nothing new; but away Mr. Cleveland and finish your affairs, that those busy features may tell my girl a prettier story when you return.” “Aye do, my good Frederico, my love I should say; we shall expect you by five; you have seven hours for the accomplishment of this secret business, and surely it may be completed in that time.” “I do not make a secret of it, Almeria!” “No faith,” cried the blunt Irishman, “for you found it already made.” Conscious of his inability to explain a matter which he dared not develope, Mr. Cleveland contrived to drop the subject, and after engaging Derrick to stay with his wife, he left them to a téte a téte, which neither seemed to enjoy; and the time passed rather heavily till a coach stopping at the door, announced his return, as Patrick declared, who hastened down stairs to receive him; but Patrick was mistaken; and he ascended with a much less degree of velocity than that with which he left the room.
Silent, spiritless, and foreboding, our heroine waited the expiration of an hour beyond that Mr. Cleveland had appointed; while her uncle expressed his impatience in short expletives, hasty deck-treading strides from the door to the windows, now listening to every step that whispered along the marble passage below, now peeping after every coach that passed the house or stopped at those on either side, till his courage had ebbed too low to steal a glance at Almeria’s tearful countenance. Another hour elapsed in teazing, painful expectation, when our miserable pair was roused by a footman, who ventured to enquire if dinner should be served? “Not yet,” replied his mistress, who then found sufficient resolution to request Patrick would step to the coffee-house where possibly her husband might still be detained. “I’ll go my dear,—but you will be alone?” “O think not of me; bring but my husband safe, and I will worship you.” Derrick hunted for a joke, but none presented itself; nor could he offer a word of consolation to the restless woman, who, roused from the torpor of melancholy, began to indulge the most terrifying fears; and when her kind guardian had sallied out upon his unpropitious errand, she burst into the most passionate exclamations: “Dear, generous, unhappy husband!” she cried, “Victim to the most disinterested passion that ever warmed the human bosom! Defying as thou hast the menaces, expostulations, and remonstrances of him whose vengeance doubtless pursues thee; and I, worthless, helpless being, am the cause of thy unhappiness! Surely thou didst expect some heavy misfortune; I saw it in thy looks; I traced it in thy actions; thy reluctance to quit us; thy subterfuges!—Yes, thou art gone indeed: and I shall return to the desolate cottage alone, unpitied,—unprotected!” A violent burst of grief succeeded: impatiently she wiped away her tears, but they would flow; and to increase her distress, her only friend had now been absent two hours; It was nine o’clock; she would seek him herself; Derrick at least might be safe, no advantage could accrue to any one from his detention: she would take coach: she would enquire at the coffee-houses: at the hotel in Albemarle street, where she was told by Derrick a few hours before that he had accompanied Mr. Cleveland, but only part of the way on the preceeding morning to visit, as he said, some Portuguese but just arrived from the continent; nay, she would go to the lodgings where he resided previous to their marriage.
This settled, a coach was immediately ordered, and unconscious or careless of the reflections such a conduct must create among the people below, she rejected the footman’s offer to attend her; and was carried to each of the abovementioned places, where the coachman was ordered to enquire for Signor De Lima, as it was only among strangers he could pass by his assumed name of Cleveland, but in vain was every attempt she made to discover him; and so rapidly did her terrors increase with her disappointments, that her driver began to doubt the sanity of his fare; and when she commissioned him to fly through the city and enquire at every coffee-house, tavern, or respectable resort for gentlemen, the man civilly replied “He could not venture to drive along the narrow streets which a month’s frost, attended by much snow, had rendered extremely dangerous for his cattle, who, poor dear creatures, were all as one as his own children, seeing as how * *” Impatient, and unconvinced by his rhetoric, the unhappy lady asked if he could not get a porter to make the important enquiries, or leave her in the carriage under the care of somebody that waters the horses, while he went himself? “Dear, no to be sure;” said the still civil fellow, “seeing as why, it snowed so hard that no living christian would do such a thing belike; and for his own part, he wouldn’t leave his horses, poor souls! for five pounds, so he hoped madam wouldn’t expect any sich a thing.” “Then I will go myself,” said the half distracted Almeria, jumping at the same instant from the steps which were already let down by the coachman, who not at all liking the expression of her countenance and frantic gestures, had opened the door in hopes of her departure. However, when he saw her gazing wildly around as she stood uncertain which way to go, he thought it might be as well to demand his fare, which he did in an under tone; Mrs. Cleveland dropped some shillings into his hand, still throwing her eyes about in every direction; till, as if impelled by some sudden thought, she ran down Surry street, and after pacing through several obscure turnings with all the speed she could possibly make, for her feet, clogged with the heavy freezing snow, could scarcely clear themselves from the icy incumbrances, as sometimes they were entangled among heaps of condensed dirt, at others, slipping into pools not yet strong enough to bear an inconsiderable weight, she found herself near the water’s side, cold, wet, and scarcely conscious of the motive that impelled her to such an extraordinary exertion. Our miserable heroine, crossing the end of a short street, still passed forwards, till her progress was totally impeded by several carriages that were entangled among the accumulated dirt which lined the kennel. This momentary interruption was favourable to recollection, and Cleveland lost, — imprisoned, — perhaps murdered! became again the leading idea.
Her appearance, which was that of simple elegance, though the purity of her dress was no longer conspicuous, her wild enquiries of the passengers for a Portuguese gentleman, and the eagerness with which she examined the countenances of those who sat in the coach nearest to her, (for apprehensive of danger they had let down the glasses) all taken together certainly indicated either a disturbed imagination, or an artful design to obtain notice; and she soon found herself an object of impertinent observation, or helpless pity, till attracted by her empassioned gestures and fervent appeals for assistance, a lady who had been attentive to the painful scene, suddenly shrieked, and then exclaimed “Oh, ’tis my Almeria! open the door Anthony?” putting her head out the window, “Dismount, I know that unhappy young lady, she shall go with me.” “You, go with you?—no, never!” cried the terrified creature, at the same instant slipping out of the hands of a decent looking man who would have conducted her to the friendly lady, and again attempting to renew her pursuit, while the repeated cry from the coach of “Stop her, for the love of heaven bring her hither! O she will be insulted; she will be lost; she is my dear, my beloved child,” was more than sufficient to stop her further progress; and Almeria after many ineffectual struggles, tears, and affecting appeals for mercy, and to let her seek for her husband, was conveyed with as much tenderness as the resistance she so ardently made would admit, to the side of the coach, when a person hastily advanced, and with one blow laid one of the men (who was gently forcing her in) at his feet; while he loudly exclaimed “Thieves! chates! savages! oh by my conscience now, because this poor thing has run away with herself, you’d run away with her too! O come on honey, if you are good at that?” putting himself in a boxing attitude as a stout fellow aimed a stroke at him, “I’m your man.” Then seeing the senseless Almeria (who was incapable of making further resistance) lifted into the carriage, he left his antagonist, and roared out for “Constables! watchmen! guards!” while he clung to the coach door, swearing they were running away with his wife or the wife of somebody else, and that was all as one, seeing as how he was put in charge of her. “Be silent, Captain Derrick,” said a gentleman in a voice that struck him speechless for a moment, “Quit the carriage; tomorrow morning you may see this lady;—there is my address:” throwing him a card, while the horses moving slowly on, gave the half distracted Irishman room to suppose his dear girl would indeed be lost to him for ever. But engaged in warding off the blows which began to fall pretty heavy upon his head, back, and stomach, he could make no effectual efforts to reclaim her; till foaming with passion, he cried “Begone divils, and stop that owld kidnapper; he has sent the poor child’s husband to the plantations, and * * Take you that, my dear,” giving the foremost fellow an ungentle chuck under the chin; “Ye are all alike;” conferring a similar favour upon another luckless opponent; “Don’t I tell you to run after that infernal and his harridan? run cowards, run; and you that are sprawling, run away if you can!”
The word kidnapper and Derrick’s striking arguments, no longer failed to promote his cause; and unfortunately for Almeria’s quondam friends, the populace had been recently engaged in destroying the house of a fellow who was notorious for inveigling young people from their families; consequently, the epithets so liberally bestowed by Patrick operated as a charm. The carriage had now gained Bridge street, when it was surrounded by the rude myrmidons of ‘lawless law,’ as our Captain expressed it, and a riot ensued, which threatened the most alarming effects. Already had some pretty large masses of ice saluted the glasses, which were instantly demolished; and they were proceeding to acts of still more serious violence, when they were interrupted by a cry of “The guards! the guards!” and unable to cope with those serviceable troops, the mob began to disperse before the truth of this assertion could be clearly ascertained; which partly owed its importance to the adroitness of a footman, who happily recollected that the Lord Mayor had that day carried a petition to His Majesty, attended by the city militia, but detained by the difficult passage, they did not arrive at St. James’s till four o’clock, and although it was full eleven, he had reason to know they were still on the way; when terrified by this strange attack, he had hastened up to the obelisk in the very moment of their passing, where stating his master’s danger in a few words, Colonel Jessop immediately led them to the scene of action; and Sir Henry Tillotson, who with his Lady and Isaac Polygon had been in the city upon a dinner visit, found themselves happily delivered from any further insult, and reached Ormond Street with no other damage than what the glasses and her Ladyship’s spirits sustained.
Of this tumult poor Almeria understood very little: her imagination, impressed with one dreadful idea, still remained in a state of effervescence; at first, indeed, when totally overcome by Derrick’s exclamations, the tender welcome of Lady Tillotson, and the kind reception of Sir Henry, she had fainted on his bosom, and remained for some minutes in a state comparatively happy; but the peaceful delirium soon vanished, and by the time they were set down in Great Ormond Street, her faculties were restored only sufficiently to sharpen her keenest sensations.
For several weeks succeeding these painful events she was confined to her bed, as well by bodily indisposition as by the situation of her mind; De Lima occupied every thought; his strange disappearance heightened every terrible suggestion. Candid, and averse from deceit, she made no secret of her marriage to Lady Tillotson, who turned with horror from the communication; but solemnly disclaimed her own, and as far as she knew, Sir Henry’s knowledge of his once loved Frederico’s situation. “Once loved!” re-echoed our wretched self condemning heroine, “O madam, but for me he had always been loved! But will not Sir Henry set on foot every means for discovering my poor * *” here she stopped: the word husband in that family, and so applied, seemed to carry an ungrateful implication; but she was understood. “He will my love,” said her compassionate friend, “but make yourself easy, that is, as easy as you can; we shall leave town in a few weeks; Sir Henry came in consequence of some commissions, which Mr. Polygon has to transact for him in London; these are partly finished; and if our poor ward * *” she was interrupted by a servant, who came with Captain Derrick’s compliments, to which was added his wishes to see her languid friend. “Astonishing effrontery,” said her Ladyship, “that Irishman’s assurance defies all comparison! however if you chuse to see him I will send him up?” “He is my friend,” cried Almeria, sobbing, and reclining against the chair, “and if you can excuse the impropriety, I own * *” she stopped; for fearful of offending that lady’s delicacy, she dared not confess that her throbbing heart was more than ready to receive him. “Do as you please, my dear; but I think the danger that savage involved us in by his brutal manners, might or should at least be sufficient motive even with you, for rejecting his visit;—but I have done.” “O madam,” replied the distressed Mrs. Cleveland, “if it be so very improper, I will not ask to see him.” “Indeed, child,” returned her half angry friend, “if Sir Henry was in the way he would by no means be admitted; as it is, he must come up, I think.” So saying, she then was leaving the room, which a sudden noise upon the landing induced her to do very rapidly, and Mrs. Cleveland trembled at the loud tones of her kind yet rough visitor; who, in his passage to her little dressing room, declared he would not be hindered by niver a skipkennel in London; adding, his wish that him and all his bone picking set were put upon a month’s short allowance, with a rope’s end for their breakfast, and a salt eel for their supper; and he’d warrant they would leave off aping their betters, and cocking up their impertinent noses at a British tar. With this coarse reproof, Derrick silenced the servant’s objection to his self introduction, when the appearance of his little darling, as he fondly named her, soon put to flight every sensation but those arising from love, sorrow, and compassion; as, forgetting the heaviest cause of that languor which overspread her frame, she attempted to meet him at the door, but overcome by feebleness and joy, the weakened invalid sunk at his feet. “Aye, poor sowl,” cried the humane visitor, while he raised and clasped her to his bosom, “I see how it is:—rot me if I don’t * *—but its a lie, a cursed lie! its all a kidnapping business I dare say;—nothing else, by my conscience! for I have seen him,” winking significantly. “Seen whom, my dear sir; O say, have you indeed seen my Cleveland?” “Humph! Cleveland, or De Lima, or Frederico, why all’s one for that honey; but if I haven’t seen the identical trepanned foolish Portuguese himself, why I know who has; and where’s the difference, can you tell?”
Derrick, who had few ideas respecting the delicacy of a wife, whose happiness in the aggregate he would have suffered tortures to procure, thought he was entitled to praise in thus cautiously (as he chose to imagine) treating a subject which he dreaded to disclose; since he had a letter actually about him from a Portuguese captain, signifying his obligation to sail immediately, as his cabin was taken up by a Signor De Lima and a lady whom he had that morning engaged to take over.
Stunned at this intelligence, and not aware of the chicanery which had fabricated this falshood to keep him from sailing, as his presence just then at Lisbon was inimical to a deep laid scheme; Patrick hastened to the Pool, and in less than two hours after the news first reached him, he was on board the San Triorenza, where he actually beheld some packages labelled with the signature of De Lima. Derrick loudly insisted upon seeing the paltroon, the weathercock spark, the paltry runaway who had basely deserted his colours and his new name. To this unceremonious question, he received for answer, that they had no deserter on board their vessel; and the captain, who was giving orders for heaving the anchor, came forward with an assurance that his passengers were gone by land to Falmouth, and that he had written to Derrick merely with a wish to know if he could be of any use to his business at Lisbon. Waving any answer to this latter information, Patrick offered a round sum for his passage to the Land’s-End, but was courteously refused; and he left the vessel with a string of that kind of abuse so peculiar to himself; and following the ungovernable impulse of a warm heart, but weak head, he pursued the supposed fugitives even to the Land’s-End, but without effect; as his descriptions were so imperfect, and his threats so unequivocal, that those who listened to his tale felt more inclined to favour De Lima’s cause, (admitting they could give the requested information) than betray it. Thus disappointed, our luckless adventurer returned in a humour that vented itself upon those unlucky waiters, postillions, and landlords, whom chance threw in his way; no wonder then, when he presented himself at Sir Henry’s door, which he reached in the chaise that brought him from Hounslow, that his wild fatigued appearance, and rude uncouth expressions, should produce the refusal which so much increased his irritability.
To introduce such a tale as this in a way calculated to soothe, rather than wound the heart of an apprehensive affectionate wife, was quite beyond the usual limits of poor Patrick’s discretion. It was his first intention to give the kidnapping story as a reason for her husband’s absence; but entangled in his endeavours to reconcile impossibilities, he, after a few of his usual blunders, not only confessed the whole secret, but by way of consolation, added another that called forward feelings of a different though not less affecting description; for having exhausted his whole stock of rhetoric upon the folly of useless grief, and a plentiful share of implied abuse upon a character that Almeria had ever held in the tenderest estimation, he gave several significant hints respecting her origin; which he roundly protested was equal, if not superior to that of her shim sham grandee. With a vacant look and inattentive air, his distressed auditor sat absorbed in one excruciating idea.—Frederico, the most impassioned of lovers, the fondest of husbands, she was given to believe had in the infancy of their marriage deserted her for another;—left her to the censures of an unpitying world, and thrown her into the power of those who would rather rejoice at his disaffection, than try to recover the thoughtless wanderer. “Sure now,” cried the half terrified Captain, while he shook her shoulder, but not in the very gentlest manner, “Sure now, and you don’t attend to what I say: why the girl’s asleep!—Almeria?—I’ll tell you what it is my dear, we’ll be off to Portugal:” “To Portugal!” she faintly repeated, “To my Frederico? O not my Frederico now!” This recollection awakened every painful idea, and she burst into an agony of grief so extreme, that Derrick, whose lachrymal fluid was easily called forth, paid an abundant tribute to the sufferings he could not heal; at length, after dashing off the copious moisture, he returned to his last piece of intelligence, and assured the still weeping Almeria, while he bestowed a few coarse remarks upon his own chicken heartedness, that he could put her in a way not only to find her husband, but * * ”“To find him!” interrupted Mrs. Cleveland, “To behold him idolizing those charms by which he has been so fatally ensnared?—no sir: rather let me weep out in some obscure retirement, the remnant of an existence which must give way to such permanent sorrows.” “Why what the divil’s in the wind now, girl? off and on, will and won’t!” cried Derrick, again dashing off a tear which would officiously defeat his intention to cheer her,—“but go, you are a little fool;—why a spirited English wench (and you are almost as bad as one) if she find her husband trating her with the enemy—Poh, Poh! don’t look so cursedly ridiculous, but mind me; if, I say, this should be the case, instead of attempting to break the coalition by a volley of small shot, a few round and grape, or a steady chase,—sets all her sails, scuds afore the wind,—parleys with the first gallant vessel that may take her as lawful prey, and in less time than I can box the compass, drops anchor off Cape Horn.”
Not all the merit Derrick might justly claim from his sincerity and generosity, could atone for this indelicate representation; nor could Mrs. Cleveland easily forgive the ill-timed joke: when, without noticing her visible displeasure, he again took up the subject of their first interview, briefly describing the manner in which she was consigned to him, the hints that stranger gave respecting her noble birth, and concluding in his usual thoughtless manner, with a short account of her supposed parents’ dreadful exit. Almeria, who soon became too deeply interested in this shocking tale to give another thought to Derrick’s former bluntness, felt the most agonizing sensations at a description which, if his suspicions were true, presented a father lingering under tortures inconceivable, for at most, a supposed crime; and while filial love, and even the common efforts of humanity, impressed her imagination with a picture so horrid, she almost maddened with the acuteness of her feelings as they expressed themselves in hysterical sobs and frantic gestures. Unable to repair the mischief he had so inadvertently occasioned, Derrick stood a stupid spectator of its sad effects; till perceiving them relax from want of power to support their violence, he ventured in a half crying accent to hope he was mistaken as to the stranger’s account of her origin; at any rate she might not be the Duke D’Aveiro’s child, or if she were, why - - - why - - - all her grief wouldn’t fetch him back again; and if he might advise * *” Here the unfortunate Derrick made a pause, for she had again relapsed; and although her expressions of sorrow were not quite so acute, they were equally affecting. Determined, however, to propose a plan for the discovery of her husband, as well as that of her relations, he waited in impatient silence till he could again fix her attention; watching for more than an hour the expected opportunity; at length his wretched ward, exhausted by such a painful indulgence of exquisite misery, raised her humid eyes to a countenance which exhibited a variety of awkward emotions, and entreated him to pardon her for displaying such ungovernable anguish, and promised to listen to any scheme he might bring forward, that carried on the face of it a hope of relieving either her filial, or conjugal distress. “Forgive your poor uncle for thus tormenting his little darling,” cried the humbled Derrick, while he fondly kissed her inflamed cheek, “But upon my sowl now, I thought it was better, as they say in my own dear country, that single misfortunes shouldn’t come alone; but indeed and indeed now I see too plainly, that the greatest sorrows in the world may be increased; however, we will go to Lisbon, for go I must, and there perhaps we may overtake him upon his return; so cheer up my pretty dove, and be well as soon as you can, but” here his features assumed a strange mixture of unconquered tenderness, important caution, and arch grimaces, “what will you do with this same delicacy of yours that will be so ready with its nonsensical objections to an honest seaman’s proposals? for belave me chicken, if it flies in the face of my plan, that plan can no more stand the fire of such a whimsical driveller, than you could a cannon shot.” Mrs. Cleveland sighed; but her continued silence encouraged him to proceed. “I say honey, do you think the poor coward can ever suffer you to wear a powder monkey’s jacket?”— “Heavens! Captain, do you imagine should I even accede to a scheme which seems so incompetent to my ideas, that a masculine disguise is any ways necessary?” “O now, there it is again; upon my faith now, and I am sorry to see such a pretty creature so subordinate to that child of a wayward fancy; and why not a masculine disguise pray? When I can prove to you that this ridiculous intruder can niver be so safe as under the disguise you dislike so much; for in the first place, you will be the only woman on board, and with that effeminate face and sparkling eye—but a word to the wise; now dont fall a crying again; if you wish to find out our runaway, or dare to venture any enquiry concerning your family, I know it must be done with caution; for a daughter either of the houses of De Tavorn or D’Aveiro can niver be acknowledged or even safe in Portugal while owld Joseph’s keel remains afloat.” Almeria shuddered at the perilous undertaking, but rendered careless of personal inconveniences, she soon argued herself into the necessity of it; and after several displays of Derrick’s talent at contrivance, it was agreed that he should procure her a midshipman’s uniform, as she thought its appearance would secure respect and preclude enquiry, besides, as the decent addition of trowsers, which she chose to stipulate for, would be a necessary compliment to that delicacy her good humoured friend so archly rallied. To describe the poignancy of her feelings while making this painful arrangement, would afford no amusement to the compassionate reader; indeed, they were such as to give Patrick’s absence the appearance of a temporary relief; who reluctantly departed, after telling her he would venture to wait three weeks for her, hoping she might be sufficiently recovered by that time to attend him.
It was settled, that upon receiving a note from him, she should privately repair to Deal, and wait his arrival at the Downs at the house of his confidential friend and countryman, when he would meet her with the projected disguise; and as the success of this plan depended not upon Sir Henry’s return to Amesbury, for he had engaged his apartments for another month, our poor invalid tried to persuade herself into a hope of escaping beyond the power of detection.
No sooner had Patrick evacuated the premises so reluctantly yielded by Lady Tillotson, than that lady, convinced of his absence by the thundering echo of the great door, which he closed with a tremendous violence, immediately returned to her still weeping young friend; whose fierce paroxyms of anguish had happily escaped her ear, but in Almeria’s swollen eyes and heaving bosom she read the effect of Derrick’s intelligence, although ignorant of its full import.
Aware of the necessity there was for concealing every part of her recently adopted plan, Mrs. Cleveland attempted to assume a tranquillity of manners which the mournful expression of her features most evidently contradicted. With Lady Tillotson this conduct obtained a high degree of credit, and she readily fell in with her young friend’s wish, although nearly hopeless of realising it, to preserve appearances by adverting to subjects in which the refractory Patrick had no share; nor did that judicious woman in any succeeding conversation venture an enquiry into the subject of a visit so rudely introduced, or surmise of a conduct so contrary to the usages even of an unfashionable world.
It was now the business of our unhappy heroine to facilitate the dearest purpose of her soul, by giving into every plan which was proposed for the reestablishment of her health. Short excursions in tolerable weather; light and simple diet, with cheerful company, had a full effect; and Derrick’s summons found her competent to the task assigned her. But in this eventful moment, when every hope was advancing to a degree of certainty, every feeling touched almost to agony by the extatic idea of meeting a husband whom yet she could not condemn, a pang, unexpected, and scarcely endurable, seized her candid bosom;—Sir Henry,—Lady Tillotson,—beings who probably had snatched her from destruction, at the hazard too of their own safety; who had soothed her in the moments of sickness, and softened the difficulties of her forlorn situation, were they to be left to painful conjecture as to her future destination? could she leave them a prey to the doubts, fears, and forebodings which such a conduct must create? forbid it gratitude, delicacy, the purity of character, the sacred principle of ardent friendship, forbid a deception so cruel! yet, were they not in some degree the enemies of her conjugal attachment? Did they not tacitly now, as heretofore they had, actually set their faces against her union with De Lima? Could she ever hope to recover that dear lost possessor of her sincere affections while in their power? and would not Derrick’s impatience, in the event of her disappointing him, produce, as was too probable, some fearful catastrophe? Her father too: her relatives: the claims she had on them though unknown: was it not a point of duty to seek the latter, and mourn over his grave? (if grave he had; O excruciating bitterness of thought!) of that father whose supposed tortures had, as they too frequently, nay, continually obtruded themselves, wrung her heart with anguish. To ascertain this painful representation of Captain Derrick; to come at the knowledge of her real origin; to realize her hopes and fears of her husband’s situation, all hung upon her obedience to Patrick’s request, and there was no alternative.
Thus argued, and thus concluded this distressed young creature, whose agony as she met her friends at their hospitable table, but too probably for the last time, defied concealment; but her sighs and tears produced no other notice than an increase of indulgence, which only strengthened Almeria’s reluctance to give them pain who strove so tenderly to alleviate hers; and as the night advanced, she once more felt her spirits unequal to the task of preparation, and retired to her chamber half resolved to decline the rash attempt. But Derrick’s note again met her eye, in which he mentions the necessity of her taking a chaise at Charing-Cross; and that she would be punctual to the hour of their meeting at Deal. To do this she must be at the Golden Cross by five on the following morning. His letter concluded with one of his facetious remarks on woman’s instability, and a hope that she at least would keep in one mind long enough to prove herself an exception to what after all he believed unexceptionable. This blundering remark recalled her wandering resolution, and she felt determined upon her flight; which was in some measure assisted by the absence of Sir Henry and his Lady, who were engaged to pass a day or two a few miles from town; and Mrs. Cleveland found no impediment (but what arose from her own excessive agitation) to quitting the house without the servants’ knowledge. Although unused to act for herself in any material instance, she was happy enough to escape any dangers which might naturally be dreaded by a timid young creature—alone, and unfriended. A coach conveyed her to the inn, from whence she quickly departed for Deal; and within sixteen hours from her leaving London, was joyfully welcomed by her happy friend, whose delight at this meeting expressed itself in an unusual portion of new coined epithets and humourous mistakes; till perceiving the gloom which saddened her countenance upon a casual mention of Sir Henry’s family, he took her passive hand, and archly smiling, “Sure now,” cried the happy Derrick, “and you cant be fretting after that owld crocodile and his mate? O niver heed them honey;—make yourself aasy with thinking about your good-for-nothing runagate and his new wife,—take that for your comfort; or, if that wont do—there now, by my conscience if she isn’t whimpering like a child, when I was only trying to put the owld Buccaneers out of her head!”
“But your mode of comfort, my dear sir,” said the sobbing Almeria,— “Mode! O now, and what are the modes to me?—can you ever say I minded fashion?” Here he was seasonably interrupted by his cockswain, with information that the wind had just veered to the eastward, and they had nothing to do but heave the anchor up. “O then we’ll be off in a jiffy, my lad,” replied his eager commander, “I have only to wait for a fresh water spark, who is just getting into his new uniforms, and when he is ready, we will get on board directly.”
Almeria heard the decree and trembled; but there was no time for expostulation: and after partaking of a slight refreshment, she retired with Mrs. Darell, the wife of Derrick’s friend, who assisted her to make the necessary alteration; and the blushing girl was soon transformed into an elegant, but rather feminine little midshipman. It was not in Patrick’s nature to restrain some lively jokes upon the effects of this change; but corrected by the serious and rebuking countenance of his favourite, he promised to conduct himself with a propriety that should astonish even her darling idol—delicacy itself.
Not quite satisfied with this assurance, Mrs. Cleveland submitted herself with a degree of reluctance to his guidance, nor had she any reason to repent her confidence in his prudence, or the step she had taken, till they had nearly gained sight of the rock of Lisbon; when, in consequence of the terrors and fatigue she had suffered during a storm, our forlorn wanderer was conveyed in a state of insensibility to the rock, where she met with the mysterious Favorita, whose strange hints, inexplicable violence, and frightful appeals for her explanation of what she had no power to give, had left such an impression on her mind, as to take a share of every pang her own unhappy situation excited.
REVIVED by the polite attentions and never failing cheerfulness of Signora Francisca, Almeria found herself once more alive to the blessing of society; but the distance her apparent situation required, prevented that sweet and undisguised intercourse which female friendship admits. Indeed she found much difficulty in adapting her manners and conversation so as to escape the charge of effeminacy, especially in the presence of Isaac Polygon, whose sharp and inquisitive eye she often fancied expressed a sort of vague conjecture respecting a former knowledge of her person; and this apprehension received additional strength, when, upon an enquiry made by Francisca into the motive which had brought her to Lisbon, she could not refrain a burning blush, nor avoiding hesitating to a degree sufficient not only to increase the man’s suspicion, but excite a very natural curiosity in Francisca’s bosom. Indeed her distress became so evident, when Isaac, taking up the cause, repeated his niece’s question not only with earnestness, but a sort of phlegmatic rudeness peculiar to himself, that the amiable Portuguese by artfully introducing another topic, gave her an excuse to quit the room.
Had Mrs. Cleveland been fully acquainted with the crooked practices of this man’s life,—his dangerous sentiments and deep designs, she would have thought her residence with De Favorita a more eligible situation; but Derrick, who seldom looked into consequences when he could gratify his loquacious talent, had yet discretion enough to keep the following particulars to himself, although it had so miserably failed in the introduction of his protegée to the house of such a character as Polygon. We have before hinted his connexions when a youth with our honest Patrick, whose principles in every material instance, differed so entirely from his companion. His childhood had been distinguished for those narrow propensities which too often disgrace the inclinations of advanced age.—Illiberal, sordid, and querulous, his absence in consequence of an uncle’s invitation to join him in Ireland, was looked upon as a blessing by his elder brothers, and Isaac’s departure gave pain to no one.—At Killalee the love of money obtained credit; for it was this part of his character that induced his uncle to have his nephew with him.—Isaac possessed of all that low cunning which has but too often succeeded in a selfish world, applied himself likewise to the study of those sciences which were old Polygon’s hobby-horse; and if not an amateur, he certainly got so well acquainted with the technical terms, and superficial knowledge of most of them, as not only to effect his purpose with the miser, but impose upon ignorance; while the better informed passed over, with a contemptuous neglect, his arduous attempts to astonish and confound. So completely indeed had this selfish being recommended himself by pursuits and acquirements analogous to his protector’s, that he was sent upon an important commission to Portugal; in the execution of which he obtained the heart and hand of Signora Sforza, a woman of an independent fortune, to whose brother the very valuable cargo with which Isaac was entrusted had been consigned. Extensive as his power of amassing wealth was then become, it kept no bounds with his wishes to increase it; and his next attempt was upon the property of two little girls who in consequence of Diego Sforza’s death, became the wards of their aunt, the present Signora Polygon; but as this horrid scheme could not be effected amongst their friends and relatives at Lisbon, he transferred the scene of cruel duplicity to Pernambucco in the Brazils, where he remained till Captain Derrick brought himself and family to England. It was then his intention to send Patrick to Lisbon, for the purpose of knowing in what light his character stood with those who were interested in the youthful orphans’ fate; but as Derrick, to use his own words, could not do twenty good things at once, he gave up the inviting prospect of blowing up the owld traytor, for it was with this design he engaged in the service, to protect his lovely little darling; and Isaac who had long since buried the Signora, ventured to present himself at Lisbon, where he arrived about two months before Almeria became his inmate, and appeared in that capital as an honourable character, and presently befriended by time and the demise of those who could have interfered with success in favour of Francisca and Anica, Isaac renewed a monstrous project long since designed, of uniting himself to the hapless Anica.
This poor young creature had already with infinite justice, placed to that savages account, a painful disappointment which threatened, independent of this additional vexation, to cloud every future prospect. To Derrick he had formerly imparted enough of his sentiments to convince that guileless being that unless Anica consented to the preposterous proposal, no part either of Francisca’s fortune or her own could escape the fell monster’s gripe; but as this intelligence was conveyed by such hints and inuendos as might be retracted at pleasure, the impetuous Irishman could only put his young friends upon their guard, and Polygon could not decidedly interpret Francisca’s piquant reflections, or her sister’s more openly expressed disgust. But there was still a trait in Polygon’s character which defied every possible attempt to elucidate: Derrick had suspicions for which he could not account.—That a gentleman of Sir Henry Tillotson’s consequence should be in habits of intimacy with a man of Polygon’s description; that he should condescend to drop hints of a nature which argued a dependence upon Isaac’s intriguing talent; (for so he translated the unconnected expressions which met his ear upon a former occasion) and he was ready to accuse the venerable Baronet of a disgraceful coalition with the meanly artful Polygon; but as he could adduce no proof, he had prudence sufficient to keep silence upon a subject that could throw no light upon De Lima’s, or, as it may be better to style him, Mr. Cleveland’s conduct.
With such a man as we have depicted, Almeria dared not trust her real situation; nor could she with any certain degree of safety, hazard a further display of those emotions, that had already produced such an alarming curiosity. Could she make a friend of the lively Francisca her fears might be groundless: but afraid to repose a confidence so dangerous, she could only weep in private, those misfortunes which at present appeared irremediable. Thus situated, she seldom committed herself to the scrutinizing examination of Mr. Polygon, unless supported by her only friend, who had obtruded himself upon every society, and searched every place of resort where he might hope to discover the lost Frederico; but vain were his attempts;—not the smallest clue presented encouragement to his hopes: and he frankly confessed his opinion that the vessel Mr. Cleveland was supposed to embark in, had sailed to some distant port; advising her at the same time to wait with patience, till he could gain some clearer intelligence.
Although dejected in the extreme, our unhappy wanderer after wiping a few tears of vexation, informed him of Polygon’s suspicious manner, and asked his opinion as to the sentiments that person might entertain respecting her disguise. Derrick seemed hurt at the idea of a discovery that (he began to think with Almeria) might produce much mischief to her, although he had changed his mind more than once upon that head; however he concluded to meet them at dinner, “When” added this deep plotter with an arch wink, “I shall be able to guess at the Owld Fox’s maning, and niver trust little Patrick if he don’t give him a broadside that shall drive all cunning Isaac’s nonsensical notions out of his leaden pericranium.” Mrs. Cleveland was not entirely satisfied with Derrick’s mode of conviction, and dreaded the effect of a broadside which might involve her cause in the unguarded mischief; but as there was still a hope of dinner passing over without a necessity for its operation, she tacitly consented to accompany him to the table, in obedience to a summons sent by Signora Francisca.
Upon entering the hall, one side of which opened to a garden in the true Portuguese taste, consisting of formal parterres, orange groves, little fountains, and treillages of vines, Almeria recognised in one of Mr. Polygon’s guests, the noble cavalier who had so generously offered to protect her on her escape from the rock.—Surprised beyond the power of speech, she could only bow in silent confusion to his animated address, and could scarcely bear the keen yet respectful regard of this undesired visitor. Not so the unsuspicious open-hearted Patrick, who soon recollected Signor Jerome; and evinced his pleasure at a meeting so unexpected by the liveliest marks. “By all the rules of architecture” exclaimed Polygon, “my friend Derrick seems to have met with an old acquaintance.” “And what then, cunning Isaac? What have your rules to do with friendship? that’s a compass you niver steer by; this owld gontlemin has been guilty of a fault I could niver lay to your charge.” “Of what nature, Captain?” asked the smiling cavalier, who soon perceived the contrast of character between Derrick and Polygon. “Nature? O now and I’ll tell you honey: Why he niver in all his life hove out a rope to save a drowning crater, as one may call my little - - - nephew here, for to be sure now he was next kin to drowning upon dry land, as one may say, when you would have towed him into a snug harbour.—Speak, owld Red-cap? to be sure you love to fish in troubled waters, but the divil a bit will you do that without a gowlden bait.” “Dear sir, consider—” whispered Almeria, for she dreaded the broadside he seemed to be preparing. “Oh,” cried Polygon, whose attention was fixed to Mrs. Cleveland’s every word and action, “Don’t interrupt him: the man who is an enemy to divine sciences, can never be a friend to its professors;—but I pass over his ignorance, and as a christian I can forgive him.” “A christian!” vociferated our indignant Captain, while certain recollections as they sparkled in his eye, reflected themselves on the orange tawney of his antagonist’s face, “Now by my conscience, and that is a forgery.” The term as it burst so forcibly from Derrick’s lips, deepened the hue of Polygon’s cheek,—“A cursed forgery, little Isaac; and I’ll tell you why: Does christianity tache a man to rob another of his allowance? Does it tache him to deny his messmate a share of his grog? I tell you what it is now, I would sooner take a round dozen every day than encounter such a shark;—true, my manes are very small; but were they nothing at all at all, my fellow crater should be welcome to part of them!” A faint smile passed over Polygon’s features as he begged the company’s attention to Derrick’s blunder, who satisfied with the victory so evidently obtained, ceased to torment by his well pointed inuendos, a being whose conscience, notwithstanding its tacit submission to successful imposture, could never stand the shafts of a ridicule so just; and the dinner passed without any further trial of his forbearance.
Delighted with the modest efforts of Almeria to ward off Derrick’s rough, and Polygon’s artful attacks upon a delicacy which neither of them properly appreciated, the Cavalier Jerome strove to draw their attention from our persecuted heroine by fixing it upon a subject which at that period formed an important part in every public conversation. Another supposed attack had been made upon the life of Joseph of Portugal, though dissimilar to that in 1760, yet more fatal in its effects; for, in consequence of a death for which his physicians could not any otherwise account, they chose to attribute his demise to poison; and the houses of De Tavora and D’Aveiro were again made objects of suspicion in their collateral branches. He then went into a prolix description of the fatal confusions of that memorable year; when Almeria, who listened with trembling attention to an account so painfully interesting to her feelings, ventured to question Signor Jerome respecting his knowledge of the unhappy victims: “Alas, unhappy families! I knew them well:” returned he, “I was a reluctant and pitying witness of their dying agonies; being stationed with my troop beside the scaffold on which they suffered, and heard their solemn protestations of innocence; for all were permitted the liberty of speech except my noble friend, the Duke D’Aveiro, who being accused of directly assasinating his majesty, was denied a privilege allowed to every other criminal.” Here Mrs. Cleveland turned a look of such expressive anguish upon that child of nature, the compassionate Derrick, that he could scarcely refrain shewing some public marks of consolation to his adopted niece; however he was prevented, as Signor Jerome proceeded in his information; observing, “that he had but just heard the intentions of Joseph’s successor, which were, to search after every descendant of those prescribed families; and such, said he, is the inveteracy of the royal house against those unfortunate people, that I greatly dread its consequence to all who may come within the pale of their cruel suspicions.—Indeed, I was informed at the same instant, that its vengeance had already reached a remote branch of that house, in the person of a youth who being by the Count De Lima” * * “De Lima!” repeated the agonizing Almeria, “Do I understand you aright?—Has De Lima any connexion with De Tavora’s Line?—O in pity to a wretched creature, do away if possible, the suspicions which ring every fibre of my tortured heart!” Signor Jerome astonished by this mysterious address, cast an eye of eager curiosity upon Derrick, but he had the grace to continue silent; although every working muscle declared his inability to be so long.
“I wish from my soul, poor youth,” replied Jerome, “that I could justly annihilate the suspicions you mention; but it must be confessed that Count De Lima married a sister of the Marchioness of Tavora, who, there is every reason to imagine, left an infant son to the mercy of an unfeeling world; which child was missing for many years, till accident discovered him to the Count De Lima, who procured for the young Tavora every advantage his situation as one obnoxious to the government would admit; leaving his estate to him at his decease, with an order to assume the name and title of De Lima when circumstances would countenance it. It has been reported that in consequence of our king’s demise, people were dispatched to England with a mandate from the court, permitting that young man to appear in his own character; but, that in return for the confidence he had so liberally placed in the harpies who had so artfully trepanned him, he was put into close confinement: * * *” “Enough, enough! owld gontlemin,” roared out the passionate Derrick, “I see it all: by my sowl now, but this is precious news, and that manufacturer of mischief is at the bottom of it! yes, yes, little Isaac no doubt can tell us all about it; Owld Harry too has had a finger in the pye;—a pretty fool’s errand I went upon truly, and after all, to be fobbed off with a tale of a cock and a bull; when, instead of concluding a bargain with a piratical Hymen, as the poor divil is called, the unlucky crater was stowed close under the hatches, and I like a foolish son of a sea cook, believed all their lying palaver!” “O then” cried Almeria, “this dreadful mystery is explained; I see you view it in the same horrible light with myself;—Sir,” and she wrung the Cavalier’s hand with a frantic earnestness, “I will no longer attempt to deceive you,” * * but again checking the rash intention of discovering herself, “Are you sure that the unhappy man is indeed the object of infernal cruelty;—yes, yes, I see it in that look of pity; he has been betrayed for that horrid purpose; his absence is accounted for; his conduct justified; and when next we meet, it may be on the scaffold, where the torturing wheel and dislocated frame shall” * * yet again recovering a moment’s presence of mind, “there may be hopes that my friend may escape a doom so fatal.” “No indeed, honey,” replied Derrick, whose discretion was totally superceded by indignation and sorrow, “there is no hope at all for him, or any of us d’ye see;”—“Not one faint gleam, my dear sir;”—“No faith, not enough to light a farthing rush-light; because why,” * * “Then we are wretched indeed! but can it be possible * *”—Here her voice was lost in sighs and tears, and Derrick fully estimating the true cause of all this sorrow, betrayed, by his extravagant emotions, her particular interest in the agonizing story.
Luckily for Almeria, the prying Polygon had vacated his seat previous at the commencement of her distress to take his usual sieste; and Francisca, with her sister, aware of the impropriety of sitting in company which their uncle’s presence would have tolerated, had strolled into the garden; so that Jerome was the only strange witness of this trying scene.—To him indeed, all reserve was useless; since he had long availed himself of Derrick’s blunders, and had taken the first opportunity which presented itself, of seeking farther into a matter that interested his feelings, his affection, and his curiosity. It only remained therefore to know her exact situation, and this he easily obtained from her incautious friend.—To hear that the weeping youth before him was announced as the great D’Aveiro’s daughter; that she had been indebted to strangers, placed even below mediocrity, for support and education; to see her again within reach of enemies, equal in power and will, to ruin her, with those who had nearly destroyed her wretched race; nay, that she was an inmate (as was but too likely) with the wretch whose scent for blood, not innocence itself could destroy. What pangs did this knowledge convey to a heart so liberal and tender as Signor Jerome’s; he too, whose friendship for her supposed parents was never to be forgotten, now beheld their offspring threatened with a fate so dreadful; yet compassionating the delicacy which received so severe a wound, he knew not how to render her any useful service without offering an additional violence to it; for Derrick had drawn him aside to communicate that discovery, which his loaded heart could no longer contain, and Almeria remained ignorant of the disclosure. But as the exigence of the moment would not admit of delay, and urged by Patrick to stand forth as his dear little girl’s defender, the Cavalier, (after gently hinting his possession of her important secret,) seriously urged the necessity of her removal from Isaac Polygon’s power, and again renewed the offer he had once before made of secreting her at the hospital where he resided. To this request, Mrs. Cleveland would have opposed a decided refusal; but where could a forlorn stranger like her, secure an assylum from an enemy so cunning, so interested, and so designing as Polygon? Would not the suspicion he already but too visibly encouraged, be strengthened into certainty by her sudden absence, and would he leave any step untried to throw her into the power of her enemies? Why he should attempt the persecution of a helpless creature, she could not develope; but that he had some sinister view in it gave her no difficulty to ascertain:—covered therefore with burning blushes, and shunning his friendly but steady eye, she faintly acceded to his proposal, and the following morning was hastily fixed upon for her departure.
with the prospect of preserving his beloved child from the fangs of diabolical
power, and not a little elevated at the idea of mortifying her deceitful enemy,
the Captain’s triumph soared beyond all tolerable bounds; and the rest of the
day passed in openly pitying Anica for being the subject of an owld hoary headed Fox’s admiration, making love to
Francisca, and venting his hatred of Polygon in humorous sarcasms, blundering
allusions, and bitter gibes, all of which were completely understood by the
tormented being: concluding his notable reflections with a wish that all such
foes to humanity, &c. were condemned like the Reverendissimo of the rock,
to be a companion for eagles and rats.—“Apropos,” cried Signor Jerome, “of that
same Reverendissimo to whom you seem so partial: I went with some friends last
Wednesday to visit the hermits of that celebrated rock, and in consequence of a
former intimacy, was favoured by him with a private interview; but instead of
the stoical apathy of manners and calm disdain of a world he hates, which once
distinguished this extraordinary man, I found him restless, violent, and
fiercely inquisitive respecting the politics of our government, the private
history of individuals, and particularly of an event which we,” turning
to Mrs. Cleveland, “have so recently discussed.”
Polygon caught the meaning look which accompanied this observation, and translated it his own way; “He even hinted” continued the Cavalier, “at his intention of quitting his airy habitation for one less exposed to the curiosity of the gay and frivolous.” “O then honey,” interrupted the provoking Captain, rubbing his hands with fresh glee, “there will be a snug cabin for plotting Isaac; where he may weave his poisonous webs without molestation for the poor flies that cant resist the venemous spider.” “Flies? Mr. Derrick,” “Well, well, flies or wealthy little girls, Signor Jerome, what’s the difference, all’s one for that; owld Caliban takes me, dont you cunning Isaac?” “I do indeed, Captain, and for the veriest brute in Christendom!” “O, Christendom! why there it is again; sure now my dear, and there is niver a christian upon the most desolate island in the continent of America, that is so great a hathen as yourself.” “By every rule in our sublime sciences, these blunders are unpardonable in one who calls himself a seaman.” “Come, come, no reflections upon my samenship, little big wig, or I may chance to knock you down before you are up, owld frosty face.”
Tired of this bitter contention, and eager to arrange his plan more effectively with the terrified Almeria, the Cavalier asked her to join their young friends in the garden, although his intention was not to seek them; but the excuse obtained, and encouraged by his mild and gentle manners, she soon acquired resolution enough to state several obstacles to the scheme he had proposed, of secreting her in a place where she could meet with no female of respectability, whose society might alleviate the horrors she must encounter, if wholly left to associate with men. Signor Jerome apologized for a proposal made in the moment of necessity, and frankly confessed her reasons were unanswerable. “If,” said he, “you could get admittance to the convent of St. Mary as a boarder, till circumstances may authorize your departure from Lisbon, it would not only prevent the necessity of a disguise so repugnant to true delicacy, but effectually mislead the artful Polygon in a pursuit, which I am justified in saying, he will set on foot as soon as your departure shall be known; for indeed my young friend, that man is not less dangerous than artful.—He has an important point to carry, or Captain Derrick’s impolitic sarcasms would not be so tamely received.—Doubtless he has already an eye to the great reward held out by our new king, and his niece Mary, for the apprehension of the supposed traitors and their connexions, if so, your danger is extreme; for it is apparent to any one who has kept an eye upon his conduct, that you are an object of his invidious designs.—Had he ever seen the lamented Duke, whose descendant every feature in that speaking countenance declares you to be, I should the less wonder at his evident design; but as it is, can only fear that he has drawn from Derrick’s incautious reflections and ill-timed jokes upon your carriage and person, motives for suspecting your sex; if so, it requires but little skill to identify a person, which all who know your friend’s attachment to the young Portuguese, will easily guess at; and how naturally will it follow, that such a disguise in this land of suspicion, when assumed by a native, is worn for a sinister purpose; besides, who knows but your story, with that of De Lima, has been committed by the deceived Sir Henry Tillotson to this man; whose fraudulent schemes upon his wife’s nieces, although beyond the reach of law, has rendered his character nearly detestable. If this position be admitted, I need not urge your speedy flight: would to heaven it pointed towards England! but such is the rancour of the queen against your family, that she has published an edict forbidding any one to quit her kingdom without a passport, till the true cause of her father’s death is truly understood.”
Convinced by this candid representation, that her situation was no less dangerous than inconvenient, she, after a very lively expression of gratitude for his generous interference, could only grant her ready suffrage to the request he made to hold herself in readiness, should he be happy enough to procure the assylum this kind friend meditated for her; and he was in the very act of kissing the hand she modestly offered, when Mrs. Cleveland was rather disconcerted by Derrick’s sudden appearance, as he darted from behind a clump of myrtles, that sheltered the bench on which they sat; concluding from his arch countenance, his pointing finger, and a meaning nod, which indicated some notable discovery, that old Polygon was someway concerned in it, she would have left her seat, lest in Patrick’s eagerness to detect the mean listener, (for upon looking forwards she actually beheld him stealing off) his rough censor should pursue and bring him before them; when something might occur to throw Derrick off his guard, and lend fresh light to suspicions, to which she trembled to think this deep designer had received a fatal addition, if he had overheard any part of their conversation, and she found herself too timid to face his subtle inuendos.
However, as Derrick appeared sufficiently gratified in unkennelling the skulking hound, as he chose to term him, while he confessed that Isaac could not have been long within hearing, and had suffered him to escape without even supposing he had been seen, Almeria tried to hope that her secret was safe; and that Derrick in compliance with her entreaties, would suffer the matter to drop when they again met. But Signor Jerome felt not quite so sanguine upon this business; he dreaded the consequence of a discovery so destructive to their plan, and though possessed of courage sufficient, even at that period of existence, to meet death in the field, he shuddered at the idea of encountering the formidable phantom upon the torturing wheel; and to be found in the act of abetting an implicated criminal, was to pronounce his own sentence. It were easy, (thus argued fastidious caution) to resign a helpless innocent to a similar fate, should Polygon have overheard sufficient to involve her in the dreadful mischief; and by accusing her of a supposed consanguinity to the suspected families, exonerate himself from blame.—True, replied benevolence, but where is the wretch who could behold that sweet conscious eye, that soft and delicate frame, shrinking from the infliction of savage tortures, or turned with a fearful expression from their death imposing iustrument, and know himself to be the cause of such distress?—no where! The voice of Polygon, as it broke upon this conclusion, in the cold smooth, yet sarcastic tones of smothered duplicity, defeated Jerome’s conclusion, no where, he mentally articulated:—yes, there! brooding it is possible over the dreaded mischief, sits the lurking demon who can view confiding loveliness without one remorseful pang: but I will protect her; I the friend of her murdered father will, with heaven’s assistance, preserve his orphan daughter.
The consequence of this generous resolution, was an eager desire to set about securing Almeria from her latent enemies; to do which there yet remained a difficult task.—Unacquainted with the nuns of St. Mary, he was to solicit their attention to a young creature whose safety depended upon concealment; and what abbess of character would receive her with no recommendation, but that of a veteran commander?—True, she might be introduced as a relation, but even this subterfuge would prove ineffectual, if the cautious mother should require proofs such as he might be unable to procure; however, the experiment must be hazarded, and he lost no time in forwarding his benevolent,—we may say, heroic purpose.
Mrs. Cleveland beheld his departure with an anxiety she tried to conceal. It seemed to her apprehensive mind, as if she had seen the last of a friend whose determination, knowledge of the world, and discreet conduct rendered him, if not equally beloved, yet more highly respected than her affectionate, thoughtless Irish Protector. But she found little leisure for meditation, the succeeding night was fixed upon, during the garden conversation, for her flight; and she yet had to procure a female dress previous to her arrival at St. Mary’s. To do this was an almost impossible business; no means presented to ensure its practibility: and she was wretched in the idea that her plan must fail, unless she could obtain some decent habiliments, when casting a hopeless eye round her bed chamber, which had been the sleeping room of Signora Anica, she beheld a large press, that, being let into the wainscot, had escaped her notice till this trying moment, when she fancied one of its folding doors was not entirely closed. It instantly occurred to her anxious imagination, that it might contain an adequate supply of her, at present, most urgent necessities. Upon trying the lock, it immediately yielded, and she justly imagined that some one in the course of the day had turned the key without shutting the doors close enough to fasten them properly. “Happy remissness for me,” exclaimed the delighted Almeria, as she contemplated several complete dresses in the English fashion, which lay upon the different sliding boards, “I can now accommodate myself in a way far superior to that Signor Jerome proposed;” for no better alternative had presented itself to that anxious friend than the one of purchasing a few wearables of the chamber maid, for the pretended purpose of appearing at a sort of masquerade, which Signora Francisca was meditating. Delighted then with her acquisition, she immediately selected enough to complete the wished for transformation, and having finished her toilet, sat down to wait the agreed upon signal at her window, which overlooked a corner of the Terrieres de Passe.
Signor Jerome had named an hour when he thought even the vigilant Polygon, who slept in the room adjoining, might be lulled in sound repose; and at one o’clock he proposed to be in waiting with a dark lanthorn and a short ladder, by which means she might safely descend. Attentive to the moment fixed upon, she no sooner heard the sonorous stroke as it rolled upon the air from a neighbouring church, than our poor persecuted heroine stationed herself at the lattice, eagerly listening to the few passing steps of market folks; centinels relieving guard before houses suspected of containing people amenable to the fancies of their jealous sovereign, and cavaliers returning from giving their nightly serenades. It yet wanted two hours to morning; the clouds, as she pensively watched their irregular motion, deepened into portentous darkness, and hung with a lurid and heavy aspect over the Terrieres de Passe; a slight convulsive motion denoted one of those earthquakes, which since that tremendous concussion in the year 55, were extremely frequent in Lisbon; Almeria could scarcely endure the terrors excited by an incident so common among the natives, as hardly to obtain the smallest notice, and she closed her sash in all the agonies of expectation. Again the shock was repeated; she gazed around: the window shook, pictures rattled upon their hooks, the door vibrated upon its hinges, and this commotion was followed by a stillness little less alarming than the shock itself; for she had heard that a solemn repose had hung upon all nature previous to the first awful attack, but in this she was happily deceived; a brisk wind arose, the clouds floated in vast volumes from the face of the sky, and she contemplated, with pious gratitude, the moon in all her silvery splendor, touching every object on which its beams reposed, with her soft and gentle influence.
It was now two o’clock; and after an affecting and solemn address to the great omnipotent, who had removed the subject of her terrors, she again resumed her station at the window, not without a secret dread of some disappointment to which her foreboding fears could give no sufficient meaning.
With an attention so firmly fixed upon the ruling wish of her soul, Mrs. Cleveland hardly adverted to the possibility of an interruption from within, till a soft step as it stole by her door, changed the current of her apprehensions. She even fancied, as she softly drew another bolt, that she heard a low whisper in the gallery.—Her name too she thought was repeated, but in a way that indicated terror in the pronouncer:—again she caught the low trembling accents of this ominous disturber; but a little gravel which at that instant rattled against the sash, turned the course of her ideas, and Almeria was fated to undergo another disappointment. Advancing therefore with a cautious step, she once more opened her window; when, to her utter astonishment, she saw that all was silent and deserted. There was light sufficient to have discovered a human figure at a considerable distance, but even the few passengers she had before contemplated with trembling hope, were no longer visible. Thus harassed between the dread of Signor Jerome’s inability to obtain an assylum for her, and Isaac Polygon’s treachery, she felt her utmost efforts to support her fortitude wholly ineffectual.
The dawn had already begun to whiten the neighbouring spires:—again the early market people came in sight as they were returning to their respective homes. The streets no longer presented a scene of solitude: cavaliers wrapt in capotas, watermen repairing to their different stations, soldiers, sailors, filled the distant landscape as they severally advanced and retired, presenting to her hopeless fancy, while tracing their steps, a scene not wholly dissimilar to the effects of a magic lanthorn, but in vain she tried to recognize the figure on which her sole dependance hung; till fearful of becoming an object of curiosity to the few that passed beneath her window, she once more gently dropped the sash, and in an agony of disappointment, that bore a full proportion to the rapture her intended flight had excited, sunk upon her bed; while reflections of the keenest nature encreased the bitterness of her feelings, and another hour was wasted in fruitless tears and melancholy meditation.
Ever candid in her decisions, and rather too ready to credit assertions which came recommended by an honest countenance and plausible manners, Almeria could not encourage a doubt of Jerome’s sincerity. It could not be, she thought, that a gentleman whose character and situation precluded every temptation to do wrong, (since no one was admitted to the noble establishment he enjoyed, without a very high recommendation for probity, valour, and exalted manners; nay, in her peculiar case, a villain,—except, like Polygon, he was a villain upon principle;) would scarcely abuse a confidence whose forfeiture could procure no advantage. “Doubtless then,” concluded this unhappy woman, “Signor Jerome has been traced by those savage destroyers of human tranquillity, and in the very moment of that unfortunate signal, was silently, but forcibly conveyed away to—O, patience, heaven! possibly to the same horrid abode which contains—my husband!” This was the very climax of sorrow; she could reflect no longer; unless it was to present De Lima and Jerome fated but too probably by her evil destiny, which had impelled them to love and serve her, to end their lives upon the same scaffold; and then pursuing the same harrowing supposition, “Yes,” she continued, “to me? to me, wretched woman that I am! may be attributed the destruction of a friend,—a dear lost husband. It seemed too as if my presence had produced a terrible effect upon the mysterious Favorita; Derrick too,—the compassionate, generous Derrick had suffered much inconvenience from his attachment to the miserable Almeria. Even the good curate of Amesbury, the inconsistent Sir Henry Tillotson, his amiable lady, all have endured considerable anxiety for me? And is it indeed so; are all who have dared to favour a creature born under the auspices of imputed guilt and certain shame, doomed to share in a degree my sorrow? Now perhaps” and she started from her bed in frantic agony, “Now, in this moment, so big with horror to a frenzied wretch, that dear De Lima, that benevolent Jerome, may, O terrible suspicion! be answering at some gloomy bar of judicature for their ill requited attention to the helpless Almeria. That whisper, those light and cautious movements, might they not originate with the treacherous Polygon? O yes, it must be so; and he also is gone to give his deadly malice vent in false accusations. I then, must be his next victim; but” here a sudden hope shot across her fervid imagination, “if he, the only one who dare impede my departure, should indeed be absent, I may yet escape from his detested arts;” so saying, she darted to her chamber door, undrew the bolts, and with a fearful step trod lightly along the gallery leading to a private stair-case, but that was strongly secured by a sort of hatch; and our trembling adventurer was obliged to return to try a passage by the public stairs, when her heart was chilled by the appalling sight of Polygon in close conversation with two tall figures in complete disguise; their persons enveloped by dark capotas, large slouched hats concealed a part of the face, and black handkerchiefs tied loosely about the neck did the rest.
Scarcely able to repress an agonizing exclamation at this foreboding contradiction to her late hopes, Mrs. Cleveland could only attempt to retrace her way to the chamber she had just left, in a firm persuasion of her seeing it no more; but unable to reach it without resting against one of the pillars that supported another gallery which ran above that she stood in, her garment white and of a silky texture, attracted both the eye and ear of the vigilant Polygon, who angrily bid her retire, erroneously supposing one of his nieces had risen at that early hour. Encouraged by this fortunate mistake to hope she might yet gain her apartment without any further discovery, Mrs. Cleveland glided from her dangerous post, and once more saw herself the reluctant inmate of a man whose power and will to do evil, seemed equal to any task assigned him. To remain any longer in the dress she had fondly assumed for a purpose so congenial both to delicacy and convenience, became now both hazardous and useless. The uniform was carefully deposited in the wardrobe; but who can paint her anguish, when she once more prepared to re-adopt it: alternately she turned her humid eye from that to the elegant dress she was so reluctantly resigning, when hearing a heavy step ascending the stairs, which she rightly judged to be her suspected persecutor’s, our disappointed Almeria swiftly disencumbered herself of the precious garments, and after replacing them, threw herself upon the bed, again recurring to the painful subjects of the past hours; while fresh apprehensions, induced by Isaac’s portentous appearance with that of his strange companions, not only added new pangs to retrospection, but nearly prevented the repose she tried to encourage.
END OF VOL. I.
J. Rackham, Printer,
Bury St. Edmond’s.
* This description was given by one who was upon the spot, but who could not bear to stay the infliction of the coup de grace.