« VorigeDoorgaan »
À RECOLLECTION FROM MY TRAVELS.
From "Knight's Quarterly Magazine."
POOR Alonzo! he was the best friend that ever drank Xeres: he picked me out of the Guadalquivir, when I deemed I had said my last prayer.
It was a very conciliating introduction. I never in my life made a friend of a man to whom I was introduced in a formal kind of way, with bows from both parties, and cordiality from neither. I love something more stirring, more animated; the river of life is at best but a quiet stupid stream, and I want an occasional pebble to ruffle its surface withal. The most agreeable introductions that ever fell to my lot were these-my introduction to Pendragon, who was overturned with me in the York Mail;-my introduction to Eliza, who contrived to faint in my arms on board the Albion packet and my introduction to Alonzo, who picked me out of the Guadalquivir.
I was strolling beside it on a fine moonlight night, after a brilliant and fatiguing party, at which the Lady Isidora had made ten conquests, and Don Pedro had told twenty stories: I was tired to death of dancing and iced waters, glaring lights and lemonade; and as I looked on the sleepy wave, and the dark trees, and the cloudless sky, I felt that I could wander there for ever, and dream of poetry, and two or three friends.
The sound of a guitar and a sweet voice waked me; I do not know why I always associate the ideas of pleasant tones and bright eyes together; but I cannot help it, and of course I was very anxious to see the musician of the Guadalquiver. I clambered, by the aid of cracked stones, and bushes which hung to them, to the summit of a low wall; and looking down perceived a cavalier sitting with a lady under a grove of sycamores. The cavalier seemed to have hardly seen seventeen winters; he was slender and tall, with a ruddy complexion, black hair, and a quick merry eye. The lady appeared full five years older; her eyes were as quick, and her ringlets as black, and her complexion as warm, but more delicate they were evidently brother and sister; but that was a matter of indifference to me.
I heard a Spanish song upon the fall of the Abencerrage, and another upon the exploits of the Cid; then the lady began an Italian
ditty, but she had not accomplished the first stanza, when a decayed stone gave way, and carried me through all the intricacies of bush and bramble into the cold bed of the river.-I could not swim a stroke.
I remember nothing more until the minute when I opened my eyes, and found myself in a pretty summer-house, very wet and very cold, with Alonzo and his sister leaning over me. "For the love of heaven," were the first words I heard, “run, Alonzo, to call the servants."
"I wait," said Alonzo, "to hear him speak. If he be a Frenchman he goes to the bottom again."
The fates be thanked that I was born in Derbyshire, and called Sir Harry my father; if I had bathed in the Seine instead of the Derwent, I had rued my parentage bitterly. Alonzo detested the French.
From that time we were always together. They were orphans, and had scarcely a relation in the world except an aunt, who had gone to the cloister, and an uncle who had crossed the sea, and a rich cousin who had betaken himself St Jerome knew whither; but Alonzo, who had a much nearer concern in the matter, seemed to know little enough about it. They had travelled much, and Leonora was mistress apparently of the literature of all Europe: yet they went rarely into company, for they doted upon one another with a love so perfect and so engrossing, that you might have fancied them, as they fancied themselves, alone in the world, with no toil and no pleasure, but solitary walks, and songs of tenderness, and gazings upon one another's eyes. If ever perfection existed in woman, it existed here. I do not know why I did not fall in love with Leonora ; but to be sure I was in love with five or six at the time.
A few months flew delightfully away. Leonora taught me Spanish, and Alonzo taught me to swim. Every morning was occupied with romantic excursions by water or by land, and every evening was beguiled with literary conversation, or music from the loveliest voice and the most eloquent strings that ever I had the fortune to listen to. And when we parted, we parted with warm hearts, and pleasant anticipations, and affectionate tears. In two brief years those hearts were separated; and those anticipations were blighted for ever; and those tears were exchanged for tears of bitterness and of mourning.
The troubles of Spain commenced; and my poor Alonzo joined the Patriots, and fell in his first campaign. Leonora had been,-not a heroine, for I hate heroines, but a noble woman. She herself had decorated the young victim whom she sacrificed to her country's good; she had embroidered the lace on his uniform with her own hand; she had given him the scarf which was found turned round his arm on the field; and she had smiled mournfully as she bade him wear it till some one more beautiful or more beloved had chosen him for her knight. And when he had girded on his father's sword, and lingered with his hand upon his courser's mane, she had said "farewell," in a firm voice, and wept while she said it.
It was on a journey to Scotland that I passed through the same village in which the Spanish lady had shrouded her fading beauty and her breaking heart. I sent up my name to her, and was admitted into her little drawing-room immediately. Oh! how altered she seemed that day. All the colour had disappeared from her cheek, and all the freshness from her lip; she had still the white hand and
arm, which I had seen running so lightly over the strings of her theor. bo, but they were wasted terribly away; and though her long dark locks were braided as carefully as they had been in happier days, they did not communicate the idea of brightness and brilliancy which they had been wont to scatter over her countenance. She endeavoured to rise from the sofa as I entered; but the effort was too great for her, and she sat down without speaking. She was evidently dying; and the contrast between the parting and the meeting, and the vague vision of the past, and the melancholy reality of the present, struck me so forcibly and so sadly, that I stayed with my hand on the door and burst into tears.
"We are not to weep thus," she said; "he fell like a true Spaniard; and I only regret that I was not born a man, that I might have put my rifle to my shoulder, and died with my hand in his. Pray sit down; it is a long time since I have seen any friend who can talk to me of the old days."
I suggested that she ought to endeavour to think less of the losses she had endured, and to dwell more cheerfully on the tranquillity which might yet be in store for her. "I should despise you now," she answered, "if I could think this advice came from your heart. What! you would have me forget him, whose life was my dearest pleasure, and whose death is my greatest pride. Look at this ring," and she took off a small gold one, and made me remark its motto 'fiel a la muerte ;'*" he would not have bade me wear this in remembrance of him, if he had not known that he was doomed to perish, if he had not known too that I should be happy afterwards in thinking and dreaming of him." Then she began to recal minutely every scene and circumstance of our intimacy; inquiring about every study or amusement we had meditated or enjoyed together, whether I had bettered my flute-playing,-whether I had studied landscape,-whether I had finished Calderon. She wearied herself with talking; and then leaning her head on the cushions, desired me to take up a book from the table and read to her, that she might hear whether my pronunciation was improved.
I took up the first that presented itself; it was only a manuscript book, containing many scraps and fragments from different authors, in her brother's writing. I laid it down again, and took up the next: it was a Dante which I had given her: I opened it at random, and began to read the story of Francesca. When came to the celebrated lines,
"Nessun maggior dolore
Che ricordarsi del tempo felice
"I would not lose my re
"I do not believe a word of it," she said. collection for all Mexico."
I took leave of her soon: for I saw that my presence agitated and wearied her. When I had parted from her before, she had given me a miniature of herself, which she had painted in all the glow of health and
*Faithful to death.
† Nothing is more painful than the recollection of past happiness.
spirits, and ardent affections, which then so well became her. Now she gave me another which had been her task or pleasure in sickness and solitude. I do not know why I turn from the first with its fine hues and sparkling lustre, to gaze upon the paleness and languor of the other, with a deeper feeling of melancholy delight.
When I returned from Scotland after the lapse of two months, Leonora was dead. I found the sexton of the village, and desired him to point out to me the spot where she rested. There was a small marble slab over her remains, with the brief inscription "Leonora Addio!" I stood for a few minutes there, and began to moralize and murmur. "It seems only yesterday," I said, "that she was moving and breathing before me, with all the buoyancy and beauty of her blameless form and her stainless spirit; and now she lies in her purity and her loveliness."
"She lies in a pretty grave,' said the old sexton, looking with apparent satisfaction on his handiwork.
"She does, indeed, good Nicholas; and her loveliness is but little to the purpose!"
Awake, ye mortals! raise your eyes
And see how poor this world appears,
With all its hopes and all its fears:
Of heavenly lamps so brightly shining,
A hand unseen their course assigning-
Yet in harmonious concord joining.
Who sees the silver chariot move
Of the bright Moon; and, gliding slow,
Sheds knowledge on the world below,
All bright and beautifully glow:
Rolls fiercely on his bloody way,
That o'er the Gods of old held sway;
And calms the heavens beneath his ray:
Where Saturn shews his distant beam,
Thick as the sand upon the shore,
Of glory and of radiance pour :
Spurning its pleasures, poor and mean,
And pass the gulf that yawn'd between ?
THE BATTLE OF ALBUERA.
From "Recollections of the Peninsula."
-I SHALL here interrupt my private Recollections, to give a rapid sketch of the battle which took place on the morrow. On the morning