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THE NAUTICO-MILITARY NUN OF SPAIN,
BY THOMAS DE QUINCEY.
LET us suppose Kate placed in a warm bed. Let us suppose her in a few hours recovering steady consciousness; in a few days recovering some power of self-support; in a fortnight able to seek the gay saloon, where the Senora was sitting alone, and rendering thanks, with that deep sincerity which ever characterised our wildhearted Kate, for the critical services received from that lady and her establishment.
This lady, a widow, was what the French call a métisse, the Spaniards a mestizza; that is, the daughter of a genuine Spaniard, and an Indian mother. I shall call her simply a creole, which will indicate her want of pure Spanish blood sufficiently to explain her deference for those who had it. She was a kind, liberal woman; rich | rather more than needed where there were no opera boxes to rent-a widow about fifty years old in the wicked world's account, some forty-four in her own; and happy, above all, in the possession of a most lovely daughter, whom even the wicked world did not accuse of more than sixteen years. This daughter, Juana, was But stop-let her open the door of the saloon in which the Senora and the cornet are conversing, and speak for herself. She did so, after an hour had passed; which length of time, to her that never had any business whatever in her innocent life, seemed sufficient to settle the business of the old world and the new. Had Pietro Diaz (as Catalina now called herself) been really a Peter, and not a sham Peter, what a vision of loveliness would have
"Creole" :-At that time the infusion of negro or African blood was small. Consequently none of the negro hideousness was diffused. After these intercomplexities had arisen between all complications of descent from three original strands, European, American, African, the distinctions of social consideration founded on them bred names so many, that a court calendar was necessary to keep you from blundering. As yet, the varieties were few. Meantime, the word creole has always been misapplied in our English colonies to a person (though of strictly European blood) simply because born in the West Indies. In this English use, it expresses the same difference as the Romans indicated by Hispanus and Hispanicus. The first meant a person of Spanish blood, a native of Spain; the second, a Roman born in Spain. So of Germanus and Germanicus, Italus and Italicus, Anglus and Anglicus, &c.; an important distinction, on which see Casaubon apud Scriptores. Hist. Augustan.
VOL. XIV.NO. CLXII.
rushed upon his sensibilities as the door opened! Do not expect me to describe her, for which, however, there are materials extant, sleeping in archives, where they have slept for two hundred and twenty years. It is enough that she is reported to have united the stately tread of Andalusian women with the innocent voluptuousness of Peruvian eyes. As to her complexion and figure, be it known that Juana's father was a gentleman from Grenada, having in his veins the grandest blood of all this earth, blood of Goths and Vandals, tainted (for which Heaven be thanked!) twice over with blood of Arabs-once through Moors, once through Jews;* whilst from her grandmother Juana drew the deep subtle melancholy and the beautiful contours of limb which belong to the Indian race—a race destined silently and slowly to fade from the earth. No awkwardness was or could be in this antelope, when gliding with forest grace into the room-no town-bred shamenothing but the unaffected pleasure of one who wishes to speak a fervent welcome, but knows not if she ought-the astonishment of a Miranda, bred in utter solitude, when first beholding a princely Ferdinand-and just so much reserve as to remind you, that if Catalina thought fit to dissemble her sex, she did not. sider, reader, if you look back and are a great arithmetician, that whilst the Senora had only fifty per cent. of Spanish blood, Juana had seventyfive; so that her Indian melancholy after all was swallowed up for the present by her Vandal, by her Arab, by her Spanish fire.
Catalina, seared as she was by the world, has left it evident in her memoirs that she was touched more than she wished to be by this innocent child.
* It is well known, that the very reason why the Spanish of all nations became the most gloomily jealous of a Jewish cross in the pedigree, was because, until toe vigilance of the Church rose into ferocity, in no nation was such a cross so common. The hatred of fear is ever the deepest. And men hated the Jewish taint, as once in Jerusalem they hated the leprosy, because even whilst they raved against it, the secret proofs of it might be detected amongst their own kindred, even as in the Temple, whilst once a king rose in mutiny against the priesthood, (Chron. ii. 26) suddenly the leprosy that dethroned him, blazed out upon his forehead.
Juana formed a brief lull for Catalina in her too stormy existence. And if for her in this life the sweet reality of a sister had been possible, here was the sister she would have chosen. On the other hand, what might Juana think of the cornet? To have been thrown upon the kind hospitalities of her native home, to have been rescued by her mother's servants from that fearful death which, lying but a few miles off, had filled her nursery with traditionary tragedies, that was sufficient to create an interest in the stranger. But his bold martial demeanour, his yet youthful style of beauty, his frank manners, his animated conversation that reported a hundred contests with suffering and peril, wakened for the first time her admiration. Men she had never seen before, except menial servants, or a casual priest. But here was a gentleman, young like herself, that rode in the cavalry of Spain-that carried the banner of the only potentate whom Peruvians knew of the King of the Spains and the Indies that had doubled Cape-Horn, that had crossed the Andes, that had suffered shipwreck, that had rocked upon fifty storms, and had wrestled for life through fifty battles.
firmed Juana's notion that the business of two worlds could be transacted in an hour, by settling her daughter's future happiness in exactly twenty minutes. The poor, weak Catalina, not acting now in any spirit of recklessness, grieving sincerely for the gulph that was opening before her, and yet shrinking effeminately from the momentary shock that would be inflicted by a firm adherence to her duty, clinging to the anodyne of a short delay, allowed herself to be installed as the lover of Juana. Considerations of convenience, however, postponed the marriage. It was requisite to make various purchases; and for this, it was requisite to visit Tucuman, where, also, the marriage ceremony could be performed with more circumstantial splendour. To Tucuman, therefore, after some weeks' interval, the whole party repaired. And at Tucuman it was that the tragical events arose, which, whilst interrupting such a mockery for ever, left the poor Juana still happily deceived, and never believing for a moment that hers was a rejected or a deluded heart.
One reporter of Mr. De Ferrer's narrative forgets his usual generosity, when he says that the Senora's gift of her daughter to the Alférez was not quite so disinterested as it seemed to be. Certainly it was not so disinterested as European ignorance might fancy it: but it was quite as much so as it ought to have been, in balancing the interests of a child. Very true it is-that, being a genuine Spaniard, who was still a rare creature in so vast a world as Peru, being a Spartan amongst Helots, an Englishman amongst Savages, an Alférez would in those days have been a natural noble. His alliance created honour for his wife and for his descendants. Something, therefore, the cornet would add to the family consideration. But, instead of selfishness, it argued just regard for her daughter's interest to build upon this, as some sort of equipoise to the wealth which her daughter would bring.
Spaniard, however, as he was, our Alférez on reaching Tucuman found no Spaniards to mix with, but instead twelve Portuguese.
The reader knows all that followed. The sisterly love which Catalina did really feel for this young mountaineer was inevitably misconstrued. Embarrassed, but not able, from sincere affection, or almost in bare propriety, to refuse such expressions of feeling as corresponded to the artless and involuntary kindnesses of the ingenuous Juana, one day the cornet was surprised by mamma in the act of encircling her daughter's waist with his martial arm, although waltzing was premature by at least two centuries in Peru. She taxed him instantly with dishonourably abusing her confidence. The cornet made but a bad defence. He muttered something about "fraternal affection," about "esteem," and a great deal of metaphysical words that are destined to remain untranslated in their original Spanish. The good Senora, though she could boast only of forty-four years' experience, was not altogether to be "had" in that fashion-she was as learned as if she had been Catalina remembered the Spanish proverbfifty, and she brought matters to a speedy crisis." Subtract from a Spaniard all his good qualities, "You are a Spaniard," she said, "a gentleman, therefore; remember that you are a gentleman. This very night, if your intentions are not serious, quit my house. Go to Tucuman; you shall command my horses and servants; but stay no longer to increase the sorrow that already you will have left behind you. My daughter loves you. That is sorrow enough, if you are trifling with us. But, if not, and you also love her, and can be happy in our solitary mode of life, stay with us-stay for ever. Marry Juana with my free consent. I ask not for wealth. Mine is sufficient for you both." The cornet protested that the honour was one never contemplated by him-that it was too great-that
But, of course, reader, you know that "gammon" flourishes in Peru, amongst the silver mines, as well as in some more boreal lands that produce little better than copper and tin. “ Tin," however, has its uses. The delighted Senora overruled all objections, great and small; and she con
and the remainder makes a pretty fair Portuguese;" but, as there was nobody else to gamble with, she entered freely into their society. Very soon she suspected that there was foul play: all modes of doctoring dice had been made familiar to her by the experience of camps. She watched; and, by the time she had lost her final coin, she was satisfied that she had been plundered. In her first anger she would have been glad to switch the whole dozen across the eyes; but, as twelve to one were too great odds, she determined on limiting her vengeance to the immediate culprit. Him she followed into the street; and coming near enough to distinguish his profile reflected on a wall, she continued to keep him in view from a short distance. The light-hearted young cavalier whistled, as he went, an old Portuguese ballad of romance; and in a quarter of an hour came up to an house, the front door of which he began to open with a pass-key.
This operation was the signal for
Catalina that the hour of vengeance had struck ; and, stepping hastily up, she tapped the Portuguese on the shoulder, saying " Senor, you are a robber!" The Portuguese turned coolly round, and, seeing his gaming antagonist, replied Possibly, Sir; but I have no particular fancy for being told so," at the same time drawing his sword. Catalina had not designed to take any advantage; and the touching him on the shoulder, with the interchange of speeches, and the known character of Kate, sufficiently imply it. But it is too probable in such cases, that the party whose intention has been regularly settled from the first, will, and must have an advantage unconsciously over a man so abruptly thrown on his defence. However this might be, they had not fought a minute before Catalina passed her sword through her opponent's body; and without a groan or a sigh, the Portuguese cavalier fell dead at his own door. Kate searched the street with her ears, and (as far as the indistinctness of night allowed) with her eyes. All was profoundly silent; and she was satisfied that no human figure was in motion. What should be done with the body? A glance at the door of the house settled that: Fernando had himself opened it at the very moment when he received the summons to turn round. She dragged the corpse in, therefore, to the foot of the staircase, put the key by the dead man's side, and then issuing softly into the street, drew the door close with as little noise as possible. Catalina again paused to listen and to watch, went home to the hospitable Senora's house, retired to bed, fell asleep, and early the next morning was awakened by the Corregidor and four alguazils.
Justice moved at her usual Spanish rate in the present case. Kate was obliged to rise instantly; not suffered to speak to anybody in the house, though, in going out, a door opened, and she saw the young Juana looking out with saddest Indian expression. In one day the trial was all finished. Catalina said (which was true) that she hardly knew Acosta; and that people of her rank were used to attack their enemies face to face, not by murderous surprises. The magistrates were impressed with Catalina's answers (yet answers to what?) Things were beginning to look well, when all was suddenly upset by two witnesses, whom the reader (who is a sort of accomplice after the fact, having been privately let into the truths of the case, and having concealed his knowledge,) will know at once to be false witnesses, but whom the old Spanish buzwigs doated on as models of all that could be looked for in the best. Both were very ill-looking fellows, as it was their duty to be. And the first deposed as follows:-That through his quarter of Tucuman, the fact was notorious of Acosta's wife being the object of a criminal pursuit on the part of the Alférez (Catalina): that, doubtless, the injured husband had surprised the prisoner, which, of course, had led to the murder-to the staircase-to the key-to everything, in short, that could be wished; no-stop! what am I saying?-to everything that ought to be abominated. Finally for he had now settled the main question-that he had a friend who would take up the case where he himself, from short-sightedness, was obliged to lay it down." This friend, the Pythias of this short-sighted Damon, started up in a frenzy of virtue at this summons, and, The lawlessness of all that followed strikingly rushing to the front of the alguazils, said, "that exposes the frightful state of criminal justice at since his friend had proved sufficiently the fact of that time, wherever Spanish law prevailed. No the Alférez having been lurking in the house, and evidence appeared to connect Catalina in any having murdered a man, all that rested upon him way with the death of Fernando Acosta. The to show was, how that murderer got out of the Portuguese gamblers, besides that perhaps they house; which he could do satisfactorily; for there thought lightly of such an accident, might have was a balcony running along the windows on the reasons of their own for drawing off public attention second floor, one of which windows he himself, from their pursuits in Tucuman: not one of these lurking in a corner of the street, saw the Alférez men came forward openly; else the circumstances throw up, and from the said balcony take a at the gaming table, and the departure of Cata- flying leap into the said street." Evidence like lina so closely on the heels of her opponent, would this was conclusive; no defence was listened to, have suggested reasonable grounds for detaining nor indeed had the prisoner any to produce. her until some further light should be obtained. The Alférez could deny neither the staircase As it was, her imprisonment rested upon no nor the balcony; the street is there to this day, colourable ground whatever, unless the magistrate like the bricks in Jack Cade's Chimney, testifyhad received some anonymous information, which, ing all that may be required; and, as to our friend however, he never alleged. One comfort there who saw the leap, there he was; nobody could deny was, meantime, in Spanish injustice: it did not him. The prisoner might indeed have suggested loiter. Full gallop it went over the ground : one that she never heard of Acosta's wife, nor had the week often sufficed for informations-for trial-for | existence of such a wife been ripened even into a execution; and the only bad consequence was, that suspicion. But the bench were satisfied; chopa second or third week sometimes exposed the dis- ping logic was of no use; and sentence was proagreeable fact that everything had been "prema-nounced-that on the eighth day from the day of ture:" a solemn sacrifice had been made to of-arrest, the Alférez should be executed in the pubfended justice, in which all was right except as to the victim: it was the wrong man; and that gave extra trouble; for then all was to do over again, another man to be executed, and, possibly, still to be caught.
It was not amongst the weaknesses of Catalina-who had so often inflicted death, and, by her own journal, thought so lightly of inflicting it (if not under cowardly advantages)—
he issued his warrant for the execution. Accordingly, as the sun went down, the sad procession formed within the prison. Into the great square of Tucuman it moved, where the scaffold had been built, and the whole city had assembled for the spectacle. Catalina steadily ascended the ladder of the scaffold; even then she resolved not to benefit by revealing her sex; even then it was that she expressed her scorn for the lubberly executioner's mode of tying a knot; did it herself in a ceived in return the enthusiastic plaudits of the ship-shape," orthodox manner; recrowd, and so far ran the risk of precipitating her fate; for the timid magistrates, fearing a rescue from the impetuous mob, angrily ordered the executioner to finish the scene. The clatter of a galloping horse, however, at this instant forced them to pause. for the agitated horseman, who was the bearer The crowd opened a road of an order from the President of La Plata to suspend the execution until two prisoners could be examined. The whole was the work of the Senora and her daughter. The elder lady, having gathered informations against the witnesses, had pursued them to La Plata. There, by her influence with the Governor, they were arrested; re
to shrink from facing death in her own person. Many incidents in her career show the coolness and even gaiety with which, in any case where death was apparently inevitable, she would have gone to meet it. But in this case she had a temptation for escaping it, which was probably in her power. She had only to reveal the secret of her sex, and the ridiculous witnesses, beyond whose testimony there was nothing at all against her, must at once be covered with derision. Catalina had some liking for fun; and a main inducement to this course was, that it would enable her to say to the judges, "Now you see what old fools you've made of yourselves; every woman and child in Peru will soon be laughing at you." I must acknowledge my own weakness; this last temptation I could not have withstood; flesh is weak, and fun is strong. But Catalina did. On consideration she fancied, that, although the particular motive for murdering Acosta would be dismissed with laughter, still this might not clear her of the murder, which on some other motive she might have committed. But supposing that she were cleared altogether, what most of all she feared was, that the publication of her sex would throw a reflex light upon many past transactions in her life—would instantly find its way to Spain-cognised as old malefactors; and in their terror and would probably soon bring her within the tender attentions of the Inquisition. She kept firm to the resolution of not saving her life by this discovery. And so far as her fate lay in her own hands, she would (as the reader will perceive from a little incident at the scaffold) have perished to a certainty. But even at this point, how strange a case! A woman falsely accused of an act which she really did commit! And falsely accused of a true offence upon a motive that was impossible!
As the sun set upon the seventh day, when the hours were numbered for the prisoner, there filed into her cell four persons in religious habits. They came on the charitable mission of preparing the poor convict for death. Catalina, however, watching all things narrowly, remarked something earnest and significant in the eye of the leader, as of one who had some secret communication to make. She contrived to clasp this man's hands as if in the energy of internal struggles, and he contrived to slip into hers the very smallest of billets from poor Juana. It contained, for indeed it could contain; only these three words "Do not confess. J." This one caution, so simple and so brief, was a talisman. It did not refer to any confession of the crime, that would have been assuming what Juana was neither entitled nor disposed to assume, but, in the technical sense of the Church, to the act of devotional confession. Catalina found a single moment for a glance at it—understood the whole-resolutely refused to confess, as a person unsettled in her religious opinions, that needed spiritual instructions, and the four monks withdrew to make their report. The principal judge, upon hearing of the prisoner's impenitence, granted another day. At the end of that, no change having occurred either in the prisoner's mind, or in the circumstances,
had partly confessed their perjury. Catalina was removed to La Plata; solemnly acquitted; and, by the advice of the President, for the present the connexion with the Senora's family was postponed indefinitely.
Now was the last adventure approaching that ever Catalina should see in the new world. Some fine sights she may yet see in Europe, but nothing after this (which she has recorded) in America. Europe, if it had ever heard of her name (which they were but aware of her existence (which in six very shortly it shall), Kings, Pope, Cardinals, if months they shall be), would thirst for an introduction to our Catalina. You hardly thought now, reader, that she was such a great person, or anybody's pet but yours and mine. Bless you, sir, she would scorn to look at us. I tell you, royalties are languishing to see her, or soon will be. But how can this come to pass, if she is to continue in her present obscurity? Certainly it cannot without some great peripetteia or vertiginous whirl of fortune; which, therefore, you shall now behold taking place in one turn of her next adventure. That shall let in a light, that shall throw back a Claude Lorraine gleam over all the past, able to make Kings, that would have cared not for her under Peruvian daylight, come to glorify her settingbeams.
she does to Catalina speaks secretly from two The Senora-and, observe, whatever kindness hearts, her own and Juana's-had, by the advice of Mr. President Mendonia, given sufficient money for Catalina's travelling expenses. So far well. But Mr. M. chose to add a little codicil to this bequest of the Senora's, never suggested by her tive President, who surely might have found or by her daughter. "Pray," said this Inquisibusiness enough in La Plata, "Pray, Senor Pietro Diaz, did you ever live at Concepcion?
And were you ever acquainted there with Senor
to cover up all between the ears and the mouth, she replied, "that she had bought and paid for the horse at La Plata. But now, your worship, if this horse has really been stolen from these men, they must know well of which eye it is blind; for it can be only in the right eye or the left." One of the soldiers cried out instantly, that it was the left eye; but the other said, "No, no, you forget, it's the right." Kate maliciously called attention to this little schism. But the men said, "Ah, that was nothing; they were hurried; but now, on recollecting themselves, they were agreed that it was the left eye." Did they stand to that? "Oh yes, positive they were, left eye, left."
Upon which our Kate, twitching off the horsecloth, said gaily to the magistrate-" Now, sir, please to observe that this horse has nothing the matter with either eye." And in fact it was so. Then his worship ordered his alguazils to apprehend the two witnesses, who posted off to bread and water, with other reversionary advantages, whilst Kate rode in quest of the best dinner that Paz could furnish.
This Alcalde's acquaintance, however, was not destined to drop here. Something had appeared in the young caballero's bearing, which made it painful to have addressed him with harshness, or for a moment to have entertained such a charge against such a person. He despatched his cousin, therefore, Don Antonio Calderon, to offer his apologies, and at the same time to request that the stranger, whose rank and quality he regretted not to have known, would do him the honour to come and dine with him. This explanation, and the fact that Don Antonio had already proclaimed his own position as cousin to the magistrate and nephew to the Bishop of Cuzco, obliged Catalina Her first adventure was a bagatelle, and fitter to say, after thanking the gentlemen for their for a jest book than a history; yet it proved no obliging attentions, "I myself hold the rank of jest either, since it led to the tragedy that fol- Alférez in the service of his Catholic Majesty. lowed. Riding into Paz, our gallant standard- I am a native of Biscay, and I am now repairing to bearer and her bonny black horse drew all eyes, Cuzco on private business." "To Cuzco !" excomme de raison, upon their separate charms. claimed Don Antonio, "how very fortunate! my This was inevitable amongst the indolent popula- cousin is a Basque like you; and, like you, he tion of a Spanish town; and Kate was used to starts for Cuzco to-morrow morning; so that, if it. But, having recently had a little too much of it is agreeable to you, Senor Alférez, we will the public attention, she felt nervous on remarking travel together." It was settled that they should. two soldiers eyeing the handsome horse and the | To travel-amongst balcony" witnesses, and handsome rider, with an attention that seemed too anglers for "blind horses "-not merely with a solemn for mere æsthetics. However, Kate was not just man, but with the very abstract idea and the kind of person to let anything dwell on her riding allegory of justice, was too delightful to spirits, especially if it took the shape of impudence; the storm-wearied cornet; and he cheerfully acand, whistling gaily, she was riding forward-companied Don Antonio to the house of the when, who should cross her path, but the Alcalde ! | magistrate, called Don Pedro de Chavarria. DisAh! Alcalde, you see a person now that has a mission against you, though quite unknown to herself. He looked so sternly, that Kate asked if his worship had any commands. "These men," said the Alcalde, "these two soldiers, say that this horse is stolen." To one who had so narrowly and so lately escaped the balcony witness and his friend, it was really no laughing matter to hear of new affidavits in preparation. Kate was nervous; but never disconcerted. In a moment she had twitched off a saddle cloth on which she sat; and throwing it over the horse's head, so as
tinguished was his reception; the Alcalde personally renewed his regrets for the ridiculous scene of the two scampish oculists, and presented him to his wife, a splendid Andalusian beauty, to whom he had been married about a year.
This lady there is a reason for describing; and the French reporter of Catalina's memoirs dwells upon the theme. She united, he says, the sweetness of the German lady with the energy of the Arabian, a combination hard to judge of. to her feet, he adds, I say nothing; for she had scarcely any at all. "Je ne parle point de