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Graham's Magazine, Vol. XXXIV, No. 5, May 1849 online

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For some days the count had feigned to be weaker than he really was, and
no sooner had Frank and his sister left than he jumped up and leaned out
of one of the ports to see them embark, and to satisfy himself that no
one from the ship accompanied them.

It is said that the Evil One favors his own, and in this instance the
adage was verified. No one had yet descended the side, and as the count
cast his scrutinizing glance in every direction, his quick ear detected
the light splash of an oar. Withdrawing instantly, he extinguished the
lamp and excluded as well as he could, the light of the illumination
which streamed through the opposite ports. Returning then to his first
position, in a few moments, as his eye became accustomed to the
obscurity, he saw indistinctly the small boat which contained Talbot and
Gonzalez. The outlines of the boat were alone visible, and he could not
make out how many persons it contained. It was, he thought, most
probably, the boat of some poor fisherman, compelled to forego present
enjoyment in order to procure tomorrow’s subsistence for himself and
family. Guilt, however, is always suspicious, and without being able to
assign to himself a reason for his misgivings, he summoned his steward
and gave him a few hurried instructions. The latter, immediately leaving
the apartment, slipped through one of the gun-deck ports as Talbot and
Gonzalez had done before him, and, unseen from the upper-deck, descended
into the boat just before it shoved off. The fears awakened (wherefore
he could not tell) by the sight of the tiny boat, had induced the count
to change his entire plan. It was therefore that Talbot, when he found
that the preconcerted plot they had heard discussed was not adhered to,
determined not to lose sight of his mistress.

When the large boat stopped at the posada, the orphans were conducted to
a private room, the steward and two of the gang remaining without, soon
after a servant-maid entered, and said that the consul’s lady was
indisposed, and had sent her to beg that Miss Gillespie would come to
her chamber. With unsuspecting alacrity the poor girl rose up and
followed the maid. At a turn in the passage, she was seized, a gag
instantly applied to her mouth, and then hurried to the boat.

Frank, who, unsuspecting as his sister, sat in patient expectation,
started up as he heard a stifled scream. At the same moment he was
felled to the floor by a blow of the ruffian, who, with a heavy cudgel,
had crept behind him. The miscreant then dragging the body into a closet
opening from the room, hastened after his companions.

The steward, as soon as the party landed at the posada, had dispatched a
sure messenger to direct the carriage to proceed from the place where he
knew it was in waiting, to the spot designated by the count in his last
instructions. It was not distant, and, as we have seen, was at the
appointed place before the boat arrived.

The steward and his party, warned by the count, had kept a vigilant look
out, to ascertain if they were followed by another boat; but, themselves
in the broad glare of light, they could not catch the slightest glimpse
of the one, which, much smaller and screened by the obscurity, hovered
sufficiently near to observe them.

The carriage, with the ruffians, the victim of their toils, and that
victim’s determined champion, was driven at a rapid rate along the road
which ran parallel with the stream for a mile or more, when it turned
into one of the bye-roads on the right, which, as it was less
frequented, they pursued at increased speed for nearly two hours.
Overcome by terror and exhaustion, Miss G. had swooned away some time,
and lay unnoticed on the back seat of the carriage. At length they
stopped at a gate on the left, and the driver’s companion got down to
open it. Heretofore Talbot had remained at little risk, for the carriage
was closed behind, but, as the man who dismounted would certainly wait
until the carriage had passed through, in order to close the gate, he
was exposed to certain peril of detection if he remained. The road was
clear where it passed, and there was a slight ascent from it on the
left, at the summit of which stood the gate. There was no bush or cover
to conceal him, and to descend was out of the question. Beside the gate,
on the right, was a large tree, that stood just within the inclosure.
While Talbot hesitated what to do, the carriage ascended the slope, and
as it passed through the gateway, one of the branches of the tree swept
its roof. On the instant, quick as thought, Talbot caught hold of the
limb, and swung himself into the tree. The rustling noise he made
startled the man who stood beside the gate, and who had certainly been
drinking freely.

“Hallo! what’s that?” he cried, and springing up to the box, called out,
“Drive on! drive on! It’s a wild beast! But I’ll have a shot at it,” he
added, as the carriage rolled on, and turning partly round, he
discharged his pistol into the tree.

The driver, with an imprecation, had called out to his companion not to
fire; but he was too late, and at the report the horses affrighted, ran
off at full speed. The ruffians within the carriage, as well as the one
without, were instantly awakened to a full sense of their danger. They
were all acquainted with the place, and knew that a short distance
ahead, certainly not more than a third of a mile, the road inclined
short to the left, to avoid an old quarry, which had a precipitous fall
of 15 or 16 feet. As cowardly as base, each one thought only of his own
safety. The ruffian in front clambered over the roof and leaped off from
behind; the others forced open a door and precipitated themselves, one
after the other, and all fell with violence and more or less injured to
the ground.

Beside Miss Gillespie within the carriage, the driver alone remained,
and he, with his feet pressed hard upon the foot-board, and with his
body bent forward, bore his whole weight upon the reins. Although they
passed with breathless velocity, he accurately noted every object along
the road, and was prepared, at the critical moment, to turn the horses
from the direction of the perilous chasm. With a quick eye and ready
hand the instant that he saw the turn, with all his might he pulled upon
the left hand rein. This over exertion ensured defeat, the rein snapped
asunder with the strain, and the horses rushing headlong, were with the
carriage precipitated over the bank. The driver fell upon some fragments
of rock, and laid senseless and immoveable. The horses, by their moans,
and the faint efforts they made to extricate themselves, showed that
they were severely bruised. Miss Gillespie laid on the battered side of
the carriage, partially revived from her swoon by the shock she had
sustained and the excruciating pain she felt.

Talbot, unharmed by the discharge of the pistol, sprung to the ground,
and hurried at his utmost speed after the carriage, as soon as he saw
that the horses had run away. He passed the bodies of the ruffians on
the road without heeding them, although one, rising up, called out and
limped after him, and reached the spot a few minutes after the accident
occurred. In his excited state, it was but the work of a moment to
extricate his mistress, to press her to his bosom, to examine her hurts,
and to hurry with her yet scarce animate body into the neighboring wood.
His first anxiety was for water, and pursuing the declivity of the
ground in a direction leading from the road, he soon heard the trickling
of a rivulet. He laid his load gently beside it, and on examination
discovered that Mary had received a severe cut in her head, which bled
profusely, and that her left arm was broken. The loss of blood, the
cooling effects of the water, which he freely applied, and the pain she
endured, all accelerated her return to consciousness, and in a little
while, was enabled to thank her lover in expressions, brief, indeed, but
touching, and which, like the stamp of the mint on standard coin, are
treasured by the heart that receives them in imperishable remembrance.
They had no time, however, for interchange of feeling. They were
strangers, and upon the grounds of a powerful and persevering enemy. It
was necessary, therefore, that they should leave the place as soon as
possible, in order that if overtaken, it might be on land not peopled
with the myrmidons or subject to the jurisdiction of the count. With the
simple means at his disposal, the water which babbled at their feet, a
few splints, made of the twigs which grew around them, and the bandages
torn from his own garments, Talbot soon dressed the wounds, and
temporarily assuaged the anguish which his mistress endured. She laid
for some time without a movement or a murmur. The heavy air was laden
with fragrance, and now and then the pattering on a leaf would tell how
abundantly the dew had fallen. He watched her closely, in the hope that
she was in a slumber, but he soon perceived that her features were
occasionally flushed by intensity of pain. In truth, her arm had now
begun to swell, and was exceedingly stiff and sore. He saw that it was
necessary to procure shelter and medical attendance without delay. But
whither should he proceed? The night was now far advanced. The pall of
darkness was just lifting in the east; faint, tremulous lines of light
began to stream along the sky, revealing a succession of ridges of
vapor, through which, with lessening ray, the morning star occasionally
glimmered. The laborers would soon be abroad, and it was indispensably
necessary to proceed. Prevailing upon Mary to make an effort, he was
with the greatest difficulty enabled to support her, while they slowly
threaded their way through the thick undergrowth of the woodland. After
wandering a short time, they came to a hedge of cactus, some of the
plants in full bloom, the brilliant tints of their gorgeous flowers
heightened and suffused by the golden rays of the now rising sun. They
turned into a path which led along the hedge toward the high-road. On
their right, towering above the tangled brushwood, were many trees,
mostly large, and some of them magnificent. The most conspicuous were
the assumah, the ya yati, and the robla,[1] but the grandest and most
beautiful of all, the lordly frangipan, with its deep-green leaves and
thickly studded scarlet blossoms. On the other side of the hedge was an
extensive field of sugar-cane, in all the rich luxuriance of a matured
and abundant crop. An immense mass of foliage, of the liveliest green,
thick and impenetrable in its growth, its tops waved gracefully in the
wind with a rustling sound that was borne onward until it died away in
the distance. On the opposite side, visible through the hedge, the field
was skirted by a forest, which, ascending a slope behind it, and
becoming thinner as it ascended, left only a few trees scattered here
and there along the ridge which bounded the western horizon. But Mary,
striving to conceal her weakness and suppress the moans that were every
instant rising to her lips, and Talbot, who was wholly engrossed by
anxiety for her, could neither of them enjoy the natural beauties of the
scene.

When they had proceeded a few hundred yards, they came to a small gate
set in an opening in the hedge. Talbot soon forced it open, and they
emerged upon a wagon-road which ran between the hedge and the cane. But
Mary could proceed no farther, and seating her on the road-side, Talbot,
himself in a state of indescribable anxiety, endeavored to cheer her
with hopes of speedy relief.

- - -

[1] Spelt as they are pronounced.


CHAPTER V.

The first lieutenant returned to the frigate about half an hour after
Frank and his sister had left, and was delighted to hear that the
American consul had sent for them. Soon after he had made his report,
the count ordered his boat, and left the ship. Supposing that he was
summoned ashore by some of the letters he had received, the old
lieutenant little dreamed that the departure of his commander, in any
manner, had reference to the orphans. He believed them safe, and with
many claims upon his attention, dismissed them readily from his mind.

The count steered his boat to the usual landing-place, and hiring a
caleche, proceeded directly to the western gate. Here he was detained
but a moment, for the officer immediately coming out, recognized his
rank, and he was allowed to pass. Impatient of delay he took the reins
himself, and drove with a speed proportioned to the ardor of his
licentious passion, and his vindictive yearning, by its gratification,
to wreak vengeance upon her lover—whose hand he felt sure had before
frustrated him. There was a near cut through a neighboring plantation,
which struck a road leading to the rear of his hacienda, and saved
upward of two miles in distance. As he was well acquainted with the
owner of the plantation, without hesitation he took the road through it.
Once or twice he thought that he heard the sound of horses’ hoofs at a
rapid pace ahead of him, but the rattling of the vehicle he was in
rendered the sound uncertain, and he took it for granted that he was
mistaken. When he reached the rear of the building he alighted, and
liberally recompensing the driver, opened the postern gate with a key he
carried, and proceeded directly to the house. To the attendant who
obeyed his summons, he said impatiently,

“The young lady, where is she?”

“In her chamber,” was the reply, and in obedience to a gesture of the
count, the servant proceeded along the corridor and approached an
apartment at its extremity.

“Fools! Why have they put her there?” muttered the count.

“Señor?”

“Stand aside, sir!” and pushing by, he threw open the door and entered
the apartment. As he did so, he started back appalled and terrified.
Propped on a bed, catching her breath with difficulty, was a dying
woman. The blood was streaming from her mouth, and at each respiration
gurgled in her throat. It was the young, the once pure and lovely
Esperanza, the sister of Gonzalez. By the bedside stood the brother,
regarding him with a look of fixed and deadly hatred. But he moved not
his arm from the sinking form it supported. The unhappy girl with
staring eyes and outstretched hands, uttering inarticulate and guttural
sounds, strove in vain to speak to them. In the effort the attenuated
chords of life were snapped asunder, and she fell back a corpse.

“Conde de Ureña,” said Gonzalez, “behold your work! I came here to
protect the victim of your present plot—little dreaming of the sight
that awaited me. That poor girl must be avenged! You or I, one or both,
must bear Esperanza company.” As he looked toward the bed his voice
softened with emotion, but recovering himself instantly, he advanced to
the door and bolted it; then drawing a pair of pistols from his bosom,
he sternly added as he presented them, “take your choice.”

“Not now! not here! to-morrow! any time! any where else!” said the
count, his cheek blanched and his brow beaded with perspiration.

“Here! Upon this spot! This very instant!” shouted Gonzalez. “Vile
seducer and murderer,” he added, “you have killed your man! Where is
your vaunted courage? Will that arouse you?” and he struck him a fierce
blow. The count’s face flushed, he clutched the weapon, and turning to
Gonzalez with a look as vindictive as his own, sternly motioned him to
take his position. How corroding is the effect of vice! Time was when
the unhappy nobleman would have shrunk in horror from the contaminating
touch of one guilty of a crime, the dreadful consequences of which, in
all the appalling majesty of death, were then before him. And yet, more
fiend-like than such a wretch, he stood in all the concentrated hatred
of a duelist, prepared to take the life of the brother of his victim. By
a career of vice, the once honorable man had been converted into a
demon.

The combatants confronted each other, leveled their weapons, and fired
so simultaneously that the reports sounded as one. The pistol of
Gonzalez was struck from his hand and one of his fingers shattered.
Heedless of the pain, as the reverberation ceased, he bent forward to
see if his adversary were unhurt. Partially concealed by a spiral wreath
of smoke, the count stood seemingly unscathed before him. But the moment
after his weapon dropped, he pressed his hand to his side, and casting a
look of anguish and despair upon the corpse of the woman he had ruined,
tottered, reeled, and fell heavily upon the floor! The threat of
Gonzales was verified. Almost instantaneously, two souls were summoned
to their dread account.

When Gonzalez sprung upon the boatman from behind, he took him so much
by surprise that he had hurled him over and pointed a dagger to his
throat before he could muster presence of mind enough to defend himself.

“Villain,” said Gonzalez, “lie still, and answer me truly, or I pin you
to the earth. I already know enough to tell if you deceive me. As you
value your life, say where has that carriage gone?”

“A la hacienda Frangipina, señor.”

“Why doesn’t it go to Mariel, as first intended?”

“Yo no say, señor.”

“Will you swear that what you tell me is true?”

“Si, señor, por mi alma.”

“Pshaw! Your soul is forfeit.”

“Por la Señora Nuestra.”

“Well, I’ll believe you, for my countrymen never deceive when they swear
‘by our Lady.’”

He then permitted him to rise, and proceeded to question him further. He
soon found that the ruffian could be as readily employed to defeat as to
forward a nefarious plot. Gonzalez knew the hacienda well, and with the
aid of the boatman procured a horse and was enabled to reach it some ten
minutes before the count. Like the latter, he too had asked for la
señorita, (the young lady,) and by a similar mistake of the servant, who
knew nothing of the plot, he was shown to his sister’s chamber. He had
heard of her ruin, but knew not that she had been decoyed from their
father’s roof. He found her very ill, and her agitation at seeing him
brought on a profuse and fatal hemorrhage. All this, let it be borne in
mind, occurred before the carriage had entered the grounds.

When Frank recovered his consciousness in the closet where he was
confined, he could not conceive where he was, or what had befallen him.
By slow degrees the events of the night were recalled to his
recollection, and in great alarm he began to grope about in the
darkness. When he found the door, and vainly tried to open it, he
knocked and shouted loud and vehemently. The landlord and several
others, astonished at the uproar, hurried to the parlor and threw open
the closet-door. To their rapid and noisy questioning he could only
reply in his own tongue, which was to them unintelligible. When,
however, by his gestures, the landlord understood that he complained of
ill treatment in his house, he swore that the stranger must be some
robber, who had concealed himself in the closet, and that some one in
passing had locked the door. Improbable as was this supposition, in face
of the mark of the blow which Frank exhibited, all present concurred in
professing that they believed it true. A police officer was accordingly
sent for, and the unhappy youth taken to the guard-house. The next
morning he was summoned before the alcalde, who, too indolent to send to
the frigate to identify the prisoner, and, to do him justice, wholly
discrediting the latter’s statement of being thrust into the closet,
condemned him to be transported for six months to the Castle St. Juan de
Utloa, off Vera Cruz, the last place held by Spain on the eastern shore
of North America, and next to the last held by her on the continent.

Frank was taken immediately on board of a transport filled with troops
and convicts, the first to recruit the garrison, the last to assist in
repairs of the old, and the construction of additional fortifications.
The youth, although well-grown, it was evident was not accustomed to,
and could not perform manual labor. The alcalde had therefore sent a
message to the commander of the detachment, recommending that he should
be assigned to some light employment. The magistrate saw that the youth
was a foreigner, he believed him to be a vagrant if nothing else, and he
knew that hands of all descriptions were needed at that fortress. He
therefore made no inquiries. That afternoon the transport sailed.


CHAPTER VI.

Talbot and Mary were successful in reaching the city unpursued, and had
been four days in the American Consul’s house, before, through his
exertions, they discovered the departure and destination of Frank
Gillespie. The sister was grievously distressed, and mourned her brother
as dead, but Talbot pledged himself to follow and attempt his rescue,
and although the fractured bone of her arm was not well knit together,
she determined to accompany her lover as far as she could. Talbot was
provoked to the resolution, to say nothing of a more generous impulse,
by the refusal of the Spanish authorities to take cognizance of the
subject. And Mary felt that without impropriety she could proceed to
some one of the small ports on the route to Vera Cruz, if not to the
latter place itself. She hired a servant to supply the place of the one
drowned in the privateer, and felt more reconciled to the peril to which
Talbot would be exposed, from the assurance of Gonzalez that he would
share the enterprise. The latter, dreading more assassination by some of
the connections of the late count, than any legal investigation, kept
himself secreted in the city, but was frequently visited by Talbot.

The only vessel in port bound in the direction of Vera Cruz was an
American brig, advertised for Sisal. In her they engaged their passage,
and after night-fall Gonzalez, in disguise, accompanied them on board.
At break-of-day the next morning, they sailed with a fair wind, and had
gained some distance by sunset, when it fell calm, and with the land
upon one side, and an expanse of water on the other, the vessel rode
with graceful ease upon a prolonged but gentle undulation. The golden
rays of the setting sun mingled in the zenith with the soft and silvery
light of the moon in her meridian, and a long and lovely twilight
followed. Seated on deck, apart from their companions, (for Gonzalez was
too considerate to intrude,) Mary and her lover mused long and deeply.
The hour and the scene were calculated to dispel their anxieties and to
soothe their cares. When either was depressed—he, with the sad thought
that of all his race he stood alone—she, that she was an orphan, and
that her brother was perhaps lost to her forever, a glance around and
above would give their thoughts a holier and more soothing direction;
for the works of the Great Architect, the teeming earth, the slumbering
sea, the brilliant sky, all proclaimed in language unheard but _felt_
that mercy is His great and most peculiar attribute. It was indeed a
lovely scene! Directly overhead, the moon shone forth in serene and
unclouded lustre; a little lower, the fiery Mars peered forth; then the
resplendent orb of Jupiter, and in the same direct line, but just above
the horizon, the beautiful Venus sunk to rest, enveloped in a mantle yet
rich with the gorgeous rays of the sun which had preceded her. They
remained on deck until a late hour of the night, for whenever they went
below they were annoyed with the hum and fretted with the sting of the
mosquito. At last they parted, Talbot throwing himself upon the deck,
and Mary retired to her berth and soon fell asleep. If the waking hours
of that pure-minded girl had been those of endurance, the visions of
that night were ample compensation. Reclined upon her narrow bed, with
the folds of the mosquito-net tucked closely around her, while, like the
Cossacks before Ismael, the multitudinous insects strove to enter, she
was either in fancy communing with the man she loved, or with Frank and
her father knelt beneath the cotton-tree which shaded the grave of her
mother, and listened to the gentle wave as it rippled upon the beach,
while from the jeweled sky, fit canopy, for such a scene, the Omniscient
eye seemed to look down approving.

Among the crew there was a dandy sailor who took especial pride in his
flowing locks, and evidently sought to attract the notice of the lady
passenger. The day before they reached Sisal, seizing an opportunity
when Talbot and Gonzales were below, he passed once or twice by the


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Online LibraryVariousGraham's Magazine, Vol. XXXIV, No. 5, May 1849 → online text (page 4 of 15)