John Bull on the Guadalquivir from Tales from all Countries
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This etext was produced by David Price, email email@example.com,
from the 1864 Chapman and Hall edition.
JOHN BULL ON THE GUADALQUIVIR.
from "Tales from all Countries"
by Anthony Trollope
I am an Englishman, living, as all Englishman should do, in England,
and my wife would not, I think, be well pleased were any one to
insinuate that she were other than an Englishwoman; but in the
circumstances of my marriage I became connected with the south of
Spain, and the narrative which I am to tell requires that I should
refer to some of those details.
The Pomfrets and Daguilars have long been in trade together in this
country, and one of the partners has usually resided at Seville for
the sake of the works which the firm there possesses. My father,
James Pomfret, lived there for ten years before his marriage; and
since that and up to the present period, old Mr. Daguilar has always
been on the spot. He was, I believe, born in Spain, but he came very
early to England; he married an English wife, and his sons had been
educated exclusively in England. His only daughter, Maria Daguilar,
did not pass so large a proportion of her early life in this country,
but she came to us for a visit at the age of seventeen, and when she
returned I made up my mind that I most assuredly would go after her.
So I did, and she is now sitting on the other side of the fireplace
with a legion of small linen habiliments in a huge basket by her
I felt, at the first, that there was something lacking to make my cup
of love perfectly delightful. It was very sweet, but there was
wanting that flower of romance which is generally added to the
heavenly draught by a slight admixture of opposition. I feared that
the path of my true love would run too smooth. When Maria came to
our house, my mother and elder sister seemed to be quite willing that
I should be continually alone with her; and she had not been there
ten days before my father, by chance, remarked that there was nothing
old Mr. Daguilar valued so highly as a thorough feeling of intimate
alliance between the two families which had been so long connected in
trade. I was never told that Maria was to be my wife, but I felt
that the same thing was done without words; and when, after six weeks
of somewhat elaborate attendance upon her, I asked her to be Mrs.
John Pomfret, I had no more fear of a refusal, or even of hesitation
on her part, than I now have when I suggest to my partner some
commercial transaction of undoubted advantage.
But Maria, even at that age, had about her a quiet sustained decision
of character quite unlike anything I had seen in English girls. I
used to hear, and do still hear, how much more flippant is the
education of girls in France and Spain than in England; and I know
that this is shown to be the result of many causes--the Roman
Catholic religion being, perhaps, chief offender; but, nevertheless,
I rarely see in one of our own young women the same power of a self-
sustained demeanour as I meet on the Continent. It goes no deeper
than the demeanour, people say. I can only answer that I have not
found that shallowness in my own wife.
Miss Daguilar replied to me that she was not prepared with an answer;
she had only known me six weeks, and wanted more time to think about
it; besides, there was one in her own country with whom she would
wish to consult. I knew she had no mother; and as for consulting old
Mr. Daguilar on such a subject, that idea, I knew, could not have
troubled her. Besides, as I afterwards learned, Mr. Daguilar had
already proposed the marriage to his partner exactly as he would have
proposed a division of assets. My mother declared that Maria was a
foolish chit--in which by-the-bye she showed her entire ignorance of
Miss Daguilar's character; my eldest sister begged that no constraint
might he put on the young lady's inclinations--which provoked me to
assert that the young lady's inclinations were by no means opposed to
my own; and my father, in the coolest manner suggested that the
matter might stand over for twelve months, and that I might then go
to Seville, and see about it! Stand over for twelve months! Would
not Maria, long before that time, have been snapped up and carried
off by one of those inordinately rich Spanish grandees who are still
to be met with occasionally in Andalucia?
My father's dictum, however, had gone forth; and Maria, in the
calmest voice, protested that she thought it very wise. I should be
less of a boy by that time, she said, smiling on me, but driving
wedges between every fibre of my body as she spoke. "Be it so," I
said, proudly. "At any rate, I am not so much of a boy that I shall
forget you." "And, John, you still have the trade to learn," she
added, with her deliciously foreign intonation--speaking very slowly,
but with perfect pronunciation. The trade to learn! However, I said
not a word, but stalked out of the room, meaning to see her no more
before she went. But I could not resist attending on her in the hall
as she started; and, when she took leave of us, she put her face up
to be kissed by me, as she did by my father, and seemed to receive as
much emotion from one embrace as from the other. "He'll go out by
the packet of the 1st April," said my father, speaking of me as
though I were a bale of goods. "Ah! that will be so nice," said
Maria, settling her dress in the carriage; "the oranges will be ripe
for him then!"
On the 17th April I did sail, and felt still very like a bale of
goods. I had received one letter from her, in which she merely
stated that her papa would have a room ready for me on my arrival;
and, in answer to that, I had sent an epistle somewhat longer, and,
as I then thought, a little more to the purpose. Her turn of mind
was more practical than mine, and I must confess my belief that she
did not appreciate my poetry.
I landed at Cadiz, and was there joined by an old family friend, one
of the very best fellows that ever lived. He was to accompany me up
as far as Seville; and, as he had lived for a year or two at Xeres,
was supposed to be more Spanish almost than a Spaniard. His name was
Johnson, and he was in the wine trade; and whether for travelling or
whether for staying at home--whether for paying you a visit in your
own house, or whether for entertaining you in his--there never was
(and I am prepared to maintain there never will be) a stancher
friend, choicer companion, or a safer guide than Thomas Johnson.
Words cannot produce a eulogium sufficient for his merits. But, as I
have since learned, he was not quite so Spanish as I had imagined.
Three years among the bodegas of Xeres had taught him, no doubt, to
appreciate the exact twang of a good, dry sherry; but not, as I now
conceive, the exactest flavour of the true Spanish character. I was
very lucky, however, in meeting such a friend, and now reckon him as
one of the stanchest allies of the house of Pomfret, Daguilar, and
He met me at Cadiz, took me about the town, which appeared to me to
be of no very great interest;--though the young ladies were all very
well. But, in this respect, I was then a Stoic, till such time as I
might be able to throw myself at the feet of her whom I was ready to
proclaim the most lovely of all the Dulcineas of Andalucia. He
carried me up by boat and railway to Xeres; gave me a most terrific
headache, by dragging me out into the glare of the sun, after I had
tasted some half a dozen different wines, and went through all the
ordinary hospitalities. On the next day we returned to Puerto, and
from thence getting across to St. Lucar and Bonanza, found ourselves
on the banks of the Guadalquivir, and took our places in the boat for
Seville. I need say but little to my readers respecting that far-
famed river. Thirty years ago we in England generally believed that
on its banks was to be found a pure elysium of pastoral beauty; that
picturesque shepherds and lovely maidens here fed their flocks in
fields of asphodel; that the limpid stream ran cool and crystal over
bright stones and beneath perennial shade; and that every thing on
the Guadalquivir was as lovely and as poetical as its name. Now, it
is pretty widely known that no uglier river oozes down to its bourn
in the sea through unwholesome banks of low mud. It is brown and
dirty; ungifted by any scenic advantage; margined for miles upon
miles by huge, flat, expansive fields, in which cattle are reared,--
the bulls wanted for the bullfights among other; and birds of prey
sit constant on the shore, watching for the carcases of such as die.
Such are the charms of the golden Guadalquivir.
At first we were very dull on board that steamer. I never found
myself in a position in which there was less to do. There was a
nasty smell about the little boat which made me almost ill; every
turn in the river was so exactly like the last, that we might have
been standing still; there was no amusement except eating, and that,
when once done, was not of a kind to make an early repetition
desirable. Even Johnson was becoming dull, and I began to doubt
whether I was so desirous as I once had been to travel the length and
breadth of all Spain. But about noon a little incident occurred
which did for a time remove some of our tedium. The boat had stopped
to take in passengers on the river; and, among others, a man had come
on board dressed in a fashion that, to my eyes, was equally strange
and picturesque. Indeed, his appearance was so singular, that I
could not but regard him with care, though I felt at first averse to
stare at a fellow-passenger on account of his clothes. He was a man
of about fifty, but as active apparently as though not more than
twenty five; he was of low stature, but of admirable make; his hair
was just becoming grizzled, but was short and crisp and well cared
for; his face was prepossessing, having a look of good humour added
to courtesy, and there was a pleasant, soft smile round his mouth
which ingratiated one at the first sight. But it was his dress
rather than his person which attracted attention. He wore the
ordinary Andalucian cap--of which such hideous parodies are now
making themselves common in England--but was not contented with the
usual ornament of the double tuft. The cap was small, and jaunty;
trimmed with silk velvet--as is common here with men careful to adorn
their persons; but this man's cap was finished off with a jewelled
button and golden filigree work. He was dressed in a short jacket
with a stand up collar; and that also was covered with golden buttons
and with golden button-holes. It was all gilt down the front, and
all lace down the back. The rows of buttons were double; and those
of the more backward row hung down in heavy pendules. His waistcoat
was of coloured silk--very pretty to look at; and ornamented with a
small sash, through which gold threads were worked. All the buttons
of his breeches also were of gold; and there were gold tags to all
the button-holes. His stockings were of the finest silk, and clocked
with gold from the knee to the ankle.
Dress any Englishman in such a garb and he will at once give you the
idea of a hog in armour. In the first place he will lack the proper
spirit to carry it off, and in the next place the motion of his limbs
will disgrace the ornaments they bear. "And so best," most
Englishmen will say. Very likely; and, therefore, let no Englishman
try it. But my Spaniard did not look at like a hog in armour. He
walked slowly down the plank into the boat, whistling lowly but very
clearly a few bars from a opera tune. It was plain to see that he
was master of himself, of his ornaments, and of his limbs. He had no
appearance of thinking that men were looking at him, or of feeling
that he was beauteous in his attire;--nothing could be more natural
than his foot-fall, or the quiet glance of his cheery gray eye. He
walked up to the captain, who held the helm, and lightly raised his
hand to his cap. The captain, taking one hand from the wheel, did
the same, and then the stranger, turning his back to the stern of the
vessel, and fronting down the river with his face, continued to
whistle slowly, clearly, and in excellent time. Grand as were his
clothes they were no burden on his mind.
"What is he?" said I, going up to my friend Johnson with a whisper.
"Well, I've been looking at him," said Johnson--which was true
enough; "he's a -- an uncommonly good-looking fellow, isn't he?"
"Particularly so," said I; "and got up quite irrespective of expense.
Is he a--a--a gentleman, now, do you think?"
"Well, those things are so different in Spain that it's almost
impossible to make an Englishman understand them. One learns to know
all this sort of people by being with them in the country, but one
"No; exactly. Are they real gold?"
"Yes, yes; I dare say they are. They sometimes have them silver
"It is quite a common thing, then, isn't it?" asked I.
"Well, not exactly; that--Ah! yes; I see! of course. He is a
"A mayo. I will explain it all to you. You will see them about in
all places, and you will get used to them."
"But I haven't seen one other as yet."
"No, and they are not all so gay as this, nor so new in their finery,
"And what is a torero?"
"Well, a torero is a man engaged in bull-fighting."
"Oh! he is a matador, is he?" said I, looking at him with more than
all my eyes.
"No, not exactly that;--not of necessity. He is probably a mayo. A
fellow that dresses himself smart for fairs, and will be seen hanging
about with the bull-fighters. What would be a sporting fellow in
England--only he won't drink and curse like a low man on the turf
there. Come, shall we go and speak to him?"
"I can't talk to him," said I, diffident of my Spanish. I had
received lessons in England from Maria Daguilar; but six weeks is
little enough for making love, let alone the learning of a foreign
"Oh! I'll do the talking. You'll find the language easy enough
before long. It soon becomes the same as English to you, when you
live among them." And then Johnson, walking up to the stranger,
accosted him with that good-natured familiarity with which a
thoroughly nice fellow always opens a conversation with his inferior.
Of course I could not understand the words which were exchanged; but
it was clear enough that the "mayo" took the address in good part,
and was inclined to be communicative and social.
"They are all of pure gold," said Johnson, turning to me after a
minute, making as he spoke a motion with his head to show the
importance of the information.
"Are they indeed?" said I. "Where on earth did a fellow like that
get them?" Whereupon Johnson again returned to his conversation with
the man. After another minute he raised his hand, and began to
finger the button on the shoulder; and to aid him in doing so, the
man of the bull-ring turned a little on one side.
"They are wonderfully well made," said Johnson, talking to me, and
still fingering the button. "They are manufactured, he says, at
Osuna, and he tells me that they make them better there than anywhere
"I wonder what the whole set would cost?" said I. "An enormous deal
of money for a fellow like him, I should think!"
"Over twelve ounces," said Johnson, having asked the question; "and
that will be more than forty pounds."
"What an uncommon ass he must be!" said I.
As Johnson by this time was very closely scrutinising the whole set
of ornaments I thought I might do so also, and going up close to our
friend, I too began to handle the buttons and tags on the other side.
Nothing could have been more good-humoured than he was--so much so
that I was emboldened to hold up his arm that I might see the cut of
his coat, to take off his cap and examine the make, to stuff my
finger in beneath his sash, and at last to kneel down while I
persuaded him to hold up his legs that I might look to the clocking.
The fellow was thorough good-natured, and why should I not indulge my
"You'll upset him if you don't take care," said Johnson; for I had
got fast hold of him by one ankle, and was determined to finish the
"Oh, no, I shan't," said I; "a bull-fighting chap can surely stand on
one leg. But what I wonder at is, how on earth he can afford it!"
Whereupon Johnson again began to interrogate him in Spanish.
"He says he has got no children," said Johnson, having received a
reply, "and that as he has nobody but himself to look after, he is
able to allow himself such little luxuries."
"Tell him that I say he would be better with a wife and couple of
babies," said I--and Johnson interpreted.
"He says that he'll think of it some of these days, when he finds
that the supply of fools in the world is becoming short," said
We had nearly done with him now; but after regaining my feet, I
addressed myself once more to the heavy pendules, which hung down
almost under his arm. I lifted one of these, meaning to feel its
weight between my fingers; but unfortunately I gave a lurch, probably
through the motion of the boat, and still holding by the button, tore
it almost off from our friend's coat.
"Oh, I am so sorry," I said, in broad English.
"It do not matter at all," he said, bowing, and speaking with equal
plainness. And then, taking a knife from his pocket, he cut the
pendule off, leaving a bit of torn cloth on the side of his jacket.
"Upon my word, I am quite unhappy," said I; "but I always am so
awkward." Whereupon he bowed low.
"Couldn't I make it right?" said I, bringing out my purse.
He lifted his hand, and I saw that it was small and white; he lifted
it and gently put it upon my purse, smiling sweetly as he did so.
"Thank you, no, senor; thank you, no." And then, bowing to us both,
he walked away down into the cabin.
"Upon my word he is a deuced well-mannered fellow," said I.
"You shouldn't have offered him money," said Johnson; "a Spaniard
does not like it."
"Why, I thought you could do nothing without money in this country.
Doesn't every one take bribes?"
"Ah! yes; that is a different thing; but not the price of a button.
By Jove! he understood English, too. Did you see that?"
"Yes; and I called him an ass! I hope he doesn't mind it."
"Oh! no; he won't think anything about it," said Johnson. "That sort
of fellows don't. I dare say we shall see him in the bull-ring next
Sunday, and then we'll make all right with a glass of lemonade."
And so our adventure ended with the man of the gold ornaments. I was
sorry that I had spoken English before him so heedlessly, and
resolved that I would never be guilty of such gaucherie again. But,
then, who would think that a Spanish bull-fighter would talk a
foreign language? I was sorry, also, that I had torn his coat; it
had looked so awkward; and sorry again that I had offered the man
money. Altogether I was a little ashamed of myself; but I had too
much to look forward to at Seville to allow any heaviness to remain
long at my heart; and before I had arrived at the marvellous city I
had forgotten both him and his buttons.
Nothing could be nicer than the way in which I was welcomed at Mr.
Daguilar's house, or more kind--I may almost say affectionate--than
Maria's manner to me. But it was too affectionate; and I am not sure
that I should not have liked my reception better had she been more
diffident in her tone, and less inclined to greet me with open
warmth. As it was, she again gave me her cheek to kiss, in her
father's presence, and called me dear John, and asked me specially
after some rabbits which I had kept at home merely for a younger
sister; and then it seemed as though she were in no way embarrassed
by the peculiar circumstances of our position. Twelve months since I
had asked her to be my wife, and now she was to give me an answer;
and yet she was as assured in her gait, and as serenely joyous in her
tone, as though I were a brother just returned from college. It
could not be that she meant to refuse me, or she would not smile on
me and be so loving; but I could almost have found it in my heart to
wish that she would. "It is quite possible," said I to myself, "that
I may not be found so ready for this family bargain. A love that is
to be had like a bale of goods is not exactly the love to suit my
taste." But then, when I met her again in the morning I could no
more have quarrelled with her than I could have flown.
I was inexpressibly charmed with the whole city, and especially with
the house in which Mr. Daguilar lived. It opened from the corner of
a narrow, unfrequented street--a corner like an elbow--and, as seen
from the exterior, there was nothing prepossessing to recommend it;
but the outer door led by a short hall or passage to an inner door or
grille, made of open ornamental iron-work, and through that we
entered a court, or patio, as they I called it. Nothing could be
more lovely or deliciously cool than was this small court. The
building on each side was covered by trellis-work; and beautiful
creepers, vines, and parasite flowers, now in the full magnificence
of the early summer, grew up and clustered round the windows. Every
inch of wall was covered, so that none of the glaring whitewash
wounded the eye. In the four corners of the patio were four large
orange-trees, covered with fruit. I would not say a word in special
praise of these, remembering that childish promise she had made on my
behalf. In the middle of the court there was a fountain, and round
about on the marble floor there were chairs, and here and there a
small table, as though the space were really a portion of the house.
It was here that we used to take our cup of coffee and smoke our
cigarettes, I and old Mr. Daguilar, while Maria sat by, not only
approving, but occasionally rolling for me the thin paper round the
fragrant weed with her taper fingers. Beyond the patio was an open
passage or gallery, filled also with flowers in pots; and then,
beyond this, one entered the drawing-room of the house. It was by no
means a princely palace or mansion, fit for the owner of untold
wealth. The rooms were not over large nor very numerous; but the
most had been made of a small space, and everything had been done to
relieve the heat of an almost tropical sun.
"It is pretty, is it not?" she said, as she took me through it.
"Very pretty," I said. "I wish we could live in such houses."
"Oh, they would not do at all for dear old fat, cold, cozy England.
You are quite different, you know, in everything from us in the
south; more phlegmatic, but then so much steadier. The men and the
houses are all the same."
I can hardly tell why, but even this wounded me. It seemed to me as
though she were inclined to put into one and the same category things
English, dull, useful, and solid; and that she was disposed to show a
sufficient appreciation for such necessaries of life, though she
herself had another and inner sense--a sense keenly alive to the
poetry of her own southern chime; and that I, as being English, was
to have no participation in this latter charm. An English husband
might do very well, the interests of the firm might make such an
arrangement desirable, such a mariage de convenance--so I argued to
myself--might be quite compatible with--with heaven only knows what
delights of superterrestial romance, from which I, as being an
English thick-headed lump of useful coarse mortality, was to be
altogether debarred. She had spoken to me of oranges, and having
finished the survey of the house, she offered me some sweet little
cakes. It could not be that of such things were the thoughts which
lay undivulged beneath the clear waters of those deep black eyes--
undivulged to me, though no one else could have so good a right to
read those thoughts! It could not be that that noble brow gave index
of a mind intent on the trade of which she spoke so often! Words of
other sort than any that had been vouchsafed to me must fall at times
from the rich curves of that perfect month.
So felt I then, pining for something to make me unhappy. Ah, me! I
know all about it now, and am content. But I wish that some learned
pundit would give us a good definition of romance, would describe in
words that feeling with which our hearts are so pestered when we are
young, which makes us sigh for we know not what, and forbids us to be
contented with what God sends us. We invest female beauty with
impossible attributes, and are angry because our women have not the
spiritualised souls of angels, anxious as we are that they should
also be human in the flesh. A man looks at her he would love as at a
distant landscape in a mountainous land. The peaks are glorious with
more than the beauty of earth and rock and vegetation. He dreams of
some mysterious grandeur of design which tempts him on under the hot
sun, and over the sharp rock, till he has reached the mountain goal
which he had set before him. But when there, he finds that the
beauty is well-nigh gone, and as for that delicious mystery on which
his soul had fed, it has vanished for ever.
I know all about it now, and am, as I said, content. Beneath those
deep black eyes there lay a well of love, good, honest, homely love,
love of father and husband and children that were to come--of that
love which loves to see the loved ones prospering in honesty. That
noble brow--for it is noble; I am unchanged in that opinion, and will
go unchanged to my grave--covers thoughts as to the welfare of many,
and an intellect fitted to the management of a household, of
servants, namely, and children, and perchance a husband. That mouth
can speak words of wisdom, of very useful wisdom--though of poetry it
has latterly uttered little that was original. Poetry and romance!
They are splendid mountain views seen in the distance. So let men be
content to see them, and not attempt to tread upon the fallacious
heather of the mystic hills.
In the first week of my sojourn in Seville I spoke no word of overt
love to Maria, thinking, as I confess, to induce her thereby to alter
her mode of conduct to myself. "She knows that I have come here to
make love to her--to repeat my offer; and she will at any rate be
chagrined if I am slow to do so." But it had no effect. At home my
mother was rather particular about her table, and Maria's greatest
efforts seemed to be used in giving me as nice dinners as we gave
her. In those days I did not care a straw about my dinner, and so I
took an opportunity of telling her. "Dear me," said she, looking at
me almost with grief, "do you not? What a pity! And do you not like
music either." "Oh, yes, I adore it," I replied. I felt sure at the
time that had I been born in her own sunny clime, she would never
have talked to me about eating. But that was my mistake.
I used to walk out with her about the city, seeing all that is there
of beauty and magnificence. And in what city is there more that is
worth the seeing? At first this was very delightful to me, for I
felt that I was blessed with a privilege that would not be granted to
any other man. But its value soon fell in my eyes, for others would
accost her, and walk on the other side, talking to her in Spanish, as
though I hardly existed, or were a servant there for her protection.
And I was not allowed to take her arm, and thus to appropriate her,
as I should have done in England. "No, John," she said, with the
sweetest, prettiest smile, "we don't do that here; only when people
are married." And she made this allusion to married life out,
openly, with no slightest tremor on her tongue.
"Oh, I beg pardon," said I, drawing back my hand, and feeling angry
with myself for not being fully acquainted with all the customs of a
"You need not beg pardon," said she; "when we were in England we
always walked so. It is just a custom, you know." And then I saw
her drop her large dark eyes to the ground, and bow gracefully in
answer to some salute.
I looked round, and saw that we had been joined by a young cavalier,-
-a Spanish nobleman, as I saw at once; a man with jet black hair, and
a straight nose, and a black moustache, and patent leather boots,
very slim and very tall, and--though I would not confess it then--
uncommonly handsome. I myself am inclined to be stout, my hair is
light, my nose broad, I have no hair on my upper lip, and my whiskers
are rough and uneven. "I could punch your head though, my fine
fellow," said I to myself, when I saw that he placed himself at
Maria's side, "and think very little of the achievement."
The wretch went on with us round the plaza for some quarter of an
hour talking Spanish with the greatest fluency, and she was every
whit as fluent. Of course I could not understand a word that they
said. Of all positions that a man can occupy, I think that that is
about the most uncomfortable; and I cannot say that, even up to this
day, I have quite forgiven her for that quarter of an hour.
"I shall go in," said I, unable to bear my feelings, and preparing to
leave her. "The heat is unendurable."
"Oh dear, John, why did you not speak before?" she answered. "You
cannot leave me here, you know, as I am in your charge; but I will go
with you almost directly." And then she finished her conversation
with the Spaniard, speaking with an animation she had never displayed
in her conversations with me.
It had been agreed between us for two or three days before this, that
we were to rise early on the following morning for the sake of
ascending the tower of the cathedral, and visiting the Giralda, as
the iron figure is called, which turns upon a pivot on the extreme
summit. We had often wandered together up and down the long dark
gloomy aisle of the stupendous building, and had, together, seen its
treasury of art; but as yet we had not performed the task which has
to be achieved by all visitors to Seville; and in order that we might
have a clear view over the surrounding country, and not be tormented
by the heat of an advanced sun, we had settled that we would ascend
the Giralda before breakfast.
And now, as I walked away from the plaza towards Mr. Daguilar's
house, with Maria by my side, I made up my mind that I would settle
my business during this visit to the cathedral. Yes, and I would so
manage the settlement that there should be no doubt left as to my
intentions and my own ideas. I would not be guilty of shilly-shally
conduct; I would tell her frankly what I felt and what I thought, and
would make her understand that I did not desire her hand if I could
not have her heart. I did not value the kindness of her manner,
seeing that that kindness sprung from indifference rather than
passion; and so I would declare to her. And I would ask her, also,
who was this young man with whom she was intimate--for whom all her
volubility and energy of tone seemed to be employed? She had told me
once that it behoved her to consult a friend in Seville as to the
expediency of her marriage with me. Was this the friend whom she had
wished to consult? If so, she need not trouble herself. Under such
circumstances I should decline the connection! And I resolved that I
would find out how this might be. A man who proposes to take a woman
to his bosom as his wife, has a right to ask for information--ay, and
to receive it too. It flashed upon my mind at this moment that Donna
Maria was well enough inclined to come to me as my wife, but --. I
could hardly define the "buts" to myself, for there were three or
four of them. Why did she always speak to me in a tone of childish
affection, as though I were a schoolboy home for the holidays? I
would have all this out with her on the tower on the following
morning, standing under the Giralda.
On that morning we met together in the patio, soon after five
o'clock, and started for the cathedral. She looked beautiful, with
her black mantilla over her head, and with black gloves on, and her
black morning silk dress--beautiful, composed, and at her ease, as
though she were well satisfied to undertake this early morning walk
from feelings of good nature--sustained, probably, by some under-
current of a deeper sentiment. Well; I would know all about it
before I returned to her father's house.
There hardly stands, as I think, on the earth, a building more
remarkable than the cathedral of Seville, and hardly one more grand.
Its enormous size; its gloom and darkness; the richness of
ornamentation in the details, contrasted with the severe simplicity
of the larger outlines; the variety of its architecture; the glory of
its paintings; and the wondrous splendour of its metallic decoration,
its altar-friezes, screens, rails, gates, and the like, render it, to
my mind, the first in interest among churches. It has not the
coloured glass of Chartres, or the marble glory of Milan, or such a
forest of aisles as Antwerp, or so perfect a hue in stone as
Westminster, nor in mixed beauty of form and colour does it possess
anything equal to the choir of Cologne; but, for combined
magnificence and awe-compelling grandeur, I regard it as superior to
all other ecclesiastical edifices.
It is its deep gloom with which the stranger is so greatly struck on
his first entrance. In a region so hot as the south of Spain, a cool
interior is a main object with the architect, and this it has been
necessary to effect by the exclusion of light; consequently the
church is dark, mysterious, and almost cold. On the morning in
question, as we entered, it seemed to be filled with gloom, and the
distant sound of a slow footstep here and there beyond the transept
inspired one almost with awe. Maria, when she first met me, had
begun to talk with her usual smile, offering me coffee and a biscuit
before I started. "I never eat biscuit," I said, with almost a
severe tone, as I turned from her. That dark, horrid man of the
plaza--would she have offered him a cake had she been going to walk
with him in the gloom of the morning? After that little had been
spoken between us. She walked by my side with her accustomed smile;
but she had, as I flattered myself, begun to learn that I was not to
he won by a meaningless good nature. "We are lucky in our morning
for the view!" that was all she said, speaking with that peculiarly
clear, but slow pronunciation which she had assumed in learning our
We entered the cathedral, and, walking the whole length of the aisle,
left it again at the porter's porch at the farther end. Here we
passed through a low door on to the stone flight of steps, and at
once began to ascend. "There are a party of your countrymen up
before us," said Maria; "the porter says that they went through the
lodge half an hour since." "I hope they will return before we are on
the top," said I, bethinking myself of the task that was before me.
And indeed my heart was hardly at ease within me, for that which I
had to say would require all the spirit of which I was master.
The ascent to the Giralda is very long and very fatiguing; and we had
to pause on the various landings and in the singular belfry in order
that Miss Daguilar might recruit her strength and breath. As we
rested on one of these occasions, in a gallery which runs round the
tower below the belfry, we heard a great noise of shouting, and a
clattering of sticks among the bells. "It is the party of your
countrymen who went up before us," said she. "What a pity that
Englishmen should always make so much noise!" And then she spoke in
Spanish to the custodian of the bells, who is usually to be found in
a little cabin up there within the tower. "He says that they went up
shouting like demons," continued Maria; and it seemed to me that she
looked as though I ought to be ashamed of the name of an Englishman.
"They may not be so solemn in their demeanour as Spaniards," I
answered; "but, for all that, there may be quite as much in them."
We then again began to mount, and before we had ascended much farther
we passed my three countrymen. They were young men, with gray coats
and gray trousers, with slouched hats, and without gloves. They had
fair faces and fair hair, and swung big sticks in their hands, with
crooked handles. They laughed and talked loud, and, when we met
them, seemed to be racing with each other; but nevertheless they were
gentlemen. No one who knows by sight what an English gentleman is,
could have doubted that; but I did acknowledge to myself that they
should have remembered that the edifice they were treading was a
church, and that the silence they were invading was the cherished
property of a courteous people.
"They are all just the same as big boys," said Maria. The colour
instantly flew into my face, and I felt that it was my duty to speak
up for my own countrymen. The word "boys" especially wounded my
ears. It was as a boy that she treated me; but, on looking at that
befringed young Spanish Don--who was not, apparently, my elder in
age--she had recognised a man. However, I said nothing further till
I reached the summit. One cannot speak with manly dignity while one
is out of breath on a staircase.
"There, John," she said, stretching her hands away over the fair
plain of the Guadalquivir, as soon as we stood against the parapet;
"is not that lovely?"
I would not deign to notice this. "Maria," I said, "I think that you
are too hard upon my countrymen?"
"Too hard! no; for I love them. They are so good and industrious;
and come home to their wives, and take care of their children. But
why do they make themselves so--so--what the French call gauche?"
"Good and industrious, and come home to their wives!" thought I. "I
believe you hardly understand us as yet," I answered. "Our domestic
virtues are not always so very prominent; but, I believe, we know how
to conduct ourselves as gentlemen: at any rate, as well as
Spaniards." I was very angry--not at the faults, but at the good
qualities imputed to us.
"In affairs of business, yes," said Maria, with a look of firm
confidence in her own opinion--that look of confidence which she has
never lost, and I pray that she may never lose it while I remain with
her--"but in the little intercourses of the world, no! A Spaniard
never forgets what is personally due either to himself or his
neighbours. If he is eating an onion, he eats it as an onion should
"In such matters as that he is very grand, no doubt," said I,
"And why should you not eat an onion properly, John? Now, I heard a
story yesterday from Don--about two Englishmen, which annoyed me very
much." I did not exactly catch the name of the Don in question but I
felt through every nerve in my body that it was the man who had been
talking to her on the plaza.
"And what have they done?" said I. "But it is the same everywhere.
We are always abused; but, nevertheless, no people are so welcome.
At any rate, we pay for the mischief we do." I was angry with myself
the moment the words were out of my mouth, for, after all, there is
no feeling more mean than that pocket-confidence with which an
Englishman sometimes swaggers.
"There was no mischief done in this case," she answered. "It was
simply that two men have made themselves ridiculous for ever. The
story is all about Seville, and, of course, it annoys me that they
should be Englishmen."
"And what did they do?"
"The Marquis D'Almavivas was coming up to Seville in the boat, and
they behaved to him in the most outrageous manner. He is here now
and is going to give a series of fetes. Of course he will not ask a
"We shall manage to live even though the Marquis D'Almavivas may
frown upon us," said I, proudly.
"He is the richest, and also the best of our noblemen," continued
Maria; "and I never heard of anything so absurd as what they did to
him. It made me blush when Don -- told me." Don Tomas, I thought
"If he be the best of your noblemen, how comes it that he is angry
because he has met two vulgar men? It is not to be supposed that
every Englishman is a gentleman."
"Angry! Oh, no! he was not angry; he enjoyed the joke too much for
that. He got completely the best of them, though they did not know
it; poor fools! How would your Lord John Russell behave if two
Spaniards in an English railway carriage were to pull him about and
tear his clothes?"
"He would give them in charge to a policeman, of course," said I,
speaking of such a matter with the contempt it deserved.
"If that were done here your ambassador would be demanding national
explanations. But Almavivas did much better;--he laughed at them
without letting them know it."
"But do you mean that they took hold of him violently, without any
provocation? They must have been drunk."
"Oh, no, they were sober enough. I did not see it, so I do not quite
know exactly how it was, but I understand that they committed
themselves most absurdly, absolutely took hold of his coat and tore
it, and--; but they did such ridiculous things that I cannot tell
you." And yet Don Tomas, if that was the man's name, had been able
to tell her, and she had been able to listen to him.
"'What made them take hold of the marquis?" said I.
"Curiosity, I suppose," she answered. "He dresses somewhat
fancifully, and they could not understand that any one should wear
garments different from their own." But even then the blow did not
strike home upon me.
"Is it not pretty to look down upon the quiet town?" she said, coming
close up to me, so that the skirt of her dress pressed me, and her
elbow touched my arm. Now was the moment I should have asked her how
her heart stood towards me; but I was sore and uncomfortable, and my
destiny was before me. She was willing enough to let these English
faults pass without further notice, but I would not allow the subject
"I will find out who these men were," said I, "and learn the truth of
it. When did it occur?"
"Last Thursday, I think he said."
"Why, that was the day we came up in the boat, Johnson and myself.
There was no marquis there then, and we were the only Englishmen on
"It was on Thursday, certainly, because it was well known in Seville
that he arrived on that day. You must have remarked him because he
talks English perfectly--though by-the-bye, these men would go on
chattering before him about himself as though it were impossible that
a Spaniard should know their language. They are ignorant of Spanish,
and they cannot bring themselves to believe that any one should be
better educated than themselves."
Now the blow had fallen, and I straightway appreciated the necessity
of returning immediately to Clapham where my family resided, and
giving up for ever all idea of Spanish connections. I had resolved
to assert the full strength of my manhood on that tower, and now
words had been spoken which left me weak as a child. I felt that I
was shivering, and did not dare to pronounce the truth which must be
made known. As to speaking of love, and signifying my pleasure that
Don Tomas should for the future be kept at a distance, any such
effort was quite beyond me. Had Don Tomas been there, he might have
walked off with her from before my face without a struggle on my
part. "Now I remember about it," she continued, "I think he must
have been in the boat on Thursday."
"And now that I remember," I replied, turning away to hide my
embarrassment, "he was there. Your friend down below in the plaza
seems to have made out a grand story. No doubt he is not fond of the
English. There was such a man there, and I did take hold--"
"Oh, John, was it you?"
"Yes, Donna Maria, it was I; and if Lord John Russell were to dress
himself in the same way--" But I had no time to complete my
description of what might occur under so extravagantly impossible a
combination of circumstances, for as I was yet speaking, the little
door leading out on to the leads of the tower was opened and my
friend, the mayo of the boat, still bearing gewgaws on his back,
stepped up on to the platform. My eye instantly perceived that the
one pendule was still missing from his jacket. He did not come
alone, but three other gentlemen followed him, who, however, had no
peculiarities in their dress. He saw me at once and bowed and
smiled; and then observing Donna Maria, he lifted his cap from his
head, and addressing himself to her in Spanish, began to converse
with her as though she were an old friend.
"Senor," said Maria, after the first words of greeting had been
spoken between them; "you must permit me to present to you my
father's most particular friend, and my own,--Mr. Pomfret; John, this
is the Marquis D'Almavivas."
I cannot now describe the grace with which this introduction was
effected, or the beauty of her face as she uttered the word. There
was a boldness about her as though she had said, "I know it all--the
whole story. But, in spite of that you must take him on my
representation, and be gracious to him in spite of what he has done.
You must be content to do that; or in quarrelling with him you must
quarrel with me also." And it was done at the spur of the moment--
without delay. She, who not five minutes since had been loudly
condemning the unknown Englishman for his rudeness, had already
pardoned him, now that he was known to be her friend; and had
determined that he should be pardoned by others also or that she
would share his disgrace. I recognised the nobleness of this at the
moment; but, nevertheless, I was so sore that I would almost have
preferred that she should have disowned me.
The marquis immediately lifted his cap with his left hand while he
gave me his right. "I have already had the pleasure of meeting this
gentleman," he said; "we had some conversation in the boat together."
"Yes," said I, pointing to his rent, "and you still bear the marks of
"Was it not delightful, Donna Maria," he continued, turning to her;
"your friend's friend took me for a torero?"
"And it served you properly, senor," said Donna Maria, laughing, "you
have no right to go about with all those rich ornaments upon you."
"Oh! quite properly; indeed, I make no complaint; and I must beg your
friend to understand, and his friend also, how grateful I am for
their solicitude as to my pecuniary welfare. They were inclined to
be severe on me for being so extravagant in such trifles. I was
obliged to explain that I had no wife at home kept without her proper
allowance of dresses, in order that I might be gay."
"They are foreigners, and you should forgive their error," said she.
"And in token that I do so," said the marquis, "I shall beg your
friend to accept the little ornament which attracted his attention."
And so saying, he pulled the identical button out of his pocket, and
gracefully proffered it to me.
"I shall carry it about with me always," said I, accepting it, "as a
memento of humiliation. When I look at it, I shall ever remember the
folly of an Englishman and the courtesy of a Spaniard;" and as I made
the speech I could not but reflect whether it might, under any
circumstances, be possible that Lord John Russell should be induced
to give a button off his coat to a Spaniard.
There were other civil speeches made, and before we left the tower
the marquis had asked me to his parties, and exacted from me an
unwilling promise that I would attend them. "The senora," he said,
bowing again to Maria, "would, he was sure, grace them. She had done
so on the previous year; and as I had accepted his little present I
was bound to acknowledge him as my friend." All this was very
pretty, and of course I said that I would go, but I had not at that
time the slightest intention of doing so. Maria had behaved
admirably; she had covered my confusion, and shown herself not
ashamed to own me, delinquent as I was; but, not the less, had she
expressed her opinion, in language terribly strong, of the
awkwardness of which I had been guilty, and had shown almost an
aversion to my English character. I should leave Seville as quickly
as I could, and should certainly not again put myself in the way of
the Marquis D'Almavivas. Indeed, I dreaded the moment that I should
be first alone with her, and should find myself forced to say
something indicative of my feelings--to hear something also
indicative of her feelings. I had come out this morning resolved to
demand my rights and to exercise them--and now my only wish was to
man away. I hated the marquis, and longed to be alone that I might
cast his button from me. To think that a man should be so ruined by
such a trifle!
We descended that prodigious flight without a word upon the subject,
and almost without a word at all. She had carried herself well in
the presence of Almavivas, and had been too proud to seem ashamed of
her companion; but now, as I could well see, her feelings of disgust
and contempt had returned. When I begged her not to hurry herself,
she would hardly answer me; and when she did speak, her voice was
constrained and unlike herself. And yet how beautiful she was!
Well, my dream of Spanish love must be over. But I was sure of this;
that having known her, and given her my heart, I could never
afterwards share it with another.
We came out at last on the dark, gloomy aisle of the cathedral, and
walked together without a word up along the side of the choir, till
we came to the transept. There was not a soul near us, and not a
sound was to be heard but the distant, low pattering of a mass, then
in course of celebration at some far-off chapel in the cathedral.
When we got to the transept Maria turned a little, as though she was
going to the transept door, and then stopped herself. She stood
still; and when I stood also, she made two steps towards me, and put
her hand on my arm. "Oh, John!" she said.
"'Well," said I; "after all it does not signify. You can make a joke
of it when my back is turned."
"Dearest John!"--she had never spoken to me in that way before--"you
must not be angry with me. It is better that we should explain to
each other, is it not?"
"Oh, much better. I am very glad you heard of it at once. I do not
look at it quite in the same light that you do; but nevertheless--"
"What do you mean? But I know you are angry with me. And yet you
cannot think that I intended those words for you. Of course I know
now that there was nothing rude in what passed."
"Oh, but there was."
"No, I am sure there was not. You could not be rude though you are
so free hearted. I see it all now, and so does the marquis. You
will like him so much when you come to know him. Tell me that you
won't be cross with me for what I have said. Sometimes I think that
I have displeased you, and yet my whole wish has been to welcome you
to Seville, and to make you comfortable as an old friend. Promise me
that you will not be cross with me."
Cross with her! I certainly had no intention of being cross, but I
had begun to think that she would not care what my humour might be.
"Maria," I said, taking hold of her hand.
"No, John, do not do that. It is in the church, you know."
"Maria, will you answer me a question?"
"Yes," she said, very slowly, looking dawn upon the stone slabs
beneath our feet.
"Do you love me?"
"Yes, do you love me? You were to give me an answer here, in
Seville, and now I ask for it. I have almost taught myself to think
that it is needless to ask; and now this horrid mischance--"
"What do you mean?" said she, speaking very quickly.
"Why this miserable blunder about the marquis's button! After that I
"The marquis! Oh, John, is that to make a difference between you and
me?--a little joke like that?"
"But does it not?"
"Make a change between us!--such a thing as that! Oh, John!"
"But tell me, Maria, what am I to hope? If you will say that you can
love me, I shall care nothing for the marquis. In that case I can
bear to be laughed at."
"Who will dare to laugh at you? Not the marquis, whom I am sure you
"Your friend in this plaza, who told you of all this."
"What, poor Tomas!"
"I do not know about his being poor. I mean the gentleman who was
with you last night."
"Yes, Tomas. You do not know who he is?"
"Not in the least."
"How droll! He is your own clerk--partly your own, now that you are
one of the firm. And, John, I mean to make you do something for him;
he is such a good fellow; and last year he married a young girl whom
I love--oh, almost like a sister."
Do something for him! Of course I would. I promised, then and
there, that I would raise his salary to any conceivable amount that a
Spanish clerk could desire; which promise I have since kept, if not
absolutely to the letter, at any rate, to an extent which has been
considered satisfactory by the gentleman's wife.
"But, Maria--dearest Maria--"
"Remember, John, we are in the church; and poor papa will be waiting
I need hardly continue the story further. It will be known to all
that my love-suit throve in spite of my unfortunate raid on the
button of the Marquis D'Almavivas, at whose series of fetes through
that month I was, I may boast, an honoured guest. I have since that
had the pleasure of entertaining him in my own poor house in England,
and one of our boys bears his Christian name.
From that day in which I ascended the Giralda to this present day in
which I write, I have never once had occasion to complain of a
deficiency of romance either in Maria Daguilar or in Maria Pomfret.
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