Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

OR

Monthly Journal of Fashion.

No. 107]

LONDON, NOVEMBER 1, 1839.

(Vol. 9.

THE ASTROLOGER.

“I bave already Dealt with a friend of mine, a general scholar, One deeply read in natnre's hidden secrets, And, though with much unwillingness have won him To do as much as art cau, to resolve me My fate that follows."

MASSINGER.

For the sake of those readers who may be curious as to dates and reigns, I regret exceedingly that I am unable to determine the precise period at which the events recorded in the following narrative took place. In truth, I suspect that the inditer of the legend whence I have derived my materials addressed himself to his work under a wholesome fear of some penal enactment against libels, for he had scrupulously abstained from mentioning either names or dates throughout the manuscript. Now, with regard to dates, Time is a very venerable personage, and, as I hope he will deal leniently with me, I will take no liberties with him; but, as I have long laboured under the disadvantage of wanting a name myself, I will not leave the hero of my story in a similar predicament; and therefore, in the absence of his real appellative, the reader must be content to know him by the style and title of Don Antonio Gonzalvo de Cordova.

Don Antonio was really as excellent a sort of fellow as a man might choose for his friend, or fair lady desire for her lover. He was generous and light-hearted, without being either profuse or profligate; high-spirited and courageous, but neither proud nor quarrelsome. Although he had a keen sense of the ridiculous, and was too genuine a disciple of wit to relish a jest the less because he happened to be the subject of it, he had too much good taste and good nature to sacrifice either delicacy, or the feelings of another, to the indulgence of his mirthful propensities. In respect of mental acquirements, he had a much larger share than, in ancient days, usually fell to the lot of those who were not required to live by their learning: and, as to accomplishments, he could sit a horse as closely as most persons; could coax some very sufferable music from the strings of his guitar; and, although his voice would scarcely have ensured him promotion at the opera, it was very endurable in a drawing-room or beneath a balcony. With regard to his person he was, as the great bard hath said, “a marvellous proper man," and had he been “at charges for a lookingglass," would have had little reason to be dissatisfied with his reflections. I cannot affirm that he was an Adonis or an Apollo, but, between his hat and his mother earth there were five feet eleven inches of as fair proportions as tailor might desire to take measure of. His counteuance was open, his forehead high and expanded, his eye bold and sparkling, and his hair such as nature bestows upon a man when she does not intend him to wear a wig—that is, it was neither red nor scanty; while his lip cherished a pair of mustachios, for which a modern life-guardsman would

give a year's pay and his best charger. He had another qualification which procured for him especial favour in the eyes of all the mothers in Seville, whose daughters were marketable--marriageable I meant to say—he was rich. As to his manners, whether they would be deemed those of a man of fashion in the present day I am not competent to decide, because I never was at Almack's or Crockford's, but I know that he was voted rather gothic in Seville, because he hated bull-fights and auto-da-fés.

Antonio was returning from an entertainment which had been given by a nobleman of some note, accompanied by his friend Velasquez, when the latter remarked, “ Antonio, I pray thee what Incubus sat upon thy spirits to-night ? I never saw thee so flat before: what was there in the party to annoy you?”

“Its abominable dulness, Velasquez," was the reply; "I never was so tired of a thing in all my life. One would have thought the board was spread with poppies instead of viands, every body was so insufferably stupid."

“I thank you for my share of the compliment,” said Velasquez, “but I think you had as little reason to complain as any of us. You sat, for the greater portion of the evening, by the side of one of the finest women in Seville, who hung upon every word you uttered, as if it were the breath of an oracle.”

"Tush !” ejaculated Antonio.

“You appear to set little value on the lady's love, at any rate," pursued his friend.

“Nonsense!” said Antonio. “She love me! she never | yet cared for any human being but herself. No, no, Ve

lasquez, she loves the dirty acres that surround yonder cas

tle of mine, far better than my living clay, depend upon it." | “But I remember," rejoined Velasquez, “that you had once a different opinion of her.”

“Perhaps I had,” was the reply, “but it was before I found her out."

“And what, pray,” enquired the other, "was your notable discovery?"

“That she went to bull-fights and auto-da-fés, and I would not marry a woman that could endure either of those barbarous exhibitions, though she were beautiful as an angel, and had the wealth of the Indies to her dower."

“Then, wherefore got you into such close conversation | with her to-night?" asked Valasquez.

" To escape from that insufferable Don Ambrosio," was the answer.

“And what have you to say of him ?” enquired the other. “Only that he is a great blockhead," said Antonio.

“Granted,” rejoined his friend, “but if nature thinks fit to make blockheads out of such flesh and blood as you and I are formed of, Antonio, it is, methinks, our duty to bear with them.”

“Well, and I can, and do bear with them as patiently as any man, “so they be silent: nay, I can even laugh with a merry blockhead, but deliver me from a solemn and sententious one. I know not of an annoyance in society more unendurable.”

“Always excepting a dignified one;" pursued Valasquez, "a fellow who has a lurking suspicion that he has no dignity belonging to him, and flies out in huge wrath whenever the conduct of those about him tends to confirm his misgivings. But, admitting Ambrosio to be a blockhead, and Jacintha a jilt, what say you to the fair Isabella, in the sunshine of whose beauty I saw you basking ? "

"Sunshine you call it !” retorted Antonio, “credit me that if she have any of the sun's beams, she hath none of his warmth."

“Ho, ho! I have you there, Senor Antonio," exclaimed his friend with a laugh—“it is the coldness of the fair Isabella then to which we are indebted for the compliments whereof you have been so liberal. But tush, man, never droop a feather upon that score; a cavalier of your figure and pretensions should never despair of winning a lady's love, especially when there is no rival in your path."

“I may have fifty rivals,” said Antonia, “for aught I know, for she has a smile and a kind word for every body but myself.”

“Has she ? then take my word for it, the chances are fifty to one in your favour," continued Velasquez. “ But tell me, Antonio, when did you declare yourself to the damsel ?"

“On Friday morning last, before mass,” was the answer.

“ And, pray, what put it into your wise head to make love to a woman on a fast-day, of all others in the week ? and in the morning too, before she had made up her mind as to the dress she should wear, as if you could reasonably expect her to decide upon your suit, before she had determined upon her own ? But how did she receive your declaration ?"

“She was mightily diverted at it, as if I had told her the most amusing story imaginable,” said Antonio.

"Perhaps she thought you were jesting with her ?" remarked Velasquez.

“Nay, she could not think that,” rejoined the other: “ besides, the more serious I became, the more she laughed, until, at last, I told her that, if she continued to scorn my suit, I would quit Spain for ever, and set sail for the Indies."

“Well, and what said she to that?” was the enquiry.

“She wished me a fair wind and a pleasant voyage," replied Antonio.

" In the full conviction,” said Velasquez, “that you are not fool enough to undertake it.”

" But she and you may find that I am serious,” continued Antonio.

“Not you!” said the other. "Nay, you will see.”

“Well,” pursued Velasquez, laughing, “if you go in very deed, I will take possession of the castle as your locum tenens, and we will have a roaring time of it in your absence.”

“ You shall be right welcome Velasquez,” responded his friend; "in the mean time, if I see you not again before I depart, adieu !”

“Adieu! then, Antonio, until to-morrow," said his volatile associate as they parted.

Antonio, had, however, it appeared, taken his disappointment more seriously to heart than his friend had anticipated; for it was ascertained that, within a few hours after the interview which I have just described, he had proceeded to the nearest sea-port, and embarked on board a vessel freighted for the Indies, having made such previous arrangements for the regulation of his affairs in Spain, as left his intention of ever returning a subject of considerable doubt.

Now, Donna Isabella, who had treated Antonio's announcement of his resolution to quit his native coutry as a mere ruse d'amour, was seriously troubled when she found that he was in earnest, and that, in all probability, she should never again see the man, who, if she had searched all Spain for a husband, would have been her choice. That she had never shewn him more unequivocal tokens of her regard arose from a feeling, somewhat overstrained perhaps, but natural to a high-minded and free-spirited woman, that indications of her preference for one of the wealthiest nobles in the kingdom might subject her motives to suspicion, especially as he had long been the mark at which the arts of so many prudent mothers, and the blandishments of their daughters, had been aimed. Isabella, too, began to set that additional value upon her lover, which we are all wont to attach to a treasure when we apprehend we have lost it beyond recall. But, when a report became current, and for which some corroborative circumstances obtained very general credit, that the vessel in which Antonio was known to have embarked had foundered at sea, she was overwhelmed by grief, and bitterly reproached herself with having been the cause of his exposure to so terrible a doom. Week after week passed away, but the fate of poor Antonio remained involved in the most distressing uncertainty.

About this time, there happened to be living in the vicinity of Seville, a venerable personage, a professor of astrology, who had been consulted, with miraculous success it appeared, by many who were desirous of becoming better acquainted with their own destiny or the affairs of their neighbours. In those days there was a very prevalent belief in judicial astrology, the professors of which were, perhaps, the more frequently and earnestly consulted, because the Holy Office was loud and fierce in its denunciations against both them and their clients.

Isabella, although a strong-minded woman in the main, was not altogether free from the superstition which characterized the age in which she lived; and, being unable to endure the torturing suspense in which the uncertainty of Antonio's fate had involved her, she eagerly caught at any thing which promised to throw a light upon the mystery, and accordingly resolved, at all hazards, to visit the sage, of whose abilities report spoke so highly.

Accompanied, therefore, by a Moorish boy, a sort of page, (alas! that there should be a dark page in the history of so fair a damsel !) she proceeded to the temple of the oracle, which was an apartment in an old castle that had long been tenantless and in ruins.

Almanza, for such, with the reader's leave, we will call the astrologer, was a very venerable-looking personage, with a cast of countenance which, in youth, had doubtless been handsome ; but a long and perfectly white beard, descending almost to his chest, imparted to him an appearance of being older than in reality he was. He was habited in a gown of crimson silk, lined and faced with a dark fur, which the cold and cheerless apartment he occupied rendered quite as essential to his comfort, as it was in keeping with his character. He wore a velvet cap of the same colour as his gown, lined and faced in a similar manner, having a lappet on either side which covered his ears. He was seated in a large antique chair with a very high back. Before him, upon a table covered with a cloth of crimson damask, deeply fringed, was an open volume, with huge clasps, resting on a closed one. Materials for writing were also by his side. Behind him was a spacious fire-place,

among the principal carved work on which were figures of “Didst thou, in seeking my poor dwelling, expect to find a death's head, while upon the shelf above was a bottle con it tenanted by a fiery dragon, or some devouring monster, taining a serpent preserved in spirits. On his left hand, who would make a meal of thee, that thou fearedst to venthere was a celestial globe of considerable size, and, around ture hither without the protection of your ebony walking it lay scattered in confusion ond disorder some ponderous stick ? But, I pray thee, lady, if it be not asking too much folios. On the wall, upon the right hand, were traced the of thy condescension, fling aside thy veil.” The lady zodaical signs, with triangles and other astrological figures, obeyed. “And now," continued the astrologer, “I beseech describable only by the initiated. A slight expression of sur thee, propound to me what wouldst thou of Almanzor!prise, for a passing moment, disturbed the prevailing gravity “Nay, most learned sir," said the lady, “I have little of the sage's countenance at the entrance of his fair visitant, to hope from your skill, if it cannot readily help you to whom we will now do our best to portray to the reader. the purport of my visit, without the assistance of my

She was above the ordinary stature of women, which, tongue." however, the perfect symmetry of her form, and the exqui. “My skill,” retorted the sage with a sneer, “were insite grace of her movements, rendered less remarkable deed of no common order, if it were readier than a woman's than it would have been in one not so liberally endowed. tongue. But thy hand-let me see thy hand.” Her face was somewhat rounder, perhaps, than consists Isabella withdrew her right hand from the shoulder of her with the Grecian idea of beauty; but he must have been a page, and presented it to the seer, who put it aside, saying: cold critic indeed, who did not find ample compensation for “Nay, lady, not that; it hath already been in too close conwhatever it might want of regularity in the intellectual ex tact with a minister of darkness. The other-your left pression of her high and polished forehead, in the clear and hand!” delicate, but glowing tints of her soft cheek, and the light The maiden, in obeying, presented, to the astrologer's of those eyes whose irradiation appeared to be diffused over perusal, a fairer leaf than any he had yet scanned. She every feature. Her neck-I have heard of a lady's neck smiled, as he examined it, and said, “The professors of being compared to a swan's—it might as aptly have been your art are wont to trace the future destiny of their clients likened to a camelopard's; and it is most strange that the by those lines, but they pretend not to discover present author of such a comparison never blundered upon the si purposes and feelings by the same criterion." militude between a swan's neck and a goose's, or on the “Woman !” said the astrologer, sternly, “dost thou prefact, that a woman with a neck almost half the length of sume to teach where thou art come to learn ? I were indeed her body would be about the most awkward-looking ani- | but a bungler in the noble mystery I profess, if I saw no mal in nature. But all comparisons sink before it. The deeper into this palm than the wandering pretender to the neck of a beautiful female is perfectly unique—there is no art, half mendicant and half liar, who besets your gates and thing like it in creation. For her other charms you have a will tell your fortune for a crust and a rial. It is easy to thousand hackneyed similes: you may typify her blushes

ascertain the tendency of the broad stream, but it is for the by the rose or the tints of the morning; her eye by the eye of wisdom alone to trace its under-currents." gem that lights the mine; her lip by the coral, and her “To the test then, learned sir, and propound to me my teeth by the pearl in the caves of the ocean; her forehead

past and present feelings upon the subject on which I am by the marble of Paros ; and her glorious tresses by the here to consult you." clustering vine; but her neck is like nothing but itself The professor raised his spectacles to his eyes, with his to quote with a slight alteration the words of the undying right hand,, on the little finger of which glittered a gem poet

set in massive gold, while, with his left hand, he held the Nought but itself can be its parellel.”

hand of the lady, and after a scrutinizing examination of it, Her dress-0 for the vocabulary of a man-milliner, that he said: I might describe it in such orthodox language as to be in “Tears of bitter, but late repentance, lady, have fallen telligible to the fairer and dearer portion of my readers ! upon this palm, but they have not effaced the characters in Her slender waist was encircled by a boddice or deep sto which I read of coldness and cruelty towards one who demacher, on which was gathered a skirt (how professional I served better at thy hands." have become already!) of white satin ; a sort of epaulette While he was yet speaking he looked stedfastly at Isaor collar lay upon her shoulders, over which was disposed bella, who started in evident surprise and consciousness as a shawl of very costly silk. Fastened to her hair, which she rejoined : was gathcred into a knot on the crown of her head, was a “That might be a shrewd guess of yours, but as I did lace veil of exquisite workmanship. Around her neck was not incur the peril of this visit to prove your skill, but to a string of pearls of rare size and beauty, together with a profit by it, it will readily occur to your wisdom that I shall chain composed of gold and precious stoncs, while a gem of scarcely be content with being told what, it may be, I alextraordinary magnitude and brilliancy adorned her bosom. ready know too well. Does thy art give thee knowledge of

The Moorish youth, who accompanied her, was arrayed, the fate of the absent ?” according to the custom of the day, in a suit of a very gay “There are means of obtaiuing that knowledge, lady,', and fanciful kind. His vest was of silk, made very full said the astrologer. about the hips, and surmounted by a velvet jacket. His “I would enquire of thee, then,” continued the maiden, hose were fitted tight to his legs, and tied, as were his " the fate of—shoes, with broad crimson ribands.

“Hold, lady!” interrupted Almanzor, “remember there The seer, as I have stated, speedily recovered from the are three in presence, and to mention names is needless, and surprise, which the entrance of so imposing a visitor had may scarcely be safe. You would know of him whom cruexcited, and, assuming a somewhat sardonic expression of elty and despair have driven from the land and the home of countenance, he greeted her thus :

his fathers, to wander in distant climes"

A 2

“It is he of whom I would ask;—quick, tell me doth he | she repaired to the terrace a little before the hour he had live or hath the ocean—".

named to her, and waited, in almost breathless expectation, “Nay, lady, I said not that I possessed such knowledge,” for the first stroke of the convent clock. At length it said the astrologer.

sounded through the valley, and its vibration had not “ Then art thou a juggling quack,” exclaimed Isabella, ceased, when a strain of solemn music broke upon her ear, "and hast imposed upon my confidence by means of some and continued for a few seconds. She bent her eyes in the particulars which thou or thy confederates have gleaned of direction whence it appeared to have proceeded, and permy history.

ceived a tall figure emerging from the shade of the orange “Pardon me, fair damsel,” said Almanzor, mildly, “I trees, and continuing to advance until the light of the moon told thee, that the knowledge thou desirest was attainable, fell upon it, when it stood still with its face turned towards and means shall be adopted to procure it for thee."

her. “Work thy spells then,” rejoined the lady, “and I will Isabella uttered a faint scream as she beheld the stately abide the issue.”

form of Antonio, attired as when they last parted, but with "Damsel, it may not be," replied the sage: “a mortal a melancholy expression of countenance. She pressed eawitness of those mysteries would but tempt his own fate, gerly forward to the very verge of the precipice which and defeat the spell. I know not, indeed, whether he of bounded the terrace, and, stretching out her arms towards whom thou speakest be living or dead; but thus much I | the figure, exclaimed, “Oh, Antonio! if it be indeed thy can do to satisfy thy doubts; I can cause to appear before disembodied spirit, speak to me! O for a single word, the thee his effigy—the exact resemblance of his mortal body-- slightest sign, to assure me of thy forgiveness !” be it instinct with life, or sleeping beneath the green sod While she was speaking, the last stroke of the hour of the rushing wave. Hast thou courage to look on it ?” sounded on the clock, and the figure, raising its arm, waved

“Courage, old man,” said Isabella firmly, “I have cou a solemn adieu, and slowly retired into the gloom from rage to endure, or to face any thing that may terminate this which it had emerged. The strain of music was again torture of suspense. Ay, I will gaze on him, even though heard for a few seconds, when it ceased, and Isabella, overhe wear the frown in which my thoughtless cruelty has ar powered by her feelings, sank down upon the grass, and it rayed his noble brow.”

was some time before she could summon resolution to arise “Then mark me," continued the seer, "and, if thy cou and return to the house, where she passed the remainder of rage fail thee not, be thou on the terrace, in thy garden be the night in deep musing upon the extraordinary occurrence. fore midnight; and, when the first stroke of twelve shall It behoves now to return to our friend the astrologer, sound from the convent clock, do thou look towards the whose prescience, it would appear, did not extend to his orange grove, and the likeness of him thou wouldst wot of own destiny ; for, the day after his interview with Isabella, shall pass before thee, and the moon-beam shall rest upon he was surprised by a visit from the familiars of the Inquiit. If it be habited as when thou partedst from him, com sition, who hurried him away to the Holy Office, with all fort thyself that he is yet in life: if his hair shall hang long the portable implements of his trade. and dank upon his brow, then be sure he hath an ocean Now it happens that I never was in a prison; whether grave: but, if the garments of the sepulchre be around him, because I cannot obtain credit or do not need it, is not, I then hath he a christian's burial in a foreign land. But, opine, any affair of the reader's; yet so it is ; but, I appreremember, thou must go alone, and turn thy gaze from the hend, in whatever other respects the Spaniards are in our figure when the clock shall have sounded the last stroke of rear, they beat us hollow in the particular of jails. I rethe hour, or evil may come of it.

gret, however, that I am unable to enliven my history by As Isabella prepared to depart, she put a purse into the an aecurate account of the fast holds of the Holy Office at astrologer's hand, bnt he, somewhat indignantly, rejected Seville. The truth is, I fear, that so few of those who have it, and said, “Lady, I need it not ; nor may I barter for got into it have contrived to get out again, while those who this yellow dross the oracles which are entrusted to me. have been so fortunate have had such cogent reasons for Keep therefore thy gold and thy counsel, and be gone, for being silent on the subject, that the particulars essential to time is hastening while thou art tarrying, and I must to the description have rarely been attainable. my work.”

Our conjuror, after having been detained for some time The lady bowed and withdrew, and, when she arrived at in an ante-room, in which a minute description of his home, she shut herself up in her closet to ponder upon the person, and the particulars of his alleged offence, were reextraordinary interview with which she had been favoured. gistered by the notary of the prison, was ushered into a The astrologer had adverted so pointedly to certain of her spacious, but imperfectly lighted chamber, containing little feelings which she was not conscious of having betrayed, else, in the way of furniture, than a few chairs and a long as, in a great degree, to justify his pretensions to the cha table, at one end of which sat the inquisitor. He was racter in which he had appeared ; and yet there was scarcely arrayed in a sort of black cassock, which fitted tightly to warrant sufficient for her faith in the supernatural power, his body and arms, and was buttoned closely up to his which he had promised to exert for the removal of her throat, while upon his head was a black cap with a square doubts. The hour of the appointment again, and the in crown. He was short and somewhat corpulent, but had a junction that she should go alone, savoured of mystery, and, most forbidding, not to say ferocious expression of counteperhaps of peril; while, on the other hand, the terrace was nance, in which amiable particular he was closely resembled on her own grounds, and was so precipitously elevated above by a half-starved looking personage, who sat uncovered at the orange grove, as to diminish her apprehensions of dan the lower end of the table, and who might, from his apger from that quarter. Her deliberations ended in a reso- pearance, be described as a sort of mongrel between a lution to seek the information she so anxiously desired, by scrivener and a hangman. the means pointed out by the astrologer, and, accordingly, The inquisitor first directed that Almanzor should be

« AnteriorContinuar »