“In full view was a nose, not of the pygmy kind that we mortals generally wear, but one whose gigantic style of architecture would have added dignity, if not grace, to the front of a Cyclops.”
Published in the popular periodical, Bentley’s Miscellany, “The Lonja of Seville” features a long history and description of the Lonja, an ancient merchant market that, over time, has changed to a document repository containing the history of the Spanish Empire in the Americas. After the history, Murray tells the story of Spanish man in the midst of the Carnival celebrations who encounters a lovely Spanish woman. The story is a comedy as well as a satire concerning outward appearance. The Honorable Robert Dundas Murray was the youngest son of the Lord Elibank. He died at the young age of 38 in September of 1856. His only short story, “The Lonja of Seville” was included in the ninth edition of the periodical, which was published in 1841. Murray and his brother, J. Erskire Murray, a writer as well, both worked with Charles Dickens, editor of Bentley’s Miscellany in some capacity (Greaves 269).
Murray also wrote The Cities and Wilds of Andalusia, which was published by Richard Bentley himself in 1849. This two-volume book includes a section dedicated to Seville, specifically the Lonja itself. The description is written almost exactly as it is in the beginning of the short story found in Bentley’s Miscellany. Both credit the Lonja to Juan de Herrera, describing its proximity to the famous cathedral, and Italian design to name a few examples. Along with Cities, he wrote another travel book, A Summer at Port Philip, which was published in 1843. This book was set on the other side of the equator, Australia, specifically Port Philip which is modern day Melbourne.
Murray was considered the expert of Andalusia during this time. He is mentioned as the ‘consult’ for the Andalusia entry in the New International Encyclopedia, Volume I, published in London in 1853. In a book titled, The Spanish Gypsy: the history of a European Obsession, he is mentioned: “Among the British, American, and Irish who visited and wrote about Southern Spain from 1809 to 1884…Robert Dundas Murray (1846-47?)” (Charnon-Deutch 94). However, since “The Lonja of Seville” was published in 1841, I believe that he was there much earlier. Because of the rising popularity in monthly periodicals, Murray may have realized the potential market for publication in the fiction genre. An easy way to do this would have been to use his travel writing as a base for a story, which is evident in his use of the history of Sevilla as an introduction to the story.
Created by Richard Bentley, originally titled “Wit’s Miscellany,” the periodical’s intent was to publish new works by established names. By doing so, Bentley set the standard for his magazine to be current with times as well as created real competition for Henry Colburn’s New Monthly Magazine. By recruiting Charles Dickens, well known in the literary world as “Boz” of the Pickwick Papers, he added a level of legitimacy to his periodical before it was even reputable on its own. As editor, Dickens published Oliver Twist serially in the editions of the periodical. The periodical grew to be widely-read, circulating to 8,500 per month, rising above the popular Blackwood’s periodical. Each edition was typically 108 pages, full of works of fiction as well as illustrations by George Cruikshank (Drew).
Bentley’s changed editors during the publication’s reign. After Dickens, W. Harrison Ainsworth took over the editorial chair, the circulation rose from 6,000 per month to 7,500 per month. During his time, Ainsworth serialized his thrilling story, Jack Sheppard, before moving on and creating his own periodical. Finally in 1841, due to the decline in sales, Bentley took over the job as editor, however he was soon forced to sell it Ainsworth in November of 1854. The change in ownership as well as editorial power caused a spike in popularity when the content slanted toward politics concerning India and Russia. In the end, Bentley repurchased his original dream, thought it was slowly dying (Drew).
Concerning content, the periodical included literary genres such as essays, fiction, political pieces, and serialized novels by famous writers. In volume IX, printed in 1841, many pieces focused on travel as a theme. “My Grand Tour,” tells the story of a first time trip to Paris, “Hours in Hindostan” is set in India, and “An Adventure in Fifteen Acres” takes place in Ireland and. During these times, travel and the exotic were a common theme, especially due to the rising popularity of The Grand Tour, a multi-year journey through Europe embarked on by young Englishmen in the 18th and 19th centuries (Oxford University Press, 2000).
According to The Routledge Concise History of Nineteenth-Century Literature, “Nineteenth-century readers were avid consumers of ‘foreignness’ of all kinds, whether ‘primitive’… or modern” (Guy 49). Murray clearly had a desire for travel as well as a passion for writing about it. Because of his extensive observations, he was able to provide a large amount of information about southern Spain, enough to write a two-volume book. Travel writing was a rising art. David Livingston sold more than 70,000 copies of his travel book about South Africa, Charles Darwin’ s Journal was extremely popular, Ricahrd Burton had written over forty volumes of travel writing, and much later Rudyard Kipling received enormous amounts of praise for his Plain Tales from the Hills (Guy 49). However, “As with depictions of the medieval or classical past, nineteenth-century travel literature was never neutral: other cultures were typically held up as a mirror reflecting British superiority…or an index of British cultural and artistic inferiority” (Guy 50). In “The Lonja of Seville,” Murray writes, “few Spaniards interest themselves in their country’s history.” The tone is derogatory and even condescending, evidence of the British superiority complex. He goes on to speak with such passion about Columbus, Pizarro, and Cortez—all Spanish conquistadors that contributed to the discovery of the Americas, appreciated by Britain, but forgotten by their own people.
Specific to Spain, the setting of the story, “Britain had its origins in patronage and collecting [forms of art] by diplomats posted to Madrid and Seville during the 17th and 18th centuries, but essentially it was a 19th-century phenomenon, inspired in part by… the pioneering efforts of travel writers and historians” (Verdi Webster).
For Murray, writing about Seville would have been an interesting topic considering its history. This port city was where Christopher Columbus left from and returned to after discovering the famous West Indies, eventually titled the Spanish Americas. In 1503, Seville’s port was chosen as the sole port where ships leaving the New World had to dock into in order to bring goods into Europe (Pérez-Mallaína).
Another point of interest in respect to the story and its events, is Carnival. Known in Spanish as carnaval or in French as mardi gras, this worldwide celebration takes place in the two weeks before Lent. Parades, public street parties and masquerades, true events of history and tradition, fill the weeks. The story specifically mentions Cadiz, which is known as the best Carnival in Europe (Riggio). In Murray’s story, the protagonist, Don Manuel Breton, has grown tired of the festivities, at least until he sees the Serranita. She is wearing a mask, dressed in a typical Flamenco outfit, yet she is wearing it very tight and showing off her ankle. The mask acts as the catapult for the story because he wants to see her face, contrary to much opposition on her part. Carnaval was a time full of happiness and laughter. This story would be an appropriate depiction because of the joke played on Don Manuel. However, the author touches upon the idea of appearance and the way human beings judge one another at first glance.
I think Murray’s story would interest students of British Literature because of its take on travel writing. He combines historical context and details, necessary of a true travel piece, yet he adds a fictitious story grounded in Spanish tradition and etiquette. The story itself is comical and plays on other British themes and satire, yet it is set in Spain, a fascinating factor. Students would be able to analyze the use of language and compare it to other text written in this time period or in the years before. The author’s tone and view on Spain in reference to its appreciation of history would also be an aspect worth reading and investigating. Since the British were heavily invested in colonizing other lands at this point, specifically India and Northern Africa, the point of view would have affected the writer as well as the way in which he wrote the story.
Drew, John. “Bentley’s Miscellany.” Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism. Web. 22 February 2011.
Drew, John. “Bentley, Richard.” Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism. Web. 22 February 2011.
“Grand Tour.” A Dictionary of World History. Oxford University Press, 2000. Oxford Reference Online. Web. 22 March 2011.
Guy, Josephine. Small, Ian. The Routledge Concise History of Nineteenth-Century Literaure. First Edition. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.
Riggio, Milla. ”carnival.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre and Performance. Ed. Dennis Kennedy. Oxford University Press, 2003. Web. 22 March 2011.
Murray, Hon. Robert Dundas. The Cities and Wilds of Andalusia. Richard Bentley, 1849. Print.
Murray, Hon. Robert Dundas. “The Lonja of Seville.” Bentley’s Miscellany. 1841: 583-592. Print.
Pérez-Mallaína, Pablo. ”Seville.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Maritime History. Ed. John B. Hattendorf. Oxford University Press, 2007. Web. 16 March 2011.
Webster, Susan Verdi. “Spanish Art as Objects of Patronage and Collecting.” The Oxford Companion to Western Art. Ed. Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford University Press, 2001. Oxford Reference Online. Web. 16 March 2011.
Murray, Robert Dundas. “The Lonja of Seville.” Bentley’s Miscellany, Vol. IX. Ed. Richard Bentley. London: Samuel Bentley. 1841. Print.
Murray, Robert Dundas. “The Lonja of Seville.” Bentley’s Miscellany, Vol. VII. American Ed. Richard Bentley. New York: Jemima M. Mason. 1841. Print.
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The Lonja, or Exchange of Seville, though boasting of no high antiquity, ranks not the least among the many relics of art to be met with in every quarter of that time-honoured city. Its site is but a few paces distant from the cathedral; so close, indeed, that the lofty outlines of the latter overshadow its own severer proportions, and render them less striking than they really are. Still, in spite of this disadvantage, it tells, with an air of noble simplicity, of the far-reaching hopes of its founders. It was here that the discoveries of Columbus were to be turned to account; here the wealth of the ”Indies” was to be stored up, and to be parted among the merchants from strange lands who were to resort hither, and be witnesses to the fame and greatness of the Spanish Empire. Happily for such views, it was the fortune of Spain to possess an architect every way capable of doing justice to them. The Lonja is the work of Juan de Herrera, one of the most accomplished men of his times, and no mean proficient in his art, as the Escurial, and many other edifices, may testify. His favourite style, the Italian, which indeed he was the first to introduce into his native country, is that in which he has chosen to rear this building, unquestionably one of the best specimens of his genius. Its shape is that of a massive square, the design of which approaches almost to plainness, there being neither columns, nor other architectural details, to clothe or otherwise ornament the exterior. On each of its four sides a lower and upper tier of windows stretch away in long lines; and, as if the light they admitted was alone worthy of the distinction, around these its channels are some ornaments gathered, though with a sparing hand. Scanty as they are, however, they serve to relieve the general air which everywhere else is that of quiet and solid strength.
Passing into the interior, we find ourselves in a spacious court, the solitary fountain in the centre of which yet murmurs as it used to do in the days of Philip the Second. Round the court runs an arcade, supported by square pillars, and especially devised as a shelter against inclement weather. Not that inclement weather includes only the severities of winter; on the contrary, the dog-days in Seville are far more inclement, certainly far less tolerable than the heavy winter rains: and it seems, therefore, that to both of these evils the architect addressed himself when he constructed so choice a retreat as this, where hundreds might assemble without incommoding each other, and at the same time be secured from the extremes of either season.
From the basement story a wide staircase leads to a suite of apartments above. As we ascend we find ourselves in the midst of a wealth and luxury seen in no other part of the edifice. The broad steps underfoot, the heavy balustrades — which from the easiness of the ascent seldom feel the weight of a hand, are all of beautiful red marble, brought from the Sierra de Moron. Even the walls, to the height of some feet from the ground, are lined with the same precious material, not simply smooth, so as to form a glossy coating, but wrought into a variety of designs, having all the effect of richly embossed work. Few kingly residences can boast of an approach to the presence of royalty more imposing than this staircase, the services of which at no time aspired to an office more noble than that of conveying merchants and their clerks from one story to another.
To what purposes the upper story had been originally applied it is now difficult to say, for it is long since it has been converted into a repository of national archives. Those, however, who effected such a change appear to have owned the gift so rare in Spain of fashioning their work by the model of the parent design. Two long galleries embrace as many sides of the quadrangle, and with their variegated marble floors, their tall mahogany presses darkening the walls, and their doors and window-shutters of the same rich wood, form a gloomy, though fitting receptacle for the narratives of still gloomier deeds. What these unfold seldom sees the light,—for few Spaniards interest themselves in their country’s history, and to a passing stranger they are inaccessible, except by a special order from Madrid. Still it is something, through the trellis-work which guards them, to look upon these manuscripts, and to know that upon them runs the handwriting of such men as Columbus, Pizarro, and Cortez. All that we have read regarding their trials and successes takes its source from the faded ink that scarcely blackens the paper before us. The hands that shed that ink are the hands of those who first shouted the Castilian war-cry on the shores of an unknown world, and won empires for their masters. Surely, then, as we touch the faint characters in which they are traced—the one his sufferings and glories, and the others their bloody triumphs, — surely there is no one who will not then feel as if he stood in the presence of the departed great. Possibly there may be folly in this feeling, but one is apt to fancy that where their achievements lie recorded, there would the mighty dead love to linger, and set their watch.
Of the high hopes which Seville in these days cherished, and of their transient fulfillment, this building is a faithful memorial. For some time it bore itself proudly, while the wealth of the west was gathered with pain and danger. No sooner, however, were whole nations toiling at the mines, than the carvels and pinnaces of the primitive adventurers rose into stately galleons, for whom the Guadalquivir became too shallow, then commenced the decay of Seville as sudden as its short-lived prosperity. The commerce with the colonies, and everything connected with it, moved down to Sanlucar de Barrameda, at the mouth of the river; whence, by means of small craft, a communication was kept up with the interior. But that port had its perils in the shape of a treacherous bar, then and now the grave of many a vessel. The Spanish government was therefore induced by repeated losses to search for a safer harbour for its navies, and such a one was found under the walls of Cadiz whose noble bay stood invitingly open to every sail. In spite of much opposition, the treasure-ships were ordered to bear away for that city, — a change that necessarily sealed the fate of Seville as a commercial town. In that fate its Lonja, of course, participated. It is now deserted by all who live by traffic; the steps that lead to its doors are broken and grass grown, and seldom are they touched by the feet of any but a few officials connected with the archives. who slumber peacefully at their labours upstairs. If any other step resounds in its silent halls, it is that of the traveller, who wanders alone where once there were stirring scenes of life and business. Yet there are times when it awakes to a spectacle as foreign to its original and present character as night is to day. In place of stillness, all then is tumult and movement; everything that is strange and fantastic comes and departs unquestioned; and if all tales be true, the incidents that then occur bid fair to rival the most extraordinary chapters in the romance of real life. On one of these occasions not many years ago, a scene took place, so novel, and withal so singular, even amid scenes where every actor “puts on the trick of singularity,”that no apology is necessary for giving it a place here.
It was at that giddy season when the carnival holds its sway over light hearts. Of such it is needless to say, that in this city of sunny skies there are thousands, the property of as many inhabitants, to whom the King of Terrors would be less formidable than the idea of not adding their week of madness to the follies of the year. As may be expected, they manage pretty well to turn the sober city into a kind of pantomime. During the hours of light, the streets swarm with gay-looking figures in every costume under the sun, besides many more upon whom that luminary never shone. Their vocation is to shout, laugh, and chatter, to their heart’s content, and persecute in a small way every one who promises to make a good victim. Everywhere is heard their laughing adios: the pedestrians hurl it from the streets up to the windows, whose occupants are generally dark-eyed senoritas. These being of unforgiving tempers, send back the salutation, and thus is commenced a smart skirmish of jests, in which is expended a great quantity of smiles on both sides. As evening draws on, the streets return to their usual state of repose. As for the crowds that gave them life, they are retiring to their homes, not to terminate their sports there, but after the lapse of a few hours to re-appear within the walls of the Lonja.
Let us join, therefore, in the living stream that towards midnight rolls on in the direction of that edifice. Our way lies by the walls and buttresses of its giant neighbour, the cathedral; upon emerging from the holy precincts of which we stand upon the threshold of the once favoured hall of merchants. From its open door a flood of light is thrown upon the gloomy street and the crowds pressing for admittance, but that excepted, nothing prepares the eye for the spectacle that awaits it within; the windows are cold and dark as ever, and the shadows of night hang undisturbed upon them as upon every other part of the building. Not so, however, in the interior. There clusters of lamps shed a broad glare of light from every pillar, prolonging the reign of noontide wherever they are dispersed. Their rays fall upon grotesque figures, and glance from the marble beneath their feet up to the awning which is stretched across the court so as to exclude the heavy dews. Music, too, resounds from every quarter, while hundreds, or rather thousands of dancers are beating time to its measure. To the dancers the arcades are appropriated by public notice; on one side a placard intimates that the ground below is sacred to Escocesas; while on the other, a similar announcement warns away all those whom the schoolmaster hath not chastised into a knowledge of mazurkas. It is in vain, however, to give even a faint idea of the noisy tumult that makes the central court its own. All that Seville can furnish of tinsel finery, of helmets and tin breast-plates, turbans and Turkish garments, is here jumbled together. Of course there is confusion worse confounded, with a vengeance, but that is nothing to the hubbub that accompanies it. The better to escape detection, every masker speaks in a feigned tone, knowing that all disguise is in vain, if his voice remains to betray him. Accordingly, the only sounds to be heard are salutations pitched in a shrill falsetto, and conversations maintained in the same iscordant key. If any one breaks into a laugh, it rises into a shriek so painful to the ear as to make us doubt whether we are not listening to the voice of some spirit of evil omen. Add to this, the motionless lips whence these sounds issue, and the distorted features of the masks themselves, which bear the human face divine printed in every variety of caricature, and the scene thus presented to the spectator is one of the most unnatural and startling that fancy can picture.
So, at least, thought Don Manuel Breton, as he wandered alone through the crowd. To him, however, the scene was beginning to lose its novelty. For the first half hour he had been sufficiently entertained by watching the masks, and enjoying the unconscious mistakes into which they fell by forgetting their assumed characters. He had detected a couple of Turks in the act of pledging each other in wine without fear of the Prophet, and it wiled away some ten minutes to study the movements of a North American savage, who wore green spectacles, and danced quadrilles to perfection. Nevertheless his interest as a mere spectator was rapidly cooling, and he was preparing to quit the veiled throng, when his steps were arrested by the appearance of a figure which instantly engrossed his undivided attention. It was that of a lady who, like himself, seemed rather a spectator than a partaker in the amusements of the evening. In deference, however, to the universal custom, she wore a mask, and was simply but elegantly attired in the costume of a Serranita or mountaineer. The dress selected was one admirably adapted to show off her fine form to the greatest advantage. Its tightly fitting vest concealed none of the proportions of the bust, while the short skirts disclosed a foot and ankle that a sculptor would have prized for a model.
As she passed close to him, leaning upon the arm of a tall cavalier, it was the thought of Don Manuel, that never among his countrywomen—though grace be the companion of their steps—had he beheld a foot fall so lightly and so freely.
The pair thus introduced to us sauntered carelessly from group to group, addressing themselves to none, but replying with great good humour whenever some inquisitive masker held them at bay. At a little distance followed our hero; who, devoured by an uncontrollable interest in their proceedings, found himself treading in their footsteps as their shadow. They paused at length upon reaching a spot too remote from the laugh and the jest to have many occupants. Here, after conversing for a few moments in low tones, they separated; the cavalier hastily withdrawing, while his companion retired to a seat commanding a view of the dancers. Now was the moment for opening an acquaintance with the fair stranger, for so unexpected an opportunity might never occur again. Availing himself, therefore, of the licence denied to none at such seasons, Don Manuel hesitated not to approach and accost her.
“Thou wilt permit me to sit beside thee, Serranita?”
“With much pleasure,” she replied, “though I am surprised that for me thou leavest the beauties in the saloon. Thou knowest me, perchance?”
“There are few of my acquaintances whom I cannot strip of their closest disguise, and thou art not one of these. Wilt thou be pleased then to remove that envious mask, since neither thou nor I have secrets to penetrate?”
“It is not every one who can defy with impunity the world’s gaze as thou dost,” was the reply of the unknown.
“Thanks, gracious Serranita,” said our hero. “Then thou knowest me?”
“Yes, by sight. They tell me thou art a poet. Wilt thou make me some verses?”
“Give me a theme,” said Don Manuel, rising into the enthusiastic; “or stay, let that theme be the charms thy mask conceals, and I ask but one glance to translate them into words.”
“What! art thou a poet, and must needs consult thy eyes in order to spur thy fancy. Why, the muse thy tribe adores is, according to them, arrayed in every excellence under the sun, and yet I’ll engage that not one of them has ever seen her across the street, far less face to face. Canst thou not, then, do the same for me, though thou seest me not. But, believe me, my interest and thine are opposed to the gratification of thy wishes. As long as I remain thus shrouded, I am sure of hearing flattering phrases and smooth speeches, to which I am not always accustomed; but take away this friendly shade,” she said, pointing to her mask, “and then farewell to thy illusion and mine.”
“Serranita, this will not persuade me that anything but modesty prevents thee from unmasking. Thou ugly! I would stake my life to the contrary. Yet there is one reason why I should be sorry to see thee unmasked.”
“What is it?”
“I should be compelled to renounce the affectionate tuteothat now passes between us. How delightful to address thee in the style of the most intimate friends, as a brother, or a lover!”
“And were I so indiscreet,” said the Serranita, ” as to reveal myself, thou wouldst scarce have time to falter out a freezing a los pies de usted. Wilt thou be more indulgent than the rest of mankind, to whom ugliness is the greatest crime of a woman?”
“Oh! I am quite of another disposition,” was his reply. “I am not one of those who fly from an ugly woman as from a raging lion; and believe me, wert thou as odious or frightful as I believe thee to be the reverse, I should not worship thee the less. Could I forget the melody of thy voice, or the sweetness of thy manner, or the grace that reigns in thy movements — could I forget these? Impossible. But where is the ugliness with which thou wouldst terrify me? I do not see it in the elegance of thy shape, or in the beauty of thy hand. Surely it does not reside in that fairy-like foot, or those flashing eyes, still less in the dark hair that clusters round thy snowy throat, or in the smile that hangs on thy lips; for these also have I seen, in spite of thy mask.”
“Nevertheless, be assured that thou wilt be horror-struck if I discover myself.”
“That is impossible, Serranita, for I have seen every feature — no,” he said, checking himself, “the nose is the only one I have not seen; but with those eyes, that mouth, and that figure, I care not how shapeless it be—yes, I repeat, were it a monstrous blot upon thy charms, I should be as devoted to it as to them. Wilt thou not unmask then ? — or must I be a suppliant at thy feet for the favour I beg?”
“Thou wilt repent thy indiscretion,” urged the stranger.
Had Don Manuel read Shakspeare, he would have exclaimed, like Claudio,
“I’ll hold my mind, wert thou an Ethiop.”
It was in a similar vein, however, that he said, “I will abide the consequences, whatever they be.”
“Enough, enough,” replied the unknown; “thou shalt see me without my mask, but thy hands alone must remove it; by thyself shall thy ungoverned impatience be chastised.”
“Thanks, thanks, fair Serranita,” he said. “Envy me, ye less favoured mortals. Give me the lyre, O muses! At this moment I am inspired!”
“At this moment thou art a madman, and the next moment thou wilt be a fool,” was the flattering reply, which in his eagerness to behold the speaker he heeded not.
“Vexation! I cannot untie this knot: let me cut it. Ah! how beauti—”
The concluding syllable died away on his lips. In full view was a nose, not of the pigmy kind that we mortals generally wear, but one whose gigantic style of architecture would have added dignity, if not grace, to the front of a Cyclops. There it stood in the center of that radiant countenance, the monarch of all it surveyed, displaying such a luxuriance of growth as bespoke extraordinary carelessness on the part of the cultivator, who had thus suffered it to run to seed. The fine of Quevedo,
“Erase un hombre á una nariz pegado” gives but a poor notion of the relations between it and its possessor. For some moments following his rash discovery, the eyes of our hero performed the office of his tongue. At length, finding it absolutely necessary to say something, he made a desperate attempt at a few phrases of gallantry, but all in vain. Confusedly they came forth; in fact he knew not what he was saying, and spoke as incoherently as if the human steeple he was gazing at was in reality one nodding over his head, and about to crush him to the earth. Fortunately for his embarrassment, the Serranita, who doubtless was hardened by sad experience to such scenes, laughed loud and long, in evident enjoyment of his perplexity. Far from resenting the look of horror and blank disappointment with which he regarded her, it seemed to gratify her rather than otherwise. The longer she laughed, the higher rose our hero’s courtage, his ideas at the same time returning to a convalescent state, the first symptom of which was to descry an imaginary friend in an unknown passer-by. Under pretence, therefore, of having something important to communicate, he hastily arose, and, without casting another look at the portentous unmasked, muttered between his teeth an icy” a los pies de usted,” and ingloriously betook himself to flight.
Shame and mortification added wings to his feet. Turning neither to the right hand nor to the left, lest a chance side-glance should reveal the hateful nose, he shot swiftly forwards, haunted by an indefinable dread of something terrible to be encountered by looking back, and only to be shunned by speed of foot. A few steps brought him to the thickest of the throng,—another sent him into the center of a quadrille party. An earthquake could not have wrought direr mishaps than he did as he worked his way through it. Those who were tripping it on the fantastic toe found themselves on a sudden unceremoniously tripped up, and rolling fantastically on the hard marble pavement. As for the author of their overthrow, he was unconsciously pursuing his way with the air of a conqueror; breastplates and helmets, ruined past a tinsmith’s skill, clashing at his feet; while his path was strewed with roses (artificial) from the hair of affrighted maidens. Regardless of these, and a thousand other impediments, he made no pause until he reached the outer door. There Don Manual stopped, too breathless and faint to dive into the darkness beyond, where for ever would he gladly have entombed himself and his agitated spirits. His purpose changed, however, as the cool midnight air flowing into the heated rooms awakened calmer thoughts in his bewildered brain. The result of these deliberations was to suggest that he felt hungry—exceedingly hungry. He was in no mood to contest the point, and therefore turned away from the door, and with a slow and sober pace bent his steps towards the refreshment room. Throwing himself into a chair beside one of the nearest tables, he took up the bill of fare, and began to study it with great zeal. Nevertheless the past still engrossed his thoughts; for the waiter, whom he had summoned upon entering, had to report himself twice before the purport of his words was clearly understood.
“Ah! what do I wish to take? Hum—bring me—a nose.”
“Sorry we have no noses,” said the attendant; “but there are some excellent tongues at your service.”
“Nonsense,” replied Don Manuel. “Vamos á ver,” he added; “bring me some jamón de Asturias” which was accordingly set before him.
While the pangs of hunger were being appeased, those of memory grew less sharp; each mouthful of savoury ham that disappeared from view falling like balm upon his vexed thoughts, and helping to banish some compunctious visitings regarding broken vows and a deserted phenomenon.
“Wonderful are the works of Nature !” was his inward remark, as he replenished his plate for the third time; “but never was she so wonderful or so false as in this case, never. As for the usual specimens of her fancy which deform our streets, she seems to have been merely trying her hand at something new, and to have sent them into the world in disgust at her failure. But this is quite another thing. To chisel out a form of exquisite grace, and when nothing but a single stroke was wanting to make it faultless—to stay her hand, and pronounce her work perfect, is very inexcusable in Nature—I’m not sure whether it isn’t a decided case of malice prepense against the feelings of her children — and then to make us fancy it all loveliness, and to entrap us into loving it, and bestowing on it honed sentences! Fool that I was, to be so taken in!”
As remembrance thus touched upon the part he had so recently played, Don Manuel groaned aloud, and gnashed his teeth in a most violent manner, whereby a choice morsel of ham came to an untimely end; but, this outbreak over, his reflections by degrees rolled back to their former channel.
“Well, the fault is not mine, but Nature’s; and, to speak the truth, I am afraid that now-a-days she has turned a swindler—yes, a low swindler. But if she has done me once, it shall only be once; for if she makes another attempt to impose on me, I’ll immediately get up a society for putting her down. So let her beware.”
With this consoling reflection, and the aid of sundry vasos of Manzanilla, our hero’s past adventure faded from his thoughts at the moment that some one proceeded to occupy a chair on the opposite side of the table. This of itself was not enough to attract his attention; but when a long black shadow crossed the board, and fell upon his plate, he lifted up his eyes with a mingled feeling of awe and amazement. Powers of grace! it was the nose. Confronting him with all its artillery of charms, and apparently in the happiest humour with itself and every one, its bright eyes sparkling with smiles appeared to invite a renewal of the conversation so abruptly terminated in the ball-room. By its side stood the tall cavalier we have alluded to before, now rather thrown into the background, and immovable and grave as a statue.
To start up, with the intention of again escaping, was the first impulse of Don Manuel, after recovering from his astonishment; but his strength failed him as the nose, wreathed in a most fascinating smile, inquired if he was going away without inviting it to sup.
“Can the force of audacity go further!” thought he, as he sank back in his chair in a state of petrifaction. “To invite itself to sup with me !—me, whom it has tricked beyond endurance—whom it has seen escaping from its presence as from an accursed thing—to claim me as a friend! And then the cool familiarity of its manner: decidedly nothing human would have acted so. Have I committed some crime, and is this “goblin damn’d” sent to follow me wherever I go, as a punishment for my sins? Nothing more likely. I have heard of the evil eye that haunts people to their graves, and this must be a variety of the same tribe, — an evil nose, whose duty is to meet me unexpectedly at the corners of streets and in lone places, and to lean over my shoulder amid crowds, and make my life a chain of miseries. Pero venga loque venga,I defy its powers! and if it be of flesh,” he muttered, grasping his knife, and waving it aloft, *’ bitterly shall it repent this presumption.”
Probably the nose descried the sanguinary complexion of his musings; for as his uplifted knife carved the air in dangerous vicinity, it drew back with some precipitation, doubtless unwilling to be cut down in the flower of its youth.
“I shall not cause you much expense,” were its next words: “a glass of ponche d la romana, and nothing more.”
“Thank heaven! it is flesh and blood after all,” thought Don Manuel; “for I never heard of ghosts being addicted to liquor. Little mercy, however, shall I show it, for none it deserves for this impertinent freedom.”
“Senorita,” he replied, “I shall be delighted to offer you anything you choose to take; but, pardon me,” he added, in tones most cuttingly bland, “will that nose permit a glass to reach your lips?”
Strange to say, the kindly interest exhibited in the question served only to augment the cheerfulness of his opposite, who laughingly requested him to be under no uneasiness on that account.
“But, talking of glasses,” she continued, “had you stood before one ere enacting the runaway, you might have furnished yourself with a capital picture of horror. Being a poet, your fancy might have gleaned something new for dying scenes and speechless emotions. You do not object to copying from yourself, do you?”
Quite unpardonable was its assurance in daring even to address him; but this style of being facetious upon the awkward display he had made was doubly aggravating, and accordingly it stirred up within our hero the lowest deeps of his virtuous indignation.
“What! to be treated with levity by a monstrosity like this!—a thing disowned by humanity !—it, that day after day should be sad and silent, conscious of being an outcast from kind feelings,—it, that should laugh at the shadow of a jest upon its own deformity, and be thankful for the honour done it,—that should stand afar off from the haunts of men, whose image it libels,—it to forget its place, and intrude among the well-proportioned and unblemished as an equal,— nay, to launch its jest at one of them! That is a crime against society too deep to be forgiven, and therefore,” said our hero to himself, “I owe it as a duty to myself and society to humble its insolence. I shall see if I cannot bring it to a proper sense of its misconduct.—I believe, Senorita,” he said aloud, “you have a taste for poetry?”
“You are not mistaken,” said the Serranita. “Will you not favour us with a specimen of your muse? Pray translate into words the charms my mask concealed.”
“Hum—that is beyond my powers; but allow me, instead, to repeat a charming epigram of Alcazar. Far be it from me to insinuate anything; but it warns us to be on our guard against every face whose nose is—rather strongly developed.”
Having received the requisite permission, he then repeated the following lines:—
“Lady fair, no whisper goes
That from thy snowy brow descends!
But tell, ob! tell us where it aids.
What! Wondrous more! thou canst not tell? Then be it mine office to conjecture
That so interminable a feature,
Where’er it sprung, cannot end well.”
With the last line of the preceding effusion parting from his lips, Don Manuel directed a look at the delinquent organ, in expectation of seeing it convulsed by all the agonies of remorse, or at least blushing a repentant crimson. But nothing of the kind followed. Far from being downcast, the object of his wrath, though nearly breathless from laughter, was loud in praises of his taste.
“Very good, indeed,” it said. “* Where it ends’—capital! Really you are so amusing to-night, Don Manuel, that I must reward you y showing ‘ where it ends.’”
So saying, the unknown raised her hand to her head, and quick as thought the nose fell from its place, and lay on the table before our hero. How shall we paint his confusion and desperation of mind as he gazed on the astounding sight, and recalled the rudeness and unfeeling discourtesy of his previous conduct?
“Pecador de mi !”he exclaimed, “it is of pasteboard—it is false, and the real one is not less perfect than the other features of her face. Oh, Senorita !” burst from his lips in the most penitent accents, and rushing forward, he was proceeding to throw himself at her feet to sue for pardon, to bewail his indiscretion in the most abject terms within the reach of language ; but a gesture of impatience on the part of the unknown, blasted all his hopes. Rising from her seat, and taking the arm of her companion, she quitted the room with a slow and dignified step, very unlike the former precipitate retreat of Don Manuel, of whom she took no farther notice than by coldly bestowing on him a repelling “beso á usted la mano.”
If for the rest of the night our hero wandered he knew not where, with no clear perception of anything; and if, on courting repose, he dreamt of being stabbed to the heart by a sabre-like nose, which, as he gasped his last, changed into a lovely ballet-dancer, who made his dying frame its stage, and indulged in pirouettes on the extreme tip of his own nasal feature; though his medical adviser might ascribe such unwholesome visions to indigestion, yet it is more probable that the origin of his malady might be traced to the Lonja of Seville.
↑ 1. King of Spain from 1556–1598, married Mary I of England in 1554.
↑ 2. Port in southwestern Spain, on the Gulf of Cádiz; it became an important port for shipping routes to the Americas.
↑ 3. A season of celebration with the pre-Lenten period, known as carnaval in Spanish and mardi gras in French.
↑ 4. In extended use, an absurd or confused situation; a mess; (also) an absurd or outrageous piece of behaviour.
↑ 5. A Spanish title, prefixed to a man’s Christian name, formerly confined to men of high rank, but now applied in courtesy to all of the better classes.
↑ 6. The use of “tú” form of address, as opposed to formal “usted” form.
↑ 7. At the feet of you.
↑ 8. Once there was a man stuck to a nose.
↑ 9. Ham from the region in northwestern Spain, bordering the Bay of Biscay and traversed by the Cantabrian Mountains.
↑ 10. A pale, very dry Spanish sherry .
↑ 11. Come what may.
↑ 12. Roman Punch, an alcoholic beverage including champagne, rum, lemon or pineapple juice among other ingredients.
↑ 13. Sinner of me.
↑ 14. Kiss to the hand.
“Asturias.” World Encyclopedia. Philip’s, 2008. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 24 March 2011.
“Cádiz.” World Encyclopedia. Philip’s, 2008. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 24 March 2011.
“manzanilla.” Oxford Dictionary of English. Ed. Angus Stevenson. Oxford University Press, 2010. Oxford Reference Online. Web. 24 March 2011.
“Philip II.” World Encyclopedia. Philip’s, 2008. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 24 March 2011.
Hesser, Amanda. “Nineteenth Century: Roman Punch.” The Essential New York Times Cookbook. New York: W. W. Norton, 2010. Print.