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Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam: Story Two

March 11, 2017 03:20PM
We continue with our story about an irrepressible young girl from Portugal, she being the natural daughter of Colonel Fitzwilliam. In Story One, Voyage to Albion, which is told through the eyes of this enchanting eleven-year-old girl, we learned about her humble beginnings and search for her father. Here, in Story Two, Chocolate Destiny, she describes the two most important people in her life, as only she can tell it. These short stories are a part of a series (I, Sofia-Elisabete) I am drafting about a love child growing up in the Regency Period.

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CHOCOLATE DESTINY

MY FIRST CHOCOLATE, thinks I, was in the City of York, the summer of 1814, when my papai and I lived in Mrs Beazley’s boarding house, a quaint timber-framed dwelling on Blossom Street near the crumbling barbican of Micklegate Bar and near the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, otherwise known as the Bar Convent, an ancient and once-secret Catholic convent and where I went to school. When papai would reclaim me at mid-day, I would plead with him to take us to Tuke’s Grocers, a Quaker-run shop on Castlegate where he would purchase Tuke’s Superior Rock Cocoa – pure cocoa and sugar compressed into the form of cakes – so that Cook could prepare our chocolate for breakfast. My papai, being obliging most days for his sweetest little girl in the world, as he was wont to call me, would hire a Hackney and away we went.

There, at Tuke’s Grocers, we headed straight for the display of chocolate, affecting an interest in the cocoa coffee, rich cocoa and plain chocolate, the earthy-beefy-sweaty-honeyish aroma tickling our noses, when all we ever craved was Tuke’s Superior Rock Cocoa. Mr Tuke would greet us with a hearty laugh, and he would proceed to wrap a cake of the rock cocoa for us, no questions asked. Some days, if I was really lucky, he would let me observe the mysteries of chocolate being manufactured in the back of his shop, where he stored bags and bags of cacao beans and sugar and whatnot, and where his workers roasted, shelled and grinded the cacao beans. Before we took our leave, he would always give me a bonbon, a sugar-coated almond which I would nibble on the way home. When papai would put me down for a nap, I dreamt that the City of York was made of chocolate where I roamed the streets atop my favourite chocolate-spotted piebald donkey, with my tin pail filled with the delicious chocolate that I would feed to all the poor and hungry children who would gather round me, eager to fill their empty stomachs.

‘Look papai,’ said I. ‘That girl has only one shoe. And that boy over there. And that little girl, too.’ I pointed out the window of our Hackney as we journeyed one day from River Ouse to Castlegate.

‘Methinks that is the only shoe they’ve got.’

This confused me. ‘Can they not buy shoes at Whipmawhopmagate?’

‘They are too poor to do so, my dear child.’

I peered down at the new boots that papai had purchased for me the other day at Whipmawhopmagate, and I struggled with my conscience about giving one of my boots away and having to walk around lopsided with only one boot. In the end I decided that would not do. There had to be a better way, given my destiny to be a nun, for I had resolved at the age of three that I would join the sisterhood so that I could ride a burrinho like Sister Matilde. Ay! How I wished my destiny was chocolate instead. ‘I believe we are living in a great age of chocolate,’ papai declared, and perhaps my destiny was both, and he told me about the Pastéis de Belém that the nuns would make to raise funds for their convent near Lisbon. ‘Hurrah!’ cried I. I would make the chocolate drink for the nuns to sell. But who would teach me the secret of chocolate? Enter mamãe.

In mid-July, papai announced we would decamp to Scarborough, a seaside town on the Yorkshire coast, our traveling companions being the Bennet family and our cousin Georgiana Darcy. We planned to lodge with a really ancient and crippley widow named Mrs Wharton, who lived alone in a big house on Queen Street. To our amazement, Mrs Wharton turned out to be a beauty – a queen even – with reddish-brown hair and green eyes, she not being more than forty years of age. Mrs Wharton looked my papai up and down with a quizzing glass, he doing the same to her sans quizzing glass, for nothing could intimidate a British Officer like him. When I asked papai why he was staring at her bubbies, he muttered an excuse about being an army man. I discovered then that grown ups often do not make any sense, and there was nothing for it but to ignore them when that happened. Later, at dinner, papai stole many a glance at Mrs Wharton, as if she had bewitched him. I know this to be true, because the next day, I owned that I overheard the two of them whispering about what a lovely time they had last night. Soon thereafter, papai began to do strange things, like getting his hair dressed, bathing twice in one week and wearing sandalwood scent.

‘Papai, are you flirting with Mrs Wharton?’

‘Flirting, you say?’ Papai coloured. ‘Where did you learn such a word?’

‘I heard Mrs Wharton say so.’

‘Well then, now, you see before you a man that’s a-flirting with Mrs Wharton and proudly so.’

On Sunday papai escorted me and Mrs Wharton to the Catholic chapel on Auborough Street where we celebrated Mass and where I experienced a revelation about Sister Elisabete, but the good sister appeared before me and told me to hush. ‘Calai-vos,’ she whispered into my ear as she patted my back to soothe me. When we joined a party of pleasure to Whitby a few weeks later, I pretended to be asleep while my papai and Mrs Wharton held hands, gazing at the Northern Lights, which only they and I could see. That same night of our Northern Lights, Sister Elisabete appeared in my dream, her red capa flowing about her, her red roses tumbling from her hands, and she told me a secret about Mrs Wharton, but I shan’t tell anyone what it is. Besides, you would never believe it unless you have faith like me.

Things being so, I was all astonishment when papai announced in early August that we would decamp for Pemberley, thereby abandoning poor Mrs Wharton in Scarborough for ever. I cried and made a fuss, but papai was resolute. ‘Adeus Mrs Wharton!’ That is how we farewell folks in Portugal when we leave them for good. Then, a few weeks later papai ordered me to pack my bags to decamp to York. All this decamping made my head spin. Enough, says I. So I packed a small bag and I ran away. ‘Adeus, papai, adeus!’ But Bixby picked up my scent and he led papai to the stables where I was hiding under the hay next to Pie, my loyal donkey.

‘I a’n’t going,’ says I. ‘It i’n’t fair!’

Papai cupped his right ear. ‘Since when did you speak cant?’

‘Since you do.’ I crossed my arms in front of me, petulant as ever.

‘O fie! I a’n’t one to speak cant.’

When papai advised me of the real reason for our leave-taking, namely, to meet up with Mrs Wharton for York races, I threw a handful of hay up in the air with glee and cried out, ‘Adeus Pie-O! I am for York.’ Back in the ancient City of York, I decided ‘twas time to give a broad hint to my papai, so I began to call Mrs Wharton my mamãe, and sure enough, papai proposed to her, not once, but twice. Hora! She rejected him both times, telling him he was not ready for marriage. After mamãe returned to Scarborough without us, papai announced he was in need of some French courage. I could hear him singing about mighty roast beef in his bedchamber, exclaiming that his cagg was up and swearing like a soldier. ‘Ready. Present. Fire!’ And he would gulp down more French courage.

The next morning, having witnessed and smelled the effects of the demon liquor on my papai, I wrote two letters using my best penmanship: one to my cousin Darcy, and one to mamãe. I begged them to help me because papai was a ‘stinki human bean’. Four days later, my cousins Darcy and Georgiana appeared at our boarding house on Blossom Street in York. Cousin Darcy called papai a fiend, and the two of them began to rough and tumble it. What a hubbub! They had no sooner begun a round of fisticuffs when mamãe arrived at the boarding house. She tried to talk sense to them, but they continued to argue and wrestle, my papai calling cousin Darcy a coxcombical rogue. ‘Men!’ declared mamãe, her disapprobation evident for all to see.

Their set-to finally at an end, cousin Darcy and papai joined us in the parlour, and we could see the red marks on their faces, for they had knocked up each other good. Mamãe insisted that papai stop drinking and gadding about with that miscreant Mr O. P. Umm and that he speak to Father O’Shaughnessy, or Father O as we call him. But papai refused. ‘I shan’t speak with a priest,’ he stamped his foot. My heart sunk down to my toes, and I began to weep. Mamãe rose to leave, but papai grasped her hand before she could escape, and he confessed that he had sinned, and sinned again, and again and again, and that he promised to speak to Father O.

‘Papai, how many times have you sinned?’

He grimaced. ‘Too many times, my girl.’

‘God will forgive you,’ said I.

‘Let us hope He will.’

And so we decamped once more, the Darcys joining us, to return to Scarborough so that papai could speak with Father O about temperance. A few days later, mamãe surprised us by taking us to Bunberry House, her estate in Hackness, where she oversees a Catholic school for poor girls and where Father O celebrates Mass with them each month. My papai and mamãe, who had been strolling in the garden, had a big row, something about her being a smuggler and giving him quarter every Sunday night. Just when things started to get interesting, cousin Georgiana dragged me back to the main house. ‘Não, não, não,’ I protested, but she was firm. I stood thus, on piquet, at the parlour window, and from there I espied, with a glad heart, my papai and mamãe in the garden embracing each other. All was right in our world again.

After dinner, we walked the trod to River Cottage, a hermitage on the estate, where we bedded down for the night, the soothing gurgles of the River Derwent promising us a deep slumber, that is, until we were awakened at midnight by papai’s loud cries, for he had many a nightmare about the war and Fuentes D’Onor, a town on the border of Spain and Portugal. The next morning Father O and papai disappeared down by the river to have a long talk, and while they were gone, I discovered that mamãe knew the secret of chocolate.

Mamãe believes every woman, rich or poor, should learn how to take care of themselves, which meant cooking, cleaning, knitting and the like. Here, at River Cottage, she reigned as mistress, housekeeper and cook. My cousin Georgiana expressed shock at seeing mamãe in the kitchen – but not me. Unlike cousin Georgiana, she being a young lady gently bred who would never go near the kitchen, much less know how to cook, I and other foundlings at the impoverished Convento do Desterro had gathered onions, garlic, chile, potatoes and cabbage to prepare our sopa de peixe, a meagre soup, each day.

I stood there entranced at the kitchen-door as mamãe stirred the shavings of rock cocoa with fresh milk and some spices in a pot over a charcoal fire. She brought the pot to the table, and once she had thrown in some flour into the mixture, she began to mill it to absorb the excess cocoa butter. When she returned the pot to the charcoal fire, she added several drops of a magic potion that she kept in a phial, and she began to stir the mixture yet again.

‘Mamãe, what’s in the magic bottle?’

‘Whya, it is a secret.’

‘What’s the secret?’ I persisted, my curiosity insatiable.

‘Love and forgiveness,’ said she.

When Father O and papai returned from their river talk to join us for breakfast, papai joked that he was in need of sustenance. I thought he had the right of it, for his red-rimmed eyes seemed watery and his face tired and drawn from lack of sleep I presumed. I kissed his hand to bless him, as was our quotidian habit each morning and each evening, and he mustered a grin for me, but soon thereafter I saw him close his eyes, his lips quivering ever and anon. ‘God bless Sofia Eee. All childher are special.’ Father O clapped papai on the back.

We sat at table, eager for Father O to say grace. I coveted the silver pot sitting there on the table and the mystery therein, for I had convinced myself that chocolate was the most important thing in the world. I thought it my destiny and everyone’s destiny. Once papai poured me a cup of chocolate and the liquid had cooled enough for my tastes, I greedily slurped half of it down, and when I had done, I proudly displayed my chocolate moustache to him, thinking he would find it droll, but he only sighed with an impenetrable sadness ere he wiped my moustache away.
SubjectAuthorPosted

Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam: Story Two

RobinElizabethMarch 11, 2017 03:20PM

Re: Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam: Story Two

tarynMarch 14, 2017 11:29PM

Re: Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam: Story Two

NisiMarch 12, 2017 03:07PM

Re: Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam: Story Two

tJeanMarch 14, 2017 11:03AM

Re: Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam: Story Two

RobinElizabethMarch 14, 2017 02:49PM

Re: Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam: Story Two

tJeanMarch 14, 2017 10:37PM

Re: Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam: Story Two

NisiMarch 15, 2017 12:58AM

Re: Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam: Story Two

Lucy J.March 12, 2017 06:17AM



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