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Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam: Revised Stories One and Two

June 09, 2017 06:56PM
Greetings! I, Sofia-Elisabete, Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam is back after a long break. Our narrator is an irrepressible young girl reflecting on her humble origins and new life in England. It’s a coming of age story written like a journal. The overarching themes are her relationship with her troubled father, and her curiosity about her natural mother.

My first drafts of Stories One through Five were episodic interludes of a rambling nature, i.e., musings by an 11-year-old child, the problem being I found, that for some readers, it was confusing who her mother was, whether she really had magical powers, why she ran away in Story Five, and so forth.

I’m working on second drafts, trying to make them more sequential, fluid and story based, while striving to retain the unique voice of this (now, 12-year-old) child and some of the mystery. (I thought a 12-year-old would be more believable in terms of her intellect.) It’s still written like a journal, but with more dialogue to make the scenes come alive.

I look forward to hearing everyone’s feedback on these revised drafts for Stories One and Two…

______________

I.

A VOYAGE TO ALBION

MY FIRST MEMORY, thinks I, was of an old, wrinkled nun named Sister Matilde as she and I rode her burrinho, a burrinho named Bento, meaning ‘blessed’, in a land far away, in the mountains high above Monchique. She would kick Bento with her heels and cry out ‘Allez! Allez!’ in French, for she was born an age ago somewhere near Paris and had fled France during the revolution. Together we would merrily sing ‘Arre burriquito, Arre burriquito’ as we rode down the verdant hillside, atop of which stood the ancient and impoverished Convento de Nossa Senhora do Desterro – Our Lady of Exile – much of it in ruins after the great earthquake of 1755.

‘If you are a bom menina, a good girl,’ Sister Matilde tapped me on the nose, ‘I shall reward you with a lemon ice or a fresh fig in Monchique.’

‘Ice! Ice!’ I cried with joy, for no three-year-old wanted to eat a squashy fig when an ice was to be had.

When we reached the small town of Monchique, Sister Matilde placed me near the door of the tenda, the grocer’s shop, where I begged for alms. I would kiss my palms and then hold out my hands to passersby, many of whom became seized with pity for this anjinho, this tattered little angel wearing wild jonquils in her hair, and they would give me a réis.

I was born on the third of June, in the year 1810, amidst a great upheaval in Lisbon, where tens of thousands of displaced peasants crowded into the city to escape Napoleon’s Le Grande Armée. My papai, being a brave British officer, had been injured in Sobral, and while he was convalescing in Lisbon, he learnt of my existence but we were separated by war and circumstance. Should you wonder, I am no longer a bebê, being now a proper young lady of twelve years of age. But I have excellent recall and a prodigious mind, as papai is wont to tell me. ‘My daughter is “la jeune savante” – the young scholar – and as learned as her tutors,’ he often boasts to his family and connections.

Yes, yes – I know what you are feeling. You wonder how came I to live in the land of Albion? What happened was this: When I was a bebê, I was abandoned at a convent in Lisbon, where Sister Matilde found me. And that is why I lived with Sister Matilde, who sheltered me at the Convento do Desterro, one hundred and sixty miles south of Lisbon. I learnt how to say my prayers, and once, whilst I was praying, God told me he would send a guardian angel to watch over me. Her name was Sister Elisabete, a beautiful, young nun, whom I called Sister Lisbet and whom no one else could see besides me.

It was from there, in July 1813, at the grand age of three, that I took my leave of my homeland. I set out into the world with determination to find my papai, he being so very lost, at least that is what Sister Lisbet told me and what I came to believe. Sister Lisbet explained to me that two Irish nuns would take me to their convent in York, and with Sister Matilde’s blessing, the Irish sisters and I embarked for England, setting sail from Lagos. I had no fear, even when we entered the treacherous waters of the Bay of Biscay and got caught in a gale near the Spanish coast. I said my prayers, and like magic, Sister Lisbet appeared by my side. ‘Wet betokens luck,’ Sister Lisbet whispered to me as the waves and wind knocked our sea-boat about until we reached Falmouth.

For eight long months in York, which seemed an eternity to me, I searched and searched, waited and waited, and prayed and prayed that I would find my papai. Unbeknown to me, my papai had journeyed to Lisbon to search for me, but he had lost my trail there. The following year, as I approached my fourth birth-day, my papai rusticated at Pemberley, his cousin Darcy’s estate in Derbyshire. Sister Lisbet promised to help me find my papai, and she worked her magic to send him an express about York. Hie it there he did in two days’ time, bringing along his cousin and a friend who knew about our convent and who guided my papai to us. Apre! I had found papai, and I gave a thousand thank you’s to God.

‘Papai, why are you crying?’

‘Oh! Filha da minha alma, daughter of my soul…’ And he began to sob again.

‘Are you not happy to see me?’

‘I am extremely happy to see you.’ Papai chucked me under the chin. ‘I thought you would never find me.

‘Sister Lisbet helped me find you.’

This gave him a start. ‘What, what? Do you mean Sister Elisabete?’ He looked round, but all he saw was air.

‘You must have faith.’ I shook my finger at him. I thought him curious for not having a strong faith like mine.

‘Yes, I should, poppet.’

‘What’s a pop-head?’

‘A poppet is a child who is dearly loved,’ he tried to explain.

I gasped. ‘Do you love me?’

‘Do I.’ And he kissed both of my hands.

‘Papai, may I have a burrinho?’

He gave a hearty laugh. ‘Why, you imp you.’

I had found my papai and would live with him for ever, unaware that I could no longer stay with Sister Lisbet at the convent in York. When Sister Lisbet apprised me of this fact, I stamped my feet – left-right-left-right – and bawled and carried on. ‘Como! I shan’t give you up, Sister Lisbet, I shan’t,’ says I, who had changed my name from Sofia to Sofia-Elisabete to honour the good sister. Mother Superior at the convent knew not why I was bawling. She reasoned with me that I must leave the convent if I wished to become a proper English lady. I bawled all over again while Sister Lisbet tried to hush me. ‘Calai-vos, calai-vos,’ she soothed me with her mellifluous voice. Sister Lisbet revealed to me that she would always be one dream away whenever I needed her. She gave me a silver cross like hers to wear, and she promised to give me a macaw, a macaw named Graça. I asked her if I could have a burrinho instead, to which Sister Lisbet shook her head and clucked her tongue.

There, at the convent, papai introduced me to my cousin Mr Darcy, a tall and pretty gentleman indeed, and Mr Bingley, a most handsome and good-natured relation of Mr Darcy’s because he is married to the sister of Mrs Darcy. Papai explained that he and Mr Bingley had travelled together to Lisbon last year to search for me and that Mr Bingley had ties with the convent in York because his own father used to celebrate Mass there. Bing, Bing, Bingley-O! How I adore him, let me count the ways. He has reddish hair, a handful of freckles on his cheeks and long, silky eyelashes framing his fine blue eyes. If only he could be my namorado, my beau.

‘Bom dia o senhor.’ I curtseyed prettily to him.

‘Bom dia. Que bella menina!’ Mr Bingley bowed to me. His compliment of my prettiness made me wild for him, and I grasped his hand to kiss it.

Papai cleared his throat. ‘Poppet, let go of his hand now. Poppet, did not you hear me?’ Papai attempted to remove my hand from Mr Bingley’s, but I struggled to hold on, for I had not done yet flirting with my beau. Papai picked me up, and pressing his lips on my cheek, he blew on it – hoooooooonk! – to give me a wet and loud kiss.

‘Gah!’ I cried, in between squeals, for I had never been kissed before.

‘Well now, that is my special gooseberry kiss,’ papai declared.

‘Gooseberry’ was a curious word at first to me, but it took on a special meaning whenever papai wished to tease me or distract me with a kiss. Ever since then, I have been wild for anything goosegog – gooseberry jam, gooseberry fool, gooseberry pie.

For many months thereafter, it was just the two of us: me and papai. We lived for a bit at Pemberley, where Mr Darcy gifted me with a piebald burrinho which I named Pie, the only problem being that Pie would live at Pemberley for ever and never ever with me. My papai introduced me to a macaw named Graça, which he had brought back with him from Portugal. This macaw and Bixby, Mr Darcy’s favourite dog, became boon companions. One could often see Bixby gambolling on the hillocks, the macaw perched on his back. Mr Darcy taught the macaw all sorts of words in different languages, and people would come from miles away just to hear the polyglot macaw speak. One day Graça surprised us with ‘jig it’, which gave Mrs Darcy much mirth since the reserved Mr Darcy has an aversion to dancing, so she says, but in those rare instances when Mr Darcy feels inclined to a reel, he would always pronounce, ‘I am of a mind to jig it’, and take to the dance floor he would, amazing everyone as he tript away with Mrs Darcy.

One night at Pemberley, when the house had quieted, I called upon my magical powers – for every child believes in magic – to float in the air with the utmost concentration from the nursery to my papai’s bedchamber one storey below. Once I had planted my feet back on the ground, I threw off my hateful nightdress and then I climbed into the warm bed with my papai. The next night, my papai had been waiting for me this time.

‘Miss Sofia-Elisabete, we shall be in big trouble once it becomes known you are giving Nurse the slip every night.’

‘I hate the nursery.’

Papai groaned. ‘Did not the good sisters tell you that you must wear a nightdress in England? You cannot sleep in a state of nature like you did in Portugal.’

‘I hate the nightdress.’

‘Hora! Oh, what to do? What to do?’ Papai slapped his forehead.

‘Please papai. Nursey snores.’

Papai gave up. ‘Well, go to sleep for now.’

‘I am not sleepy.’

‘Vem cá. Come here. I will sprinkle magic dust into your peepers and you shall meet with the dustman soon enough.’

In the morning, Nursey gave me a scolding and told me the bugbear would gobble me up for being naughty. When I asked her what a bugbear was, Nursey explained that it was a goblin in the form of a bear that lurked in the woods and preyed on bad children. Not knowing what a bear was, for we never had ursos in the south of Portugal, it perplexed me as to why Nursey seemed to be worked up about a little bug which anyone could squash with their hand. Que maravilha! These folks in the land of Albion have strange customs.

My first olfactory memory, thinks I, was that of papai as I slept near him. My papai brings to mind a hodgepodge of cloves and cinnamon and heavy dew and bark and musty earth. He calls it his manly perfume, because he never likes to bathe much. Me? I don’t like to bathe either. I am my papai’s daughter after all. One day, just before dinner, papai asked me if I had washed my hands.

‘I must have done,’ I twisted my hands behind my back.

Papai lectured me about lying. ‘Right-about-face, soldier, and quick march upstairs to wash your hands.’

The next day, before we sat at table, for my papai always let me dine with him when the Darcys were away, he asked me if I had washed my hands.

Bemused, I showed him my hands. ‘They don’t look dirty, so why do I need to wash them?’

This diverted papai at first, but then he became stern, like the Colonel he is. ‘Wash your greasy hands or I shan’t give you a dish of your goose-grog.’

I rushed upstairs in a panic that I would not get my share of gooseberry fool.

Our tranquil days at Pemberley seemed destined to last for ever, until the day arrived where we received an unexpected visitor. Lord Matlock, he being my papai’s father, rode his black stallion to Pemberley whereupon he sighted my papai, who was angling for Callidus, his epithet for the ever-elusive giant carp which lived in Darcy’s Lake.

‘Pater?’ Papai gazed in astonishment at the imposing figure of Lord Matlock atop his black stallion.

‘Son.’ Lord Matlock sounded grim as he dismounted from his horse. ‘Why have you not visited Matlock? I have ridden here myself to see if there is truth to the rumours I am hearing.’ For the first time, Lord Matlock noticed me playing with my doll near the bank of the lake.

‘Pray what rumours would that be?’

Lord Matlock prodded my papai with his riding whip. ‘Unlike you, I will not dissemble. I am speaking of the rumour that you and your by-blow are living here at Pemberley.’

‘She is my daughter, and it took us a long time to find each other. I will not give her up!’ Papai tugged at his cravat.

‘So it is true!’ Lord Matlock thundered. ‘How dare you pollute the Fitzwilliam name and the shades of Pemberley.’

What to do? How could I, Sofia-Elisabete, end their set-to? I placed myself inside a skiff, and using my aforementioned magical powers, I willed a gust of wind to push the skiff towards the centre of Darcy’s Lake. I cried papai’s name again and again, and that is when Lord Matlock dove into the lake and he swam like a madman to rescue me and to tow the skiff back to the dock.

Lord Matlock scrutinised me, now that I was safe on land. ‘I wonder how you got into the skiff?’

‘I climbed into it.’

‘But how did that rope become loose?’

‘I made it loose.’ I giggled at his puzzled face.

‘Oh, and did you perform magic to make the skiff drift near the centre of the lake?’

I nodded. ‘I told Wind to help me.’

He rubbed his forehead. ‘Why did you put yourself into danger, child?’

‘I stopped you and papai from fighting.’

He admitted defeat. ‘You are definitely a Fitzwilliam and like your father, great heaven’s above.’

Ever since that time, me and my avô, which is what I call my grandfather, have taken a great liking for one another, he teaching me how to use a soap-bubble machine, me teaching him some Portuguese words and customs, such as when I kiss his hand and bless him – ‘a bênção meu avô’. My avô wished more than anything to protect me from Lady Matlock, who no doubt would cut me up, at least that is what I heard my avô half-whisper to papai. Would she use an adaga, a dagger, to cut me up? Surely my papai would protect me from this bruxa, this Lady Matlock, and give me a magical amulet to wear to ward off this evil witch.

The unfortunate day arrived sooner than I wished when we received something called a ‘summons’ from Lady Matlock. My papai hired a yellow bounder which got us to Matlock. From there, we met the Matlock carriage which conveyed us to papai’s ancestral home. No one awaited us outside except for the butler. My avô was busy in the metropolis far away, and so there was nothing for it; we had to face the inquisition on our own.

‘Pray, how old are you?’ Lady Matlock peered down her nose at me as I stood before her, she being seated in a throne-like chair.

‘I am four, which is nearly five, your Ladyskiff,’ said I in my best polished English. My father whispered to me that I should have said ‘your Ladyship’.

‘Not yet five? Impossible, you love brat.’

‘What’s a love brat, your Ladyship?’

‘Why, it is you.’ Lady Matlock sniffed the air. ‘How dare you pollute Matlock with your presence here.’

‘But you summoned me, your Ladyship.’

‘O fie!’ Lady Matlock waved her lace handkerchief at me. ‘But now that you are here, pray tell me something that will amaze me, for I hear that you are uncommonly clever for someone so young.’

I glanced at papai, who urged me on. ‘Well…uh…Mr Darcy’s dog killed fifty rats in under five minutes.’

‘Phoo! Phoo!’ Lady Matlock waved her hand at me in disbelief.

‘Truly,’ I assured her, having seen Bixby the fearless terrier accomplish this grand feat with my own eyes. ‘My papai bet on Bixby. Papai made a cart-load of money.’

Lady Matlock narrowed her eyes at me. ‘What exactly do you want from our noble family? Are you already so fond of money? Is that why you bedevil me? For shame!’

‘All I wish for is…a soap bubble machine!’ I jumped for joy.

‘Absolutely not.’

‘I wish, then, for…a whirligig?’

‘What nonsense!’ Lady Matlock rapped the floor with her walking cane. ‘You, love brat, will be scorned by our rank and class of society for ever.’

‘Can I still have goose-grog?’

‘Do not be ridiculous. I shall degrade myself no longer to the natural daughter of a low creature. You may kiss my hand before you go,’ Lady Matlock commanded in a condescending tone, her arm outstretched before me.

So I did what any mischievous child would do. I grasped her hand to kiss it and I blessed her with ‘a bênção meu boba’.

I could see papai hitch and tug at his cravat. After he had bowed over Lady Matlock’s hand to kiss it, we took our leave, my papai steering me with one hand atop my head.

‘You saucy girl you, calling Lady Matlock a fool,’ he scolded me in a low voice as he led me out of doors. ‘As penance, you will be put on fatigue duty when we return home and your chore this time will be…’

‘Look papai! It’s Sister Lisbet,’ I cried, because no one wished to do chores. I knew this would distract him, because I heard him say once that Sister Lisbet was a ghost he had seen in Lisbon last year when he had been searching for me, and he seemed to pale whenever I mentioned her. I made good my escape, running round the carriage while papai chased after me, and when I attempted on my own to clamber up the step to the carriage, papai tapped me on my shoulder with his glove.

‘Ahem…Miss Sofia-Elisabete, you are in the suds now,’ he declared as he lifted me into the carriage.

And so ended our visit with the snappish Lady Matlock and how I came to know that a love child I was. As our carriage rumbled away from Matlock, Papai held me on his lap, and he explained to me that he had made me out of love but he had not been married to a senhora named Marisa Soares Belles at the time I was born.

This confused me a-plenty. ‘Who is the senhora?’

‘She was a lindissima, a young beauty, I had met once when I was in Lisbon during the war.’ Papai pursed his lips as he looked out the carriage window.

‘Where did she go?’

Papai frowned. ‘I believe ‘twas Brazil. Humph! She was in love with Don Rafael and wished to dance the bolero every night with him.’ His visage darkened with fury of a sudden.

‘Papai, may I learn the bolero.’ I had seen couples dance the bolero in Monchique, and I thought this would appease him.

‘Permission denied!’ he thundered.

‘But papai…’ Hot tears filled in my eyes.

‘O, ho! I dare say you shall never dance the bolero.’ He shuddered and he closed his eyes.

After a few minutes had passed, I tugged at his coat sleeve. ‘Papai?’ I whispered, wondering if he was still cross with me and if he would tell me more about the mysterious Marisa Soares Belles. I thought he had fallen asleep when he did not respond, but then he began to mumble to himself that he shan’t ever apologise to anyone for having a love child nor will he ever give me up or send me back to the convent. Still, this touched me to the quick. With mingled feelings of gratitude and disquietude, I kissed my papai’s hand to bless him.

______________

II.

DESTINY

MY FIRST MOTHER, thinks I, was a bolero dancer by the name of Marisa Soares Belles who had given birth to me. When I dreamt of this lindissima, she was a young beauty of eighteen years of age and adorned with colourful ribbons and spangles. She placed a baby in a roda dos expostos – the foundling turnbox wheel at the convent – and thereafter pulled the bell to alert the nuns inside. With castanets in her hands, she tript about, dancing the bolero as she took her leave. She performed a perfect bien parado – a graceful, sudden stop – with one arm crossed in front of her chest and the other raised above her head. ‘Olé!’ she cried. And here, at that very moment, my dream ended. But I daren’t speak of my dream to my papai for fear that he would become cross with me again.

After we had quit Matlock – without regret I might add – we journeyed to the City of York, where papai rented an apartment for us at Mrs Beazley’s boarding house, a timber-framed dwelling on Blossom Street near the crumbling Micklegate Bar. Papai said this was our new home, now that the war was over and he was on half-pay. Together we strolled the tree-lined New Walk along the River Ouse, where I saw many a mother and father promenading with their children. A cloud of wistfulness enveloped me, when I seized upon a brilliant idea.

‘Papai, can we buy a new mamãe?’

Papai laughed. ‘Where would we buy her?’

‘At Tuke’s Grocers, along with chocolate.’

‘O, ho!’ Papai pointed his walking stick at Mr and Mrs Hart, they being fellow worshippers at my chapel who were strolling arm in arm ahead of us. ‘You shan’t ever see me living in the Land of Henpeckism, a-taking orders from a wife. You see before you a manly man, unshackled and free, and in that state I shall remain until I die a fusty old bachelor.’

Apparently, papai’s speech had been overheard, because the Harts turned round, casting him a look of disdain. Papai tipped his hat to them, and they stared at him without acknowledging him. Papai thought the whole thing a joke – he, the son of an Earl, being given the cut direct by the middling sort. I wondered what a middle person was, and I recalled Lady Matlock having said that I had sprung from a low creature.

‘Papai, am I a low or middle creature?’

‘Truthfully, you are neither because you are my creature.’ Papai winked his eye at me.

The day next, after papai had reclaimed me at the convent school, I begged him to take us to Tuke’s Grocers, a Quaker-run shop on Castlegate where we could purchase Tuke’s Superior Rock Cocoa – pure cocoa and sugar compressed into the form of cakes – which Cook would use to prepare chocolate for breakfast. My papai, being obliging most days for his sweetest little girl in the world, as he was wont to call me, hired a Hackney and away we went.

There, at Tuke’s Grocers, I stood before the display of chocolate, affecting an interest in the superior rock cocoa, cocoa coffee and rich cocoa, the earthy-beefy-sweaty-honeyish aroma tickling my nose. Beside me, and far more interesting, was Mr Tuke’s niece, who bustled about, arranging the cakes of chocolate. I scrutinised this young Quaker with her kind grey eyes.

‘Miss Tuke, how much are you?’

Miss Tuke gave a start. ‘I beg your pardon, little miss?’

‘I wish to buy a new mamãe.’

‘Well, now, mammas can’t be bought…’

I waved her off. ‘Papai bought a fresh, young thing once…’

Miss Tuke gasped. ‘Bless me!’

‘…for six bob,’ I explained. ‘I heard him say so.’

‘Poppet? There you are. Off we go…’ papai grasped my hand. ‘Now, there’s an odd thing. I could swear the lovely Miss Tuke just gave me the cut indirect.’

On the ride back to Blossom Street, I observed the poor children begging on the streets.

‘Look papai,’ said I, pointing out the window of our Hackney. ‘That girl has only one shoe. And that boy over there. And that little girl, too.’

‘Methinks that is the only shoe they’ve got.’ Papai patted my hand.

This bewildered me. ‘Can they buy shoes at whippy-whoppy-gate?’

‘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 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 could roam the streets atop my 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. But how would I learn the secret of making chocolate?

Enter Agnes Wharton.

In mid-July, 1814, 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, she being my papai’s ward and the younger sister of Mr Darcy. We planned to lodge with a really ancient and crippley widow named Mrs Wharton, according to my papai. When we arrived at a well-appointed, three-storey, red-brick house on Queen Street, no one awaited us outside. Of a sudden, the door opened, but all I saw was a shadowy figure in the interior.

‘Why is everyone still dawdling about on the street? Come in! Come in!’ cried the crusty old widow. ‘Symcox, where are you? Show them into the parlour.’

An ancient, decrepit butler tottered his way to the vestibule to conduct us to the parlour, whereupon Mrs Wharton grabbed his ear trumpet.

‘I should give you the sack for making me answer my own door,’ she scolded him.

The impertinent butler burst into a guffaw and he shuffled his way out.

Mrs Wharton laughed good-naturedly. ‘Ah, well, he never listens to me.’

Everyone gaped at Mrs Wharton, who, being forty years of age, was still an exceedingly handsome woman with reddish brown hair and sparkling green eyes.

I tugged at my papai’s hand. ‘Is she the old tabby we come to see?’

Papai coloured as he tried to hush me up.

‘Old!’ Mrs Wharton held up a quizzing glass to inspect papai up and down, he doing the same to her sans quizzing glass, for nothing could intimidate a British Officer like him.

‘Papai! You stared at her bubbies.’ I giggled into my hand.

Papai picked me up in his arms to give me a quick gooseberry kiss. ‘Your papai is an army man, and he cannot help himself.’

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?’

‘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 thought I had a revelation. ‘Sister Lisbet! You came back for me,’ I embraced Mrs Wharton, who was all astonishment. Papa flinched at the mention of Sister Lisbet. I had no sooner caused a scene during the middle of Mass, when Sister Lisbet appeared before me and she told me to hush. ‘Calai-vos,’ she whispered into my ear. ‘Be good, and Mrs Wharton shall be your mamãe someday.’

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 Lisbet appeared in my dream, her red capa flowing about her, her red roses tumbling from her hands, and she told me a secret. The next morning my papai tried to get me to spill it to him, but I refused to tell him the secret. I hear you cry, what was the secret? It was this: The Northern Lights portended love and felicity, and I must help my papai understand that Mrs Wharton was his destiny.

Things being so, I was stunned when papai announced in early August that we would decamp for Pemberley, thereby abandoning Mrs Wharton in Scarborough for ever. I cried and made a fuss, but papai was resolute. ‘Adeus, Mrs Wharton,’ I sobbed in her arms, for I had to come to love her. Adeus – that is how we farewell folks in Portugal when we leave them. 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 that he was not ready for marriage and that he suffered from fits of jealousy. Furthermore, his ‘honeyed’ words, ‘Oh, hang it, I love you, Aggie’, were not convincing enough for her, so she told him.

After mamãe returned to Scarborough without us, papai announced he was in need of some French courage. I could hear him in his bedchamber, singing about the mighty roast beef of old England, 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 ‘stinkin human bean’. Our landlady posted the letters for me, and then I prayed. Four days later, cousins Darcy and Georgiana arrived at our boarding house, when they heard me screaming. Unbeknown to them, I had been stung by a bee, and my papai had been sucking the venom out from my wound. Cousin Darcy burst open the door of our apartment.

‘Unhand her, you foul fiend!’ Cousin Darcy grabbed me and he handed me to Georgiana. I could hear the two of them shouting as Georgiana carried me downstairs.

‘Now see here, Darcy.’ Papai tried to reason with him.

‘You cannibal you!’ Darcy cried. ‘How dare you hurt your own child.’

You are a dolt.’

‘Did you spit on my bespoke coat? Prepare to die!’

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 each other about. Mamãe insisted that papai stop drinking and gadding about with a miscreant named 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. Mamãe rose to leave and I began to weep that we would lose her for ever. 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, both of our cousins Darcy and Georgiana joining us, to return to Scarborough so that papai could speak with Father O about temperance and other matters. 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. While I strolled in the garden with my two cousins, we overheard papai’s sudden outburst on the other side of the yew hedges.

‘I beg your pardon! But you do…who do…what what?’

‘Hush, Colonel. I said I have been financing trade with countries on the continent, and I have used the profits to sustain the school and maintain the estate,’ mamãe explained.

‘My God! You’re a smuggler.’

‘Nay. I am a tradeswoman.’

‘I would rather you be a ruthless pirate,’ papai muttered.

‘What? And not give you quarter every Sunday night?’

‘You minx you!’ papai thundered. ‘Your feminine arts and allurements shall not beguile me this time.’

Just when their big row started to get interesting, cousin Darcy told Georgiana to take me back to the main house. ‘Não, não, não,’ I protested, but Georgiana was firm. I stood thus, on the watch, at the parlour window, and from there I espied, with a glad heart, my papai and mamãe in the garden embracing each other. All would be right in our world again, thinks I. To be certain, though, I called upon my magic powers to cast a spell on my papai and mamãe to make them marry soon.

After dinner, we walked the trod to River Cottage, a hermitage on the estate, where we bedded down for the night – mamãe, me and Georgiana in one bedchamber, papai and cousin Darcy in another bedchamber, and Father O in the library – 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 de Oñoro, a town on the border of Spain and Portugal. The next morning Father O and papai disappeared down by the river bank 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 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 tossed 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?’

‘It’s 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 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. Father O clapped papai on the back. ‘God bless Sofia Eee. All childher are special.’

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. 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.

While we breakfasted, papai glanced many a time at mamãe, and she at him. Then, papai ventured to tease Georgiana, who had attempted to poach an egg this morning. Mamãe teased him and she assigned him fatigue duty, namely, to clean the kitchen. It seemed papai would do most anything for her – even empty the pail of slops – if only she would accept his hand.

Two months later, the magic spell took hold. Papai seemed far less troubled, for he read the Bible each morning and he met with Father O many a time to discuss his ‘frailties’. Mamãe said she had accepted papai’s third proposal of marriage because unlike his first two, scanty proposals, she believed he no longer desired to possess her, having understood that she belonged to God, as did we all. For some reason, knowing this gave him peace, so he said, and this peacefulness, in turn, helped to restore his faith in himself that he had the power, the love and a sound mind to address his weaknesses.

Father O, with a gladness in his heart, received papai into the Catholic Church, and thereafter my parents were married. To everyone’s great surprise, Lord Matlock, my avô, attended the wedding ceremony, this despite Lady Matlock’s objections to the marriage and to me – I, Sofia-Elisabete, whom she still referred to as a foreign love brat and the natural daughter of a low creature. I had a new mamãe, but Lady Matlock’s cutting remarks reminded me that I was wholly connected with the mysterious bolero dancer – this Marisa Soares Belles who lived in a land far far away. And so I was.
SubjectAuthorPosted

Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam: Revised Stories One and Two

RobinElizabethJune 09, 2017 06:56PM

Re: Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam: Revised Stories One and Two

LorenaJune 10, 2017 03:45PM

Re: Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam: Revised Stories One and Two

RobinElizabethJune 10, 2017 04:20PM

Re: Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam: Revised Stories One and Two

LorenaJune 10, 2017 08:38PM



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