The first time I ever met Ernest Carvalho was just before the regimental
dance at Newcastle. I had ridden up the Port Royal mountains that same
morning from our decaying sugar estate in the Liguanca plain, and I was
to stop in cantonments with the Major's wife, fat little Mrs. Venn, who
had promised my mother that she would undertake to chaperon me to this
my earliest military party. I won't deny that
looked forward to it
immensely, for I was then a girl of only eighteen, fresh out from school
in England, where I had been living away from our family ever since I
was twelve years old. Dear mamma was a Jamaican lady of the old school,
completely overpowered by the ingrained West Indian indolence; and if I
had waited to go to a dance till I could get her to accompany me, I
might have waited till Doomsday, or probably later. So I was glad enough
to accept fat little Mrs. Venn's proffered protection, and to go up the
hills on my sure-footed mountain pony; while Isaac, the black
stable-boy, ran up behind me carrying on his thick head the small
portmanteau that contained my plain white ball-dress.
As I went up the steep mountain-path alone--for ladies ride only with
such an unmounted domestic escort in Jamaica--I happened to overtake a
tall gentleman with a handsome rather Jewish face and a pair of
extremely lustrous black eyes, who was mounted on a beautiful chestnut
mare just in front of me. The horse-paths in the Port Royal mountains
are very narrow, being mere zigzag ledges cut half-way up the
precipitous green slopes of fern and club-moss, so that there is seldom
room for two horses to pass abreast, and it is necessary to wait at some
convenient corner whenever you see another rider coming in the opposite
direction. At the first opportunity the tall Jewish-looking gentleman
drew aside in such a corner, and waited for me to pass. "Pray don't
wait," I said, as soon as I saw what he meant; "your horse will get up
faster than my pony, and if I go in front I shall keep you back
"Not at all," he answered, raising his hat gracefully; "you are a
stranger in the hills, I see. It is the rule of these mountain-paths
always to give a lady the lead. If I go first and my mare breaks into a
canter on a bit of level, your pony will try to catch her up on the
steep slopes, and that is always dangerous."
Seeing he did not intend to move till I did, I waived the point at last
and took the lead. From that moment I don't know what on earth came over
my lazy old pony. He refused to go at more than a walk, or at best a
jog-trot, the whole way to Newcastle. Now the rise from the plain to the
cantonments is about four thousand feet, I think (I am a dreadfully bad
hand at remembering figures), and the distance can't be much less, I
suppose, than seven miles. During all that time you never see a soul,
except a few negro pickaninnies playing in the dustheaps, not a human
habitation, except a few huts embowered in mangoes, hibiscus-bushes, and
tree-ferns. At first we kept a decorous silence, not having been
introduced to one another; but the stranger's mare followed close at my
pony's heels, pull her in as he would, and it seemed really too
ridiculous to be solemnly pacing after one another, single file, in
this way for a couple of hours, without speaking a word, out of pure
punctiliousness. So at last we broke the ice, and long before we got to
Newcastle we had struck up quite an acquaintance with one another. It is
wonderful how well two people can get mutually known in the course of
two hours' tete-a-tete, especially under such peculiar circumstances.
You are just near enough to one another for friendly chat, and yet not
too near for casual strangers. And then Isaac with the portmanteau
behind was quite sufficient escort to satisfy the convenances. In
England, one's groom would have to be mounted, which always seems to me,
in my simplicity, a distinction without a difference.
Mr. Carvalho was on his way up to Newcastle on the same errand as
myself, to go to the dance. He might have been twenty, I suppose; and,
to a girl of eighteen, boys of twenty seem quite men already. He was a
clerk in a Government Office in Kingston, and was going to stop with a
sub at Newcastle for a week or two, on leave. I did not know much about
men in those days, but I needed little knowledge of the subject to tell
me that Ernest Carvalho was decidedly clever. As soon as the first chill
wore off our conversation, he kept me amused the whole way by his bright
sketchy talk about the petty dignitaries of a colonial capital. There
was his Excellency for the time being, and there was the Right Reverend
of that day, and there was the Honourable Colonial Secretary, and there
was the Honourable Director of Roads, and there were a number of other
assorted Honourables, whose queer little peculiarities he hit off
dexterously in the quaintest manner. Not that there was any unkindly
satire in his brilliant conversation; on the contrary, he evidently
liked most of the men he talked about, and seemed only to read and
realize their characters so thoroughly that they spoke for themselves in
his dramatic anecdotes. He appeared to me a more genial copy of
Thackeray in a colonial society, with all the sting gone, and only the
skilful delineation of men and women left. I had never met anybody
before, and I have never met anybody since, who struck me so
instantaneously with the idea of innate genius as Ernest Carvalho.
"You have been in England, of course," I said, as we were nearing
"No, never," he answered; "I am a Jamaican born and bred, I have never
been out of the island."
I was surprised, for he seemed so different from any of the young
planters I had met at our house, most of whom had never opened a book,
apparently, in the course of their lives, while Mr. Carvalho's talk was
full of indefinite literary flavour. "Where were you educated, then?" I
"I never was educated anywhere," he answered, laughing. "I went to a
small school at Port Antonio during my father's life, but for the most
part I have picked up whatever I know (and that's not much) wholly by
myself. Of course French, like reading and writing, comes by nature, and
I got enough Spanish to dip into Cervantes from the Cuban refugees.
Latin one has to grind up out of books, naturally; and as for Greek, I'm
sorry to say I know very little, though, of course, I can spell out
Homer a bit, and even AEschylus. But my hobby is natural science, and
there a fellow has to make his own way here, for hardly anything has
been done at the beasts and the flowers in the West Indies yet. But if I
live, I mean to work them up in time, and I've made a fair beginning
This reasonable list of accomplishments, given modestly, not boastfully,
by a young man of twenty, wholly self-taught, fairly took my breath
away. I was inspired at once with a secret admiration for Mr. Carvalho.
He was so handsome and so clever that I think I was half-inclined to
fall in love with him at first sight. To say the truth, I believe almost
all love is love at first sight; and for my own part, I wouldn't give
you a thank-you for any other kind.
"Here we must part," he said, as we reached a fork in the narrow path
just outside the steep hog's back on which Newcastle stands, "unless you
will allow me to see you safely as far as Mrs. Venn's. The path to the
right leads to the Major's quarters; this on the left takes me to my
friend Cameron's hut. May I see you to the Major's door?"
"No, thank you," I answered decidedly; "Isaac is escort enough. We shall
meet again this evening."
"Perhaps then," he suggested, "I may have the pleasure of a dance with
you. Of course it's quite irregular of me to ask you now, but we shall
be formally introduced no doubt to-night, and I'm afraid if you lunch at
the Venns' your card will be filled up by the 99th men before I can edge
myself in anywhere for a dance. Will you allow me?"
"Certainly," I said; "what shall it be? The first waltz?"
"You are very kind," he answered, taking out a pencil. "You know my
name--Carvalho; what may I put down for yours? I haven't heard it yet."
"Miss Hazleden," I replied, "of Palmettos."
Mr. Carvalho gave a little start of surprise. "Miss Hazleden of
Palmettos," he said half to himself, with a rather pained expression.
"Miss Hazleden! Then, perhaps, I'd better--well, why not? why not,
indeed? Palmettos--Yes, I will." Turning to me, he said, louder, "Thank
you; till this evening, then;" and, raising his hat, he hurried sharply
round the corner of the hill.
What was there in my name, I wondered, which made him so evidently
hesitate and falter?
Fat little Mrs. Venn was very kind, and not a very strict chaperon,
but I judged it best not to mention to her this romantic episode of the
handsome stranger. However, during the course of lunch, I ventured
casually to ask her husband whether he knew of any family in Jamaica of
the name of Carvalho.
"Carvalho," answered the Major, "bless my soul, yes. Old settled family
in the island; Jews; live down Savannah-la-Mar way; been here ever since
the Spanish time; doocid clever fellows, too, and rich, most of them."
"Jews," I thought; "ah, yes, Mr. Carvalho had a very handsome Jewish
type of face and dark eyes; but, why, yes, surely I heard him speak
several times of having been to church, and once of the Cathedral at
Spanish Town. This was curious."
"Are any of them Christians?" I asked again.
"Not a man," answered the Major; "not a man, my dear. Good old Jewish
family; Jews in Jamaica never turn Christians; nothing to gain by it."
The dance took place in the big mess-room, looking out on the fan-palms
and tree-ferns of the regimental garden. It was a lovely tropical night,
moonlight of course, for all Jamaican entertainments are given at full
moon, so as to let the people who ride from a distance get to and fro
safely over the breakneck mountain horse-paths. The windows, which open
down to the ground, were flung wide for the sake of ventilation; and
thus the terrace and garden were made into a sort of vestibule where
partners might promenade and cool themselves among the tropical flowers
after the heat of dancing. And yet, I don't know how it is, though the
climate is so hot in Jamaica, I never danced anywhere so much or felt
the heat so little oppressive.
Before the first waltz, Mr. Carvalho came up, accompanied by my old
friend Dr. Wade, and was properly introduced to me. By that time my card
was pretty full, for of course I was a belle in those days, and being
just fresh out from England was rather run after. But I will confess
that I had taken the liberty of filling in three later waltzes
(unasked) with Mr. Carvalho's name, for I knew by his very look that he
could waltz divinely, and I do love a good partner. He did waltz
divinely, but at the end of the dance I was really afraid he didn't mean
to ask me again. When he did, a little hesitatingly, I said I had still
three vacancies, and found he had not yet asked anybody else. I enjoyed
those four dances more than any others that evening, the more so,
perhaps, as I saw my cousin, Harry Verner of Agualta, was dying with
jealousy because I danced so much with Mr. Carvalho.
I must just say a word or two about Harry Verner. He was a planter pur
sang, and Agualta was one of the few really flourishing sugar estates
then left on the island. Harry was, therefore, naturally regarded as
rather a catch; but, for my part, I could never care for any man who has
only three subjects of conversation--himself, vacuum-pan sugar, and the
wickedness of the French bounty system, which keeps the poor planter out
of his own. So I danced away with Mr. Carvalho, partly because I liked
him just a little, you know, but partly, also, I will frankly admit,
because I saw it annoyed Harry Verner.
At the end of our fourth dance, I was strolling with Mr. Carvalho among
the great bushy poinsettias and plumbagos on the terrace, under the
beautiful soft green light of that tropical moon, when Harry Verner came
from one of the windows directly upon us. "I suppose you've forgotten,
Edith," he said, "that you're engaged to me for the next lancers. Mr.
Carvalho, I know you are to dance with Miss Wade; hadn't you better go
and look for your partner?"
He spoke pointedly, almost rudely, and Mr. Carvalho took the hint at
once. As soon as he was gone, Harry turned round to me fiercely and said
in a low angry voice, "You shall not dance this lancers, you shall sit
it out with me here in the garden; come over to the seat in the far
He led me resistlessly to the seat, away from the noise of the
regimental band and the dancers, and then sat himself down at the far
end from me, like a great surly bear that he was.
"A pretty fool you've been making of yourself to-night, Edith," he said
in a tone of suppressed anger, "with that fellow Carvalho. Do you know
who he is, miss? Do you know who he is?"
"No," I answered faintly, fearing he was going to assure me that my
clever new acquaintance was a notorious swindler or a runaway
"Well, then, I'll tell you," he cried angrily. "I'll tell you. He's a
coloured man, miss! that's what he is."
"A coloured man?" I exclaimed in surprise; "why, he's as white as you
and I are, every bit as white, Harry."
"So he may be, to look at," answered my cousin; "but a brown man's a
brown man, all the same, however much white blood he may have in him;
you can never breed the nigger out. Confound his impudence, asking you
to dance four times with him in a single evening! You, too, of all girls
in the island! Confound his impudence! Why, his mother was a slave girl
once on Palmettos estate!"
"Oh, Harry, you don't mean to say so," I cried, for I was West Indian
enough in my feelings to have a certain innate horror of coloured blood,
and I was really shocked to think I had been so imprudent as to dance
four times with a brown man.
"Yes, I do mean it, miss," he answered; "an octaroon slave girl, and
Carvalho's her son by old Jacob Carvalho, a Jew merchant at the back of
the island, who was fool enough to go and actually marry her. So now you
see what a pretty mess you've gone and been and made of it. We shall
have it all over Kingston to-morrow, I suppose, that Miss Hazleden, a
Hazleden and a Verner, has been flirting violently with a bit of
coloured scum off her own grandfather's estate at Palmettos. A nice
thing for the family, indeed!"
"But, Harry," I said, pleading, "he's such a perfect gentleman in his
manners and conversation, so very much superior to a great many Jamaican
"Hang it all, miss," said Harry--he used a stronger expression, for he
was not particular about swearing before ladies, but I won't transcribe
all his oaths--"hang it all, that's the way of you girls who have been
to England. If I had fifty daughters I'd never send one of 'em home, not
I. You go over there, and you get enlightened, as you call it, and you
learn a lot of radical fal-lal about equality and a-man-and-a-brother,
and all that humbug: and then you come back and despise your own people,
who are gentlemen and the sons of gentlemen for fifty generations, from
the good old slavery days onward. I wish we had them here again, I do,
and I'd tie up that fellow Carvalho to a horse-post and flog him with a
cow-hide within an inch of his life."
I was too much accustomed to Harry's manners to make any protest against
this vigorous suggestion of reprisals. I took his arm quietly. "Let us
go back into the ballroom, Harry," I said as persuasively as I was able,
for I loathed the man in my heart, "and for heaven's sake don't make a
scene about it. If there is anything on earth I detest, it's scenes."
Next morning I felt rather feverish, and dear fat little Mrs. Venn was
quite frightened about me. "If you go down again to Liguanca with this
fever on you, my dear," she said, "you'll get yellow Jack as soon as you
are home again. Better write and ask your mamma to let you stop a
fortnight with us here."
I consented, readily enough, for, of course, no girl of eighteen ever in
her heart objects to military society, and the 99th were really very
pleasant well-intentioned young fellows. But I made up my mind that if I
stayed I would take particular care to see no more of Mr. Carvalho. He
was very clever, very fascinating, very nice, but then--he was a brown
man! That was a bar that no West Indian girl could ever be expected to
As ill-luck would have it, however--I write as I then felt--about three
days after, Mrs. Venn said to me, "I've invited Mr. Cameron, one of our
sub-lieutenants, to dine this evening, and I've had to invite his guest,
young Carvalho, as well. By the way, Edie, if I were you, I wouldn't
talk quite so much as you did the other evening to Mr. Carvalho. You
know, dear, though he doesn't look it, he's a brown man."
"I didn't know it," I answered, "till the end of the evening, and then
Harry Verner told me. I wouldn't have danced with him more than once if
I'd known it."
"Wonderful how that young fellow has managed to edge himself into
society," said the major, looking up from his book; "devilish odd. Son
of old Jacob Carvalho: Jacob left him all his coin, not very much;
picked up his ABC somewhere or other; got into Government service; asked
to Governor's dances; goes everywhere now. Can't understand it."
"Well, my dear," says Mrs. Venn, "why do we ask him ourselves?"
"Because we can't help it," says the major, testily. "Cameron goes and
picks him up; ought to be in the Engineers, Cameron; too doocid clever
for the line and for this regiment. Always picks up some astronomer
fellow, or some botanist fellow, or some fellow who understands
fortification or something. Competitive examination's ruin of the
service. Get all sorts of people into the regiment now. Believe Cameron
himself lives upon his pay almost, hanged if I don't."
That evening, Mr. Carvalho came, and I liked him better than ever. Mr.
Cameron, who was a brother botanist and a nice ingenuous young
Highlander, made him bring his portfolio of Jamaica ferns and flowers,
the loveliest things I ever saw--dried specimens and water-colour
sketches to accompany them of the plants themselves as they grew
naturally. He told us all about them so enthusiastically, and of how he
used to employ almost all his holidays in the mountains hunting for
specimens. "I'm afraid the fellows at the office think me a dreadful
muff for it," he said, "but I can't help it, it's born in me. My mother
is a descendant of Sir Hans Sloane's, who lived here for several
years--the founder of the British Museum, you know--and all her family
have always had a taste for bush, as the negroes call it. You know, a
good many mulatto people have the blood of able English families in
their veins, and that accounts, I believe, for their usual high average
of general intelligence."
I was surprised to hear him speak so unaffectedly of his ancestry on the
wrong side of the house, for most light coloured people studiously avoid
any reference to their social disabilities. I liked him all the better,
however, for the perfect frankness with which he said it. If only he
hadn't been a brown man, now! But there, you can't get over those
fundamental race prejudices.
Next morning, as the Major and I were out riding, we came again across
Mr. Cameron and Mr. Carvalho. Fate really seemed determined to throw us
together. We were going to the Fern Walk to gather gold and silver
ferns, and Mr. Carvalho was bound in the same direction, to look for
some rare hill-top flowers. At the Walk we dismounted, and, while the
two officers went hunting about among the bush, Mr. Carvalho and I sat
for a while upon a big rock in the shade of a mountain palm. The
conversation happened to come round to somewhat the same turn as it had
taken the last evening.
"Yes," said Mr Carvalho, in answer to a question of mine, "I do think
that mulattos and quadroons are generally cleverer than the average run
of white people. You see, mixture of race evidently tends to increase
the total amount of brain power. There are peculiar gains of brain on
the one side, and other peculiar gains, however small, on the other; and
the mixture, I fancy, tends to preserve or increase both. That is why
the descendants of Huguenots in England, and the descendants of Italians
in France, show generally such great ability."
"Then you yourself ought to be an example," I said, "for your name seems
to be Spanish or Portuguese."
"Spanish and Jewish," he answered, laughing, "though I didn't mean to
give a side-puff to myself. Yes, I am of very mixed race indeed. On my
father's side I am Jewish, though of course the Jews acknowledge nobody
who isn't a pure-blooded descendant of Abraham in both lines; and for
that reason I have been brought up a Christian. On my mother's side I am
partly negro, partly English, partly Haitian French, and, through the
Sloanes, partly Dutch as well. So you see I am a very fair mixture."
"And that accounts," I said, "for your being so clever."
He blushed and bowed a little demure bow, but said nothing.
It's no use fighting against fate, and during all that fortnight I did
nothing but run up against Mr. Carvalho. Wherever I went, he was sure to
be; wherever I was invited, he was invited to meet me. The fact is, I
had somehow acquired the reputation of being a clever girl, and, as Mr.
Cameron was by common consent the clever man of his regiment, it was
considered proper that he (and by inference his guest) should be always
asked to entertain me. The more I saw of Mr. Carvalho the better I liked
him. He was so clever, and yet so simple and unassuming, that one
couldn't help admiring and sympathizing with him. Indeed, if he hadn't
been a brown man, I almost think I should have fallen in love with him
At the end of a fortnight I went back to Palmettos. A few days after,
who should come to call but old General Farquhar, and with him, of all
men in the world, Mr. Carvalho! Mamma was furious. She managed to be
frigidly polite as long as they stopped, but when they were gone she
went off at once into one of her worst nervous crisises (that's not the
regular plural, I'm sure, but no matter). "I know his mother when she
was a slave of your grandfather's," she said; "an upstanding proud
octaroon girl, who thought herself too good for her place because she
was nearly a white woman. She left the estate immediately after that
horrid emancipation, to keep a school of brown girls in Kingston. And
then she had the insolence to go and get actually married at church to
old Jacob Carvalho! Just like those brown people. Their grandmothers
never married." For poor mamma always made it a subject of reproach
against the respectable coloured folk that they tried to live more
decently and properly than their ancestors used to do in slavery times.
Mr. Carvalho never came to Palmettos again, but whenever I went to
Kingston to dances I met him, and in spite of mamma I talked to him too.
One day I went over to a ball at Government House, and there I saw both
him and Harry Verner. For the first time in my life I had two proposals
made me, and on the same night. Harry Verner's came first.
"Edie," he said to me, between the dances, as we were strolling out in
the gardens, West Indian fashion, "I often think Agualta is rather
lonely. It wants a lady to look after the house, while I'm down looking
after the cane pieces. We made the best return in sugar of any estate on
the island, last year, you know; but a man can't subsist entirely on
sugar. He wants sympathy and intellectual companionship." (This was
quite an effort for Harry.) "Now, I've not been in a hurry to get
married. I've waited till I could find some one whom I could thoroughly
respect and admire as well as love. I've looked at all the girls in
Jamaica, before making my choice, and I've determined not to be guided
by monetary considerations or any other considerations except those of
the affections and of real underlying goodness and intellect. I feel
that you are the one girl I have met who is far and away my superior in
everything worth living for, Edie; and I'm going to ask you whether you
will make me proud and happy for ever by becoming the mistress of
I felt that Harry was really conceding so very much to me, and honouring
me so greatly by offering me a life partnership in that flourishing
sugar-estate, that it really went to my heart to have to refuse him. But
I told him plainly I could not marry him because I did not love him.
Harry seemed quite surprised at my refusal, but answered politely that
perhaps I might learn to love him hereafter, that he would not be so
foolish as to press me further now, and that he would do his best to
deserve my love in future. And with that little speech he led me back to
the ballroom, and handed me over to my next partner.
Later on in the evening, Mr. Carvalho too, with an earnest look in his
handsome dark eyes, asked leave to take me for a few turns in the
garden. We sat down on a bench under the great mango tree, and he began
to talk to me in a graver fashion than usual.
"Your mother was annoyed, I fear, Miss Hazleden," he said, "that I
should call at Palmettos."
"To tell you the truth," I answered, "I think she was."
"I was afraid she would be--I knew she would be, in fact; and for that
very reason I hesitated to do it, as I hesitated to dance with you the
first time I met you, as soon as I knew who you really were. But I felt
I ought to face it out. You know by this time, no doubt, Miss Hazleden,
that my mother was once a slave on your grandfather's estate. Now, it is
a theory of mine--a little Quixotic, perhaps, but still a theory of
mine--that the guilt and the shame of slavery lay with the slave-owners
(forgive me if I must needs speak against your own class), and not with
the slaves or their descendants. We have nothing on earth to be ashamed
of. Thinking thus, I felt it incumbent upon me to call at Palmettos,
partly in defence of my general principles, and partly also because I
wished to see whether you shared your mother's ideas on that subject."
"You were quite right in what you did, Mr. Carvalho," I answered; "and I
respect you for the boldness with which you cling to what you think your
"Thank you, Miss Hazleden," he answered, "you are very kind. Now, I wish
to speak to you about another and more serious question. Forgive my
talking about myself for a moment; I feel sure you have kindly
interested yourself in me a little. I too am proud of my birth, in my
way, for I am the son of an honest able man and of a tender true woman.
I come on one side from the oldest and greatest among civilized races,
the Jews; and on the other side from many energetic English, French, and
Dutch families whose blood I am vain enough to prize as a precious
inheritance even though it came to me through the veins of an octaroon
girl. I have lately arrived at the conclusion that it is not well for me
to remain in Jamaica. I cannot bear to live in a society which will not
receive my dear mother on the same terms as it receives me, and will not
receive either of us on the same terms as it receives other people. We
are not rich, but we are well enough off to go to live in England; and
to England I mean soon to go."
"I am glad and sorry to hear it," I said. "Glad, because I am sure it is
the best thing for your own happiness, and the best opening for your
great talents; sorry, because there are not many people in Jamaica
whose society I shall miss so much."
"What you say encourages me to venture a little further. When I get to
England, I intend to go to Cambridge, and take a degree there, so as to
put myself on an equality with other educated people. Now, Miss
Hazleden, I am going to ask you something which is so great a thing to
ask that it makes my heart tremble to ask it. I know no man on earth,
least of all myself, dare think himself fit for you, or dare plead his
own cause before you without feeling his own unworthiness and pettiness
of soul beside you. Yet just because I know how infinitely better and
nobler and higher you are than I am, I cannot resist trying, just once,
whether I may not hope that perhaps you will consider my appeal, and
count my earnestness to me for righteousness. I have watched you and
listened to you and admired you till in spite of myself I have not been
able to refrain from loving you. I know it is madness; I know it is
yearning after the unattainable; but I cannot help it. Oh, don't answer
me too soon and crush me, but consider whether perhaps in the future you
might not somehow at some time think it possible."
He leaned forward towards me in a supplicating attitude. At that moment
I loved him with all the force of my nature. Yet I dared not say so. The
spectre of the race-prejudice rose instinctively like a dividing wall
between my heart and my lips. "Mr. Carvalho," I said, "take me back to
my seat. You must not talk so, please."
"One minute, Miss Hazleden," he went on passionately; "one minute, and
then I will be silent for ever. Remember, we might live in England, far
away from all these unmeaning barriers. I do not ask you to take me now,
and as I am; I will do all I can to make myself more worthy of you. Only
let me hope; don't answer me no without considering it. I know how
little I deserve such happiness; but if you will take me, I will live
all my life for no other purpose than to make you see that I am striving
to show myself grateful for your love. Oh, Miss Hazleden, do listen to
I felt that in another moment I should yield; I could have seized his
outstretched hands then, and told him that I loved him, but I dared not.
"Mr. Carvalho," I said, "let us go back now. I will write to you
to-morrow." He gave me his arm with a deep breath, and we went back
slowly to the music.
"Edith," said my mother sharply, when I got home that night, "Harry has
been here, and I know two things. He has proposed to you and you have
refused him, I'm certain of that; and the other thing is, that young
Carvalho has been insolent enough to make you an offer."
I said nothing.
"What did you answer him?"
"That I would reply by letter."
"Sit down, then, and write as I tell you."
I sat down mechanically. Mamma began dictating. I cried as I wrote, but
I wrote it. I know now how very shameful and wrong it was of me; but I
was only eighteen, and I was accustomed to do as mamma told me in
everything. She had a terrible will, you know, and a terrible temper.
"'Dear Mr. Carvalho' (you'd better begin so, or he'll know I dictated
it),--'I was too much surprised at your strange conduct last night to
give you an answer immediately. On thinking it over, I can only say I am
astonished you should have supposed such a thing as you suggested lay
within the bounds of possibility. In future, it will be well that we
should avoid one another. Our spheres are different. Pray do not repeat
your mistake of last evening.--Yours truly, E. Hazleden.' Have you put
all that down?"
"Mamma," I cried, "it is abominable. It isn't true. I can't sign it."
"Sign it," said my mother, briefly.
I took the pen and did so. "You will break my heart, mamma," I said.
"You will break my heart and kill me."
"It shall go first thing to-morrow," said my mother, taking no notice of
my words. "And now, Edith, you shall marry Harry Verner."
Seven years are a large slice out of one's life, and the seven years
spent in fighting poor dear mamma over that fixed project were not happy
ones. But on that point nothing on earth would bend me. I would not
marry Harry Verner. At last, after poor mamma's sudden death, I thought
it best to sell the remnant of the estate for what it would fetch, and
go back to England. I was twenty-five then, and had slowly learnt to
have a will of my own meanwhile. But during all that time I hardly ever
heard again of Ernest Carvalho. Once or twice, indeed, I was told he had
taken a distinguished place at Cambridge, and had gone to the bar in the
Temple; but that was all.
A month or two after my return to London my aunt Emily (who was not one
of the West Indian side of the house) managed to get me an invitation to
Mrs. Bouverie Barton's. Of course you know Mrs. Bouverie Barton, the
famous novelist, whose books everybody talks about. Well, Mrs. Barton
lives in Eaton Place, and gives charming Thursday evening receptions,
which are the recognized rendezvous of all literary and artistic London.
If there is a celebrity in town, from Paris or Vienna, Timbuctoo or the
South Sea Islands, you are sure to meet him in the little back
drawing-room at Eaton Place. The music there is always of the best, and
the conversation of the cleverest. But what pleased me most on that
occasion was the fact that Mr. Gerard Llewellyn, the author of that
singular book "Peter Martindale," was to be the lion of the party on
this particular Thursday. I had just been reading "Peter
Martindale"--who had not, that season? for it was the rage of the
day--and I had never read any novel before which so impressed me by its
weird power, its philosophical insight, and its transparent depth of
moral earnestness. So I was naturally very much pleased at the prospect
of seeing and meeting so famous a man as Mr. Gerard Llewellyn.
When we entered Mrs. Bouverie Barton's handsome rooms, we saw a great
crowd of people whom even the most unobservant stranger would instantly
have recognized as out of the common run. There was the hostess herself,
with her kindly smile and her friendly good-humoured manner, hardly, if
at all, concealing the profound intellectual strength that lay latent in
her calm grey eyes. There were artistic artists and rugged artists;
satirical novelists and gay novelists; heavy professors and deep
professors--every possible representative of "literature, science, and
art." At first, I was put off with introductions to young poe tasters,
and gentlemen with an interest in cuneiform inscriptions; but I had
quite made up my mind to get a talk with Mr. Gerard Llewellyn; and to
Mr. Gerard Llewellyn our hostess at last promised to introduce me. She
crossed the room in search of him near the big fireplace.
A tall, handsome young man, with long moustache and beard, and piercing
black eyes, stood somewhat listlessly leaning against the mantelshelf,
and talking with an even, brilliant flow to a short, stout,
Indian-looking gentleman at his side. I knew in a moment that the short
stout gentleman must be Mr. Llewellyn, for in the tall young man, in
spite of seven years and the long moustaches, I recognized at once
But to my surprise Mrs. Bouverie Barton brought the tall young man, and
not his neighbour, across the room with her. She must have made a
mistake, I thought. "Mr. Carvalho," she said, "I want you to come and be
introduced to the lady on the ottoman. Miss Hazleden, Mr. Carvalho!"
"I have met Mr. Carvalho long ago in Jamaica," I said warmly, "but I am
very glad indeed to meet him here again. However, I hardly expected to
see him here this evening."
"Indeed," said Mrs. Barton, with some surprise in her tone; "I thought
you asked to be introduced to the author of 'Peter Martindale.'"
"So I did," I answered; "but I understood his name was Llewellyn."
"Oh!" said Ernest Carvalho, quickly, "that is only my nom de plume.
But the authorship is an open secret now, and I suppose Mrs. Barton
thought you knew it."
"It is a happy chance, at any rate, Mr. Carvalho," I said, "which has
thrown us two again together."
He bowed gravely and with dignity. "You are very kind to say so," he
said. "It is always a pleasure to meet old acquaintances from Jamaica."
My heart beat violently. There was a studied coldness in his tone, I
thought, and no wonder; but if I had been in love with Ernest Carvalho
before, I felt a thousand more times in love with him now as he stood
there in his evening dress, a perfect English gentleman. He looked so
kinglike with his handsome, slightly Jewish features, his piercing black
eyes, his long moustaches, and his beautiful delicate thin-lipped mouth.
There was such an air of power in his forehead, such a speaking evidence
of high culture in his general expression. And then, he had written
"Peter Martindale!" Why, who else could possibly have written it? I
wondered at my own stupidity in not having guessed the authorship at
once. But, most terrible of all, I had probably lost his love for ever.
I might once have called Ernest Carvalho my husband, and I had utterly
alienated him by a single culpable act of foolish weakness.
"You are living in London, now?" I asked.
"Yes," he answered, "we have a little home of our own in Kensington. I
am working on the staff of the Morning Detonator."
"Mrs. Carvalho is here this evening," said Mrs. Bouverie Barton. "Do you
know her? I suppose you do, of course."
Mrs. Carvalho! As I heard the name, I was conscious of a deep but rapid
thud, thud, thud in my ear, and after a moment it struck me that the
thud came from the quick beating of my own heart. Then Ernest Carvalho
"No," he said in reply, seeing that I did not answer immediately. "Miss
Hazleden has never met her, I believe; but I shall be happy to introduce
her;" and he turned to a sofa where two or three ladies were chatting
together, a little in the corner.
A very queenly old lady, with snow-white hair, prettily covered in part
by a dainty and becoming lace cap, held out her small white hand to me
with a gracious smile. "My mother," Ernest Carvalho said quietly; and I
took the proffered hand with a warmth that must have really surprised
the slave-born octaroon. The one thought that was uppermost in my mind
was just this, that after all Ernest Carvalho was not married. Once more
I heard the thud in my ear, and nothing else.
As soon as I could notice anybody or anything except myself, I began to
observe that Mrs. Carvalho was very handsome. She was rather dark, to be
sure, but less so than many Spanish or Italian ladies I had seen; and
her look and manner were those of a Louis Quinze marquise, with a
distinct reminiscence of the stately old Haitian French politeness. She
could never have had any education except what she had picked up for
herself; but no one would suspect the deficiency now, for she was as
clever as all half-castes, and had made the best of her advantages
meanwhile, such as they were. When she talked about the literary London
in which her son lived and moved, I felt like the colonial-bred
ignoramus I really was; and when she told me they had just been to visit
Mr. Fradelli's new picture at the studio, I was positively too ashamed
to let her see that I had never in my life heard of that famous painter
before. To think that that queenly old lady was still a slave girl at
Palmettos when my poor dear mother was a little child! And to think,
too, that my own family would have kept her a slave all her life long,
if only they had had the power! I remembered at once with a blush what
Ernest Carvalho had said to me the last time I saw him, about the people
with whom the guilt and shame of slavery really rested.
I sat, half in a maze, talking with Mrs. Carvalho all the rest of that
evening. Ernest lingered near for a while, as if to see what impression
his mother produced upon me, but soon went off, proudly I thought, to
another part of the room, where he got into conversation with the German
gentleman who wore the big blue wire-guarded spectacles. Yet I fancied
he kept looking half anxiously in our direction throughout the evening,
and I was sure I saw him catch his mother's eye furtively now and again.
As for Mrs. Carvalho, she made a conquest of me at once, and she was
evidently well pleased with her conquest. When I rose to leave, she took
both my hands in hers, and said to me warmly, "Miss Hazleden, we shall
be so pleased to see you whenever you like to come, at Merton Gardens."
Had Ernest ever told her of his proposal? I wondered.
Mrs. Bouverie Barton was very kind to me. She kept on asking me to her
Thursday evenings, and there time after time I met Ernest Carvalho. At
first, he seldom spoke to me much, but at last, partly because I always
talked so much to his mother perhaps, he began to thaw a little, and
often came up to me in quite a friendly way. "We have left Jamaica and
all that behind, Miss Hazleden," he said once, "and here in free England
we may at least be friends." Oh, how I longed to explain the whole truth
to him, and how impossible an explanation was. Besides, he had seen so
many other girls since, and very likely his boyish fancy for me had long
since passed away altogether. You can't count much on the love-making of
eighteen and twenty.
Mrs. Carvalho asked me often to their pretty little house in Merton
Gardens, and I went; but still Ernest never in any way alluded to what
had passed. Months went by, and I began to feel that I must crush that
little dream entirely out of my heart--if I could. One afternoon I went
in to Mrs. Carvalho's for a cup of five-o'clock tea, and had an
uninterrupted tete-a-tete with her for half an hour. We had been
exchanging small confidences with one another for a while, and after a
pause the old lady laid her gentle hand upon my head and stroked back my
hair in such a motherly fashion. "My dear child," she said,
half-sighing, "I do wish my Ernest would only take a fancy to a sweet
young girl like you."
"Mr. Carvalho does not seem quite a marrying man," I answered, forcing a
laugh; "I notice he seldom talks to ladies, but always to men, and those
of the solemnest."
"Ah, my dear, he has had a great disappointment, a terrible
disappointment," said the mother, unburdening herself. "I can tell you
all about it, for you are a Jamaican born, and though you are one of the
'proud Palmettos' people you are not full of prejudices like the rest of
them, and so you will understand it. Before we left Jamaica he was in
love with a young lady there; he never told me her name, and that is the
one secret he has ever kept from me. Well, he talked to her often, and
he thought she was above the wicked prejudices of race and colour; she
seemed to encourage him and to be fond of his society. At last he
proposed to her. Then she wrote him a cruel, cruel letter, a letter that
he never showed me, but he told me what was in it; and it drove him away
from the island immediately. It was a letter full of wicked reproaches
about our octaroon blood, and it broke his heart with the shock of its
heartlessness. He has never cared for any woman since."
"Then does he love her still?" I asked, breathless.
"How can he? No! but he says he loves the memory of what he once thought
her. He has seen her since, somewhere in London, and spoken to her; but
he can never love her again. Yet, do you know, I feel sure he cannot
help loving her in spite of himself; and he often goes out at night, I
am sure, to watch her door, to see her come in and out, for the sake of
the love he once bore her. My Ernest is not the sort of man who can love
twice in a lifetime."
"Perhaps," I said, colouring, "if he were to ask her again she might
accept him. Things are so different here in England, and he is a famous
Mrs. Carvalho shook her head slowly. "Oh no!" she answered; "he would
never importune or trouble her. Though she has rejected him, he is too
loyal to the love he once bore her, too careful of wounding her feelings
or even her very prejudices, ever to obtrude his love again upon her
notice. If she cannot love him of herself and for himself,
spontaneously, he would not weary her out with oft asking. He will never
marry now; of that I am certain."
My eyes filled with tears. As they did so, I tried to brush them away
unseen behind my fan, but Mrs. Carvalho caught my glance, and looked
sharply through me with a sudden gleam of discovery. "Why," she said,
very slowly and distinctly, with a pause and a stress upon each word, "I
believe it must have been you yourself, Miss Hazleden." And as she spoke
she held her open hand, palm outward, stretched against me with a
gesture of horror, as one might shrink in alarm from a coiled
"Dear Mrs. Carvalho," I cried, clasping my hands before her, "do hear
me, I entreat you; do let me explain to you how it all happened."
"There is no explanation possible," she answered sternly. "Go. You have
wrecked a life that might otherwise have been happy and famous, and then
you come to a mother with an explanation!"
"That letter was not mine," I said boldly; for I saw that to put the
truth shortly in that truest and briefest form was the only way of
getting her to listen to me now.
She sank back in a chair and folded her hands faintly one above the
other. "Tell me it all," she said in a weak voice. "I will hear you."
So I told her all. I did not try to extenuate my own weakness in writing
from my mother's dictation; but I let her see what I had suffered then
and what I had suffered since. When I had finished, she drew me towards
her gently, and printed one kiss upon my forehead. "It is hard to
forget," she said softly, "but you were very young and helpless, and
your mother was a terrible woman. The iron has entered into your own
soul too. Go home, dear, and I will see about this matter."
We fell upon one another's necks, the Palmettos slave-girl and I, and
cried together glad tears for ten minutes. Then I wiped my red eyes dry,
covered them with a double fold of my veil, and ran home hurriedly in
the dusk to auntie's. It was such a terrible relief to have got it all
That evening, about eleven o'clock, auntie had gone to bed, and I was
sitting up by myself, musing late over the red cinders in the little
back drawing-room grate. I felt as though I couldn't sleep, and so I was
waiting up till I got sleepy. Suddenly there came a loud knock and a
ring at the bell, after which Amelia ran in to say that a gentleman
wanted to see me in the dining-room on urgent business, and would I
please come down to speak with him immediately. I knew at once it was
The moment I entered the room, he never said a word, but he took my two
hands eagerly in his, and then he kissed me fervently on the lips half a
dozen times over. "And now, Edith," he said, "we need say no more about
the past, for my mother has explained it all to me; we will only think
about the future."
I have no distinct recollection what o'clock it was before Ernest left
that evening; but I know auntie sent down word twice to say it was high
time I went to bed, and poor Amelia looked awfully tired and very
sleepy. However, it was settled then and there that Ernest and I should
be married early in October.
A few days later, after the engagement had been announced to all our
friends, dear Mrs. Bouverie Barton paid me a congratulatory call. "You
are a very lucky girl, my dear," she said to me kindly. "We are half
envious of you; I wish we could find another such husband as Mr.
Carvalho for my Christina. But you have carried off the prize of the
season, and you are well worthy of him. It is a very great honour for
any girl to win and deserve the love of such a man as Ernest Carvalho."
Will you believe it, so strangely do one's first impressions and early
ideas about people cling to one, that though I had often felt before how
completely the tables had been turned since we two came to England, it
had not struck me till that moment that in the eyes of the world at
large it was Ernest who was doing an honour to me and not I who was
doing an honour to Ernest. I felt ashamed to think that Mrs. Bouverie
Barton should see instinctively the true state of the case, while I, who
loved and admired him so greatly, should have let the shadow of that old
prejudice stand even now between me and the lover I was so proud to own.
But when I took dear old Mrs. Carvalho's hand in mine the day of our
wedding, and kissed her, and called her mother for the first time, I
felt that I had left the guilt and shame of slavery for ever behind me,
and that I should strive ever after to live worthily of Ernest