The Romance of Lady Isabel Burton, by Isabel Burton

Chapter IV

Boulogne: I Meet My Destiny

(1850-1852)

Was’t archer shot me, or was’t thine eyes?

Alf Laylah wa Laylah (Burton’s “Arabian Nights”).

The season over (August, 1850), change of air, sea-bathing, French masters to finish our education, and economy were loudly called for; and we turned our faces towards some quiet place on the opposite shores of France, and we thought that Boulogne might suit. We were soon ready and off.

We had a pleasant but rough passage of fifteen hours from London. While the others were employed in bringing up their breakfasts, I sat on deck and mused. Suddenly I remembered that Hagar had told me I should cross the sea, and then I wondered why we had chosen Boulogne. I was leaving England for the first time; I knew not for how long. What should I go through there, and how changed should I come back? I had gone with a light heart. I was young then; I loved society and hated exile. I had written in my diary only a little time before: “As for me, I am never better pleased than when I watch this huge game of chess, Life, being played on that extensive chessboard, Society.” I never felt so patriotic as that first morning on sea when the white cliffs faded from my view. We never appreciate things until we lose them, and I thought of what the feelings of soldiers and sailors must be, going from England and returning after years of absence.

At length the boat stopped at the landing-place at Boulogne, and we were driven like a flock of sheep between two ropes into a papier-maché -looking building, whence we were put into a carriage like a bathing-machine, and driven through what I took to be mews, but which were in reality the principal streets. I recognize in this reflection the prejudiced London Britisher, the John Bull; for in reality Boulogne was a most picturesque town, and our way lay through most picturesque streets. After driving up the hilly street, and under an archway, in the old town, we came to a good, large house like a barn, No. 4, Rue des Basses Chambres, Haute Ville, Boulogne-sur-Mer. The rooms were chiefly furnished with bellows and brass candlesticks; there was not the ghost of an armchair, sofa, ottoman, or anything comfortable; and the only thing at all cheery was our kinswoman, Mrs. Edmond Jerningham, who, apprised of our arrival, had our fires lighted and beds made. She was cutting bread-and-butter and preparing tea for us when we came in, and had ready for us a turkey the size of a fine English chicken. This banquet over, we all turned into bed, and slept between the blankets.

Next morning our boxes were still detained at the custom-house, and my brothers and sisters and myself got some bad tea and some good bread-and-butter, and sat round in a circle on the floor in our night-gowns, with our food in the middle. Shortly after we heard a hooting, laughing, and wrangling in a shrill key, “Coralie, Rosalie, Florantine, Celestine, Euphrosine!” so I pricked up my ears in the hopes of seeing some of those pretty, well-dressed, piquante little soubrettes of whom we had heard mother talk, when in rolled about a dozen harpies with our luggage. At first I did not feel sure whether they were men or women; they had picturesque female dresses on, but their manners, voices; language, and gestures were those of the lowest costermongers. They spoke to me in patois, which I did not understand, and seemed surprised to see us all in our nightgowns, forgetting that we had little else to put on till they had brought the luggage. I gave them half a crown, which they appeared to think a great deal of money, and it inspirited them greatly. They danced about me, whirled me round, and in five minutes one had decked me up in a red petticoat, another arrayed me in her jacket, and a third clapped her dirty cap on my head, and I was completely attired à la marine. I felt so amused by the novelty of the thing that I forgot to be angry at their impertinence, and laughed as heartily as they did.

When they were gone, we set to work and unpacked and dressed, and by the afternoon were as comfortable as we could make ourselves; but we were thoroughly wretched, though mother kept telling us to look at the beautiful sky, which was not half as blue or bright as on the other side of the water. We sauntered out to look at the town. I own my first impressions of France were very unfavourable; Boulogne looked to me like a dirty pack of cards, such as a gypsy pulls out of her pocket to tell your fortune with. The streets were irregular, narrow, filthy, and full of open gutters, which we thought would give us the cholera. The pavement was like that of a mews; the houses were unfurnished; the sea was so far out from our part of the town that it might as well not have been there — and such a dirty, ugly-looking sea too, we thought! The harbour was full of poisonous-looking smelling mud, and always appeared to be low water. The country was dry, barren, and a dirty brown (it was a hot August); the cliffs were black; and there was not a tree to be seen — I used to pretend to get under a lamp-post for shade. Every now and then we had days of fine weather, with clouds of dust and sirocco, or else pouring rain and bleak winds. From mother’s talk of the Continent we expected at least the comforts of Brighton with the romance of Naples; and I shall never forget our feelings when we were told that, after Paris, Boulogne was the nicest town in France. Now I imagine that ours are the feelings of every narrow-minded, prejudiced John Bull Britisher the first time he lands abroad. It takes him some little time to thoroughly appreciate all the good things that he does get abroad, and to be fascinated with the picturesqueness, and then often he returns home unwillingly.

We had a cheap cook, so that our dinners would have been scarcely served up in my father’s kennel at home. When I had eaten what I could pick out by dint of shutting my eyes and forcing myself to get it down, I used to lie down daily on a large horsehair sofa, such as one sees in a tradesman’s office, and sometimes cry till I fell asleep; I felt so sorry for us all.

The most interesting people in Boulogne were the poissardes, or fisherwomen; they are of Spanish and Flemish extraction, and are a clan apart to themselves. They are so interesting that I wonder that no one has written a little book about them. They look down on the Boulognais; they are a fine race, tall, dark, handsome, and have an air of good breeding. Their dress is most picturesque. The women wear a short red petticoat, dark jacket, and snowy handkerchief or scarf, and a white veil tied round the head and hanging a little behind. On fête days they add a gorgeous satin apron. These costumes are expensive. Their long, drooping, gold earrings and massive ornaments are heirlooms, and their lace is real. The men wear great jack-boots all the way up their legs, a loose dark jacket, and red cap; they are fine, stalwart men. They had a queen named Carolina, a handsome, intelligent woman, with whom I made great friends; and also a captain, who had a daughter so like me that when I used to go to the fish-market at first they used to chaff me, thinking she had dressed up like a lady for fun. They also have their different grades of society; they have their own church, built by themselves, their separate weddings, funerals, and christenings. They do not marry out of their own tribe or associate with the townspeople. Their language has a number of Spanish and Latin words in it. They have a strict code of laws, live in a separate part of the town on a hill, are never allowed to be idle, and are remarkable for their morality, although by the recklessness of the conduct and talk of some of the commoner ones you would scarcely believe it. If an accident does occur, the man is obliged to marry the girl directly. The upper ones are most civil and well spoken, and all are open-hearted and not grasping. There is a regular fleet of smacks. The men are always out fishing. The women do all the work at home, as well as shrimping, making tackle, marketing, getting their husbands’ boats ready for sea, and unloading them on return; and they are prosperous and happy. The smacks are out for a week or ten days, and have their regular turn. They have no salmon, and the best fish is on our side of the water. The lowest grade of the girls, who serve as kinds of hacks to the others, are the shrimping girls; they are as vulgar as Billingsgate and as wild as red Indians. You meet them in parties of thirty or forty, with their clothes kilted nearly up to their waists and nets over their backs. They sing songs, and are sure to insult you as you pass; but they make off at a double quick trot at the very name of Queen Carolina.

At Boulogne the usual lounge, both summer and winter, was the Ramparts, which were extremely pretty and picturesque. The Ramparts were charming in summer, with a lovely view of the town; and a row down the Liane, or a walk along its banks, was not to be despised. There were several beautiful country walks in summer. The peasants’ dances, called guinguettes, were amusing to look at. The hotels and table d’hôtes were not bad. The ivory shops in the town were beautiful; the bonnets, parasols, and dresses very chic; the bonbons delicious. The market was a curious, picturesque little scene. There were pretty fêtes, religious and profane, and a capital carnival.

The good society we collected around us; but it was small, and never mixed with the general society. The two winters we were there were gay; there was a sort of agreeable laissez aller about the place, and the summers were very pleasant. But mother kept us terribly strict, and this was a great stimulant to do wild things; and though we never did anything terrible, we did what we had better have left alone. For instance, we girls learned to smoke. We found that father had got a very nice box of cigars, and we stole one. We took it up to the loft and smoked it, and were very sick, and then perfumed ourselves with scent, and appeared in our usual places. We persevered till we became regular smokers, and father’s box of cigars disappeared one by one. Then the servants were accused; so we had to come forward, go into his den, make him swear not to tell, and confided the matter to him. He did not betray us, as he knew we should be almost locked up, and from that time we smoked regularly. People used to say, “What makes those Arundell girls so pale? They must dance too much.” Alas, poor things! it was just the want of these innocent recreations that drove us to so dark a deed!

I have already said that we were taken to Boulogne for masters and economy. Our house in the Haute Ville was next to the Convent, and close to the future rising — slowly rising — Notre Dame. My sister Blanche and I gradually made up our minds to this life, our European Botany Bay. We were not allowed to walk alone, except upon the Ramparts, which, however, make a good mile under large shady trees, with views from every side — not a bad walk by any means. Mother, my sister Blanche, and I used to walk once daily up the lounge, which in fine weather was down the Grande Rue, the Rue de l’Ecu, the Quai to the end of the pier and back; but in winter our promenade may be said to be confined to the Grande Rue. There we could observe the notorieties and eccentricities of the place. There might be a dozen or more handsome young men of good family, generally with something shady about money hanging over them, a great many pretty, fast girls and young married women, a great deal of open flirtation, much attention to dress, and plenty of old half-pay officers with large families, who had come to Boulogne for the same reasons as ourselves. If there were any good families, they lived in the Haute Ville, and were English; there were, in fact, half a dozen aristocratic English families, who stuck together and would speak to nobody else. I have learnt since that often in a place one dislikes there will arise some circumstance that will prove the pivot on which part, or the whole, of one’s life may turn, and that scene, that town, or that house will in after-years retain a sacred place in one’s heart for that thing’s sake, which a gayer or a grander scene could never win. And so it was with me.

At this point it is necessary to interrupt Isabel’s autobiography, to introduce a personage who will hereafter play a considerable part in it. By one of those many coincidences which mark the life-story of Richard and Isabel Burton, and which bear out in such a curious manner her theory that they “were destined to one another from the beginning,” Burton came to Boulogne about the same time as the Arundells. This is not the place to write a life of Sir Richard Burton — it has been written large elsewhere, 4 so that all who wish may read; but to those who have not read Lady Burton’s book, the following brief sketch of his career up to this time may be of interest.

Richard Burton came of a military family, and one whose sons had also rendered some service both in Church and State. He was the son of Joseph Netterville Burton, a lieutenant-colonel in the 36th Regiment. He was born in 1821. He was the eldest of three children; the second was Maria Catherine Eliza, who married General Sir Henry Stisted; and the third was Edward Joseph Netterville, late Captain in the 37th Regiment (Queen’s), who died insane. Colonel Burton, who had retired from the army, and his wife went abroad for economy when Richard was only a few months old, and they settled at Tours. Tours at that time contained some two hundred English families, who formed a society of their own. These English colonies knew little of Mrs. Grundy, and less of the dull provincialism of English country towns. Thus Richard grew up in a free, Bohemian society, an influence which perceptibly coloured his after-life. His education was also of a nature to develop his strongly marked individuality. He was sent to a mixed French and English school at Tours, and he remained there until his father suddenly took it into his head that he would give his boys the benefit of an English education, and returned to England. But, instead of going to a public school, Richard was sent to a private preparatory school at Richmond. He was there barely a year, when his father, wearying of Richmond and respectability, and sighing for the shooting and boar-hunting of French forests, felt that he had sacrificed enough on account of an English education for his boys, and resolved to bring them up abroad under the care of a private tutor. This resolution he quickly put into practice, and a wandering life on the Continent followed, the boys being educated as they went along. This state of things continued till Richard was nineteen, when, as he and his brother had got too old for further home training, the family broke up.

Richard was sent to Oxford, and was entered at Trinity College, with the intention of taking holy orders in the Church of England. But the roving Continental life which he had led did not fit him for the restraints of the University. He hated Oxford, and he was not cut out for a parson. At the end of the first year he petitioned his father to take him away. This was refused; so he set to work to get himself sent down — a task which he accomplished with so much success that the next term he was rusticated, with an intimation that he was not to return. Even at this early period of his life the glamour of the East was strong upon him; the only learning he picked up at Oxford was a smattering of Hindustani; the only thing that would suit him when he was sent down was to go to India. He turned to the East as the lotus turns with the sun. So his people procured him a commission in the army, the Indian service, and he sailed for Bombay in June, 1842.

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Richard Burton in 1848 in Native Dress

He was appointed to the 14th Regiment, Bombay Native Infantry, and he remained in India without coming home for seven years. During those seven years he devoted himself heart and soul to the study of Oriental languages and Oriental habits. He passed in ten Eastern languages. His interest in Oriental life, and his strong sympathy with it, earned him in his regiment the nickname of “the white nigger.” He would disguise himself so effectually that he would pass among Easterns as a dervish in the mosques and as a merchant in the bazaars. In 1844, Richard Burton went to Scinde with the 18th Native Infantry, and was put on Sir Charles Napier’s staff. Sir Charles soon turned the young lieutenant’s peculiar acquirements to account in dealing with the wild tribes around them. He accompanied his regiment to Mooltan to attack the Sikhs. Yet, notwithstanding all these unique qualifications, when Richard Burton applied for the post of interpreter to accompany the second expedition to Mooltan in 1849, he was passed over on account of a feeling against him in high quarters, on which it is unnecessary here to dwell. This disappointment, and the mental and physical worry and fatigue which he had undergone, broke down his health. He applied for sick leave, and came home on a long furlough.

After a sojourn in England, he went to France (1850) to join his family, who were then staying at Boulogne, like the Arundells and most of the English colony, for change, quiet, and economy. Whilst at Boulogne he brought out two or three books and prepared another. Burton took a gloomy view of his prospects at this time; for he writes, “My career in India has been in my eyes a failure, and by no fault of my own; the dwarfish demon called ‘Interest’ has fought against me, and as usual has won the fight.” There was a good deal of prejudice against him even at Boulogne, for unfounded rumours about him had travelled home from India.

Burton, as it may be imagined, did not lead the life which was led by the general colony at Boulogne. “He had a little set of men friends,” Isabel notes; “he knew some of the French; he had a great many flirtations — one very serious one. He passed his days in literature and fencing. At home he was most domestic; his devotion to his parents, especially to his sick mother, was very beautiful.” At this time he was twenty-eight years of age. The Burton family belonged to the general English colony at Boulogne; they were not intimate with the crême to whom the Miss Arundells belonged; and as these young ladies were very carefully guarded, it was some little time before Richard Burton and Isabel Arundell came together. They met in due season; and here we take up the thread of her narrative again.

One day, when we were on the Ramparts, the vision of my awakening brain came towards us. He was five feet eleven inches in height, very broad, thin, and muscular: he had very dark hair; black, clearly defined, sagacious eyebrows; a brown, weather-beaten complexion; straight Arab features; a determined-looking mouth and chin, nearly covered by an enormous black moustache. I have since heard a clever friend say that “he had the brow of a god, the jaw of a devil.” But the most remarkable part of his appearance was two large, black, flashing eyes with long lashes, that pierced one through and through. He had a fierce, proud, melancholy expression; and when he smiled, he smiled as though it hurt him, and looked with impatient contempt at things generally. He was dressed in a black, short, shaggy coat, and shouldered a short, thick stick, as if he were on guard.

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The Ramparts, Boulogne

He looked at me as though he read me through and through in a moment, and started a little. I was completely magnetized; and when we had got a little distance away, I turned to my sister, and whispered to her, “That man will marry me.” The next day he was there again, and he followed us, and chalked up, “May I speak to you?” leaving the chalk on the wall; so I took up the chalk and wrote back, “No; mother will be angry”; and mother found it, and was angry; and after that we were stricter prisoners than ever. However, “Destiny is stronger than custom.” A mother and a pretty daughter came to Boulogne who happened to be cousins of my father’s; they joined the majority in the society sense, and one day we were allowed to walk on the Ramparts with them. There I met Richard again, who (agony!) was flirting with the daughter. We were formally introduced, and his name made me start. Like a flash came back to me the prophecy of Hagar Burton which she had told me in the days of my childhood in Stonymoore Wood: ”You will cross the sea, and be in the same town with your Destiny and know it not. . . . You will bear the name of our tribe, and be right proud of it.“ I could think of no more at the moment. But I stole a look at him, and met his gypsy eyes — those eyes which looked you through, glazed over, and saw something behind; the only man I had ever seen, not a gypsy, with that peculiarity. And again I thrilled through and through. He must have thought me very stupid, for I scarcely spoke a word during that brief meeting.

I did not try to attract his attention; but after that, whenever he came on the usual promenade, I would invent any excuse that came ready to take another turn to watch him, if he were not looking. If I could catch the sound of his deep voice, it seemed to me so soft and sweet that I remained spellbound, as when I hear gypsy music. I never lost an opportunity of seeing him, when I could not be seen; and as I used to turn red and pale, hot and cold, dizzy and faint, sick and trembling, and my knees used to nearly give way under me, my mother sent for the doctor, to complain that my digestion was out of order, and that I got migraines in the street; he prescribed me a pill, which I threw in the fire. All girls will sympathize with me. I was struck with the shaft of Destiny, but I had no hope, being nothing but an ugly schoolgirl, 5 of taking the wind out of the sails of the dashing creature with whom Richard was carrying on a very serious flirtation.

The only luxury I indulged in was a short but heartfelt prayer for him every morning. I read all his books, and was seriously struck, as before, by his name, when I came to the book on Jats in Scinde. The Jats are the aboriginal gypsies in India.

The more I got to know of Richard, the more his strange likeness to the gypsies struck me. As I wrote to the Gypsy Lore Journal in 1891, it was not only his eyes which showed the gypsy peculiarity; he had the restlessness which could stay nowhere long, nor own any spot on earth, the same horror of a corpse, deathbed scenes, and graveyards, or anything which was in the slightest degree ghoulish, though caring little for his own life, the same aptitude for reading the hand at a glance. With many he would drop their hands at once and turn away, nor would anything induce him to speak a word about them. He spoke Romany like the gypsies themselves. Nor did we ever enter a gypsy camp without their claiming him. “What are you doing with that black coat on?” they would say. “Why don’t you join us and be our king?” Moreover, Burton is one of the half-dozen distinctively Romany names; and though there is no proof whatever of his Arab or Romany descent, the idea that he had gypsy blood is not to be wondered at. He always took a great interest in gypsy lore, and prepared a book on the subject. He wrote many years later: “There is an important family of gypsies in foggy England, who in remote times developed our family name. I am yet on very friendly terms with several of these strange people; nay, a certain Hagar Burton, an old fortune-teller (divinatrice ), took part in a period of my life which in no small degree contributed to determine its course.”

My cousin asked Richard to write something for me at that time; he did so, and I used to wear it next my heart. One night an exception was made to our dull rule of life. My cousins gave a tea party and dance, and the “great majority” flocked in, and there was Richard like a star among rushlights! That was a night of nights; he waltzed with me once, and spoke to me several times, and I kept my sash where he put his arm round my waist to waltz, and my gloves, which his hands had clasped. I never wore them again. I did not know it then, but the “little cherub who sits up aloft” was not only occupied in taking care of poor Jack, for I came in also for a share of it. I saw Richard every now and again after that, but he was of course unconscious of my feelings towards him. And I was evidently awfully sorry for myself, since I find recorded the following moan:

“If kind Providence had blessed me with the man I love, what a different being I might be! Fate has used me hardly, with my proud, sensitive nature to rough the world and its sharp edges, alone and unprotected except by hard and peremptory rules.”

So I thought then; but I have often blessed those rules since. A woman may have known the illusions of love, but never have met an object worth all her heart. Sometimes we feel a want of love, and a want to love with all our energies. There is no man capable of receiving this at the time, and we accept the love of others as a makeshift, an apology, to draw our intention from the painful feeling, and try to fancy it is love. How much in this there is to fear! A girl should be free and happy in real and legitimate love. One who is passionate and capable of suffering fears to risk her heart on any man. Happy is she who meets at her first start the man who is to guide her for life, whom she is always to love. Some women grow fastidious in solitude, and find it harder to be mated than married. Those who fear and respect the men they love, those whose judgment and sense confirm their affection, are lucky. Every one has some mysterious and singular idea of representing his destiny. I asked myself then if I would sacrifice anything and everything for Richard, and the only thing that I found I could not sacrifice for him would be God; for I thought I would as soon, were I a man, forsake my post, when the tide of battle pressed hardest against it, and go over to the enemy, as renounce my God. So having sifted my unfortunate case, I soon decided on a plan of action. I could not push myself forward or attract his notice. It would be unmaidenly — unworthy. I shuddered at the lonely and dreary path I was taking; but I knew that no advantage gained by unworthy means could be lasting or solid; besides, my conscience was tender, and I knew that the greatest pleasure unlawfully obtained would eventually become bitter, for there can be no greater pain than to despise oneself or the one we love. So I suffered much and long; and the name of the tribe, as Hagar Burton foretold, caused me many a sorrowful and humiliating hour; but I rose superior at last. They say that often, when we think our hopes are annihilated, God is granting us some extraordinary favour. It is said, “It is easy to image the happiness of some particular condition, until we can be content with no other”; but there is no condition whatever under which a certain degree of happiness may not be attained by those who are inclined to be happy. Courage consists, not in hazarding without fear, but in being resolutely minded in a just cause.

Marvel not at thy life; patience shall see

The perfect work of wisdom to her given;

Hold fast thy soul through this high mystery,

And it shall lead thee to the gates of heaven.

The days at Boulogne went slowly by. We used to join walking or picnic parties in summer, and generally have one of our pleasant big teas in the evening. I joined in such society as there was in moderation, and I became very serious. The last summer we had many friends staying with us; the house was quite like a hotel. We much longed to go to Paris; but in the winter poor little baby died, and mother had no spirits for anything. This last winter (1851-52), during the time of the coup d’état, there were eighteen hundred soldiers billeted on Boulogne; and the excitement was great, crowds of people were rushing about to hear the news, and vans full of prisoners passing by. They were very violent against the English too; we had our windows broken occasionally, and our pet dog was killed. Carolina, the Poissarde queen, told us that if the worst came to the worst she should send us across to England in her husband’s fishing-smack. Boulogne was a droll place; there was always either something joyous, a fête, or some scandal or horror going on. It was a place of passage, constant change of people, and invariably there was some excitement about something or other.

Our prescribed two years were up at last, and we all agreed that anything in London would be preferable to Boulogne. We began quietly to pack up, pay our debts, and make our adieux. We were sorry to leave our little circle; they were also sorry to part from us; and the tradespeople and servants seemed conscious that they were about to lose in a short while some honest and safe-paying people — not too frequent in Boulogne — and were loud in their regrets. I had many regrets in leaving, but was delighted at the prospect of going home, and impatient to be relieved of the restraint I was obliged to impose on myself about Richard. Yet at the same time I dreaded leaving his vicinity. I was sorely sorry, yet glad. All the old haunts I visited for the last time. There were kind friends to wish good-bye. I received my last communion in the little chapel of Our Lady in the College, where I had so often knelt and prayed for Richard, and for strength to bear my sorrow as a trial from the hand of God, as doubtless it was for my good, only I could not see it. When one is young, it is hard to pine for something, and at the same time to say, “Thy will be done.” I always prayed Richard might be mine if God willed it, and if it was for his happiness.

I said good-bye to Carolina, the queen of the fisher-women; she reminded me strangely of Hagar Burton, my gypsy. I wondered how Hagar would tell her prophecies now? “Chance or not,” I thought, “they are strange; and if ever I return to my home, I will revisit Stonymoore Wood, though now alone; for my shaggy Sikh is dead, my pony gone, my gypsy camp dispersed, my light heart no longer light, no longer mine.” I would give worlds to sit again on the mossy bank round the gypsy fire, to hear that little tale as before, and be called “Daisy,” and hear the prophecy of Hagar that I should take the name of the tribe. I listened lightly then; but now that the name had become so dear I attached much deeper meaning to it.

At last the day was fixed that we were to leave Boulogne, May 9, 1852, and I was sorely exercised in my mind as to whether or no I should say goodbye to Richard; but I said to myself, “When we leave this place, he will go one way in life, and I another; and who knows if we may ever meet again?” To see him would be only to give myself more pain, and therefore I did not.

We walked down to the steamer an hour or two before sailing-time, which would be two in the morning. It was midnight; the band was playing, and the steamer was alongside, opposite the Folkestone Hotel. It was a beautiful night, so all our friends collected to see us off, and we walked up and down, and had chairs to remain near the band. When we sailed, my people went down to their berths; but I sat near the wheel, to watch the town as long as I could see the lights, for after all it contained all I wanted, and who I thought I should never see more. I was sad at heart; but I was proud of the way in which I had behaved, and I could now rest after my long and weary struggle, suffering, patient, and purified; and though I would rather have had love and happiness, I felt that I was as gold tried in the fire. It is no little thing for a girl to be able to command herself, to respect herself, and to be able to crush every petty feeling.

When I could see no more of Boulogne, I wrapped a cloak round me, and jumped into the lifeboat lashed to the side, and I mused on the two past years I had been away from England, all I had gone through, and all the changes, and especially how changed I was myself; I felt a sort of satisfaction, and I mused on how much of my destiny had been fulfilled. Old Captain Tune, who had become quite a friend of ours at Boulogne, came up, and wanted me to go below. I knew him well, and was in the habit of joking with him, and I told him to go below himself, and I would take care of the ship; so instead he amused me by telling me stories and asking me riddles. The moon went down, and the stars faded, and I slept well; and when I awoke the star of my destiny, my pet morning star, was shining bright and clear, just “like a diamond drop over the sea.” I awoke, hearing old Tune say, “What a jolly sailor’s wife she would make! She never changes colour.” We lurched terribly. I jumped up as hungry as a hunter, and begged him to give me some food, as it wanted four hours to breakfast; so he took me down to his cabin, and gave me some hot chops and bread-and-butter, and said he would rather keep me for a week than a fortnight. It blew freshly. I cannot describe my sensations when I saw the dear old white cliffs of England again, though I had only been away two years, and so near home. The tears came into my eyes, and my heart bounded with joy, and I felt great sympathy with all exiled soldiers and sailors, and wondered what face we should see first. Foreigners do not seem to have that peculiar sensation about home, or talk of their country as we do of ours; for I know of no feeling like setting one’s foot on English ground again after a long absence.

4 Life of Sir Richard Burton, by Isabel his wife.

5 It is necessary here to defend Lady Burton against herself. She was certainly not “ugly”; for she was — a friend tells me who knew her at this time — a tall and beautiful girl, with fair brown hair, blue eyes, classic features, and a most vivacious and attractive manner. Nor could she correctly be called a “schoolgirl”; for though she was taking some finishing lessons in French, music, etc., she was more than nineteen years of age, and had been through a London season.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:33