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Chapter 13

A CATASTROPHE.

The ruin of his house had hardly been repaired, when there arrived out
of Europe tidings which smote as with a still more fatal hurricane on
the four corners of his inner world, and awoke all the old thunders
that lay asleep on his horizon there. Tidings, at last of a decisive
nature, from Gibraltar and the Spanish democrat adventure. This is
what the Newspapers had to report--the catastrophe at once, the
details by degrees--from Spain concerning that affair, in the
beginning of the new year 1832.

Torrijos, as we have seen, had hitherto accomplished as good as
nothing, except disappointment to his impatient followers, and sorrow
and regret to himself. Poor Torrijos, on arriving at Gibraltar with
his wild band, and coming into contact with the rough fact, had found
painfully how much his imagination had deceived him. The fact lay
round him haggard and iron-bound; flatly refusing to be handled
according to his scheme of it. No Spanish soldiery nor citizenry
showed the least disposition to join him; on the contrary the official
Spaniards of that coast seemed to have the watchfulest eye on all his
movements, nay it was conjectured they had spies in Gibraltar who
gathered his very intentions and betrayed them. This small project of
attack, and then that other, proved futile, or was abandoned before
the attempt. Torrijos had to lie painfully within the lines of
Gibraltar,--his poor followers reduced to extremity of impatience and
distress; the British Governor too, though not unfriendly to him,
obliged to frown. As for the young Cantabs, they, as was said, had
wandered a little over the South border of romantic Spain; had perhaps
seen Seville, Cadiz, with picturesque views, since not with
belligerent ones; and their money being done, had now returned home.
So had it lasted for eighteen months.

The French Three Days breaking out had armed the Guerrillero Mina,
armed all manner of democratic guerrieros and guerrilleros; and
considerable clouds of Invasion, from Spanish exiles, hung minatory
over the North and North-East of Spain, supported by the new-born
French Democracy, so far as privately possible. These Torrijos had to
look upon with inexpressible feelings, and take no hand in supporting
from the South; these also he had to see brushed away, successively
abolished by official generalship; and to sit within his lines, in the
painfulest manner, unable to do anything. The fated, gallant-minded,
but too headlong man. At length the British Governor himself was
obliged, in official decency and as is thought on repeated
remonstrance from his Spanish official neighbors, to signify how
indecorous, improper and impossible it was to harbor within one's
lines such explosive preparations, once they were discovered, against
allies in full peace with us,--the necessity, in fact, there was for
the matter ending. It is said, he offered Torrijos and his people
passports, and British protection, to any country of the world except
Spain: Torrijos did not accept the passports; spoke of going
peaceably to this place or to that; promised at least, what he saw and
felt to be clearly necessary, that he would soon leave Gibraltar. And
he did soon leave it; he and his, Boyd alone of the Englishmen being
now with him.

It was on the last night of November, 1831, that they all set forth;
Torrijos with Fifty-five companions; and in two small vessels
committed themselves to their nigh-desperate fortune. No sentry or
official person had noticed them; it was from the Spanish Consul, next
morning, that the British Governor first heard they were gone. The
British Governor knew nothing of them; but apparently the Spanish
officials were much better informed. Spanish guardships, instantly
awake, gave chase to the two small vessels, which were making all sail
towards Malaga; and, on shore, all manner of troops and detached
parties were in motion, to render a retreat to Gibraltar by land
impossible.

Crowd all sail for Malaga, then; there perhaps a regiment will join
us; there,--or if not, we are but lost! Fancy need not paint a more
tragic situation than that of Torrijos, the unfortunate gallant man,
in the gray of this morning, first of December, 1831,--his last free
morning. Noble game is afoot, afoot at last; and all the hunters have
him in their toils.--The guardships gain upon Torrijos; he cannot even
reach Malaga; has to run ashore at a place called Fuengirola, not far
from that city;--the guardships seizing his vessels, so soon as he is
disembarked. The country is all up; troops scouring the coast
everywhere: no possibility of getting into Malaga with a party of
Fifty-five. He takes possession of a farmstead (Ingles, the place is
called); barricades himself there, but is speedily beleaguered with
forces hopelessly superior. He demands to treat; is refused all
treaty; is granted six hours to consider, shall then either surrender
at discretion, or be forced to do it. Of course he _does_ it, having
no alternative; and enters Malaga a prisoner, all his followers
prisoners. Here had the Torrijos Enterprise, and all that was
embarked upon it, finally arrived.

Express is sent to Madrid; express instantly returns; "Military
execution on the instant; give them shriving if they want it; that
done, fusillade them all." So poor Torrijos and his followers, the
whole Fifty-six of them, Robert Boyd included, meet swift death in
Malaga. In such manner rushes down the curtain on them and their
affair; they vanish thus on a sudden; rapt away as in black clouds of
fate. Poor Boyd, Sterling's cousin, pleaded his British citizenship;
to no purpose: it availed only to his dead body, this was delivered
to the British Consul for interment, and only this. Poor Madam
Torrijos, hearing, at Paris where she now was, of her husband's
capture, hurries towards Madrid to solicit mercy; whither also
messengers from Lafayette and the French Government were hurrying, on
the like errand: at Bayonne, news met the poor lady that it was
already all over, that she was now a widow, and her husband hidden
from her forever.--Such was the handsel of the new year 1832 for
Sterling in his West-Indian solitudes.


Sterling's friends never heard of these affairs; indeed we were all
secretly warned not to mention the name of Torrijos in his hearing,
which accordingly remained strictly a forbidden subject. His misery
over this catastrophe was known, in his own family, to have been
immense. He wrote to his Brother Anthony: "I hear the sound of that
musketry; it is as if the bullets were tearing my own brain." To
figure in one's sick and excited imagination such a scene of fatal
man-hunting, lost valor hopelessly captured and massacred; and to add
to it, that the victims are not men merely, that they are noble and
dear forms known lately as individual friends: what a Dance of the
Furies and wild-pealing Dead-march is this, for the mind of a loving,
generous and vivid man! Torrijos getting ashore at Fuengirola; Robert
Boyd and others ranked to die on the esplanade at Malaga--Nay had not
Sterling, too, been the innocent yet heedless means of Boyd's
embarking in this enterprise? By his own kinsman poor Boyd had been
witlessly guided into the pitfalls. "I hear the sound of that
musketry; it is as if the bullets were tearing my own brain!"

Thomas Carlyle

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