Clarissa: Chapter Twenty-Five

Before too long, Richard made his way with an armed guard to the border between the Emepror’s Austrian regions and his Hungarian regions. When they reached the Hungarian regions, there was a change of armed guards and there was a travel into the area of Carniola, where there was another change of guards and more letters given to the border guards there before it was time to head through the lovely mountain valleys and down towards the coasts of Dalmatia, where there were more border guards, this time the Croats with their fierce countenance and cravats. The weather had still held out relatively well when it came time to pass into the territory of Venice.

Here too, as a perceptive traveler, Richard could see that the best days of the Venetian Republic were behind it, but the Republic still glorified in its freedom and in its civic institutions and its faith, as well as its language, which was distinct from Italian, but still comprehensible to him. When he arrived at the great city of Venice, with its canals and its secure location in its lagoon which had long provided it with safety from the armies that coursed all throughout that troubled area, Richard bid farewell to his last group of guards from the Austrian monarch and book a ship bound for Malta.

The ship itself made its way south along the Adriatic coast. Richard pulled in at ancient ports like Ragusa that had seen similar ships sailing for centuries, and eventually after stopping in at Corfu, the ship made its way to Malta, taking care because the season was often rough for shipping, and Richard got off to present his credentials to the Knight Commander of the Knights of Malta there on the island, who greeted Richard as a brother in the faith and as a loyal ally to the interests of the Knights of Malta in ensuring that the Turk did not dominate the sea.

After his conversation with the Knight commander, in which various private things were discussed that are not of importance here, Richard took his leave and went to find the residence in the embassy for the Holy Roman Empire where he was to stay, and reflected upon his soon-coming trip to Gibraltar where he would see his brother after some absence. He was pleased to think that his brother was getting married and would have an opportunity to serve in similar efforts to the ones he was engaged in, albeit in a different land. He wondered as well if he would have the opportunity to find a nice young woman to marry.

Richard, for all of his perceptiveness, did not realize that he was traveling in a vanishing world. The Holy Roman Emperor that he represented, whose empire had lasted for nearly a thousand years, only had a bit more than a decade to hold onto that office, and then he would only have barely a century to hold onto the title of Austrian Emperor before that emperor would fall apart. The different territories of the Magyars, Croats, and Slovenes would all eventually rule themselves and fight among each other off and on for decades, unable to hold together. The Venetian Republic of such a proud history that Richard had seen was also in its dying day. It would soon be taken over by Napoleon and combined into a Northern Italian puppet state under one of his brothers, and when Napoleon was defeated, the only states which would not regain their identities afterwards were the two Republics of Genoa and Venice, long bitter rivals, who both found themselves swallowed in neighboring realms which did not want to let any powerful Republics survive to provide an example of freedom in an age of reviving authoritarian rule. And so Venice would find itself a satrap of the Austrian Empire for some time before being passed indirectly to the Italians when a nation-state was finally made out of the many distinct states of that peninsula, to be viewed as a quaint and moribund region of a cobbled nation. Ragusa would not long remain in any sort of independent state, nor would Corfu have much importance when it was part of a larger Greek nation. Malta itself only had a few more years under the rule of its Knights before a short-lived French rule would then be succeeded by a longer British rule and then, at length, by its own independence as a small island state that sought the protection of a larger European Union.

Let us not blame Richard, though, for not being perceptive enough to see any of these changes. None of us knows when we are living in a vanishing world whose long-sturdy institutions are about to be submerged by the cruel force of history. Jealous and insecure monarchs would not long allow small republics to survive if they could possibly avoid it and would be finding any old German prince who could serve as a king over a new state if a local ruler of sufficient prestige could not be found. Those who had ruled over areas with an interest in preserving a religious status quo would soon find themselves and their realms drastically threatened by forces that they did not even recognize, much less understand, shaped by ethnic identities that were impossible to entirely smother out.

What was it, after all, that made France a more natural nation than the Holy Roman Empire? What were the natural borders of Germany and Italy? Was there a place for small peoples around the world to have their own identities? Was it unjust that Danes should rule over Germans in Holstein? Was it unjust that Russians, Prussians, and Austrians should rule over Poles and a host of other restive Slavic peoples? Was it unjust for the French to rule over Bretons, Occitans, and Corsicans? What about the Spanish rule over its far-flung empire as well as the Basques, Galicians, and Catalonians in its midst? Was it natural and proper that the English should dominate the Irish, Scottish, and Welsh, to say nothing of Canadians and Indians? What made some situations seem natural or even inevitable and others seem intolerable? Under what conditions was it possible to accept someone else’s authority, and under what conditions did identity make it impossible for such an acceptance to be obtained?

The rest of the travelers to Gibraltar did not have the same sort of adventures to face as Richard did, since England had regular connections with the base that made it easy for people who had sufficient need to be in that post to be able to arrive there. For Lord Lipton, it was an enjoyable adventure to get to Gibraltar, and he, his wife and children, as well as his uncle and his uncle’s eldest son were able to make the journey without any great difficulty from Hull to Gibraltar. Lord Lipton used it as a learning opportunity to teach his children about transportation, about the importance of naval power to the preservation of British greatness, and to what one can observe through the course of one’s travels in the seas and along the shore. When they arrived in Gibraltar, Lord Lipton made sure to give Clarissa and Roland his congratulations in person with a hearty hug and plenty of conversation, while the rest of the family also showed their appreciation of a chance to travel and see a bit of the world.

For the Marquis de Villebois, it was a pleasure to find that he had been spotted the funding necessary to travel to Gibraltar to see his son marry. Even if his family was in exile, it was a comfort to know that at least one of his sons was doing what was necessary to keep the family line going. Hopefully there would be children that would spring from this line that would, in time, restore the family to its fortunes. For him, there was not much enjoyment in a lengthy voyage by sea. Yet if he did not enjoy the trip, he did enjoy reaching his destination, and stepping off to see his son and his future daughter-in-law greeting him and walking with him to Miss Bennett’s house, which was soon to be the house of both of them, where he would be staying in a guest room and enjoying the repast of his future daughter-in-law, which was much to his liking.

When Lord Lipton and his party exited the ship, they too found Miss Bennett and Roland waiting for them on the marina, and Lord Lipton was shown to the government house where he and his family were to stay during the time before the wedding. With most of her family Clarissa was generous with her affection and enjoyed receiving their praise. After the rest, though, her brother Henry came up to talk with her.

“Do you still remember me from when we were children?”

“I am not likely to ever forget you or your brother, as much as I would wish to.”

“I hope that I am not unwelcome here in wishing you a happy marriage.”

“Your wishes are not unwelcome, at least.”

“Do you think it is too late for us to get on as a brother and sister ought to get on?”

“It was probably too late for that by the time I was sent to grow up with Lord Lipton.”

“I was terribly unkind to you, and I have long regretted it.”

“I appreciate that you have reflected on how you treated me and have regretted it.”

“I realize this may be asking a lot, but would you be willing to do me a favor?”

“What favor would you ask of me?”

“Father says it would be wise for me to find a young woman who would be able to marry into our family and bring some useful business relationship into it, but I must admit that I do not know the first thing about marriage alliances or how to deal with young women.”

Clarissa thought for a moment.

“I do not mean to insist, only to request.”

“You are handling father’s sugar business these days, are you not?”

“That I am.”

“There are at least several sorts of young women that may come across your way whose businesses might intertwine with your interests. You may find yourself socializing with the daughters of plantation owners from the Caribbean. You may find yourself among the daughters of grocers or those involved in the tea trade or those involved in shipping or even those with an interest in law insofar as it related to international trade, besides those who were related to interests in the army and navy.”

“I am not sure how high we should aim in such matters. Many of those with large plantation interests might fancy themselves as baronets or similar rank, and that would be considerably above our level, even with our connections to Lord Lipton and his family.”

“I suppose the choice would be between the daughter of a well-off merchant who could help consolidate the trade you were already involved in or someone who might bring in a bit less money in dowry but would provide a bit of status as a gentleman’s daughter and who might be able to help any children of yours move up into the world with a bit of education and some connections to those of like status.”

“Do you think it would be possible for such a woman to be interested in marrying me?”

“There are a great many people who are willing to take me as a lady, whatever my family background, because I received the education of a lady by growing up with Lord and Lady Lipton as their foster daughter. How much have you taken advantage of the opportunity to gain in knowledge from Lord Lipton’s information?”

“Not as much as I ought, I am sure, but I do try to read the sorts of books he suggests from time to time, even if it can be difficult to find the time to read books of the size that Lord Lipton enjoys.”

“You are not interested only in monetary matters, though, right?”

“No, I am interested in culture, even if I am not as cultured as many people who would be in Lord Lipton’s circle. One cannot spend time with him in town without developing a familiarity with plays and books and concerts, with poetry and literature and political economy and philosophy and related subjects.”

“Not in the least, so you at least would be able to keep up with someone who had an interest in such subjects as someone who knew a little but and was always interested in knowing more.”

“Yes, that is certainly right.”

“I do not know what sort of eligible woman will fall into your acquaintance who will fit what you are looking for and would be able to appreciate our family and what it has to offer, to say nothing about being fond of you, but I would be happy to get to know such a woman better and correspond with her if you think it would help you to feel more comfortable with the thought of marrying her.”

“I appreciate the favor.”

“Say nothing of it.”

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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