Every Woman's Encyclopaedia/Burton
This is a strange romance, uncanny, inexplicable. No novelist would dare tax the imagination of his readers with such a tale. In short, the story of Sir Richard Burton's marriage is like the story of his life. It would be incredible if it were not true.
He was a remarkable man, perhaps the most remarkable of modern times, certainly one of the greatest. His knowledge of the East was such as no other European has ever had. As an explorer, even Livingstone cannot take precedence.
And Lady Burton is no less noteworthy than her husband. Any woman might have won Sir Richard's love. No other woman could have kept it. But Isabel Burton did more than this. She became a part, an essential part, of her husband's very being. Hers was a wonderful personality, mediaeval and mysterious. It is hard to believe that she lived in the exact and prosaic nineteenth century. Perhaps, therefore, heredity counts for something, after all, for by birth she belonged to one of the proudest and most ancient houses in all England. She was an Arundell of Wardour. And
'Ere William fought and Harold fell,
There were Earls of Arundell.
And they were a fine race of men, too, these Arundells. Their valiant deeds, loyalty, and fearless courage claim many pages in the records of history and chivalry. But Isabel, perhaps, was the rarest flower of them all.
She was born in London in March, 1831, at a house in Great Cumberland Place, near to the Marble Arch. But as a child she was much like other children. Not until she was sixteen years of age was her mind able to develop along its own peculiar lines. She then left school, and went to live at her parents' country seat in Essex. Here she was free, free to gratify the love of adventure which was innate in her; free, moreover, to commune with Nature and to enjoy that sense of space for which she craved. And her mind developed rapidly. Isabel was no mere "tom-boy." She was a dreamer, a thinker. The spirit of the East was strong within her. She loved solitude. The occult and mystic had a curious fascination for her. Gipsies attracted her irresistibly.
"Wild asses," she declared, "would not have kept me out of the camps of the Oriental, yet English-named, tribes of Burton, Cooper, Stanley, Osbaldiston, and another tribe whose name I forget." And gipsies loved her. They regarded her as their child queen. Her particular friend was a certain Hagar Burton, a tall, handsome woman, to whom she rendered many services. The gipsy once cast her horoscope. It was written in Romany, but, translated, it reads as follows:
"You will cross the sea, and be in the same town with your Destiny, and know it not. Every obstacle will rise up against you, and such a combination of circumstances, that it will require all your courage, energy, and intelligence to meet them. "Your life will be like one swimming against big waves; but God will be with you, so you will always win. You will fix your eyes on your Polar star, and will go for that without looking right or left. You will bear the name of our tribe, and be right proud of it. You will be as we are, but far greater than we. Your life is all wandering, change, and adventure. One soul in two bodies, never long apart. Show this to the man you take for your husband. Hagar Burton."
Chief Fault: ₤0. 0s. 0d.Edit
But the gipsy had seen far into the future. For a while Isabel was destined to lead the life for which birth had qualified her. She had a place to fill in the world of society, and, in spite of her wild, imaginative nature, was not insensible to her duties. In 1849, therefore, she made her début in London. And the Duchess of Norfolk, who played the part of fairy godmother, had every reason to be proud of her protégée. She was a dazzling débutante, very different from the bored, artificial, husband-seeking girls around her. Isabel frankly enjoyed her pleasures; she had no thoughts of matrimony. And her beauty, wit, and originality assured her of success.
Her diary is full of interesting observations. For the men of London she had neither respect nor admiration. The little gods of society, for whom these other women pined, to her were merely playthings. "Mannikins," she called them; "animated tailors' dummies!" "'T'is man's place to do great deeds!" But, she wrote, "I met some very odd characters, which made one form some useful rules to go by. One man I met had every girl's name down on paper, if she belonged to the haute volée, her age, her fortune, and her personal merits; for, he said, 'One woman, unless one happens to be in love with her, is much the same as another.' He showed me my name down, thus: 'Isabel Arundell, eighteen, beauty, talent, and goodness, original. Chief fault, £0 0s. 0d. . . .' Then he rattled on to others. I told him I did not think much of the young men of the day. 'There, now,' he answered, 'drink of the spring nearest you, and be thankful. By being fastidious you will get nothing.'"
But Isabel refused to drink of the nearest spring. Her ideal was not to be found in this world of society. She would not join it, therefore. She was "determined to marry the man of her imaginings, or nobody. Amid the whirl and gaiety of the season she described him in her diary.
He "is about six feet in height," she wrote, "he has not an ounce of fat on him; he has broad and muscular shoulders, a deep, powerful chest; he is a Hercules of manly strength. He has "black hair, a brown complexion, a clever forehead, sagacious eyebrows, large, black, wondrous eyes those strange eyes you dare not take yours off from with long lashes. He is a soldier and a man; he is accustomed to command, and to be obeyed. He frowns on the ordinary affairs of life, but his face always lights up warmly for me. In his dress he never adopts the fopperies of the day. But his clothes suit him ; they are made for him, not he for them. . . . Of course, he is an Englishman. His religion is like my own free, liberal, and generous-minded. He is by no means indifferent on the subject, as most men are, and even if he does not conform to any Church, he will serve God from his innate duty and sense of honour. He is a man who owns something more than a body. He has a head and heart, a mind and soul. . . . Such a man only will I wed! . . . If I find such a man, and afterwards discover that he is not for me, I will never marry. . . . I will become a sister of charity of St. Vincent de Paul."
But she found him sooner than she could have dared even to hope, and in appearance he tallied exactly with the hero of her visions. It was at Boulogne. The Arundells repaired thither at the close of the London season to economise. She saw him walking on the sea front.
"He looked at me," she wrote afterwards, "as though he read me through and through in a moment, and started a little. I was completely magnetised ; and when we 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 followed us, and chalked up, ' May I speak to you ? ' leaving the chalk on the wall. So I took it up and wrote back, ' No ; mother will be angry.' And mother found it, and was angry."
A few days later they were formally introduced. The man's name was Burton. And then Isabel remembered the words of Hagar, "You will bear the name of our tribe, and be right proud of it."
Richard Burton was ten years older than Isabel, and already had served, and served with distinction, for several years in India, first in a regiment of native infantry, and later on Sir Charles Napier's staff. During this time he had devoted his energies unceasingly to the study of Oriental languages and Oriental customs, and in consequence was known throughout India as "the white nigger." In 1850 he returned to Europe on furlough, and, at the time when Isabel met him, was staying with his parents, who were then living at Boulogne for the very same reason as were the Arundells. In those days to sojourn abroad was a popular mode of retrenchment among impecunious gentlefolk.
Richard and Isabel, therefore, saw each other frequently. But at any rate, outwardly their acquaintanceship ripened slowly, and when, in 1852, the Arundells returned to England, they parted merely as friends.
But it was a sorry day for Isabel, this day of parting. Her ideal, the man of her dreams, had taken shape. She had seen him, she had spoken to him, and now, without one word of hope or consolation, she was to leave him. It was very hard. She would have sacrificed anything to Burton. She recognised him as her affinity. And she could no more suppress her love for him than she could suppress her nature.
As the ship ploughed its way across the Channel, therefore, she saw her happiness fading into the horizon behind her. She might never meet Burton again. It was a terrible thought. How could she hope now to find pleasure in London and idle gaiety? And into her diary she poured forth all the anguish of her heart.
"Richard may be a delusion of my brain," she wrote. " But how dull is reality! What a curse is a heart! With all to make me happy, I pine and hanker for him, my other half, to fill this void, for I feel as if I were not complete. Is it wrong to want someone to love more than one's father and mother one on whom to lavish one's best feelings? ... I cannot marry any of the insignificant beings around me. Where are those men who inspired the gr an de s passions of bygone days ? Is Richard the last of them ? Even so, is he for me? ... I could not live like a vegetable in the country . . . nor marry a country squire, nor a doctor, nor Sir Richard Burton, the famous soldier, a lawyer (I hear the parchment crackle now), nor a parson, nor a clerk in a London office. God help me! A dry crust, privations, pain, danger for him I love would be better. Let me go with the husband of my choice to battle, nurse him in his tent, follow him under the fire of ten thousand muskets. . . ."
But, poor girl, for the present she was forced to stifle these the hopes of her life, and, instead, to receive graciously the attentions of London dandies, to dance with them, to drink tea with their mothers, to talk scandal with their sisters. Oh, how she hated it! And for four long years she endured this life.
Burton, meanwhile, apparently ignorant of her devotion, was making his immortal pilgrimage to Mecca. Isabel sought eagerly for news of him, and chronicled his every movement in her diary. She was very proud of him. His name was on everybody's lips. She longed to welcome him on his return.
But he did not return. From Egypt he went to India, and from India to Somaliland. " A deadly expedition or a most dangerous one," wrote Isabel; "and I am full of sad forebodings."
And her forebodings were fulfilled. Burton was badly wounded and forced to return to England. But he did not stay long. Isabel did not even see him. In 1854, as soon as he had recovered, he set out for the Crimea. There he joined General Beatson's staff, and organised the irregular cavalry, the famous Bashi-bazouks.
Isabel, too, longed to be at the seat of war.
"It has been a terrible winter in the Crimea," she wrote in her diary. "I have given up reading the 'Times,' it makes me so miserable, and one is so impotent. I have made three struggles to be allowed to join Florence Nightingale...I have written again and again...but the superintendent has answered me that I am too young and inexperienced, and will not do."
In 1855 Sebastopol fell. Then Burton returned to England. Isabel was wild with excitement. But days passed into weeks, and weeks into months, and still she did not see or hear from him. Had he forgotten her? Fear was added to her other sorrows. She knew that he was busy organising an expedition to Central Africa. But did this explain his silence? Had he no thoughts for her? Was her love in vain?
In the following June, however, among the crowd at Ascot Races, she saw Hagar Burton. Perhaps this was an omen. The gipsy recognised her immediately.
"Are you Daisy Burton yet ? " was her first question.
"Would to God I were ! " replied Isabel.
"Patience : it is just coming," said the gipsy ; and then she was thrust from the carriage.
And two months later it came.
"One fine day in August I was walking in the Botanical Gardens with my sister." The words are Lady Burton's own. " Richard was there. We immediately stopped and shook hands...He asked me if I came to the Gardens often. I said, ' Oh, yes; we come and read and study here from eleven till one, because it is so much nicer than studying in the hot room at this season.' ' That is quite right ! ' he said...We were in the Gardens about an hour ; and when I had to leave he gave me a peculiar look, as he did at Boulogne. I hardly looked at him, yet I felt it, and had to turn away. " Next morning we went to the Botanical Gardens again. When we got there he was there, too, alone, composing some poetry. . . . . About the third day his manner gradually altered towards me ; we had begun to know each other, and what might have been an ideal love before was now a reality. This went on for a fortnight. I trod on air.
"At the end of a fortnight he stole his arm round my waist, and laid his cheek against mine, and asked me, ' Could you do anything so sickly as to give up civilisation ? And if I can get the Consulate of Damascus, will you marry me, and go and live there ? . Do not give me an answer now . you must think it over.' I was long silent with emotion. ... At last I found my voice, and said, ' I do not want to think it over I have been thinking it for six years, ever since I first saw you at Boulogne. I have prayed for you every morning and night ; I have followed your career minutely ; I have read every word you ever wrote, and I would rather have a crust and a tent with you than be queen of all the world ; and so I say now, Yes ! Yes ! Yes ! '
' Your people will not give you to me,' " Burton said at length.
' I know that,' replied Isabel ; ' but I belong to myself I give myself away! ' Famous quotes
' That is right,' he answered ; ' be firm, and so shall I ! ' '
But, in spite of this, they decided for the present to keep their love a secret. Opposition to the marriage was inevitable.
Burton was merely an interesting genius whom everybody liked, but whom nobody understood. He had neither means nor position ; his sole asset was a tremendous and fascinating personality. Would any mother dare to entrust her daughter to the care of such a man?
Nothing, therefore, was to be gained by announcing the engagement until Burton should return from his expedition to Central Africa, three, possibly four, years hence. Indeed, by doing so, they would only mar the few weeks of happiness still before them, and would make life still more difficult for Isabel during her lover's absence.
Burton was to leave England on October 5, and he arranged to meet Isabel secretly on the 4th, to say " good-bye " to her. On the afternoon of the 3rd he called formally to bid the Arundells adieu. They asked him to join their party at the theatre that evening. He thanked them, and said that he would try, but that he was very busy, and might possibly be detained. Then he left. And Isabel did not see him again for three long years.
She had said " good-bye " to him that afternoon quite casually, even gaily, and had waved to him from the balcony as he passed down the street. On the morrow she would see him, at any rate. A secret place of meeting had been arranged already, and until then she would banish from her mind the awful thought of separation. The present was sweet. She tried not to think of the future. Besides, she would meet him again that evening. She was convinced that she would. When talking to her mother, Burton had been merely playing his part, striving to conceal his eagerness.
"I went to the theatre that evening," she wrote, "quite happy, and expected him. At 10.30 I thought I saw him at the other side of the house, looking into our box. I smiled, and made a sign for him to come. I then ceased to see him; the minutes passed, and he did not come. Something cold struck my heart, I felt I should not see him again...I passed a feverish, restless night. I could not sleep, I felt that I could not wait till morning I must see him. At last I dozed, and started up, but I touched nothing, yet dreamt that I could feel his arms around me. I understood him, and he said. ' I am going now, my poor girl. My time is up, and have gone, but I will come again I shall be back in less than three years. I am your Destiny.'
"He pointed to the clock, and it was two. He held up a letter, looked at me long with those gipsy eyes of his, put the letter down on the table, and said in the same way, ' That is for your sister not for you.' ...I saw him no more.
More Than a CoincidenceEdit
"I sprang out of bed to the door into the passage (there was nothing), and thence I went to the room of one of my brothers, in whom I confided. . . . ' Richard is gone to Africa,' I said, ' and I shall not see him for three years.' ' Nonsense,' he replied, ' you have only a nightmare. . . .'
"I sat all night in my brother's armchair ; and at eight o'clock in the morning when the post came in there was a letter for my sister Blanche, enclosing one for me. Richard had found it too painful to part from me, and thought we should suffer less that way ; he begged her to break it to me gently."
Burton had left his lodgings in London at 10.30 on the previous evening. At 2 a.m. he had sailed from Southampton!
To be continued.
THE cynic regards marriage merely as a lottery. The idea of predestination he waives scornfully aside. And, it may be, he is justified. But did not the former part of this Romance the story of Sir Richard Burton's courtship make him think that possibly his judgment was at fault.
No? Then let him read this, the sequel, for the story of Sir Richard's marriage, if not more strange, is surely more convincing.
In August, 1856, he asked Isabel Arundell to marry him. On October 3 he sailed from Southampton, barely two months after that summer morning when, in the Botanical Gardens, she had gazed into his gipsy eyes and hailed him as her destiny and her ideal.
His goal was Central Africa, his object to explore an unknown land and find the sources of the Nile. It was a perilous undertaking. And three, perhaps even four, years must pass before he could hope again to see the shore of England. In the meanwhile the news of his engagement must be kept a secret. On this point both he and Isabel agreed.
But for the woman the task of waiting was harder than for the man. He was going to a life of activity, danger, and adventure. But she she had nought to do save think, and fret and fear. " He is gone," she told her diary in it alone could she confide "but had I the chance now, I would give years of my life to hear that dear voice again, with all its devilry." But, not only the voice, even the pen was dumb. News per-force was scant and rare. Burton's road lay through wild parts ; he had but few facilities for posting. This Isabel knew. . But, none the less, she listened eagerly for every post, and time could not cure her of the sickening sense of disappointment which she felt when nothing came.
But courage was the birthright of an Arundell. And, in some degree, at any rate, the horoscope cast in the days of her childhood had prepared her for this sorrow. To the world, therefore, she showed a brave face. Love and its sorrow were her own secrets.
In August, 1857, she set out, with Blanche, her married sister, on a prolonged tour through Europe. This broke the weary monotony of waiting. The wandering instinct was strong within her. She enjoyed every moment of her travels. They wanted but one thing to make her happiness complete only Richard. His absence was the chord upon which, in her diary, she harped incessantly. "I, am told there is no land between us and Tunis," she wrote at Nice "three hundred miles and that when the sirocco comes the sand from the great desert blows across the sea on to our windows. We have an African tree in our garden. And Richard is in Africa."
Indeed, accompanied by Speke, he was fighting his way through territories which white man had never seen before. It was a wonderful achievement, this journey through Central Africa, and Burton's genius inspired it. But he did not reap the credit; this is a way with the world. The facts of the case are controversial. They cannot be stated here. But this truth remains when Burton returned to England in '59, he found Speke, who had returned twelve days before him, the hero of the hour, and himself an object of suspicion and of scorn. He had expected honour, but found only shame. He was notoriously unlucky.
But had he not told Isabel to expect him in the June of '58? Yes and she had spent an awful year of waiting, for her lover had not contradicted this report. Never a line did she receive from him. He must be dead, she thought. Hope vanished from her heart, and she despaired. During Lent she retired to a retreat in the convent of Norwich. Unless she could marry Burton she would become a nun. She had sworn this long ago. She decided, therefore, now to prepare herself. Perhaps, too, she might find consolation.
At Easter she returned to London; there she heard news of Speke. But Burton, so rumour said, was not coming back; he had decided to stay indefinitely in Zanzibar. At least he was alive; that was something. But why was he not coming back? What could it mean? Isabel was beside herself.
Then came a letter. It was long overdue, but characteristic of the man, only a few lines of verse :
That brow which rose before my sight,
As on the palmers' holy shrine ;
Those eyes my life was in their light ;
Those lips my sacramental wine;
That voice whose flow was wont to seem
The music of an exile's dream.
So he still cared. Her heart was flooded again with hope and happiness.
On May 22 she happened to call upon a friend. The mistress of the house was not at home, but, said the maid, was expected to be in to tea; would Miss Arundell wait? "Yes," she replied. And was shown into the drawing-room.
A few minutes later the door-bell rang again. Another visitor a man. He, too, was asked to wait. Isabel seemed to recognise his voice. " I want Miss Arundell's address," it said. Isabel's mind reeled, and she stood in the middle of the room, dumb and motionless. Then the door opened, and Richard entered.
"For an instant we both stood dazed," she wrote. "I felt so intensely that I fancied he must hear my heart beat, and see how every nerve was overtaxed. We rushed into each other's arms. I cannot attempt to describe the joy of that moment. He had landed the day before, and had come to London, and had called here to know where I was living, where to find me...We forgot all about my hostess and her tea. We went downstairs, and Richard called a cab, and he put me in and told the man to drive about anywhere. "
But he was a very different-looking man, this Richard, from the Burton whom Isabel had known of old. "He had had twenty-one attacks of fever, had been partially paralysed and partially blind. He was a mere skeleton, with brown-yellow skin hanging in bags, his eyes protruding, and his lips drawn away from his teeth...He was sadly altered ; his youth, health, spirits, and beauty were all gone for the time."
But one thing he had not lost a woman's loyalty, which nothing could shake. "Never did I feel the strength of my love," she wrote, "as then. He returned poorer, and dispirited by official rows and every species of annoyance; but he was still had he been ever so unsuccessful, and had every man's hand against him my earthly god and king, and I could have knelt at his feet and worshipped him. ... I used to like to sit and look at him, and think, "You are mine, and there is no man on earth the least like you."
Burton now proceeded formally to seek her hand in marriage. And it was a mere form; he knew what the result would be. Nor was he wrong in his surmise. Mrs. Arundell opposed his suit determinedly. This was inevitable. And in after years even Isabel admitted that her hostility was justified.
In the first place, she belonged to a staunchly Roman Catholic family. It was only natural, therefore, that her mother should wish her to marry a man who shared that faith. But Mrs. Arundell was not so bigoted as to make religion an obstacle to happiness. Had Burton been a Protestant, had he even conformed to any Church, she would have welcomed him as a son-in-law. She liked him; he interested her. But, she maintained, to allow Isabel to marry a man who had no religion, who was frankly an agnostic, would not merely be wrong but criminal. There could be but one result from such a union tragedy. And that at all cost must be prevented. Besides, she, too, had heard vague rumours; they troubled her. Burton might be a fascinating man and clever he was; she did not attempt to deny it but would he make a good husband? She was far from being certain.
Isabel, moreover, had lived all her life in comfort, if not in luxury. What could Burton offer her ? He had no private means, and neither the War Office nor the Government regarded him with favour. Apparently he had no prospects for the future. This was a serious consideration.
In opposing the marriage, therefore, surely she was acting merely as a good mother should. But she failed to see how truly, during those years of waiting, Richard and Isabel had proved their love. She failed to see that their two minds were in perfect harmony. Besides, neither of them were children. Indeed, Richard was more than forty, Isabel nearly thirty years of age. Surely they were old enough to choose for themselves.
This was Burton's contention. But Isabel did not know what to say. She adored her mother, and hated the idea of acting contrary to her wishes. And thus, while she wavered between love and duty, another lingering year elapsed.
To Burton this state of affairs proved she had not been in the house long, intolerable. His was not a sympathetic however, before she happened to pick up
nature. And, as for delay or interference, he could brook neither. Isabel must make up her mind one way or the other. Accordingly, in April, 1860, he wrote to her. He was going away, he said, on a visit to Salt Lake City. He would be absent for nine months, and on his return she must decide immediately between her mother and himself.
He did not wait, or even ask, for an answer. Without another word, he sailed. But Isabel this was more than she could bear. Her nerves had long been overtaxed, and now, for the first time in her life, she broke down beneath the weight of her sorrows. For several weeks she lay ill, very ill. But then she rallied bravely. No woman ever possessed more indomitable pluck. And with convalescence came resolve.
Yes Richard was her destiny. She would marry him as soon as he returned; she would hesitate no longer.
But she was to be a poor man's wife. The husband of her choice was a true adventurer. His castle was a tent, his park an illimitable desert. His wife, therefore, must not allow herself to be a hindrance to him. She must be a true helpmate ; she must fit herself to live his life. This
a copy of the " Times," which had just arrived. She glanced at the paper casually, and there, to her astonishment, saw a paragraph which announced that Captain Burton had returned that morning from America.
" I was unable," she wrote, " except by great resolution, to continue what 1 was doing. I soon retired to my room, and sat up all night, packing, and conjecturing how I should get away all my numerous plans tending to a ' bolt ' next morning should I get an affectionate letter from Richard."
She received two letters, and, within twelve hours, contrived also to receive a wire summoning her to London on important business. There Burton met her. His manner was severe and firm. " Now you must make up your mind," he said, " . . . if you choose me, we marry and I stay ; if not, I go back to India, or on other explora- tions, and I return no more. Is your answer ready?"
"Quite," Isabel answered. " I marry you this day three weeks, let who will say nay."
But of this date Burton did not approve. Wednesday the 23rd and Friday the 13th, he said, were their unlucky days. The wedding must take place on Until Tuesday, January
Isabel Saw Very " The memory of her husband was always with Lady Burton. .
Clearly And She d eatn claimed her, her sole ambition was to reveal him to the world as the true, 22 And SO it was
Was glad. At last honourable, and nobleman whom *e had known and loved " arran g e d.
Isabel went to
Photo, W. S. Stuart
she had found a
purpose to achieve. Accordingly, on the plea that she needed a change of air, she retired quietly to the country, there to learn the rudiments of farming, and how to manage a house without the aid of servants. Then she returned to London, and took fencing lessons.
" Why ? " a friend asked her.
" To defend Richard when he and I are attacked in the wilderness together," she replied.
These days of preparation were happy days for Isabel. As Hagar, the gipsy, had prophesied, she was moving now towards her polar star, and was looking neither to right nor left. At Christmas she went to Yorkshire to visit relatives, Sir Clifford and Lady Constable at Burton Constable. There she decided to await Richard's coming.
acquaint her parents with this decision. "I consent with all my heart," the father said, " if your mother consents." And with this Isabel's brothers and sisters agreed, but Mrs. Arundell was obdurate ; she refused to yield an inch.
Isabel, therefore, consulted Cardinal Wise- man, and laid all the facts of the case before him. He listened sympathetically, and, when she had finished her story, told her to leave the matter in his hands. Then he sent for Burton, and questioned him closely. " Practise her religion, indeed ! " said the latter, undaunted by the cross-examination. " I should rather think she shall. A man without a religion may be excused, but a woman without a religion is not the woman fcr me."
This answer amused the Cardinal, but it also convinced him that Burton was, at least, sincere. He offered, therefore, himself to perform the marriage ceremony, and undertook to procure from Rome a special dispensation.
On the following day the family met to devise some course of action. It was obviously imperative that, at the time, Mrs. Arundell should hear nothing of the wedding. Accordingly, it was deemed best that Isabel should be married from the house of friends, and that friends only should attend the ceremony. Ostensibly, therefore, she made preparations to pay a visit in the country.
"At nine o'clock on Tuesday, January 22, 1861," she wrote, " my cab was at the door, with my box on it. I had to go and wish my father and mother good-bye before leaving. I went downstairs with a beating heart. ... 1 was so nervous, I could scarcely stand. ... I then ran downstairs, and quickly got into the cab, and drove to the house .... where I changed my clothes, and . . . drove to the Bavarian Catholic Church, Warwick Street. When assembled, we were altogether a party of eight. ... As the 10.30 Mass was about to begin we were called into the sacristy, and we found that the Cardinal, in the night, had been seized with an acute attack of illness . . . and had deputed Dr. Hearne, his vicar-general, to be his proxy.
" After the ceremony was over we went back to the house of our friends, Dr. Bird and his sister Alice . . . where we had our wedding-breakfast. . . . We then went to Richard's bachelor lodgings, where he had a bedroom, dressing-room, and sitting-room ; and we had a very few pounds to bless ourselves with, but we were as happy as it is given to any mortals out of heaven to be."
Their joint income was only ^350 a year, but they were utterly contented, and, owing to Isabel's tact and irresistible influence, immediately they were able to assume a prominent position in society. Isabel was determined to prevent Burton's brilliance from rusting in obscurity. And she succeeded admirably. The Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, gave a dinner-party specially to honour the newly wedded couple. And even Queen Victoria, contrary to all precedents, allowed the bride of a runaway marriage to be presented to her at Court.
Three months after her marriage, moreover, Isabel secured for her husband official recognition. It was only a humble appointment which the Government offered him, it is true, the consulate of Fernando Po, a deadly spot on the West Coast of Africa. No white woman could live in such a place. But, none the less, Burton accepted the offer, and went out alone. Isabel allowed him no alternative. It was her wish, she declared, to be a help to him, not a handicap. Besides, she maintained, to climb the official ladder, it was necessary to begin on the lowest rung.
For the sake of his career, therefore, she cheerfully sacrificed immediate happiness. Only to herself did she admit the bitterness of her disappointment. " One's husband in a place where I am not allowed to go, and I living with my mother like a girl," she wrote in her diary. " I am neither maid nor wife nor widow." It was intolerable. But one thing was very clear. Another position must be found for Burton. And she found it. Indeed, she gave Lord Russell, the Foreign Secretary, no peace, until at last, in desperation, he offered to Burton a consulate in Brazil.
There Isabel could join him. And henceforth she was never away from him for long. Wherever he went, there was she working with him or working for him. And she did for him what he could never have done for himself ; she forced England to appreciate his greatness. " You will have seen from the papers," she wrote to a friend in 1886, that the Conservatives on going out made Dick Sir Richard Burton, K.C.M.G....The Queen's recognition of Dick's forty-four years of service was sweetly done at last, sent for our silver wedding, and she told a friend of mine that she was pleased to confer something which would include both husband and wife."
There is a splendid tone of triumph in this letter. Success had been slow in coming, and now, well-deserved though it was, it came almost too late. Even Burton's iron constitution had been shattered, and although he lingered on until 1890, his health was failing fast. He died on the morning of October 20. " By the clasp of the hand, and a little trickle of blood running under the finger," wrote Isabel, " 1 judged that there was a little life until seven, and then 1 knew that...I was alone and desolate for ever."
But his memory was always with her. And henceforth, until death claimed her, too, her sole ambition was to reveal Burton to the world as the true, honourable, and noble man whom she had known and loved. During his lifetime he had been misunderstood and cruelly misjudged. There were many stains upon his memory. These must be removed. Certainly more must not be added, and it was for this reason that his wife destroyed the pages of "The Scented Garden," his last unpublished manuscript. Many might read the book, but only a very few would appreciate it or understand. Therefore she burned it, page by page, and robbed the world of a masterpiece of literature. A publisher offered her ^6,000 for the manuscript before he had ever seen it. And 6,000 meant much to Lady Burton. She had been left very scantily provided for. But she refused the offer. In her eyes there was something more precious than fame or wealth, and that something was her husband's memory his memory and his good name.