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“Celestial Persuasion” ~an Argentine historical fiction~ commemorates Jose de San Martin

To commemorate Argentina’s celebration of the May Revolution (el 25 de Mayo), I’m sharing a few images and various snippets from Celestial Persuasion that highlight Jose de San Martin~ Liberator of South America. I hope you enjoy the post, and as my compatriots say, “Viva la Patria!”

Excerpt ***

“Do allow me the honor, your lordship, to further expound on the matter,” said San Martín, his speech colored with a Spanish flair. “Madam, many of my companions were born in the Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata. At a very young age I was sent to Spain to complete my education and have pursued a military career as my father wished. I met Lord Fife and several other men of his acquaintance shortly after being discharged from duty. They spoke to me of a movement growing in my native land, of the struggle to gain independence from the mother country. With the earl’s aid and that of his friend, Sir Charles Stuart, I have come to England to meet other South American-born patriots who wish to free themselves from the Spanish crown and form individual republics.”

“Miss Isaacs, this man, who stands so humbly before you, was named an Adjunct General before his honorable discharge,” Lord Fife declared. “You must understand, San Martín is a South American by birth, a freedom fighter by instinct, and a republican by conviction.”

You will be what you must be, or else you will be nothing.”

Jose de San Martin

Excerpt ***

Lord Fife returned to his home, at length, with Mr. San Martín in his company. After a brief conference with Pearson, the earl was directed to his library and could not contain his amusement at the scene unfolding there. Mr. Gabay stood at the head of the desk, holding down a section of a large map, while Abigail immobilized the opposite corners. Mrs. Frankel, peering through a quizzing glass, leaned over the parchment; and, using an ornamental pen knife as a guide, delineated a path from England to the Southern Hemisphere.

“What have we here?” the earl quizzed. “Are we planning to invade at dawn?”

After the pleasantries and salutations had been completed, Abigail approached her host. “Pray forgive our intrusion into your sanctuary, my lord. I discovered this rather extraordinary atlas yesterday afternoon. I could speak of nothing else as we dined this evening; and as Mrs. Frankel showed an interest in studying its contents, I suggested we take a second look.”

“Indeed? May I ask why?”

Abigail raised her chin with not a little pride. “I have made my decision, my lord. I am determined to accept the proposal that has been put before me. I would, however, ask that Mrs. Frankel be permitted to accompany me on this adventure. We are as much as family as any blood relation, and I should like it of all things.”

“By all means. The arrangements will be made as you prescribe. I congratulate you on your resolve, Miss Isaacs.”

“May I impose further on your generosity, your lordship? May I count on your continued assistance whilst we prepare for such a monumental undertaking? Having no previous experience in the matter of travel or emigration, nor any connections in the society which I am about to enter, your guidance would be most welcome.”

“His lordship has graciously offered to supply me with letters of introduction,” said Mr. San Martín. “I have been away from home for many years and will need to move in certain circles if I wish to be of any use. Lord Fife will do no less on your behalf, of that I am certain.”

“Rest assured, madam. I will make all the necessary arrangements, and of course, Mr. Gabay and Mr. San Martín will escort you on your voyage. You needn’t fear on that score,” replied Lord Fife. Delighted and relieved with the young lady’s decision, he would have granted her anything in order to keep his word to Jonathan Isaacs.


Mr. San Martín spotted Abigail and Mrs. Frankel as they made their way to disembark. Executing a crisp bow, he reached for Abigail’s gloved hand and brought it to his lips. “I fear I have been remiss in my duties, Miss Isaacs. Pray forgive my inattentiveness throughout the voyage, but I have been much engaged with matters of La Logia.”

“I understand completely, sir,” replied Abigail. “I wish you great success and hope that we meet again.”

“Of that, there can be no doubt, madam. The society of Buenos Aires is such that our paths will indubitably cross. Ah—good,” he said, upon espying Mr. Gabay’s person looming above the other passengers. “Your escort arrives.”

Abigail peered over her shoulder and saw the gentleman approaching. She had no wish to be escorted by Mr. Gabay; nonetheless, she would have to concede. It would not be reasonable, nor proper, for two women alone to roam about the foreign city.

The gentleman came up to the party and bowed his greeting; but before San Martín made mention of his plan, Mr. Gabay had his arrangements at the ready. “Miss Isaacs, when we were last at port, I took the liberty of dispatching a letter to your new staff at Casa Encantador. The majordomo, Bendoza, and your housekeeper, Señora Tavares, will be awaiting your arrival. I anticipate meeting your man on the docks once we have our papers reviewed and certified.”

Pursing her lips, Abigail allowed herself a moment to recognize the benefits to this design. She would have preferred to have been consulted, but there was no arguing the point at this time. It was very likely his lordship’s doing after all.

“Excellent,” said Mr. San Martín. “That will allow for Miss Isaacs to settle in to her new lodgings while you and I meet with the officials of the Triumvirate.”

Abigail nodded her acquiescence and watched as Mr. Gabay forged ahead of the line. Clapping his hand upon Mr. Alvera’s shoulder, he joined his friend and his wife as they left the ship. While Mrs. Frankel fretted about being lowered onto the awaiting boat, Abigail became aware of a group of men waiting upon the docks. They appeared eager to set upon the arriving passengers. Bringing a well-used spyglass to her eye, Abigail was able to observe that they held writing instruments and were diligently scribbling in their books.

When Mr. San Martín set foot on the dock, several of the men let out a cheer of welcome. The fanfare came as a bit of surprise, for Abigail had understood that the gentleman had been away from these shores for the vast majority of his life. She failed to take into account that San Martín’s heroics had inspired much enthusiasm in the hearts of the criollos, and his arrival merited the spirited reception.

More noise occurs from a single man shouting than a hundred thousand who remain silent.”

Jose de San Martin

Excerpt ***

Abigail followed Mr. Thompson’s gaze, as did his wife. Mr. San Martín appeared to be deep in conversation with another guest. This alone did not warrant much surprise; however, behind the elder gentleman sat a young lady of fourteen or fifteen. Abigail recognized the look in the girl’s eyes. She was besotted.

Mrs. Thompson did not scruple to show her amusement. “Come my friend.” She arose and looped her arm through Abigail’s. “It is time you met the others,” said she and they walked across to the other side of the room.

Feeling quite out of place, but wishing to complete her duties as duenna, Mrs. Frankel silently followed the pair. The threesome stopped short as they approached a grand lady who peered at them from over her fluttering fan.

“Toma,” said Mariquita, “if you are warm, why do you sit by the fire?”

“It is not the fire that has my blood boiling!” answered the lady, glaring at her daughter.

“Do calm yourself and allow me to introduce my new friend. Miss Isaacs has recently arrived from England.”

The woman bowed her head in recognition as Abigail and Mrs. Frankel curtsied.

“This is Señora Tomasa Francisca de Escalada,” the hostess supplied, “but I just call her Toma.”

You may call me Señora Escalada,” the lady rejoined, looking pointedly at the newcomer. “Really, Mariquita! Though we are far from genteel society, we need not lose all sense of decorum.”

“It is my pleasure to meet you, Señora Escalada,” Abigail carefully replied. “May I introduce my companion and dear friend, Mrs. Frankel?”

The lady made a small gesture, but said no more on the subject. Her mind, and her keen eyes, were focused elsewhere. “Look at him. What is Antonio thinking, allowing María to be in such close proximity to a stranger?”

“Mr. San Martín is a guest in my home; and I can assure you, María is quite safe.”

Señora Escalada only plied her abanico with greater vigor. “Yes, but who is he to be introduced to my daughter?”

“Let me explain to Abigail, poor dear, for she is new to our society and does not realize her good fortune in sharing her tea with such a grand dame!” said Mariquita, laughing. “That young lady is María de los Remedios. Her father, Antonio José Escalada, is a prosperous merchant and was also Chancellor of the Royal Audience. The girl has only known the best of families, which is why her poor mama is having a fit of the vapors.”

Abigail nodded and said no more. What could she say? What would Señora Escalada think of her own pedigree? Would the lady be offended if she knew she was taking tea with the daughter of an insignificant country physician? Abigail’s thoughts were interrupted by her hostess’s conversation.

“San Martín has been well received by the members of the First Triumvirate,” said Mariquita. “The lieutenant-colonel’s experience in fighting against Napoleon’s armies will be of great benefit to our cause, or so I am told.”

“But who are his people? He is no peninsular, to be sure! And you forget, my dear. We have just celebrated María’s fiesta de quinceañera. That officer must be at least twenty years her senior!”

Excerpt ***

“It seems you are not without admirers, my dear. Mr. Gabay came round to look after my comfort; but to my mind, he only remained by my side to better observe you. I daresay he was none too pleased that the lieutenant claimed the first dance. In fact, I believe the good man was envious.”

“Mr. Gabay, who would laugh and torment me at my every turn, envious? Not he!”

“Naturally, you have much in common with the lieutenant…”

“Apparently not enough.” She laughed. “Frankie dear, Lieutenant Kaunitz is to be married. To Miss Mathilda Kendall.”

“Never say so! How did this come about?”

“It seems they were much together on the George Canning.”

Mrs. Frankel brought her cup to her lips but thought the better of it, and set it down once more. “But whatever do they have in common?”

“It seems the gentleman read to her whilst she was convalescing. I suppose Miss Mathilda’s penchant for flora and fauna increased exponentially with each tutorial.”

“Then it would appear the alteration from teacher to suitor was complete. Pray what alteration must Raphael undergo to be viewed as a suitor?”

Raphael, is it?” Abigail sighed. “I ought to be ashamed of you, Frankie, but I will forgive this contravention of propriety as I believe you are reminded of another gentleman of our acquaintance. Someone whom we all admired and came to regret.”

“I cannot know of whom you speak, my dear.”

“Come now. You know very well I speak of Mr. Bloom. Aside from the physical differences between the two gentlemen, I fear, they are one and the same.”

“Your Mr. Bloom is the handsomest of men to be sure.”

“Please Frankie, lower your voice. I would not wish someone to overhear such nonsense. My Mr. Bloom indeed.”

Mrs. Frankel did not expand on her commentary and Abigail was entirely disinclined to pursue the matter. Mr. Gabay, who had just then been approaching their têtê-a-têtê with refreshments in hand, and did in fact overhear the comment, retreated undetected as the astonished assemblage observed Mr. San Martín lead a blushing María de los Remedios onto the dance floor.

“There now,” said Abigail. “If you must indulge your romantic sensibilities, pray turn your attention to that young couple. Judging by the reaction of the general assembly, theirs will be the stuff worthy of one of your novels.”

Jose de San Martin and Remedios de Escalada

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