A Mysterious Personage
FROM the first, our country has been a refuge, not only for kings and princes and statesmen and warriors, but for all sorts of adventurers and impostors. Following hard after Kosciuszko, General Charles Lee, Baron Steuben, Baron de Kalb, Lord Stirling, and Lafayette, we had Talleyrand, Louis Philippe, and Jerome Bonaparte, and Joseph, king of Spain ; and, but for a sudden change of wind, might have had Napoleon the Great himself — after the affair of Waterloo. We have always been, and must continue to be, overrun with pretenders, mountebanks, blood relations of Charles Fox, Lord Byron, and the Guelphs, who are always in the market.
Never, at any time, however, have we had a more puzzling or mysterious visitant than Major-General Bratish — Baron Fratelin — Count Eliovich. I knew him well, — better, I believe, than others who had known him longer, but under less trying circumstances. I stood by him through thick and thin. I fought his battles for a long while, and almost always single-handed, against a cloud of enemies, at a time when he appeared to be hunted for his life by a band of conspirators, and was undoubtedly beset by eavesdroppers and spies at every turn.
All at once, after a dazzling career in the political and literary world beyond seas, continuing for many years, and followed by a course here which kept him always beiore the public, and for something more than two years made it almost a distinction for anybody to be acquainted with him, this General Bratish — Count Eliovich found himself an outcast, helpless and hopeless, obliged to live from hand to mouth.
That he was greatly belied, I had reason to know. That he was cruelly misunderstood, and wickedly misrepresented by the whole newspaper press of our country, I had reason to believe, upon evidence not to be questioned ; but we are anticipating.
One day, in the summer or fall of 1839, Colonel Bouchette of Quebec, son of the late Surveyor-General of Canada, brought a stranger to see me, whom he introduced as Major-General Bratish, late in the service of her Catholic Majesty, the Queen of Spain, and associate of General De Lacy Evans, of the Auxiliary Legion. They were both (Bouchette and Bratish) living in Portland at the time, and occupied ,chambers in the same building; and I inferred from what passed in this or in a subsequent interview that the Colonel had known the General in Quebec or Montreal, about the time of the outbreak there in which they were implicated.
The object they had in view, on their first visit, was to open a way for General Bratish to lecture in Portland, upon some one — or more — of many subjects, — on Greece, Hungary, Poland, the war in Spain, South America, our own Revolutionary War, modern languages, or matters and things in general.
The appearance and deportment of the gentleman were much in his favor. He seemed both frank and fearless, with a mixture of modesty and selfreliance quite captivating. He looked to be about five-and-thirty, according to my present recollection, stood five feet nine or ten, with a broad chest and good figure. He had not much of military bearing, — certainly not more than we see in General Grant,—and on the whole bore the appearance of a young, handsome, healthy, well-bred Englishman, accustomed to good society. He was neither talkative nor reserved, but natural and free ; speaking our language with uncommon propriety, French and German still better, and Italian like a native, and often expressing himself with singular strength and picturesqueness, — reminding me of the Italian poet and critic, Ugo Foscolo, — whom I saw at the time he was furnishing the papers translated by Mrs. Sarah Austin for the Edinburgh Review.
Arrangements were soon made for a first appearance; and the result was all that could have been hoped for, and much more than could reasonably have been expected. His manner was dignified, unpretending, and earnest; and he had a sort of unstudied natural eloquence, quite wonderful in a foreigner, unacquainted with our idioms and unaccustomed to platform speaking. Whatever might be the subject, he always talked with an air of modest truthfulness, and gave the most dramatic and startling narratives, like an eyewitness on the stand, testifying under oath. Never shall I forget Warsaw, nor the battle of Navarino, as rapidly sketched by him in a sort of parenthesis, while he was lecturing upon a very different subject ; he wanted an illustration, and both of these pictures flashed suddenly out upon us. The other lectures that followed his first seemed, up to the very last, to grow better and better, until we had faith, not only in his representations, but in the man himself.
Instead of shunning, he rather invited inquiry ; and at an interview with the late Mr. Edward Preble, son of the Commodore, when that gentleman was questioning him about Tripoli, and was preparing to show him the very charts used by the Commodore, the General refused to look at them, and instantly drew a sketch of the harbor, with the castles, batteries, and fortifications, and gave the soundings and approaches ; and all these, upon a careful examination, proved to be correct in every particular, according to the testimony of Mr. Preble himself.
About this time, in consequence of the favorable notices that appeared in our Portland papers, the Philadelphia Ledger, the Saturday Courier, and some other journals of that city, opened upon him in full cry, followed by the American press generally; the Courier declaring that he had taken leg bail and escaped from Canada,—that he had run away from Rochester, after obtaining five hundred dollars from Henry Mcllvaine, Esq., of the Philadelphia bar, in the shape of fees for constituting that gentleman “ Consul-General of Greece ”! By others he was charged with being a tin-pedler, a horse-thief, and a leechdoctor, who had assumed the title of Count long after his arrival in this country. Among many anonymous letters —letters addressed to strangers in Portland— came one from Henry Mcllvaine himself, saying : “ I see by the Portland papers, that a man calling himself sometimes General Bratish, at others General Eliovich, Count Eliovich, Baron Fratelin and Walbeck, and claiming to have been a general in the Polish, Spanish, Mexican, and other armies, is now in your town ; and I should suppose, from the papers who have noticed him, imposing upon respectable people. Having seen something of this person, and been myself a victim, I have felt it due to my friends in Portland to put them on their guard. He is the son of a merchant in Trieste, driven from his home and his friends in consequence of his crimes. His pretension to any of the titles he claims is altogether without foundation. After exhausting Europe, he has within a few years turned his talents to good account in our country. He made his appearance here about two years ago as Consul-General and Envoy from Greece, in which capacity he was very free with his commissions of viceconsulships in New York and Philadelphia. He was indicted here for forgery, — convicted,, — obtained a new trial by the false oaths of his associates, some of whom are now in the state prison (one for horse-stealing), and gave bail for his appearance at the next term. The pretence for a new trial was the absence of a witness who never existed,, but who was expected to prove his innocence. Before the next term, the Consul-General took wing, leaving his bail, a simple Frenchman, to pay the forfeit. It would be impossible for me to give anything like a history of his crimes in a letter. Suffice it to say that he is a notorious swindler, the most unblushing and inexhaustible liar and the most finished rascal I ever saw.”
If this were true, how happened it that the notorious swindler, the horsethief, the convicted forger, and the escaped convict was still at large, — and not only at large, but always before the public, and always without a change of name ? Why was he not surrendered by his bail ? Why not followed by a bench warrant, or a requisition from the Governor of Pennsylvania ? Of course, the story could not be true, as told by Mr. Mcllvaine. It, was too absurd on the face of it.
But was any part of the story true ? and, if so, how much ? Having been frequently imposed upon, both at home and abroad, by adventurers and pretenders, I determined to go to the bottom of this case before I committed myself, and I must say that, for a while, the stories told by General Bratish, and the explanations he gave, seemed to me still more absurd and preposterous.
According to his story —to give one example out of a score — he had been obliged to apply for the benefit of the Insolvent Act, in Philadelphia, owing to losses he had sustained by lending money to distressed compatriots, and eleemosynary outcasts, and had been opposed in the Court of Insolvency by Colonel John Stille, Jr. and Mr. Henry Mcllvaine, who threatened him with a prosecution for the forgery of consular papers, if he dared to appear. He declared that he did appear, nevertheless, and was honorably discharged ; that his claims and evidences of debt, handed over to Mr. Mcllvaine, the assignee, amounted to $ 7,620 for cash lent, while his debts altogether amounted to less than $ 1,000 ; that he was arrested while in court, on a warrant for forgery, and there subjected to a long and rigorous examination by Messrs. Mcllvaine and Stille, who had got possession of all the claims against him ; that the offence charged consisted in issuing a commission as Vice-Consul of Greece, with General Bratish’s own signature ! that Mcllvaine went before Mr. Alderman Binns to get the warrant for forgery, and employed Colonel John Stille, Jr., his coadjutor, to appear as public prosecutor in the Mayor’s Court of Philadelphia ; that he, General Bratish, was put upon trial before a bench of aldermen, not a man of the whole except the Recorder being acquainted with the rudiments of law ; that, on being arraigned, he refused to plead, and called no witnesses himself, though some were called by his counsel, — when the Recorder directed the plea of “ Not guilty ” to be entered, and the trial to proceed ; that he claimed to be a foreign consul provisionally appointed, entered a formal protest, which appeared in the papers of the day, and never deigned to open his mouth, until, to the consternation and amazement of all who understood the case, the jury found him guilty, under the direction of the Recorder, — a direction which amounted to this, namely, that, while General Bratish could not be legally convicted of the offence charged, he might be convicted of another offence not charged! that a motion for a new trial was entered at the suggestion of the Recorder himself, and was finally argued in a burst of indignation by General Bratish, who thrust aside his counsel, and refused to be delivered on technical grounds ; that the motion was opposed by Messrs. Mcllvaine and Stille, but prevailed; that the verdict was set aside, a new trial granted, and General Bratish was allowed to go at large, on greatly reduced bail, every member of the court concurring, except Mr. Alderman McKean ; that no sooner was the trial over, and the proceedings published, than a public meeting was called through the National Gazette, the Public Ledger, the United States Gazette, and the Pennsylvanian, and all persons were invited to appear, and bring forward their charges —if any they had—against him ; that such a meeting, both large and respectable, was held at the College of Pharmacy, and resolutions were adopted, declaring the character of General Bratish to be “unimpeached and unimpeachable,” his authority from Greece to be fully proved, and his identity to have been established by the testimony of “ several highly respectable gentlemen present ” ; that, before he could have another trial, the court was abolished; and that, after waiting two months for the prosecutor to move, for want of something better to do, General Bratish betook himself to Canada; that he was followed there, watched, arrested for a horse-thief, immediately and honorably discharged, re-arrested upon a suspicion of high treason, put beyond the reach of a habeas corpus writ, and confined for seven months, in the citadel of Quebec and elsewhere, as a prisoner of state, &c., &c.
Such was a part of his story ; and astonishing as it may appear — incredible, I might say —I found it, after a most careful investigation, to be not only substantially true, but scrupulously exact. The evidence came to me through unwilling or prejudiced witnesses, — my friend, Henry C. Carey of Philadelphia, among the number, — and was corroborated throughout by official documents and published proceedings, And here I may as well add, that Mr. Arnold Buffum was chairman, and J. Griffith, M. D. secretary, of the meeting above referred to, of March 6th, 1838.
While this unhappy controversy was raging, and our people were dividing upon the questions involved, a little incident occurred which had a very wholesome effect upon our misgivings. The General happened to be in conversation with a stranger one day, when the subject of Unitarianism, as it existed in the North of Europe, came up. Something was then said about the great Unitarian Convention held at Cork, Ireland, two or three years before. General Bratish said he was in attendance, and had let fall some remarks there. A by-stander, who had very little faith in our hero, caught at the ravelling thus dropped. If what the General said were true, surely some evidence might be found by diligent search. And, sure enough! the gentleman found a copy of the Christian Pioneer, in Boston, giving an account of that very Convention. He acknowledged to me that he opened the journal with fear and trembling, but soon came upon what purported to be an abstract of a speech by General Bratish, and what furnished abundant confirmation of his highest pretensions as a soldier, as a writer, as a patriot, and as a philanthropist. I saw the Pioneer myself. It was a monthly journal, published in Glasgow, Scotland, July, 1835. The speech, as reported, was eminently characteristic, and the summary that followed was in the following words : —
“The society was gratified on this occasion by the presence of the Rev. George Harris of Glasgow, whose visit to Cork the committee gladly availed themselves of, earnestly requesting his attendance ; and of Mr. Bratish, a native of Hungary, and a member of the Hungarian Diet, who, in consequence of his intrepid advocacy of the cause of much-injured Poland, both in his place in the legislature, and subsequently with his pen and his sword, has been obliged to fly his country, and take refuge in this kingdom. ”
Among the most damaging allegations was one to this effect, that Mr. Forsyth, our Secretary of State, had contradicted the story of General Bratish about his consular authority and proceedings in every particular. So far was this from being true, that Mr. Forsyth confirmed the story of General Bratish in substance, acknowledging to me that he knew nothing to his prejudice, and that General Bratish had held such communications with him as he had represented.
Yet more, while I was patiently and quietly pursuing these investigations, Colonel Bouchette handed me a copy of the Bath (Me.) Telegraph Extra, of July 19, 1839. containing a report of the proceedings at a public meeting held there, in consequence of the newspaper charges and anonymous letters which had followed our adventurer to that city. It was headed “General Bratish Eliovich (Baron Fratelin).” and was signed by Judge Clapp (Ebenezer), and by Henry Masters, Secretary. The resolutions were brief but conclusive ; and the committee that drew them up, after a thorough investigation, were chosen from among the most respectable citizens of the place. “Every specific charge brought forward by responsible persons,” they say, “ was most completely refuted, and the truth was found entirely in accordance with the statements and accounts of the transactions given beforehand by General Bratish ” ; and they declare him “entitled to the confidence and respect of the community at large,” saying that “his conduct in this State has been that of a gentleman and man of honor.”
I found too, that, go where he would, behave as he might, the moment his name appeared in the papers, anonymous letters and paragraphs followed, denouncing him as a “ pedler,” as a “native Yankee,” as a thief who had robbed a fellow-boarder at Bedford Springs and then run away, taking one of the most unfrequented roads “across the country to Cumberland, upon which no public conveyance runs”; and yet I found, upon further inquiry, that he went off by the regular mail coach direct to Philadelphia, drove straight to the Marshall House, where he had always put up, (one of the largest and most respectable establishments in the city,) and entered his name at length on the travellers' book in the usual way, and was received by McIlvaine himself and others be had met with at Bedford Springs, on a footing of the most friendly intimacy, for over two months after the alleged robbery and exposure.
I ascertained further, that he came to this country in the summer of 1836 on board the Statesman, Captain Mansfield, from Gothenburg to Salem, with letters from Christopher Hughes, our Chargé d‘Affaires at Stockholm, to his son at New York, and with a Swedish passport to North America, duly authenticated, in which he was called “the Honorable John Bratish de Fratelin ” ; that he had many other letters, bills of credit, and drafts, and a large amount of money in gold, — some “ thousands of dollars ” according to the testimony of Captain N. B. Mansfield himself, with whom I communicated by letter ; that he was brought on board in the Governor’s barge, and was known to have been treated with great distinction by the Swedish nobility, and to have been so well received by Bernadotte himself, the king of Sweden, as to give rise to a report that he was a son of Murat, the late king of Naples, whose queen he certainly resembled, as he did others of the Bonaparte family; that on the passage he put on no airs, claimed no title, but chose to be called plain Mr. Bratish, until his rank was discovered, and he came to be known as General John Bratish Eliovich (the son of Elias), Baron Fratelin ; that after a twelvemonth’s residence at Boston and Salem, holding intercourse with what is there called the best society, he went to Washington, where he passed the winter of 1837-38 among the fashionables and upper-tens; that, while there, he received the provisional appointment of Consul-General for the United States from the Regency of Greece, dated February 15, 1837, upon which he threw up an engagement he had entered into with General Duff Greene, which secured him a respectable support, and set about seeing the country ; that after travelling from New York to New Orleans, he returned to the North, and stopped for a month or two at Bedford Springs, about a day’s journey from Philadelphia; that being disappointed in remittances and receipts, and unable to collect moneys he had lent to his compatriots, he could not pay his bill for six weeks’ board, amounting to fifty dollars, and went to Philadelphia, leaving with Mr. Brown, the landlord, a part of his baggage and books, after trying in vain to dispose of a valuable platina medal; that in Philadelphia, Mr. Mcllvaine — notwithstanding the alleged robbery-—lent him one hundred and sixty-five dollars, and was constituted Vice-Consul of Greece ad interim, that is, “until the pleasure of his Majesty, the king of Greece, should be known.”
Here then was the foundation of all the attacks made upon the unhappy General; but was there not something behind, — something below this foundation ? The extraordinary case of Dr. Follen, who was hunted from pillar to post, year after year, and wellnigh lied into his grave, shows what may be done by conspirators and spies and slanderers, when a respectable man grows obnoxious to a foreign power. If he is at all headstrong or imprudent, nothing can save him. Oddly enough, it happens that one of the very papers which followed Dr. Follen whithersoever he went, like a sleuth-hound, — the Philadelphia Gazette, —was among the bitterest and most unrelenting of those that assailed General Bratish.
While pursuing these investigations, I learned from what I regarded as high authority, that General Bratish had presented an address to Lord Normanby, at the head of the whole consular body, having been chosen for that special purpose ; and I was referred to the Irish Royal Cork Almanac for 1835, where, under the head of Foreign Consuls, I read, “Colonel John Bratish (d’Elias) Eliovich, K.C.C., S.S., L. H., Consul-General of Greece, Mexico, Buenos Ayres, and Switzerland, Consular Agent of Turkey.”
How were these contradictions to be reconciled, — the facts proved with the stories told ? If General Bratish was the swindler and impostor they pretended, the sooner he was exposed, and the more publicly, the better. On the contrary, if he was an honest man — a man greatly wronged and belied, like Dr. Follen — he ought to be defended, — but how ? He was poor and friendless, and the whole newspaper press of the country was either against him, or wholly indifferent. Had he been on trial in a court of justice, any lawyer would have defended him, — nay, for that matter, he might have defended himself. But if he entered the field as a writer, alone against a host, volumes would have to be written, — and who would publish them,—who read them ?
That I might bring the matter to issue at once, knowing well, and from long experience, that, when people are accused through the newspaper press of our country, they are always believed to be guilty until they have established their innocence, I sent a communication to the Portland Advertiser of October 15, 1839, with my name, charging upon Mr. Plenry Mcllvaine and Colonel John Stille, Jr. all that I afterwards repeated with more distinctness and solemnity in “The New World,” for which I was then writing (and from which I withdrew in consequence of what I then regarded as unfairness toward General Bratish on the part of my coadjutors, Messrs. Park Benjamin and Epcs Sargent), and arraigning both Mcllvaine and Stille, as conspirators and libellers.
One day, while this controversy was raging, the General called upon me, and begged me, for my own satisfaction, to inquire of Baron de Mareschal, the Austrian Minister, respecting certain charges that had just appeared against him. I consented, and immediately despatched the following letter to the care of my friend, the Honorable George Evans, our Representative in Congress, requesting him to see the Baron for me.
“ To His EXCELLENCY GENERAL BARON DE MARESCHAL, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary from his Majesty the Emperor of Austria.
“ The undersigned is led to apply to your Excellency in behalf of a gentleman here, who has been assailed by a great variety of newspaper slanders, most of which have been triumphantly refuted. The gentleman referred to is known here, by his passports and other credentials, as John Bratish Eliovich, late a general in the service of her most Catholic Majesty, the Queen of Spain, and is now an American citizen.
“ He states — and he bids me trust confidently to the character of your Excellency for an early reply — that in 1828 he was at Rio Janeiro ; that instead of ‘ running away,’ as reported, with a large amount of funds belonging to his uncle, Christopher Bratish, he left Rio Janeiro in consequence of being appointed by the Emperor, Dom Pedro, Brazilian Consul to Austria, with the approbation and consent of your Excellency, manifested by a regular passport, granted by your Excellency’s legation.
“ The friends of General Bratish in this region are numerous and respectable, and they beg your Excellency’s reply to the following questions : —
“ Is the statement above made by General Bratish true ?
“ And if your Excellency would be so kind as to say whether, in your opinion, there can be any foundation for the story respecting the ‘ large amount of money’ said to have been carried off by General Bratish, when he is reported to have run away from Rio Janeiro, your Excellency would gladly oblige, not only the undersigned, but a number of other persons deeply interested in the character of General Bratish.
“ Meanwhile, I am with respect your Excellency’s most obedient servant,
“ ——— ———. “ PORTLAND, ME., April, 1840.”
“ That your Excellency may know who has taken this liberty, the undersigned begs leave to refer you to the Hon. George Evans, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, General Scott, or to any member of Congress from the Northern or Middle States.”
Through some oversight in the transcribing, the full date of this letter does not appear ; but I soon received the following from Mr. Evans : —
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, WASHINGTON, April 20, 1840.
“ MY DEAR Sir,—Your favor of——, enclosing letter for General Mareschal was duly received, and I immediately despatched a messenger to deliver it to the General, with a note in your behalf. Yesterday the General called upon me to say that he felt constrained, from various circumstances, to decline a reply to it. He wishes you to understand that he does this with entire respect for yourself, whom he should be very happy personally to oblige. He said, if the information you seek was desirable for any personal or private purposes of your own, — such as, for instance, if any alliance was in contemplation with any of your friends, — he should feel bound to give you a reply. But he does not think that he ought to be drawn into a newspaper discussion, or to become the subject of comment or remark in such a matter. He wished me to explain his feelings, and hopes you will not impute his declining to any want of regard for you, and that you will appreciate the motives which govern him. I am not at liberty to detail a conversation I held with him on the general subject of your letter. He did not show it to me, though he spoke of its contents.
“ Very faithfully yours,
“ GEO. EVANS.”
Very adroit and very diplomatic, to be sure, on the part of the Baron ; but surely he might have answered yes or no to the first question, without committing himself. And why not show my letter to Mr. Evans ? Taking the ground he did, however, he forced me to the following conclusion, namely, that he could not answer No, and was afraid, for reasons of state, perhaps, to answer Yes.
And now, what was to be done ? Should I prepare a memoir, setting forth all these charges, with such refutations and such explanations as had occurred, and appeal to the public. There seemed to be no other way left.
While I was preparing this memoir, which made a pamphlet of forty-eight large octavo pages, with the documentary evidence in small print, General Bratish was at my elbow; and one evening, after I had read over to him what I had written, I happened to say that I was exceedingly sorry for the loss of his orders and decorations in Canada, — they would have been such a corroboration of his story.
“ Lost! ” said he, “they are not lost.”
“ Where are they ? ”
“ In the bank, with some other valuables.”
“In the bank ! When can you get them for me ? ”
“To-morrow, when the bank is open.”
Shall I confess the truth ? So sudden and so startling was this declaration, after what I had seen in the papers about the loss of these badges and orders in Canada, that I began, for the first time, to have uncomfortable suspicions. But, sure enough, the next day he brought them all to me, together with the original contract entered into between Colonel De Lacy Evans (afterward General Evans) and General Bratish, with the approbation of Alva, the Spanish Ambassador at the Court of St. James, whereby it was provided that “John Brutish Eliovich, Esquire, K. C. C., V. S. S-, V. L. H., &c., &c.,” should enjoy the rank, pay, and emoluments of a Major-General in the Auxiliary Legion then raising for the Queen of Spain. This document, signed by Colonel De Lacy Evans and Carbonel, and approved by Alva, styled him “ Major-General John Bratish Eliovich, K. C. C., V. L. H., &c., &c.,” and bore the signature of General Bratish, whereby his identity was established ; and the decorations and orders put into my hands were the following: “ Knight Commander of Christ,” the “ Tower and Sword” of Portugal, the “Saviour ” of Greece, and the “ South Star ” of Brazil.
Here, certainly, was pretty strong confirmation ; and yet on this very evening, my wife, who sat where she could see all the changes of his countenance while I was writing the memoir and occasionally asking a question without looking up, saw enough to satisfy her that Bratish was making a fool of her husband, and, the moment his back was turned, expressed her astonishment that a man of sense — meaning me — could be so easily imposed upon. So much for the instinct of a woman ; but more of this hereafter.
Not long after this, the General rushed into my office in a paroxysm of rage, — the only time I ever saw him disturbed. His honor had been questioned, and by whom, of all the world ? Why, — would I believe it? — by his friend, Colonel Bouchette ! Upon further inquiry, I found that he had received a draft from his sister, which had to pass through a secret channel to him, lest their estates should be confiscated in Hungary; that, after two or three disappointments, he had succeeded in getting it cashed here without endangering a certain friend in New York ; that on mentioning the circumstance to Colonel Bouchette, who had counselled him not to attempt the negotiation here, that gentleman had laughed in his face ; whereupon the General turned his back on him, and hurried off to my office. A friend was with me at the time. “Ach, mein Freund!” said the General, as he finished the story, “he doubted my word, he questioned my honor, he asked to see the money; but I refused to show him the money, — I was indignant, outraged ; but I have it here, — here!” slapping his breastpocket, “ and I am ready to show it to you.” I declined ; he persisted ; until at last, afraid of the impression he might make upon my friend Winslow, who was present, I consented. But he only talked the louder and the faster, without producing the money ; and when I grew serious, and insisted on seeing it, he acknowledged that he had n’t it with him !
“ Where is it, sir ? ” said I.
“ At my lodgings.”
“And how long will it take you to produce it ? ”
“ Ten minutes.”
“ Very well,” — taking out my watch, — “I will 'wait fifteen, and my friend here will stay with me, and be a witness.”
Away went the General, and. to my amazement, I must acknowledge, within the fifteen minutes he returned, bringing with him a cigar-box containing about five hundred dollars in bills and specie, which I counted.
Here was a narrow escape, — a matter of life or death to him, certainly, if not to me. But where had he got the money? He was very poor, judging by appearances. The lecturing was over for a time, and there was no field for conjecture. To this hour the whole affair is a mystery. Unlikely as it was that he should have obtained it from his sister, there seemed to be no other explanation possible.
Other perplexing and contradictory evidence for and against the General began to appear. I never saw him on horseback but once, and then I was frightened for him. As a general, he ought, of course, to know how to ride. As a native Hungarian, he must have been born to the saddle, if not in it. Nevertheless, I trembled for him, though the creature he had mounted was far from being either vicious or spirited ; and then, too, when he tried waltzing, he reminded me, and others I am afraid, of “ the man a-mowing.”
On the other hand, he was well-bred and self-possessed, full of accurate information, and never obtrusive. And here I am reminded of another singular circumstance, which went far in confirmation of the story he told. He gave J. S. Buckingham, Esq., M. P., whom I had known in London as the Oriental traveller, a letter to me, in which he speaks of him as a member of the British-Polish Committee in London, — thereby endangering the whole superstructure he had been rearing with so much care. Mr. Buckingham wrote me from New York, but failed to see me.
Worn out and wellnigh discouraged by these persecutions, the General now left us, and went to New York, from which place he wrote me, under date of October 9, 1840, as follows. I give his own orthography, to show that, although acquainted with our language to such a degree that he was able to lecture in it, as Kossuth did, and to speak it with uncommon readiness, he must have learnt it by ear, like many others with which he was familiar enough for ordinary purposes.
“ One of my last occupation upon American soil is one of a painful, and at the same times pleasant nature, to wit, to address you, my noble, my chivalerouse, my excellent friend. My God revard you and may he for the benefit of mankind scater many such persons trought the world — it would prevent misantropy and it would serve as the best antidote against crimes and deceptions, persecutions and sufferings. O could you know all what I suffered in my eventful life, you would indead belive that no romance is equal to reality. But — basta— God is great and merciful, and I never yit and I hope never will find occassion to doubt the wundaful ways of his mercy. . . . . Perhaps no times since I cam to America, I had occassion for more patience than during the first days of my arrival in N. Y. Harshed by law, cut by some friends, findig once more by European new a change in Greece, with my funds low, I began indeed to feel bitterly my sad fate — when by one of this suden fricks which I offen prouve that man must never despair all changed quit casualy it was raported to the German Association that I am her—immediately I was invited to ther mittings, the French Lafayette Club followed suit, and yesterday evning your humble servant was by acclamation apointed VicePresident of the General Union of all the forign assotiations of the city of New York (the German Tepcanoe Club 30 pers. excepted).
“ I am very sorry that I cannot tell you where I go—I sail in the cliper armed brig Fairfield for the West India unter very avantageouse circumstances a eccelent pay rang and emoluments you may guess the rest be assured it is a honorable a very honorable employment. My next for the South wia Havanna or New York or New Orleans will inform you of the rest.”
Accompanying this letter was a slip from one of the large New York dailies confirming his story, and reporting the resolutions passed at a great public meeting, of which A. Sarony was President and Chairman, John Bratish, Vice-President, and George Sonne, Secretary. “ The call of the meeting was read and adopted,” says the report, “when General Bratish addressed the assemblage in the English, French, and German languages, in the most patriotic and eloquent manner. His speech was received with enthusiastic and repeated applause.”
And here for a long season we lost sight of the General, though two or three circumstances occurred, each trivial in itself, but all tending to give a new aspect to the affair. Just before he left us, we had a small party at our house, where, among other amusements, a game called “ The Four Elements ” was introduced. When it was all over, and our visitors were gone, a costly handkerchief, with a lace border, was not to be found. It had been last seen in the hands of General Bratish. Having no idea that, if he had pocketed it by mistake, it would not be returned, we waited patiently,— very patiently, — supposing he might have thrown aside his company dresscoat without examining the pockets, and that when he put it on again the handkerchief would be forthcoming, of course. But no, — nothing was heard of it, until one evening at a lecture my wife suddenly caught my arm, and, pointing to a white handkerchief the General was flourishing within reach, said, “ There’s Aunt Mary’s handkerchief, now ! ”— “ Nonsense, my dear ! ” — ” It is, I tell you ; I can see where he has ripped off the lace.” I thought her beside herself; but still — why the sudden substitution of a large red Spitalfields for the white handkerchief? “ Perhaps,” said I to my wife, — “perhaps the handkerchief was not marked, and he did not know where to find the owner.”—“But it was marked, and he knows the owner as well as you do,” was the reply. Of course, I had nothing more to say ; and so I laughed the exhibition off, as a sort of pas de,mouchotr, like that which brought Forrest into a controversy with Macready.
And then something else happened. I missed the only copy I had in the world of “ Niagara and Goldau,” which he had borrowed of me and returned, with emphasis ; and many months after he had disappeared, I received a volume of poems from the heart of Germany, entitled, “ Der Heimathgruss, Fine Pfingstgabe von Mathilde von Tabouillot, geborene Giester,” published at Wesel, 1840, with a letter from the lady herself, thanking me with great warmth and earnestness for my pamphlet in defence of General Bratish. Putting that and that together, I began to have a suspicion that my copy of “ Niagara and Goldau ” had been presented to the authoress by my friend, the General,—-perhaps in the name of the author.
Yet more. While these little incidents were accumulating and seething and simmering, I received a letter from Louis Bratish, in beautiful French, dated Birmingham, 7th October, 1841, in which he thanked me most heartily for what I had done as the friend of his brother, “John Bratish,”— withholding the “General,”— and begging me to consider it as coming from the family ; and about the same time, another letter, and the last I ever received, from the General himself. It was dated “ Torrington House, near London, 12th October, 1841,” and contained the following passages : —
“ I cannot account for the very extraordinary silence in speite of all my request that you would at leas be so kind as to inform me if you realy don’t wish to hear more from me. I know your Hart too well not to be persuaded that it must be some mistake or some intrigue.
“ At last my family begin to understand how much they did wrong me and I have the pleasure to enclose you a letter of my yungest brother, which is now at the house of Messrs. Toniola brothers, a volunteer partner, to learn the english. . . . .
“ Mr. Josua Dodge, late Special Agent of the U. S. in Germany, is returning in one or two days to America ; this gentleman in consequence of his mission crossed and recrossed all Germany and Belgium. I met him in Germany ; he was present at Stuttgard in a most critical moment, when, denunced by the Germanic Federation (in the name of Austria) I was in iminent peril He acted as a true American, boldly stepped forward, asked the way and the werfore and united with my firmness, the American passports where respected, and Mr. Dodge succeded to get an official acknowledgment that nothing was known against my moral character, and they took refuge upon some little irregularity in the passport. . . . . He, my friends and my family wished very much that I should at lease for some times rethurn to America (pour reson bien juste) but the recollection is too bitter yet. . . . . Several Americans are now visiting my sister and her husband in Belgium — among them Mr. Bishop of Cont. and Mr. Rowly, C. S. of N. Y, — What would I give to see J. N and his amable family ! . . . .
“ My address is Monsieur Le General Bratish (Eliovich), raccommande a Mons. Latard, Vervois Belgique.
“ P. S. Great excitement at London. The Morning Chronicle is out upon me for having done I don't know what in North America and Germany. All fidle-stik. I send you the paper to see how eassy John Bull is gulled. I could send you some important news. Attention !!! keep your powder dray ! ”
Nothing more was heard of our mysterious General until a letter fell into my hands, purporting to be written by his brother Luigi. It was in choice Italian, and dated Birmingham, 16th April, 1842, charging the “Caro Fratello ” with having deceived him about Mr. Everett, complaining of his behavior to Dr. Sleigh and others who had befriended him ; telling him that Dr. Sleigh, to whom he referred, doubted his Spanish commission, and believed him to have been a member of the “Hunter’s Association,” — a band of horse-thieves in Canada,— and signifying, in language not to be misunderstood, that the family had given up all hope of him.
The next information we had was that the General had turned up at Havre, and was about being married to the daughter of a wealthy banker, and carried a commission as MajorGeneral from the Governor of Maine ! And then, after a lapse of two years, that he had been travelling with a British nobleman', whose baggage be had run away with, —that he was arrested for the offence, and tried in Malta, I do not know with what result ; but I have now before me a supplement of the Malta Times of October 9, 1844, in Italian, Spanish, and English, wherein he refers to the testimonials of my friend, Albert Smith, Ex-M. C., and Levi Cutter, Mayor of Portland ; complains bitterly of the late Mr. Carr, Minister of the United States at Constantinople ; and says, among other things, what of itself were enough to show that he had claimed to be a General of the State of Maine, and thereby settling the question most conclusively and forever. His language is: “To one charge of Mr. Everett, I plead guilty; to wit, to have usurped, or succeeded to gain the good opinion of respectable people in the United States, and here I am glad, at the same time, to put Mr. Everett’s mind at rest; he thinks it possible that I may be a General of the State of Maine, but he admits only the possibility, and expresses the hope that it may not be so, — this, after the pretension to know my birthplace, life, death, and miracles, and an assertion on his part to have had, or seen, a correspondence with the Executive of Maine, in my regard, is very diplomatic— very! — but his Excellency may be easy on this head. I do not share now the military glory and honor of fellowship with that very numerous body of generals of the United States Militia ; and if evidence may be produced that I was attended by a staff, I assure his Excellency, that it was only to have my boots cleaned by a Captain, to be shaved by a major, to be helped by a colonel, and to get my meals at the private personal headquarters of a Gineral at one dollar per day.”
And here I stop. From that day to this, nothing has been heard of General Bratish ; but I should not be surprised to have him reappear, as if he had risen from the dead, in some new character, and so managing as to deceive the very elect. No such pretender has appeared since Cagliostro ; and nobody ever succeeded so well in misleading public opinion, and embroiling so many persons of consideration, both in this country and in Europe, not excepting the Chevalier d’Eon, and the Princess Cariboo. Many other strange things might be related of Bratish, as, for example, his great speech in the Hungarian Diet, reported in the Allgemeine Zeitung,— the most impudent forgery of our day. But this paper is already longer than I intended ; and I have only to add, that I have reason to believe now that he was indeed a native of Trieste, and that Colonel Stille and Mr. McIlvaine were right in saying what they did of him generally, though wrong in many of the particulars upon which they chiefly relied.