Léon Pereira, Apothecary

Léon Pereira, Apothecary

My cousin remembered seeing, among family papers, a document signed by my great-grandfather. So we knew his profession.

Those papers didn’t come from India to Australia. Destroyed? Maybe left with another branch of the family – long-lost to distance, time, our ageing and dying.

I know some of his story. (Tassie nights around the fire. Older relatives reminiscing, conjuring a different world. We kids, agog, kept quiet so they wouldn’t remember us and send us to bed.)

I heard of his wooing Jane, the legendary beauty (‘very fair’ they said – which I understand differently now). The note smuggled into the orphanage. Escape, elopement.

The nuns were scandalised. Only 14! A High Court judge's daughter! She shouldn’t have been in the room when he came seeking a bride. Spying him through the window, immediately smitten, she snuck in, sitting on a pile of books to look taller. Yes, he chose her; they hustled her out. However....

Now I ponder, what was a child with an important father doing in an orphanage? In the British occupation of India? I think I know.

And he? Pure Portuguese? Another mixture? Anyway they married.

He made her rich. She was nicknamed The Countess. Legend said, if she wanted one cotton-reel, she’d send out for a gross. When she travelled, she hired a whole train for her servants, her dogs…. (My Nana, her daughter – Mum’s mother – was always followed, I remember, by a troop of little dogs.)

Nana – who thought herself a plain girl – crept into balls and parties, hiding behind her glamorous mother. She described dressmakers draping jersey around Jane’s elegant figure, stretching the fabric tight.

He died, the apothecary.

(I never found out how much older. A young man, already in business, needing a wife – up to ten years? Surely no more. But probably not in his teens when they met.)

She married again … died in her turn….

I know what happened to her: deduced her beginnings, know the ending and things in between.

He went looking for a convenient marriage, fell for a beautiful young girl who fell for him – seems they both did well. But I know nothing more of prosperous Léon with the mellifluous name, my great-grandfather.

Note: ‘Tassie’ — an affectionate abbreviation of Tasmania.

A 369-word piece of prose, linking to Weekly Scribblings #27 at Poets and Storytellers United: Things Were Different Back Then.

Comments

  1. I so enjoyed visualizing the rich details of this memoir, Rosemary!💝 You had me at "Only 14!" What an adventurous life he led!

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  2. Finely penned, Rosemary. Enthralling, and full of questions. ~

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    1. Thank you. Yes, questions to which I expect I'll never know the answers.

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  3. My Beloved Sandra is far more informed about her family connections than I ever will be. Hell, I can hardly remember even my siblings' names...

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    1. Well, I guess the now is what really matters. But hearing all those reminiscences when I was young, and about a country so far away that it seemed exotic, quite captured my imagination.

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  4. I love this autobiographical snippet, Rosemary! Family history is intriguing and enlightening, when it still exists, and we are lucky to glean whatever we can from relatives and records. Your great-grandparents’ story is colourful, and I love your Nana’s reminiscences.

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    1. All the stuff on my father's side was researched and put into a book by the wife of one of my paternal cousins. But much about my Mum's forebears, whom I find far more interesting, remains unknown.

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  5. Family tales are the most interesting of all---and this one is superb! I'm glad Tassie is a part of your heritage.

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  6. Thank you for sharing the snippets of your heritage, Rosemary. A colorful tale indeed! You have a magic touch with words, my dear.

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    1. Thank you, Bev. My Nana's story was pretty colourful too. Maybe I'll tell that one sometime soon. Somehow, these short prose pieces allow me to write bits of memoir that I never could manage when I went about it in more conventional ways.

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  7. Wow! That makes me want to find out more about my ancestors too. My mom is incredibly closed mouthed about everything.

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    1. I wish I had asked a lot more questions when the people who could have answered them were still alive – and written them down too.

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  8. The details made me think of a scene from One Hundred Years of Solitude, of when Aureliano falls in love with Remedios (a child who still wets her bed). Things used to be, indeed, different back then--a bit scandalous, a bit scary, and some other things.

    I really enjoyed your recounting of the tale. The tone and mood helped me hear the peace through the ear of a child and the understanding of an adult.

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    1. That's one of my favourite books. For many reasons. (You will understand when I say that the first reason was the fact that I had this very large, very magical dog, who just turned up in my life one day....)

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  9. Rosemary, I loved rezding this. Yes, things certainly were different back then. I have lived that just a little later than they. My first marriage was an elopement, it all worked well for thirteen years. No details are coming from either of us.
    I am glad you have snippet views of your heritage, mine do also and tell of German/Prussian roots with an unliked nationality marriage.
    Ms. Gladstone? She sneaked out of my alias, pseudonyms, 'nom de plume', list.
    Finally, think I've mentioned before that we liked our short visit in "Tassie" land, sooo pretty. Our morning was spent at a wildlife refuge.
    ..

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    1. What a wild lad it seems you were, dear Jim! How I'd love to hear the stories!

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  10. Memories are made of this, thanks for sharing Rosemary

    much love...

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    1. It's a really nice memory, those nights by the fire listening to the tales.

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  11. It wouldn't surprise me if most of us had parents or other relatives that had "interesting" pasts. I certainly had.

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    1. I'm sure you're right – human beings being human!

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  12. For anyone, looking back generations is a mystery - a fill-in-the-blanks, if you will - but this has a romance that makes it enthralling.

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    1. Thank you. It certainly enthralled me as a child, and really never stopped.

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  13. A wonderful glimpse into another world.

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    1. Yes, long gone. The world of my great-grandparents ... and I myself am 80 now.

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  14. I was enthralled by this memoir. Thank you for sharing, Rosemary!

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