The Stars of Heaven and True Love
Mirta Ines Trupp
Abigail Isaacs fears ever again falling under the power of love and dedicates her life to studying the heavens. However, upon her father’s demise she finds herself in reduced circumstances and must write to her brother, who has long been away at sea. When instead Captain Wentworth of the HMS Laconia sends a tragic reply, Abigail is asked to set aside her own ambitions and fulfill her brother’s dreams in the Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata.
In his relentless pursuit for justice, Lieutenant Raphael Gabay lends his sword to the Spanish American cause. But as he prepares to set sail with the others, he is entrusted with the care of a young woman. Raphael begins to wonder whether the brilliant astronomer will see beyond his frivolous façade and recognize his true nature.
Their destinies have been plotted beyond the celestial veil; their charts foretell of adventure. Can these two troubled souls be persuaded to heed the stars and find love—and their purpose—in this fledgling nation?
Abigail and Mrs. Frankel were made comfortable in the drawing room in expectation of his lordship’s arrival. A footman brought in the tea things and Pearson closely followed to ensure everything was as it should be. Seated by a roaring fire, quietly knitting away, Mrs. Frankel appeared to Abigail’s eye the picture of contentment. Having been in the lady’s company the whole of her life, she understood that Mrs. Frankel could not stand to sit idle. Years of service had accustomed her to a particular routine and she felt more when herself engaged in an occupation. Abigail, however, found that she could not remain seated and took a turn about the room. The uncertainty of how the afternoon would unfold, and what other bits of information would be revealed, had her out of sorts and anxious to make the acquaintance of his lordship’s colleagues. When at last she heard boisterous voices from the foyer, she quickly found her seat and arranged the folds of her bombazine gown.
“Good afternoon, ladies,” Lord Fife called out. “I hope we find you in good health. It gives me great pleasure to introduce José Francisco de San Martín and Raphael Gabay de Montoya. Gentlemen, I present Miss Isaacs and her companion, Mrs. Frankel.”
“I am happy to make your acquaintance, gentlemen,” Abigail said. “His lordship was most adamant that we meet.”
The younger of the men, Mr. Raphael Gabay, appeared to be the more amiable of the two and quickly set himself apart. “The pleasure is all mine, Miss Isaacs,” he said. Lending his gloved hand, he assisted the lady in finding her seat. “When I heard we were to meet a brilliant mathematician and astronomer, I was quite ready to find another occupation for the afternoon. I see now, that would have been to my detriment and am delighted my companions insisted on my presence.”
The other gentleman, Mr. San Martín, taciturn and simply dressed, grimaced at his jovial friend’s impertinence but did not offer a reprimand. Bowing once again, he simply stated, “My condolences, madam.” He then took a seat farthest from the ladies and accepted his tea with an elegant gesture.
“Perhaps, Miss Isaacs, it will assist you to understand how we have all come to know one another,” the earl offered. “This will better explain your brother’s aspirations.”
“By all means, my lord,” replied Abigail. “Pray continue.”
Lord Fife made ready to speak, but stopped short. He glanced at Mrs. Frankel silently sitting by the fire, needles flying and eyes focused on him. She nodded expectantly in his direction. “I was prepared to begin my story at what I thought was the beginning, but perhaps, I need to qualify my opening statement. Last night, Mrs. Frankel, you spoke of something that gave me pause.”
The lady flustered. “I, your lordship? Whatever did I say?”
“You mentioned a man named Mendelssohn and his pursuit of Jewish Enlightenment.”
“Indeed,” Mrs. Frankel stuttered. “So I did.”
“I was fascinated by the term, as I never heard of such a thing. My curiosity piqued, I had to do a bit of research this morning before meeting my friends. I am not here to lecture you on this subject, Miss Isaacs, as you are infinitely better informed than I on the matter. My point is that this man Mendelssohn, a leader amongst his people, was once in a secret society. Some years ago, he became an honorary member in the Friends of the Enlightenment and fulfilled this role with great fervor and dedication. He did so because he believed wholeheartedly in the cause of championing Jewish integration into European society through education, culture, and language.”
Abigail nodded her acknowledgement and stole a glance at her companion who was clearly dumbfounded. “My father was a great supporter of Mendelssohn, although he did not always agree on his philosophies or methodology. I was unaware of any secret society, but I am not surprised that the Haskalah movement may have begun in such a manner. Change is always met with resistance. One must have integrity and stand firm for one’s beliefs.”
Lord Fife rubbed his hands together triumphantly. “Good, good! Now I can begin. You see before you two gentlemen, but there are many more in our acquaintance. Alvear, Zapiola, Bolívar—the list goes on. We have formed a society, a secret society. Mind you, this is not a religious organization. No one is asked to reject those philosophies or teachings that speak to his faith.”
“Forgive my ignorance, my lord, but the men you have mentioned all appear to be Spaniards. Does this all have something to do with the Viceroyalty and the property my brother purchased?”
“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.”
Disquieted, Abigail looked at each man about the room. She began to sense that her brother was involved in something eminently unfamiliar. And these men were unknown to her. How was she meant to measure the merit of their convictions? “May I ask, sir, when did these plans for independence begin?”
“Over ten years ago, a British major general by the name of Thomas Maitland proposed to capture Buenos Aires,” Mr. Gabay replied. “At that time, England was at war with both France and Spain; and because of the loss of the thirteen colonies in North America, England wished to expand its influence in the Southern Hemisphere.”
“The plan was never enacted,” Mr. San Martín continued. “Twice again, England attempted to seize Buenos Aires, but was unsuccessful. My intention is to incorporate strategic maneuvers from the original Maitland Plan and use it as an outline to defeat the Spanish army in Río de la Plata. A long and difficult road lies ahead, however. We should not expect a swift victory. It may be several years before we see a new form of government in place.”
“I struggle to understand Jonathan’s affiliation with your society,” said Abigail. “He seemed quite content to follow in our father’s footsteps.”
“Perhaps your own words have provided the answer, Miss Isaacs,” Gabay replied. “Perhaps the idea of following in your father’s footsteps, was not his true calling.”
“You will be what you should be,” added San Martín, “or you will be nothing. That is my philosophy, madam.”
“Mr. Gabay, are you a South American-born patriot?” Mrs. Frankel’s curiosity won the better of her, and she would have her share of the conversation.
“No, madam. I am an Englishman,” he replied. “However, I come from a long line of Iberian Jews.”
“You are Sephardic, then?” asked Abigail, quite surprised. “Was Jonathan aware of your heritage? Our mother’s ancestors were Spaniards.”
“My people lived in Cadiz for generations, Miss Isaacs. My father and uncles still run the family business from that city. Sadly, the upheaval created by the French has had disastrous economic implications across Europe, and my family has felt the brunt of it.”
“I suppose you are speaking of Napoleon’s blockades,” she suggested.
“Precisely. All commerce crossing the Atlantic had been transacted through Cadiz and Seville, but when Napoleon disallowed passage to and from the Continent, there was public outcry for the English Crown to involve itself in opening new lines of trade. When Cadiz was besieged by French troops, Englishmen, such as Francisco Miranda, Lord Fife and myself, along with Portuguese forces, were involved in securing the area.”
“This was done in order to keep the port of Cadiz open to trade with the colonies throughout the Americas,” the earl interjected.
“Will you tell us the name of your society, sir?”
“His lordship and Miranda dubbed us The Lodge of Rational Knights. Sounds rather Arthurian, does it not?” quipped Mr. Gabay. “San Martín proposes to change the moniker, once we are firmly established among the patriots of Buenos Aires. We will be called La Logia de Lautaro—much more fitting, to be sure.”
Lord Fife ignored his friend’s folly and attempted to redirect the conversation. “Your father began his association with this enterprise by contributing to the cause, Miss Isaacs. The idea of a republic, a free people, caught his interest from the start. Later, he wished to purchase a piece of land out in the great plains—something for the future, he had said. Jonathan wished to take it a step further. Investments were made. Businesses and properties were purchased with the intent to sell them to other Englishmen eager to emigrate. Some of the investments failed, and your family income suffered the loss. But the property your father purchased is yours, free and clear, as is the home in Buenos Aires owned by Jonathan. You are a woman of means, madam. Jonathan’s instructions were solely for your care and well-being. He would have taken you there himself, if he were able, and had already booked passage on the frigate George Canning. San Martín and Gabay have made their arrangements and will be traveling on the same vessel. You will be entrusted to their care. I only need your consent, Miss Isaacs. Will you fulfill your brother’s dream?”
Mirta is a second generation Argentine; she was born in Buenos Aires in 1962 and immigrated to the United States that same year. Because of the unique fringe benefits provided by her father’s employer- Pan American Airlines- she returned to her native country frequently- growing up with "un pie acá y un pie allá" (with one foot here and one foot there).
Mirta's fascination with Jewish history and genealogy, coupled with an obsession for historical period drama, has inspired her to create unique and enlightening novels. She has been a guest speaker for book clubs, sisterhood events, genealogy societies and philanthropic organizations. Sharing her Jewish historical fiction has become her passion.
Besides being an avid novel reader, she has had a lifelong love for choral music and is a devoted Beatles fan. Follow Mirta on Amazon, Bookbub, Goodreads, WordPress, and Instagram for interesting tidbits and photos.