CH. III. -- The project of retirement is prevented, and Joseph Navarro brought upon the stage again, by an act of signal service.

 

ON my way home to my lodgings I met Joseph Navarro, whom the render will recollect as on the establishment of Don Balthasar de Zuniga, and one of my old friends. I made my bow first at a distance, then went up to him, and asked whether he knew me again, and if he would still be so good as to speak to a wretch who had repaid his friendship with ingratitude. You acknowledge then, said he, that you have not behaved very handsomely by me? Yes, answered I; and you are fully justified in laying on your reproaches thick and threefold: I deserve them all, unless indeed my guilt may be thought to have been atoned by the remorse of conscience attendant on it. Since you have repented of your misconduct, replied Navarro, embracing me, I ought no longer to hold it its remembrance. For my part, I knew not how to hug Joseph close enough in my arms; and we both of us resumed our original kind feelings towards one another.

He had heard of my imprisonment and the derangement of my affairs; but of what followed he was totally ignorant I informed him of it; relating word for word my conversation with the king, without suppressing the minister's late ungracious reception of me, any more than my present purpose of retiring into my favourite obscurity. Beware of removing from the scene of action, said he: since the sovereign has shown a disposition to befriend you, there are always uses to be made of such a circumstance. Between ourselves, the Count of Olivarez has something rather unaccountable in his character: he is a very good sort of nobleman, but rather whimsical withal: sometimes, as on the present occasion, he acts in a most offensive manner, and none but himself can furnish a clue to disentangle the intricate thread of his motives and their results. But however this may be, or whatever reasons might have swayed him to give you so scurvy a reception, keep your footing here, and do not budge; he will not be able to hinder you from thriving under the royal shelter and protection; take my word for that! I will just give a hint upon the subject this evening to Signor Don Balthasar de Zuniga, my master; he is uncle to the Count of Olivarez, and shares with him in the toils and cares of office. Navarro having given me this assurance, inquired where I lived, and then we parted.

It was not long before we met again; for he came to call on me the very next day. Signor de Santillane, said he, you are not without a protector; my master will lend you his powerful support: on the strength of the good character which I have given your lordship, he has promised to speak to his nephew, the Count of Olivarez, in your behalf; and I doubt not but he will effectually prepossess him in your favour. My friend Navarro not meaning to serve me by halves, introduced me two days afterwards to Don Balthasar, who said with a gracious air: Signor de Santillane, your friend Joseph has pronounced your panegyric in terms which have won me over completely to your interest. I made a low obeisance to Signor de Zuniga, and answered, that to the latest period of my life I should entertain the most lively sense of my obligation to Navarro, for having secured to me the protection of a minister, who was considered, and that for the best reasons possible, as the presiding genius, the greater luminary, or, as it were, the eye and mind of the ministerial council. Don Balthasar, at this unexpected stroke of flattery, clapped me on the shoulder with an approving chuckle, and returned my compliment by a more significant intimation: You may call on the Count of Olivarez again to-morrow, and then you will have more reason to be pleased with him.

For the third time, therefore, did I make my appearance before the prime minister, who, picking me out from among the mob of suitors, cast upon me a look conveying with it a simper of welcome, from which I ventured to draw a good omen. This is all as it should be, said I to myself; the uncle has brought the nephew to his proper bearings. I no longer anticipated any other than a favourable reception, and my confidence was fully justified. The count, after having given audience to the promiscuous crowd, took me with him into his closet, and said with a familiar address: My friend Santillane, you must excuse the little disquietude I have occasioned you merely for my own amusement; it was done in sport, though it was death to you, for the sole purpose of practising on your discretion, and observing to what measures your disgust and disappointment would incite you. Doubtless you must have concluded that your services were displeasing to me; but on the contrary, my good fellow, I must confess frankly, that, as far as appears at present, you are perfectly to my mind. Though the king my master had not enjoined me to take charge of your fortunes, I should have done so of my own free choice. Besides, my uncle, Don Balthasar de Zuniga, to whom I can refuse nothing, has requested me to consider you as a man for whom he particularly interests himself: that alone would be enough to fix my confidence in you, and make me most sincerely your friend.

This outset of my career produced so lively an impression on my feelings, that they became unintelligibly tumultuous. I threw myself at the minister's feet, who insisted on my rising immediately, and then went on to the following effect: Return hither to-day after dinner, and ask for my steward: he will acquaint you with the orders which I shall have given him. With these words his excellency broke up the conference to hear mass, according to his constant custom every day after giving audience: he then attended the king's levee.

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