CH. IX.. -- How my lord duke married his only daughter, and to whom: with the bitter consequences of that marriage.
VERY shortly after the son of Coselina's return, my lord duke fell into a brown study, and it lasted a complete week. I conceived, of course, that he was brooding over some great measure of government; but family concerns were the object of his musings. Gil Blas, said he one day after dinner, you may perceive that my mind is a good deal distracted. Yes, my good friend, I am pondering over an affair of the utmost consequence to my feelings. You shall know all about it.
My daughter, Donna Maria, pursued he, is marriageable, and of course beset with suitors. The Count de Niéblés, eldest son of the Duke de Medina Sidonia, head of the Guzman family, and Don Lewis de Haro, eldest son of the Marquis de Carpio and my eldest sister, are the two most likely competitors. The latter in particular is superior in point of merit to all his rivals, so that the whole court has fixed on him for my son-in-law. Nevertheless, without entering into private motives for treating him, as well as the Count de Niéblés, with a refusal, my present views are fixed upon Don Ramires Nunez de Guzman, Marquis of Toni, head of the Guzmans d'Abrados, another branch of the family. To that nobleman and his progeny by my daughter I mean to leave all my property, and to entail on them the title of Count d'Olivarez, with the additional dignity of grandee; so that my grandchildren and their descendants, issue of the Abrados and Olivarez branch, will be considered as taking precedence in the house of Guzman.
Tell me now, Santillane, added he, do you not like my project? Excuse me, my lord, pleaded I, with a shrug, the design is worthy of the genius which gave birth to it: my only fear is, lest the Duke of Medina Sidonia should think fit to be out of humour at it. Let him take it as he list, resumed the minister; I give myself very little concern about that. His branch is no favourite with me: they have choused that of Abrados out of their precedence and many of their privileges. I shall be far less affected by his ill humours than by the disappointment of my sister, the Marchioness de Carpio, when she sees my daughter slip through her son's fingers. But let that be as it may. I am determined to please myself, and Don Ramires shall be the man; it is a settled point.
My lord duke, having announced this firm resolve, did not carry it into effect without giving a new proof of his singular policy. He presented a memorial to the king, entreating him and the queen in concert, to do him the honour of taking the choice of a husband for his daughter on themselves, at the same time acquainting them with the pretensions of the suitors, and professing to abide by their election; but he took care, when naming the Marquis de Toral, to evince clearly whither his own wishes pointed. The king, therefore, with a blind deference for his minister, answered thus: "I think that Don Ramires Nunez deserves Donna Maria: but determine for yourself. The match of your own choosing will be most agreeable to me." (Signed) THE KING.
The minister made a point of shewing this answer everywhere; and affecting to consider it as a royal mandate, hastened his daughter's marriage with the Marquis de Toral; a death-blow to the hopes of the Marchioness de Carpio, and the rest of the Guzmans who had been speculating on an alliance with Donna Maria. These rival players of a losing game, not being able to break off the match, put the best face they could upon it, and made the fashionable world to resound with their costly celebrations of the event A superficial observer might have fancied that the whole family was delighted with the arrangement; but the pouters and ill-wishers were soon revenged most cruelly at my lord duke's expense. Donna Maria was brought to bed of a daughter at the end of ten months; the infant was still-born, and the mother died a few day afterwards.
What a loss for a father who had no eyes, as one may say, but for his daughter, and in her loss felt the miscarriage of his design to quash the right of precedence in the branch of Medina Sidonia! Stung to the quick by his misfortune, he shut himself up for several days, and was visible to no one but myself; a sincere sympathiser, from the recollection of my own experience in his sorrow. The occasion drew forth fresh tears to Antonia's memory. The death of the Marchioness de Toral, under circumstances so similar, tore open a wound imperfectly skinned over, and so exasperated my affliction, that the minister, though he had enough to do with his own sufferings, could not help taking notice of mine. It seemed unaccountable how exactly his feelings were echoed. Gil Blas, said he one day, when my tears seemed to feed upon indulgence, my greatest consolation consists in having a bosom friend so much alive to all my distresses. Ah! my lord, answered I, giving him the full credit of my amiable tenderness, I must be ungrateful and degenerate in my nature if I did not lament as for myself. Can I be aware that you mourn over a daughter of accomplished merit, whom you loved so tenderly, without shedding tears of fellow-feeling! No, my lord, I am too much naturalized to you on the side of obligation, not to take a permanent interest in all your pleasures and disappointments.