CH. XI. -- Santillane gives Scipio a situation: the latter sets out for New Spain.
MY secretary could not look at the unexpected good luck of Nunez the poet without envy: he talked of nothing else for a week. The whims of that baggage, Fortune, said he, are most unaccountable: she delights to turn her lottery wheel into the lap of a sorry author, while she deals out her disappointments like a step-mother to the race of good ones. I should have no objection, though, if she would throw me up a prize in one of her vertical progresses. That is likely enough to happen, said I, and sooner than you imagine. Here you are in her temple; for it is scarcely too presumptuous to call the house of a prime minister the temple of Fortune, where favours are conferred by wholesale, and votaries grow fat on the spoils of her altar. That is very true, sir, answered he; but we must have patience, and wait till the happy moment comes. Take my advice while it is worth having, Scipio, replied I, and make your mind easy: perhaps you are on the eve of some good appointment. And so it turned out; for within a few days an opportunity offered of employing him advantageously in my lord duke's service; and I did not suffer the happy moment to pass by.
I was engaged in chat one morning with Don Raymond Caporis, the prime minister's steward, and our conversation turned on the sources of his excellency's income. My lord, said he, enjoys the commanderies of all the military orders, yielding a revenue of forty thousand crowns a year; and he is only obliged to wear the cross of Alcantara. Moreover, his three offices of great chamberlain, master of the home, and high chancellor of the Indies, bring him in nn income of two hundred thousand crowns; and yet all this is nothing in comparison of the immense sums which he receives through other transatlantic channels; but you will be puzzled to guess how. When vessels clear out from Seville or Lisbon for those parts of the world, he ships wine, oil, grain, and other articles, the produce of his own estate; and his consignments are duty free. With that perquisite in his pocket, he sells his merchandise for four times its current price in Spain, and then lays out the money in spices, colouring materials, and other things which cost next to nothing in the new world, and are sold very dear in Europe. Already has he realized some millions by this traffic, without detracting from the dues of his royal master.
You will easily account for it, continued he, that the people concerned in carrying on this trade return with great fortunes in their pockets; for my lord thinks it but reasonable that they should divide their diligence between his business and their own.
That shrewd son of chance and opportunity, of whom we are speaking, overheard our conversation, and could not help interrupting Don Raymond to the following purport. Upon my word, Signor Caporis, I should like to be one of those people; for I am fond of travelling, and have long wished to see Mexico. Your inclinations as a tourist shall soon be gratified, said the steward, if Signor de Santillane will not stand in the way of your wishes. However particular I may think it my duty to be about the persons whom I send to the West Indies in that capacity, and they are all of my appointment, you shall be placed on the list at all adventures, if your master wishes it. You will confer on me a particular favour, said I to Don Raymond; be so good as to do it in kindness to me. Scipio is a young fellow much in my good graces, very capable in business, and will be found irreproachable in his conduct. In a word, I would as soon answer for him as myself.
That being the case, replied Caporis, he has only to repair immediately to Seville: the ships are to sail for South America in a month. I shall give him a letter at his departure for a man who will put him in the way of making a fortune, without the slightest interference in his excellency's dues and profits, which ought to be held sacred by him.
Scipio, delighted with his berth, was in haste to set out for Seville with a thousand crowns with which I furnished him, to make purchases of wine and oil in Andalusia, and enable him to trade on his own bottom in the West Indies. And yet, overjoyed as he was to make a voyage, and as he hoped his fortune therewithal, he could not part from me without tears: and the separation raised the waters even from my dry fountains.