CH. XII. -- Don Alphonso de Leyva comes to Madrid; the motive of his journey a severe affliction to Gil Blas, and a cause of rejoicing subsequent thereon.
No sooner had I parted with Scipio than one of the minister's pages brought me a note conceived in the following terms: "If Signor de Santillane will take the trouble of calling at the sign of Saint Gabriel, in the Street of Toledo, he will there see a friend who is not indifferent to him."
Who can this nameless friend possibly be? said I to myself. What can be the meaning of all this mystery? Obviously to occasion me the pleasure of a surprise. I attended the summons immediately, and on my arrival at the place appointed, was not a little astonished to find Don Alphonso de Leyva there. Is it possible! exclaimed I: you here, my lord? Yes, my dear Gil Blas, answered he with a close compression of my hand in his, it is Don Alphonso himself. Well! but what brings you to Madrid? said I. You will be not a little startled, rejoined he, and no less vexed at the occasion of my journey. They have taken my government of Valencia from me, and the prime minister has sent for me to give an account of my conduct. For a whole quarter of an hour I was like a man stupefied; then recovering the powers of speech: Of what, said I, are you accused? I know nothing at all about it, answered he; but my disgrace is probably owing to a visit paid about three weeks ago to the Cardinal Duke of Lerma, who was banished about a month since to his seat at Denia.
Yes, indeed! cried I in a pet, you may well attribute your misfortune to that imprudent visit: there is no occasion to look out for causes and effects else where; but give me leave to say that you have not acted with your usual good sense, in claiming acquaintance with that favourite out of favour. The leap is taken, and the neck broken, said he; and I have nothing to do but to make the best out of a bad bargain: I shall retire with my family to our paternal estate at Leyva, where the remnant of my days will glide away in peace and obscurity. What taunts and teases me, is the requisition of appearing before a haughty minister, who may receive me with all the insolence of office. How humiliating to the pride of a Spaniard! And yet it is a measure of necessity; but before the degrading ceremony took place, I wanted to talk it over with you. Sir, said I, do not announce your arrival to the minister, till I have ascertained the nature of the reports to your discredit; for there are few evils without a remedy. Whatever may be your alleged crimes, you will give me leave, if you please, to act in the affair as gratitude and friendship shall dictate. With this assurance, I left him at his inn, and promised to let him hear from me soon.
As I had taken no active part in state affairs since the two memorials, in which my eloquence was so signally displayed, I went to look for Carnero, with a view to inquire whether Don Alphonso's government was really taken from him. He answered in the affirmative, but professed not to know the reason. Finding how things stood, I determined to apply at head-quarters, and to learn the grounds of grievance from his lordship's own mouth.
My spirits were really harassed; so that there was no need of putting on the trappings and the suits of woe, to attract my lord duke's notice. What is the matter, Santillane? said he, as soon as he saw me. I perceive a marked unhappiness on your countenance, and tears just ready to trickle down your cheeks. Has any one behaved ill to you? Tell me, and you shall have your revenge. My lord, answered I, in a melancholy tone, even though my grief would seek to hide itself, it must have vent: my despair is past endurance. The report goes that Don Alphonso is no longer Governor of Valencia; a severer stroke could not have been inflicted on me. What say you, Gil Blas? replied the minister in astonishment: what interest can you take in this Don Alphonso and his government? On this question, I detailed at length my obligations to the Lords of Leyva, and modestly stated my own interference with the Duke of Lerma, to obtain the appointment for my friend.
When his excellency had heard me through with the most polite and kind attention, he spoke thus: Make yourself easy, Gil Blas. Besides my entire ignorance of what you have just told me, I must own that I considered Don Alphonso as the cardinal's creature. Only put yourself in my place: was not the visit to his eminence a most suspicious circumstance? Yet I am willing to believe that owing his preferment to that minister, he might have remembered him in his adversity from a motive of pure gratitude. I am sorry for having displaced a man who owed his elevation to you; but if I have pulled down your handiwork I can build it up again. I mean to do still more than the Duke of Lerma for you. Your friend Don Alphonso was only Governor of Valencia; I appoint him Viceroy of Arragon: you may send him word so yourself; and order him hither to take the oaths.
At these words, my feelings changed from extreme grief to an excess of joy, which completely caricatured the mediocrity of common sense, and made me utter an incoherent rhapsody of thanks: but the want of method in the madness of my discourse was not taken amiss; and on my hinting that Don Alphonso was already at Madrid, he told me that I might present him this very day. I ran to the sign of Saint Gabriel, and communicated my own raptures to Don Caesar's son, by informing him of his new appointment. He could not believe what I told him; but found it a hard matter to persuade himself; that the prime minister, though likely enough to be very well disposed towards me, should attend his friendship so far as to dispose of viceroyalties at my instance. I carried him with me to my lord duke, who received him very affably, complimented him on his uniform good conduct in his government of Valencia, and finished by saying that the king, considering him as qualified for a higher station, had named him for the viceroyalty of Arragon. Besides, added he, your family is of a rank not to disparage the dignity of the office; so that the Arragonese nobility will have no plea for excepting against the choice of the court.
His excellency made no mention of me, and the public was kept in the dark as to my share in the business; indeed, this prudent silence was lucky both for Don Alphonso and the minister, since the tongues of defamers would have been busy in taking to pieces the pretensions of a viceroy who owed his preferment to my patronage.
As soon as Don Caesar's son could speak with certainty of his new honours, he sent off an express for Valencia with the information to his father and Seraphina, who soon arrived in Madrid. Their first object was to find me out, and ply me thick and threefold with acknowledgments. What a proud and affecting sight for me, to behold the three persons in the world nearest my heart, vying with each other in their testimonies of affection and gratitude! The pleasure my zeal seemed personally to give them, was equal to the dignity conferred on their house by the post of viceroy. They even talked with me on a footing of equality, and scarcely remembered my original distance or servitude in the fervour of their present feelings. But not to dwell on unnecessary topics, Don Alphonso having taken the oaths and returned thanks, left Madrid with his family, to take up his abode at Saragossa. He made his public entry with appropriate magnificence; and the Arragonese caused it to appear, by their cordial reception, that I had a very pretty knack at picking out a viceroy.