CH. V. -- The behaviour of Aurora de Guzman on her arrival at Salamanca.
ORTIZ, her companions, and myself, after having heard this tale, withdrew together from the hall, where we left Aurora with Elvira. There they lengthened out the remainder of the day in a mutual intercourse of confidence. They were not likely to be weary of each other: and on the following morning, when we took our leave, there was as much to do to part them, as if they had been two friends brought up in the closest habits of confidence and affection.
In due time we reached Salamanca without any impediment. There we immediately engaged a ready-furnished house, and Dame Ortiz, as it had been before agreed, assumed the name of Donna Kimena de Guzman. She had played the part of a duenna too long not to be able to shift her character according to circumstances. One morning she went out with Aurora, a waiting-maid and a man-servant, and betook herself to a lodging-house, where we had been informed that Pacheco most commonly took up his abode. She asked if there was any lodging to be let there. The answer was in the affirmative; and they showed her into a room in very neat condition, which she hired. She paid down earnest to the landlady, telling her that it was for one of her nephews who .was coming from Toledo to finish his studies at Salamanca, and might be expected on that very day.
The duenna and my mistress, after having made sure of this apartment, went back the way they came, and the lovely Aurora, without loss of time, metamorphosed herself into a spruce young spark. She concealed her black ringlets under a braid of light-coloured hair, the better to disguise herself; . . . . manufactured her eyebrows to correspond, and dressed herself up in such a costume, as to look for all the world as if her sex were of a piece with her appearance. Her deportment was free and easy; so that, with the exception of her face, which was somewhat more delicate than became the manly character, there was nothing to lead to a discovery of her masquerading. The waiting-woman who was to officiate as page, got into her paraphernalia at the same time, and we had no apprehension respecting her competency to perform her part. There was no danger of her beauty telling any tales; and besides, she could put on as brazen-faced a swagger as the most impudent dog in town. After dinner, our two actresses, finding themselves in cue to make their first appearance on the stage, where the scene was laid in the ready-furnished lodging, took me along with them. We all three placed ourselves in the coach, and carried with us all the baggage we were likely to have occasion for.
The landlady, Bernarda Ramirez by name, welcomed us with a glut of civility, and led the way to our room, where we began to make arrangements with her. We concluded a bargain for our board by the month, which she undertook should be suitable to our condition. Then we asked if she had her complement of boarders. I have none at all at present, answered she. Not that there would be any want of enough, if I was of the mind to take in all sorts of people: but young men of fashion are the thing for me. I expect one of that description this morning: he is coming hither from Madrid to complete his education. Don Lewis Pacheco! But you must have heard of him before now. No, said Aurora, I have no acquaintance whatever with the gentleman; and since we are to be inmates together, you will do me a kindness by letting me a little into his character. Please your honour, replied the landlady, leering at this outside of a man, his figure is as taking as your own; just the same sort of make, and about the same size. Oh! how well you will do together! By St James, though I say it who should not say it, I shall have about me two of the prettiest young fellows in all Spain. Well, but about Don Lewis! for my mistress was in a fidget to ask the grand question. Of course; . . . . he is well with the ladies in your parts! Enough of . . . . of love affairs . . . . on his hands! Oh! do not you be afraid of that, rejoined the old lady; it is a forward sprig of gallantry, take my word for it. He has but to shew himself before the works, and the citadel sends to capitulate. Among the number of his conquests, he has got into the good graces of a lady, with as much youth and beauty as he will know what to do with. Her name is Isabella. Her father is an old doctor of laws. She is over head and ears in love with him; absolutely out of her wits! Well, but do tell me now, my dear little woman, interrupted Aurora, as if she was ready to burst, is he out of his wits too? He used to be very fond of her, answered Bernarda Ramirez, before he went last to Madrid: but whether he holds in the same mind still, I will not venture to say; because on these points he is not altogether to be trusted. He is apt to flirt, first with one woman, and then with another, just as all you young deceivers take pleasure in doing. You are all alike!
The bonny widow had scarcely got to the end of her harangue, before we heard a noise in the court. On looking out at the window, behold! there appeared two young men dismounting from their steeds. Who should it be, but the identical Don Lewis Pacheco, just arrived from Madrid with a servant behind him. The old lady brushed off to go and usher him in; while my mistress was putting herself in order, not without some palpitation of heart, to enact Don Felix to the best of her conceptions. Without waiting for any formalities, in marched Don Lewis to our apartment in his travelling dress. I have just been informed, said he, paying his respects to Aurora, that a young nobleman of Toledo takes up his abode in this house. May I take the liberty of expressing my joy in the circumstance, and hoping that we may be better acquainted? During my mistress's reply to this compliment, it seemed to me as if Pacheco did not know what to make of so smock-faced a young spark. Indeed he could not refrain from declaring a more than ordinary admiration of an air and figure so attractive. After abundance of discourse, with every demonstration of reciprocal good breeding, Don Lewis withdrew to the apartment provided for him.
While he was getting his boots off and changing his dress and linen, a sort of a page, on the look-out after him to deliver a letter, met Aurora by chance on the staircase. Her he mistook for Don Lewis. Thinking he had found the right owner for this tender message, of which he was the Mercury -- Softly! my honoured lord and master, said he, though I have not the honour of knowing Signor Pacheco, there can be no occasion for asking whether you are the man. It is impossible to be mistaken in the guess. No, my friend, answered my mistress with a most happy presence of mind, assuredly you are not mistaken. You acquit yourself of your embassies to a marvel. I am Don Lewis Pacheco. You may retire! I will find an opportunity of sending an answer. The page vanished, and Aurora shutting herself up with her waiting-maid and me, opened the letter, and read to us as follows: -- "I have just heard of your being at Salamanca. With what joy did I receive the news! I thought I should have gone out of my senses. But do you love Isabella as well as ever? Lose no time in assuring her that you are still the same. In good truth, she will almost expire with pleasure when once she is assured of your constancy."
This is a mighty passionate epistle, said Aurora. The heart that indited it has been caught in a trap. This lady is a rival of no mean capacity. No pains must be spared to wean Don Lewis from her, and even to prevent any future interview. The undertaking is difficult, I acknowledge, and yet there seems no reason to despair of the result. My mistress, taking her own hint, fell into a fit of musing; from which having recovered as soon as she fell into it, she added -- I will lay a wager they are at daggers drawn in less than twenty-four hours. It so happened that Pacheco, after a short repose in his apartment, came to look after us in ours, and entered once more into conversation with Aurora before supper. My dapper little knight, said he with a rakish air, I fancy the poor devils of husbands and lovers will have no reason to hug themselves on your arrival at Salamanca. You will make their hearts ache for them. As for myself, I tremble for all my snug arrangements. I tell you what! answered my mistress with congenial spirit, your fears are not without their foundation. Don Felix de Mendoza is rather formidable, so take care what you are about. This is not my first visit in this country, the ladies hereabouts, to my knowledge, are made of penetrable materials. About a month ago my way happened to lie through this city. I halted for eight days, and you are to know . . . . but you must not mention it . . . . that I set fire to the daughter of an old doctor of laws.
It was evident enough that Don Lewis was disturbed by this declaration. Might one without impropriety, replied he, just ask the lady's name? What do you mean by impropriety? exclaimed the pretended Don Felix. Why make any secret about such a matter as that? Do you think me more of a Joseph than other young noblemen of my standing? Have a better opinion of my spirit. Besides, the object, between ourselves, is unworthy of any great reserve, she is but a little mushroom of the lower ranks. A man of fashion never quarrels with his conscience about such obscure gallantries, and even thinks it an honour conferred on a tradesman's wife or daughter when he leaves her without any. I shall therefore acquaint you in plain terms, that the name of the doctor's daughter is Isabella. And the doctor himself, interrupted Pacheco impatiently. he possibly may be Signor Marcia de la Liana? Precisely so, replied my mistress. Here is a letter sent me just now. Read it, and then you will see how deeply your humble servant has dipped into her good graces. Don Lewis just cast his eye upon the note, and recognizing the handwriting, was struck dumb with astonishment and vexation. What is the matter? cried Aurora, with an air of surprise, keeping up the spirit of her assumed character. You change colour! God forgive me, but you are a party concerned in this young lady. Ah! Plague take my officious tongue for having opened my affairs to you with so much frankness.
I am very much obliged to you for it for my own part, said Don Lewis in a transport made up of spite and rage. Traitress! Jilt! My dear Don Felix, how shall I ever requite you! You have restored me to my senses when they were just on the wing for an eternal flight. I was tickling myself into a fool's paradise of credulous love. But love is too cold a term to express my extravagancies. I fancied myself adored by Isabella. The creature had wormed her self into my heart by feigning to give me her own. But now I know her clearly for a coquette, and as such despise her as she deserves. Your feelings on the occasion do you infinite credit, said Aurora, testifying a friendly sympathy in his resentment. A plodding pettifogger's worthless brood might have gorged to surfeit on the love of a young nobleman so captivating as yourself. Her fickleness is inexcusable. So far from taking her sacrifice of you in good part, it is my determination to punish her by the keenest contempt. As for me, rejoined Pacheco, I shall never set eyes on her again; and if that is not revenge, the devil is in it. You are in the right, exclaimed our masquerading Mendoza. At the same time, that she may fully understand how ineffably we both disdain her, I vote for sitting down, each of us, and writing her a sarcastic farewell. They shall be enclosed in one cover, and serve as an answer to her own letter. But do not let us proceed to this extremity till you have examined your heart; it may be you will repent hereafter of having broken off with Isabella. No, no, interrupted Don Lewis, I am not such a fool as that comes to; let it be a bargain, and we will mortify the ungrateful wretch as you propose.
I immediately sent for pen, ink, and paper, when they sat themselves down at opposite corners of the table, and drew up a most tender bill of indictment against Doctor Murcia de la Llana's daughter. Pacheco, in particular, was at a loss for language forcible enough to convey his sentiments in all their acrimony; away went exordium after exordium, to the tearing and maiming of five or six fair sheets, before the words looked crooked enough to please his jealous eyes. At length, however, he produced an epistle which came up with his most tragical conceptions. It ran thus -- "Self-knowledge is a leading branch of wisdom, my little philosopher. As a candidate for a professor's chair, lay aside the vanity of fancying yourself amiable. It requires merit of a far different compass to fix my affections. You have not enough of the woman about you to afford me even a temporary amusement. Yet do not despair, you have a sphere of your own, the beggarly servitors in our university have a keen appetite, but no very distinguishing palate." So much for this elegant epistle! When Aurora had finished hers, which rang the changes on similar topics, she sealed them, wrapped them up together, and giving me the packet -- There, Gil Blas, said she, take care that comes to Isabella's hands this very evening. You comprehend me! added she, with a glance from the corner of her eye, which admitted of no doubtful construction. Yes, my lord, answered I, your commands shall be executed to a tittle.
I lost no time in taking my departure; no sooner in the street than I said to myself -- So ho! Master Gil Blas, your part then is that of the intriguing footman in this comedy. Well! so be it, my friend! shew that you have wit and sense enough to top it over the favourite actor of the day. Signor Don Felix thinks a wink as good as a nod. A high compliment to the quickness of your apprehension! Is he then in an error? No. His hint is as clear as daylight. Don Lewis's letter is to drop its companion by the way. A lucid exposition of a dark hieroglyphic, enough to shame the dulness of the commentators. The sacredness of a seal could never stand against this bright discovery. Out came the single letter of Pacheco, and away went I to hunt after Doctor Murcia's abode. At the very threshold, whom should I meet but the little page who had been at our lodging. Comrade, said I, do not you happen to live with the great lawyer's daughter? His answer was in the affirmative. I see by your countenance, resumed I, that you know the ways of the world. May I beg the favour of you to slip this little memorandum into your mistress's hand?
The little page asked me on whose behalf I was a messenger. The name of Don Lewis Pacheco had no sooner escaped my lips, than he told me -- Since that is the case, follow me. I have orders to shew you up. Isabella wants to confer with you. I was introduced at once into a private apartment, where it was not long before the lady herself made her appearance. The beauty of her face was inexpressibly striking; I do not recollect to have seen more lovely features. Her manner was somewhat mincing and infantine, yet for all that it had been thirty good years at least since she had mewled and puked in her nurse's arms. My friend, said she with an encouraging smile, are you on Don Lewis Pacheco's establishment? I told her I had been in office for these three weeks. With this I fired off my paper popgun against her peace. She read it over two or three times, but if she had rubbed her eyes till doomsday she would have seen no clearer. In point of fact, nothing could be more unexpected than so cavalier an answer. Up went her eyes towards the heavens, appealing to their rival luminaries. The ivory fences* of her pretty mouth committed alternate trespass on her soft and suffering lips; and her whole physiognomy bore witness to the pangs of her distressed and disappointed heart. Then coming to herself a little, and recovering her speech -- My friend, said she, has Don Lewis taken leave of his senses? Tell me, if you can, his motive for so heroic an epistle. If he is tired of me, well and good, but he might have taken his leave like a gentleman.
Madam, said I, my master most assuredly has not acted as I should have acted in his place. But he has in some sort been compelled to do as he has done. If you would give me your word to keep the secret, I could unravel the whole mystery. You have it at once, interrupted she with eagerness; depend on it you shall be brought into no scrape by me, therefore explain yourself without reserve. Well, then! replied I, the fact is, without paraphrase, circumlocution, loss of time, or perplexity of understanding, as I shall distinctly state in two short words -- Not half a minute after the receipt of your letter, there came into our house a lady, under a veil as impenetrable as her purpose was dark. She inquired for Signor Pacheco, and talked with him in private for some time. At the close of the conversation, I overheard her saying -- You swear to me never to see her more; but we must not stop there, to set my heart completely at rest you must instantly write her a farewell letter of my dictating. You know my terms. Don Lewis did as she desired, then giving the result into my custody -- Acquaint yourself; said he, where Doctor Murcia de la Liana lives, and contrive to administer this love potion to his daughter Isabella.
You see plainly, madam, pursued I, that this uncivil epistle is a rival's handiwork, and that consequently my master is not so much to blame as he appears. Oh, heaven! exclaimed she, he is more so than I was aware of. His words might have been the error of his hand, but his infidelity is the offence of his heart. Faithless man! Now he is held by other ties . . . . But, added she, assuming an air of disdain, let him devote himself unconstrained to his new passion; I shall never cross him. Tell him, however, that he need not have insulted me. I should have left the course open to my rival, without his warning me from the field: for so fickle a lover has not soul enough about him to pay for the degradation of soliciting his return. With this sentiment she gave me my dismissal, and retired in a whirlwind of passion against Don Lewis.
My exit was conducted entirely to my own satisfaction, for I conceived that with due cultivation of my talent I might in time become a consummate hypocrite and most successful cheat. I returned home on the strength of it, where I found my worthy masters, Mendoza and Pacheco, supping together, and rattling away as if they had been playfellows from their cradles. Aurora saw at once, by myself-sufficient air, that her commission had not been neglected in my hands. Here you are again then, Gil Blas, said she, give us an account of your embassy. Wit and invention was all I had to trust to, so I told them I had delivered the packet into Isabella's own hands; who, after having glanced over the contents of the two letters, so far from seeming disconcerted, burst into a fit of laughter, as if she had been mad, and said -- Upon my word, our young men of fashion write in a pretty style. It must be owned they are much more entertaining than scribes of plebeian rank. It was a very good way of getting out of the scrape, exclaimed my mistress, she must be an arrant coquette. For my part, said Don Lewis, I cannot trace a feature of Isabella in this conduct. Her character must have been completely metamorphosed in my absence. She struck me too in a very different light, replied Aurora. It must be allowed some women can assume all modes and fashions at will. I was once in love with one of that description, and a fine dance she led me. Gil Blas can tell you the whole story! She had an air of propriety about her which might have imposed upon a whole synod of old maids. It is true, said I, putting in my oar; it was a face to play the devil with a sworn bachelor, I could scarcely have been proof against it myself.
The personated Mendoza and Pacheco shouted with laughter at my manner of expressing myself; the one for the false witness I bore against a culprit of my own creation; the other laughed simply at the phrase in which my anathema was couched. We wait on talking about the versatility of women, and the verdict, after hearing the evidence, all on one side, was given against Isabella. A convicted coquette! and sentence passed on her accordingly. Don Lewis made a fresh vow never to see her more and Don Felix, after his example, swore to hold her in eternal abhorrence. By dint of these mutual protestations a sort of friendship was established on the spur of the occasion, and they promised on both sides to keep -- no secrets from each other. The time after supper passed in ingratiating intercourse, and the time seemed short till they retired to their separate apartments. I followed Aurora to hers, where I gave her a faithful account of my conversation with the Doctor's daughter, not forgetting the most trivial circumstance. She had much ado to help kissing me for joy. My dear Gil Blas, said she, I am delighted with your spirit. When one has the misfortune to be engaged in a passion not to be gratified but by stratagems, what an advantage is it to secure on the right side a lad of so enterprising a genius as yourself. Courage, my friend, we have thrown a rival into the background, whose presence in the scene might have marred our comedy. So far, all is well. But as lovers are subject to strange vagaries, it seems to me that we must make short work of it, and bring Aurora de Guzman on the stage to-morrow. The idea met with my entire approbation; so leaving Signor Don Felix with his page, I withdrew to bed in an adjoining closet.
*Note: "Ivory fences": Should this phrase appear far-fetched in the person of Gil Blas, it may be recollected, that though not much of a student himself, he had waited on students; and might have sucked in, while standing behind their chairs, along with "fates and destinies, and such old sayings, the sisters three, and such branches of learning," that exquisitely characteristic Greek metaphor -- "a hedge of teeth." -- TRANSLATOR.
$CH. VI. -- Aurora's devices to secure Don Lewis Pacheco's affections.
THE two new friends met as soon as they came down in the morning. The ceremonies of the day began with reciprocal embraces, about which it was impossible for Aurora to be squeamish, for then Don Felix must have dropped the mask altogether. They went out and walked about town arm in arm, attended by Chilindron, Don Lewis's footman, and myself. We loitered about the gates of the university, looking at some posting bills and advertisements of new publications. There were a good many people amusing themselves, like us, with reading over the contents of these placards. Among the rest my eye was caught by a little fellow, who was giving his opinion very learnedly on the works exposed to sale. I observed him to be heard with profound attention, and could not help remarking how amply he deserved it in his own opinion. He was evidently a complete coxcomb, of an arrogant and dictatorial stamp, the common curse of your gentry under size. This new translation of Horace, said he, announced here to the public in letters of a yard long, is a prose work, executed by an old college author. The students have taken a great fancy to the book; so as to carry off four editions. But not a copy has been bought by any man of taste! His criticisms were scarcely more candid on any of the other books; he mauled them every one without mercy. It was easy enough to see he was an author! I should not have been sorry to have staid out his harangue, but Don Lewis and Don Felix were not to be left in the lurch. Now they took as little pleasure in this gentleman's remarks as they felt interest in the books which he was Scaligerising, so that they took a quiet leave of him and the university.
We returned home at dinner-time. My mistress sat down at table with Pacheco, and dexterously turned the conversation on her private concerns. My father, said she, is a younger branch of the Mendoza family, settled at Toledo, and my mother is own sister to Donna Kimena de Guzman, who came to Salamanca some days ago on an affair of business, with her niece Aurora, only daughter of Don Vincent de Guzman, whom possibly you might be acquainted with. No, answered Don Lewis, but I have often heard of him, as well as of your cousin Aurora. Is it true what they say of her? Her wit and beauty are reported to be unrivalled. As for wit, replied Don Felix, she certainly is not wanting, for she has taken great pains to cultivate her mind. But her beauty is by no means to be boasted of; indeed, we are thought to be very much alike. If that is the case, exclaimed Pacheco, she cannot be behindhand with her reputation. Your features are regular, your complexion almost too fine for a man; your cousin must be an absolute enchantress. I should like to see and converse with her. That you shall, if I have any interest in the family, and this very day too, replied the little Proteus of a Mendoza. We will go and see my aunt after dinner.
My mistress took the first opportunity of changing the topic, and conversing on indifferent subjects. In the afternoon, while the two friends were getting ready to go and call on Donna Kimena, I played the scout, and ran before to prepare the duenna for her visitors. But there was no time to be lost on my return, for Don Felix was waiting for me to attend Don Lewis and him on their way to his aunt's. No sooner had they stepped over the threshold than they were encountered by the adroit old lady, making signs to them to walk as softly as possible. Hush! hush! said she, in a low voice, you will waken my niece. Ever since yesterday she has had a dreadful headache, but is just now a little better; and the poor girl has been taking a little sleep for the last quarter of an hour. I am sorry for this unlucky accident, said Mendoza, I was in hopes we should have seen my cousin. Besides, I meant to have introduced my friend Pacheco. There is no such great hurry on that account, answered Ortiz with a significant smile, and if that is all, you may defer it till to-morrow. The gentlemen did not trouble the old lady with a long visit, but took their leave as soon as they decently could.
Don Lewis took us to see a young gentleman of his acquaintance, by name Don Gabriel de Pedros. There we stayed the remainder of the day, and took our suppers. About two o'clock in the morning we sallied forth on our return home. We had got about half-way, when we stumbled against something on the ground, and discovered two men stretched at their length in the street. We concluded they had fallen under the knife of the assassin, and stopped to assist them, if yet within reach of assistance. As we were looking about to inform ourselves of their condition, as nearly as the darkness of the night would allow, the patrole came up. The officer took us at first for the murderers, and ordered his people to surround us; but he mended his opinion of us on the sound of our voices, and by favour of a dark lantern held up to the faces of Mendoza and Pacheco. His myrmidons, by his direction, examined the two men, whom our fancies had painted as in the agonies of death, but it turned out to be a fat licentiate with his servant, both of them overtaken in their cups, and not dead, but dead drunk. Gentlemen, exclaimed one of the posse, this jolly fellow is an acquaintance of mine. What! do you not know Signor Guyomer the licentiate, head of our university? With all his imperfections he is a great character, a man of superior genius. He is as staunch as a hound at a philosophical dispute, and his words flow like a gutter after a hail-storm. He has but three foibles in which he indulges; intoxication, litigation, and fornication. He is now returning from supper at his Isabella's, whence, the more is the pity, the drunk was leading the drunk, and they both fell into the kennel. Before the good licentiate came to the headship this happened continually. Though manners make the man, honours, you perceive, do not always mend the manners. We left these drunkards in custody of the patrole, who carried them safe home, and betook ourselves to our lodging and our beds.
Don Felix and Don Lewis were stirring about mid-day. Aurora de Guzman was the first topic of their conversation. Gil Blas, said my mistress to me, run to my aunt, Donna Kimena, and ask if there is any admission for Signor Pacheco and me to-day, we want to see my cousin. Off I went to acquit myself of this commission, or rather to concert the plan of the campaign with the duenna. We had no sooner laid our heads together to the purpose intended, than I was once more at the elbow of the false Mendoza. Sir, quoth I, your cousin Aurora has got about wonderfully. She enjoined me from her own lips to acquaint you, that your visit could not be otherwise than highly acceptable, and Donna Kimena desired me to assure Signor Pacheco, that any friend of yours would always meet with an hospitable reception.
These last words evidently tickled Don Lewis's fancy. My mistress saw that the bait was swallowed, and prepared herself to haul the prey to shore. Just before dinner, a servant made his appearance from Signora Kimena, and said to Don Felix -- My lord, a man from Toledo has been inquiring after you, and has left this note at your aunt's house. The pretended Mendoza opened it, and read the contents aloud to the following effect -- "If your father and family still live in your remembrance, and you wish to hear of their concerns, do not fail, on the receipt of this, to call at the Black Horse, near the university." I am too much interested, said he, in these proffered communications, not to satisfy my curiosity at once. Without ceremony, Pacheco, you must excuse me for the present; if I am not back again here within two hours, you may find your way by yourself to my aunt's; I will join the party in the evening. You recollect Gil Blas' message from Donna Kimena, the visit is no more than what will be expected from you. After having thrown out this hint, he left the room, and ordered me to follow him.
It can scarcely be necessary to apprize the reader, that instead of marching down to the Black Horse, we filed off to our other quarters. The moment that we got within doors, Aurora tore off her artificial hair, washed the charcoal from her eyebrows, resumed her female attire, and shone in all her natural charms, a lovely dark-complexioned girl. So complete indeed had been her disguise that Aurora and Don Felix could never have been suspected of identity. The lady seemed to have the advantage of the gentleman even in stature, thanks to a good high pair of heels, to which she was not a little indebted. It was her first business to heighten her personal graces with all the embellishments of art; after which she looked out for Don Lewis, in a state of agitation, compounded of fear and of hope. One instant she felt confident in her wit and beauty; the next she anticipated the failure of her attempt. Ortiz, on her part, set her best foot foremost, and was determined to play up to my mistress. As for me, Pacheco was not to see my knave's face till the last act of the farce, for which the great actors are always reserved, to unravel the intricacy of the plot; so I went out immediately after dinner.
In short, the puppet-show was all adjusted against Don Lewis's arrival. He experienced a very gracious reception from the old lady, in amends for whose tediousness he was blessed with two or three hours of Aurora's delightful conversation. When they had been together long enough, in popped I, with a message to the enamoured spark. My lord, my master Don Felix begs you ten thousand pardons, but he cannot have the pleasure of waiting on you here this evening. He is with three men of Toledo, from whom he cannot possibly get away. Oh! the wicked little rogue, exclaimed Donna Kimena; as sure as a gun then he is going to make a night of it. No, madam, replied I, they are deeply engaged in very serious business. He is really distressed that he cannot pay his respects, and commissioned me to say everything proper to your ladyship and Donna Aurora. Oh! I will have none of his excuses, pouted out my mistress, he knows very well that I have been indisposed, and might shew some slight degree of feeling for so near a relation. As a punishment, he shall not come near me for this fortnight. Nay, madam, interposed Don Lewis, such a sentence is too severe. Don Felix's fate is but too pitiable, in having been deprived of your society this evening.
They bandied about their fine speeches on these little topics of gallantry for some time, and then Pacheco withdrew. The lovely Aurora metamorphosed herself in a twinkling, and resumed her swashing outside. The grass did not grow under her feet while she was running to the other lodging. I have a million of apologies to make, my dear friend, said she to Don Lewis, for not giving you the meeting at my aunt's; but there was no getting rid of the tiresome people I was with. However, there is one comfort, you have had so much the more leisure to look about you, and criticise my cousin's beauty. Well! and how do you like her! She is a most lovely creature, answered Pacheco. You were in the right to claim a resemblance to her. I never saw more correspondent features; the very same cast of countenance, the eyes exactly alike, the mouth evidently a family feature, and the tone of voice scarcely to be distinguished. The likeness, however, goes no further, for Aurora is taller than you, she is brown and you are fair, you are a jolly fellow, she has a little touch of the demure; so that you are not altogether the male and female Sosias. As for good sense, continued he, if an angel from heaven were to whisper wisdom in one ear, and your cousin her mortal chit-chat in the other, I am afraid the angel might whistle for an audience. In a word, Aurora is all-accomplished.
Signor Pacheco uttered these last words with so earnest an expression, that Don Felix said with a smile -- My friend, I advise you to stay away from Donna Kimena's, it will be more for your peace of mind. Aurora de Guzman may set your wits a wandering, and inspire a passion . . . .
I have no need of seeing her again, interrupted he, to become distractedly enamoured of her. I am sorry for you, replied the pretended Mendoza, for you are not a man to be seriously caught, and my cousin is not to be made a fool of; take my word for it. She would never encourage a lover whose designs were otherwise than honourable. Otherwise than honourable! retorted Don Lewis; who could have the audacity to form such on a lady of her rank and character? As for me, I should esteem myself the happiest of mankind, could she be prevailed on to favour my addresses, and link her fate with mine.
Since those are your sentiments, rejoined Don Felix, you may command my services. Yes, I will go heart and hand with you in the business. All my interest in Aurora shall be yours; and by to-morrow morning I will commence an attack on my aunt, whose good word has more influence than you may think. Pacheco returned his thanks with the best air possible to this young go-between, and we were all agog at the promising appearance of our stratagem. On the following day we found the means of heightening the dramatic effect by entangling the plot a little more. My mistress, after having waited on Donna Kimena, as if to speak a good word in favour of the suitor, came back with the result of the interview. I have spoken to my aunt, said she, but it was as much as I could do to make her hear your proposal with patience. She was primed and loaded against you. Some good-natured friend in the dark has painted you out for a reprobate; but I took your part with some little quickness, and at length succeeded in vindicating your moral character from the attack it had sustained.
This is not all, continued Aurora. You had better enter on the subject with my aunt in my presence, we shall be able to make something of her between us. Pacheco was all impatience to insinuate himself into the good graces of Donna Kimena; nor was the opportunity deferred beyond the next morning. Our amphibious Mendoza escorted him into the presence of Dame Ortiz, where such a conversation passed between the trio as put fire and tow to the combustible heart of Don Lewis. Kimena, a veteran performer, took the cue of sympathy at every expression of tenderness, and promised the enamoured youth that it should not be her fault if his plea with her niece was urged in vain. Pacheco threw himself at the feet of so good an aunt, and thanked her for all her favours. In this stage of the business Don Felix asked if his cousin was up. No, replied the Duenna, she is still in bed, and is not likely to be down-stairs while you stay; but call again after dinner, and you shall have a tête-à-tête with her to your heart's content. It is easy to imagine that so coming on a proposal from the dragon which was to guard this inaccessible treasure, produced its full complement of joy in the heart of Don Lewis. The remainder of the long morning had nothing to do but to be sworn at! He went back to his own lodging with Mendoza, who was not a little enraptured to observe, with the scrutinizing eye of a mistress under the disguise of a friend, all the symptoms of an incurable amorous infirmity.
Their tongues ran on no earthly subject but Aurora. When they had done dinner, Don Felix said to Pacheco -- A thought has just struck me. It would not be amiss for me to go to my aunt's a few minutes before you; I will get to speak to my cousin in private, and pry, if it be possible, into every fold and winding of her heart, as far as your interests are concerned. Don Lewis just chimed in with this idea, so that he suffered his friend to set out first, and did not follow him till an hour afterwards. My mistress availed herself so diligently of the interval, that she was tricked out as a lady from heel to point before the arrival of her lover. I beg pardon . . . . said the poor abused inamorato, after having paid his compliments to Aurora and the Duenna . . . . I took it for granted Don Felix would be here. You will see him in a few seconds, answered Donna Kimena, he is writing in my closet. Pacheco was easily put off with the excuse, and found his time pass cheerfully in conversation with the ladies. And yet, notwithstanding the presence of all his soul held dear, it seemed very strange that hour after hour glided away but no Mendoza stepped forth from the closet! He could not help remarking, that the gentleman's correspondence must be unusually voluminous, when Aurora's features all at once assumed the broader contour of a laugh, with a delightfully provoking question to Don Lewis -- Is it possible that love can be so blind as not to detect the glaring imposition by which it has been deluded? Has my real self made so faint an impression on your senses, that a flaxen peruke and a pencilled eyebrow could carry the farce to such a height as this? But the masquerade is over now. Pacheco, continued she, resuming an air of gravity; you are to learn that Don Felix de Mendoza and Aurora de Guzman are but one and the same person.
It was not enough to discover to him all the springs and contrivances by which he had been duped; she confessed the motives of tender partiality that led her to the attempt, and detailed the progress of the plot to the winding up of the catastrophe. Don Lewis scarcely knew whether to be most astonished or delighted at the recital; at my mistress's feet he thus uttered the transports of his fond applause -- Ah! lovely Aurora, can I believe myself indeed the happy mortal on whom your favours have been so lavished? What can I do to make you amends for them? My affection, were this life eternal, could scarcely pay the price. These pretty speeches were followed by a thousand others of the same quality and texture; after which the lovers descended a little nearer to common sense, and began planning the rational and human means of arriving at the accomplishment of their wishes. It was resolved that we should set out without loss of time for Madrid, where marriage was to drop the curtain on the last act of our comedy. This purpose was executed in the spirit of impatience which conceived it; so that Don Lewis was united to my mistress in a fortnight, and the nuptial ceremonies were graced with the usual accompaniments of music, feasting, balls, and rejoicings, without either end or respite.