CH. I. -- History of Don Raphael.
I MADE my entrance on the stage of life at Madrid, where my mother was an actress, famous for dramatic, and infamous for her intriguing talents. Her name was Lucinda. As for my father, every man must have one; but my arithmetic is too scanty to determine the number of mine. It might indeed be a matter of history, that such or such a man of fashion was dangling after my mother at the epoch of my arrival in this system; but then, that mere fact would by no means warrant a deduction that any individual gallant of the mother must therefore be the father of the child. A lady, so eminent as she was in so notorious and wholesale a profession, must have many strings to her bow; where her blandishments are most publicly lavished, her favours are most sparingly bestowed: there is a show article or two for public exhibition, but her everyday wares are cheap, and hackneyed to the meanest purchaser.
There is nothing like taking scandal by the beard, and treating the opinion of the world with heroic indifference. Lucinda, instead of cooping me up in a garret at home, made no scruple about owning her little bastard, but took me in her hand to the theatre with a modest assurance, regardless how the tongue of rumour might babble at her expense, or how the laugh of malice might peal at my unlucky appearance. In short, I was her pet, and came in for the caresses of all the men who frequented the house. One would have sworn that nature pleaded in my favour, and inspired each of them with a father's pride in the brat they had clubbed for. The twelve first years of my life were suffered to waste away in all kinds of frivolous amusements. Scarcely did they teach me to read and write. Still less was it thought of any consequence to initiate me in the principles of my religion. To dance, to sing, to play on the guitar, was the sum total of my early attainments. With these gifts and graces for my only acquisitions, the Marquis of Leganez asked for me to be about his only son, who was nearly of my own age. Lucinda gave her consent without reluctance, and it was then that I began to mind a little what I was about. Young Leganez could not reproach me with my ignorance, his little lordship was not cast in a scientific mould, for he scarcely knew a letter of his alphabet, though he had been under private tuition for fifteen months. None of his masters could make anything of him, patience was never formed to engage in so unequal a match. To be sure, they were expressly forbid to exercise any severity on his noble carcass, their orders were to teach, not to torture him; and this tender precaution, acting on a subject of insufferably untoward dispositions, was the means of throwing to the dogs all the mental physic they poured in; he would none of it.
But the verb-grinder engendered in his noddle a most ingenious device, by which to keep this troublesome young lordling in awe, without trenching on his foolish father's injunctions. This scheme was no other than to flog me when ever that scape-grace Leganez had incurred the penalty of the rod, and this vicarious execution was inflicted with the utmost rigour. My consent to the transfer had never been asked, and there was nothing in the act itself to recommend it; so that my only chance was to run away, and appeal to my mother against so arbitrary a discipline. However her maternal feelings might inwardly revolt, no trace of woman's weakness could be detected in her manner of receiving my complaint. The Leganez connection was too important to be lost for a few whippings; and away went she, dragging her culprit into the presence of his tormentor, who by this act of hers became master of broom field. Experience had convinced him that the success of his invention corresponded with its felicity. He therefore went on improving the mind and manners of the little grandee at the expense of my skin. Remorse for his delinquencies was to be excited only by sympathy; so that whenever it became necessary to make a bloody example, my seat of vengeance was firked most unmercifully. The running account between young Leganez and me was all on one side, and scarcely a day passed but he sinned on tick and suffered by attorney. By the nearest calculation of whole numbers, there went somewhere about a hundred cuts to teach him each single letter of the alphabet; so that if you multiply 100 by 24 for stupidity, and add an 0 to the amount for moral offences, you will have the sum total of the belabouring that his education cost me.
This thick and threefold companionship with birch was not the only rub; my path through this family was more beset with thorns than sweetened by flowers. As my birth and connections were no secret, the whole of the establishment, to the very refuse of the household, the stable-boys and scullions, twitted me with my shameful origin. This stuck so terribly in my throat that I made my escape once more, but not without borrowing my tutor's ready money, amounting to upwards of a hundred and fifty ducats, for an indefinite period, and without interest. Thus was the account settled between us, since he had made a property of my hide for a scarecrow, it was but fair that I should have a finger in the earnings of his arm. For a first attempt at thieving both the plan and execution were hopeful. A hue and cry was raised for two days, it was hot while it lasted, but I lay snug, and they missed me. Madrid was no longer a fit hiding-place, so I took to cover in Toledo, and the hounds were thrown out.
I was just then entering into my fifteenth year. What a happy fellow, at such an early age, to shape my own conduct and be in a condition of forming a set of morals for myself! I soon scraped acquaintance with some pleasant youths, who rescued me from the dominion of prejudice, and shared liberally with me in the sin of spending what was not my own. By degrees I rose in society and leagued myself with a set of professional sharpers, who found me so fine a subject to work upon, that a short time, with plenty of practice, put me in possession of all the most desperate jobs. At the expiration of five years, an itch for travelling laid hold of me. I therefore took leave of my comrades and got as far as Alcantara, wishing to commence my peregrinations with the province of Estremadura. In this my first excursion, an opportunity of keeping in my hand occurred; and I was too diligent a practitioner to let it escape. As I was on foot, and loaded moreover with a pretty heavy knapsack, I halted from time to time to avail myself of the shade, and recruit a little under the trees which lined the highway. At one of these baits I picked up two young gentlemen, who were chatting at their ease upon the grass, and inhaling the freshness of the breeze. My mode of accosting them was suited to the occasion; nor did its familiarity seem to be taken in ill part. The eldest could not be more than fifteen -- a couple of as practicable greenhorns as ever fell into the hands of a man of genius. Courteous stranger, said the youngest, we are the Sons of two rich citizens at Placentia. Longing extremely to see the kingdom of Portugal, we have each of us begged a hundred pistoles from our friends, and are setting out to satisfy our curiosity. Travelling on foot as we do, we shall be able to get a good way with that supply, shall we not? What do you think of it? If I had as much, answered I, they might take me who could catch me. I would scour over the four known quarters of the globe, and then set out on new discoveries. Fire and fury! Two hundred pistoles! Why it is an entail for a dukedom! You ought to lay by out of the interest. If it is agreeable to you, gentlemen, I will club with you as far as Almeria, whither I am going to take possession of an estate left me by an uncle who was settled there for twenty years or upwards.
My young cockneys testified at once the pleasure they should derive from my company. Whereupon, when we were all three a little refreshed, we trudged on towards Alcantara, where we arrived early in the afternoon. No inn but the best was fit to hold such guests. We asked for a room, and were shown into one where there was a press with a good strong lock upon it. Supper was ordered without delay; but as some time was required to get it ready, I proposed to my travelling companions a gentle saunter about the town. The party seemed perfectly agreeable. We locked up our knapsacks in the press, the key of which one of the citizens put in his pocket, and out sallied we from the inn. The churches were the best lions we met with in our way; and while we were gaping about the principal, I pretended to have recollected on a sudden some very urgent business. Gentlemen, said I to my companions, it has just come across me that a good man of Toledo gave me a commission to say two words on his behalf to a merchant who lives hard by this church. Have the goodness to wait for me here, I will be back in a moment. With this excuse, I went off like a shot, in the direction of our inn. The press was my point of attack -- I forced the lock, ransacked the baggage of my young citizens, and laid a sacrilegious hand on their pistoles. Poor youths! How they were to pay their reckoning, it was not for me to presume even to guess, for most assuredly I stripped them of all the natural means. After this feat, I decamped as expeditiously as my legs could carry me from the town, and took the direction of Merida, without caring a curse what became of the young brood I had plucked.
Such a windfall as this placed me in a condition of travelling merrily. Though in the very blush of youth, a certain forecast was not wanting to carry me discreetly through the world, and keep my head above water. It must be admitted without question, that I was a youth of forward parts for my age, and unfettered by the prejudices of innocence. I determined to buy a mule, and cheapened one at the first market town. My knapsack was metamorphosed into a portmanteau, and by degrees I began to put on the man of consequence. On the third day a man came across me singing vespers with lungs like a pair of bellows on the highway. By his air, he seemed to be a musician of the church establishment, and I accosted him accordingly. Well done, my holy howler of the hallelujahs! You sing your penitential ditties at a good jovial pitch. To all appearance you sol-fa with your whole heart and soul. Good sir, replied he, I belong, with your good leave, to the musical department of the Catholic church: and it is my common practice to keep my devotion and my wind in play by the rehearsal of an anthem or two as I travel along the road.
With this disposition to be sociable, we soon got into conversation. It was clear to me that I had fallen in with a character not to be despised in point of shrewdness, nor indisposed to society and merriment. He was four or five-and-twenty. My companion being on foot, I slackened my pace, for the pleasure of chatting with him. Among other things, we talked about Toledo. I am perfectly well acquainted with that city, said the brazen-lunged torturer of anthems. It was my residence for a considerable time, and my connections there are not altogether contemptible. And in what part of the town, interrupted I, did you reside? In the New Street, was his answer. I was hand in glove with Don Vincent de Buena Garra, Don Matthias de Cordello, and two or three other gentlemen of very considerable fashion. We lived together; took our meals at the same mess, and, in short, were scarcely ever asunder. It was a charming society! This avowal was no small surprise to me, for it is to be understood, that the gentlemen whose names he cited with so pompous an air were the very sharpers with whom I had been affiliated at Toledo. Why, thou degenerate vicar choral! exclaimed I, these fine blades of whom thou hast been boasting are among the number of my acquaintance also, for I too have lived with them in the New Street; we were hand in glove, took our meals at the same mess, and, in short, were scarcely ever asunder. You are a wag! replied he, with a knowing wink, that is to say, you got into the gang three years ago, when I left it. My motive for quitting such a worshipful fraternity, resumed I, was an itch for travelling. I mean to make the tour of Spain. A little more knowledge of the world will make me quite another thing. Doubtless, said he, there is no possible way but travelling to rub off the rust, or bring wit, talent, and address to perfection. It is for the self-same reason that I too turned my back upon Toledo, though the time glided away there very agreeably. But thanks to a kind providence, which has yoked me with a labourer in my own vineyard, when I least expected it. Let us join our forces, let us travel the same road, let us make a joint-stock out of our neighbours' purses, let us rob, let us cheat, let us avail ourselves of every opportunity that may offer of exemplifying our theory, and improving our practice, in the noble art on which our skill is employed.
The proposal was made in so candid a spirit, so like a citizen of the world, untainted with the selfishness of your honest men, that I closed in with it at once. My confidence was surrendered at the first summons to the frankness with which he volunteered his own. We spoke our free hearts each to the other. I dilated all my pilgrimage, and he spake of most disastrous chances, of moving accidents through which he had passed even from his boyish days to this very moment of his ripe and rampant roguery. It appeared that he was on his way from Portalegre, whence he had been obliged to decamp with the utmost expedition on account of a little swindling transaction in which his luck happened not to keep pace with his ingenuity. The habit he wore was sacrilegiously adopted as a cloak to his person and real character, since he thought it safest to be near the church, however far from God. Thus did we two share all our counsel, and pledge our brother's vows, till we grew together like a double cherry, and determined, with two seeming bodies but one heart, to incorporate our voices and minds in some master-stroke at Merida. If it took, well and good; if not, we had only to cut and run. From this moment, community of goods, that pure and simple feature of patriarchal life, was enacted as a law between us. Moralez, it is true, for that was my fellow-traveller's name, did not find himself in the most splendid condition possible. His funds were limited to five or six ducats, with a few little articles in a bag. I therefore was the monied man of the firm; but then there was brass in his forehead for an inexhaustible coinage, and the seeming of a saint when he played the devil most. So on we journeyed on the ride-and-tie principle, and arrived in humble cavalcade at Merida.
We put up at an inn near the skirts of the town, where my comrade changed his dress. When he had rigged himself in layman's attire, we took a turn up and down, to reconnoitre the ground, and see if we could pick out some opportunity of labouring in our vocation. Had it been our good fortune to have lived before Homer, that old apologist for sharping by wholesale would have dignified our excursion with a simile.
Not half so keen, fierce vultures of the chase
Stoop from the mountains on the feathered race, &c.
To descend into plain prose, we were ruminating on the chapter of accidents, and hammering out some theme for the employment of our industry, when we espied a grey-headed old gentleman in the street, sword in hand, defending himself against three men who were thrusting at him with all their might and main. The unfairness of the match was what stuck in my throat; so that flying, with the spirit of a prize-fighter, to see fair play, I made common cause with the old man. Moralez followed up my blows. We proved ourselves match for the three assailants, and put them completely to the rout.
Our rescued friend was profuse in his acknowledgments. We are in rapture, said I, at our good luck in being here so seasonably for your assistance: but let us at least know to whom we have been so fortunate as to be serviceable; and what inducement those three men could possibly have for their murderous attempt. Gentlemen replied he, my obligations are too great to hesitate about satisfying your curiosity; my name is Jerome de Moyadas, a gentleman of this town, living on my means. One of these cut-throat rascals, from whom you have rescued me, professes to be in love with my daughter. He asked her of me in marriage within these few days; and for want of gaining my consent in a quiet way, has just attempted to force himself into my daughter's good graces, by sending me into the other world. And may we take the liberty, rejoined I, of inquiring farther, why you were so obdurate to the proposals of this enamoured swain? I will explain the whole to you at once, said he. I had a brother, a merchant in this town; his name was Austin. Two months ago he happened to be at Calatrava, and took up his abode with his correspondent, Juan Velez de la Membrilla. They got to be as loving as turtles; and my brother, to clench the connection, engaged my daughter Florence to his good friend's son, not doubting but he had influence enough with me to redeem his pledge when he returned to Merida. Accordingly, he no sooner opened himself on the subject than I consented out of pure fraternal affection. He sent Florence's picture to Calatrava; but, alas! he did not live to put the finishing hand to his own work. We laid him with his forefathers three weeks ago! On his death-bed, he besought me not to dispose of my girl but in favour of his correspondent's son. I satisfied his mind on that point; and this is the reason why I have refused Florence to the suitor by whom I was assaulted, though the match would have been a very desirable one. But my word is my idol; and we are in daily expectation of Juan Velez de la Membrilla's heir, who is to be my son-in-law, though I know no more of him, nor of his father neither, than if they were just imported from an undiscovered island. But I beg pardon; this is an old man's garrulity. Yet you yourselves led me into the scrape.
This tale did I swallow with a greedy ear; and pouncing at once upon a part to play, which my fruitful imagination suggested, I put on an air of inordinate surprise, and ventured at all hazards to lift my eyes upward to a purer region. Then turning to my father-in-law, with an expression of feeling which nothing but hypocrisy could personate: Ah! Signor de Moyadas, is it possible that, on my arrival at Merida, I should enjoy the heartfelt triumph of rescuing from foul assassination the honoured parent of my peerless love? This exclamation produced all the astonishment it was levelled to excite in the old citizen. Even Moralez himself stared like an honest man, and shewed by his face that there was a degree of impudence to which his conceptions had not hitherto risen. What! do not my ears deceive me? exclaimed the old gentleman. And are you really the son of my brother's correspondent? Really and truly, Signor Jerome de Moyadas, rejoined I with impregnable effrontery, and a hug round his neck that had nearly sent him after his brother. Behold the selected mortal of his species, to whose arms the adorable Florence is devoted! But these nuptial anticipations, transporting as they are, must yield to the anguish of my soul for the demise of their founder. Poor Austin! He is gone, and we must all follow! I should be ingratitude personified, if my heart was not lacerated and rent by the death of a man to whom I owe all my hopes of bliss. At the term of this period, I squeezed good Jerome's wezand once more, and drew the back of my hand across my eyes, to wipe away the tears it had not been convenient to shed. Moralez, who by this time had conned over the pretty pickings to be made out of this juggle, was not wanting to play his underpart. He passed himself off for my servant, and improved upon his master in lamentation for the untimely death of Signor Austin. My honoured master Jerome, exclaimed he, what a loss have you sustained, since your brother is no more! He was such an honest man. Honest men are not to be met with every day. A superfine sample of commerce! A dealer in friendship without a percentage! A dealer in merchandise without an underhand advantage! A dealer who dealt as dealers very seldom do deal!
We had our hands to play against a man who was a novice at the game. Simple and cullible, so far from smelling out the rat, he took his stink for a nosegay. And why, said he, did you not come straight to my house? It was not friendly to put up at an inn. On the footing we are likely to be upon, there should be none of those punctilios. Sir, said Moralez, helping me out of the scrape, my master is a little too much given to stand upon ceremony. Though to be sure, in the present instance, he is in some degree excusable for declining to appear before in this uncouth trim. We have been robbed upon the road, and have lost all our travelling equipage. My lad, interrupted I, has let the cat out of the bag, Signor de Moyadas. This unlucky accident has prevented me from paying my respects sooner. True love is diffident; nor could I venture in this garb into the presence of a mistress who was unacquainted with my person. I was therefore waiting the return of a servant whom I have sent to Calatrava. Such a trifle, rejoined the old man, must not deprive us of your company; and I insist upon it, that you make my house your home from this very moment.
With such sort of importunity, he forced me into his family: but as we were on our way, the pretended robbery was a natural topic of conversation; and I should have made light of my baggage, though the loss was very considerable, had not Florence's picture unluckily formed a part of the booty! The old codger chuckled at that, and observed, that such a loss was easily repaired: the original was worth five hundred per cent. more than the copy. To make me amends, as soon as we got home, he called his daughter, a girl of not more than sixteen, with a person to have reclaimed a libertine, if beauty ever possessed that power except in romance. You behold, said he, the bale of goods my late brother has consigned to you. Oh! my good sir, exclaimed I in an impassioned tone, words are not wanting to assure me that this must be the lovely Florence: those bewitching features are engraven on my memory, their impression is indelible on my heart. If the portrait I have lost, the mere outline of these embodied charms, could kindle passion by its cold and lifeless likeness, judge what must be my agitation, my transport at this moment. Such language is too flattering to be sincere, said Florence; nor am I so weak and vain as to be persuaded that my merits warrant it. That is right! interchange your fine speeches, my children! This was a good-natured encouragement from the father, who at once left me alone with his daughter, and taking Moralez aside, said to him; My friend, those who made so free with your baggage, doubtless did not stand upon any ceremony with your money. Very true, sir, answered my colleague; an overpowering band of robbers poured down upon us near Castil-Blazo, and left us not a rag but what we carry on our backs: but we are in momentary expectation of receiving bills of exchange, and then we shall appear once more like ourselves.
While you are waiting for your bills of exchange, replied the old man, taking a purse out of his pocket, here are a hundred pistoles with which you may do as you please. Oh, sir! rejoined Moralez, as if he were shocked, my master will never take them. You do not know him. Heaven and earth! he is a man of the nicest scruples in money matters. Not one of your shabby fellows, always spunging upon his friends, and ready to take up money wherever he can get it! Running in debt is ratsbane to him. If he is to beg his bread or go into an hospital, why there is an end of it! but as for borrowing, he will never be reduced to that. So much the better! said the good burgess: I value him the more for his independence. Running in debt is a mean thing; it ought to be ratsbane to him and everybody else. Your people of quality, to be sure, may plead prescription in their favour; there is a sort of privileged swindling, not incompatible with high honour, in high life. If tradesmen were to be paid, they would be too nearly on a level with their employers. But as your master has such upright principles, heaven forbid they should be violated in this house! Since any offer of pecuniary assistance would hurt his feelings, we must say no more about it. As the point seemed to be settled, the purse was for steering its course back again into the pocket; but my provident partner laid hold of Signor de Moyadas by the arm, and delayed the convoy. Stay, sir, said he, whatever aversion my master may have to borrowing on a general principle, and considered as borrowing, yet there is a light in which, with good management, he may be brought to look kindly on your hundred pistoles. In fact, it is only in a mercantile point of view, as an affair of debtor and creditor between strangers, that he holds this formal doctrine; but he is free and easy enough where he is on a family footing. Why, there is his own father! It is only ask and have; and he does ask and have accordingly. Now you are going to be a second father to him, and are fairly entitled to be put on the same confidential footing. He is a young man of nice discrimination, and will doubtless think you entitled to the compliment.
By thus shifting his ground, Moralez got possession of the old gentleman's purse. As for the girl and myself, we were engaged in a little agreeable flirting; but were soon joined by our honoured parent, who interrupted our tête-à-tête. He told Florence how much he was obliged to me, and expressed his gratitude to myself, in terms which left no doubt of our being a very happy family. I made the most of so favourable a disposition, by telling the good man, that if he would bestow on me an acknowledgment the nearest to my heart, he must hasten my marriage with his daughter. My eagerness was not taken amiss. He assured me, that in three days at latest I should be a happy bridegroom, and that instead of six thousands ducats, the fortune he had promised to give my wife, he would make it up ten, as a substantial proof how deeply he felt himself indebted to me for the service I had rendered him.
Here we were, therefore, quite at home with our good friend Jerome de Moyadas, sumptuously entertained, and catching every now and then a vista vision of ten thousand ducats, with which we proposed to march off abruptly from Merida. Our transports, however, were not without their alloy. It was by no means improbable that within three days the bonâ fide son of Juan Velez de la Membrilla might come and interrupt our sport. This fear had for its foundation more than the weakness of our nerves. On the very next morning, a sort of clodpole, with a portmanteau across his shoulders, knocked at the door of Florence's father. I was not at home at the time, but my colleague had to bear the brunt of it. Sir, said the rustic to our sagacious friend, I belong to the young gentleman at Calatrava who is to be your son-in-law -- to Signor de la Membrilla. We have both just come off our journey: he will be here in an instant, and sent me forward to prepare you for his arrival. Hardly had these unaccountable tidings been announced, when the master appeared in person; which stretched the old fellow's blinkers into a stare, and put Moralez a little to the blush.
Young Pedro was what we call a tall fellow of his inches. He began at once paying his compliments to the master of the house; but the good man did not give him time to finish his speech; and turning towards my partner in iniquity, asked what was the meaning of all this. Hereupon Moralez, whose power of face was not to be exceeded by any human impudence, boldly asserted our identity, and said to the old gentleman -- Sir, these two men here before you belong to the gang which pillaged us on the highway. I have a perfect recollection of their features; and in particular could swear to him who has the effrontery to call himself the son of Signor Juan Velez de la Membrilla. The old citizen gulped down the lies of Moralez like nectar, and told the intruders, on the supposition of their being the impostors -- Gentlemen, you are come the day after the fair; the trick was a very good one, but it will not pass; the enemy has taken the ground before you. Pedro de la Membrilla has been under this roof since yesterday. Have all your wits about you, answered the young man from Calatrava; you are nursing a viper in your bosom. Be assured that Juan Velez de la Membrilla has neither chick nor child but myself. And what relation is the hangman to you? replied the old dupe: you are better known than liked in this house. Can you look this young man in the face? or can you deny that you robbed his master? If I were anywhere but under your roof, rejoined Pedro in a rage, I would punish the insolence of this scoundrel who fancies to pass me off for a highwayman. He is indebted for his safety to your presence, which puts a curb upon my choler. Good sir, pursued he, you are grossly imposed on. I am the favoured youth to whom your brother Austin has promised your daughter. Is it your pleasure for me to produce the whole correspondence with my father on the subject of the impending match? Will you be satisfied with Florence's picture sent me by him as a present a little while before his death?
No, put in the old burgess crustily; the picture will work just as strongly on my conviction as the letters. I am perfectly aware by what chance they all fell into your hands; and if you will take a stupid fellow's advice, Merida will soon be rid of such rubbish. A quick march may save you a trouncing. This is beyond all bearing, screamed out the young royster with an overwhelming vehemence. My name shall never be stolen from me, and assumed by a common cheat with impunity; neither shall my person be confounded with that of a free-booter. There are those in this town who can identify me: they are forth coming, and shall expose the fallacy by which you are prejudiced against me. With this assurance he withdrew, attended by his servant, and Moralez kept possession of the field. The adventure had even the effect of determining Jerome de Moyadas to fix the wedding for the very time being. Accordingly he went his way, for the purpose of giving the necessary orders for the celebration.
Though my colleague in knavery was well enough pleased to see Florence's father in a humour so pat for our purposes, he was not without certain scruples of conscience about our safety. It was to be feared, lest the probable proceedings of Pedro might be followed up by awkward consequences; so that he waited impatiently for my arrival, to make me acquainted with what had occur red. I found him over head and ears in a brown study. What is the matter, my friend? said I, seemingly there is something upon your mind. Indeed there is; and something that will be minded, answered he. At the same time he let me into the affair. Now you may judge, added he after a pause, whether we have not some food for reflection. It is your ill star, rash contriver, which has thrown us into this perplexity. The idea, it must he confessed, was full of fire and ingenuity; had it answered in the application, your renown would have been emblazoned in the chronicles of our fraternity; but according to present appearances, the run of luck is against us, and my counsels incline to a prudent avoidance of all explanations, by quietly sneaking off with the market-penny we have made of the silly old fellow's credulity.
Master Moralez, replied I to this desponding speech, you give way to difficulties with more haste than good speed. Such pusillanimity does but little honour to Don Matthias de Cordel, and the other gallant blades with whom you were affiliated at Toledo. After serving a campaign under such experienced generals, it is not soldierly to shrink from the perils of the field. For my part, I am resolved to fight the battles of these heroes over again, or, in more vulgar phrase, to prove myself a chip from the old blocks. The precipice which makes your head turn giddy only stiffens my sinews to surmount the toils of the way, and push forward to the end of our career. If you arrive at your journey's end in a whole skin, said my companion, I will myself be your biographer, and set your fame far above all the parallels of Plutarch.
Just as Moralez was finishing this learned allusion, Jerome de Moyadas came in. You shall be my son-in-law this very evening, said he. Your servant must have given you an account of what has just passed. What say you to the impudence of the scoundrel who wanted to make me believe that he was the son of my brother's correspondent? Honoured sir, answered I, with a melancholy air, and in a tone of voice the most insinuating that ever cajoled the easy faith of a dotard, I feel within me that it is not in my nature to carry on an imposition without betraying it in my countenance. It now becomes necessary to make you a sincere confession. I am not the son of Juan Velez de la Membrilla. What is it you tell me? interrupted the old man, out of breath with surprise, and out of his wits with apprehension. So then! you are not the young man to whom my brother. . . . . For pity's sake, sir, interrupted I in my turn, condescend to give me a hearing patiently to the end of my story. For these eight days have I doted to distraction on your daughter; and this dotage, this distraction, has riveted me to Merida. Yesterday, after having rescued you from your danger, I was making up my mind to ask her of you in marriage; but you gave a check to my passion and put a tie upon my tongue, by the intelligence that she was destined for another. You told me that your brother, on his death-bed, enjoined you to give her to Pedro de la Membrilla; that your word was pledged, and that you were the sworn vassal and bondman of your veracity. These circumstances, it must be owned, were overwhelming in the extreme; and my romantic passion, at the last gasp of its despair, gained breath by the stratagem with which the god of love inspired me. I must at the same time declare that a trick is at the best but a mean thing, and, however sanctified by the motive, my conscience recoiled at the delusion. Yet I could not but think that my pardon would be granted on the discovery, when it should come out that I was an Italian prince travelling through this country as a private gentle man. My father reigns supreme over a nest of inaccessible valleys, lying between Switzerland, the Milanese, and Savoy. It could not but occur to me that you would be agreeably surprised when I should unfold to you my birth, and having married Florence under my fictitious character, should announce to her the rank she had attained, with all the rapture of an enamoured husband, and all the stage effect of a hero in tragedy or romance. But heaven, pursued I, with an hypocritical softening down of my accents, has visited my sins by cutting me off from such a perennial stream of joy. Pedro de la Membrilla was introduced upon the scene; he must have his name back again, whatever the restitution may cost me. Your promise binds you hand and foot to fix upon him for your son-in-law; it is your duty to give him the preference, without taking my rank and station into the account; without mercy on the forlorn condition to which you are going to reduce me. To be sure, it might be said, but then I should say it who ought not to say it, that your brother had only the authority of an uncle over your daughter, that you are her father, and that there is more right and reason in discharging an actual debt of gratitude towards your preserver, than in being mealy-mouthed about a verbal promise which would press but lightly on the conscience of the most scrupulous casuist.
Yes, without doubt, that argument is indisputable, exclaimed Jerome de Moyadas; and on that ground there can no longer be any question between you and Pedro de la Membrilla. If my brother Austin were still living, he would not think it bad morality to give the preference to a man who has saved my life, nor a bad speculation to close the bargain with a prince who has not disdained to court our alliance. It were an absolute suicide on the part of all my opening prospects; the frantic desperation of an acknowledged incurable, not to dispose of my daughter so illustriously, not to solicit your highness's acceptance of her hand. And yet, sir, resumed I, these things are not to be determined without due deliberation; look at your own interests and safety with a microscopic eye, for though the illustrious channel through which my blood has flowed for ages . . . . You are scarcely serious, interrupted he, in supposing that I can hesitate for a moment. No, may it please your highness; it is my most humble and earnest request that you will deign, on this very evening, to honour the happy Florence with your hand. Well, then! said I, be it so; go yourself and be the bearer of the unlooked-for tidings, announce to her the brilliant career of her exalted destiny.
While the good citizen was putting his best foot foremost, to instil into his daughter that she had made the conquest of a prince, Moralez, who had taken in the whole conversation with greedy ear, threw himself upon his knees before me, and did homage in these bantering terms. Most potent, grave, and august Italian prince, son of a sovereign, supreme over a nest of inaccessible valleys, lying between Switzerland, the Milanese, and Savoy, permit me to humble myself at your highness's feet, in humble acknowledgment of the ecstasy into which you have thrown me. By the honour of a swindler, you are one of the wonders of our world. I always thought myself the first man in the line; but in good truth I doff my bonnet before you, whose genius seems to supersede the lessons of experience. Then you are no longer uneasy about the result, said I to my colleague in iniquity. Oh! as to that, not in the least, answered he. I no longer care a fig for Master Pedro; let him come as soon as he pleases, we are a match for him. Here we are, then, Moralez and myself, safe seated on the saddle, and rising in our stirrups. We even went so far as to begin settling the course we should pursue with the fortune, on which we reckoned so securely, that if it had already been in our pockets, we could not have chuckled more triumphantly over the proverb of "a bird in the hand." Yet we were not in actual possession, which is more than legal right: and the sequel of the adventure proved to us, that manythings fall out between the cup and the lip.
We very soon saw the young man of Calatrava returning. He was accompanied by two citizens and by an alguazil, whose dignity was as much supported by his whiskers, and by the lowering overcast of his swarthy aspect, as by the weight of his official character. Florence's father was of the party. Signor de Moyadas, said Pedro to him, here are three honest people come to answer for me; they are acquainted with my person, and can tell you who I am. Yes, undoubtedly, exclaimed the alguazil, I can depose to the fact. I certify to all those whom it may concern, that you are known to me: your name is Pedro, and you are the only son of Juan Valez de la Membrilla: whosoever dares to maintain the contrary is an impostor. I believe you implicitly, master alguazil, said the good creature Jerome de Moyadas, rather drily. Your evidence is gospel to me, as well as that of these fair and honest tradesmen you have brought with you. I am fully satisfied that the young gentleman on whose behalf you come is the only son of my brother's correspondent. But what is that to me? I am no longer in the humour to give him my daughter, so there is an end of that.
Oh! then it is quite another matter, said the alguazil. I only come to your house for the purpose of assuring you that this young man is no impostor. You have the authority of a parent over your child, and no one has any right to dictate to you how you are to marry her, and whether you will or no. Neither do I, on my part, interrupted Pedro, pretend to lay any force on the inclinations of Signor de Moyadas; but he will perhaps allow me to ask him why he has so suddenly changed his resolution. Has he any reason to be dissatisfied with me? Alas! let me at least understand, that in losing the sweet hope of becoming his son-in-law, my promised bliss has not been wrested from me by any misconduct of my own. I have no complaint to make of you, answered the old man; nay, I will even tell you more; it is with sincere sorrow that I find myself under the necessity of breaking my word with you, and I heartily beseech you to forgive me for having done so. I am persuaded that you are too generous to bear me any ill-will for having thrown the balance into the scale of a rival, who has saved my life. You see him here, pursued he, introducing my noble self, this is the illustrious personage who threw round me the shield of his protection in my great peril: and, the better still to apologize for my seemingly harsh treatment of yourself, you are to know that he is an Italian prince.
At these last words, Pedro was dumb-founded, and looked as if he could not help it. The two tradesmen opened their eyes as wide as they could stare, with surprise at finding themselves for the first time in princely society. But the alguazil, in the habit of looking at things with the cross eye of suspicion, divined most perspicuously that this marvellous adventure must be a complete humbug; and the verification of the prophecy was calculated to put money into the pocket of the prophet. He therefore conned over my countenance with a very inquisitive regard; but as my features, which were new to justice, threw him out most cruelly from hunting down the game he was in chase of, he had no alternative but to try his luck on my companion. Unfortunately for my highness of the inaccessible valleys, he knew again the hang-dog features of Moralez; and recollecting to have seen him within the purlieus of a gaol, Ay, ay! exclaimed he, this is one of my established customers. This gentleman is a particular acquaintance of mine, and you may take his character from me for one of the rankest rascals within the kingdoms and principalities of Spain. Softly, look before you leap, most adventurous alguazil, said Jerome de Moyadas; this lad, of whom you draw so unfavourable a picture, is in the travelling retinue of a prince. So much the better, retorted the alguazil; a man would not desire clearer evidence on which to bring in his verdict. If we can but hang the servant, we shall soon send the master to the devil. The case is as undeniable as a feed counsel's plea; these pleasant sparks are a couple of fortune-hunters, who have laid their heads together to take you in. I am an old hound upon this scent; so that, by way of proof presumptive that these merry vagabonds are within the contemplation of the law in that case provided, I shall lodge them where they will be well taken care of. They will have plenty of time for meditation under the chastising philosophy of a turnkey; or should confinement fail to mend their morals, we have a sort of tangible discipline, which insinuates reformation by the inlet of a smarting hide. Stop there, and bethink you in good time, master officer, rejoined the old gentleman; we must not draw the cord tighter than it will bear. You never make any bones, you hangers-on of the law, about hurting the feelings of better men than yourselves. May not this servant be a common cheat, without his master being a swindler? Princes are persons of honour as a matter of course; yet the retainers to a court are inordinate rascals; it requires no conjurer to find that out. Are you playing into the hands of your deluders, with your princes? interrupted the alguazil. This new manufacturer of false pretences is a proficient, take my word for it; but I shall quench his zeal in the service, and gravel the ingenuity of his partner, with a whereas and a commitment in due form. The scouts of justice are all round the door, who will worry their game every inch of the chase, if they do not suffer themselves to be taken quietly on their form. So come along, may it please your serene highness, let us proceed to our destination.
This upshot of the business was a death-blow to me, as well as to Moralez; and our confusion did but infuse doubts into the mind of Jerome de Moyadas, or rather burned, sunk, and destroyed us in his esteem. He began rather to think, not without reason, that we had some little design to impose on his credulity. Nevertheless he acted on this occasion in the spirit of a man of honour and a gentleman. My good friend and protector, said he to the alguazil, your conjectures may be without foundation; on the other hand, they may turn out to have too much truth in them. Whichever of these alternatives may be the fact, let us not look too curiously into their characters. They are both young, and have time enough for amendment if they want it; let them go their ways, and withdraw whithersoever it may best please them. Make no opposition, I beseech you, to their safe egress; it is a favour which you may consider as done to me, and my motive for asking it is to acquit myself of my debt to them. If my heart was not too soft for my profession, answered the alguazil, I should lodge these pretty gentlemen in limbo, in defiance of all your pleadings in their favour; but your eloquence and my susceptibility have relaxed the stern demeanour of justice for this evening. Let them, however, leave town on the spur of the occasion: for if I come across them to-morrow, and there is any faith in an alguazil, they shall see such sport as will be no sport to them.
When it was signified to Moralez and me, culprits as we were, that we were to be let off scot free, we polished up the brass upon our foreheads a little. It was time now to bounce and swagger, and to maintain that we were men of undeniable respectability; but the alguazil looked askew at us, and muttered that least said was soonest mended. I do not know how, but those gentry have a strange knack of curbing our genius; they are complete lords of the ascendant. Florence and her dowry therefore were lost to Pedro de la Membrilla by a turn of the dice, and we may conclude that he was received as the son-in-law of Jerome de Moyadas. I took to my heels with my companion. We blundered on the road to Truxillo, with the consolation at our hearts of having at least pocketed a hundred pistoles by our frolic. An hour before night-fall we passed through a little village with the intention of putting up for the evening at the next stage. An inn of very tolerable appearance for the place attracted our notice. The landlord and landlady were sitting at the door, on a long bench such as usually graces a pot-house porch. Our host, a tall man, withered, and with one foot in the grave, was tinkling on a cracked guitar to the unbounded emolument of his wife, whose faculties seemed to hang in rapture on the performance. Gentlemen, cried out the intrepid tavern-keeper, when he found that we were not upon the halt, you will do well to stop here; you may fare worse further off. There is a devil of a three leagues to the nearest village, and you will find nothing to make you amends for what you leave behind; you may assure yourselves of that. Take a word of advice, know when you are well used; I will treat you with the fat of the land, and charge you at the lowest rate. There was no resisting such a plea. We came up to our courteous entertainers, paid them the compliments of course, and sitting down by their side, the conversation was supported by all four on the indifferent topics of the day. Our host announced himself as an officer of the Holy Brotherhood, and his rib was a fat laughing squab of a woman, withoutward good-nature, but with an eye to make the most of her commodities.
Our discourse was broken in upon by the arrival of from twelve to fifteen riders, some mounted on mules, others on horseback, followed by about thirty sumpter-mules laden with packages. Ah! what a princely retinue! exclaimed the landlord at the sight of so much company: where can I put them all? In an instant the village was crammed full of men and beasts. As luck would have it, there was near the inn an immense barn, where the sumpter mules and their packages were secured; the saddle-mules and horses were taken care of in other places. As for their masters, they thought less about bespeaking beds than about calling for the bill of fare, and ordering a good supper. The host and hostess, with a servant girl whom they kept, were all upon the alert to make things agreeable. They laid a heavy hand upon all the fowls in the poultry-yard. These precious roasts, with some undisguised rabbits, cats in the masquerade of a fricassee, and a deluging tureen of soup, stinking of cabbage and greasy with mutton fat, were enough to have given a sickener to the inveterate stomachs of a regiment.
As for Moralez and myself, we cast a scrutinizing eye on these troopers, nor were they behindhand in passing their secret judgments upon us. At last we came together in conversation, and it was proposed on our part, if they had no objection, that we should all sup together. They assured us that they should be extremely happy in our company. Here we are, then, all seated round the table. There was one among them who seemed to take the lead; and for whom the rest, though in the main they were on the most intimate terms with him, thought it necessary on some occasions to testify their deference. In case of a dispute, this high gentleman assumed the umpire, he talked in a tone above the common pitch, going so far sometimes as to contradict in no very courtly phrase the sentiments of others, who, far from giving him back his own, were ready to swear to his assertions and crouch under his rebuke. By accident the discourse turned on Andalusia. Moralez happening to launch out into the praise of Seville, the man about whom I have been talking said to him -- My good fellow-traveller, you are ringing the chimes on the city which gave birth to me; at least I am a native of the neighbourhood, since the little town of Mayrena is answerable for my appearance in the world. I have the same story to tell you, answered my companion. I am also of Mayrena; and it is scarcely possible but that our families should be acquainted. Whose son are you? An honest notary's, replied the stranger, by name Martin Moralez. As fate will have it, exclaimed my comrade with emotion, the adventure is very remarkable! You are then my eldest brother, Manuel Moralez? Exactly so, said the other, and if my senses do not deceive me, you your very self are my little brother Lewis, whom I left in the cradle when I turned my back upon my father's house? You are right in your conjectures, answered my honest colleague. At this discovery they both got up from table, and almost hugged the breath out of each other's bodies. At last Signor Manuel said to the company -- Gentlemen, this circumstance is altogether marvellous. By mere chance, I have met with a brother and have been challenged by him, whom I have not seen for more than twenty years: allow me to introduce him. At once all the travellers, who had risen from their seats out of curiosity and good manners, paid their compliments to the younger Moralez, and made him run the gauntlet through their salutations. When these were over, the party returned to the table, nor did they think any more of an adjournment. Bed-time never entered. into their heads. The two brothers sat next to one another, and talked in a whisper about their family affairs; the other guests plied the bottle, and made merry in a louder key.
Lewis had a long conference with Manuel; and afterwards, taking me aside, said to me: All these troopers belong to the household of the Count de Montanos, whom the king has very lately appointed to the vice-regal government of Majorca. They are convoying the equipage of the viceroy to Alicant, where they are to embark. My brother, who has risen to be steward to that noble man, proposes to take me along with him; and on the difficulty I started about leaving you, he told me that if you would be of the party, he would procure you a good berth. My dear friend, pursued he, I advise you not to stand out against this proposal. Let us take flight together for the island of Majorca. If we find our quarters pleasant, we will fix there; and if they are otherwise, we have nothing to do but to return into Spain.
I accepted the proposal with the best grace possible. What a reinforcement, in the person of young Moralez and myself, to the household of the count! We took our departure in a body from the inn, before daybreak. We got to the city of Alicant by long stages, and there I bought a guitar, and arranged my dress in a manner suited to my new destination, before we embarked. Nothing ran in my head but the island of Majorca; and Lewis Moralez was a new man as well as myself. It should seem as though we had bid farewell to the rogueries of this wicked world. Yet, not to play the liar in the ear of so rigorous a confessor as my own conscience, we had a mind not to pass for villains incarnate, now that we had got into company that had some pretensions to decency: and that was the sum total of our honesty. The natural bent of our genius remained much the same; we were still men of business, but just now keeping a vacation. In short, we went on board gallantly and gaily in this lucid interval of innocence, and had no idea but of landing at Majorca under the especial care of Neptune and AEolus. Hardly, however, had we cleared the gulf of Alicant, when a sudden and violent storm arose, enough to have frightened better men. Now is my opportunity, or never, to speak of moving accidents by flood; to set the atmosphere on fire, and give a louder explosion to the thunder-cloud; to compare the whistling of the winds to the factions of a populace, and the rolling of the waves to the shock of conflicting hosts; with other such old-fashioned phraseologies as have been heirlooms of Parnassus from time immemorial. But it is useless to be poetical without invention. Suffice it therefore to say, in slang metaphor, that the storm was a devil of a storm, and obliged us to stand in for the point of Cabrera. This is a desert island, with a small fort, at that time garrisoned by an officer and five or six soldiers. Our reception was hospitable and cordial.
As it was necessary for us to stay there some days, for the purpose of refitting our sails and rigging, we devised various kinds of amusements to keep off the foul fiend, melancholy. Every one did as seemed good in his own eyes: some played at cards, others diverted themselves in other ways; but as for me, I went about exploring the island, with such of our gentry as had either a curiosity or a taste for the picturesque. We were frequently obliged to clamber from rock to rock; for the face of the country is rugged, and the soil scanty, presenting a scene difficult of access, but interesting from its wildness. One day, while we were speculating on these dry and barren prospects, and extracting a moral from the vagaries of nature, who can swell into the fruitful mother and the copious nurse, or shrink into the lean and loathsome skeleton as she pleases, our sense was all at once regaled with a most delicious fragrance. We turned as with a common impulse towards the east, whence the scented gale seemed to come. To our utter astonishment, we discovered among the rocks a green plat of considerable dimensions, gay with honeysuckles more luxuriant and more odorous than even those which thrive so greatly in the climate of Andalusia. We were not sorry to approach nearer these delicious shrubs, which were wasting their sweetness in such unchecked profusion, when it turned out that they lined the entrance of a very deep cavern. The opening was wide, and the recess in consequence partially illuminated. We were determined to explore; and descended by some stone steps overgrown with flowers on each side, so that it was difficult to say whether the approach was formed by art or nature. When we had got down, we saw several little streams winding over a sand, the yellow lustre of which outrivalled gold. These drew their sources from the continual distillations of the rock within, and lost themselves again in the hollows of the ground. The water looked so clear, that we were tempted to drink of it; and such was its freshness, that we made a party to return the next day, with some bottles of generous wine, which we were persuaded would acquire new zest from the retreat where they were to be quaffed.
It was not without regret that we left so agreeable a place: nor did we omit, on our return to the fort, boasting among our comrades of so interesting a discovery. The commander of the fortress, however, with the warmest professions of friendship, warned us against going any more to the cavern, with which we were so much delighted. And why so? said I, is there anything to be afraid of? Most undoubtedly, answered he. The corsairs of Algiers and Tripoli sometimes land upon this island, for the purpose of watering at that spring. One day they surprised two soldiers of my garrison there, whom they carried into slavery. It was in vain that the officer assumed a tone of kind dissuasion; nothing could prevent us from going. We fancied that he meant to play upon our fears; and the day following I returned to the cavern with three adventurous blades of our establishment. We were even fool-hardy enough to leave our fire-arms behind as a sort of bravado. Young Moralez declined being of the party: the fort and the gaming-table had more charms for him, as well as for his brother.
We went down to the bottom of the cave, as on the preceding day, and set some bottles of the wine we had brought with us to cool in the rivulets. While we were enjoying them in all the luxury of elegant conviviality, our wits set in motion by the novelty of the scene, and the echo reverberating to the music of our guitars, we espied at the mouth of the cavern several abominable faces overgrown with whiskers; neither did their turbans and Turkish dresses render them a whit more amiable in our conceits. We nevertheless took it into our heads that it was a frolic of our own party, set on by the commanding officer of the fort, and that they had disguised themselves for the purpose of playing us a trick. With this impression on our minds, we set up a horse-laugh, and allowed a quiet entrance to about ten, without thinking of making any resistance. In a few moments our eyes were opened to that fatal error, and we were convinced, in sober sadness, that it was a corsair at the head of his crew, come to carry us away. Surrender, you Christian dogs, cried he in most outlandish Castilian, or prepare for instant death. At the same time the men who accompanied him levelled their pieces at us, and our ribs would have been well lined with the contents, if we had resisted in the least. Slavery seemed the better alternative than death, so that we delivered our swords to the pirate. He ordered us to be handcuffed and carried on board his vessel, which was moored not far off; then, setting sail, he steered with a fair wind towards Algiers.
Thus were we punished for having neglected the warning given us by the officer of the garrison. The first thing the corsair did was to put his hand into our pockets and make free with our money. No bad windfall for him! The two hundred pistoles from the greenhorns at Placentia; the hundred which Moralez had received from Jerome de Moyadas, and which, as ill luck would have it, were in my custody; all this was swept away without a single qualm of conscience. My companions too had their purses well lined; and it was all fish that came to the net. The pirate seemed to chuckle at so successful a drag; and the scoundrel, not contented with chousing us of our cash, insulted us with his infernal Moorish witticisms: but the edge of his satire was not half so keen as the dire necessity which made us the subject of it. After a thousand clumsy sarcasms, he called for the bottles which we had set to cool in the fountain; those irreligious Mahometans not having scrupled to load their consciences with the conveyance of the unholy fermentation. The master and his man pledged one another in many a Christian bumper, and drank to our better acquaintance with a most provoking mockery.
While this farce was acting, my comrades wore a hanging look, which testified how pleasantly their thoughts were employed. They were so much the more out of conceit with their captivity, as they thought they had drawn a prize in the lottery of human life. The island of Majorca, with all its luxuries and delights, was a melancholy contrast with their present situation. For my part, I had the good sense to take things as I found them. Less put out of my way by my misfortune than the rest, I joined in conversation with this transmarine joker, and shewed him that wit was the common language of Africa and of Europe. He was pleased with my accommodating spirit. Young man, said he, instead of groaning and sighing, you do well to arm yourself with patience, and to fall in with the current of your destiny. Play us a little air, continued he, observing that I had a guitar by my side; let us have a specimen of your skill. I complied with his command, as soon as my arms were loosened from their confinement, and began to thrum away in a style that drew down the applauses of my discerning audience. It is true that I had been taught by the best master in Madrid, and that I played very tolerably for an amateur upon that instrument. A song was then called for, and my voice gave equal satisfaction. All the Turks on board testified by gestures of admiration the delight with which my performance inspired them; from which circumstance it was but modest to conclude, that vocal music had made no very extraordinary progress in their part of the world. The pirate whispered in my ear, that my slavery should be no disadvantage to me; and that with my talents I might reckon upon an employment, by which my lot would be rendered not only supportable, but happy.
I felt somewhat encouraged by these assurances; but flattering as they were, I was not without my uneasiness as to the employment, which the corsair held out as a nameless, but invaluable boon. When we arrived in the port of Algiers, a great number of persons were collected to receive us; and we had not yet disembarked, when they uttered a thousand shouts of joy. Add to this, that the air re-echoed with a confused sound of trumpets, of Moorish flutes, and of other instruments, the fashion of that country, forming a symphony of deafening clangour, but very doubtful harmony. The occasion of these rejoicings proceeded from a false report, which had been current about the town. It had been the general talk that the renegado Mahomet, meaning our amiable pirate, had lost his life in the attack of a large Genoese vessel; so that all his friends, informed of his return, were eager to hail him with these thundering demonstrations of attachment.
We had no sooner set foot on shore, than my companions and myself were conducted to the palace of the bashaw Soliman, where a Christian secretary, questioning us individually one after another, inquired into our names, our ages, our country, our religion, and our qualifications. Then Mahomet, presenting me to the bashaw, paid my voice more compliments than it deserved, and told him that I played on the guitar with a most ravishing expression. This was enough to influence Soliman in his choice of me for his own immediate service. I took up my abode therefore in his seraglio. The other captives were led into the public market, and sold there at the usual rate of Christian cattle. What Mahomet had foretold to me on ship-board was completely verified; my condition was exactly to my mind. I was not consigned to the stronghold of a prison, nor kept to any works of oppressive labour. My indulgent master stationed me in a particular quarter, with five or six slaves of superior rank, who were in momentary expectation of being ransomed, and were therefore favoured in the distribution of our tasks. The care of watering the orange-trees and flowers in the gardens was allotted as my portion. There could not be a more agreeable or less fatiguing employment.
Soliman was a man about forty years of age, well made as to figure, tolerably accomplished as to his mind, and as much of a lady's man as could be expected from a Turk. His favourite was a Cashmirian, whose wit and beauty had acquired an absolute dominion over his affections. He loved her even to idolatry. Not a day but he paid his court to her by some elegant entertainment; at one time a concert of vocal and instrumental music, at another, a dramatic performance after the fashion of the Turks, which fashion implies a loose sort of comedy, where moral and modesty enter about as much into the contemplation of the contriver, as do Aristotle and his unities. The favourite, whose name was Farrukhnaz, was passionately enamoured of these exhibitions; she sometimes even got up among her own women some Arabian melodramas to be performed before her admirer. She took some of the parts herself; and charmed the spectators by the abundant grace and vivacity of her action. One day when I was among the musicians at one of these representations, Soliman ordered me to play on the guitar, and to sing a solo between the acts of the piece. I had the good fortune to give satisfaction, and was received with applause. The favourite herself, if my vanity did not mislead me, cast glances towards me of no unfavourable interpretation.
On the next day, as I was watering the orange-trees in the gardens, there passed close by me an eunuch, who, without stopping or saying a word, threw down a note at my feet. I picked it up with an emotion, strangely compounded of pleasure and alarm. I crouched upon the ground, for fear of being observed from the windows of the seraglio; and, concealing myself behind the boxes in which the orange-trees were planted, opened this unexpected enclosure. There I found a diamond of very considerable value, and these words, in genuine Castilian: "Young Christian, return thanks to heaven for your captivity. Love and fortune will render it the harbinger of your bliss: love, if you are alive to the attractions of a fine person, and fortune, if you have the hardihood to confront danger in every direction."
I could not for a moment doubt that the letter was written by the favourite sultana; the style and the diamond were more than presumptive evidence against her. Besides that nature did not cast me in the mould of a coward, the vanity of keeping up a good understanding with the mistress of a scoundrelly Mahometan in office, and, more than all the temptations of vanity or inclination, the hope of cajoling her out of four times as much as the curmudgeon her master would demand for my ransom, put me into conceit with. the intention of trying my luck at a venture, whatever risk might be incurred in the experiment. I went on with my gardening, but always harping on the means of getting into the apartment of Farrukhnaz, or rather waiting till she opened a door of communication; for I was clearly of opinion that she would not stop upon the threshold, but meet me half way in the career of love and danger. My conjecture was not altogether without foundation. The same eunuch who had led me into this amorous reverie passed the same way an hour afterwards, and said to me: Christian, have you communed with your own determinations, and will you win a fair lady, by abjuring a faint heart? I answered in the affirmative. Well, then, rejoined he, heaven sprinkle its dew upon your resolutions! You shall see me betimes to-morrow morning. With this comfortable assurance, he withdrew. The following day, I actually saw him make his appearance about eight o'clock in the morning. He made a signal for me to go along with him: I obeyed the summons; and he conducted me into a hall where was a large wrapper of canvas which he and another eunuch had just brought thither, with the design of carrying it to the sultana's apartment, for the purpose of furnishing a scene for an Arabian pantomime, in preparation for the amusement of the bashaw.
The two eunuchs unrolled the cloth, and laid me at my length on the proscenium; then, at the risk of turning the farce into a tragedy by stifling me, they rolled it up again, with its palpitating contents. In the next place, taking hold of it at each end, they conveyed me with impunity by this device into the chamber devoted to the repose of the beautiful Cashmirian. She was alone with an old slave devoted to her wishes. They helped each other to unroll their precious bale of goods; and Farrukhnaz, at the sight of her consignment, set up such an alarm of delight, as exhibited the woman of the East, without for getting her prurient propensities. With all my natural bias towards adventure, I could not recognize myself as at once transported into the private apartment of the women, without something like an inauspicious damp upon my joy. The lady was aware of my feelings, and anxious to dissipate the unpleasant part of them, Young man, said she, you have nothing to fear. Soliman is just gone to his country-house: he is safely lodged for the day; so that we shall be able to entertain one another here at our ease.
Hints like these rallied my scattered spirits, and gave a cast to my countenance which confirmed the speculation of the favourite. You have won my heart, pursued she, and it is in my contemplation to soften the severity of your bondage. You seem to be worthy of the sentiments which I have conceived for you. Though disguised under the garb of a slave, your air is noble, and your physiognomy of a character to recommend you to the good graces of a lady. Such an exterior must belong to one above the common. Unbosom yourself to me in confidence; tell me who you are. I know that captives of superior condition and family disguise their real circumstances, to be redeemed at a lower rate; but you have no inducement to practise such a deception on me; and it would even be a precaution revolting to my designs in your favour, since I here pledge myself for your liberty. Deal with sincerity, therefore, and own to me at once that you are a youth of illustrious rank. In good earnest then, madam, answered I, it would ill become me to repay your generous partiality with dissimulation. You are absolutely bent upon it, that I should entrust you with the secret of my quality, and commands like yours are not to be questioned or resisted. I am the son of a Spanish grandee. And so it might actually have been, for anything that I know to the contrary; at all events, the sultana gave me credit for it, so that with considerable self-congratulation, at having fixed her regard on a gentleman of some little figure in the world, she assured me that it only depended on herself, whether or no we should meet pretty often in private. In fact, we were no niggards of our mutual good-will at the very first approaches. I never met with a woman who was more what a man wishes her to be. She was besides an expert linguist, above all in Castilian, which she spoke with fluency and purity. When she conceived it to be time for us to part, I got by her order into a large osier basket, with an embroidered silk covering of her own manufacture; then the two slaves who had brought me in were called, to carry me out as a present from the favourite to her deluded lord; for under this pretence it is easy to screen any amorous exports from the inspection of the officers entrusted with the superintendence of the women.
As for Farrukhnaz and myself, we were not slack in other devices to bring us together; and that lovely captive inspired me by degrees with as much love as she herself entertained for me. Our good understanding was kept a profound secret for full two months, notwithstanding the extreme difficulty in a seraglio of veiling the mysteries of love for any length of time from those uninitiated, whose eyes are jaundiced by their own disqualification. Neither was the discovery made at last by the means of envious spies. An unlucky chance disconcerted all our little arrangements, and the features of my fortune were at once aggravated into a frown. One day when I had been introduced into the presence of the sultana, in the body of an artificial dragon, invented as a machine for a spectacle, while we were parleying most amicably together, Soliman, to whom we had given credit for having gone out of town, made his unwelcome appearance. He entered so abruptly into his favourite's apartment, as scarcely to leave time for the old slave to give us notice of his approach. Still less was there any opportunity to conceal me. Thus therefore, with all my enormities on my head, was I the first object which presented itself to the astonished eyes of the bashaw.
He seemed considerably startled at the sight; and his countenance flashed with indignation on the instant. I considered myself as a wretch just hovering on the brink of the grave; and death seemed arrayed in all the paraphernalia of torture. As for Farrukhnaz, it was very evident, in good truth, that she was miserably frightened; but instead of owning her crime and imploring pardon, she said to Soliman: My lord, before you pronounce my sentence, be pleased to hear my defence. Appearances, doubtless, condemn me; and it must strike you that I have committed an act of treason, worthy the most dreadful punishments. It is true, I have brought this young captive hither; it is true that I have introduced him into my apartment, with just such artifices as I should have used if I had entertained a violent passion for him. And yet, I call our great prophet to witness, in spite of these seeming irregularities, I am not faithless to you. It was my wish to converse with this Christian slave, for the purpose of disengaging him from his own sect, and proselytising him to that of the true believers. But I have found in him a principle of resistance for which I was not well prepared. I have, however, conquered his prejudices; and he came to give me an assurance that he would embrace Mahometanism.
I do not mean to deny that it was an act of duty to have contradicted the favourite flatly, without paying the least attention to the dangerous predicament in which I stood: but my spirits were taken by surprise; the beloved partner of my imprudence was hovering on the brink of perdition; and my own fate was involved with hers. How could I do otherwise than give a silent and perturbed assent to her impious fiction? My tongue, indeed, refused to ratify it; but the bashaw, persuaded by my acquiescence that his mistress had told him the whole truth and nothing but the truth, suffered his angry spirit to be tranquillized. Madam, answered he, I am willing to believe that you have committed no infidelity towards me; and that the desire of doing a thing agreeable to the prophet has been the means of leading you on to risk so hazardous and delicate a proceeding. I forgive, therefore, your imprudence, on condition that this captive assumes the turban on the spot. He sent immediately for a priest to initiate me. [These wandering priests are at present known in Africa by the name of Marabut. The first gymnosophists of Ethiopia most probably were nothing more. -- TRANSLATOR.] My dress was changed with all due ceremony into the Turkish. They did just what they pleased with me; nor had I the courage to object: or, to do myself more justice, I knew not what was becoming of me, in so dreadful a disorder of all my faculties and feelings. There are other good Christians in the world, who have been guilty of apostatizing on less imminent emergencies!
After the ceremony, I took my leave of the seraglio, to go and possess myself, under the name of Sidy Hali, of an inferior office which Soliman had given me. I never saw the sultana more; but an eunuch of hers came one day to look after me. He brought with him, as a present from his mistress, jewels to a very considerable amount, accompanied with a letter, in which the lady assured me she should never forget my generous compliance, in turning Mahometan to save her life. In point of fact, besides these rich gifts, lavished upon me by Farrukhnaz, I obtained through her interest a more considerable employment than my first, and in the course of six or seven years became one of the richest renegadoes in the town of Algiers.
You must be perfectly aware, that if I assisted at the prayers put up by the Mussulmen in their mosques, or fulfilled the other observances of their religion, it was all a mere copy of my countenance. My inclination was always uniform and determined, as to returning before my death into the bosom of our holy church; and with this view I looked forward to withdrawing some time or other into Spain or Italy with the riches I should have accumulated. But there seemed no reason whatever against enjoying life in the interval. I was established in a magnificent mansion, with gardens of extent and beauty, a numerous train of slaves, and a well-appointed equipage of pretty girls in my seraglio. Though the Mahometans are forbidden the use of wine in that country, they are not backward for the most part in their stolen libations. As for me, my orgies were without either a mask or a blush, after the manner of my brother renegadoes. I remember in particular two of my bottle companions, with whom I often drank down the night before we rose from table. One was a Jew, and the other an Arabian. I took them to be good sort of people; and, with that impression, lived in unconstrained familiarity with them. One evening I invited them to sup at my house. On that very day a dog of mine died -- it was a pet; we performed our pious ablutions on his lifeless clay, and buried him with all the solemn obsequies attendant on a Mahometan funeral. This act of ours was not designed to turn the religion we outwardly professed into ridicule; it was only to furnish ourselves with amusement, and give loose to a ludicrous whim which struck us in the moment of jollity, that of paying the last offices of humanity to my dog.
This action was, however, very near laying me by the heels. On the following day there came a fellow to my house, saying, Master Sidy Hali, it is no laughing matter that induces me to pay you this visit. My employer, the cadi, wants to have a word in your ear; be so good, if you please, as just to step to his office, without loss of time. An Arabian merchant, who supped with you last night, has laid an information respecting a certain act of irreverence perpetrated by you, on occasion of a dog which you buried. It is on that charge that I summon you to appear this day before the judge; and in case of failure, you are hereby warned that you will be the subject of a criminal prosecution. Away went he, leaving me to digest his discourse; but the citation stuck in my throat, and took away my appetite. The Arabian had no reason whatever to set his face against me; and I could not comprehend the meaning of the dog's trick the scoundrel had played me. The circumstance at all events demanded my prompt attention. I knew the cadi's character: a saint on the outside, but a sinner in his heart. Away went I therefore to wait on this judge, but not with empty pockets. He sent for me into his private room, and began upon me in all the vehemence of pious indignation: You are a fellow rejected out of paradise! a blasphemer of our holy law! a man loathsome and abominable to look upon! You have performed the funeral service of a Mussulman over a dog. What an act of sacrilege! Is it thus, then, that you reverence our most holy ceremonies? Have you only turned Mahometan to laugh at our devotions and our rites? My honoured master, answered I, the Arabian who has told you such a cock-and-bull story is a wolf in sheep's clothing; and more than that, he is even an accomplice in my crime, if it is one, to grant such rest as to peace-parted souls to a faithful household servant, to an animal with more good qualities than half the two-legged Mahometans out of Christendom. His attachment besides to people of merit and consideration in the world was at once moral and sensible; and at his death he left several little tokens of remembrance to his friends. By his last will and testament, he bequeathed his effects in the manner therein mentioned, and did me the honour to name me for his executor. This old crony came in for twenty crowns, that for thirty, and another for a cool hundred; but your worship is interested deeply in this instrument, pursued I, drawing out my purse; he has left you residuary legatee, and here is the amount of the bequest. The cadi's gravity could not but relax, after the posthumous kindness of his deceased friend; and he laughed outright in the face of the mock executor. As we were alone, there was no occasion to make wry mouths at the purse, and my acquittal was pronounced in these words: Go, Master Sidy Hali; it was a very pious act of yours, to enlarge the obsequies of a dog, who had so manly a fellow-feeling for honest folks.
By this device I got out of the scrape; and if the hint did not increase my religion, it doubled my circumspection. I was determined no longer to open either my cellar or my soul in presence of Arabian or Jew. My bottle companion henceforward was a young gentleman from Leghorn, who had the happiness of being my slave. His name was Azarini. I was of another kidney from renegadoes in general, who impose greater hardships on their Christian slaves than do the Turks themselves. All my captives waited for the period of their ransom, without any impatient hankering after home. My behaviour to them was, in truth, so gentle and fatherly, that many of them assured me they were more afraid of changing their master than anxious after their liberty; whatever magic that word may have to the ears of those who have felt what it is to be deprived of it.
One day the bashaw's corsairs came into port with considerable prizes. Their cargo amounted to more than a hundred slaves of either sex, carried off from the Spanish coast. Soliman retained but a very small number, and all the rest were sold. I happened to go to market, and bought a Spanish girl, ten or twelve years old. She cried as if her heart would break, and looked the picture of despair. It seemed strange, that at her age slavery should make such an impression on her. I told her, in Castilian, to combat with her terrors: and assured her that she was fallen into the hands of a master who had not put off humanity when he took up the turban. The little mourner, not initiated in the trade of grief, pursued the subject of her lamentations without listening to me. Her whole soul seemed to be breathed in her sighs; she descanted on her wretched fate, and exclaimed from time to time in softened accents: O my mother, why were we ever parted? I could bear my lot with patience, might we share it together. With these lamentations on her lips, she turned round towards a woman of from five-and-forty to fifty, standing at the distance of several paces, and waiting with her eyes fixed to the ground, in a determined, sullen silence, till she met with a purchaser. I asked my young bargain if the lady she was looking at was her mother. Alas! she is, indeed, sir, replied the girl; for the love of God, do not let me be parted from her. Well, then, my distressed little damsel, said I, if it will give you any pleasure, there is no more to do than to settle you both in the same quarters, and then you will give over your murmuring. On the very moment I went up to the mother, with the intention of cheapening her; but no sooner did I cast my eyes on her face, than I knew again, with what emotion you may guess! the very form and pressure of Lucinda. Just heaven! said I within myself; this is my mother! Nature whispers it in my ear, and can I doubt her evidence? On her part, whether a keen resentment of her woes pointed out an enemy in every object on which she glanced, or else it might be my dress that disfigured me; . . . . or else I might have grown a little older in about a dozen years since she had seen me . . . . but however historians may account for it, she did not know me. But I knew her, and bought her: the pair were sent home to my house.
When they were safely lodged, I wished to surprise them with the pleasure of ascertaining who I was. Madam, said I to Lucinda, is it possible that my features should not strike you? 'Tis true, I wear whiskers and a turban: but is Raphael less your son for that? My mother thrilled through all her frame at these words, looked at me with an eager gaze, my whole self rushed into her recollection, and into each other's arms we affectionately flew. I then caressed, in moderated ecstasies, her daughter, who perhaps knew as much about having a brother as I did about having a sister. Tell the truth, said I to my mother; in all your theatrical discoveries, did you ever meet with one so truly natural and dramatic as this? My dear son, answered she, in an accent of sorrow, the first sight of you after so long a separation overwhelmed me with joy, but the revulsion was only the more deeply distressing. In what condition, alas! do I again behold you? My own slavery is a thousand times less revolting to my feelings than the disgraceful habiliments . . . . Heyday! By all the powers, madam, interrupted I with a hearty laugh, I am quite delighted with your newly-acquired morality: this is excellent in an actress. Well! well! as heaven is my judge, my honoured mamma, you are mightily improved in your principles, if my transformation astounds your religious eyesight. So far from quarrelling with your turban, consider me rather as an actor, playing a Turkish character on the stage of the world. Though a conformist, I am just as much a Mussulman as when I was in Spain; nay, in the bottom of my heart, I never was a more firm believer in our Christian creed than at the present moment. When you shall become acquainted with all my hair-breadth escapes, since I have been domesticated in this country, you will not be rigorous in your censure. Love has been the cause of my apostasy, and he who worships at that shrine may be absolved from all other infidelities. I have a little of my mother in me, take my word for it. Another reason besides ought to moderate your disgust at seeing me under my present circumstances. You were expecting to experience a harsh captivity in Algiers, but you find in your protector a son, with all the tenderness and reverence befitting his relation to you, and rich enough to maintain you here in plenty and comfort, till a favourable opportunity offers of returning with safety into Spain. Admit, therefore, the force of the proverb, which says that evil itself is good for something.
My dear son, said Lucinda, since you fully intend one day to go back into your own country, and to throw off the mantle of Mahomet, my scruples are all satisfied. Thanks to heaven, continued she, I shall be able to carry back your sister Beatrice safe and sound into Castile. Yes, madam, exclaimed I, so you may. We will all three, as soon as the season may serve, go and throw ourselves into the bosom of our family: for I make no matter of doubt but you have still in Spain other indisputable evidences of your prolific powers. No, said my mother, I have only you two, the offspring of my body; and you are to know that Beatrice is the fruit of a marriage, manufactured in as workmanlike a manner as any within the pale of the church. And pray, for what reason, replied I, might not my little sister have been just as contraband as myself? How did you ever work yourself up to the formidable resolution of marrying? I have heard you say a hundred times, in my childhood, that there was no benefit of clergy for a pretty woman who could commit such an offence as to take up with a husband. Times and seasons ebb and flow, my son, rejoined she. Men of the most resolute character may be shaken in their purposes: and do you require that a woman should be inflexible in hers? But I will now relate to you the story of my life since your departure from Madrid. She then began the following recital, which will never be obliterated from my memory. I will not withhold from you so curious a narrative.
It is nearly thirteen years, if you recollect, said my mother, since you left young Leganez. Just at that time, the Duke of Medina Coeli told me that he had a mind to sup with me one evening in private. The day was fixed. I made preparations for his reception: he came, and I pleased him. He required from me the sacrifice of all his rivals, past, present, and to come. I came into his terms, in the hope of being well paid for my complaisance. There was no deficiency on that score. On the very next morning, I received presents from him, which were followed up by a long train of kindred attentions. I was afraid of not being able to hold in my chains a man of his exalted rank: and this apprehension was the better founded, because it was a matter of notoriety, that he had escaped from the clutches of several celebrated beauties, whose chains he had worn, only for the purpose of breaking. But for all that, so far from surfeiting on the relish of my kindness, his appetite grew by what it fed on. In short, I found out the secret of entertaining him, and impounding his heart, naturally roving, so that it should not go astray according to its usual volatility.
He had now been my admirer for three months, and I had every reason to flatter myself that the arrangement would be lasting, when a lady of my acquaintance and myself happened to go to an assembly, where the duchess his wife was of the party. We were invited to a concert of vocal and instrumental music. We accidentally seated ourselves too near the duchess, who took it into her head to be affronted, that I should exhibit my person in a place where she was. She sent me word by one of her women, that she should take it as a favour if I would quit the room immediately. I sent back an answer, just as saucy as the message. The duchess, irritated to fury, laid her wrongs before her husband, who came to me in person, and said: Retire, Lucinda. Though noblemen of the first rank attach themselves to pretty playthings like yourself, it is highly unbecoming in you to forget your proper distance. If we love you better than our wives, we honour our wives more than you: whenever, therefore, your insolence shall go so far as to set yourselves up for their rivals under their very noses, you will always be mortified, and made to know your places.
Fortunately the duke held his cruel language to me in so low a tone of voice as not to have been overheard by the people about us. I withdrew in deep confusion, and cried with vexation at having incurred such an affront. At once, to crown my shame and aggravate my chastisement, the actors and actresses got hold of the story on the very same evening. To do them justice, these gentry must contrive to entertain a familiar spirit, whose business is to fly about, and whisper in the ear of one whatever falls out amiss to the other. Suppose, for instance, that an actor gets drunk and makes a fool of himself; or an actress gets hold of a rich cully and makes a fool of him! The green-room is sure to ring with all the particulars, and a few more than are true. All my kindred of the sock and buskin were informed at once of what had happened at the concert, and a blessed life they led me with their quips and quiddities. Never was there charity like theirs. Without beginning at home, heaven only knows where it ends! But I held myself too high to be affected by their jibes and jeers: nor did even the loss of the Duke de Medina Coeli hang heavy on my spirits; for true it was, I never saw him more at my toilette, but learned, a very short time after, that he had got into the trammels of a little warbler.
When a theatrical lady has the good luck to be in fashion, she may change her lover as often as her petticoat: and one noble fool, should he even recover his wits at the end of three days, serves excellently well for a decoy to his successor. No sooner was it buzzed about Madrid, that the duke had raised the siege, than a new host of would-be conquerors appeared before the trenches. The very rivals whom I had sacrificed to his wishes, looking at my charms through the magnifying medium of delay and disappointment, came back again in crowds to encounter new caprices; to say nothing of a thousand fresh hearts, ready to bargain on the mere report of my being to let. I had never been so exclusively the mode. Of all the men who put in for being cajoled by me, a portly German, belonging to the Duke of Ossuna's household, seemed to bid highest. Not that his personal attractions were by any means the most catching; but then there were a thousand amiable pistoles on the list of candidates, scraped together by perquisites in his master's service, and turned adrift with the prodigality of a prince, in the hope of becoming my favoured lover. This fat pigeon to be plucked was by name Brutandorf. As long as his pockets were lined, his reception was warm: empty purses meet.with fastened doors. The principles on which my friendship rested were not altogether to his taste. He came to the play to look after me during the performance. I was behind the scenes. It was his humour to load me with reproaches; it was mine to laugh in his face. This provoked his boorish wrath, and he gave me a box on the ear, like a clumsy-fisted German as he was. I set up a loud scream: the business of the stage was suspended. I came forward to the front, and, addressing the Duke of Ossuna, who was at the play on that occasion with his lady duchess, begged his protection from the German gallantry of his establishment. The duke gave orders for our proceeding with the piece, and intimated that he would hear the parties after the curtain had dropped. At the conclusion of the play I presented myself in all the dreary pomp of tragedy before the duke, and laid open my griefs in all the majesty of woe. As for my German pugilist, his defence was on a level with his provocation; so far from being sorry for what he had done, his fingers itched to give me another dressing. The cause being heard pro and con, the Duke of Ossuna said to his Scandinavian savage: Brutandorf I dismiss you from my service, and beg never to see anything more of you, not because you have given a box on the ear to an actress, but for your failure in respect to your master and mistress, in having presumed to interrupt the progress of the play in their presence.
This decision was a bitter pill for me to swallow. It was high treason against my histrionic majesty, that the German was not turned off on the ground of having insulted me. It seemed difficult to conceive the possibility of a greater crime than that of insulting a principal actress: and where crimes are parallel, punishments should tally. The retribution in this case would have been exemplary; and I expected no less. This unpleasant occurrence undeceived me, and proved, to my mortification, that the public distinguished between the actors and the personages they may chance to enact. On this conviction, my pride revolted at the theatre: I resolved to give up my engagements to go and live at a distance from Madrid. I fixed on the city of Valencia for the place of my retreat, and went thither under a feigned character, with a property of twenty thousand ducats in money and jewels: a sum in my mind more than sufficient to maintain me for the remainder of my days, since it was my purpose to lead a retired life. I rented a small house at Valencia, and limited my establishment to a female servant and a page, who were as ignorant of my birth, parentage, and education, as the rest of the town. I gave myself out for the widow of an officer belonging to the king's household, and intimated that I had made choice of Valencia for my residence, on the report that it was one of the most agreeable neighbourhoods in Spain. I saw very little company, and maintained so reserved a deportment, that there never was the slightest suspicion of my having been an actress. Yet, not withstanding all the pains I took to hide myself from the garish eye of day, I had worse success against the piercing ken of a gentleman, who had a country seat near Paterna. He was of an ancient family, in person genteel and manly, from five-and-thirty to forty years of age, nobly connected, but scandalously in debt; a contradiction in the vocabulary of honour, neither more unaccountable nor uncommon in the kingdom of Valencia, than what takes place every day in other parts of the civilized world.
This gentleman of a generation or two before the present, finding my person to his liking, was desirous of knowing if in other respects I was a commodity for his market. He set every engine at work to inquire into the most minute particulars, and had the pleasure to learn from general report, that I was a warm widow with a comfortable jointure, and a person little, if anything, the worse for wear. It struck him that this was just the match; so that in a very short time an old lady came to my house, telling me, from him, that with equal admiration of my virtues and my charms, he laid himself and his fortune at my feet, and was ready to lead me to the altar, if I could condescend so far as to become his wife. I required three days to make up my mind on the subject. In this interval, I made inquiries about the gentleman; and hearing a good character of him, notwithstanding the deranged state of his finances, it was my determination to marry him without more ado, so that the preliminaries were soon ratified by a definitive treaty.
Don Manuel de Xerica, for that was my husband's name, took me immediately after the ceremony to his castle, which had an air of antiquity highly flattering to his family pride. He told a story about one of his ancestors who built it in days of yore, and because it was not founded the day before yesterday, jumped to a conclusion that there was not a more ancient house in Spain than that of Xerica. But nobility, like perishable merchandise, will run to decay; the castle, shored up on this side and on that, was in the very agony of tumbling to pieces: what a buttress for Don Manuel and for his old walls was his marriage with me! More than half my savings were laid out on repairs; and the residue was wanted to set us going in a genteel style among our country neighbours. Behold me, then, you who can believe it, landed on a new planet, transformed into the presiding genius of a castle, the Lady Bountiful of my parish: our stage machinery could never have furnished such a change! I was too good an actress not to have supported my new rank and dignity with appropriate grace. I assumed high airs, theatrical grandeurs, a most dignified strut and demeanour; all which made the bumpkins conceive a wonderful idea of my exalted origin. How would they not have tickled their fancies at my expense, had they known the real truth of the case! The gentry of the neighbourhood would have scoffed at me most unmercifully, and the country people would have been much more chary of the respect they shewed me.
It was now near six years that I had lived very happily with Don Manuel, when he ended ways, means, and life together. My legacy consisted of a broken fortune to splice, and your sister Beatrice, then more than four years old, to maintain. The castle, which was our only tangible resource, was unfortunately mortgaged to several creditors, the principal of whom was one Bernard Astuto. Cunning by name, and cunning by nature! He practised as an attorney at Valencia, and bore his faculties in all the infamy of pettifogging; law and equity conspired in his person to push the trade of cozening and swindling to the utmost extremity. To think of falling into the clutches of such a creditor! A gentleman's property under the gripe of such a claw as this attorney's affords much the same sport as a lamb to a wolf or a dove to a kite. Nearly after the fashion of these beasts and birds of prey, did Signor Astuto, when informed of my husband's death, hover over his victim, concealing his fell purpose under the ambush of the law. The whole estate would have been swallowed up in pleadings, affidavits, demurrers, and rejoinders, but for the light thrown upon the proceedings by my lucky star; under whose influence the plaintiff was turned at once into defendant, and was left without a reply to the arguments of these all-powerful eyes. I got to the blind side of him in an interview, which I contrived during the progress of our litigation. Nothing was wanting on my part, I own it frankly, to fill him brimful of the tender passion; an ardent longing to save my goods, chattels, and domain, made me practise upon him, to my own disgust, that system of coquettish tactics and flirtation which had drawn so many former fools into an ambuscade. Yet, with all the resources of a veteran, I was very near letting the attorney escape. He was so barricaded by mouldy parchments, so immured in actions and informations, as scarcely to seem susceptible of any love but the love of law. The truth, however, was, that this moping pettifogger, this porer over ponderous abridgments, this scrawler of acts and deeds, had more young blood in him than I was aware of, and a trick of looking at me out of the corner of his eye. He professed to be a novice in the art of courtship. My whole heart and soul, madam, said he, have been wedded to my profession; and the consequence has been, that the uses and customs of gallantry have seemed weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable to me. But though not a man of outward show, I am well furnished with the stock in trade of love. To come to the point at once, if you can resolve in your mind to marry me, we will make a grand bonfire of the whole lawsuit; and I will give the go-by to those rascally creditors, who have joined issue with me in our attack upon your estate. You shall have the life interest, and your daughter the reversion. So good a bargain for Beatrice and myself would not allow of any wavering: I closed without delay on the conditions. The attorney kept his word most miraculously: he turned short round upon the other creditors, defeated them with the very weapons himself had furnished with their joint campaign, and secured me in the possession of my house and lands. It was probably the first time in his life that he had taken up the cause of the widow and the orphan.
Thus did I become the honoured wife of an attorney, without losing my rank as the lady of the manor. But this incongruous marriage ruined me in the esteem of the gentry about Valencia. The women of quality looked upon me as a person who had lowered herself, and refused any longer to visit me. This inevitably threw me on the acquaintance of the tradespeople; a circumstance which could not do otherwise than hurt my feelings a little at first, because I had been accustomed, for the last six years, to associate only with ladies of the higher classes. But it was in vain to fret about it; and I soon found my level. I got most intimately acquainted with the wives of my husband's brethren of the quill and brief. Their characters were not a little entertaining. There was an absurdity in their manners, which tickled me to the very soul. These trumpery fine ladies held themselves up for something far above the common run. Well-a-day! said I to myself, every now and then, when they forgot the blue-bag: this is the way of the world! Every one fancies himself to be something vastly superior to his neighbour. I thought we actresses only did not know our places; women at the lower end of private life, as far as I see, are just as absurd in their pretensions. I should like, by way of check upon their presumption, to propose a law, that family pictures and pedigrees should be hung up in every house. Were the situation left to the choice of the owner, the deuce is in it if these legal gentry would not cram their scrivening ancestors either into the cellar or the garret.
After four years passed in the holy state of wedlock, Signor Bernardo d'Astuto fell sick, and went the way of all flesh. We had no family. Between my settlement and what I was worth before, I found myself a well-endowed widow. I had too the reputation of being so; and on this report, a Sicilian gentleman, by name Colifichini, determined to stick in my skirts, and either ruin or marry me. The alternative was kindly left to my own choice. He was come from Palermo to see Spain, and, after having satisfied his curiosity, was waiting, as he said, at Valencia for an opportunity of taking his passage back to Sicily. The spark was not quite five-and-twenty; of an elegant, though diminutive person; . . . . in short, his figure absolutely haunted me. He found the means of getting to the speech of me in private; and, I will own it to you frankly, I fell distractedly in love with him from the moment of our very first interview. On his part, the little knave flounced over head and ears in admiration of my charms. I do really think, God forgive me for it, that we should have been married out of hand, if the death of the attorney, whose funeral baked meats were scarcely cold enough to have furnished forth the marriage tables, would have allowed me to contract a new engagement at so short a warning. But since I had got into the matrimonial line, it was necessary that where the church makes the feast, the devil should not send cooks; I therefore took care always to season my nuptials to the palate of the world at large.
Thus did we agree to delay our coming together for a time, out of a tender regard to appearances. Colifichini, in the mean time, devoted all his attentions to me: his passion, far from languishing, seemed to become more a part of himself from day to day. The poor lad was not too flush of ready money. This struck my observation; and he was no longer at a loss for his little pocket expenses. Besides being very nearly twice his age, I recollected having laid the men under contribution in my younger days; so that I looked upon what I was then lavishing as a sort of restitution, which balanced my debtor and creditor account, and made me quits with my conscience. We waited, as patiently as our frailty would allow, for the period when widows may in decency so far surmount their grief as to try their luck again. When the happy morning rose, we presented ourselves before the altar, where we plighted our faith to each other by oaths the most solemn and binding. We then retired to my castle, where I may truly say that we lived for two years, less as husband and wife than as tender and unfettered lovers. But alas l such an union, so happy and sentimental, was not long to be the lot of humanity: a pleurisy carried off my dear Colifichini.
At this passage in her history, I interrupted my mother. Heyday l madam, your third husband dispatched already? You must he a most deadly taking. What do you mean? answered she: is it for me to dispute the will of heaven, and lengthen the days parcelled out to every son of earth? If I have lost three husbands, it was none of my fault. Two of them cost me many a salt tear. If I buried any with dry eyes, it was the attorney. As that was merely a match of interest, I was easily reconciled to the loss of him. But to return to Colifichini, I was going to tell you, that some months after his death, I had a mind to go and take possession of a country house near Palermo, which he had settled on me as a jointure, by our marriage contract. I took my passage for Sicily with my daughter; but we were taken on the voyage by Algerine corsairs. This city was our destination. Happily for us, you happened to he at the market where we were put up for sale. Had it been otherwise, we must have fallen into the hands of some barbarian purchaser, who would have used us ill; and we probably might have passed our whole life in slavery, nor would you ever have heard of us.
Such was my mother's story. To return to my own, gentlemen, I gave her the best apartment in my house, with the liberty of living after her own fashion; which was a circumstance very agreeable to her taste. She had a confirmed habit of loving, brought to such a system by so many repeated experiments, that it was impossible for her to do without either a gallant or a husband. At first she looked with favour on some of my slaves; but Hali Pegelin, a Greek renegado, who sometimes came and called upon us, soon drew all her glances on himself. She conceived a stronger passion for him than she had ever done for Colifichini: and such was her aptitude for pleasing the men, that she found the way to wind herself about the heart of this man also. I seemed as if unconscious of their good understanding; being then intent only on my return into Spain. The bashaw had already given me leave to fit out a vessel, for the purpose of sweeping the sea and committing acts of piracy. This armament was my sole object. Just a week before it was completed, I said to Lucinda: Madam, we shall take our leave of Algiers almost immediately; so that you will bid a long farewell to an abode which you cannot but detest.
My mother turned pale at these words, and stood silent and motionless. My surprise was extreme. What do I see? said I to her: whence comes it that you present such an image of terror and despair? My design was to fill you with transport; but the effect of my intelligence seems only to overwhelm you with affliction. I thought to have been thanked for my welcome news; and hastened with eagerness to tell you that all is ready for our departure. Are you no longer in the mind to go back into Spain? No, my son; Spain no longer has any charms for me, answered my mother. It has been the scene of all my sorrows, and I have turned my back on it for ever. What do I hear? exclaimed I in an agony: Ah! tell me rather, that it is a fatal passion which alienates you from your native country. Just heavens! what a change! When you landed here, every object that met your eyes was hateful to them, but Hali Pegelin has given another colour to your fancy. I do not deny it, replied Lucinda: I love that renegado, and mean to take him for my fourth husband. What an idea! interrupted I with horror: you, to marry a Mussulman! You forget yourself to be a Christian, or rather have hitherto been one only in name and not in heart. Ah! my dear mother, what a futurity do you present to my imagination! You are running headlong to your eternal ruin. You are going to do voluntarily, and from impure motives, what I have only done under the pressure of necessity.
I urged many other arguments in the same strain, to turn her aside from her purpose: but all my eloquence was wasted; she had made up her mind to her future destiny. Not satisfied with following the bent of her base inclinations, and leaving her son to go and live with this renegado, she had even formed a design to settle Beatrice in her own family. This I opposed with all my might and main. Ah! wretched Lucinda, said I, if nothing is capable of keeping you within the limits of your duty, at least rush on perdition alone; confine with in yourself the fury which possesses you; cast not a young innocent headlong over a precipice, though you yourself may venture on the leap. Lucinda quitted my presence in moody silence. It struck me that a remnant of reason still enlightened her, and that she would not obstinately persevere in requiring her daughter to be given up to her. How little did I know of my mother! One of my slaves said to me two days afterwards: Sir, take care of yourself. A captive belonging to Pegelin has just let me into a secret, of which you cannot too soon avail yourself. Your mother has changed her religion; and as a punishment upon you for having refused Beatrice to her wishes, it is her purpose to acquaint the bashaw with your flight. I could not for a moment doubt but what Lucinda was the woman to do just what my slave had said she would. The lady had given me manifold opportunities of studying her character; and it was sufficiently evident that by dint of playing bloody parts in tragedy, she had familiarized herself with the guilty scenes of real life. It would not in the least have gone against her nature to have got me burned alive; nor probably would she have been more affected by my exit after that fashion, than by the winding up of a dramatic tale.
The warning of my slave, therefore, was not to be neglected. My embarkation was hastened on. I took some Turks on board, according to the practice of the Algerine corsairs when going on a piratical expedition: but I engaged no more than was necessary to blind the eyes of jealousy, and weighed anchor from the port as soon as possible, with all my slaves and my sister Beatrice. You will do right to suppose, that I did not forget, in that moment of anxiety, to pack up my whole stock of money and jewels, amounting probably to the worth of six thousand ducats. When we were fairly out at sea, we began by securing the Turks. They were easily mastered, as my slaves outnumbered them. We had so favourable a wind, that we made the coast of Italy in a very short time. Without let or hindrance, we got into the harbour of Leghorn, where I thought the whole city must have come out to see us land. The father of my slave Azarini, either accidentally or from curiosity, happened to be among the gazers. He looked with all his eyes at my captives, as they came ashore; but though his object was to discover his lost son among the number, it was with little hope of so fortunate a result. But how powerful is the plea of nature! What transports, expressed by mutual embraces, followed the recognition of a tie so close, but so painfully interrupted for a time!
As soon as Azarini had acquainted his father who I was, and what brought me to Leghorn, the old man obliged me, as well as Beatrice, to accept of an apartment in his house. I shall pass over in silence the description of a thousand ceremonies, necessary to be gone through, in order to my return into the bosom of the church; suffice it to say, that I forswore Mahometanism with much more sincerity than I had pledged myself to it. After having entirely purged myself from my Algerine leaven, I sold my ship, and set all my slaves at liberty. As for the Turks, they were committed to prison at Leghorn, to be exchanged against Christians. I received kind attention in abundance from the Azarini family: indeed, the young man married my sister Beatrice, who, to speak the truth, was no bad match for him, being a gentleman's daughter, and inheriting the castle of Xerica, which my mother had taken care to let out to a rich tanner of Paterna, when she resolved upon her voyage to Sicily.
From Leghorn, after having staid there some time, I departed for Florence, a town I had a strong desire to see. I did not go thither without letters of recommendation. Azarini the father had connections at the grand duke's court, and introduced me to them as a Spanish gentleman related to his family. I tacked don to my name, in honest rivalry of impudence with other low Spaniards, who take up that travelling title of honour without compunction, when far enough from home to set detection at defiance. Boldly then did I dub myself Don Raphael; and appeared at court with suitable splendour, on the strength of what I had brought from Algiers, to keep my nobility from starving. The high personages, to whom old Azarini had written in my favour, gave out in their circle that I was a person of quality; so that with this testimony, and a natural knack I had of giving myself airs, the deuce must have been in it if I could not have passed muster for a man of some consequence. I soon got to be hand in glove with the principal nobility; and they presented me to the grand duke. I had the good fortune to make myself agreeable. It then became an object with me to pay court to that prince, and to study his humour. I sucked in with greedy ear all that his most experienced courtiers said about him, and by their conversation fathomed all his peculiarities. Among other things, he encouraged a play of wit; was fond of good stories and lively repartees. On this hint I formed myself. Every morning I wrote down in my pocket-book such anecdotes as I meant to rack off in the course of the day. My stock was considerably extensive; so that I was a walking budget of balderdash. Yet even my estate in nonsense required economy; and I began to get out at elbows, so as to be reduced to borrow from myself, and mortgage my resources twenty times over: but when the shallow current of wit and wisdom was nearly at its summer drought, a torrent of matter-of-fact lies gave new force to the exhausted stream of quibble. Intrigues which never had been intrigued, and practical jokes which had never been played off were the tools I worked with, and exactly to the level of the grand duke: nay, what often happens to dull dealers in inextinguishable vivacity, the mornings were spent in finaciering those hinds of conversation, which were to be drawn upon after dinner, as if from a perennial spring of preternatural wealth.
I had even the impudence to set up for a poet, and made my broken-winded muse trot to the praises of the prince. I allow candidly that the verses were execrable; but then they were quite good enough for their readers; and it remains a doubt whether, if they had been better, the grand duke would not have thrown them into the fire. They seemed to be just what he would have written upon himself. In short, it was impossible to miss the proper style on such a subject But whatever might be my merit as a poet, the prince, by little and little, took such a liking to my person, as gave occasion of jealousy to his courtiers. They tried to find out who I was. This, however, was beyond their compass. All they could learn was, that I had been a renegado. This was whispered forthwith in the prince's ear, in the hopes of hurting me. Not that it succeeded: on the contrary, the grand duke one day commanded me to give him a faithful account of my adventures at Algiers. I obeyed; and the recital, without reserve on my part, contributed more than any other of my stories to his entertainment
Don Raphael, said he, after I had ended my narrative, I have a real regard for you, and mean to give you a proof of it, which will place my sincerity beyond a doubt Henceforth you are admitted into my most private confidence, as the first fruits of which, you are to know that one of my ministers has a wife, with whom I am in love. She is the most enchanting creature at court; but at the same time the most impregnable. Shut up in her own household, exclusively attached to a husband who idolizes her, she seems to be ignorant of the combustion her charms have kindled in Florence. You will easily conceive the difficulty of such a conquest And yet this epitome of loveliness, so deaf to all the whispers of common seduction, has sometimes listened to my sighs. I have found the means of speaking to her without witnesses. She is not unacquainted with my sentiments. I do not flatter myself with having warmed her into love; she has given me no reason to form so sweet a conjecture. Yet I will not despair of pleasing her by my constancy, and by the cautious conduct, even to mystery, which I take care to observe.
My passion for this lady, continued he, is known only to herself. Instead of pursuing my game wantonly, and overleaping the rights of my subjects like a true sovereign, I conceal from all the world the knowledge of my love. This delicacy seems due to Mascarini, the husband of my beloved mistress. His zeal and attachment to me, his services and honesty, oblige me to act in this business with the closest secrecy and circumspection. I will not plunge a dagger into the bosom of this ill-starred husband, by declaring myself a suitor to his wife. Would he might for ever be insensible, were it within possibility, to the secret flame which devours me: for I am persuaded that he would die of grief, were he to know the circumstances I have just now confided to you. I therefore veil my pursuit in impenetrable darkness; and have determined to make use of you, for the purpose of conveying to Lucretia the merit of the sacrifices my delicacy imposes on my feelings. Of these you shall be the interpreter. I doubt not but you will acquit yourself to a marvel of your commission. Contrive to be intimate with Mascarini; make a point of worming yourself into his friendship. Then an introduction to his family will be easy; and you will secure to yourself the liberty of conversing freely with his wife. This is what I require from you, and what I feel assured that you will execute with all the dexterity and discretion necessary to so delicate an undertaking.
I promised the grand duke to do my utmost, in furtherance of his good opinion, and in aid of his success with the object of his desires. I kept my word without loss of time. No pains were spared to get into Mascarini's good graces; and the design was not difficult to accomplish. Delighted to find his friendship sought by a man possessing the affections of the prince, he advanced half way to meet my overtures. His house was always open to me, my intercourse with his lady was unrestrained; and I have no hesitation in affirming my measures to have been taken so well, as to have precluded the slightest suspicion of the embassy intrusted to my management. It is true, he had but a small share of the Italian jealousy, relying as he did on the virtue of his Lucretia; so that he often shut himself up in his closet, and left me alone with her. I entered at once into the pith and marrow of my subject. The grand duke's passion was my topic with the lady; and I told her that the motive of my visits was only to plead for that prince. She did not seem to be over head and ears in love with him; and yet, methought, vanity forbade her to frown decisively on his addresses. She took a pleasure in listening to his sighs, without sighing in concert. A certain propriety of heart she had; but then she was a woman; and it was obvious that her rigour was giving way insensibly to the triumphant image of a sovereign, bound in the fetters of her resistless charms. In short, the prince had good reason to flatter himself that he might dispense with the ill-breeding of a Tarquin, and yet bend Lucretia to a compliance with his longings. An incident, however, the most unexpected in the annals of romance, blasted his flattering prospects; in what manner you shall hear.
I am naturally free and easy with the women. This constitutional assurance, whether a blessing or a curse, was ripened into inveterate habit among the Turks. Lucretia was a pretty woman. I forgot that I was courting by proxy, and assumed the tone of a principal. Nothing could exceed the warmth and gallantry with which I offered my services to the lady. Far from appearing offended at my boldness, or silencing me by a resentful answer, she only said with a sarcastic smile: Own the truth, Don Raphael; the grand duke has pitched upon a very faithful and zealous agent. You serve him with an integrity not sufficiently to be commended. Madam, said I in the same strain, let us not examine things with too much nicety. A truce, I beseech you, with moral discussions; they are not of my element: good honest passion tallies better with our natures. I do not believe myself, after all, the first prince's confidant who has ousted his master in an affair of gallantry; your great lords have often dangerous rivals, in more humble messengers than myself. That may be, replied Lucretia: but a haughty temper stands with me in the place of virtue, and no one under the degree of a prince shall ever sully these charms. Regulate your behaviour accordingly, added she in a tone of serious severity, and let us change the subject. I willingly bury your presumption in oblivion, provided you never hold similar discourse to me again: if you do, you may repent of it.
Though this was a comment of some importance on my text, and ought to have been heedfully conned over, it was no bar to my still entertaining Mascarini's wife with my passion. I even pressed her with more importunity than heretofore, for a kind consent to my tender entreaties; and was rash enough to feel my ground, by some little personal freedoms. The lady then, offended at my words, and still more at my Mahometan quips and cranks, gave a complete set down to my assurance. She threatened to acquaint the grand duke with my impertinence; and declared she would make a point of his punishing me as I deserved. These menaces bristled up my spirit in return. My love turned at once into hatred, and determined me to revenge myself for the contempt with which Lucretia had treated me. I went in quest of her husband; and after having bound him by oath not to betray me, I informed him of his wile's correspondence with the prince, and failed not to represent her as distractedly enamoured of him, by way of heightening the interest of the scene. The minister, lest the plot should become too intricately entangled, shut his wife up, without any law but his own will, in a secret apartment, whore he placed her under the strict guard of confidential persons. While she was thus kept at bay by the watch-dogs of jealousy, who prevented her from acquainting the grand duke with her situation, I announced to that prince, with a melancholy air, that he must think no longer of Lucretia. I told him that Mascarini had doubtless discovered all, since he had taken it into his head to keep a guard over his wife: that I could not conceive what had induced him to suspect me, as I flattered myself with having always behaved according to the most approved rules of discretion in such cases. The lady might, I suggested, have been beforehand, and owned all to her husband; and had perhaps, in concert with him, suffered herself to be immured, in order to lie hid from a pursuit so dangerous to her virtue. The prince appeared deeply afflicted at my relation. I was not unmoved by his distress, and repented more than once of what I had done; but it was too late to retract. Besides, I must acknowledge, a spiteful joy tingled in my veins, when I meditated on the distressed condition of the disdainful fair, who had spurned my vows.
I was feeding with impunity on the pleasure of revenge, so palatable to all the world, but most of all to Spaniards, when one day the grand duke, chatting with five or six nobles of his court and myself, said to us: In what manner would you judge it fitting for a man to be punished, who should have abused the confidence of his prince, and designed to step in between him and his mistress? The best way, said one of the courtiers, would be to have him torn to pieces by four horses. Another gave it as his verdict, that he should be soundly beaten, till he died under the blows of the executioner. The most tender-hearted and merciful of these Italians, with comparative lenity towards the culprit, wished only just to admonish him of his fault, by throwing him from the top of a tower to the bottom. And Don Raphael, resumed the grand duke after a pause, what is his opinion? The Spaniards, in all likelihood, would improve upon our Italian severity, is a case of such aggravated treachery.
I fully understood, as you may well suppose, that Mascarini had not kept his oath, or that his wife had devised the means of acquainting the prince with what had passed between her and me. My countenance sufficiently betokened my inward agitation. But for all that, suppressing as well as I could my rising emotion and alarm, I replied to the grand duke in a steady tone of voice -- My lord, the Spaniards are more generous; under such circumstances, they would pardon the unworthy betrayer of his trust, and by that act of unmerited goodness would kindle in his soul an everlasting abhorrence of his own villany. Yes, truly, said the prince, and I fed in my own breast a similar spirit of forbearance. Let the traitor then be pardoned; since I have myself only to blame for having given my confidence to a man of whom I had no knowledge, but, on the contrary, much ground of suspicion, according to the current of common report. Don Raphael, added he, my revenge shall be confined to this single interdict. Quit my dominions immediately, and never appear again in my presence. I withdrew in all haste, less hurt at my disgrace, than delighted to have got off so cheaply. The very next day I embarked in a Barcelona ship, just setting sail from the port of Leghorn on its return.
At this period of his history I interrupted Don Raphael to the following effect. For a man of shrewdness, methinks you were not a little off your guard, in trusting yourself at Florence for even so short a time, after having discovered the prince's love of Lucretia to Mascarini. You might well have foreboded that the grand duke would not be long in getting to the knowledge of your duplicity. Your observation is very just, answered the well-matched son of so eccentric a mother as Lucinda: and for that reason, not trusting to the minister's promise of screening me from his master's indignation, it had been my intention to disappear without taking leave.
I got safe to Barcelona, continued he, with the remnant of the wealth I had brought from Algiers; but the greater part had been squandered at Florence in enacting the Spanish gentleman. I did not stay long in Catalonia. Madrid was the dear place of my nativity, and I had a longing desire to see it again, which I satisfied as soon as possible; for mine was not a temper to stand parleying with its own inclinations. On my arrival in town, I chanced to take up my abode in a ready-furnished lodging, where dwelt a lady, by name Camilla. Though at some distance from her teens, she was a very spirit-stirring creature, as Signor Gil Blas will hear me out in saying; for he fell in with her at Valladolid nearly about the same time. Her parts were still more extraordinary than her beauty; and never had a lady with a character to let a happier talent of inveigling fools to their ruin. But she was not like those selfish jilts, who put out the cullibility of their lovers to usury. The pillage of the plodding merchant, or the grave family man, was squandered upon the first gambler or prize-fighter who happened to find his way into her frolicsome fancy.
We loved one another from the first moment, and the conformity of our tempers bound us so closely together, that we soon lived on the footing of joint property. The amount, in sober sadness, was little better than a cypher, and a few good dinners more reduced it to that ignoble negative of number. We were each of us thinking, as the deuce would have it, of our mutual pleasures, without profiting in the least by those happy dispositions of ours for living at the expense of other folks. Want at last gave a keener edge to our wits, which indulgence had blunted. My dear Raphael, said Camilla, let us carry the war into the enemy's quarters, if you love me; for while we are as faithful as turtles, we are as foolish; and fall into our own snare, instead of laying it for the unwary. You may get into the head and heart of a rich widow; I may conjure myself into the good graces of some old nobleman: but as for this ridiculous fidelity, it brings no grist to the mill. Excellent Camilla, answered I, you are beforehand with me. I was going to make the very same proposal. It exactly meets my ideas, thou paragon of morality. Yes; the better to maintain our mutual fire, let us forage for substantial fuel. As good may always be extracted out of evil, those infidelities which are the bane of other loves, shall be the triumph of ours.
On the basis of this treaty we took the field. At first, there was much cry but little wool; for we had no luck at finding cullies. Camilla met with no thing but pretty fellows, with vanity in their hearts, tinsel on their backs, and not a maravedi in their pockets; my ladies were all of a kidney to levy, rather than to pay contributions. As love left us in the lurch, we paid our devotions at the shrine of knavery. With the zeal of martyrs to a new religion, did we encounter the frowns of the civil power, whose myrmidons, as like the devil in their nature as their office, were ordered on the look-out after us; but the alguazil, with all the good qualities of which the corregidor inherited the contraries, gave us time to make our escape out of Madrid, for the good of the trade and a small sum of money. We took the road to Valladolid, meaning to set up in that town. I rented a house for myself and Camilla, who passed for my sister, to avoid evil tongues. At first we kept a tight rein over our speculative talents, and began by reconnoitring the ground before we determined on our plan of operations.
One day a man accosted me in the street, with a very civil salutation, to this effect -- Signor Don Raphael, do you recollect my face? I answered in the negative. Then I have the advantage of you, replied he, for yours is perfectly familiar to me. I have seen you at the court of Tuscany, where I was then in the grand duke's guards. It is some months since I quitted that prince's service. I came into Spain with an Italian, who will not discredit the politics of his country: we have been at Valladolid these three weeks. Our residence is with a Castilian and a Galician, who are, without dispute, two of the best creatures in the world. We live together by the sweat of our brows, and the labour of our hands, Our fare is not abstemious, nor have we made any vow against the temptations of a life about the court If you will make one of our party, my brethren will be glad of your company; for you always seemed to me a man of spirit, above all vulgar prejudices, in short, a monk of our order.
Such frankness from this arch-scoundrel was met half-way by mine. Since you talk to me with so winning a candour, said I, you deserve that I should be equally explicit with you. In good truth I am no novice in your ritual; and if my modesty would allow me to be the hero of my own tale, you would be convinced that your compliments were not lavished on an unworthy subject. But enough of my own commendations; proceed we to the point in question. With all possible desire to become a member of your body, I shall neglect no opportunity of proving my title to that distinction. I had no sooner told this sharper at all points, that I would agree to swell the number of his gang, than he conducted me to their place of meeting, and introduced me in proper form. It was on this occasion that I first saw the renowned Ambrose de Lamela. These gentlemen catechised me in the religion of coveting my neighbour's goods, and doing as I would not be done by. They wanted to discern whether I played the villain on principle, or had only some little practical dexterity; but I shewed them tricks which they did not know to be on the cards, and yet acknowledged to be better than their own. They were still deeper lost in admiration, when in cool disdain of manual artifice, as an every-day effort of ingenuity, I maintained my prowess in such combinations of roguery as require an inventive brain and a solid judgment to support them. In proof of these pretensions, I related the adventure of Jerome de Moyadas; and on this single specimen of my parts, they conceived my genius of so high an order, as to elect me by common con sent for their leader. Their choice was fully justified by a host of slippery devices, of which I was the master-wheel, the corner-stone, or according to whatever other metaphor in mechanics you may best express the soul of a conspiracy. When we had occasion for a female performer to heighten the interest, Camilla was sent upon the stage, and played up to admiration in the parts she had to perform.
Just at that period, our friend and brother Ambrose was seized with a longing to see his native country once more. He went for Galicia with an assurance that we might reckon on his return. The visit cured his patriotic sickness. As he was on the road back, having halted at Burgos to strike some stroke of business, an innkeeper of his acquaintance introduced him into the service of Signor Gil Blas de Santillane, not forgetting to instruct him thoroughly in the state of that gentleman's affairs. Signor Gil Blas, pursued Don Raphael, addressing his discourse to me, you know in what manner we eased you of your moveables in a ready-furnished lodging at Valladolid; and you must doubtless have suspected Ambrose to have been the principal contriver of that exploit, and not without reason. On his coming into town, he ran himself out of breath to find us, and laid open every particular of your situation, so that the associated swindlers had nothing to do but to build on his foundation. But you are unacquainted with the consequences of that adventure; you shall therefore have them on my authority. Your portmanteau was made free with by Ambrose and myself. We also took the liberty of riding your mules in the direction of Madrid, not dropping the least hint to Camilla nor to our partners in iniquity, who must have partaken in some measure of your feelings in the morning, at finding their glory shorn of two such beams.
On the second day we changed our purpose. Instead of going to Madrid, whence I had not sallied forth without an urgent motive, we passed by Zebreros, and continued our journey as far as Toledo. Our first care, in that town, was to dress ourselves in the genteelest style; then assuming the character of two brothers from Galicia on our travels of mere curiosity, we soon got acquainted in the most respectable circles. I was so much in the habit of acting the man of fashion, as not easily to be detected; and as the generality of people are blinded by a free expenditure, we threw dust into the eyes of all the world, by the elegant entertainments to which we invited the ladies. Among the women who frequented our parties, there was one not indifferent to me. She appeared more beautiful than Camilla, and certainly much younger. I inquired who she was; and learned that her name was Violante, and that she was married to an ungrateful spark, who soon grew weary of her chaste caresses, and was running after those of a prostitute, with whom he was in love. There was no need to say any more, to determine me on enthroning Violante the sovereign lady and mistress of my thoughts and affections.
She was not long in coming to the knowledge of her conquest. I began by following her about from place to place, and playing a hundred monkey tricks to instil into her comprehension, that nothing would please me better than the office of making her amends for the ill usage of her husband. The pretty creature ruminated on my proffered kindness, and to such purpose as to let me know in the end that my labour was not wasted on an ungrateful soil. I received a note from her in answer to several I had transmitted by one of those convenient old dowagers, in such high request throughout Spain and Italy. The lady sent me word that her husband supped with his mistress every evening, and did not return home till very late. It was impossible to mistake the meaning of this. On that very night I planted myself under Violante's windows, and engaged her in a most tender conversation. At the moment of parting, it was settled between us that every evening, at the same hour, we should meet and converse on the same everlasting topic, without gainsaying any such other acts of gallantry as might safely be submitted to the peering eye of day.
Hitherto Don Balthazar, as Violante's husband was called, had no reason to complain of his forehead; but I was a natural philosopher, and little satisfied with metaphysical endearments. One evening, therefore, I repaired under my lady's windows, with the design of telling her that there was an end of life and everything, if we could not come together on more accommodating terms than from the balcony to the street; for I had never yet been able to get into the house. Just as I got thither, a man came within sight, apparently with the view of dogging me. In fact, it was the husband returning earlier than usual from his precious bit of amusement; but observing a male nuisance near his nunnery, instead of coming straight home, he walked backwards and forwards in the street. It was almost a moot point with me what I ought to do. At last, I resolved on accosting Don Balthazar, though neither of us had the slightest knowledge of each other. Noble gentleman, said I, you would do me a most particular favour by leaving the street vacant to me for this one night; I would do as much for you another time. Sir, answered he, I was just going to make the same request to you. I am on the look-out after a girl, over whom a confounded fellow of a brother keeps watch and ward like a gaoler; and she lives not twenty yards from this place. I could wish to carry on my project without a witness. We have the means, replied I, of attaining both our ends without clashing; for the lady of my desires lives there, added I, pointing to his own house. We had better even help one another, in case of being attacked. With all my heart, resumed he; I will go to my appointment, and we will make common cause if need be. Under this pretence he went away, but only to observe me the more narrowly; and the darkness of the night favoured his doing so without detection.
As for me, I made up to Violante's balcony in the simplicity of my heart. She soon heard my signal, and we began our usual parley. I was not remiss in pressing the idol of my worship to grant me a private interview in some safe and practicable place. She was rather coy to my entreaties, as favours hardly earned are the higher valued: at length she took a letter out of her pocket, and flung it down to me. There, said she, you will find in that scrap of paper the promise of what you have teased me so long about. She then withdrew, as the hour approached when her husband usually came home. I put the note up carefully, and went towards the place where Don Balthazar had told me that his business lay. But that staunch husband, with the sagacity of an old sportsman where his own wife was the game, came more than half-way to meet me, with this question: Well, good sir, are you satisfied with your happy fortunes? I have reason to be so, answered I. And as for yourself, what have you done? has the blind god befriended you? Alas! quite the contrary, replied he; that impertinent brother, who takes such liberties with my beauty, thought fit to come back from his country house, whence we hugged ourselves as sure that he would not return till to-morrow. This infernal chance has put all my soft and soothing pleasures out of tune.
Nothing could exceed the mutual pledges of lasting friendship which were exchanged between Don Balthazar and me. To draw the cords the closer, we made an appointment for the next morning in the great square. This plotting gentleman, after we had parted, betook himself to his own house, without giving Violante at all to understand that he knew more about her than she wished him. On the following day he was punctual in the great square, and I was not five minutes after him. We exchanged greetings with all the warmth of old friendship; but it was a vapour to mislead on his part, though a spark of heavenly flame on mine. In the course of conversation, this hypocritical Don Balthazar palmed upon me a fictitious confidence, respecting his intrigue with the lady about whom he had been speaking the night before. He put together a long story he had been manufacturing on that subject, and all this to hook me in to tell him, in return, by what means I had got acquainted with Violante. The snare was too subtle for me to escape; I owned all with the innocence of a new-born babe. I did not even stick at shewing the note I had received from her, and read the contents, to the following purport: "I am going to-morrow to dine with Donna Inez. You know where she lives. It is in the house of that confidential friend that I mean to pass some happy moments along with you. It is impossible longer to refuse a boon your patience has so well merited."
Here indeed, said Don Balthazar, is an epistle which promises to crown all your wishes at once. I congratulate you beforehand on your approaching happiness. He could not help fidgeting and wriggling a little, while he talked in these terms of his own household; but all his hitches and wry faces passed off, and my eyes were as fast sealed as ever. I was so full of anticipating titillations, as not to think of noticing my new friend, who was obliged to get off as fast as be could, for fear of betraying his agitation in my presence. He ran to acquaint his brother-in-law with this strange occurrence. I know not what might pass between them: it is only certain that Don Balthazar happened to knock at Donna Inca's door, just when I was at that lady's house with Violante. We were warned who it was, and I escaped by a back door exactly as he went in at the front As soon as I had got safe off, the women, whom the unexpected visit of this troublesome husband had disconcerted a little, recovered their presence of mind, and with it so large a stock of assurance, as to stand the brunt of his attack, and put him to a nonplus in ascertaining whether they had hid me or smuggled me out. I cannot exactly tell you what he said to Donna Inca and his wife; nor do I believe that history will ever furnish any authentic particulars of the squabble.
In the mean time, without suspecting yet how completely I was gulled by Don Balthazar, I sallied forth with curses in my mouth, and returned to the great square, where I had appointed Lamela to meet me. But no Lamela was there. He also had his little snug parties, and the scoundrel fared better than his comrade. As I was waiting for him, I caught a glimpse of my treacherous associate, with a knowing smile upon his countenance. He made up to me, and inquired, with a hearty laugh, what news of my assignation with my nymph, under the convenient roof of Donna Inca. I cannot conceive, said I, what evil spirit, jealous of my joys, takes delight to nip them in their blossom: but after we had embraced, kissed, protested, and, as it were, spoke the prologue of our comedy, comes the peaking cornuto of a husband (the furies fly away with him), and knocks at the door in the instant of our encounter. There was nothing to be done but to secure my retreat as fast as possible. So I got out at a back door, sending to all the inhabitants of hell and its suburbs the jealous knave, who was so uncivil as to search another lady's house for his own horns. I am sorry you sped so ill-favouredly, exclaimed Don Balthazar, who was chuckling with in ward satisfaction at my disappointment. What a mechanical rogue of a husband! I would advise you to shew no mercy to the wittol. Oh! you need not teach me how to predominate over such a peasant, replied I. Take my word for it, a new quarter shall be added to his coat of arms this very night. His wife, when I went away, told me not to be faint-hearted for such a trifle; but to place myself without fail under her windows at an earlier hour than usual, for she was resolved to let me into the house; and as a precaution against all accidents, she begged me to bring two or three friends in my train, for fear of a surprise. What a discreet and inventive lady! said he. I should have no objection to being of your party. Ah! my dear friend, exclaimed I, out of wits with joy, and throwing my arms about Don Balthazar's neck, how infinitely you will oblige me! I will do more, resumed he; I know a young man, armed like another Caesar, for either field of love or war; he shall be of our number, and you may then rely boldly on the sufficiency of your escort.
I knew not in what words to thank this seeming friend, so that my gratitude might be equivalent to his zeal. To make short of the matter, I accepted his proffered aid. Our meeting was fixed under Violante's balcony early in the evening, and we parted. He went in quest of his brother-in-law, who was the hero in question. As for me, I walked about all day with Lamela, who had no more misgivings than myself, though somewhat astonished at the warmth with which Don Balthazar engaged in my interests. We slipt our own necks completely into the noose. I own this was mere infatuation on our parts, whose natural instinct ought to have warned us of a halter. When I thought it proper time to present myself under Violante's windows, Ambrose and I took care to be armed with small swords. There we found the husband of my fair dame and another man, waiting for us with a very determined air. Don Balthazar accosted me, and introducing his brother-in-law, said: Sir, this is the brave officer whose prowess I have extolled so highly to you. Make the best of your way into your mistress's house, and let no fear of the consequences be any bar to the enjoyment of the most rapturous human bliss.
After a mutual interchange of compliments, I knocked at Violante's door. It was opened by a kind of duenna. In I went, and without looking back after what was passing behind me, made the best of my way to the lady's room. While I was paying her my preliminary civilities, the two cut-throats, who had followed me into the house, and had banged the door after them so violently that Ambrose was left in the street, made their appearance. You may well suppose that then was the appeal to arms. They both fell upon me at the same time, but I shewed them some play. I kept them engaged on either side so fiercely, that they were sorry perhaps not to have taken a safer road to their revenge. The husband was run through the body. His brother-in-law, seeing him on his travels to the shades below, made the best of his way to the door, which the duenna and Violante had opened, to make their escape while we were fighting. I ran after him into the street, where I met with Lamela once more, who by dint of not being able to get a word out of the women, running as they did for their very lives, did not know exactly what he was to divine from the infernal noise he had just heard. We got back to our inn. After packing up what was best worth taking with us, we mounted our mules, and got out of town, without waiting for daybreak or fear of robbers.
It was sufficiently clear that this business was not likely to be without its consequences, and that a hue and cry would be set up in Toledo, which we should act like wise men to anticipate by a retreat. We stayed the night at Vilarubia. At the inn where we put up, some time after our arrival, there alighted a tradesman of Toledo on his way to Segorba. We clubbed our suppers. He related to us the tragical catastrophe of Violante's husband; and so far was he from suspecting us of being parties concerned, that we inquired into particulars with the curious indifference of common newsmongers. Gentlemen, said he, just as I was setting out this morning, the report of this melancholy event was handed about. Every one was on the hunt after Violante; and they say that the corregidor, a relation of Don Balthazar, is determined on sparing no pains to discover the perpetrators of this murder. So much for my knowledge of the business.
The corregidor of Toledo and his police gave me very little uneasiness. But for fear of the worst, I determined to precipitate my retreat from New Castile. It occurred to me that Violante, when hunted out of her hiding-place, would turn informer, and in that case she might give such a description of my person to the clerks in office as might enable them to put their scouts upon a right scent. For this reason, on the following day we struck out of the high road, as a measure of safety. Fortunately Lamela was acquainted with three-fourths of Spain, and knew by what cross paths we could get securely into Arragon. Instead of going straight to Cuença, we threaded the defiles of the mountains overhanging that town, and arrived, by ways with which my guide was well acquainted, at a grotto looking very much like a hermitage. In fact, it was the very place whither you came yesterday evening to petition me for an asylum.
While I was reconnoitring the neighbourhood, which presented a most delicious landscape to my view, my companion said to me, It is six years since I travelled this way. At that time the grotto before us afforded a retreat to an old hermit who entertained me charitably. He made me fare as he did. I remember that he was a holy man, and talked in such a strain as almost to wean me from the vices and follies of this nether world. He may possibly be still living; I will ascertain whether it be so or not. With these words in his mouth, Ambrose, under the influence of natural curiosity, alighted from his mule, and went into the hermitage. He remained there some minutes, and then returned, calling after me, and saying, Come hither, Don Raphael, come and bear witness to a most affecting event. I dismounted immediately. We tied our mules to a tree, and I followed Lamela into the grotto, where I descried an old anchoret stretched at his length upon a couch, pale and at the point of death. A white beard, very thick, hung down to his middle, and he held a large rosary, most piously ornamented, in his clasped hands. At the noise which we made in coming near him, he opened his eyes, upon which death had already begun to lay his leaden hand; and after having looked at us for a moment, said, "Whosoever you are, my brethren, profit by the spectacle which presents itself to your observation. I have seen out forty years in the world, and sixty in this solitude. But mark! At this eternal crisis, the time I have devoted to my pleasures seems an age, and that on the contrary which has been sacred to repentance, but a minute! Alas! I fear lest the austerities of brother Juan should be found light in the balance with the sins of the licentiate Don Juan de Solis."
No sooner were these words out of his mouth than he breathed his last. We were struck by the solemn scene. Objects of this kind always make some impression even on the greatest libertines; but our serious thoughts were of no long duration. We soon forgot what he had been saying to us, and begun making an inventory of what the hermitage contained; an employment which was not oppressively laborious, since the household furniture extended no further than what you remarked in the grotto. Brother Juan was not only in ill-furnished lodgings; his kitchen, too, was in a very rustic plight All the store laid in consisted of some small nuts and some pieces of crusty barley bread as hard as flint, which had all the appearance of having been impregnable to the gums of the venerable man. I specify his gums, because we looked for his teeth, and found they had all dropped out. The whole arrangement of this solitary abode, every object that met our eyes, made us look upon this good anchoret as a pattern of sanctity. One thing only staggered us in our opinion. We opened a paper folded in the form of a letter, and lying upon the table, wherein he besought the person who should read the contents, to carry his rosary and sandals to the bishop of Cuença. We could not make out in what spirit this modern recluse of the desert could aim at making such a present to his bishop. It seemed to us to tread somewhat on the heels of his humility, and to savour of one who was a candidate for a niche in the calendar. Though indeed it might be, that there was nothing in it but a simple supposition, that the bishop was such another as himself; but whether his ignorance was really so extreme, I shall not pretend to decide.
In talking over this subject, a very pleasant idea occurred to Lamela. Let us take up our abode, said he, in this holy retreat. The disguise of hermits will become us. Brother Juan must be laid quietly in the earth. You shall personate him; and for myself, in the character of brother Anthony, I will go and see what is to be done in the neighbouring towns and villages. Besides that we shall be too cunningly ensconced for the prying curiosity of the corregidor, since it is not to be supposed that he will think of coming hither to look for us, I have some good connections at Cuença, which may be of essential service to us. I fell in with this odd whim, not so much for the reasons given me by Ambrose, as in compliance with the humour of the thing, and as it were to play a part in a dramatic piece. We made an excavation in the ground at about thirty or forty yards from the grotto, and buried the old anchoret there without any pompous rites, after having stripped him of his wardrobe, which consisted of a single gown tied round the middle with a leathern girdle. We likewise despoiled him of his beard to make me an artificial one: and finally, after his interment, we took possession of the hermitage.
The first day our table was but meanly served; the provisions of the deceased were all we had to feed on; but on the following morning, before sunrise, Lamela set off to sell the two mules at Toralva, and returned in the evening, laden with provisions and other articles which he had purchased. He brought everything necessary to metamorphose us completely. For himself he had provided a gown of coarse dark cloth, and a little red horse-hair beard, so ingeniously appended to his ears, that one would have sworn it had been natural. There is not a cleverer fellow in the universe for a frolic. Brother Juan's beard was also new-modelled, and adapted to the plumpness of my face. My brown woollen cap completed the masquerade. In fact, nothing was wanting to make us pass for what we were not. Our equipage was so ludicrously out of character, that we could not look at one another without laughing, under a garb so diametrically at variance with our general complexion. With brother Juan's mantle, I caught and kept his rosary and sandals; taking the liberty of borrowing them for the time being from the bishop of Cuença.
We had already been three days in the hermitage, without having been interrupted by a living soul; but on the fourth, two countrymen came into the grotto. They brought bread, cheese, and onions, for the deceased, whom they supposed to be still living. I threw myself on our miserable couch as soon as they made their appearance; and it was not difficult to impose on them. Besides that it was too dark to distinguish my features accurately, I imitated the voice of brother Juan, whose last words I had heard, to the best of my ability. They had no suspicion of the trick, though a good deal surprised at finding another hermit there. Lamela, taking advantage of their stupid wonder, said in a canting tone: My brethren, be not astonished at seeing me in this solitude. I have quitted a hermitage of my own in Arragon, to come hither and be a companion to the venerable and edifying brother Juan, who, at his advanced age, wants a yoke-fellow to administer to his necessities. The rustics lavished their clumsy panegyrics on the charity of Ambrose, and congratulated themselves that they might triumph over their neighbours, and boast of two holy personages residing in their country.
Lamela, laden with a large wallet which he had not forgotten among the number of his purchases, went for the first time to reconnoitre the town of Cuença, which is but a very short distance from the hermitage. With a mortified exterior, by which nature had dubbed him for a cheat, and the art of making that natural deception go as far as possible, by a most hypocritical and factitious array of features, he could not fail to play upon the feelings of the charitable and humane, and those whom heaven has blessed with affluence. His knapsack bore testimony to the extravagance of their pious liberalities. Master Ambrose, said. I on his return, I congratulate you on your happy knack at softening the souls of all good Christians. As we hope to be saved! one would suppose that you had been a mendicant friar among the Capuchins. I have done something else besides bringing in food for the convent, answered he. You must know that I have ferreted out a certain lass called Barbara, with whom I used to flirt formerly. She is as much altered as any of us: for she also has addicted herself to a godly life. She forms a coterie with two or three other sanctified dames, who are an example to the faithful in public, and flounce over head and ears in every sort of private vice. She did not know me again at first. What then, mistress Barbara, said I, is it possible that you should have discharged one of your oldest friends from your remembrance, your servant Ambrose? As I am a true Christian, Signor de Lamela, exclaimed she, I never thought to have turned you up in such a garb as that. By what transformation are you become a hermit? This is more than I can tell you just now, rejoined I. The particulars are rather long; but I will come to morrow evening and satisfy your curiosity. Nay, more; I will bring brother Juan, my companion, along with me. Brother Juan, interrupted she, the venerable hermit who has taken up his saintly residence near this town? You do not know what you are saying; he is supposed to be more than a hundred years old. It is very true, said I, that he was of that age some little while ago; but time; in deference to his sanctity, has gone backward with him; and he is grown considerably younger within these few days. He is at present just about my turn of life. Say you so! Then let us have him too, replied Barbara. I perceive there is something more in this mystery than the church will be able to explain.
We did not miss our appointment with these whited sepulchres on the following night To make our reception the more agreeable, they had laid out a sumptuous entertainment. Off went our beards and cowls, and vestments of mortification; and without any squeamishness we confessed our birth, education, and real character, to these sisters in hypocrisy. On their part, for fear of being behindhand with us in freedom from prejudice, they fairly let us see of what pretended religionists are capable, when they drop the veil of the sanctuary, and exhibit their unmanufactured faces. We spent almost the whole night at table, and got back to our grotto but a moment before daybreak. We were not long in repeating our visit; or, if the truth must be told, it was nightly for three months; till we had ate up more than two-thirds of our ways and means in the company of these delicate creatures. But an unsuccessful candidate for their favour got wind of our proceedings, and prated of our whereabout in the ear of justice, which was to have been in motion towards the hermitage this very day, to lay hold of our persons. Yesterday Ambrose, while picking up eleemosynary at Cuença, stumbled upon one of our whining sisterhood, who gave him a note, with this caution: A female friend of mine has written me this letter, which I was going to send to you by a man on purpose. Shew it to brother Juan, and regulate your proceedings accordingly. It was this very note, gentlemen, that Lamela gave me in your presence, which occasioned us to take so abrupt a leave of our solitary dwelling.