CH. II -- The determination of Don Alphonso and Gil Blas after this adventure.

 

We travelled all night, according to our modest and unobtrusive custom; so that we found ourselves at sunrise near a little village two leagues from Segorba. As we were all tired to death, it was agreed unanimously to strike out of the highway, and rest under the shade of some willows, which we saw at the foot of a little hill, about ten or twelve hundred yards from the village, where it did not seem expedient for us to halt. These willows furnished us with an agreeable retreat, by the side of a little brook which bubbled as it washed their roots. The place struck our fancy, and we resolved to pass the day there. We unbridled our horses, and turned them out to grass, stretching our own gentle limbs on the soft sod. There we courted the drowsy god of innocent repose for a while, and then rummaged to the bottom of our wallet and our wine-skin. After an ecclesiastical breakfast, we counted up our ten tithes of Samuel Simon's money; and it mounted to a round three thousand ducats. So that with such a sum and what we had before, it might be said, without boasting, that we knew how to make both ends meet.

As it was necessary to go to market, Ambrose and Don Raphael, throwing off their dresses now the play was over, said that they would take that office conjointly on themselves: the adventure at Xelva had only sharpened their wit, and they had a mind to look about Segorba, just to make the experiment whether any opportunity might offer of striking another stroke. You have no thing to do, added the heir of Lucinda's wit and wisdom, but to wait for us under these willows: we shall not be long before we are with you again. Signor Don Raphael, exclaimed I with a horse-laugh, tell us rather to wait for you under a more substantial tree; the gallows. If you once leave us, we are in a month's mind that we shall not see you again till the day after the fair. This suspicion of our honour goes against the grain, replied Signor Ambrose; but we deserve that our characters should suffer in your esteem. It is but reason that you should distrust our purity, after the affair at Valladolid, and should fancy that we shall make it no more a matter of conscience to play at the devil take the hindmost with you, than with the party that we left in the lurch in that town, Yet you deceive yourselves egregiously. The gang upon whom we turned the tables were people of very bad character, and their company began to be disreputable to us. Thus far justice must be done to the members of our profession, that there is no bond in all civilized life less liable to be broken by personal and private interest; but when there are no feelings in common, our good understanding will be the worse for wear, as it happens among other descriptions of men. Wherefore, Signor Gil Blas, I entreat you, and Signor Don Alphonso as well as you, to be somewhat more liberal in your construction of us, and to set your hearts at respecting Don Raphael's and my whim about going to Segorba.

It is the easiest thing in the world, observed Lucinda's hopeful brat, to quash all subject of uneasiness on that score: they have only to remain treasurers of the exchequer, and they will have a sufficient pledge in their hands for our re turn. You see, Signor Gil Blas, that we are all fair and above-board. You shall both hold security for our re-appearance, and you may rest assured that for Ambrose and myself, we shall set off without the slightest misgiving of your taking to your heels with so valuable a deposit. After so substantial a proof of our good faith, will you not place implicit confidence in us? Yes, gentle men, said I, and you may do at once whatever seems good in your own eyes. They took their departure immediately, carrying the bottle and the wallet along with them, and left me under the willows with Don Alphonso, who said to me after they were out of sight: Now is the time, Signor Gil Blas, now is the time to open my heart to you. I am angry with myself for having been so easily prevailed on to herd thus far with these two knaves. You have no idea how many times I have quarrelled with myself on that score. Yesterday evening, while I was watching the horses, a thousand mortifying reflections rushed upon my mind. I thought it did not become a young man of honourable principles to live among such scurvy fellows as Don Raphael and Lamela; that if by ill-luck some day or other, and many a more unlikely thing has happened, the success of our swindling tricks should throw us into the hands of justice, I might sustain the shame of being tried with them as a reputed thief, and under going the disgraceful sentence of the law. These frightful thoughts present themselves incessantly to my imagination, and I will own to you that I have determined, as the only means of escape from the contamination of their bad actions, to part from them for ever. I can scarcely suppose that you will disapprove of my design. No, I promise you, answered I: though you have seen me perform the part of the alguazil in Samuel Simon's comedy, do not fancy that such pieces as those are got up to my taste. I take heaven to witness that while acting in so witty a scene, I said to myself: Faith and troth, master Gil Blas, if justice should come and lay hold of you by the wezand at this moment, you would well deserve the penitential wages of your iniquity. I feel therefore no more disposed than yourself, Don Alphonso, to tarry longer in such bad company; and if you think well of it, I will bear you company. When these gentlemen come back, we will demand a balancing of the accounts, and to-morrow morning, or even to-night before to-morrow, we will make our bow to them.

The lovely Seraphina's lover approved my proposal. Let us get to Valencia, said he, and we will embark for Italy, where we shall be able to enter into the service of the Venetian republic. Will it not be far better to take up the profession of arms, than to lead such a dastardly and disreputable life as we are now engaged in? We shall even be in a condition to make a very handsome figure with the money that will be coming to us. Not that I appropriate to myself without remorse a fund so unfairly established; but besides that necessity obliges me to it, if ever I acquire any property in my campaigns, I make a vow to indemnify Samuel Simon. I gave Don Alphonso to understand that my sentiments coincided with his own, and we resolved at once to separate ourselves from our companions on the following morning before daybreak. We were above the temptation of profiting by their absence, that is, of marching off in a hurry with the sum total of the finances: the confidence they had reposed in leaving us masters of the whole revenue, did not permit such a thought so much as to pass through our minds.

Ambrose and Don Raphael returned from Segorba just at the close of day. The first thing they told us was, that their journey had been propitious; for they had laid the corner-stone of a rascality which, to all appearance, would turn out still better than that of the evening before. And thereupon the son of Lucinda was going to put us in possession of the details; but Don Alphonse cut him short in his explanation, and declared at once his intention of parting company. I announced my own wish to do the same. To no purpose did they employ all their rhetoric, to prove to us the propriety of our accompanying them in their professional travels: we took leave of them the next morning, after having made an equal division of our cash, and pushed on towards Valencia.

 

CH III. -- An unfortunate occurrence, which terminated to the high delight of Don Alphonso. Gil Blas meets with an adventure which places him all at once in a very superior situation.

We galloped on gaily as far as Bunol, where, as ill-luck would have it, we were obliged to stop. Don Alphonso was taken ill. His disorder was a high fever, with such an access of alarming symptoms, as put me in fear for his life. By the greatest mercy in the world, the place was not beset by a single physician, and I got clear off without any harm but my fright. He was quite out of danger at the end of three days, and with my nursing, his recovery was rapid and without relapse. He seemed to be very grateful for my attentions; and as we really and truly felt a liking for each other, we swore an eternal friendship.

At length we got on our journey again, in the constant determination, when we arrived at Valencia, of profiting by the first opportunity which might offer to go over into Italy. But heaven disposed of us differently. We saw at the gate of a fine castle some country people of both sexes making merry and dancing in a ring. We went near to be spectators of their revels; and Don Alphonso was never less prepared than for the surprise which all at once came over his senses. He found it was Baron Steinbach, who was as little backward in recognizing him, but ran up to him with open arms, and exclaimed, in accents of unbridled joy -- Ah, Don Alphonso! is it you? What a delightful meeting! While search was making for you in every direction, chance presents you to my view.

My fellow-traveller dismounted immediately, and ran to embrace the baron, whose joy seemed to me of an extravagant nature. Come, my long-lost son, said the good old man, you shall now be informed of your own birth, and know the happy destiny that awaits you. As he uttered these words, he conducted him into the castle. I went in along with them; for while they were exchanging salutations, I had alighted and tied our horses to a tree. The lord of the castle was the first person whom we met. He was about the age of fifty, and a very well-looking man. Sir, said Baron Steinbach as he introduced Don Alphonso, behold your son. At these words, Don Caesar de Leyva, for by that title the lord of the castle was called, threw his arms round Don Alphonso's neck, and weeping with joy, muttered indistinctly, My dear son, know in me the author of your being. If I have for so long left you in ignorance of your birth and family, rest assured that the self-denial was mine in the most painful degree. I have a thousand times been ready to burst with anxiety, but it was impossible to act otherwise. I had married your mother from sheer attachment, for her origin was very inferior to mine. I lived under the control of an austere father, whose severity rendered it necessary to keep secret a marriage contracted without his sanction. Baron Steinbach, and he alone, was in my confidence: he brought you up at my request, and under my directions. At length my father is laid with his ancestors, and I can own you for my son and heir. This is not all; I can give you for a bride a young lady whose rank is on a level with my own. Sir, interrupted Don Alphonso, make me not pay too dear for the happiness you have just been throwing in my lap. May I not be told that I have the honour of being your son without being informed at the same time that you are determined to make me miserable? Ah, sir! be not more cruel than your own father. If he did not consent to the indulgence of your passion, at least he never compelled you to take another wife. My son, replied Don Caesar, I have no wish to exercise a tyranny over your inclinations, which I spurned at in my own case. But have the good manners just to see the lady I design for you, that is all I require from your filial duty. Though a lovely creature and a very advantageous match, I promise never to force you into marriage. She is now in this castle. Follow me; you will be obliged to acknowledge that you have rarely seen a more attractive object. So saying, he led Don Alphonso into a room where I made myself one of the party with Baron Steinbach.

There was the Count de Polan with his two daughters, Seraphina and Julia, and Don Ferdinand de Leyva, his son-in-law, who was Don Caesar's nephew. Don Ferdinand, as was mentioned before, had eloped with Julia, and it was on the occasion of the marriage between these two lovers that the peasantry of the neighbourhood were collected on this day to congratulate the bride and bride groom. As soon as Don Alphonso made his appearance, and his father had introduced him to the company, the Count de Polan rose from his chair and ran to embrace him, saying -- Welcome, my deliverer! Don Alphonso, added he, addressing his discourse to him, observe the power of virtue over generous minds. Though you have killed my son, you have saved my life. I lay aside my resentment for ever, and give you that very Seraphina whose honour you protected from invasion. In so doing, my debt to you is paid. Don Caesar's son was not wanting in acknowledgments to the Count de Polan, nor could he be otherwise than deeply affected by his goodness; and it maybe doubted whether the discovery of his birth and parentage touched his felicity more nearly than the intelligence that he was the destined husband of Seraphina. This marriage was actually solemnized some days afterwards, to the entire satisfaction of all parties concerned.

As I was one of the Count de Polan's deliverers, this nobleman, who knew me again immediately, said that he would take upon himself the care of making my fortune. I thanked him for his liberality, but would not leave Don Alphonso, who made me steward of his household, and honoured me with his confidence. A few days after his marriage, still harping upon the trick which had been played to Samuel Simon, he sent me to return to that cozened shopkeeper all the money which had been filched from him. I went therefore to make restitution. This was setting up the trade of a steward, but beginning at the wrong end: they ought all of them to end with restitution; but nine hundred and ninety-nine out of a thousand think it double trouble, and excuse themselves.

 

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