CH. VII. -- A good use made of the fifteen hundred ducats. A first introduction to the trade of office, and an account of the profit accruing therefrom.

 

THE king, as if on purpose to play into the hands of my impatience, returned to Madrid the very next day. I flew like a harpy to the royal treasury, where they paid me down upon the nail the sum drawn for in my order. Ambition and vanity now obtained complete empire over my soul. My paltry lodging was fit only for secretaries of an inferior cast, unpractised in the mysterious language of birds; for which reason, my grand suite of apartments fortunately being vacant, I engaged them for the second time. My next business was to send for an eminent tailor, who arrayed the pretty persons of all the fine gentlemen in town. He took my measure, and then introduced me to a draper, who sold me five ells of cloth, the exact quantity, as he said, to make a suit for a man of my size. Five ells for a light Spanish dress! Whither did this draper and tailor expect to go? . . . . But we must not be uncharitable. Tailors who have a reputation to support require more materials for the exercise of their genius than the vulgar snippers of the shopboard. I then bought some linen, of which I was very bare; an assortment of silk stockings, and a laced hat.

With such an equipage, there was no doing without a footman; so that I desired Vincent Ferrero, my landlord, to look out for one. Most of the foreigners who were recommended to his lodgings, on their arrival at Madrid, were wont to hire Spanish servants; and this was the means of turning his house into a register office. The first who offered was a lad of so mortified and devotional an aspect, that I would have nothing to say to him; he put me in mind of Ambrose de Lamela. I am quite out of conceit, said I to Ferrero, with these pious coat-brushers; I have been taken in by them already.

I had scarcely turned virtue in a livery out of doors, when another came upstairs. This seemed to be a good sprightly fellow, with as little mock modesty as if he had been bred at court, and a certain something about him which indicated that he did not carry principle to any dangerous excess. He was just to my mind. His answers to my questions were pat and to the purpose: he evinced a talent for intrigue beyond my most sanguine hopes. This was exactly the subject for my purpose; so I fixed him at once. Neither had I any reason to repent of my bargain; for it was very soon evident that further off I must have fared worse. As the duke had allowed me to solicit on behalf of my friends, and it was my design to push that permission to the utmost, a staunch hound was necessary to put up the game; or in phrase familiar to dull capacities, an active chap, with a turn for routing out and bringing to my market all palm-tickling petitioners for the loaves and fishes of the prime minister. This was just where Scipio shone most; for my servant's name was Scipio. He had lived last with Donna Anna de Guevara, the Prince of Spain's nurse, where he had ample scope for the exercise of that accomplishment.

As soon as he became acquainted with my credit at court and the use to which I meant to put it, he took the field like his great ancestors, and began the campaign without the loss of a day. Master, said he, a young gentleman of Grenada is just come to Madrid; his name is Don Roger de Rada. He has been engaged in an affair of honour which compels him to throw himself on the Duke of Lerma's protection, and he is well disposed to come down handsomely for any grace and favour he may obtain. I have talked with him on the subject. He had a mind to have made friends with Don Rodrigo de Calderona, whose influence had been represented to him in magnificent terms: but I dissuaded him, by pointing out that secretary's method of selling his good offices for more than their weight in gold; whereas, on the contrary, you would be satisfied with any decent expression of gratitude for yours, and would even do the business for the mere pleasure of doing it, if you were in circumstances to follow the bent of your own generous and disinterested temper. In short, I talked to him in such a strain, that you will see the gentleman early to-morrow morning. How is all this, Master Scipio? said I. You must have transacted a great deal of business in a short time. You are no novice in back-stairs influence. It is very strange that you have not feathered your own nest. That ought not to surprise you at all, answered he. I love to make money circulate; not to hoard it up.

Don Roger de Rada came according to his appointment. I received him with a mixture of courtly plausibility and ministerial pride. My worthy sir, said I, before I engage in your interests, I wish to know the nature of the affair which brings you to court; because it may be such as to preclude me from speaking to the minister in your favour. Give me, therefore, if you please, the particulars faithfully, and rest assured that I shall enter warmly into your interests, if they are proper to be espoused by a man who moves in my sphere. My young client promised to be sincere in his representation, and began his narrative in the following words.

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