CH. V. -- His reflections before he went to sleep that night, and the noise that waked him.
Two hours at least were my thoughts employed on what Tordesillas had told me. Here, then, am I, for having lent myself to the pleasures of the heir-apparent! It was certainly not having my wits about me, to pander for so young a prince. Therein consists my crime; had he been arrived at a more knowing age, the king perhaps might only have laughed at what has now made him so angry. But who can have given such counsel to the monarch, without dreading the prince's resentment or the Duke of Lerma's? That minister will doubtless take ample vengeance for his nephew the Count de Lemos. How can the king have made the discovery? That is above my comprehension.
This last was the eternal burden of my song. But the idea most afflictive to my mind, what drove me to despair, and laid fiend-like hold upon my fancy, was the unquestioned plunder of my effects. My strong box, exclaimed I, my dear wealth, what is become of you? Into what hands have you fallen? Alas! you are lost in less time than you were gained! The ruinous confusion of my household was the perpetual death's-head of my imagination. Yet this wilderness of melancholy ideas sheltered me from absolute distraction: sleep, which had shunned my wretched straw, now paid his readier visit to my soft and gentle manly couch. Watching and wine, too, imparted a strong narcotic to his poppies. My slumbers were profound; and to all appearance, the day might have peeped in upon my repose, if I had not been awakened all at once by such sounds as rarely perforate a prison wall. I heard the thrum of a guitar, accompanying a man's voice. My whole attention was absorbed; but the invisible musician paused, and left the fleeting impression of a dream. An instant after wards, my ear was soothed with the sound of the same instrument, and the same voice.
Wisely the ant against poor winter hoards
The stock which summer's wealth affords;
In grasshoppers, that must at autumn die,
How vain were such an industry.
Of love or fortune the deceitful light
Might half excuse our cheated sight,
If it of life the whole small time would stay,
And be our sunshine all the day.
[To have substituted, with a slight variation, these two stanzas from Cowley for a translation of the common-place couplet in the original, will probably not be thought to require any apology. They necessarily involve a change in the consequent reflections of our hero. TRANSLATOR]
These verses, which sounded as if they had been sung expressly for the dirge of my departed happiness, were only an aggravation of my feelings. The truth of the sentiment, said I, is but too well exemplified in me. The meteor of court favour has but plunged me in substantial darkness; the summer sunshine of ambition is quenched in these autumnal glooms. Now did I sink again into cold and comfortless meditation; my miseries began to flow afresh, as if they fed and grew upon their own vital stream. Yet my wailings ended with the night; and the first rays which played upon my chamber wall amused my mind into composure. I got up to open my window, and let the vivid air of morning into my room. Then I glanced over the country, so attractively depicted in the description of my keeper. It did not seem to justify his panegyric. The Erêma, a second Tagus in my magnifying fancy, was little better than a brook. Its flowery banks were fringed with nettles, and arrayed in all the majesty of thistles; the delicious vale in this fairy prospect was a barren wilderness, untamed by human labour. It therefore was very evident that my keener sensations were not yet softened into such a composed melancholy, as could give any but a jaundiced colouring to the landscape.
I began dressing, and had already half finished my toilet, when Tordesillas ushered in an old chambermaid, laden with shirts and towels. Signor Gil Blas, said he, here is your linen. Do not be saving of it; there shall always be as many changes as you can possibly want. Well now! and how have you passed the night? Has the drowsy god administered his anodyne? I could have slept till this time, answered I, if I had not been awakened by a voice singing to a guitar. The cavalier who has disturbed your repose, resumed he, is a state prisoner; and his chamber is contiguous to yours. He is a knight of the military order of Calatrava, and is a very accomplished person. His name is Don Gaston de Cogollos. You may meet as often as you like, and take your meals together. It will afford reciprocal consolation to compare your fortunes. There can be no doubt of your being agreeable to one another. I assured Don Andrew how sensible I was of his indulgence in allowing me to blend my sorrows with those of my fellow-sufferer; and, as I betrayed some impatience to be acquainted with him, our accommodating warden met my wishes on the very same day. He fixed me to dine with Don Gaston, whose prepossessing physiognomy and symmetry of feature struck me sensibly. Judge what it must have been, to make so strong an impression on eyes accustomed to encounter the dazzling exterior of the court. Figure to yourself a man fashioned in the mould of pleasure; one of those heroes in romance, who has only to shew his face, and banish the sweet sleep from the eyelids of princesses. Add to this, that nature, who is generally bountiful with one hand and niggardly with the other, had crowned the perfections of Cogollos with wit and valour. He was a man, whose like, take him for all in all, we might not soon look upon again.
If this fine fellow was mightily to my taste, it was my good luck not to be altogether offensive to him. He no longer sang at night for fear of annoying me, though I begged him by no means to restrain his inclinations on my account. A bond of union is soon formed between brethren in misfortune. A close friendship succeeded to mere acquaintance, and strengthened from day to day. The liberty of uninterrupted intercourse contributed greatly to our mutual support; our burden became lighter by division.
One day after dinner I went into his room, just as he was tuning his guitar. To hear him more at my ease, I sat down on the only stool; while he, reclining on his bed, played a pathetic air, and sang to it a ditty, expressing the despair of a lover and the cruelty of his mistress. When he had finished, I said to him with a smile, Sir knight, such strains as these could never be applicable to your own successes with the fair. You were not made to cope with female repulse. You think too well of me, answered he. The verses you have just heard were composed to fit my own case; to soften a heart of adamant. You must hear my story, and in my story, my distresses.