CH. VII. -- Scipio finds Gil Blas out in the tower of Segovia, and brings him a budget of news.

 

OUR conversation was interrupted by Tordesillas, who came into the room, and addressed me thus: Signor Gil Blas, I have just been speaking with a young man at the prison gate. He inquired if you were not here, and looked much mortified at my refusal to satisfy his curiosity. Noble governor, said he, with tears in his eyes, do not reject my most humble petition. I am Signor de Santillane's principal domestic, and you will do an act of charity by allowing me to see him. You pass for a kind-hearted gentleman in Segovia; I hope you will not deny me the favour of conversing for a few minutes with my dear master, who is unfortunate rather than criminal. In short, continued Don Andrew, the lad was so importunate, that I promised to comply with his wishes this evening.

I assured Tordesillas that he could not have pleased me better than by bringing this young man to me, who could probably communicate tidings of the last importance. I waited with impatience for the entrance of my faithful Scipio; since I could not doubt him to be the man, nor was I mistaken in my conjecture. He was introduced at the time appointed; and his joy, which only mine could equal, broke forth into the most whimsical demonstrations. On my side, in the ecstasy of delight, I stretched out my arms to him, and he rushed into them with no courtly measured embrace. All distinctions of master and dependent were levelled in the sympathetic rapture of our meeting.

When our transports had subsided a little, I inquired into the state of my household. You have neither household nor house, answered he: to spare you a long string of questions, I will sum up your worldly concerns in two words. Your property has been pillaged at both ends, both by the banditti of the law and by your own retainers, who, regarding you as a ruined man, paid themselves their own wages out of whatever they found that was portable. Luckily for you, I had the dexterity to save from their harpy clutches two large bags of double pistoles. Salero, in whose custody I deposited them, will make restitution on your release, which cannot be far distant, as you were put upon his majesty's pension list of prisoners without the Duke of Lerma's knowledge or consent.

I asked Scipio how he knew his excellency to have had no share in my arrest. You may depend on it, answered he, my information is undeniable. One of my friends in the Duke of Uzeda's confidence acquainted me with all the circumstances of your imprisonment. Calderona, having discovered by a spy that Signora Sirena, with the handle of an alias to her name, was receiving night visits from the Prince of Spain, and that the Count de Lemos managed that intrigue by the panderism of Signor de Santillane, determined to be revenged on the whole knot. To this end he waited on the Duke of Uzeda, and discovered the whole affair. The duke, overjoyed at such a fine opportunity of ruining his enemy, did not fail to bestir himself. He laid his information before the king, and painted the prince's danger in the most lively colours. His majesty was much angered, and shewed that he was so, by sending Sirena to the nunnery provided for such frail sisters, banishing the Count de Lemos, and condemning Gil Blas to perpetual imprisonment.

This, pursued Scipio, is what my friend told me. Hence, you gather your misfortune to be the Duke of Uzeda's handiwork, or rather Calderona's.

Thus it seemed probable that my affairs might be reinstated in time; that the Duke of Lerma, chagrined at his nephew's banishment, would move heaven and earth for that nobleman's recall; and it might not be too much to expect that his excellency would not forget me. What a delicate gipsy is hope! She wheedled me out of all anxiety about my shattered fortunes, and made me as light-hearted as if I had good reason to be so. My prison looked not like the dungeon of perpetual misery, but like the vestibule to a more distinguished station. For thus ran the train of my reasoning: Don Fernando Borgia, Father Jerome of Florence, and more than all, Friar Louis of Aliaga, who may thank him for his place about the king's person, are the prime minister's partisans. With the aid of such powerful friends, his excellency will bear down all opposition, even supposing no change to take place in the political barometer. But his majesty's health is very precarious. The first act of a new reign would be to recall the Count de Lemos; he would not feel himself at home in the young monarch's presence till he had introduced me at court; and the young monarch

would not sit easy on his throne till he had showered benefits on my head. Thus, feasting by anticipation on the pleasures of futurity, I became callous to existing evils. The two bags, snug in the goldsmith's custody, were no bad doubles to the part which hope acted in this shifting pantomime.

It was impossible not to express my gratitude to Scipio for his zeal and honesty. I offered him half the salvage, but he rejected it. I expect, said he, a very different acknowledgment. Astonished as much at his mysterious claim as at his refusal, I asked what more I could do for him. Let us never part, answered he. Allow me to link my fate with yours. I feel for you what I never felt for any other master. And on my part, my good fellow, said I, you may rest assured that your attachment is not thrown away. You caught my fancy at first sight. We must have been born under Libra or Gemini, where friendship is lord of the ascendant. I willingly accept your proffered partnership, and will commence business by prevailing with the warden to immure you along with me in this tower. That is the very thing, exclaimed he. You were beforehand with me, for I was just going to beg that favour. Your company is dearer to me than liberty itself. I shall only just go to Madrid now and then, to snuff the gale of the ministerial atmosphere, and try whether any scent lies which may be favourable for your pursuit. Thus will you combine in me a bosom friend, a trusty messenger, and an unsuspected spy.

These advantages were too important for me to forego them. I therefore kept so useful a person about me, with leave of the obliging warden, who would not stand in the way of so soothing a relief to the weariness of solitude.

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