CH. IV. -- Santillane in a new office.
MY feelings were all alive to Lucretia's ill fate, and my own infamy in having contributed to it. The royal wants of the lover were no excuse for my taking the post of cheapener, and I determined to resign the staff of office in that department, entreating the minister to employ me in some other. He was charmed with my nice sense of honour, and promised to comply with my scruples, laying open his inmost heart in the following speech.
Some years before I was in office, chance threw me across a lady of such shape and beauty as induced me to trace her home. I learned that she was a Genoese, by name Donna Margarita Spinola, supporting herself at Madrid on the income arising from her beauty. It was reported that Don Francisco de Valéasar, an officer about the court, a rich man, an old man, and a married man, laid out his money very freely on this hazardous speculation. These rumours ought to have deterred me; but they only whetted my desires to share with Valéasar. To gain my end, I had recourse to a female broker of tenderness, who adjusted the terms of a private interview with the Genoese; and the price current being settled, the traffic was frequently repeated; it was an open market for my rival and me, or possibly for many other bidders.
Let that be as it may, a choice boy was in the fulness of time produced to the club, and the mother complimented every member individually in private with the credit: but we were each of us too modest to acknowledge a bantling which had so probable a claim upon a better father; so that the Genoese was compelled to maintain him on the profits of her profession: this she did for eighteen years, and dying at the end of that period, has left her son without a farthing, and what is worse, without an idea or an accomplishment.
Such, continued his lordship, is the confidence I meant to repose in you, and I shall now lay open the great design I have formed, to draw this unfortunate child from his obscurity, reverse the colour of his fate, raise him to the highest honours, and acknowledge him as my son.
At so extravagant a project it was impossible not to be open-mouthed. What, sir, exclaimed I, can your excellency have adopted so strange a resolution! Excuse my freedom; but my zeal cannot restrain itself. You will be of my mind, replied he with eagerness, when I shall have explained to you my motives. I have no mind that my estates should descend in the collateral line. You will tell me, that I am not so old as to despair of having children by Madame d'Olivarez. But every one is best judge of his own condition: know therefore that there is not a receipt in the whole extent of chemistry which I have not tried, but without effect, to appear once again in the character of a father. Wherefore, since fortune, stepping in to cover the defects of nature, presents me with a child whose parent after all I may actually be, he is mine by adoption; that is a settled point.
When I found the minister determined, I no longer argued against his resolution, as knowing him to be a man who would rather do a foolish act of his own, than adopt a wise suggestion of another. It only remains now, added he, to educate Don Henry Philip de Guzman; for by that name I intend him to be known in the world, till the time arrives when he may aspire to higher dignities. You, my dear Santillane, I have chosen to superintend his conduct: I have full confidence in your talents and friendship, to regulate his household, direct his studies, and make him an accomplished gentleman. I would willingly have declined the office, as never having exercised the craft of a pedagogue, which required much more genius and solidity than mine; but he shut my mouth by saying it was his absolute determination that I should be tutor to this adopted son, whom he designed for the first offices of the monarchy. As a bribe for my compliance, his lordship increased my little income with a pension of a thousand crowns on the commandery of Mambra.