CH. II. -- In the progress of political vacancies, Gil Blas recollects that there is such a man in the world as Don Alphonso de Leyva; and renders him a service from motives of vanity.
LET us leave my marriage to take care of itself for a season. The order of events requires me to recount a service rendered to my old master Don Alphonso. I had entirely forgotten that gentleman's existence; but a circumstance recalled it to my recollection.
The government of Valencia became vacant at this time; and put me in mind of Don Alphonso de Leyva. I considered within myself that the employment would suit him to a nicety; and determined to apply for it on his be half, not so much out of friendship as ostentation. If I could but procure it for him, it would do me infinite honour. I told the Duke of Lerma that I had been steward to Don Caesar de Leyva and his son; and that having every reason in the world to feel myself obliged to them, I should take it as a favour if he would give the government of Valencia to one or other of them. The minister answered: Most willingly, Gil Blas. I love to see you grateful and generous. Besides, the family stands very high in my esteem. The Leyvas are loyal subjects; so that the place cannot be better bestowed. You may take it as a wedding present, and do what you like with it.
Delighted at the success of my application, I went to Calderona in a prodigious hurry, to get the patent made out for Don Alphonso. There was a great crowd, waiting in respectful silence till Don Rodrigo should come and give audience. I made my way through, and the closet door opened as if by sympathy. There were no one knows how many military and civil officers, with other people of consequence, among whom Calderona was dividing his attentions. His different reception of different people was curious. A slight inclination of the head was enough for some; others he honoured with a profusion of courtly grimace, and bowed than out of the closet. The proportions of civility were weighed to a scruple. On the other hand, there were some suitors who, shocked at his cold indifference, cursed in their secret soul the necessity for their cringing before such a monkey of an idol. Others, on the contrary, were laughing in their sleeve at his gross and self-sufficient air. But the scene was thrown away upon me; nor was I likely to profit by such a lesson. It was exactly the counterpart of my own behaviour: and I never thought of ascertaining whether my deportment was popular or offensive, so long as there was no violation of outward respect.
Don Rodrigo accidentally casting a look towards me, left a gentleman, to whom he was speaking, without ceremony, and came to pay his respects with the most unaccountable tokens of high consideration. Ah, my dear colleague! exclaimed he, what occasion procures me the pleasure of seeing you here! Is there anything we can do for you? I told him my business; whereupon he assured me, in the most obliging terms, that the affair should be expedited within four-and-twenty hours. Not satisfied with these overwhelming condescensions, he conducted me to the door of his ante-chamber, whither he never attended any but the nobility of first rank. His farewell was as flattering as his reception.
What is the meaning of all this palaver? said I while retreating; has any raven croaked my entrance, and prophesied promotion to Calderona by my overthrow? Does he really languish for my friendship? or does he feel the ground giving way under his feet, and wish to save himself by clinging to the branches of my favour and protection? It seemed a moot point, which of these conjectures might be the right. The following day, on my return, his behaviour was of the same stamp; caresses and civilities poured in upon me in torrents. It is true that other people who attempted to speak to him, were ramped in exact proportion with the blandishments of his face towards me. He snarled at some, petrified others, and made the whole circle run the gauntlet of his displeasure. But they were all amply avenged by an occurrence, the relation of which may give a gentle hint to all the clerks and secretaries on the list of my readers.
A man very plainly dressed, and certainly not looking at all like what he was, came up to Calderona and spoke to him about a memorial, stated to have been presented by himself to the Duke of Lerma. Don Rodrigo, without looking from his clothes up to his face, said in a sharp, ungracious tone -- Who may you happen to be, honest man? They called me Francillo in my childhood, answered the stranger unabashed; my next style and title was that of Don Francillo de Zuniga; and my present name is the Count de Pedrosa. Calderona was all in a twitter at this discovery, and attempted to stammer out an excuse, when he found that he had to do with a man of the first quality. Sir, said he to the Count, I have to beg you, ten thousand pardons; but not knowing whom I had the honour to . . . . I want none of your apologies, interrupted Francillo with proud indignation; they are as nauseous as your rudeness was unbecoming. Recollect henceforth, that a minister's secretary ought to receive all descriptions of people with good manners. You may be vain enough to affect the representative of your master, but the public know you for his menial servant.
The haughty Don Rodrigo blushed blue at this rebuke. Yet it did not mend his manners one whit. On me it made a salutary impression. I determined to take care and ascertain the rank of my petitioners, before I gave a loose to the insolence of office, and to inflict torture only upon mutes. As Don Alphonso's patent was made out, I sent it by a purpose messenger, with a letter from the Duke of Lerma, announcing the royal favour. But I took no notice of my own share in the appointment, nor even accompanied it with a line, in the fond hope of announcing it by word of mouth, and surprising him agreeably, when he came to the court on occasion of taking the customary oaths.