The Jealous Estramaduran
THE JEALOUS ESTRAMADURAN.
Not many years ago there issued from a town in Estramadura a hidalgo nobly born, who, like another prodigal son, went about various parts of Spain, Italy, and Flanders, squandering his years and his wealth. At last, after long peregrinations, his parents being dead and his fortune spent, he made his appearance in the great city of Seville, where he found abundant opportunity to get rid of the little he had left. Finding himself then so bare of money, and not better provided with friends, he adopted the remedy to which many a spendthrift in that city has recourse; that is, to betake themselves to the Indies, the refuge of the despairing sons of Spain, the church of the homeless, the asylum of homicides, the haven of gamblers and cheats, the general receptacle for loose women, the common centre of attraction for many, but effectual resource of very few. A fleet being about to sail for Tierrafirma, he agreed with the admiral for a passage, got ready his sea-stores and his shroud of Spanish grass cloth, and embarking at Cadiz, gave his benediction to Spain, intending never to see it again. The fleet slipped from its moorings, and, amidst the general glee of its living freight, the sails were spread to the soft and prosperous gale, which soon wafted them out of sight of land into the wide domains of the great father of waters, the ocean.
Our passenger now became very thoughtful, revolving in his memory the many and various dangers he had passed in the years of his peregrinations, and the thriftless conduct he had pursued all his life long. The result of the account to which he thus called himself was a firm resolution to change his way of life, to keep a much better hold of whatever wealth God might yet be pleased to bestow upon him, and to behave with more reserve towards women than he had hitherto done.
The fleet was nearly becalmed whilst the mind of Felipe de Carrizales was actuated by these reflections. The wind soon after rose and became so boisterous that Carrizales had enough to do to keep on his legs, and was obliged to leave off his meditations, and concern himself only with the affairs of his voyage. It was so prosperous that they arrived without check or accident at the port of Cartagena. To shorten the introduction of my narrative and avoid all irrelevant matter, I content myself with saying that Felipe was about eight-and-forty years of age when he went to the Indies, and that in the twenty years he remained there he succeeded, by dint of industry and thrift, in amassing more than a hundred and fifty thousand crowns. Seeing himself once more rich and prosperous, he was moved by the natural desire, which all men experience, to return to his native country. Rejecting therefore great opportunities for profit which presented themselves to him, he quitted Peru, where he had amassed his wealth, turned all his money into ingots, and putting it on board a registered ship, to avoid accidents, returned to Spain, landed at San Lucar, and arrived at Seville, loaded alike with years and riches.
Having placed his property in safety, he went in search of his friends, and found they were all dead. He then thought of retiring to his native place, and ending his days there, although he had ascertained that death had not left him one survivor of his kindred; and if, when he went to the Indies poor and needy, he had no rest from the thoughts that distracted him in the midst of the wide ocean, he was now no less assailed by care, but from a different cause. Formerly his poverty would not let him sleep, and now his wealth disturbed his rest; for riches are as heavy a burden to one who is not used to them, or knows not how to employ them, as indigence to one who is continually under its pressure. Money and the want of it alike bring care; but in the one case the acquisition of a moderate quantity affords a remedy; the other case grows worse by further acquisition. Carrizales contemplated his ingots with anxiety, not as a miser, for, during the few years he had been a soldier, he had learned to be liberal; but from not knowing what to do with them; for to hoard them was unprofitable, and keeping them in his house was offering a temptation to thieves. On the other hand, all inclination for resuming the anxious life of traffic had died out in him, and at his time of life his actual wealth was more than enough for the rest of his days. He would fain have spent them in his native place, put out his money there to interest, and passed his old age in peace and quiet, giving what he could to God, since he had given more than he ought to the world. He considered, however, that the penury of his native place was great, the inhabitants very needy, and that to go and live there would be to offer himself as a mark for all the importunities with which the poor usually harass a rich neighbour, especially when there is only one in the place to whom they can have recourse in their distress.
He wanted some one to whom he might leave his property after his death, and with that view, taking measure of the vigour of his constitution, he concluded that he was not yet too old to bear the burthen of matrimony. But immediately on conceiving this notion, he was seized with such a terrible fear as scattered it like a mist before the wind. He was naturally the most jealous man in the world, even without being married, and the mere thought of taking a wife called up such horrible spectres before his imagination that he resolved by all means to remain a bachelor.
That point was settled; but it was not yet settled what he should do with the rest of his life, when it chanced that, passing one day through a street, he looked up and saw at a window a young girl apparently about thirteen or fourteen, with a face so very handsome and so very pleasing in its expression, that poor old Carrizales was vanquished at once, and surrendered without an effort to the charms of the beautiful Leonora, for that was the girl's name. Without more ado, he began to string together a long train of arguments to the following effect:—"This girl is very handsome, and to judge from the appearance of the house, her parents cannot be rich. She is almost a child too; assuredly a wife of her age could not give a husband any uneasiness. Let me see: say that I marry her; I will keep her close at home, I will train her up to my own hand, and so fashion her to my wishes that she will never have a thought beyond them! I am not so old but that I may yet hope to have children to inherit my wealth. Whether she brings me any dower or not is a matter of no consideration, since Heaven has given me enough for both, and rich people should not look for money with a wife, but for enjoyment, for that prolongs life, whereas jarring discontent between married people makes it wear out faster than it would do otherwise. So be it then; the die is cast, and this is the wife whom heaven destines me to have."
Having thus soliloquised, not once but a hundred times on that day, and the two or three following, Carrizales had an interview with Leonora's parents, and found that, although poor, they were persons of good birth. He made known his intention to them, acquainted them with his condition and fortune, and begged them very earnestly to bestow their daughter upon him in marriage. They required time to consider his proposal, and to give him also an opportunity to satisfy himself that their birth and quality was such as they had stated.
The parties took leave of each other, made the necessary inquiries, found them satisfactory on both sides, and finally Leonora was betrothed to Carrizales, who settled upon her twenty thousand ducats, so hotly enamoured was the jealous old bridegroom. But no sooner had he pronounced the conjugal "yes," than he was all at once assailed by a host of rabid fancies; he began to tremble without cause and to find his cares and anxieties come thicker and faster upon him than ever. The first proof he gave of his jealous temper was, in resolving that no tailor should take measure of his betrothed for any of the many wedding garments he intended to present her. Accordingly, he went about looking for some other woman, who might be nearly of the same height and figure as Leonora. He found a poor woman, who seemed suitable for his purpose, and having had a gown made to her measure, he tried it on his betrothed, found that it fitted well, and gave orders that it should serve as a pattern for all the other dresses, which were so many and so rich that the bride's parents thought themselves fortunate beyond measure, in having obtained for themselves and their daughter a son-in-law and a husband so nobly munificent. As for Leonora, she was at her wit's end with amazement at the sight of such gorgeous finery, for the best she had ever worn in her life had been but a serge petticoat and a silk jacket.
The second proof of jealousy given by Felipe was, that he would not consummate his marriage until he had provided a house after his own fancy, which he arranged in this singular manner. He bought one for twelve thousand ducats, in one of the best wards of the city, with a fountain and pond, and a garden well stocked with orange trees. He put screens before all the windows that looked towards the street, leaving them no other prospect than the sky, and did much the same with all the others in the house. In the gateway next the street, he erected a stable for a mule, and over it a straw loft, and a room for an old black eunuch, who was to take care of the mule. He raised the parapets round the flat roof of the house so high, that nothing could be seen above them but the sky, and that only by turning one's face upwards. In the inner door, opening from the gateway upon the quadrangle, he fixed a turning box like that of a convent, by means of which articles were to be received from without. He furnished the house in a sumptuous style, such as would have become the mansion of a great lord; and he bought four white slave girls, whom he branded in the face, and two negresses. For the daily supplies of his establishment he engaged a purveyor, who was to make all the necessary purchases, but was not to sleep in the house or ever enter it further than to the second door, where he was to deposit what he had brought in the turning box. Having made these arrangements, Carrizales invested part of his money in sundry good securities; part he placed in the bank, and the rest he kept by him to meet any emergencies that might arise. He also had a master key made for his whole house; and he laid up a whole year's store of all such things as it is usual to purchase in bulk at their respective seasons; and everything being now ready to his mind, he went to his father-in-law's house and claimed his bride, whom her parents delivered up to him with no few tears, for it seemed to them as if they were giving her up for burial.
Leonora knew not, poor young creature, what was before her, but she shed tears because she saw her parents weep, and taking leave of them with their blessing, she went to her new home, her husband leading her by the hand, and her slaves and servants attending her. On their arrival Carrizales harangued all his domestics, enjoining them to keep careful watch over Leonora, and by no means, on any pretence whatsoever, to allow anybody to enter within the second gate, not even the black eunuch. But the person whom above all others he charged with the safe keeping and due entertainment of his wife was a dueña of much prudence and gravity, whom he had taken to be Leonora's monitress, and superintendent of the whole house, and to command the slaves and two other maidens of Leonora's age whom he had also added to his family, that his wife might not be without companions of her own years. He promised them all that he would treat them so well, and take such care for their comfort and gratification, that they should not feel their confinement, and that on holidays they should every one of them without exception be allowed to go to mass; but so early in the morning that daylight itself should scarcely have a chance of seeing them. The servant maids and the slaves promised to obey all his orders cheerfully and with prompt alacrity and the bride, with a timid shrinking of her shoulders, bowed her head, and said that she had no other will than that of her lord and spouse, to whom she always owed obedience.
Having thus laid down the law for the government of his household, the worthy Estramaduran began to enjoy, as well as he could, the fruits of matrimony, which, to Leonora's inexperienced taste, were neither sweet-flavoured nor insipid. Her days were spent with her dueña, her damsels, and her slaves, who, to make the time pass more agreeably, took to pampering their palates, and few days passed in which they did not make lots of things in which they consumed a great deal of honey and sugar. Their master gladly supplied them with all they could wish for in that way without stint, for by that means he expected to keep them occupied and amused, so that they should have no time to think of their confinement and seclusion. Leonora lived on a footing of equality with her domestics, amused herself as they did, and even in her simplicity took pleasure in dressing dolls and other childish pastime. All this afforded infinite satisfaction to the jealous husband; it seemed to him that he had chosen the best way of life imaginable, and that it was not within the compass of human art or malice to trouble his repose: accordingly his whole care was devoted to anticipating his wife's wishes by all sorts of presents, and encouraging her to ask for whatever came into her head, for in everything it should be his pleasure to gratify her.
On the days she went to mass, which as we have said was before daylight, her parents attended at church and talked with their daughter in presence of her husband, who made them such liberal gifts as mitigated the keenness of their compassion for the secluded life led by their daughter. Carrizales used to get up in the morning and watch for the arrival of the purveyor, who was always made aware of what was wanted for the day by means of a note placed over-night in the turning box. After the purveyor had come and gone, Carrizales used to go abroad, generally on foot, locking both entrance doors behind him—that next the street, and that which opened on the quadrangle,—and leaving the negro shut up between them. Having despatched his business, which was not much, he speedily returned, shut himself up in his house, and occupied himself in making much of his wife and her handmaids, who all liked him for his placid and agreeable humour, and above all for his great liberality towards them. In this way they passed a year of novitiate, and made profession of that manner of life, resolved every one of them to continue in it to the end of their days; and so it would have been, if the crafty perturber of the human race had not brought their chaste purposes to nought, as you shall presently hear.
Now, I ask the most long-headed and wary of my readers, what more could old Felipe have done in the way of taking precautions for his security, since he would not even allow that there should be any male animal within his dwelling? No tom-cat ever persecuted its rats, nor was the barking of a dog ever heard within its walls; all creatures belonging to it were of the feminine gender. He took thought by day, and by night he did not sleep; he was himself the patrol and sentinel of his house, and the Argus of what he held dear. Never did a man set foot within the quadrangle; he transacted his business with his friends in the street; the pictures that adorned his rooms were all female figures, flowers, or landscapes; his whole dwelling breathed an odour of propriety, seclusion, and circumspection; the very tales which the maid servants told by the fireside in the long winter nights, being told in his presence, were perfectly free from the least tinge of wantonness. Her aged spouse's silver hairs seemed in Leonora's eyes locks of pure gold; for the first love known by maidens imprints itself on their hearts like a seal on melted wax. His inordinate watchfulness seemed to her no more than the due caution of an experienced and judicious man. She was fully persuaded that the life she led was the same as that led by all married women. Her thoughts never wandered beyond the walls of her dwelling, nor had she a wish that was not the same as her husband's. It was only on the days she went to mass that she set eyes on the streets, and that was so early in the morning, that except on the way home she had not light to look about her. Never was there seen a convent more closely barred and bolted; never were nuns kept more recluse, or golden apples better guarded; and yet for all his precautions poor Felipe could not help falling into the pit he dreaded,—or at least believing that he had so fallen.
There is in Seville an idle pleasure-seeking class of people who are commonly called men on town, a sauntering, sprucely dressed, mellifluous race, always finding means to make, themselves welcome at rich men's feasts. Of these people, their manners and customs, and the laws they observe among themselves, I should have much to say, but abstain from it for good reasons. One of these gallants, a bachelor,—or a virote, as such persons are called in their jargon, the newly married being styled matones,—took notice of the house of Carrizales, and seeing it always shut close, he was curious to know who lived there. He set about this inquiry with such ardour and ingenuity, that he failed not to obtain all the information he desired. He learned the character and habits of the old man, the beauty of Leonora, and the singular method adopted by her husband in order to keep her safe. All this inflamed him with desire to see if it would not be possible, by force or stratagem, to effect the reduction of so well-guarded a fortress. He imparted his thoughts to three of his friends, and they all agreed that he should go to work, for in such an enterprise no one lacks counsellors to aid and abet him. At first they were at a loss how to set about so difficult an exploit; but after many consultations they agreed upon the following plan:—Loaysa (so the virote was named) disappeared from among his friends, giving out that he was leaving Seville for some time. Then drawing on a pair of linen drawers and a clean shirt, he put over them a suit of clothes so torn and patched, that the poorest beggar in the city would have disdained to wear such rags. He shaved off the little beard he had, covered one of his eyes with a plaster, tied up one of his legs, and hobbling along on two crutches, appeared so completely metamorphosed into a lame beggar, that no real cripple could have looked less of a counterfeit than he.
In this guise he posted himself closely at the hour of evening prayer before the door of Carrizales' house, which was fast shut, and Luis the negro locked up between the two doors. Having taken up his position there, Loaysa produced a greasy guitar, wanting some of its strings, and as he was something of a musician, he began to play a few lovely airs, and to sing Moorish ballads in a feigned voice, with so much expression that all who were passing through the street stopped to listen. The boys all made a ring round him when he sang, and Luis the negro, enchanted by the virote's music, would have given one of his hands to be able to open the door, and listen to him more at his ease, such is the fondness for music inherent in the negro race. When Loaysa wanted to get rid of his audience, he had only to cease singing, put up his guitar, and hobble away on his crutches.
Loaysa four or five times repeated this serenade to the negro, for whose sake alone he played and sang, thinking that the way to succeed in his sap and siege was to begin by making sure of old Luis; nor was his expectation disappointed. One night when he had taken his place as usual before the door, and had begun to time his guitar, perceiving that the negro was already on the alert, he put his lips to the key-hole and whispered, "Can you give me a drop of water, Luis? I am dying with thirst, and can't sing."
"No," said the negro, "for I have not the key of this door, and there is no hole through which I can give you drink."
"Who keeps the key, then?"
"My master, who is the most jealous man in the world; and if he knew that I was now talking here with any one, it were pity of my life. But who are you who ask me for water?"
"I am a poor cripple, who get my bread by asking alms of all good people in God's name; besides which I teach the guitar to some moriscoes, and other poor people. Among my pupils I have three negroes, slaves to three aldermen, whom I have taught so well that they are fit to sing and play at dance or in any tavern, and they have paid me for it very well indeed."
"A deal better would I pay you to have the opportunity of taking lessons; but it is not possible, for when my master goes out in the morning he locks the door behind him, and he does the same when he comes in, leaving me shut up between two doors."
"I vow to God, Luis, if you would only contrive to let me in a few nights to give you lessons, in less than a fortnight I would make you such a dabster at the guitar, that you need not be ashamed to play at any street corner; for I would have you to know that I have an extraordinary knack in teaching; moreover, I have heard tell that you have a very promising capacity, and from what I can judge from the tone of your voice, you must sing very well."
"I don't sing; badly; but what good is that since I don't know any tunes, except the 'Star of Venus,' or, 'In the green meadow,' or the tune that is now so much in vogue, 'Clinging to her grated window, with a trembling hand?'"
"All these are moonshine to what I could teach you, for I know all the ballads of the Moor Abendaraez, with those of his lady Xarifa, and all those comprising the history of the grand sofi Tomunibeyo, and the divine sarabands which enchant the souls of the Portuguese themselves, among whom they are most in vogue; and all these I teach by such methods and with such facility, that almost before you have swallowed three or four bushels of salt, you will find yourself an out-and-out performer in every kind of guitar music."
"What's the good of all that," (here the negro sighed heavily,) "since I can't get you into the house?"
"There's a remedy for all things: contrive to take the keys from your master, and I will give you a piece of wax, with which you may take an impression of the wards, for I have taken such a liking to you, I will get a locksmith, a friend of mine, to make new keys, and then I can come in at night and teach you to play better than Prester John in the Indies. It is a thousand pities that a voice like yours should be lost for want of the accompaniment of the guitar; for I would have you to know, brother Luis, that the finest voice in the world loses its perfection when it is not accompanied by some instrument, be it guitar or harpsichord, organ or harp; but the instrument that will suit your voice best is the guitar, because it is the handiest and the least costly of all."
"All that is very good; but the thing can't be done, for I never get hold of the keys, nor does my master ever let them out of his keeping; day and night they sleep under his pillow."
"Well, then, there's another thing you may do, if so be you have made up a mind to be a first-rate musician; if you haven't, I need not bother myself with advising you."
"Have a mind, do you say? Ay, and to that degree that there is nothing I wouldn't do, if it were possible anyhow, for sake of being able to play music."
"Well, if that's the case, you have only to scrape away a little mortar from the gate-post near the hinge, and I will give you, through that opening, a pair of pincers and a hammer, with which you may by night draw out the nails of the staple, and we can easily put that to rights again, so that no one will ever suspect that the lock was opened. Once shut up with you in your loft, or wherever you sleep, I will go to work in such style that you will turn out even better than I said, to my own personal advantage, and to the increase of your accomplishments. You need not give yourself any concern about what we shall have to eat. I will bring enough to last us both for more than a week, for I have pupils who will not let me be pinched."
"As for that matter we are all right; for with what my master allows me, and the leavings brought me by the slave-girls, we should have enough for two more besides ourselves. Only bring the hammer and pincers, and I will make an opening close to the hinge, through which you may pass them in, and I will stop it up again with mud. I will take the fastenings out of the lock, and even should it be necessary to give some loud knocks, my master sleeps so far off from this gate, that it must be either a miracle or our extraordinary ill luck if he hears them."
"Well, then, with the blessing of God, friend Luis, in two days from this time you shall have everything necessary for the execution of your laudable purpose. Meanwhile, take care not to eat such things as are apt to make phlegm, for they do the voice no good, but a deal of harm."
"Nothing makes me so hoarse so much as wine, but I would not give it up for all the voices above ground."
"Don't think I would have you do so; God forbid! Drink, Luis my boy, drink; and much good may it do you, for wine drunk in measure never did any one harm."
"I always drink in measure. I have a jug here that holds exactly three pints and a half. The girls fill this for me unknown to my master, and the purveyor brings me on the sly a bottle holding a good gallon, which makes up for the deficiency of the jug."
"That's the way to live, my boy, for a dry throat can neither grunt nor sing."
"Well, go your ways now, and God be with you; but don't forget to come and sing here every night until such time as you bring the tools for getting you within doors. My fingers itch to be at the guitar."
"I'll come, never fear, and I'll bring some new tunes too."
"Ay, do; but before you go away now, sing me something that I may go to sleep pleasantly; and for the matter of payment, be it known to the señor pobre that I will be more liberal than many a rich man."
"Oh, I ain't uneasy on that score. If you think I teach you well, I will leave it to yourself to pay me accordingly. And now I'll just sing you one song, but when I am inside you will see wonders."
Here ended this long dialogue, and Loaysa sang a sprightly ditty with such good effect, that the negro was in ecstacies, and felt as if the time for opening the door would never arrive.
Having finished his song, Loaysa took his departure, and set off at a rounder pace than might have been expected of a man on crutches, to report to his friends what a good beginning he had made. He told them what he had concerted with the negro, and the following day they procured tools of the right sort, fit to break any fastening as if it was made of straw. The virote failed not to serenade the negro, nor the latter to scrape at the gate-post till he had made a sufficiently wide hole, which he plastered up so well, that no one could perceive it unless he searched for it on purpose. On the second night Loaysa passed in the tools, Luis went to work with them, whipped off the staple in a trice, opened the door, and let in his Orpheus. Great was his surprise to see him on his two crutches, with such a distorted leg, and in such a tattered plight. Loaysa did not wear the patch over his eye, for it was not necessary, and as soon as he entered he embraced his pupil, kissed him on the cheek, and immediately put into his hand a big jar of wine, a box of preserves, and other sweet things, with which his wallet was well stored. Then throwing aside his crutches, he began to cut capers, as if nothing ailed him, to the still greater amazement of the negro.
"You must know, brother Luis," said Loaysa, "that my lameness does not come of natural infirmity, but from my own ingenious contrivance, whereby I get my bread, asking alms for the love of God. In this way, and with the help of my music, I lead the merriest life in the world, where others, with less cleverness and good management, would be starved to death. Of this you will be convinced in the course of our friendship."
"We shall see," said the negro; "but now let us put this staple back in its place, so that it may not appear that it has been moved."
"Very good," said Loaysa, and taking out some nails from his wallet, he soon made the lock seem as secure as ever, to the great satisfaction of the negro, who, taking him at once to his loft, made him as comfortable there as he could. Luis lighted a lamp; Loaysa took up his guitar, and began to strike the chords softly and sweetly, so that the poor negro was transported with delight. After he had played awhile, he drew forth a fresh supply of good things for a collation, which they partook of together, and the pupil applied himself so earnestly to the bottle that it took away his senses still more than the music had done. Supper over, Loaysa proposed that Luis should take his first lesson at once; and though the poor negro was too much fuddled to distinguish one string from another, Loaysa made him believe that he had already learnt at least two notes. So persuaded was the poor fellow of this, that he did nothing all night but jangle and strum away. They had but a short sleep that night. In the morning, just on the strike of six, Carrizales came down, opened both entrance doors, and stood waiting for the purveyor, who came soon afterwards; and after depositing the day's supplies in the turning-box, called the negro down to receive his ration and oats for the mule. After the purveyor was gone, old Carrizales went out, locking both doors after him, without having seen what had been done to the lock of one of them, whereat both master and pupil rejoiced not a little.
No sooner was the master of the house gone, than the negro laid hold on the guitar, and began to scrape it in such a manner, that all the servant maids came to the second door, and asked him, through the turning-box, "What is this, Luis? How long have you had a guitar? Who gave it you?"
"Who gave it me? The best musician in the world, and one who is to teach me in six days more than six thousand tunes!"
"Where is he, this musician?" said the dueña.
"He is not far off," replied the negro; "and if it were not for fear of my master, perhaps I would tell you where at once, and I warrant you would be glad to see him."
"But where can he be for us to see him," returned the dueña, "since no one but our master ever enters this house?"
"I will not tell you any more about the matter till you have heard what I can do, and how much he has taught me in this short time."
"By my troth, unless he is a demon who has taught you, I don't know how you can have become a musician all at once."
"Stop a bit and you shall hear him, and mayhap you will see him too some day."
"That can't be," said another of the women, "for there are no windows on the street through which we could hear or see anybody."
"Never mind" said the negro; "there's a remedy for everything but death. If you only could or would keep silence—"
"Keep silence! Ay that we will, brother Luis, as if we were born dumb. I give you my word, friend, I am dying to hear a good voice, for ever since we have been shut up here we have not even heard the birds sing."
Loaysa listened with great inward glee to this conversation, which showed how readily the women were taking the very bent he would have given them. The negro was afraid lest his master should return and catch him talking with them; but they would not go away until he had promised that, when they least expected it, he would call them to hear a capital voice. He then retreated to his loft, where he would gladly have resumed his lessons, but durst not do so by day for fear of detection. His master returned soon after and went into the house, locking both doors behind him as usual. When Luis went that day to the turning-box for his victuals, he told the negress, who brought them, to let her fellow-servants know that when their master was asleep that night, they should all of them come down to the turning-box, when he would be sure to give them the treat he had promised. He was enabled to say so much, having previously entreated his music-master to condescend to sing and play that night before the inner door for the amusement of the women. The maestro suffered himself to be pressed very hard to do the thing he most desired, but after much seeming reluctance he at last yielded to the solicitations of his esteemed pupil, and said he would be happy to oblige him. The negro embraced him cordially, in testimony of his grateful sense of the promised favour, and treated him that day to as good cheer as he could possibly have had at home, or perhaps better.
Towards midnight Luis knew, by the signals cautiously given at the turning-box, that the women were all there; whereupon he and Loaysa went down from the loft with the guitar, complete in all its strings and well tuned. The maestro asked how many were there to hear him, and was told that all the women in the house were there, except their lady, who was in bed with her husband. This was not what Loaysa wished for, nevertheless, by way of making a beginning and obliging his pupil, he touched the guitar softly, and drew from it such tones as ravished the ears of his audience. But who could describe the delight of the women when he sang Pesame de ello, and followed it up with the magic strains of the saraband, then new in Spain? There was not one of them that did not keep time to the music as if she were dancing like mad, but all noiselessly and with extreme caution, keeping scouts on the watch to warn them if the old man awoke. Loaysa finally played them several seguidillas, and so put the climax to his success, that they all eagerly begged the negro to tell them who was this marvellous musician. Luis replied that he was a poor beggar, but the most gallant and genteel man in all the back slums of Seville. They conjured the negro to contrive some means that they might see him, and not to let him quit the house for a fortnight, for they would take care to supply him with the best of good cheer, and plenty of it. They were curious to know how Luis had managed to get him into the house; but to this the negro made no reply. For the rest he told them that if they wanted to see the maestro, they might bore a small hole in the turning-box and afterwards stop it up with wax; and that as for keeping him in the house, he would do his best.
Loaysa then addressed them, and offered them his services in such obliging and polite terms, that they were sure such fine language never came out of the head of a poor beggar. They entreated he would come the next night, and they would prevail on their lady to come down and hear him, in spite of the light sleep of her lord and master—the result not so much of his age as of his extreme jealousy. Loaysa replied that if they wished to hear him without fear of being surprised by the old man, he would give them a powder to put in his wine, which would make him sleep more soundly. "Good heaven!" cried one of the damsels, "if that were true, what a blessing would have come home to us without our knowing or deserving it! It would not be a sleeping powder for him so much as it would be a powder of life for all of us, and for my poor dear lady, Leonora his wife, to whom he sticks as close as her shadow, never losing sight of her for a moment. Ah, señor of my soul! bring that powder, and may God reward you with all the good you can desire. Go! don't lose a moment—bring it, señor mio; I will take it upon me to put it in his wine and to be his cupbearer. Oh, that it might please God that the old man should sleep three days and nights! Three glorious days and nights they would be for us."
"Well, I'll bring it then," said Loaysa. "It is of such a nature that it does no harm to the person who takes it; the only effect of it being to cause a most profound sleep."
They all entreated him to bring it without delay, and then they took their leave of him, after agreeing that on the following night they would make a hole in the turning-box with a gimlet, and that they would try and persuade their mistress to come down. By this time it was nearly daylight, yet the negro wished to take a lesson. Loaysa complied with his desire, and assured him that among all the pupils he had ever taught, he had not known one with a finer ear; and yet the poor negro could never, to the end of his days, have learned the gamut.
Loaysa's friends took care to come at night to Carrizales' door to see if their friend had any instructions to give them, or wanted anything. On the second night, when they had made him aware of their presence by a preconcerted signal, he gave them, through the key-hole, a brief account of the prosperous beginning he had made, and begged they would try and get him something to be given to Carrizales to make him sleep. He had heard, he said, that there were powders which produced that effect. They told him they had a friend, a physician, who would give them the best drug for that purpose if he happened to have it; and after encouraging him to persist in the enterprise, and promising to return on the following night, they left him.
Presently the whole flock of doves came to the lure of the guitar, and among them was the simple Leonora, trembling for fear her husband should awake. So great was her dread of his discovering her absence, that her women had great difficulty in persuading her to make the hazardous venture. But they all, especially the dueña, told her such wonderful things of the sweetness of the music, and the engaging manners of the poor musician, whom, without having seen him, they extolled above Absalom and Orpheus, that they persuaded her to do what she would never have done of her own accord. Their first act was to bore a hole in the turning-box through which they might peep at the musician, who was no longer clad in rags, but in wide breeches of buff silk, cut sailor fashion, a jacket of the same material, a satin cap to match, and a starched double-pointed ruff, all which he had brought in his wallet, expecting that he would have to show himself on an occasion which would require him to change his costume. Loaysa was young, good-looking, and of pleasing deportment; and as the eyes of all the women had been so long accustomed only to the sight of old Carrizales, they fancied as they looked at Loaysa that they beheld an angel.
Each of them took her turn at the peephole, and that they might see him the better, the negro stood by him with a lighted flambeau, which he moved up and down before the maestro's body. After all the women, from the lady of the house down to the two negresses, had thus gratified their eyes, Loaysa took his guitar, and played and sang more bewitchingly than ever. Leonora's women were bewildered with delight, and all besought Luis to contrive so that the señor maestro should come in through the inner door, so that they might hear and see him better, instead of squinting at him through a gimlet-hole, and without the risk they ran of being caught in the fact by their master, which would not be so great if they had the musician concealed inside. Their lady strenuously opposed this proposition, declaring she would not permit any such thing. She was shocked to hear them mention it, for they could hear and see him well enough as it was, without danger to their honour. "Honour," exclaimed the dueña; "the king has plenty. Your ladyship may shut yourself up with your Methusalem, if you have a mind, but leave us to amuse ourselves as well as we can; the more so since this señor appears to be too much the gentleman to ask anything of us but what would be pleasing to ourselves."
"Never!" interposed Loaysa. "I came hither, ladies, with no other intention than to offer you my humble services, with all my heart and soul, moved by commiseration for the unparalleled rigour of your confinement, and for the precious moments that are lost to you through this recluse way of life. By the life of my father, I am a man so artless, so meek, so tractable and obedient, that I will never do more than I am bidden. If any one of you should please to say, 'Maestro, sit down here; Maestro, step this way, step that way, go yonder,' I will do just as you bid me, like the tamest and best trained dog that jumps for the king of France."
"Well, if that be so," said the inexperienced Leonora, "what is to be done, so that the señor maestro may come in?"
"Nothing can be easier," said Loaysa. "So please you, ladies, just take the trouble to make an impression on wax with the key of this door; and I will take care that by to-morrow night another shall be made exactly like it, which will answer our purpose."
"With that key," one of the women remarked, "we shall have those of the whole house, for it is a master-key."
"So much the better," said Loaysa.
"That is true," said Leonora; "but this señor must first of all swear, that when he is inside here he will not attempt to do anything but sing and play when he is asked, and that he will keep close and quiet wherever we may put him."
"I swear to this," said Loaysa.
"That oath is good for nothing," replied Leonora: "the señor must swear by the life of his father, and by the cross, which he must kiss in sight of us all."
"I swear by the life of my father," said Loaysa, "and by this sign of the cross, which I kiss with my unworthy mouth;" and crossing two of his fingers, he kissed them three times.
"That will do," said one of the women; "and now, señor, be sure you don't forget the powder, for that is the main thing of all."
Here the conversation ended for that night, and all parties retired highly satisfied with the interview. Good luck had evidently declared in favour of Loaysa; and just then, about two o'clock in the morning, it brought his friends to the door. On their giving the usual signal by blowing a French horn, he went to the door, told them what progress he had made, and asked had they brought the powder or other drug to put Carrizales to sleep. At the same time, he spoke to them respecting the master-key. They told him that on the following night they would bring the powder, or else an ointment of such virtue that one had only to rub the patient's wrists and temples with it to throw him into such a profound sleep, that he would not wake for two days, unless the anointed parts were well washed with vinegar. As to the key, he had only to give them the impression in wax, and they would have a false one made forthwith. Having said this, the friends retired, and Loaysa and his pupil went to rest for the short remainder of the night. The next day hung heavily on hand, as always happens to those who are filled with eager expectation; but the longest day must have an end, and Loaysa's impatient desire was at last gratified.
The appointed hour having arrived, all the domestics, great and small, black and white, repaired to the turning-box, longing to see the señor musico fairly within their seraglio; but no Leonora was there. When Loaysa inquired for her, they said she was in bed with her good man, who had locked the bed-room door, and put the key under his pillow; and that their lady had told them, that when the old man had fallen asleep she would take the key, and they were to go to her by and by for the wax impression she would take from it, and pass to them through a trap-hole in the door. Loaysa was astonished at the old man's extreme wariness, in spite of which he by no means despaired of baffling his precautions. Just then the French horn was heard: Loaysa hastened to the door, and received from his friends a pot containing the promised ointment. Bidding them wait awhile, and he would bring them the mould of the key, he went back to the turning-box, and told the dueña, who seemed the most eager of all the women for his admission, to give the ointment to her lady, bid her anoint her husband with it so cautiously that he should not be aware of what she was doing, and she would soon see wonders. The dueña took the pot, stole up to her mistress's door, and found her waiting on the inside, stretched full length on the floor, with her face to the trap-hole. The dueña laid herself down in the same manner, and putting her mouth to her mistress's ear, whispered that she had brought the ointment, telling her at the same time how to apply it. Leonora took the ointment, but told the dueña that she could by no means get the key, for her husband had not put it under the pillow as usual, but between the mattresses, just under where he lay. However, she was to tell the maestro, that if the ointment operated as he said, she could easily get the key as often as she pleased, and so there would be no need of copying it in wax. Having delivered this message at once, the dueña was to come back, and see how the ointment worked, for she intended to apply it forthwith. The dueña having reported all this to Loaysa, he sent away his friends who were waiting without for the mould of the key.
Trembling in every limb, and scarcely daring to breathe, Leonora began to rub the wrists of her jealous husband. Next she smeared his nostrils; but as she did so, the old man jerked his head, and Leonora was petrified with terror, believing that he was awake, and had caught her in the fact. It was a false alarm, however, and she went on with her task the best way she could, till she had completed it according to her instructions. It was not long before its effects manifested themselves; for presently the old man began to snore loud enough to be heard in the street. This was music more delightful to Leonora's ears than the maestro's voice or guitar; but still hardly trusting what she saw, she ventured to shake him, a very little at first, to see if he would wake; and then a wee bit more and more, till finding that he still snored on, she made bold to turn him over from one side to the other, without his showing any signs of waking. Seeing this, she stepped joyfully to the door; and in a voice not so low as before, called out to the dueña, who was waiting with her ear to the trap-hole. "Good news, sister; Carrizales is sleeping more soundly than the dead."
"What stops you then from taking the key, señora?" said the dueña. "The musico has been waiting for it this hour and more."
"Stay a moment, sister; I am going for it," said Leonora; and stepping back to the bed, she put her hand between the mattresses, and drew out the key without the old man's perceiving it. No sooner was the key in her hands, than dancing with delight she unlocked the door, and gave it to the exulting dueña, bidding her let in the maestro, and bring him into the gallery; but as for herself, she durst not stir from that spot, for fear of what might happen. But before all things she insisted that the maestro should ratify anew the oath he had taken not to do more than they should order him; and if he would not give this renewed pledge, he was not to be let in on any consideration.
"Never fear," said the dueña; "not a bit shall he come in until he has sworn, and sworn again, and kissed the cross at least six times."
"Don't bind him to any fixed number," said Leonora; "but let him kiss the cross as many times as he pleases; but be sure that he swears by the life of his father, and by all he holds dear; for then we shall be safe and sure, and we may take our fill of hearing him sing and play; and exquisitely he does so, upon my word. There now, get you gone without more delay, and let us not waste the night in words."
The good dueña caught up her petticoats, and ran with all her speed to the turning-box, where the whole party was impatiently awaiting her; and no sooner had she shown them the key in her hand, than they hoisted her upon their shoulders, and paraded up and down with her, crying "Viva! viva!" But still greater was their joy when she told them there was no need to have a false key made; for so soundly did the old man sleep after being anointed, that they might have the house-key as often as they required it.
"Quick then, good friend," said one of the troop, "open the door, and let in this gentleman who has been waiting so long, and let us have a jolly bout of music, for that is all we have now to do."
"Nay, but there is more to be done," replied the dueña; "for we must exact another oath of him; the same as last night."
"He is so good," said one of the slave girls, "that he won't grudge taking as many oaths as we like."
The dueña now unlocked the door, and holding it ajar called to Loaysa, who had been listening at the aperture to all that had passed. He was for springing in at a bound; but the dueña stopped him, laying her hand on his breast, and said, "Fair and softly, señor; I would have you to know, as God is my judge, we are all of us virgins here as truly as the mothers that bore us, except my lady; and I am one too, the Lord forgive me, though you would take me for forty years old; but I am not thirty all out, wanting two months and a fortnight of my thirtieth birthday; and if I look older, it is that cares, and troubles, and vexations tell upon one more than years. Now this being so, it does not stand to reason, that for the sake of hearing two or three songs we should risk the loss of so much virginity as is here collected together. And so you see, my sweet sir, before you enter our domain, you must first take a very solemn oath, that you will do nothing beyond our orders. If you think it is much we ask of you, do but consider how much more it is we risk; and if your intentions are good and proper, you will not be loth to swear; for a good paymaster does not mind giving security."
"Well said, Marialonso," cried one of the damsels; "spoken like a person of sense, and who knows what's what. If the señor won't swear, then let him not come in here."
"Tell you what," said Guiomar, the negress, in her broken jargon, "s'ppose him no swear, let him in all the same, in devil's name; for s'ppose him swear, once him in, him forget eberyting."
Loaysa listened very demurely to the Señora Marialonso's harangue, and replied with great gravity, "Be assured, ladies, my charming sisters and companions, my intention never was, is, or shall be other than to gratify and content you to the utmost of my powers; and therefore I make no difficulty with regard to this oath which is required of me, though I could have wished that some confidence had been reposed in my simple word, which, given by such a person as I am, would have been as good as a bond signed and sealed; for I would have you to know, ladies, that under a bad cloak there is often a good drinker. But to the end that you may all be assured of my upright intentions, I will take the oath as a catholic and a man of parts. I swear then by the immaculate efficacy, wherever it abides in greatest sanctity and fulness, by all the entrances and exits of the holy mount Libanus, and by all that is contained in the preface to the true history of Charlemagne, with the death of the giant Fierabras, not to swerve or depart from the oath I have taken, or from the commands which may be laid upon me by the least of these ladies, under penalty, should I do otherwise, or attempt to do otherwise, that from this time forth till then, and from thenceforth till now, the same shall be null and void and of no effect whatsoever."
When honest Loaysa had got so far in his oath, one of the young maidens, who had listened to him with wrapt attention, cried out, "Well, if that is not what you may call an oath! it is enough to melt the heart of a stone. Plague take me if you shall swear any more for me; for after such an oath as that you might enter the very cave of Cabra." So saying, she caught hold of him by the breeches, and drew him within the door, where the rest immediately gathered close round him. One of them ran off with the news to her mistress, who stood watching her husband; and who, when she heard that the musico was actually within doors, was moved almost at the same moment by joy and fear, and hurriedly asked if he had sworn. The girl told her he had done so, and with the most singular form of oath she had ever heard in her life.
"Well, since he has sworn, we have him fast," said Leonora. "Oh, what a good thought it was of mine to make him swear!"
They were now met by the whole party advancing in procession, with the musico in the midst of them, and the negro and Guiomar lighting the way. As soon as Loaysa saw Leonora, he threw himself at her feet to kiss her hands; but without saying a word, she made signs to him to rise, and he obeyed. Observing then that they all remained as mute as if they had lost their tongues, Loaysa told them they might talk, and talk aloud too; for there was no fear that their lord-master would wake and hear them, such being the virtue of the ointment, that without endangering life it made a man lie like one dead.
"That I fully believe," said Leonora; "for were it not so, he would have been awake twenty times before this, such a light sleeper he is, in consequence of his frequent indispositions; but ever since I anointed him, he has been snoring like a pig."
"That being the case," said the dueña, "let us go into the saloon, where we may hear the gentleman sing, and amuse ourselves a little."
"Let us go," said Leonora; "but let Guiomar remain here on the watch, to warn vis if Carrizales wakes."
"Ay," said Guiomar, "black woman stay, white woman go: God pardon all."
Leaving the negress behind, the rest all went to the saloon, where they seated themselves on a rich carpet, with Loaysa in the centre of the group. Marialonso took a candle, and began to examine the figure of the musician from bead to foot. Every one had something to say in his commendation: "Oh, what a nice curly head of hair he has!" said one. "What nice teeth!" cried another; "blanched almonds are nothing to them." "What eyes!" exclaimed a third; "so large and full, and so green! By the life of my mother, they look for all the world like emeralds." Leonora alone said not a word; but as she looked at the maestro, she could not help thinking that he was better looking than her good man. Presently the dueña took the guitar out of the negro's hands, and putting it into Loaysa's, begged he would sing to it a villanetta then in high fashion at Seville. He complied; the women all jumped up, and began to dance; whilst the dueña sang the words of the song with more good will than good voice.
Close you watch me, mother mine,
Watch me, and immure me:
Don't you know without my help
You can not secure me?
Appetite, 'tis said with truth,
By privation groweth;
Thwarted love, like flame confined,
All the fiercer gloweth.
Better therefore 'twere, methinks,
You should not immure me:
Don't you know without my help
You can not secure me?
Close you watch me, &c.
Moths will to the taper fly,
Bees on flowers will cluster;
Keep a loving maid who can
From love's golden lustre!
Fear you lest that beacon light
From your arms should lure me?
Well I know without my help
You can not secure me.
Close you watch me, &c.
There's a way where there's a will:
Keep the will from straying.
Wayward hearts will have their fling,
Spite of all gainsaying.
If you'd have me very good,
Don't be hard on poor me;
Sure I am without, my help
You can not secure me.
Close you watch me, &c.
The song and the dance were just ended, when in rushed Guiomar in wild affright, gesticulating as if she was in a fit, and in a voice between a croak and a whisper, she stammered out, "Master wake, señora; señora, master wake: him getting up, and coming." Whoever has seen a flock of pigeons feeding tranquilly in the field, and has marked the fear and confusion with which they take flight at the terrible sound of the gun, may picture to himself the fluttering dismay of the dancers at the unexpected news blurted out by Guiomar. Off they ran in all directions, leaving the musico in the lurch, and in a pitiable state of perplexity. Leonora wrung her beautiful hands; and the Señora Marialonso beat her face, and tore her hair, but not with great violence. In short, all was panic and confusion; but the dueña, who had more cunning and presence of mind than the rest, directed that Loaysa should go into her own room, whilst she and her mistress remained where they were, never doubting but they should find some excuse or another to put off upon Carrizales.
Loaysa hid himself, and the dueña bent her ear to listen for her master's footsteps; but hearing nothing, she took courage by degrees, and stealing on tip-toe to his bed-room, she found him snoring there as soundly as ever. Back she ran, at her best speed, to gladden her mistress's heart with the joyful intelligence; and then discreetly resolving not to lose so lucky an opportunity of being the first to enjoy the good graces of the musico, she told Leonora to wait there whilst she went and called him. Hastily entering the room where he was concealed, she found him sorely discomfited by the untoward issue of his adventure, cursing the inefficiency of the ointment, the credulity of his friends, and his own want of forethought in not making an experiment with the ointment on some other person before he tried its effect on Carrizales. But when the dueña assured him that the old man was sleeping as soundly as ever, there was an end to all his uneasiness, and he lent a complacent ear to the very liquorish language in which Marialonso addressed him. "Oho," said he to himself, "that's what you would be at, is it? Well, you will do capitally as a bait to fish with for your lady."
Whilst this tête-à-tête was pending, the rest of the women had one by one crept out of their several hiding-places, to see if it was true that their master was awake; and finding all still in the house, they returned to the saloon where they had left their mistress. Having learnt from her that the alarm had been a false one, they asked what had become of the musico and the dueña. Leonora told them that Marialonso had gone to fetch the maestro, whereupon they all stole out of the room as noiselessly as they had entered it, and set themselves to listen at the door to what was passing between the pair. Guiomar was one of the party, but the negro was not among them; for upon the first alarm he had run off, hugging his guitar, and hid himself in his loft, where he lay huddled up under the bed-clothes, sweating with terror; in spite of which he could not forbear from tinkling the guitar from time to time, so inordinate—may Satanas confound him!—was his love of music. The soft speeches of the amorous dueña were distinctly heard by the group outside the door; and there was not one of them but bestowed a blessing upon her from the wrong side of the mouth, with the addition of sundry epithets which I had rather not repeat. The result of the confabulation between the pair was that Loaysa would comply with the dueña's desires, provided that first of all she brought her mistress to consent to his. It cost the dueña something to subscribe to these conditions; but, after all, there was nothing she would not have done to compass the gratification of the desires that had laid hold on her soul and body, and were undermining her very bones and marrow. The bargain was struck; and quitting the room to go and speak to her mistress, she found all the rest of the women assembled round the door. Putting a bold face on the matter, she bade them all go to bed, and next night they should be able to enjoy themselves without any such false alarm as had spoiled their sport for that time. The women all knew well that the old dueña only wanted to be left alone; but they could not help obeying her, for she had command over them all.
Having got rid of the servants, the dueña went back to the saloon, and began to exercise her powers of persuasion upon Leonora. She made her a long and plausible harangue, so well put together that one might have supposed she had composed it beforehand. She extolled the good looks of the gentle musico, the elegance of his manners, his wondrous suavity, and his countless other good qualities; represented how infinitely more agreeable must be the caresses of such a charming young gallant than those of the old husband; assured her the affair would never be discovered, and plied her with a thousand other arguments which the devil put into her mouth, all so specious and so artfully coloured, that they might have beguiled the firmest mind, much more that of a being so artless and unwary as poor Leonora. O dueñas, born and used for the perdition of thousands of modest, virtuous beings! O ye long plaited coifs, chosen to impart an air of grave decorum to the salas of noble ladies, how do you reverse the functions of your perhaps needful office! In fine, the dueña talked with such effect, that Leonora consented to her own undoing, and to that of all the precautions of the wary Carrizales, whose sleep was the death of his honour. Marialonso took her mistress by the hand, led the weeping lady almost by force to Loaysa, and wishing them much joy with a diabolical leer, she left them both shut in together, and laid herself down in the saloon to sleep, or rather to await the reward she had earned. Overcome, however, by the loss of rest on two successive nights, she could not keep her eyes open, but fell fast asleep on the carpet.
And now, if we did not know that Carrizales was asleep, it would not be amiss to ask him, where now were all his jealous cares and precautions? What now availed the lofty walls of his house, and the exclusion from it of every male creature? What had he gained by his turning-box, his thick walls, his stopped up windows, the enormously strict seclusion to which he had doomed his family, the large jointure he had settled on Leonora, the presents he was continually making her, his liberal treatment of her attendants, and his unfailing alacrity in supplying them with everything he imagined they could want or wish for? But as we have said, he was asleep. Had he been awake, and disposed to reply, he could not have given a better answer than by saying, as he shrugged his shoulders and arched his eyebrows, that all this had been brought to nought by the craft of an idle and vicious young man, and the wickedness of a faithless dueña, working upon the weakness of an artless and inexperienced girl. Heaven save us all from such enemies as these, against whom the shield of prudence and the sword of vigilance are alike impotent to defend us!
Such, nevertheless, was Leonora's rectitude, and so opportunely did she manifest it, that all the villanous arts of the crafty seducer were of no avail; till both of them, wearied by the contest, the baffled tempter and the victorious defender of her own chastity, fell asleep almost at the moment when it pleased Heaven that Carrizales should awake in spite of the ointment. As usual he felt all about the bed, and not finding his dear wife in it, he jumped up in the utmost consternation, and with strange agility for a man of his years. He looked all over the room for her, and when he found the door open, and the key gone from between the mattresses, he was nearly distracted. Recovering himself a little, he went out into the gallery, stole softly thence to the saloon, where the dueña was asleep, and seeing no Leonora there, he went to the dueña's own room, opened the door gently, and beheld Leonora in Loaysa's arms, and both of them looking as if the soporific ointment was exerting its influence over themselves instead of upon the jealous husband.
Carrizales was petrified with horror; his voice stuck in his throat; his arms fell powerless by his sides, and his feet seemed rooted to the ground; and though the fierce revulsion of his wrath presently aroused his torpid senses, he yet could scarcely breathe, so intense was his anguish. Thirsting for vengeance as terrible as his monstrous wrong, but having no weapon at hand, he returned to his chamber as stealthily as he had quitted it, in search of a dagger, with which he would wash out the stain cast upon his honour in the blood of the guilty pair, and then massacre his whole household; but he had no sooner reached his room than his grief again overpowered him, and he fell senseless on the bed.
Day broke now, and found Leonora still in the arms of Loaysa. Marialonso awoke, and thinking it time to receive what she counted was due to her, she awoke Leonora, who was shocked to find it so late, and bitterly accused her own imprudence and the dueña's negligence. With trembling steps the two women crept up to Felipe's bedroom, praying inwardly to Heaven that they might find him still snoring; and when they saw him lying on the bed, apparently asleep, they made no doubt that he was still under the effect of the opiate, and embraced each other in a transport of joy. Leonora went up to her husband, and taking him by the arm, turned him over on his side to see if he would wake without their being obliged to wash him with vinegar according to the directions given with the ointment; but the movement roused Carrizales from his swoon, and heaving a deep sigh, he ejaculated in a faint and piteous tone, "Miserable man that I am! to what a woeful pass I am come!"
Leonora did not distinctly hear what her husband said; but seeing with surprise that the effect of the opiate was not so lasting as she had been led to expect, she bent over him, put her cheek to his, and pressing him closely in her arms, said, "What ails you, dear señor? You seem to be complaining?"
Carrizales opened his eyes to their utmost width, and turning them full upon her, stared at her a long while with a look of profound amazement. At last he said, "Do me the pleasure, señora, to send instantly for your parents in my name, and ask them to come hither, for I feel something at my heart which distresses me exceedingly. I fear I have but a short time to live, and I should like to see them before I die."
Leonora immediately despatched the negro with this message to her parents. She fully believed what her husband had told her, and attributing his danger to the violence of the opiate instead of to its real cause, she put her arms round his neck, caressed him more fondly than ever she had done before, and inquired how he felt, with such tender solicitude, as if she loved him above everything in the world; while he, on the other hand, continued to gaze upon her with the same unvarying look of astonishment, every endearing word or caress of hers being like a dagger to his heart. The dueña had, by this time, acquainted Loaysa and the domestics with her master's illness, which, she remarked, was evidently very serious, since he had forgotten to give orders that the street door should be locked after the negro's departure to summon her lady's parents. The message was itself a portentous occurrence, for neither father nor mother had ever set foot within that house since their daughter's marriage. In short, the whole household was in anxiety, though no one divined the true cause of the old man's illness. He lay sighing at intervals, so heavily that every sigh seemed like the parting of soul and body. Leonora wept to see him in such a state, whilst he beheld her feigned tears, as he deemed them, with a bitter smile, that looked like the grin of insanity.
Leonora's parents now arrived, and were struck with no little misgivings when they found both entrance doors open and the house all lonely and silent. They went up to their son-in-law's room, and found him in the posture he had all along maintained, with his eyes immovably fixed on his wife, whom he held by the hands, whilst both were in tears; she, because she saw his flow, and he at seeing how deceitfully she wept. As soon as they entered the room, Carrizales begged them to be seated, ordered all the domestics to withdraw except Marialonso, then wiped his eyes, and with a calm voice and an air of perfect composure addressed them thus:—
"I am sure, my respected father and mother-in-law, I need no other witnesses than yourselves to the truth of what I have now to say to you in the first place. You must well remember with how much love and what tender affection I received your daughter when you bestowed her upon me one year, one month, five days, and nine hours ago, as my lawful wife. You know, also, with what liberality I behaved to her, for the settlement I made upon her would have been more than enough to furnish three young ladies of her quality with handsome marriage portions. You must remember the pains I took to dress and adorn her with everything she could desire or I could think of as suitable to her. It is known to you likewise how, prompted by my natural disposition, fearful of the evil to which I shall surely owe my death, and taught by the experience of a long life to be on my guard against the many strange chances that occur in life, I sought to guard this jewel which I had chosen and you had bestowed upon me, with all possible care and caution. I raised the walls of this house higher, blocked up all the windows that looked on the street, doubled the locks of the doors, set up a turning-box as in a nunnery, and perpetually banished from my dwelling every vestige of the male sex. I gave my wife female servants and slaves to wait upon her: I denied neither her nor them anything they chose to ask of me. I made her my equal, communicated my most secret thoughts to her, and put my whole property at her disposal. Having done all this, I thought I might fairly expect to enjoy securely what had cost me so much, and that it would be her care not to afford me cause for conceiving any kind of jealous fear whatever. But it is not within the power of human efforts to prevent the chastisement which Heaven is pleased to inflict on those who do not rest their whole hopes and desires upon it alone. No wonder then if mine have been deceived, and I have myself prepared the poison of which I am now dying. But I see how anxiously you hang upon the words of my mouth. I will therefore keep you no longer in suspense, but conclude this long preamble by telling you, in one word, what no words were adequate to describe, were I to speak for ever. This morning I found this woman," (here he pointed to his wife,) "who was born for the ruin of my peace and the destruction of my life, in the arms of a young gallant, who is now shut up in the bed-chamber of this pestilent dueña."
Carrizales had no sooner uttered these words than Leonora swooned, and fell with her head upon his lap. Marialonso turned as white as ashes, and Leonora's parents were so astounded that they could not utter a word. After a short pause, Carrizales continued thus:—
"The vengeance I intend to take for this outrage shall be no common one. As I have been singular in all my other actions, so will I be in this. My vengeance shall fall upon myself, as the person most culpable of all, for I ought to have considered how ill this girl's fifteen years could assort with my threescore and ten. I have been like the silkworm, which builds itself a house in which it must die. I do not reproach you, misguided girl"—here he bent down and kissed his still insensible wife—"for the persuasions of a wicked old woman, and the wheedling tongue of an amorous youth, easily prevail over the little wit of a green girl; but that all the world may see how strong and how true was the love I bore you, I shall give such a proof of it here on my death-bed, as the world has never seen or heard of;—one that shall remain an unparalleled example, if not of goodness, at least of singleness of heart. I desire that a notary be immediately sent for to make my will, wherein I will double Leonora's jointure, and recommend her, after my death, which will not be long delayed, to marry that young man whom these gray hairs have never offended. Thus she will see that, as in life I never departed in the slightest particular from what I thought could please her, so I wish her to be happy when I am no more, and to be united to him whom she must love so much. The rest of my fortune I will bequeath to pious uses, after leaving to you both wherewith to live honourably for the rest of your days. Let the notary come instantly, for the anguish I am now suffering is such that, if it continues, my time here will be very short."
Here Carrizales was seized with a terrible swoon, and sank down so close to Leonora that their faces touched. During this scene the dueña stole out of the room, and went to apprize Loaysa of all that had happened. She advised him to quit the house immediately, and she would take care to keep him informed of all that was going on, for there were no locked doors now to hinder her from sending the negro to him whenever it was necessary. Astounded at this news, Loaysa took her advice, put on his beggar's rags again, and went away to make known to his friends the strange issue of his amour.
Leonora's father, meanwhile, sent for a notary, who arrived soon after both husband and wife had recovered their senses. Carrizales made his will in the manner he had stated, without saying anything of his wife's transgressions; he only declared that, for good reasons, he advised, and begged her to marry, should he die, that young man of whom he had spoken to her in private. When Leonora heard this, she threw herself at her husband's feet, and cried, while her heart throbbed as if it would burst, "Long may you live, my lord and my only joy; for though you may not believe a word I say, indeed, indeed I have not offended you, except in thought."
More she would have said, but when she attempted to exculpate herself by a full statement of what had really occurred, her tongue failed her, and she fainted away a second time. The poor old man embraced her as she lay; so, too, did her parents—all three weeping bitterly; and even the notary could not refrain from tears. Carrizales gave the negro and the other slaves their liberty, and left all the servants enough to maintain them; the perfidious Marialonso alone was to have nothing beyond the arrears of her wages. Seven days afterwards Carrizales was laid in his grave.
Leonora remained a mourning though wealthy widow; and whilst Loaysa expected that she would fulfil the desire which he knew her husband had expressed in his will, he learned that within a week she had become a nun in one of the most austere and rigid convents in all Seville. Mortified by this disappointment, he left the country and went to the Indies. Leonora's father and mother were deeply grieved, but found consolation in the wealth which their son-in-law had bequeathed them. The two damsels likewise consoled themselves, as did the negro and the female slaves, the former being well provided for, and the latter having obtained their freedom; the wicked dueña alone was left to digest, in poverty, the frustration of her base schemes. For my part I was long possessed with the desire to complete this story, which so signally exemplifies the little reliance that can be put in locks, turning-boxes, and walls, whilst the will remains free; and the still less reason there is to trust the innocence and simplicity of youth, if its ear be exposed to the suggestions of your demure dueñas, whose virtue consists in their long black gowns and their formal white hoods. Only I know not why it was that Leonora did not persist in exculpating herself, and explaining to her jealous husband how guiltless she had been in the whole of that unhappy business. But her extreme agitation paralysed her tongue at the moment, and the haste which her husband made to die, left her without another opportunity to complete her justification.
- "Men on town," gente de barrio, literally, people of the ward or quarter.