The Mummy (Loudon)/Volume 2/Chapter 13
Notwithstanding the danger of his situation, Roderick was delighted at the sight of the allied army. "Now we shall fight," cried he, "and not be thrown down like dogs from the walls to perish. I could not bear to see my brave soldiers so sacrificed. But now that we shall meet fairly upon the open field, and struggle hand to hand, and man to man, we cannot fail to conquer!"
"Heaven grant us victory!" said Edric, sighing.
"Why, and so it will, man!" repeated Roderick gaily. "Come, come! rouse, and cheer thy spirits, for the moment of glory ought not surely to be that of gloom!"
The force of the enemy had, in the mean time, rapidly advanced, and the two armies were now opposite to each other; the river curving round that of Roderick like a silver band. The situation of the Irish hero was, indeed, now become hazardous in the extreme; and, if defeated, he could neither retreat nor advance without being exposed to imminent peril, as the river lay before him, and his rear was open to attacks from the town. But neither Roderick nor his soldiers ever contemplated the possibility of defeat; they breathed nothing but victory; and, as the confidence of success often ensures it, they had hitherto found themselves invincible, principally from the firm belief they entertained that they really were so. Roderick divided his army into three parts, and, determining to lead the van himself, he gave the command of one of the other divisions to Lord Arthur O'Neil, son of the Earl of Tyrone; and confided the other, which consisted entirely of Spaniards, to the conduct of the Spanish general, Don Alvarez Rippeardo, upon whose prudence he knew he might confidently rely: whilst he retained Edric, the doctor, and Alexis, the Greek page of Zoe, immediately about his own person.
The battle soon raged with terrific grandeur; the shouts and cries of the combatants, mingling horribly with the roar of the cannon, which echoed from the walls of the town, seemed to leap from hill to hill, and reverberate in the distance like peals of rolling thunder. Roderick, in the mean time, performed prodigies of valour. Not satisfied with directing the movements of his troops, he fought bravely, sword in hand, like a common soldier, with all that prodigious energy and unexampled good fortune, which had previously induced the belief amongst the lower classes of Spaniards, of his being assisted by supernatural agency. A square was attacked and seemed upon the point of giving way; but when Roderick saw its danger and threw himself into the centre, the soldiers were inspired with unwonted courage, and, fighting like lions about to be despoiled of their prey, repulsed the enemy with tremendous slaughter. In fact, nothing could resist the valour of Roderick's arm; like Homer's Achilles, he seemed ready to triumph even over Fate herself.
An unexpected occurrence, however, notwithstanding his prowess, was very near turning the tide of the battle against him. Lord Arthur O'Neil, whom he had placed at the head of one of the divisions, though brave as an individual, was nothing as a chief; and, unequal to the responsibility of the task he had undertaken, stood hesitating and uncertain what to do, whilst the moment for action passed away. His division had been sent round to attack the enemy in the rear; and Roderick having advanced farther than he would have done, had he not depended upon their assistance, their inaction seemed likely to produce the most fatal consequences. Edric saw Lord Arthur's uncertainty; and, comprehending in an instant both the cause and its effects, he put himself at the head of a few men and galloped to his relief. Arthur, bewildered and overwhelmed, willingly resigned his command; and Edric, leading his division to the charge, changed instantly the fortune of the day. The victory that followed was decisive. Those combating in front against Roderick, astonished at hearing the din of battle in their rear, wavered and became irresolute; whilst disorder being once thrown amongst such a mass of men, horses, and ammunitionwaggons, its consequences were irreparable. The rout soon became general. The French and Spaniards fell over each other in dismay; whilst, in some instances, their confusion was so excessive, that they turned their arms upon their own troops, mistaking them for those of their opponents.
The pursuit of the flying foe being confided to the Spanish division of Roderick's army, that victorious monarch returned himself in triumph to his camp before the city. Gloom hung over the walls of Seville, as that proud city expected to become instantly the prey of the conqueror. Roderick, however, finding the garrison were still determined to resist, and that his own soldiers were exhausted by the fatigue they had undergone, resolved to defer the attack till the next day. Then retiring to his tent, he ordered his officers and nobles to be summoned to hold a council of war as to their future proceedings. A crowd had, in consequence of this summons, already collected round the Monarch when Edric appeared amongst them. Roderick saw him, and hastily rushing forward, clasped him in his arms. "My dearest friend!" cried he; "yesterday you saved my life, but to-day you have preserved my honour. I do not attempt to thank you, for I feel the utter incompetency of words to express my feelings. Do not, however, look miserable, Arthur," continued he, addressing the unfortunate general; "for I do not blame you. It was my fault for putting you in a situation you were not competent to fill. For the future, you and Edric shall change places; and then I trust, whilst I have still the pleasure of employing my friends, the interests of the state will not suffer."
A page now appeared, bearing a ribband, attached to which, were fastened some glittering crosses. "It is well," said Roderick, taking the ribband in his hand. "Edric," continued he, "I hope you will oblige your friend by accepting these splendid baubles from his hand. They can confer no additional honour upon you in his sight, but they may aid in establishing your authority amongst the soldiers you in future will command, who regard these trinkets with respect."
Edric gracefully bowed assent, and kneeling before the Monarch, received his new honours with as much grace as Roderick bestowed them; the assembled officers and nobles pressing round, and offering their congratulations. Whatever they might say, however, no one present really felt a tenth part of the delight experienced by Dr. Entwerfen upon the occasion. His transport, indeed, quite defies description; for he danced, sang, jumped, nay, absolutely screamed with rapture; till at last, quite unable otherwise to give vent to the violence of his emotions, he sprang to the pillar of the tent, and clinging round it, embraced it with all his strength. All these antics had been slily watched and enjoyed by Roderick, even through the circle that surrounded him: he lost sight of the doctor, however, when he darted away; and it was not till the officers and nobles dispersed, that the King discovered his learned friend, to his infinite amusement, still hugging the post.
It has been already observed, that an unconquerable love of mischief mingled with the thousand good qualities that formed the composition of Roderick, and that he was continually getting into scrapes, and playing tricks upon ail the unhappy personages who happened to fall in his way; though his invincible good-humour, and a certain indescribable degree of the bon enfant peculiar to his character, rendered it quite impossible for any one seriously to resent his pranks.
It was not, indeed, in nature, for any human creature to be long angry with Roderick; and thus being certain of not giving lasting offence, whenever he was not positively engaged in war, the restless activity of his disposition made him frolic about, like a spoiled and petted child, who, even at the very moment of his sins being forgiven, is entirely occupied in plotting some new exploit.
Under these circumstances, it may be easily imagined what an infinite fund of amusement the confiding simplicity of Dr. Entwerfen had proved to Roderick, and innumerable had been the tricks he had played off upon him during their long and tedious sojourn in the Isle of Leon. The important events that had since occurred had, however, entirely occupied the monarch's attention, and the poor doctor had been suffered to enjoy a long respite, till this sudden view of his unabated enthusiasm presented an opportunity too tempting for the laughter-loving Monarch to resist.
Accordingly that evening, one of Roderick's pages, affecting an air of profound secrecy, presented the doctor with a mysterious bag, containing several small balls of dough, and a billet from the King, in which he informed the doctor, that these balls when boiled would be converted into a gunpowder of such amazing strength and efficacy, that ten grains of it would be sufficient to blow up a whole city; and that having become possessed by accident of the invaluable secret of their composition, he wished to use them for the destruction of Seville; and not having in his whole camp so skilful an experimental philosopher as the doctor, he had determined to confide their preparation exclusively to his care.
It is impossible for words to do justice to the importance that swelled in the breast of the doctor as he perused this epistle. He strutted, puffed himself out, and did his very utmost to look big — a feat he doubtless might have contrived to accomplish, had not Nature perversely determined to counteract his endeavours, and confined his stature to about four feet eleven. As it was, however, he certainly did make the most of himself, and being firmly resolved not to lose a single instant in putting the designs of the King into execution, he hastened to a vacant place between the camp and the city, where some cauldrons had been hastily erected for cooking the soldiers' food, and there commenced his operations.
In the mean time, Roderick, who had no idea the doctor would be so expeditious in his movements, was busily engaged in superintending the removal of the wounded, and in giving orders of the assault which was to take place upon the following day. He had indeed much to do; for awfully heavy is the responsibility of a general who is not entirely divested of feeling for his men; and the heart of Roderick, though a mistaken thirst for glory had made him a conqueror, was kind and generous, nay even tender in the extreme.
Urged by his compassion, he thus could not rest satisfied, after the more arduous labours of the day were over, without visiting himself the hospitals of the sick. He saw their wounds dressed, and tried to soften their pains, whilst he spoke kindly to them, and praised their valour. Thus employed, as he passed from tent to tent, the eyes of his soldiers beamed with rapture at his approach; and even in the agonies of death, they raised their feeble voices to call down blessings upon his head. Alexis followed his master in this excursion, and his fine eyes sparkled with pleasure as they followed the godlike form of Roderick through the crowd. The Monarch, indeed, himself, started with amazement as, turning suddenly, he accidentally met their gaze. "This page," said he to Edric, who happened to be near, "possesses a glance of fire — I really never saw more expressive features."
"It is often the case," returned Edric calmly, as he assisted one of the surgeons to bind the arm of a wounded soldier. "The dumb frequently employ gestures to make themselves understood, and their features insensibly become more expressive from the muscles being more frequently brought into play."
"You fought like a hero, ray brave fellow!" said Roderick to the poor man Edric had been assisting. "I hope your hurt is not serious!"
"And if it were through my heart," said the man, "it's no more than I'd be proud to bear for your Majesty, any day of my life."
"Oh, these Irish!" sighed an old Andalusian soldier, who lay near, and happened to understand them. "They are brave as lions in the field, but gentle as doves when they are in a chamber."
"Have your wants also been attended to?" asked Roderick.
"Yes, God bless your Majesty!" returned the soldier. "If the devil does help you when you are fighting, I am sure it is God's own spirit makes you so good to your soldiers afterwards."
"If the devil helped me to-day," said Roderick, laughing, "I am sure I am very much obliged to his Satanic Majesty, for I never was in greater peril. Do not look so grave, Edric, you know I am only joking; and that whatever my tongue may say, my heart only feels gratitude where it is really due:" and as he spoke, he devoutly crossed himself.
"I know," said Edric gravely, "that your heart is infinitely better than your head."
"The fault of my countrymen," cried Roderick, again smiling, "or rather the fault of nature, for they, poor souls, can't help it. Our imaginations are so vivid that, like a restive horse, they are apt to take the bit in their teeth and gallop away at full speed, in spite of all that the sage Dame Reason, who still keeps uselessly pulling the rein, can do to prevent them."
As soon as the more important duties of his station were fulfilled, Roderick intended paying a visit to Doctor Entwerfen, to discover what effect had been produced upon the doctor's mind by his treacherous letter; but Edric proposing that they should see the fair Swiss, as common politeness required they should inquire after her arm, the poor doctor was driven entirely from his thoughts.
A separate tent had been pitched for the reception of M. de Mallet and his daughter; and when our friends entered it, they found that worthy gentleman quite recovered, and his lovely daughter reclining upon a kind of couch, and looking more beautiful than ever. Her angelic features had, it is true, lost the animation they before expressed, but their present languor made them infinitely more interesting than their former energy. Softness was indeed the characteristic of Pauline's beauty. Her figure, though slight and sylphic, was yet round and full enough to please a voluptuary. Her complexion was exquisitely fair, but a beautiful rosy tint glowed on her cheeks, whilst her clear blue eyes and golden hair gave her the look of a seraph; and when she raised those bright blue eyes in gratitude to Edric, her look sank deep into his soul, and he thought he had never before seen beauty.
Such was Pauline; and when she spoke, Edric, as he listened in rapture to the soft melting tones of her melodious voice, felt he could no longer resist, but yielded up his heart a wiling captive to her charms. Yes; the calm, the reasoning, the philosophic Edric was actually in love. He, who had so despised and ridiculed the passion, and who had affected to doubt its very existence, was now become one of its most devoted victims.
Roderick was almost as much charmed as Edric with the beauty of Pauline, and as the circumstance that had at first introduced her to their notice formed so striking a contrast to the softness and delicacy of her present appearance, that it was scarcely possible to suppose her the same person, a feeling of curiosity mingled with the interest she excited. When our friends entered the room, M. de Mallet rose to receive them: "I know not how to thank you," said he; his voice almost stifled with emotion: "my own life was of little value; but for that of this dear child—" he could not proceed.
Roderick took his offered hand. "My dear Sir," cried he, "talk not of thanks; Edric and myself are but too well repaid in seeing you thus recovered; and I am sure we shall ever esteem the day when we were so fortunate as to be of service to you, as the happiest of our lives!"
"You are too good," exclaimed M. de Mallet — "too good!" and he could no longer restrain his tears.
Roderick was deeply affected; he could not bear to see an old man weep; and he again took M. de Mallet's hand, pressing it respectfully to his lips: "My dear Sir," exclaimed he, "what I have as yet been able to do for you is nothing; but if you will return with me to Ireland, I may be able —"
"Hush! my good friend," replied M. de Mallet; "I do not doubt your kindness nor your power; but I have had too much of professions!"
"My father," said Pauline, interposing her soft sweet voice, "has suffered much; forgive him if he seem ungrateful for your kindness; but repeated disappointments sour the spirit. We have seen much trouble!" and her voice trembled as she spoke.
"Alas! if you have not been exempt from trouble, who shall dare complain?" exclaimed Edric, in a voice as soft and tremulous as her own. Pauline turned her beautiful eyes upon him:
"Pardon me. Sir," said she, "that I have not before thanked you! be assured it has not been for want of feeling your kindness; but sometimes the heart is too full for utterance."
"Thanks from your lips, madam," returned Roderick, "would be a reward for any service."
Pauline blushed: "You too. Sir, were kindness itself," rejoined she: "think not I am insensible to your favours; but I am a bankrupt even in thanks. Alas! fate destines us to incur continually obligations which we can never repay."
"A grateful heart is more than words," said her father; "and in that, my child, I know you will never be deficient; but to whom are we indebted for such kindness?"
"I am the King of Ireland," said Roderick, smiling; "surnamed the devil's favourite here in Spain."
"Is it possible?" cried M. de Maliet; "do I, indeed, see the illustrious Roderick?"
"And this," continued Roderick, without noticing his exclamation, "is my friend, Mr. Montagu, an Englishman; who, like many of his countrymen, not contented with enjoying every luxury at home, rambles into foreign climes, to grumble and find fault with every thing he may chance to meet."
"Do not believe him, madam," cried Edric; "my countrymen are fond of travelling, it is true; and may find fault occasionally with what they think deficient in a strange land; but I assure you, we travel from a desire of improving ourselves and acquiring knowledge, whilst we only find fault in the charitable hope that our censures may produce amendment."
"That is, supposing your censures are just," replied Roderic; "but that we sometimes take the liberty to doubt."
"I think nothing more unreasonable than to censure customs merely because we are not used to them," said M. de Mallet; "for my part, when I travel, I make up my mind to be satisfied with every thing, as I think I have no right to quarrel with inconveniences I have sought myself."
"It would be well," rejoined Roderick, "if all were of your opinion, and if those who cannot be contented abroad would try to rest contented at home. But you speak as though you had travelled, and I think your daughter mentioned yesterday that you were strangers in Spain."
"We are Swiss," replied M. de Mallet; "my name is de Mallet, a name which you may have heard as belonging to a champion of liberty. Powerless as my efforts have been, I was that champion, and the reward of my labours is poverty and disgrace in a foreign land."
"But surely," said Roderick, "the Spaniards as a nation of freemen would receive a martyr for liberty with open arms, and would treat him as a brother."
"Yes, yes," replied M. de Mallet bitterly;
"I have had a tolerable specimen of their fraternal affection: they received me with protestations, fed me with delusive promises, and then left me to perish miserably,"
"Not designedly, my dear father," said Pauline; "I cannot suppose they left us to perish designedly."
"Oh, no!" cried Roderick; "that must have been impossible: tigers must have been moved to pity by that voice. They never could have intended to leave you to perish." "Sire," replied M. de Mallet gravely, "you forget my daughter and I are but plain simple Swiss; we are unused to flattery and to the language of Courts; do not then address expressions to us above our comprehension, which may lead us to forget the distance fortune has placed between us."
"Speak not of the difference of rank," interrupted Roderick impatiently; "beauty and merit, like that of your daughter, place her upon a level with a throne."
"Pardon me. Sire," replied Pauline, blushing, and casting her eyes upon the ground; "I am perfectly aware of the humility of my station. I am aware that I was not born to be a companion of kings and princes, nor have I any wish to exalt myself above the situation in which nature has placed me. My duty to my father led me to follow him to the Spanish Court. It was the first that I had seen; and, forgive me. Sire, if I say I sincerely hope it may be the last."
"But you must not judge of us by the Spaniards."
"I know it well, Sire; report has always spoken of the Irish hero as noble, generous, and kind: even his enemies have done justice to his merits, and the fame of Roderick has spread to every corner of the globe. I know that he is incapable of treating my father as he has been treated by the directors of Spain; but I know also, that he is so far superior to myself as to make his notice a condescension which I dare not flatter myself will continue, and of which I know myself perfectly undeserving."
Edric's eyes expressed his admiration, and Pauline's glowing cheeks proved she saw and understood their meaning. Roderick, however, was not quite so well pleased; he felt himself rebuked, and Roderick did not like to feel himself in the wrong.
"You are too modest," said he; then turning to Edric, "Edric," continued he, "have you any idea what is become of Dr. Entwerfen?" — then again addressing himself to Pauline, he added, "Apropos — you will be very much amused with the learned doctor. Mademoiselle de Mallet; but I give you fair notice before you see him, that you must not laugh at him before his face, for Edric is as tenacious of the feelings of his tutor as of his own.
Pauline's eyes expressed her approbation of Edric's delicacy upon this point; and, as they met his, they conveyed more pleasure to his heart than language could express. From this moment, Pauline and Edric seemed to understand each other, for they felt there was a community of feeling between them. The mute intelligence of the eyes sometimes says more than whole years of common-place intercourse; and thus Pauline and Edric felt like old friends, though they had scarcely exchanged half a dozen sentences.
"Was not that the gentleman that relieved me from my swoon?" asked M. de Mallet.
Before Roderick had time to answer, an officer rushed into the room, looking the very image of despair, and, approaching Roderick, bent his knee before him.
"What is the matter?" cried the Monarch sternly. "Speak! If you have committed a fault, you have less to fear from my justice than my mercy, for misplaced lenity only encourages crime." "Pardon, Sire!" exclaimed the officer, still kneeling; "but — but —"
"Speak! — no evasion."
"Your Majesty commanded that we should watch that no harm happened to Dr. Entwerfen, and — and he has been taken by the enemy."
"Fool! dolt, blockhead!" cried Roderick; and, taking leave of M. de Mallet and his daughter, he and Edric hastily quitted the tent.
The balls the Irish King had given the doctor were simply formed of dough, the same as that used in the making of bread, with only the addition of a little bit of quicksilver rolled up in the centre of each. This, the merry Monarch knew, as soon as it was exposed to the action of heat, would make the dumplings dance about, as though they were bewitched; and he anticipated great amusement from seeing the doctor's exertions to keep them in the pot, and his despair at not being able to do so. To prevent the possibility of mischief, however, he had desired a select guard to keep watch over the unfortunate philosopher, and never to lose sight of him, taking care to prevent, if possible, his being exposed to any danger. These fellows, however, did not perform their duty, and it was to their negligence that the unhappy fate of the doctor was owing.
The moment the doctor had received the fatal balls, he hastened to the cauldron, and, hastily kindling a fire, began to try the experiment. The balls more than answered Roderick's expectations, for, as soon as they were affected by the heat, they began to jump out of the pot, one after the other, with the most determined perseverance. The doctor was in a violent heat from being exposed to the steam of the cauldron; and he threw off his coat to cool himself; his wig also slipped off, in his exertions to recover the provoking balls, he being obliged to skip after them with the utmost agility as they rolled bounding along; and no sooner had he caught one and put it back into the pot, than another would jump out and begin a new set of vagaries. The doctor, though tired and provoked, did not however relax his labours even for an instant, and he was running, panting and out of breath, after one of these mercurial harlequins when he was stopped by a rough arm, whilst a man in a gruff voice demanded what he was doing there?
The doctor looked up, and finding with horror that he was surrounded by eight or ten armed Spaniards, answered, in trembling accents, "that he was making gunpowder."
"Gunpowder!" exclaimed one of the men.
"But what were you doing with those balls?"
"I was boiling them," replied the doctor, with great awe.
"You seemed to be playing with them, I think," resumed the man. "Were you running after them to make gunpowder?"
"Yes, they wouldn't stay in the pot; and I was obliged to run after them, to catch them."
The soldiers burst into a horse laugh at this naive reply, and their merriment offered a ridiculous contrast to the doctors woful visage. They now prepared to retire, dragging the doctor with them, totally heedless of his supplications for pardon and declarations of innocence. They declared him to be a spy, and swore that they would hang him as such as soon as they should get within the town. The soldiers who were appointed to guard the doctor, and who, by indulging in a comfortable game at piquet, had neglected their charge, now came up, and, dismayed at seeing the doctor in custody of a force too considerable for them to engage with, fled to inform their Sovereign, trembling, however, all the time at the consequences of their disobedience.
When Roderick and Edric reached the plain, the group of soldiers, with the poor doctor in the midst of them, were just entering one of the gates of the town through which they had made their sally. The rays of the setting sun fell full upon the poor doctor's bald head and shining face; and these, and his white shirt sleeves, as he raised his hands in a supplicating manner towards Heaven, made him a conspicuous object even at a distance, till he was hidden from the sight of his friends by the heavy gates closing upon him. Roderick and Edric were in despair at the loss of their favourite; and to see him dragged away so barbarously, without having the power to assist him, was enough to try the philosophy of a stoic. It was no wonder, therefore, that it was too much for the patience of the Irish hero, who had rarely known disappointment or control: he raved, stamped, and, unable to contain his rage, ordered an instant attack of the place.
The enemy, imagining the Irish too much fatigued with the battle they had just fought, to assault the town that night, were far from expecting an attack; but, encouraged by the successful opposition they had before made, they received the assault with firmness, and repulsed it with vigour. The cannon roared with tremendous fury on both sides, and whole columns of men were swept away as grass falls before the scythe. The impatience of Roderick increased every moment, and the discharge from a petard having set fire to the wooden bulwarks of the town, he threw himself upon the blazing breach, sword in hand, heedless of the crackling timbers and fast spreading flames, whilst Edric and some of his most devoted soldiers followed him, and they were all soon warmly engaged with the Spaniards who opposed their entrance upon the walls. A loud shout from below, however, soon engaged their attention; the besieged liad made a sortie by means of the covered way; and Edric and his royal friend, finding their retreat would be cut off if they stayed, were reluctantly compelled to retire with their followers. Roderick, indeed, was struck down by a Spanish soldier, whilst in the act of leaping from the walls. The soldier, seeing the effect he had produced, was about to repeat his blow, and the Irish hero must have perished before he could have recovered himself, if Edric had not interposed, and received the gash instead of his friend; then instantly turning round, he cut down the soldier. In the mean time, Roderick had revived, and he and Edric fought their way back to the rest of the army. It was now getting quite dark, and the besieged falling back within the town, the army of the Irish Monarch returned once more to their camp.
"How provoking!" cried Roderick, the moment they entered his tent, taking off his helmet, and giving it to Alexis the Greek page: "I shall never be happy again, if they hurt the doctor. Take my sword also, Alexis: but what is the matter with the boy? methinks he looks wondrous pale. Does he not, Edric?" Then turning to Edric, he was excessively shocked at the change in his appearance. It has been before stated, that Edric received the blow the Spanish soldier intended for Roderick. The wound had bled profusely, but the blood having congealed, the flow had stopped, and Edric, aided by his own courage, presence of mind, and firmness, had been enabled to sustain himself till he had reached the tent. Now, however, that the necessity for exertion had ceased, his pallid looks and ghastly countenance bespoke what he had suffered. He had received one horrid gash upon the temple, and the coagulated blood upon his face and hair contrasted frightfully with the whiteness of the rest of his face. In fact, he looked like the ghost of some poor murdered wretch appearing to implore vengeance upon his destroyer.
He had seated himself at a table, resting his arms upon it, and supporting his head with his hands. He attempted to smile in answer to Roderick's inquiries; but the effort was too much for his already exhausted strength, and his head fell heavily upon the table. Roderick flew to support him, and despatched Alexis for a surgeon. "My dear! dear Edric!" cried he, "speak to me! for God's sake, speak to me! Do not let me think that I have destroyed my friend. Oh, Edric! 'tis Roderick calls. Speak! speak, for God's sake, speak!"
Edric was, however, incapable of speaking; and the torture of the Irish King, when he found his friend could not answer him, was beyond description.
"My beloved Edric!" exclaimed he, wringing his hands in an agony of grief, "I implore you to answer me. Alas! he cannot: he is no more. Curses on my folly! I might have been blest and happy: but, in pursuit of the phantom Glory, I have sacrificed all I ever loved on earth. Oh! would to God that I had never visited Spain!"
A heavy groan behind him startled Roderick as he finished speaking; and turning round he beheld Alexis, who had now returned with the surgeon. The boy's appearance was singular; his complexion was usually a clear dark brown, with a rich glow of colour, and remarkably full rosy lips; now the deep colour on his cheeks remained unfaded; but his lips had assumed a ghastly livid hue, his limbs trembled with agitation, and a dark mysterious expression seemed to sit upon his features. Roderick looked at him with amazement and almost horror, as strange suspicions arose in his mind respecting him.
Before the Irish army had left Cadiz, it had been whispered that the Duke of Medina Cellina's claim to the throne was at least equal to that of the Prince whom Roderick was fighting to establish. The duke, indeed, had many partisans, but his age and blindness enfeebled their efforts. An express from Cadiz had just brought intelligence that the duke was dead; and as Zoe was his sole heiress, this extraordinary agitation in her page looked at least suspicious.
"I must beware of him," thought Roderick, regarding him attentively; "for as Zoe knows that, notwithstanding my obligations to her, I shall never permit any monarch to reign in Spain but Don Pedro whilst I live, my life will be the first sacrifice required in her cause." Thus mused Roderick, though it was but for an instant, that even the dread of personal danger could divert his thoughts from his friend.
The surgeon, when he probed Edric's wounds, however, declared to the great joy of the King that they were not dangerous, and that he had only fainted from loss of blood. He was now placed upon a couch in the same tent with that of the King; and Roderick, soon after stretching his fur mantle under him, threw himself upon his bed; if not to sleep, at least to muse upon the eventful occurrences of the day.
In the mean time, Dr. Entwerfen was forcibly dragged by the Spanish soldiers towards a kind of town-hall, in one of the principal squares of Seville, where, on a platform or dais, raised a little above the floor, sate the sapient magistrates of the town. When the prisoner was brought before them, they all put on their spectacles and surveyed him attentively, examining his bald head with the most scrupulous exactness.
"Here is the lump of a spy," said one. "And here that of a rogue," rejoined another.
"Yes, the organs of observation and self appropriation," resumed the first, "are strongly developed. That head is enough to hang an angel!"
"Alas! alas!" cried the poor doctor; "would to Heaven that I had not lost my wig!"
"It would have been of no avail, if you had retained it," said one of the judges gravely, "as it would have been forcibly removed; and even if you had worn your own hair, you must have had your head shaved; for, knowing the general corruption and inaccuracy of witnesses, the judges of this enlightened court reject verbal testimony altogether, and form their correct and infallible judgments upon the sure and undeviating basis of that most profound and useful of all sciences — craniology."
"And happy are the prisoners judged by so wise a rule," said another.
"Yes," rejoined a third; "for, though the minds of men are weak, and their judgments liable to err, the broad and general principles of science must ever remain unchangeably the same."
In this manner they went on, whilst the poor doctor, looking ruefully from one to another, as they severally pronounced their opinions, stood the very image of despair.
"Let us question him," resumed the first magistrate: "what were you doing when you were taken?"
"I was making gunpowder," sighed Dr. Entwerfen.
"The wretch!" exclaimed all his judges together; "he acknowledges he was manufacturing weapons for our destruction."
"And how were you making this gunpowder," resumed the judge.
"I was boiling it," moaned the doctor.
"Boiling it!" exclaimed the judges; "what a villain!" and they all shook their wise heads in concert. The poor doctor could not bear this; and throwing himself upon his knees begged stoutly for mercy.
"In my opinion," said one, "we should be guilty of a crime in letting him escape."
"I think so too," cried another.
"I would not have such a sin upon my conscience for the world," exclaimed a third.
Whilst the unfortunate doctor, reading his condemnation in their countenances, groaned aloud in the agony of his spirit.
At this moment, the deep awful roar of a cannon was heard, and Dr. Entwerfen leaped from his knees. "Thank God! thank God!" cried he, strutting up and down, and wiping his forehead with his pocket handkerchief, as the continued roar of the cannon rolled awfully along, rebounding from house to house, and shaking the very court in which they stood. The magistrates looked aghast, whilst their pallid lips and trembling limbs told that, however great they might be in the council, their courage was not particularly conspicuous in the field.
The doctor, in the mean time, kept ejaculating, "I'm safe! I'm safe! See what a thing it is to have a friend for a sovereign: no, no! what did I say? a sovereign for a friend, I mean. Ay, ay! that's it! that's it!"
Thus did the doctor exult, whilst the citizens crowded round their chiefs, begging for directions, and not knowing whither to fly for safety. In this dilemma, the exclamations of the doctor attracted their attention; and, enraged to see him rejoice at their misery, the magistrates ordered him to prison, whilst they consulted as to what steps it was most advisable to take.
The poor doctor's joy was thus quickly changed to grief; and he lamented loudly his foolish transports of delight, without which, he might perhaps have passed unnoticed in the crowd. It was too late, however, for repentance; the command had gone forth, and the unfortunate doctor was dragged away to a loathsome dungeon. The assault was, as we have seen, repulsed, and it being too late, when it was over, to think of hanging Dr. Entwerfen that night, the magistrates retired to their beds, determined to have him executed the first thing in the morning.
All was now still; the plain between the camp and the city, which had so lately echoed with the heavy tramp of horses and human beings, now slept tranquilly in the moonlight; undisturbed, save by the groans of some expiring wretch, or by the busy labours of those employed to remove the dead and relieve the wounded. Roderick had thrown himself upon his couch, and dozed, but in a disturbed slumber; whilst Alexis, placed at a table, was writing dispatches from the dictation of Don Alvarez de Ripparda, who had returned from the pursuit, and sate opposite to him; whilst Lord Arthur O'Neil nodded at his side, and Edric lay reclined on another couch, at a little distance, near the opening of the tent.
All was silent, save the whispered voice of the Spanish general, the heavy breathing of Lord Arthur, and the measured steps of the sentinel, as he paced his weary round. Edric listened till he grew tired of the same sounds falling uninterruptedly upon his ear, and turning on his couch, tried to divert his attention by gazing upon the objects before him. The strong light from the lamp placed upon the table, fell upon the fine features of Alexis, as he looked up to the Spaniard; and Edric thought, as he gazed upon them, that he had certainly seen those features before, though where he could not remember; and fatigued with the effort of trying to recollect, he turned to survey the noble Roderick, as he lay gracefully stretched upon his couch. One arm was raised above his pillow, and the other fell carelessly by his side, whilst the fine contour of his head and neck was fully displayed, the rich, thick, glossy curls that generally hid his forehead being thrown back. His coral lips were half open, and his long black eyelashes fringed his closed eyelids; whilst his dark whiskers and mustachios, with the rich brown tint that glowed upon his cheek, contrasted finely with the whiteness of his throat. "God bless him!" thought Edric, "and send him all the happiness he deserves!" And then seeming fearful to disturb him, he looked again towards the town. The curtain cf the tent was partly looped up, and Edric watched, with interest, the lights of those still employed in their several duties of burying the dead, and relieving the wounded. The figures of the persons engaged in these painful duties were frequently imperceptible; and the lights gliding to and fro, apparently without any human means, looked like ignes fatui, or an assemblage of ghosts at their infernal revels.
Edric sighed as he surveyed them, and his thoughts flew back, he knew not by what connection of ideas, to his native land. He thought of his father, his brother — of the good old Duke of Cornwall — of Rosabella and Elvira, till, one by one, the lights appeared to die away; the images that floated before his fancy became gradually fainter and fainter; his thoughts more confused: the scene before him faded rapidly from his sight, and, in short, he was fast sinking into repose, when he was roused by a slight sound, and looking up, saw the Spanish general and the Greek page standing by his bed-side.
Edric roused himself immediately, though he still pretended to slumber. The recollection of all he had heard respecting the Duke of Medina, Pedro, and the Princess Zoe, mingled with the suspicions that had been breathed of the mysterious page, flashed across his mind, and effectually destroyed all inclination to sleeping: indeed, a cold shudder ran through his frame, as he remembered, with horror, that if any thing were designed against Roderick, the first step of the conspirators would be to destroy him, from his known devotion to the Irish monarch, and that, in his present enfeebled state, he was quite incapable of resistance. His blood seemed to run more feebly through his veins, and he panted for breath, whilst he listened attentively, and heard the Spanish general whisper, "He sleeps, but not soundly enough for our purpose."
An icy thrill seemed to chill Edric's heart, and involuntarily he heaved a deep sigh. The supposed conspirators started, and retired. Edric, now completely roused from his slumber, gazed after them, as, with creeping, stealthy steps, they glided across the plain. Astonished at what he had seen and heard, Edric lay lost in bewildering speculations; but soon a new object caught his attention. Thick, black, pointed columns of smoke arose from the town through which, first a red glow, and afterwards sparks, appeared at intervals. At first, Edric could not imagine what it was; he rubbed his eyes, and almost fancied it was a display of fireworks; but, presently, long spiral columns of flame burst through the smoke, and, uniting in one immense body of fire, rose up to heaven, and seemed to swallow up the devoted city.
The moment the flames broke forth, Alexis and the Spanish general hurried back to the tent, and Roderick sprang from his couch, when he heard their hurried footsteps. "What is the matter?" cried he, rubbing his eyes, and half blinded by the sudden glare of light.
"The city is on fire!" exclaimed a thousand voices at once, and Roderick rushed forth upon the plain. The air felt hot and scorching: "Save them! save the inhabitants!" cried Roderick; "promise them quarter — peace I any thing to save them! Let all the soldiers fetch water from the river! I will have no plunder. He dies who touches an article belonging to the town, or injures a single creature escaping from it. Let us fight like men! It is beneath us to take advantage of misfortune!"
The orders of Roderick were as promptly obeyed as given; the monarch himself leading the way to the town, and assisting in endeavouring to quench the flames. The gates were thrown open, and men, women, and children rushed forth half naked, and were received and supplied with food and shelter by the army of the Irish hero. The Irish adored their sovereign; his valour, his rashness, and his romantic generosity, won their hearts; and even his most discontented soldiers loved whilst they blamed him: thus his will was law—nay, there was something so noble in his orders, that his soldiers were proud of implicitly obeying them, and not the meanest slave of the camp would have presumed to violate them in the slightest instance. The flames had now caught some cotton-mills on the river, which had been spared in the previous conflagration, and they burst forth in fresh volumes of fire, as the light materials they contained added fuel to the flames. The buildings in the town were mostly old, many of them wood, and some were large warehouses filled with the most combustible substances, which burnt with added fury as the long pointed flames lapped them into their devouring vortex; curling round them, and wrapping them in columns of fire as they, one by one, fell victims to their rage. The town was now half destroyed, and the flames were fast approaching the citadel; the governors of the city had been roused from their beds, and had taken refuge, half naked, in the camp of Roderick; but the prisoners yet remained in the citadel, shut up, however, in dungeons below the surface of the earth. Roderick had anxiously inquired of every one for Dr. Entwerfen and at last, to his infinite horror, he learnt he was in this fated citadel; he rushed forward in agony to save him, for he knew that the powder was kept there. He was aware too, that the flames had already seized the fortress: long ere he could reach it, indeed, a tremendous explosion took place — a vast burst of fire rushed forth, scattering red flaming furniture, bricks, pillars, and every kind of rubbish in all directions, and then all sank to comparative darkness. The fire seemed to have spent its fury in that last effort, and, though it still feebly crept along in a half-smothered flame, its violence was passed. Dreadful, however, was the scene that now presented itself, for Seville was levelled with the dust. Black disfigured smoky ruins supplied the place of what had once been lofty towers and sumptuous palaces; the splendid cathedral, that had withstood the rage of centuries, was now no more; and human bodies lay in the streets, thrown in fearful heaps, some half burnt, and others blackened and dried by the scorching fury of the flames.
Roderick, however, stayed not to examine the effects of the fire; he rushed over heaps of yet hot ashes, and threw himself amongst the still smoking ruins of the citadel. A Spanish soldier, whom he had saved from destruction a few minutes before, was his guide, and, under his directions, Roderick hastened to the dungeons: he hurried from one to the other, releasing the unhappy wretches confined there, searching everywhere for the doctor, but in vain: at last he heard his well-known voice—the dungeon door was thick, but it could not resist the impatience of Roderick—he could not wait for the soldier to assist him to open it—he burst the fastenings asunder, and in an instant the poor doctor, sobbing with joy, was locked in the monarch's arms. Some of the soldiers of Roderick had followed him to the citadel, and he left it to them and the Spaniard to release the other prisoners, whilst he returned with his dear doctor in triumph back to the camp.
END OF VOL. II.
PRINTED BY S. AND R. BENTLEY, DORSET STREET.