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Biografía de Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra en Albalearning
|The two damsels|
Five leagues from the city of Seville there is a town called Castelblanco. At one of the many inns belonging to that town there arrived at nightfall a traveller, mounted on a handsome nag of foreign breed. He had no servant with him, and, without waiting for any one to hold his stirrup, he threw himself nimbly from the saddle. The host, who was a thrifty, active man, quickly presented himself, but not until the traveller had already seated himself on a bench under the gateway, where the host found him hastily unbuttoning his breast, after which he let his arms drop and fainted. The hostess, who was a good-natured soul, made haste to sprinkle his face with cold water, and presently he revived. Evidently ashamed of having been seen in such a state, he buttoned himself up again, and asked for a room to which he might retire, and, if possible, be alone. The hostess said they had only one in the house and that had two beds, in one of which she must accommodate any other guest that might arrive. The traveller replied that he would pay for both beds, guest or no guest; and taking out a gold crown he gave it to the hostess, on condition that no one should have the vacant bed. The hostess, well satisfied with such good payment, promised that she would do as he required, though the Dean of Seville himself should arrive that night at her house. She then asked him if he would sup. He declined, and only begged they would take great care of his nag. Then, taking the key of the chamber, and carrying with him a large pair of leathern saddle-bags, he went in, locked the door, and even, as it afterwards appeared, barricaded it with two chairs.
The moment he was gone, the host, the hostess, the hostler, and two neighbours who chanced to be there, held a council together, and all extolled the great comeliness and graceful deportment of the stranger, agreeing that they had never seen any one so handsome. They discussed his age, and came to the conclusion that it was between sixteen and seventeen. They speculated largely as to what might have been the cause of his fainting, but could make no plausible guess at it. The neighbours after a while went home, the host went to look after the nag, and the hostess to prepare supper in case any other guest should arrive; nor was it long before another entered, not much older than the first, and of no less engaging mien, so that the hostess no sooner saw him than she exclaimed, "God bless me! how is this? Are angels coming to stop here to-night?"
"Why does the lady hostess say that?" said the cavalier.
"It is not for nothing I say it. Only I must beg your honour not to dismount, for I have no bed to give you; for the two I had have been taken by a cavalier who has paid for both, though he has no need of more than one; but he does that because no one else may enter the room, being, I suppose, fond of solitude; though upon my conscience I can't tell why, for his face and appearance are not such that he need be ashamed of them or want to hide them, but quite the contrary."
"Is he so good-looking, señora hostess?"
"Good-looking? Ay, the best of good-looking."
"Here, my man, hold my stirrup," said the cavalier to a muleteer who accompanied him; "for though I have to sleep on the floor, I must see a man of whom I hear such high encomiums;" and then dismounting he called for supper, which was immediately placed before him. Presently an alguazil dropped in—as they commonly do at the inns in small towns—and taking a seat, entered into conversation with the cavalier while he supped; not forgetting at intervals to swallow three large glasses of wine, and the breast and leg of a partridge, which the cavalier gave him. He paid his scot meanwhile by asking news of the capital, of the wars in Flanders, and the decay of the Turk, not forgetting the exploits of the Transylvanian, whom God preserve. The cavalier supped and said nothing, not having come from a place which would have supplied him with the means of satisfying these inquiries. By and by, the innkeeper, having seen to the nag, came in and sat down to make a third in the conversation, and to taste his own wine no less copiously than the alguazil; and at every gulp he leaned his head back over his left shoulder, and praised the wine, which he exalted to the clouds, though he did not leave much of it there, for fear it should get watered.
From one subject to another, the host fell at last upon the praises of the first comer; told how he had fainted, how he had gone to bed without supper, and had locked himself in; and spoke of his well-filled saddle-bags, the goodness of his nag, and the handsome travelling-dress he wore, all which made it strange that he travelled without any attendant. The cavalier felt his curiosity piqued anew, and asked the landlord to contrive that he might sleep in the second bed, for which he would give him a gold crown. The landlord's fingers itched to take the money; but he said the thing was impossible, for the door was locked inside, and he durst not wake the sleeper, who had paid so well for both the beds. The alguazil, however, got over the difficulty. "I'll tell you what is to be done," said he. "I will knock at the door, and say that I am an officer of justice; that I have orders from the señor alcalde to see this cavalier accommodated in this inn; and that as there is no other bed, he must have one of those two. The landlord will cry out against this, and say it is not fair, for the second bed is already engaged and paid for; and so he will clear himself of all responsibility, while your honour will attain your object." This scheme of the alguazil's was unanimously approved, and the cavalier rewarded him for it with four reals. It was carried into effect at once; the first guest was compelled, with manifest reluctance, to open the door; the second entered the room with many apologies for the intrusion, to which the first made no reply, nor did he even show his face; for instantly hastening back into bed, he turned to the wall, and pretended to be asleep. The last comer also went to bed, hoping to have his curiosity satisfied in the morning when they both got up.
The night was one of the long and weary ones of December, when the cold and the fatigues of the day should naturally have disposed the two travellers to sleep; but they had not that effect on the first of the pair, who not long after midnight began to sigh and moan as if his heart would break. His lamentations awoke the occupant of the other bed, who distinctly overheard the following soliloquy, though uttered in a faint and tremulous voice, broken by sighs and sobs.
"Wretch that I am! Whither is the irresistible force of my destiny hurrying me? What a path is mine; and what issue can I hope for out of the labyrinth in which I am entangled? O my youth and inexperience! Honour disregarded! Love ungratefully repaid! Regard for honoured parents and kindred trampled under foot! Woe is me a thousand times to have thus given the reins to my inclinations! O false words which I have too trustingly responded to by deeds! But of whom do I complain? Did I not wilfully betray myself? Did not my own hands wield the knife that cut down my reputation, and destroyed the trust which my parents reposed in my rectitude? O perjured Marco Antonio! Is it possible that your honeyed words concealed so much of the gall of unkindness and disdain? Where art thou, ingrate? Whither hast thou fled, unthankful man? Answer her who calls upon thee! Wait for her who pursues thee; sustain me, for I droop; pay me what thou owest me; succour me since thou art in so many ways bound to me!"
Here the sorrowing stranger relapsed into silence, broken only by sobs. The other, who had been listening attentively, inferred from what he had heard that the speaker was a woman. The curiosity he had before felt was now excited to the highest degree: he was several times on the point of approaching the lady's bed; and he would have done so at last, but just then he heard her open the door, call to the landlord, and bid him saddle the nag, for she wanted to go. It was a pretty long time before she could make the landlord hear her; and finally, all the answer she could obtain was a recommendation to go to sleep again, for there was more than half the night yet to come, and it was so dark that it would be a very rash thing to venture upon the road. Upon this she said no more, but shut the door, and went back to bed, sighing dismally.
The other stranger now thought it would be well to address her, and offer her his aid in any way that might be serviceable, as a means of inducing her to say who she was, and relate her piteous story. "Assuredly, señor gentleman," said he, "I should think myself destitute of natural feeling—nay, that I had a heart of stone and a bosom of brass—if your sighs and the words you have uttered did not move me to sympathy. If the compassion I feel for you, and the earnest desire I have conceived to risk my life for your relief—if your misfortunes admit of any—may give me some claim upon your courtesy, I entreat you to manifest it in declaring to me the cause of your grief without reserve."
"If that grief had not deprived me of understanding," said the person addressed, "I ought to have remembered that I was not alone in this room, and have bridled my tongue and suppressed my sighs; but to punish myself for my imprudent forgetfulness, I will do what you ask; for it may be that the pangs it will cost me to relate the bitter story of my misfortunes will end at once my life and my woes. But first you must promise me solemnly, that whatever I may reveal, you will not quit your bed nor come to mine, nor ask more of me than I choose to disclose; for if you do, the very moment I hear you move I will run myself through with my sword, which lies ready to my hand."
The cavalier, who would have promised anything to obtain the information he so much desired, vowed that he would not depart a jot from the conditions so courteously imposed. "On that assurance, then," said the lady, "I will do what I have never done before, and relate to you the history of my life. Hearken then.
"You must know, señor, that although I entered this inn, as they have doubtless told you, in the dress of a man, I am an unhappy maiden, or at least I was one not eight days ago, and ceased to be so, because I had the folly to believe the delusive words of a perjured man. My name is Teodosia; my birth-place is one of the chief towns of the province of Andalusia, the name of which I suppress, because it does not import you so much to know it as me to conceal it. My parents, who are noble and wealthy, had a son and a daughter; the one for their joy and honour, the other for the reverse. They sent my brother to study at Salamanca, and me they kept at home, where they brought me up with all the scrupulous care becoming their own virtue and nobility; whilst on my part I always rendered them the most cheerful obedience, and punctually conformed to all their wishes, until my unhappy fate set before my eyes the son of a neighbour of ours, wealthier than my parents, and no less noble than they. The first time I saw him, I felt nothing more than the pleasure one feels at making an agreeable acquaintance; and this I might well feel, for his person, air, manners, disposition, and understanding were the admiration of all who knew him. But why dwell on the praises of my enemy, or make so long a preface to the confession of my infatuation and my ruin? Let me say at once that he saw me repeatedly from a window opposite to mine; whence, as it seemed to me, he shot forth his soul towards me from his eyes, whilst mine beheld him with a pleasure very different from that which I had experienced at our first interview, and one which constrained me to believe that everything I read in his face was the pure truth.
"Seeing each other in this way led to conversation; he declared his passion, and mine responded to it, with no misgiving of his sincerity, for his suit was urged with promises, oaths, tears, sighs, and every accompaniment that could make me believe in the reality of his devoted attachment. Utterly inexperienced as I was, every word of his was a cannon shot that breached the fortress of my honour; every tear was a fire in which my virtue was consumed; every sigh was a rushing wind that fanned the destructive flame. In fine, upon his promise to marry me in spite of his parents, who had another wife in view for him, I forgot all my maidenly reserve, and without knowing how, put myself into his power, having no other witness of my folly than a page belonging to Marco Antonio—for that is the name of the destroyer of my peace—who two days afterwards disappeared from the neighbourhood, without any person, not even his parents, having the least idea whither he was gone. In what condition I was left, imagine if you can; it is beyond my power to describe it.
"I tore my hair as if it was to blame for my fault, and punished my face as thinking it the primary occasion of my ruin; I cursed my fate, and my own precipitation; I shed an infinity of tears, and was almost choked by them and by my sighs; I complained mutely to heaven, and pondered a thousand expedients to see if there was any which might afford me help or remedy, and that which I finally resolved on was to dress myself in male apparel, and go in quest of this perfidious Æneas, this cruel and perjured Bireno, this defrauder of my honest affections and my legitimate and well-founded hopes. Having once formed this resolution, I lost no time in putting it in execution. I put on a travelling suit belonging to my brother, saddled one of my father's horses with my own hand, and left home one very dark night, intending to go to Salamanca, whither it was conjectured that Marco Antonio might have gone; for he too is a student, and an intimate friend of my brother's. I did not omit to take at the same time a quantity of gold sufficient for all contingencies upon my journey. What most distresses me is the thought that my parents will send in pursuit of me, and that I shall be discovered by means of my dress and the horse; and even had I not this to fear, I must dread my brother's resentment; for he is in Salamanca, and should he discover me, I need not say how much my life would be in peril. Even should he listen to my excuses, the least scruple of his honour would outweigh them all.
"Happen what may, my fixed resolve is to seek out my heartless husband, who cannot deny that he is my husband without belying the pledge which he left in my possession—a diamond ring, with this legend: 'Marco Antonio is the husband of Teodosia.' If I find him, I will know from him what he discovered in me that prompted him so soon to leave me; and I will make him fulfil his plighted troth, or I will prove as prompt to vengeance as I was easy in suffering myself to be aggrieved, and will take his life; for the noble blood that runs in my veins is not to be insulted with impunity. This, señor cavalier, is the true and sad history you desired to hear, and which you will accept as a sufficient apology for the words and sighs that awoke you. What I would beseech of you is, that though you may not be able to remedy my misfortune, at least you may advise me how to escape the dangers that beset me, evade being caught, and accomplish what I so much desire and need."
The cavalier said not a syllable in reply, and remained so long silent that Teodosia supposed he was asleep and had not heard a word she had been saying. To satisfy herself of this, she said, "Are you asleep, señor? No wonder if you are; for a mournful tale poured into an unimpassioned ear is more likely to induce drowsiness than pity."
"I am not asleep," replied the cavalier; "on the contrary, I am so thoroughly awake, and feel so much for your calamity, that I know not if your own anguish exceeds mine. For this reason I will not only give you the advice you ask, but my personal aid to the utmost of my powers; for though the manner in which you have told your tale proves that you are gifted with no ordinary intelligence, and therefore that you have been your own betrayer, and owe your sorrow to a perverted will rather than to the seductions of Marco Antonio, nevertheless I would fain see your excuse in your youth and your inexperience of the wily arts of men. Compose yourself, señora, and sleep if you can during the short remainder of the night. When daylight comes we will consult together, and see what means may be devised for helping you out of your affliction."
Teodosia thanked him warmly, and tried to keep still for a while in order that the cavalier might sleep; but he could not close an eye; on the contrary he began to toss himself about in the bed, and to heave such deep sighs that Teodosia was constrained to ask him what was the matter? was he suffering in any way, and could she do anything for his relief?
"Though you are yourself the cause of my distress, señora," he replied, "you are not the person who can relieve it, for if you were I should not feel it."
Teodosia could not understand the drift of this perplexed reply; she suspected, however, that he was under the influence of some amorous passion, and even that she herself might be the object of it; for it might well be that the fact of his being alone with one he knew to be a woman, at that dead hour of the night, and in the same bed-room, should have awakened in him some bad thoughts. Alarmed at the idea, she hastily put on her clothes without noise, buckled on her sword and dagger, and sat down on the bed to wait for daylight, which did not long delay to appear through the many openings there were in the sides of the room, as usual in inn-chambers. The cavalier on his part, had made ready exactly as Teodosia had done; and he no sooner perceived the first rays of light, than he started up from his bed, saying, "Get up, señora Teodosia, and let us be gone; for I will accompany you on your journey, and never quit your side until I see Marco Antonio become your lawful husband, or until he or I shall be a dead man;" and so saying, he opened the windows and the doors of the room.
Teodosia had longed for daylight that she might see what manner of man he was with whom she had been conversing all night; but when she beheld him, she would have been glad that it had never dawned, but that her eyes had remained in perpetual darkness, for the cavalier who stood before her was her brother! At sight of him she was stupefied with emotion, her face was deadly pale, and she could not utter a word. At last, rallying her spirits, she drew her dagger, and presenting the handle to her brother, fell at his feet, and gasped out, "Take it, dear señor and brother, punish the fault I have committed, and satisfy your resentment, for my offence deserves no mercy, and I do not desire that my repentance should be accepted as an atonement. The only thing I entreat is that you will deprive me of life, but not of my honour; for though I have placed it in manifest danger by absenting myself from the house of my parents, yet its semblance may be preserved before the world if my death be secret."
Her brother regarded her fixedly, and although her wantonness excited him to vengeance, he could not withstand this affecting appeal. With a placable countenance he raised her from the ground, and consoled her as well as he could, telling her, among other things, that as he knew of no punishment adequate to the magnitude of her folly, he would suspend the consideration of that matter for the present; and as he thought that fortune had not yet made all remedy impossible, he thought it bettor to seek one than at once to take vengeance on her for her levity. These words restored Teodosia to life; the colour returned to her cheeks, and her despair gave way to revived hope. Don Rafael (that was the brother's name) would speak no more on the subject, but bade her change her name from Teodosia to Teodoro, and decided that they should both proceed at once to Salamanca in quest of Marco Antonio, though he hardly expected to find him there; for as they were intimate friends, they would have met had he been at the university, unless indeed Marco Antonio might have shunned him from a consciousness of the wrong he had done him. The new Teodoro acquiesced in everything proposed by her brother; and the innkeeper coming in, they ordered breakfast, intending to depart immediately.
Before all was ready another traveller arrived. This was a gentleman who was known to Don Rafael and Teodoro, and the latter, to avoid being seen by him, remained in the chamber. Don Rafael, having embraced the newcomer, asked him what news he brought. His friend replied that he had just come from the port of Santa Maria, where he had left four galleys bound for Naples, and that he had seen Marco Antonio Adorno, the son of Don Leonardo Adorno, on board one of them. This intelligence rejoiced Don Rafael, to whom it appeared that since he had so unexpectedly learned what it was of such importance for him to know, he might regard this an omen of his future success. He asked his friend, who knew his father well, to exchange the hired mule he rode for his father's nag, giving him to understand, not that he was coming from Salamanca, but that he was going thither, and that he was unwilling to take so good an animal on so long a journey. The other obligingly consented, and promised to deliver the nag to its owner. Don Rafael and he breakfasted together, and Teodoro alone; and finally the friend pursued his journey to Cazallo, where he had an estate, whilst Don Rafael excused himself from accompanying him by saying that he had to return that day to Seville (hacer otra division en la pagina de texto paralelo.
As soon as the friend was gone, and the reckoning paid, Don Rafael and Teodoro mounted and bade adieu to the people of the inn, leaving them all in admiration of the comeliness of the pair. Don Rafael told his sister what news he had received of Marco Antonio, and that he proposed they should make all haste to reach Barcelona; for vessels on their way to or fro between Italy and Spain usually put in at that port; and if Marco Antonio's ship had not yet arrived there, they would wait for it, and be sure of seeing him. His sister said he should do as he thought best, for his will was hers. Don Rafael then told the muleteer who accompanied him to have patience, for he intended to go to Barcelona, but would pay him accordingly. The muleteer, who was one of the merriest fellows of his trade, and who knew Don Rafael's liberality, declared that he was willing to go with him to the end of the world.
Don Rafael asked his sister what money she had. She told him she had not counted it; all she knew was that she had put her hand seven or eight times into her father's strong box, and had taken it out full of gold crowns. From this Don Rafael calculated that she might have something about five hundred crowns, which, with two hundred of his own, and a gold chain he wore, seemed to him no bad provision for the journey; the more so, as he felt confident of meeting Marco Antonio in Barcelona. They pursued their journey I rapidly without accident or impediment until they arrived within two leagues of a town called Igualada, which is nine leagues from Barcelona, and there they learned that a cavalier who was going as ambassador to Rome, was waiting at Barcelona for the galleys, which had not yet arrived. Greatly cheered by this news, they pushed on until they came to the verge of a small wood, from which they saw a man running, and looking back over his shoulder with every appearance of terror. "What is the matter with you, good man?" said Don Rafael, going up to him. "What has happened to you, that you seem so frightened and run so fast?"
"Have I not good cause to be frightened and to run fast," said the man, "since I have escaped by a miracle from a gang of robbers in that wood?"
"Malediction! Lord save us!" exclaimed the muleteer. "Robbers at this hour! By my halidom, they'll leave us as bare as we were born."
"Don't make yourself uneasy, brother," replied the man from the wood, "for the robbers have by this time gone away, after leaving more than thirty passengers stripped to their shirts and tied to trees, with the exception of one only, whom they have left to unbind the rest as soon as they should have passed a little hill they pointed out to him."
"If that be so," said Calvete, the muleteer, "we may proceed without fear, for where the robbers have made an attack, they do not show themselves again for some days. I say this with confidence, as a man who has been twice in their hands, and knows all their ways."
This fact being confirmed by the stranger, Don Rafael resolved to go on. They entered the wood, and had not advanced far, when they came upon the persons who had been robbed, and who were more than forty in number. The man who had been left free, had unbound some of them; but his work was not yet complete, and several of them were still tied to the trees. They presented a strange spectacle, some of them stripped naked, others dressed in the tattered garments of the robbers; some weeping over their disaster, some laughing at the strange figure the others made in their robber's costume; one dolorously reciting the list of the things he had lost, another declaring that the loss of a box of Agnus Dei he was bringing home from Rome afflicted him more than all besides. In short, the whole wood resounded with the moans and lamentations of the despoiled wretches. The brother and sister beheld them with deep compassion, and heartily thanked heaven for their own narrow escape from so great a peril. But what affected Teodoro more than anything else was the sight of a lad apparently about fifteen, tied to a tree, with no covering on him but a shirt and a pair of linen drawers, but with a face of such beauty that none could refrain from gazing on it. Teodoro dismounted and unbound him, a favour which he acknowledged in very courteous terms; and Teodoro, to make it the greater, begged Calvete to lend the gentle youth his cloak, until he could buy him another at the first town they came to. Calvete complied, and Teodoro threw the cloak over his shoulders, asking him in Don Rafael's presence to what part of the country he belonged, whence he was coming, and whither he was going. The youth replied that he was from Andalusia, and he named as his birthplace a town which was but two leagues distant from that of the brother and sister. He said he was on his way from Seville to Italy, to seek his fortune in arms like many another Spaniard; but that he had had the misfortune to fall in with a gang of thieves, who had taken from him a considerable sum of money and clothes, which he could not replace for three hundred crowns. Nevertheless he intended to pursue his journey, for he did not come of a race which was used to let the ardour of its zeal evaporate at the first check.
The manner in which the youth expressed himself, the fact that he was from their own neighbourhood, and above all, the letter of recommendation he carried in his face, inspired the brother and sister with a desire to befriend him as much as they could. After they had distributed some money among such of the rest as seemed in most need of it, especially among monks and priests, of whom there were eight, they made this youth mount Calvete's mule, and went on without more delay to Igualada. There they were informed that the galleys had arrived the day before at Barcelona, whence they would sail in two days, unless the insecurity of the roadstead compelled them to make an earlier departure. On account of this news, they rose next morning before the sun, although they had not slept all night in consequence of a circumstance which had occurred at supper, and which had more surprised and interested the brother and sister than they were themselves aware. As they sat at table, and the youth with them whom they had taken under their protection, Teodoro fixed her eyes intently on his face, and scrutinising his features somewhat curiously, perceived that his ears were bored. From this and from a certain bashfulness that appeared in his looks, she suspected that the supposed youth was a woman, and she longed for supper to be over that she might verify her suspicion. Meanwhile Don Rafael asked him whose son he was, for he knew all the principal people in the town he had named as his birth place. The youth said he was the son of Don Enrique de Cardenas. Don Rafael replied that he was well acquainted with Don Enrique, and knew for certain that he had no son; but that if he had given that answer because he did not choose to make known his family, it was of no consequence, and he should not be questioned again on that subject.
"It is true," said the youth, "that Don Enrique has no children, but his brother Don Sancho has."
"He has no son either," replied Don Rafael, "but an only daughter, who, by the bye, they say is one of the handsomest damsels in Andalusia; but this I know only by report; for though I have been often in her town I have never seen her."
"It is quite true, as you say, señor, that Don Sancho has only a daughter, but not one so handsome as fame reports; and if I said that I was the son of Don Enrique it was only to give myself some importance in your eyes; for in fact, I am only the son of Don Sancho's steward, who has been many years in his service, and I was born in his house. Having displeased my father, I carried off a good sum of money from him, and resolved to go to Italy, as I have told you, and follow the career of arms, by which men even of obscure birth have been known to make themselves illustrious."
Teodoro, who listened attentively to all this conversation, was more and more confirmed in her suspicion, both by the manner and the substance of what the youth said. After the cloth was removed, and while Don Rafael was preparing for bed, she made known to him her surmise, and then, with his permission, took the youth aside, and, going out with him upon a balcony which looked on the street, addressed him thus:—
"Don Francisco," for that was the name he had given himself, "I would fain have done you so much service that you could not help granting me anything that I should ask of you; but the short time we have known you has not permitted this. Hereafter perhaps you may know how far I deserve that you should comply with my desires; but if you do not choose to satisfy that which I am now about to express, I will not the less continue to be your faithful servant. Furthermore, before I prefer my present request, I would impress upon you that although my age does exceed yours, I have more experience of the world than is usual at my years, as you will admit when I tell you that it has led me to suspect that you are not a man, as your garb imports, but a woman, and one as well-born as your beauty proclaims, and perhaps as unfortunate as your disguise implies, for such transformations are never made willingly, or except under the pressure of some painful necessity. If what I suspect is the case, tell me so, and I swear to you on the faith of a cavalier to aid and serve you in every way I can. That you are a woman you cannot make me doubt, for the holes in your ears make that fact very clear. It was thoughtless of you not to close them with a little flesh-coloured wax, for somebody else as inquisitive as myself, and not so fit to be trusted with a secret, might discover by means of them what you have so ill concealed. Believe me, you need not hesitate to tell me who you are, in full reliance on my inviolable secrecy."
The youth had listened with great attention to all Teodoro said, and, before answering her a word, he seized her hands, carried them by force to his lips, kissed them with great fervour, and even bedewed them copiously with tears. Teodoro could not help sympathising with the acute feelings of the youth, and shedding tears also. Although, when she had with difficulty withdrawn her hands from the youth's lips, he replied with a deep-drawn sigh, "I will not, and cannot deny, señora, that your suspicion is true; I am a woman, and the most unfortunate of my sex; and since the acts of kindness you have conferred upon me, and the offers you make me, oblige me to obey all your commands, listen and I will tell you who I am, if indeed it will not weary you to hear the tale of another's misfortunes."
"May I never know aught else myself," replied Teodoro, "if I shall not feel a pleasure in hearing of those misfortunes equal to the pain it will give me to know that they are yours, and that will be such as if they were my own." And again she embraced and encouraged the seeming youth, who, somewhat more tranquilised, continued thus:—
"I have spoken the truth with regard to my native place, but not with regard to my parents; for Don Enrique is not my father but my uncle, and his brother Don Sancho is my father. I am that unhappy daughter of his of whom your brother says that she is celebrated for her beauty, but how mistakenly you now perceive. My name is Leocadia; the occasion of my disguise you shall now hear.
"Two leagues from my native town there is another, one of the wealthiest and noblest of Andalusia, where lives a cavalier of quality, who derives his origin from the noble and ancient Adornos of Genoa. He has a son, who, unless fame exaggerates his praises as it does mine, is one of the most gallant gentlemen one would desire to see. Being so near a neighbour of ours, and being like my father strongly addicted to the chase, he often came on a visit of five or six days to our house, the greater part of that time, much of the night even included, being spent by my father and him in the field. From these visits of his, fortune, or love, or my own imprudence, took occasion to bring me down to my present state of degradation. Having observed, with more attention than became a modest and well-behaved maiden, the graceful person and manners of our visitor, and taking into consideration his distinguished lineage and the great wealth of his parents, I thought that to obtain him for my husband would be the highest felicity to which my wishes could aspire. With this thought in my head I began to gaze at him most intently, and also, no doubt, with too little caution, for he perceived it, and the traitor needed no other hint to discover the secret of my bosom and rob me of my peace. But why should I weary you by recapitulating every minute detail of my unfortunate attachment? Let me say at once that he won so far upon me by his ceaseless solicitations, having plighted his faith under the most solemn and, as I thought, the most Christian vows that he would become my husband, that I put myself wholly at his disposal. Nevertheless, not being quite satisfied with his vows alone, and in order that the wind might not bear them away, I made him commit them to writing, and give them to me in a paper signed with his own hand, and drawn up in terms so strong and unequivocal as to remove all my mistrust. Once in possession of this paper, I arranged that he should come to me one night, climb the garden-wall, and enter my chamber, where he might securely pluck the fruit destined for him alone. The night so longed for by me at last arrived—"
Up to this point Teodoro had listened with rapt attention, especially since she had heard the name of Adorno, but now she could contain herself no longer. "Well," she cried, suddenly interrupting the speaker, "and then, what did he do? Did he keep the assignation? Were you happy in his arms? Did he confirm his written pledge anew? Was he content when he had obtained from you what you say was his? Did your father know it? What was the end of this good and wise beginning?"
"The end was to bring me to what you see, for he never came."
Teodoro breathed again at these words, and partly recovered her self-possession, which had been almost destroyed by the frantic influence of jealousy. Even yet she was not so free from it but that she trembled inwardly as Leocadia continued her story.
"Not only did he fail to keep the assignation, but a week after I learned for certain that he had disappeared from home, and carried off from the house of her parents, persons of distinction in his own neighbourhood, a very beautiful and accomplished young lady named Teodosia. I was nearly mad with jealousy and mortification. I pictured Teodosia to myself in imagination, more beautiful than the sun, more perfect than perfection itself, and above all, more blissful than I was miserable. I read the written engagement over and over again; it was as binding as any form of words could be; but though my hopes would fain have clung to it as something sacred and inviolable, they all fell to the ground when I remembered in what company Marco Antonio had departed. I beat my face, tore my hair, and cursed my fate; but what was most irksome to me was that I could not practise these self-inflictions at all hours in consequence of my father's presence. In fine, that I might be free to indulge my woe without impediment, I resolved to quit my home. It would seem that the execution of a bad purpose never fails for want of opportunity. I boldly purloined a suit of clothes belonging to one of my father's pages, and from himself a considerable sum of money; then leaving the house by night I travelled some leagues on foot, and reached a town called Osuna, where I hired a car. Two days afterwards I entered Seville, where I was quite safe from all pursuit.
"There I bought other clothes, and a mule, and set out with some cavaliers who were travelling with all speed to Barcelona, that they might be in time for some galleys that were on their way to Italy. I continued my journey until yesterday, when the robbers took everything from me, and among the rest, that precious thing which sustained my soul and lightened my toils, the written engagement given me by Marco Antonio. I had intended to carry it with me to Italy, find Marco Antonio there, and present it to him as an evidence of his faithlessness and my constancy, and constrain him to fulfil his promise. At the same time I am conscious that he may readily deny the words written on this paper, since he has made nought of the obligations that should have been engraved on his soul; besides, it is plain that if he is accompanied by the incomparable Teodosia he will not deign to look upon the unfortunate Leocadia. But happen what may, I am resolved to die or present myself before the pair, that the sight of me may trouble their joy. This Teodosia, this enemy of my peace, shall not so cheaply enjoy what is mine. I will seek her out, I will find her, and will take her life if I can."
"But how is Teodosia in fault," said Teodoro, "if, as is very probably the case, she too has been deluded by Marco Antonio, as you, señora, have been?"
"How can that be so," returned Leocadia, "if he has her with him? Being with the man she loves, what question can there be of delusion? They are together, and therefore they are happy, and would be so, though they were in the burning deserts of Lybia, or the dreary wastes of Scythia. She is blest in his arms wherever she is, and therefore she shall pay for all I shall suffer till I find her."
"It is very likely you are mistaken," said Teodoro; "I am very well acquainted with this enemy of yours, as you call her, and I know her prudence and modesty to be such, that she never would venture to quit her father's house and go away with Marco Antonio. And even had she done so, not knowing you, nor being aware of any claim you had on him, she has not wronged you at all, and where there is no wrong, vengeance is out of place."
"Tell me not of her modesty, señor; for I was as modest and as virtuous as any maiden in the world, and yet I have done what I have told you. That he has carried her off there is no doubt. I acknowledge, looking on the matter dispassionately, that she has not wronged me; but the pangs of jealousy which she occasions me make me abhor her. If a sword were thrust through my vitals, should I not naturally strive to pluck it out and break it to pieces?"
"Well, well, señora Leocadia, since the passion that sways you makes you speak so wildly, I see it is not the fit time to offer you rational advice. I shall therefore content myself with repeating that I am ready and willing to render you every service in my power, and I know my brother's generous nature so well, that I can boldly make you the same promise on his part. We are going to Italy, and it rests only with yourself to accompany us. One thing only I entreat, that you will allow me to tell my brother what I know of your story, that he may treat you with the attention and respect which is your due. I think you had better continue to wear male attire, and if it is to be procured in this place, I will take care that you shall be suitably equipped to morrow. For the rest, trust to time, for it is a great provider of remedies even for the most desperate cases."
Leocadia gratefully thanked the generous Teodoro, saying he might tell his brother whatever he thought fit, and beseeching him not to forsake her, since he saw to what dangers she was exposed, if she was known to be a woman. Here the conversation ended, and they retired to rest, Teodosia in her brother's room, and Leocadia in another next it.
Don Rafael was still awake, waiting for his sister to know what had passed between her and the suspected woman; and before she lay down, he made her relate the whole to him in detail. "Well, sister," he said when she had finished, "if she is the person she declares herself to be, she belongs to the best family in her native place, and is one of the noblest ladies of Andalusia. Her father is well known to ours, and the fame of her beauty perfectly corresponds with the evidence of our own eyes. My opinion is, that we must proceed with caution, lest she come to speak with Marco Antonio before us, for I feel some uneasiness about that written engagement she speaks of, even though she has lost it. But be of good cheer, sister, and go to rest, for all will come right at last."
Teodosia complied with her brother's advice so far as to go to bed, but it was impossible for her to rest, so racked was she by jealous fears. Oh, how she exaggerated the beauty of Leocadia, and the disloyalty of Marco Antonio! How often she read with the eyes of her imagination his written promise to her rival! What words and phrases she added to it, to make it more sure and binding! How often she refused to believe that it was lost! And how many a time she repeated to herself, that even though it were lost, Marco Antonio would not the less fulfil his promise to Leocadia, without thinking of that by which he was bound to herself! In such thoughts as these she passed the night without a wink of sleep; nor was her brother Don Rafael less wakeful; for no sooner had he heard who Leocadia was, than his heart was on fire for her. He beheld her in imagination, not tied to a tree, or in tattered male garments, but in her own rich apparel in her wealthy father's house. He would not suffer his mind to dwell on that which was the primary cause of his having become acquainted with her; and he longed for day that he might continue his journey and find out Marco Antonio, not so much that he might make him his brother-in-law, as that he might hinder him from becoming the husband of Leocadia. In fact, he was so possessed by love and jealousy, that he could have borne to see his sister comfortless, and Marco Antonio fairly buried, rather than be himself without hope of obtaining Leocadia.
Thus with different thoughts, they all quitted their beds at break of day, and Don Rafael sent for the host, and asked him if he could purchase a suit of clothes in that place for a page who had been stripped by robbers. The host said he happened to have one for sale which he would dispose of at a reasonable price. He produced it, Leocadia found that it fitted her very well, she put it on, and girt herself with sword and dagger with such sprightly grace that she enchanted Don Rafael, and redoubled Teodosia's jealousy. Calvete saddled the mules, and about eight in the morning, they started for Barcelona, not intending to take the famous monastery of Monserrate on their way, but to visit it on a future occasion, whenever it might please God to send them home again with hearts more at ease.
Words are not adequate to describe the feelings of the two brothers, or with what different eyes they severally regarded Leocadia; Teodosia wishing for her death, and Don Rafael for her life; Teodosia striving to find faults in her, in order that she might not despair of her own hopes; and Don Rafael finding out new perfections, that more and more obliged him to love her. All these thoughts, however, did not hinder their speed, for they reached Barcelona before sunset. They admired the magnificent situation of the city, and esteemed it to be the flower of the world, the honour of Spain, the terror of all enemies near and far, the delight of its inhabitants, the refuge of strangers, the school of chivalry, the model of loyalty, in a word, a union of all that a judicious curiosity could desire in a grand, famous, wealthy, and well-built city. Upon their entering it they heard a great uproar, and saw a multitude of people running with loud cries. They inquired the cause, and were told that the people of the galleys in the port had fallen upon those of the town. Don Rafael desired to see what was going on, though Calvete would have dissuaded him; for, as the muleteer said, he knew well what mischief came of interfering in such frays as this, which usually occurred in Barcelona when galleys put in there.
In spite of this good advice, Don Rafael and his fellow-travellers went down at once towards the beach, where they saw many swords drawn, and numbers of people slashing at each other without mercy, and they approached so near the scene without dismounting, that they could distinctly see the faces of the combatants, for the sun was still above the horizon. The number of townspeople engaged was immense, and great crowds issued from the galleys, although their commander, Don Pedro Vique, a gentleman of Valencia, stood on the prow of the flag-ship, threatening all who entered the boats to succour their comrades. Finding his commands disregarded, he ordered a gun to be fired without ball, as a warning that if the combatants did not separate, the next gun he fired would be shotted. Meanwhile, Don Rafael, who narrowly watched the fray, observed among those who took part with the seamen a young man of about two-and-twenty, dressed in green, with a hat of the same colour, adorned with a rich loop and buttons apparently of diamonds. The skill and courage with which he fought, and the elegance of his dress, drew upon him the attention of all the spectators, and Teodosia and Leocadia both cried out, as if with one voice, "Good heavens! either my eyes deceive me, or he in green is Marco Antonio." Then, with great nimbleness, they dismounted, drew their swords and daggers, cleared their way through the crowd, and placed themselves one on each side of Marco Antonio. "Fear nothing, Señor Marco Antonio," cried Leocadia, "for there is one by your side who will defend your life at the cost of his own." "Who doubts it," ejaculated Teodosia, on the other side, "since I am here?" Don Rafael, who had seen and heard all this, followed his two companions, and tooksides as they did.
Marco Antonio was too busy smiting and defending himself to heed what his two seconds had said; he could think of nothing but fighting, and no man ever fought more bravely; but as the party of the town was every moment increasing in numbers, the people of the galleys were forced to retreat and take to the water. Marco Antonio retreated with the rest, much against his will, still attended on either side by his two valiant Amazons. By this time a Catalonian knight of the renowned House of Cardonas, made his appearance on a noble charger, and, throwing himself between the two parties, ordered the townspeople to retire. The majority obeyed, but some still continued to fling stones, one of which unluckily struck Marco Antonio on the breast with such force that he fell senseless into the water, in which he was wading up to his knees. Leocadia instantly raised and supported him in her arms, and Teodosia aided her.
Don Rafael, who had turned aside a little to avoid a shower of stones, saw the accident which had befallen Marco Antonio, and was hastening forward to his aid, when the Catalonian knight stopped him, saying, "Stay, señor, and do me the favour to put yourself by my side. I will secure you from the insolence of this unruly rabble."
"Ah, señor!" replied Rafael, "let me pass, for I see that in great danger which I most love in this world."
The knight let him pass, but before he could reach the spot, the crew of the flagship's boat had already taken on board Marco Antonio and Leocadia, who never let him out of her arms. As for Teodosia, whether it was that she was weary, or overcome with grief to see her lover wounded, or enraged with jealousy to see her rival with him, she had not strength to get into the boat, and would certainly have fallen in a fainting fit into the water, if her brother had not opportunely come to her aid, while he himself felt no less torment than his sister at seeing Leocadia go away with Marco Antonio.
The Catalonian knight being very much taken with the goodly presence of Don Rafael and his sister (whom he supposed to be a man), called them from the shore, and requested them to go with him, and they were constrained to accept his friendly offer, lest they should suffer some injury from the people, who were not yet pacified. Thereupon, the knight dismounted, and with his drawn sword in his hand, led them through the tumultuous throng, who made way at his command. Don Rafael looked round to see if he could discover Calvete with the mules; but he was not to be seen, for the moment his employers dismounted, he had gone off to an inn where he had lodged on previous occasions. On their arrival at the knight's abode, which was one of the principal houses in the city, he asked them in which of the galleys they had arrived. Don Rafael replied that they had not come in any, for they had arrived in the city just as the fray began; and it was because they had recognised the gentleman who was wounded with a stone that they had involved themselves in danger. Moreover, he entreated the knight would have the gentleman brought on shore, as he was one on whom his own dearest interests depended. "I will do so with great pleasure," replied the knight, "and I am sure the general will allow it, for he is a worthy gentleman and a relation of mine." Thereupon he went at once to the galley, where he found Marco Antonio under the hands of the surgeon, who pronounced his wound dangerous, being near the heart. With the general's consent he had him brought on shore with great care, accompanied by Leocadia, and carried to his own house in a litter, where he entertained the whole party with great hospitality.
A famous surgeon of the city was now sent for, but he would not touch the patient's wound until the following day, alleging that it had no doubt been properly treated already, army and navy surgeons being always men of skill, in consequence of their continual experience in cases of wounds. He only desired that the patient should be placed in a quiet room and left to rest. Presently the surgeon of the galley arrived, and had a conference with his colleague, who approved of what he had done, and agreed with him in thinking the case highly dangerous.
Leocadia and Teodosia heard this with as much anguish of heart as if it had been a sentence of death upon themselves; but not wishing to betray their grief, they strove to conceal it in silence. Leocadia, however, determined to do what she thought requisite for her honour, and as soon as the surgeons were gone, she entered Marco Antonio's room, where, going up to his bed side, and taking his hand in presence of the master of the house, Don Rafael, Teodosia, and others, "Señor Marco Antonio Adorno," she said, "it is now no seasonable time, considering your condition, to utter many words; and therefore I shall only entreat you to lend your ear to some few which concern, if not the safety of your body, at least that of your soul. But I must have your permission to speak; for it would ill become me, who have striven never to disoblige you from the first moment I knew you, to disturb you now in what seems almost your last."
At these words Marco Antonio opened his eyes, looked steadfastly at Leocadia, and recognising her rather by the tone of her voice than by her face, said with a feeble voice, like one in pain, "Say on, señor, what you please, for I am not so far gone but that I can listen to you; nor is that voice of yours so harsh and unpleasing that I should dislike to hear it."
Teodosia hearkened most attentively, and every word that Leocadia spoke pierced her heart like an arrow, and at the same time harrowed the soul of Don Rafael. "If the blow you have received," continued Leocadia, "or rather that which has struck my heart, has not effaced from your memory, señor Marco Antonio, the image of her whom not long ago you called your glory and your heaven, you must surely call to mind who Leocadia was, and what was the promise you gave her in writing under your own hand; nor can you have forgotten the worth of her parents, her own modesty and virtue, and the obligation you are under to her for having always gratified you in everything you desired. If you have not forgotten all this, you may readily know, in spite of this disguise, that I am Leocadia. As soon as I heard of your departure from home, dreading lest new chances and opportunities should deprive me of what is so justly mine, I resolved, in defiance of the worst miseries, to follow you in this garb, and to search the wide world over till I found you. Nor need you wonder at this, if you have ever felt what the strength of true love is capable of, or know the frenzy of a deceived woman. I have suffered some hardships in my quest, all of which I regard as pastime since they have resulted in my seeing you; for, though you are in this condition, if it be God's will to remove you to a better world, I shall esteem myself more than happy if before your departure you do what becomes you, in which case I promise you to live in such a manner after your death that I shall soon follow you on that last inevitable journey. I beseech you then, for the love of heaven, for your own honour, and for my sake, to whom you owe more than to all the world, receive me at once as your lawful wife, not leaving it to the law to do what you have so many righteous motives for doing of your own accord."
Here Leocadia ceased speaking. All present had listened to her in profound silence, and in the same way they awaited the reply of Marco Antonio. "I cannot deny, señora," he said, "that I know you; your voice and your face will not suffer me to do that. Nor yet can I deny how much I owe to you, nor the great worth of your parents and your own incomparable modesty and virtue. I do not, and never shall, think lightly of you for what you have done in coming to seek me in such a disguise; on the contrary, I shall always esteem you for it in the highest degree. But since, as you say, I am so near my end, I desire to make known to you a truth, the knowledge of which, if it be unpleasant to you now, may hereafter be useful to you.
"I confess, fair Leocadia, that I loved you, and you loved me; and yet I confess also that my written promise was given more in compliance with your desire than my own; for before I had long signed it my heart was captivated by a lady named Teodosia, whom you know, and whose parentage is as noble as your own. If I gave you a promise signed with my hand, to her I gave that hand itself in so unequivocal a manner that it is impossible for me to bestow it on any other person in the world. My amour with you was but a pastime from which I culled only some flowers, leaving you nothing the worse; from her I obtained the consummate fruit of love upon my plighted faith to be her husband. That I afterwards deserted you both was the inconsiderate act of a young man who thought that all such things were of little importance, and might be done without scruple. My intention was to go to Italy, and after spending some of the years of my youth there, to return and see what had become of you and my real wife; but Heaven in its mercy, as I truly believe, has permitted me to be brought to the state in which you see me, in order that in thus confessing my great faults, I may fulfil my last duty in this world, by leaving you disabused and free, and ratifying on my deathbed the pledge I gave to Teodosia. If there is anything, señora Leocadia, in which I can serve you during the short time that remains to me, let me know it; so it be not to receive you as nay wife, for that I cannot, there is nothing else which I will not do, if it be in my power, to please you."
Marco Antonio, who had raised himself on one arm while he spoke, now fell back senseless. Don Rafael then came forward. "Recover yourself, dear señor," he said, embracing him affectionately, "and embrace your friend and your brother, since such you desire him to be."
Marco Antonio opened his eyes, and recognising Don Rafael, embraced him with great warmth. "Dear brother and señor," he said, "the extreme joy I feel in seeing you must needs be followed by a proportionate affliction, since, as they say, after gladness comes sorrow; but whatever befals me now I will receive with pleasure in exchange for the happiness of beholding you."
"To make your happiness more complete," replied Don Rafael, "I present to you this jewel as your own." Then, turning to look for his sister, he found her behind the rest of the people in the room, bathed in tears, and divided between joy and grief at what she saw and what she had heard. Taking her by the hand, her brother led her passively to the bed-side, and presented her to Marco Antonio, who embraced her with loving tears.
The rest of those present stared in each others' faces in speechless amazement at these extraordinary occurrences; but the hapless Leocadia, seeing her whom she had mistaken for Don Rafael's brother locked in the arms of him she looked on as her own husband, and all her hopes mocked and ruined, stole out of the room unperceived by the others, whose attention was engrossed by the scene about the bed. She rushed wildly into the street, intending to wander over the world, no matter whither; but she was hardly out of doors before Don Rafael missed her, and, as if he had lost his soul, began to inquire anxiously after her; but nobody could tell what had become of her. He hastened in dismay to the inn where he was told Calvete lodged, thinking she might have gone thither to procure a mule; but, not finding her there, he ran like a madman through the streets, seeking her in every quarter, till the thought struck him that she might have made for the galleys, and he turned in that direction. As he approached the shore he heard some one calling from the land for the boat belonging to the general's galley, and soon recognised the voice as that of the beautiful Leocadia. Hearing his footsteps as he hastened towards her, she drew her sword and stood upon her guard; but perceiving it was Don Rafael, she was vexed and confused at his having found her, especially in so lonely a place; for she was aware, from many indications, that he was far from regarding her with indifference; on the contrary, she would have been delighted to know that Marco Antonio loved her as well. How shall I relate all that Don Rafael now said to Leocadia? I can give but a faint idea of the glowing language in which he poured out his soul.
"Were it my fate, beautiful Leocadia," he said, "along with the favours of fortune to lack also at this moment the courage to disclose to you the secret of my soul, then would there be doomed to perpetual oblivion the most ardent and genuine affection that ever was harboured in a lover's breast. But not to do it that wrong, I will make bold, señora, come of it what may, to beg you will observe, if your wounded feelings allow you, that in nothing has Marco Antonio the advantage of me, except the happiness of being loved by you. My lineage is as good as his, and in fortune he is not much superior to me. As for the gifts of nature, it becomes me not to laud myself, especially if in your eyes those which have fallen to my share are of no esteem. All this I say, adored señora, that you may seize the remedy for your disasters which fortune offers to your hand. You see that Marco Antonio cannot be yours, since Heaven has already made him my sister's; and the same Heaven which has taken him from you is now willing to compensate you with me, who desire no higher bliss in this life than that of being your husband. See how good fortune stands knocking at the door of the evil fortune you have hitherto known. And do not suppose that I shall ever think the worse of you for the boldness you have shown in seeking after Marco Antonio; for from the moment I determine to match myself with you, I am bound to forget all that is past. Well I know that the same power which has constrained me so irresistibly to adore you, has brought you also to your present pass, and therefore there will be no need to seek an excuse where there has been no fault."
Leocadia listened in silence to all Don Rafael said, only from time to time heaving a sigh from the bottom of her heart. Don Rafael ventured to take her hand; she did not withdraw it; and kissing it again and again, he said, "Tell me, lady of my soul, that you will be so wholly, in presence of these starry heavens, this calm listening sea, and these watery sands. Say that yes, which surely behoves your honour as well as my happiness. I repeat to you that I am a gentleman, as you know, and wealthy; that I love you, which you ought to esteem above every other consideration; and that whereas I find you alone, in a garb that derogates much from your honour, far from the home of your parents and your kindred, without any one to aid you at your need, and without the hope of obtaining what you were in quest of, you may return home in your own proper and seemly garb, accompanied by as good a husband as you had chosen for yourself, and be wealthy, happy, esteemed, and even applauded by all who may become acquainted with the events of your story. All this being so, I know not why you hesitate. Say the one word that shall raise me from the depth of wretchedness to the heaven of bliss, and in so doing, you will do what is best for yourself; you will comply with the demands of courtesy and good sense, and show yourself at once grateful and discreet."
"Well," said the doubting Leocadia, at last, "since Heaven has so ordained, and neither I nor any one living can oppose its will, be it as Heaven and you desire, señor. I take the same power to witness with what bashfulness I consent to your wishes, not because I am unconscious of what I gain by complying with them, but because I fear that when I am yours you will regard me with other eyes than those with which hitherto perhaps you have mistakingly beheld me. But be it as it may, to be the lawful wife of Don Rafael de Villavicencio is an honour I cannot lose, and with that alone I shall live contented. But if my conduct after I am your wife give me any claim to your esteem, I will thank Heaven for having brought me through such strange circumstances and such great misfortunes to the happiness of being yours. Give me your hand, Don Rafael, and take mine in exchange; and, as you say, let the witnesses of our mutual engagement be the sky, the sea, the sands, and this silence, interrupted only by my sighs and your entreaties."
So saying, she permitted Don Rafael to embrace her, and taking each other's hand they solemnised their betrothal with a few tears drawn from their eyes by the excess of joy succeeding to their past sorrows. They immediately returned to the knight's house, where their absence had occasioned great anxiety, and where the nuptials of Marco Antonio and Teodosia had already been celebrated by a priest, at the instance of Teodosia, who dreaded lest any untoward chance should rob her of her new-found hopes. The appearance of Don Rafael and Leocadia, and the account given by the former of what had passed between them, augmented the general joy, and the master of the house rejoiced as if they were his own near relations; for it is an innate characteristic of the Catalonian gentry to feel and act as friends towards such strangers as have any need of their services.
The priest, who was still present, desired that Leocadia should change her dress for one appropriate to her sex, and the knight at once supplied both the ladies with handsome apparel from the wardrobe of his wife, who was a lady of the ancient house of the Granolliques, famous in that kingdom. The surgeon was moved by charity to complain that the wounded man talked so much and was not left alone; but it pleased God that Marco Antonio's joy, and the little silence he observed, were the very means of his amendment, so that when they came to dress his wound next day, they found him out of danger, and in a fortnight more he was fit to travel.
During the time he kept his bed he had made a vow that if he recovered he would go on a pilgrimage on foot to Santiago de Galicia, and in the fulfilment of that vow he was accompanied by Don Rafael, Leocadia, Teodosia, and even by the muleteer Calvete, unusual as such pious practices are with men of his calling; but he had found Don Rafael so liberal and good-humoured that he would not quit him till he had returned home. The party having to travel on foot as pilgrims, the mules were sent on to Salamanca.
The day fixed for their departure arrived, and equipped in their dalmaticas and with all things requisite, they took leave of their generous and hospitable friend, the knight Don Sancho de Cardona, a man of most illustrious blood and personally famous; and they pledged themselves that they and their descendants, to whom they should bequeath it as a duty, should perpetually preserve the memory of the singular favours received from him, in order that they might not be wanting at least in grateful feeling, if they could not repay them in any other way. Don Sancho embraced them all, and said it was a matter of course with him to render such services or others to all whom he knew or supposed to be Castilian hidalgos. They repeated their embraces twice, and departed with gladness, mingled with some sorrow. Travelling by easy stages to suit the strength of the lady pilgrims, they reached Monserrate in three days, remained as many more there, fulfilling their duties as good Catholic Christians, and resuming their journey, arrived without accident at Santiago, where they accomplished their vows with all possible devotion. They determined not to quit their pilgrim garbs until they reached their homes. After travelling towards them leisurely, they came at last to a rising ground whence Leocadia and Teodosia looked down upon their respective birth-places, nor could they restrain their tears at the glad sight which brought back to their recollection all their past vicissitudes.
From the same spot they discovered a broad valley, which divided the two townships, and in it they saw under the shades of an olive a stalwart knight, mounted on a powerful charger, armed with a strong keen lance and a dazzlingly white shield. Presently they saw issuing from among some olive trees two other knights similarly armed, and of no less gallant appearance. These two rode up to the first, and after remaining awhile together they separated. The first knight and one of the two others set spurs to their horses, and charging each other like mortal enemies, began mutually to deal such vigorous thrusts, and to avoid or parry them with such dexterity, that it was plain they were masters in that exercise. The third knight remained a spectator of the fight without quitting his place. Don Rafael, who could not be content with a distant view of the gallant conflict, hurried down the hill, followed by the other three, and came up close to the two champions just as they had both been slightly wounded. The helmet of one of them had fallen off, and as he turned his face towards Don Rafael, the latter recognised his father, and Marco Antonio knew that the other was his own, whilst Leocadia discovered hers in the third knight who had not fought. Astounded at this spectacle, the two brothers instantly rushed between the champions, crying out "Stop, cavaliers! Stop! We who call on you to do so are your own sons! Father, I am Marco Antonio, for whose sake, as I guess, your honoured life is put to this peril. Allay your anger; cast away your weapons, or turn them against another enemy; for the one before you must henceforth be your brother."
The two knights instantly stopped; and looking round they observed that Don Sancho had dismounted and was embracing his daughter, who briefly narrated to him the occurrences at Barcelona. Don Sancho was proceeding to make peace between the combatants, but there was no need of that, for he found them already dismounted and embracing their sons with tears of joy. There now appeared at the entrance of the valley a great number of armed men on foot and on horseback: these were the vassals of the three knights, who had come to support the cause of their respective lords; but when they saw them embracing the pilgrims they halted, and knew not what to think until Don Sancho briefly recounted to them what he had learned from his daughter. The joy of all was unbounded. Five of the vassals immediately mounted the pilgrims on their own horses, and the whole party set out for the house of Marco Antonio's father, where it was arranged that the two weddings should be celebrated. On the way Don Rafael and Marco Antonio learned that the cause of the quarrel which had been so happily ended was a challenge sent to the father of the latter by the fathers of Teodosia and Leocadia, under the belief that he had been privy to the acts of seduction committed by his son. The two challengers having found him alone would not take any advantage of him, but agreed to fight him one after the other, like brave and generous knights. The combat, nevertheless, must have ended in the death of one or all of them but for the timely arrival of their children, who gave thanks to God for so happy a termination of the dispute.
The day after the arrival of the pilgrims, Marco Antonio's father celebrated the marriages of his son and Teodosia, Don Rafael and Leocadia, with extraordinary magnificence. The two wedded pairs lived long and happily together, leaving an illustrious progeny which still exists in their two towns, which are among the best in Andalusia. Their names, however, we suppress, in deference to the two ladies, whom malicious or prudish tongues might reproach with levity of conduct. But I would beg of all such to forbear their sentence, until they have examined themselves and seen whether they too have not been assailed some time or other by what are called the arrows of Cupid, weapons whose force is truly irresistible. Calvete was made happy with the gift of the mule which Don Rafael had left at Salamanca, and with many other presents; and the poets of the time took occasion to employ their pens in celebrating the beauty and the adventures of the two damsels, as bold as they were virtuous, the heroines of this strange story.
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