Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 62, No. 382, October 1847
Author: Various
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

It is painful, after a scene which implies some softness of heart, to find him unrepentant of one of the most repulsive, because the most gratuitous crime of his career. In the course of the day, Bertrand, in translating an English journal, inadvertently began to read an article containing a violent attack on the conduct of Caulaincourt and Savary in the seizure of the Duc d'Enghien. Napoleon, interrupting him, suddenly cried, "This is shameful." He then sent for his will, and interlined the following words:—"I caused the Duc d'Enghien to be arrested and tried, because that step was essential to the interest, honour, and safety of the French people, when the Count d'Artois was maintaining, by his own confession, sixteen assassins in Paris. Under similar circumstances I should act in the same way." Having written these few lines he gave back the will. From this period he was engaged in writing codicils and appointing executors. He gave to Marchand a diamond necklace, valued at 200,000 francs. He wound up those transactions by an extraordinary letter,—no less than the form of an announcement of his own death. It was in these words:—

"Monsieur le Gouverneur, the Emperor Napoleon breathed his last on the —— after a long and painful illness. I have the honour to communicate this intelligence to you.

"The Emperor had ordered me to communicate, if such be your desire, his last wishes. I beg you to inform me, what are the arrangements, prescribed by your government for the transportation of his remains to France, as well as those relating to the persons of his suite. I have the honour to be, &c., COUNT MONTHOLON."

An act of this order implied a good deal of self-possession. But, even to the last day he continued to occupy his mind with subjects sufficiently trying at any period. On one of those nights he made Montholon bring a table to his bed-side, and dictated for two hours; the subjects being, the decoration of Versailles, and the organisation of the National Guard. On the 30th of April he was given over by the physicians. On the 3rd of May his fever continued, and his mind was evidently beginning to be confused. On the 5th of May he passed a very bad night and became delirious. "Twice," said Montholon, "I thought I distinguished the unconnected words, France—Armee—Tete d'Armee—France."

His final hour now visibly approached. From six in the morning, until half-past five in the evening of that day, he remained motionless, lying on his back, with his right hand out of the bed, and his eyes fixed, seemingly absorbed in deep meditation, and without any appearance of suffering; his lips were slightly contracted; his whole face expressed pleasant and gentle impressions.

But he seems to have been awake to external objects to the last. For whenever Antommarchi attempted to moisten his lips, he repulsed him with his hand, and fixed his eyes on Montholon, as the only person whom he would permit to attend him. At sunset he died.

The immediate cause of his death was subsequently ascertained by the surgeons to have been an extensive ulceration of the stomach.

On the 9th of May the body was buried with military honours. On the 30th, Montholon, with the household, quitted St Helena.

Thus obscurely, painfully, and almost ignominiously, closed the career of the most brilliant, ambitious, and powerful monarch of his time. No man had ever attained a higher rank, and sunk from it to a lower. No man had ever been so favoured by fortune. No man had ever possessed so large an influence over the mind of Europe, and been finally an object of hostility so universal. He was the only man in history, against whom a Continent in arms pronounced sentence of overthrow: the only soldier whose personal fall was the declared object of a general war:—and the only monarch whose capture ensured the fall of his dynasty, extinguished an empire, and finished the loftiest dream of human ambition in a dungeon.

Napoleon, since his fall, has been denied genius. But if genius implies the power of accomplishing great ends by means beyond the invention of others, he was a genius. Every act of his career was a superb innovation. As a soldier, he changed the whole art of war. Instead of making campaigns of tactics, he made campaigns of triumphs. He wasted no time in besieging towns; he rushed on the capital. He made no wars of detachments, but threw a colossal force across the frontier, held its mass together, and fought pitched battles day after day, until he trampled down all resistance by the mere weight of a phalanx of 250,000 men. Thus, in 1800, at Marengo, he reconquered Italy in twelve hours. In 1805, he broke down Austria in a three months' war. In 1806, he crushed the Prussian army in four-and-twenty hours, and walked over the monarchy. In 1807, he drove the Russians out of Germany, fought the two desperate battles of Eylau and Friedland, and conquered that treaty of Tilsit, by which he gave the Emperor Alexander a shadow of empire in Asia, in exchange for the substance of universal empire in Europe.

But his time was come. His wars had been wholly selfish. To aggrandise his own name, he had covered Europe with blood. To place himself at the head of earthly power, he had broken faith with Turkey, with Russia, with Germany, and with Spain. The blood, the spoil, and the misery of millions were upon his head. His personal crimes concentrated the vengeance of mankind upon his diadem. For the last three years of his political and military existence, he seems to have lain under an actual spell. Nothing but the judicial clouding of his intellect can account for the precipitate infirmities of his judgment. His march to Russia, as we have already observed, was a gigantic absurdity in the eyes of all Europe—his delay at Moscow was a gigantic absurdity in the eyes of every subaltern in his army. But his campaigns in France were only a continuation of those absurdities. With fifty thousand men he was to conquer three hundred thousand, backed by an actual million ready to rush into the province of France. How was resistance possible? Treaty was his only hope: yet he attempted to resist, and refused to treat. He was beaten up to the walls of Paris. The Allies then offered him France: he still fought, and only affected to negociate. At length the long infatuation was consummated in his march from Paris; the Allies marched to Paris; and Napoleon was instantly deposed, outlawed, and undone.

Even his second great experiment for power was but the infatuation repeated. Every act was an error: his return from Elba ought to have been delayed for at least a year. His campaign of 1815 ought to have made head against the Prussians and Germans in the south, while he left the English and Prussians to waste their strength against his fortresses. Even in Belgium, he ought to have poured the whole mass of his army on the English at once, instead of violating his own first principle of war, and dividing it into three armies, Ney's at Quatre-Bras, Grouchy's at Wavre, and his own at Ligny.

Still, when routed at Waterloo, he had a powerful force in the field, the remnant of his army, with Grouchy's corps. With those he ought to have moved on slowly towards Paris, garrisoning the fortresses, breaking up the roads, throwing every obstacle in the way of the Allies, and finally, at the head of his 60,000 veterans, with the national guard of the capital and the surrounding districts, (amounting to not less than 100,000 men,) at once making a front against the Allies, and negociating.

Above all things, he ought never to have separated himself from the army; as he thus stripped his party of all power at the moment, and virtually delivered himself a prisoner to the Bourbonists in the capital. Whatever might be the difficulty of deciding on his conduct at the time, it is now perfectly easy to see, that all these were blunders of the first magnitude, and that every step was direct to his ruin.

He was no sooner in Paris, than he was made a prisoner; escaped being shot, only through the mercy of the Allies; and, for the general quiet of France and Europe, was consigned, for the remainder of his few and melancholy years, to the prison of St Helena.

The name of Napoleon has a great place in history. He was a great moving power of the day of change, a great statesman, a brilliant soldier, and a splendid ruler of the mightiest dominion that had existed under one sceptre, since the days of Charlemagne. He was a man of vast projects, vast means, and vast opportunities. But he had no greatness of mind; he had but one purpose, personal aggrandizement; and for that purpose, he adopted every vice of the heart of man.

Without being bloodthirsty by nature, he was cruel by habit; without being naturally avaricious, he was a universal spoiler; and without savagely hating mankind, he spurned the feelings, the sufferings, and the life of man. He was hollow, fierce, and remorseless, where his own objects were concerned, and whether he cheated his party in the state, or rode over a field covered with his dying troops, he regarded the treachery as legitimate, and the slaughter as meritorious, if they raised him a step nearer to the aim of his ambition.

With the most splendid chances for establishing a name of perpetual honour, this selfishness defeated them all. On his accession to the throne, he might have secured Peace, as the principle of all European government. He might have developed all the natural powers of his empire, covered its rivers with commerce, filled its cities with opulence, restored the neglected fertility of its plains, and rendered its capital the centre of the most brilliant civilisation which the world had ever seen. But War was for the fame of Napoleon, and he chose the havoc of war.

In 1812 he might have restored the kingdom of Poland, and stamped perpetual renown on his diadem, by an act of imperial justice. But he preferred sacrificing it to the alliance of Austria—for the purpose of devastating Russia. He might have exercised his boundless influence over Spain, to bring the faculties of that noble country to the light, and add the contributions of twelve millions of a half-forgotten race of mankind, to the general happiness of the world. But he preferred being called its conqueror, shedding its blood in torrents. To France herself he might have given a rational liberty, have animated her literature, taught common sense to her vanity, thrown the field open to her genius, and guided her natural ardour, flexibility, and spirit of enterprise, to achievements for the good of man, to which all the trophies of the sword are pale. But he cast away all those illustrious opportunities, and thought only of the shout of the rabble.

Napoleon's career was providential; there is no name in history, whose whole course bears so palpable a proof of his having been created for a historic purpose. Europe, in the partition of Poland, had committed a great crime,—France, in the murder of her king, had committed a great crime. The three criminal thrones, and the regicidal republic, were alike to be punished. Napoleon was the appointed instrument for both purposes. He first crushed the democracy, and then he broke the strength of the three powers in the field—he thrice conquered the Austrian capital—he turned Prussia into a province,—and his march to Russia desolated her most populous provinces, and laid her Asiatic capital in ashes.

But France, which continually paid for all those fearful triumphs in her blood, was still to suffer a final and retributive punishment. Her armies were hunted from the Vistula to the Rhine, and from the Rhine to the Seine. She saw her capital twice captured—her government twice swept away—her conquests lost—her plunder recovered by its original possessors, and her territory garrisoned by an army of strangers—her army disbanded—her empire cut down to the limits of the old monarchy—her old masters restored, and her idol torn from his altar. Thus were thrown away the fruits of the Revolution, of the regicide, of the democracy, and of a quarter of a century of wretchedness, fury, and blood.

On Napoleon himself fell the heaviest blow of all. All the shames, sorrows, and sufferings of France were concentered on his head. He saw his military power ruined—his last army slaughtered—his last adherents exiled—his family fugitive,—his whole dynasty uncrowned, and himself given up as a prisoner to England, to be sent to an English dungeon, to be kept in English hands; to finish his solitary and bitter existence in desertion and disease, and be laid in an English grave,—leaving to mankind perhaps the most striking moral of blasted ambition ever given to the world.

* * * * *

In 1840 England, at the solicitation of France, suffered the remains of Napoleon to be brought to Europe. They were received in Paris with military pomp, and on the 15th of December were entombed in the chapel of the Invalides.


[10] History of the Captivity of Napoleon at St Helena. By General Count MONTHOLON Vols. iii. and iv. London: H. Colburn.


M. Theophile Gautier, best known as a clever contributor to the critical feuilleton of a leading Paris newspaper, also enjoys a respectable reputation as tale-teller and tourist. His books—although for the most part slight in texture, and conveying the idea that the author might have done better had he taken more pains—have certain merits of their own. His style, sometimes defaced by affectation and pedantry, has a lively smartness not unfrequently rising into wit. And in description he is decidedly happy. Possessing an artist's eye, he paints with his pen; his colouring is vivid, his outline characteristic. These qualities are especially exemplified in a spirited and picturesque, but very French narrative, of an extensive ramble in Spain, published about four years ago. He has now again drawn upon his Peninsular experience to produce a tale illustrative of Spanish life and manners, chiefly in the lower classes of society. His hero is a bull-fighter, his heroine a grisette. Of bull-fights, especially within the last few years, one has heard enough and to spare, since every literary traveller in Spain thinks it incumbent on him to describe them. But this is the first instance we remember where the incidents of the bull-ring, and the exploits and peculiarities of its gladiators, are taken as groundwork for a romantic tale. The attempt has been crowned with very considerable success.

The construction of M. Gautier's little romance is simple and inartificial, the incidents are spirited, the style is fresh and pleasant. Its character is quite Spanish, and one cannot doubt the author's personal acquaintance with the scenes and types he sketches—although here and there he has smoothed down with a little French polish the rugged angles of Spanish nationality, and in other places he may be accused of melodramatising rather over much. Through the varnish which it is the novelist's privilege to lay on with a more or less sparing brush, we obtain many interesting and correct glimpses of classes of people whose habits and customs are unknown to foreigners, and are likely to continue so, in great measure, until the appearance of Spanish writers able and willing to depict them. The three principal personages of the tale—the only important ones—are, a young gentleman of Madrid, a bull-fighter named Juancho, and an orphan girl of humble birth and great beauty. The story hinges upon the rivalry of the gentleman and the torero for the good graces of the grisette. There is a secondary plot, associated and partly interwoven with the principal one, but which serves little purpose, save that of prolonging a short tale into a volume. It will scarcely be necessary to refer to it in sketching the trials of the gentle Militona, and the feats and misfortunes of the intrepid and unhappy Juancho.

It was on a June afternoon of the year 184—that Don Andres de Salcedo—a cavalier of good family, competent fortune, handsome exterior, amiable character, and four-and-twenty years of age—emerged from a house in the Calle San Bernardo at Madrid, where he had passed a wearisome hour in practising a duet of Bellini's with Dona Feliciana Vasquez de los Rios. This young lady, still in her teens, moderately pretty and tolerably rich, Andres had from childhood been affianced with, and was accustomed to consider as his future wife, although his sentiments towards her were, in fact, of a very tepid description. Betrothed as children by their parents, there was little real love between them: they met without pleasure and parted without pain; their engagement was an affair of habit, not of the heart.

It was a dia de toros, as Monday is called in Madrid—that being the day when bull-fights usually take place—and Andres, passionately addicted to the Spanish sport, left the mansion of his mistress without any lover-like reluctance, and hurried to the bull-ring. Through the spacious street of Alcala, then crowded to suffocation with vehicles of every description, horsemen, and pedestrians, all hurrying to the point of grand attraction, the young man pressed onward with that alert and active step peculiar to Spaniards—unquestionably the best walkers in the world—joyfully fingering his ticket of Sombra por la tarde.[11] It entitled him to a place close to the barrier; for Andres, despising the elegance of the boxes, preferred leaning against the ropes intended to prevent the bulls from leaping amongst the spectators. Thence each detail of the combat is distinctly seen, each blow appreciated at its just value; and in consideration of these advantages, Andres willingly resigned his elbows to the contact of motley-jacketed muleteers, and his curls to the perfume of the manolo's cigar.

Although a bridegroom-elect ought not, strictly speaking, to perceive the existence of other women than his intended, such scrupulous fidelity is very rare except in romances: and Don Andres, albeit descended neither from Don Juan Tenorio nor Don Juan de Marana, was led to the circus by other attractions besides the brave swordsmanship of Luca Blanco and of Montes' nephew. At the bull-fight on the previous Monday he had seen a young girl of rare and singular beauty, whose features had imprinted themselves on his memory with a minuteness and indelibility quite extraordinary, considering the short time he had been able to observe them. So casual a meeting should have left no more trace than the picture to which one accords a passing glance. No word or sign had been exchanged between Andres and the manola, (she apparently belonged to that class,) who had been separated by several benches. Andres had no reason to believe that the young girl had remarked his admiration, or even perceived him. Her eyes, fixed upon the arena, had not for an instant wandered from the incidents of the bull-fight, in which she appeared to take an exclusive interest. It would have been natural to forget her on the threshold of the circus; but, instead of that, her image had haunted Andres all the week, recurring perpetually to his memory with increased distinctness and perseverance. And it was a vague hope, unacknowledged even to himself, of beholding the lovely manola, that now doubled his usual impatience to reach the scene of the bull-fight.

At the very moment Andres passed under one of the three arcades of the gate of Alcala, a calesin, or light calash, dashed through the crowd, amidst a concert of curses and hisses, the usual sounds with which the Spanish populace assail whatever deranges them in their pleasures, and infringes upon the sovereignty of the pedestrian. This vehicle was of outrageous magnificence. The body, borne by two enormous scarlet wheels, was covered with groups of Cupids, and with Anacreontic attributes, such as lyres, tambourines, Pandaean pipes, cooing doves, and hearts pierced with arrows, executed at some remote period by a pencil more remarkable for audacity than correctness of design. The mule harnessed to this gaudy car, had the upper half of his body closely clipped, bore a lofty panoply of coloured worsted upon his head, and was covered with bells from nose to tail. A ferocious-looking charioteer, stripped to his shirt-sleeves, a sheepskin jacket dangling from his shoulder, sat sideways upon the shaft, and belaboured with his whip-handle the lean flanks of his beast, which sprang forward with redoubled fury at each repetition of the stimulant.

There was nothing remarkable in the appearance of such a vehicle on a Monday afternoon at the Alcala gate; and if we have honoured it with especial notice, it is because, upon beholding it, the countenance of Don Andres was illumined by an expression, of the most agreeable surprise. The cabriolet contained two persons: one of these was a little old woman, in an antiquated black dress, whose gown, too short by an inch, disclosed the hem of one of those yellow woolen petticoats commonly worn by Castilian peasants. This venerable creature belonged to the class of women known in Spain as Tia Pelona, Tia Blasia, according to their name, and which answer to the French Mother Michel, Mother Godichon, in the society Paul de Kock delights to sketch. Her large, black, cadaverous physiognomy was relieved by dark sunken eyes, and by a pair of mustaches shading the corners of her lips. Although she had long passed the age of coquetry, she arranged her elbows under her serge mantilla with an air of no small pretension, and flirted with a certain dexterity a large green paper fan. It could hardly be the sight of this amiable creature that brought a smile of satisfaction across the features of Don Andres.

The second occupant of the cabriolet was a young girl, sixteen or eighteen years old—sixteen rather than eighteen. A black silk mantilla, drooping from the top of a tall tortoiseshell comb, round which a magnificent plait of hair was twisted, formed a frame to her lovely countenance, whose paleness bordered on the olive. Her foot, worthy of a Chinese beauty, was extended on the front of the calash, showing a delicate satin shoe and a tight silk stocking with coloured clocks. One of her hands, slender and well formed, although a little sun-burnt, played with the corners of her mantilla, and on the other, which held a white handkerchief, sparkled several silver rings—the richest treasures of the manola's jewel-case. Buttons of jet glittered on her sleeve, completing this strictly Spanish costume. Andres recognised the charming creature whose image had haunted him during the whole of the past week. Accelerating his pace, he entered the bull-ring at the same time with the two women. Chance had so distributed the numbers of the stalls that Andres found himself seated next to the young manola.

Whilst the benches of the amphitheatre became rapidly covered with spectators, the bull-fighters assembled in a large white-washed apartment, serving as a green-room for the actors in the sanguinary drama. Amongst these was a man of five or eight-and-twenty, whose tawny complexion, jet-black eyes, and crisp curling hair, told of an Andalusian origin. A more robust body and better shaped limbs could hardly be seen. They exhibited strength and agility combined in the happiest proportions. Equally well qualified to run and to wrestle, Nature, had she had the express intention of making a bull-fighter, could not have succeeded better than when she moulded this slender Hercules. Through the opening of his cloak glittered the spangles and embroidery of his pink and silver vest, and the jewel of the ring that confined the ends of his cravat; this jewel was of considerable value, proving, as did the whole of the costume, that its owner belonged to the aristocracy of his profession. His mono of new ribbons, attached to the lock of hair reserved expressly for that purpose, spread in gay profusion over his nape; his montero, of the most glossy black, was loaded with silk ornaments of the same colour; his pumps, extraordinarily small and thin, would have done honour to a shoemaker, and might have served a goddess of the ballet.

Nevertheless, Juancho—such was the name of the torero—had not the frank, open air of a handsome young fellow with gay garments on his back, about to be applauded by a host of pretty women. Did apprehension of the approaching contest disturb his serenity? Had he seen in his dreams an infernal bull bearing a matador empaled upon his horns of red-hot steel? Nothing of the sort. This gloomy air was his wont since a twelvemonth. Without being on bad terms with his comrades, there no longer existed between him and them that jovial and careless familiarity usual amongst persons who share the chances of a perilous profession. He did not repulse advances, but he made none; and although an Andalusian, he was often taciturn. If he at times threw off his melancholy, it was to run into the opposite extreme, and abandon himself to a gaiety as violent as it was factitious. Then he would drink like a fish, dance like a madman, and quarrel about every thing and about nothing. The fit over, he relapsed into his previous moody reserve.

The hour fixed for the commencement of the sport approached. Juancho rose from his bench, threw off his cloak, took his sword, and mingled with the motley group of toreros and chulos, banderillos and espadas. The cloud had left his brow; his eyes sparkled, his nostril was dilated. A singular expression of daring animated his fine features. His foot pressed the ground energetically, and the nerves of his instep quivered beneath the knitted silk like the tense-strings on a guitar-handle. Juancho was really a splendid fellow, and his costume wonderfully set off his physical perfections. A broad red sash encircled his graceful waist; the silver embroideries covering his vest formed, at the collar and pockets, and on the sleeves, patches where the groundwork of the garment disappeared under the complications of the arabesques. It was no longer pink embroidered with silver, but silver embroidered with pink. So loaded were the shoulders with twist, filigree, knots and ornaments of all kinds, that the arms seemed to issue from two crushed crowns. The satin hose, braided and spangled on the seams, were admirably adjusted to limbs combining power and elegance. The whole dress was the masterpiece of Zapata of Granada,—of that Zapata, unrivalled for majo costumes, who weeps when he takes one home, and offers his customer more money to resign it to him than he had asked for making it. The learned in such matters did not consider the suit dear at ten thousand reals. Worn by Juancho, it was worth twenty thousand.

The last flourish of trumpets sounded; the arena was cleared of dogs and boys, and the troop of bull-fighters entered. A murmur of admiration greeted Juancho when he made his obeisance before the queen's box; he bent the knee with so good a grace, with an air at once, so humble and so proud, and rose again so gracefully and easily, that the severest critics and oldest frequenters of the circus declared none had ever done it better.

Meanwhile Andres, delighted to have found the manola, paid little attention to the preliminaries of the fight, and the first bull had already ripped up a horse before he bestowed a single look upon the arena. He gazed at the young girl by his side, with an intentness that would doubtless have embarrassed her had she perceived it. He thought her more charming than ever; and certainly a more perfect type of Spanish beauty had never sat upon the blue granite benches of the Madrid circus. With admiration amounting to ecstasy, Andres contemplated the delicate profile, the thin, well-formed nose, with nostrils pink-tinted, like the interior of a tropical shell; the full temples, where, beneath the slightest possible tint of amber, meandered an imperceptible network of blue veins; the mouth, fresh as a flower, ripe and ruddy as a fruit, slightly opened by a half smile, and illuminated by a gleam of mother-of-pearl; and above all, the eyes, whose glances, passing between a thick double fringe of black lashes, possessed an irresistible fascination. It was the Greek form with the Arab character: the style of beauty would have had something startling in a London or Paris drawing-room, but was perfectly in its place at a bull-fight and under the ardent sky of Spain.

The old woman, less attentive than the young one to the progress of the sport, watched the proceedings of Andres with the look of a dog who scents a thief. As he persisted in his contemplation of his pretty neighbour, the old lady's anger gradually increased; she fidgeted on her seat, rattled her fan, pushed her companion with her elbow, and asked her all sorts of questions to oblige her to turn her head. But the young girl either did not or would not understand; she gave short answers, and resumed her attentive and serious attitude.

"The devil take the old witch!" muttered Andres. "Tis a thousand pities they have abolished the Inquisition! With such a face as that, she would have been treated, without form of trial, to a ride on an ass, dressed in a san-benito and a sulphur shirt. She belongs to the seminary of Barahona, and washes young girls for the sorcerers' sabbath."

Juancho, whose turn to kill had not yet come, stood carelessly in the centre of the circus, paying no more attention to the bulls than if they had been so many sheep. He scarcely deigned to take two or three steps aside when the furious beasts showed a disposition to attack him. His large bright black eye glanced round boxes, galleries, and benches, where thousands of fans, of every hue, fluttered and palpitated like butterflies' wings. He evidently sought some one. At last a gleam of joy flashed across his brown features, and he made the slightest possible movement of his head, the sort of salutation that actors sometimes address to their acquaintances before the curtain. It was directed to the bench on which sat the old woman and the young girl.

"Militona," said the duenna in a low voice, "Juancho sees us. Be cautious! that young man ogles you, and Juancho is jealous."

"What is that to me?" replied Militona in the same tone.

"You know he does not jest with those who displease him."

"I have not looked at the gentleman, and besides, am I not my own mistress?"

In saying she had not looked at Andres, Militona was guilty of a slight equivocation. She had not looked at him, perhaps, for women can see without looking, but she could have given a most minute description of his person. And out of respect to truth, we must here mention that she took Don Andres de Salcedo for what he really was, a very smart and good-looking cavalier.

Andres, as a pretext for commencing a conversation, called one of those dealers in oranges, preserved fruits, lozenges, and other sweetmeats, who circulate in the corridor of the bull-ring, and offer their wares to the spectators at the end of long sticks.

"Senorita, will you accept some comfits?" said Andres, with an engaging smile to his beautiful neighbour, offering her the open box.

The young girl turned quickly round, and looked at him with an air of uneasy surprise.

"They are lemon and mint," said he, as if to decide her.

Militona, suddenly making up her mind, plunged her little fingers into the box, and took a pinch of the lozenges.

"Luckily Juancho has his back turned," muttered a majo who stood just by, "or there would be blood on his knife to-night."

"Will this lady take some?" continued Andres in a tone of exquisite politeness, holding out the box to the horrible old woman, who was so disconcerted by this piece of audacity that in her confusion she took every one of the sugar-plums. Nevertheless, whilst emptying the box into the palm of her hand, black as that of a mummy, she cast a furtive and frightened glance at the circus, and heaved an enormous sigh.

At that moment the orchestra sounded the death: it was Juancho's turn to kill. He approached the municipal box, made the usual salutation and demand, and threw his montero into the air in right cavalier style. The audience, usually so tumultuous, became profoundly silent. The bull Juancho had to kill was of formidable breed; seven horses, stretched lifeless upon the sand, their bowels protruding from hideous wounds, told of his fury and vigour. The two picadores had left the arena, sorely bruised and crippled by numerous falls, and the supernumerary waited in the corridor, foot in stirrup and lance in fist, ready to replace them. The chulos prudently kept themselves in the vicinity of the palisade, one foot on the wooden ledge which aids them to leap it in case of danger; and the victorious bull ranged the circus—stained here and there by large puddles of blood, which the attendants dared not approach to scatter with sawdust—striking the doors with his horns, and tossing the dead horses into the air. Juancho approached the monstrous beast with that firm and deliberate step before which lions themselves retreat. The bull, astonished at sight of a fresh adversary, paused, uttered a deep roar, shook the slaver from his muzzle, scratched the earth with his hoof, lowered his head two or three times, and made a few paces backwards. Juancho was magnificent to behold: his countenance expressed dauntless resolution; his fixed and steadfast eyes, whose pupils, surrounded by white, resembled stars of jet, darted invisible rays which pierced the bull like steel darts; unconsciously, he subjected the brute to that magnetism by which Van Amburgh sends his trembling tigers crouching to the extremity of their den. Each forward step made by the man was responded to by a backward one of the ferocious beast. At this triumph of moral over brute force, the audience, seized with enthusiasm, burst into frantic applause, shouting and stamping, yelling out vivas, and ringing the species of bells which amateurs take with them to the bull-fights. Walls and ceilings cracked beneath this storm of admiration, the paint crumbled off and flew about in whirlwinds of white dust. The torero, thus applauded, raised his head, with flashing eyes and joyful heart, to the place where Militona sat, as if to lay at her feet the admiration of a whole city. The moment was badly chosen. Militona had dropped her fan, and Don Andres, who had snatched it up with all the precipitation of a person desirous to strengthen with an additional thread the slender chain of a new acquaintance, returned it to her with a happy smile and gallant gesture. The young girl could not do less than acknowledge the polite attention by a gracious smile and inclination of her head. Smile and bow were detected by Juancho; his lips grew pale, his complexion green, the orbits of his eyes became blood-shot, his hand contracted on his sword-hilt, and the point of the weapon, which he held low, was thrust, by a convulsive movement, thrice into the sand. The bull, no longer under the spell of the fascinating glance, approached his adversary, who neglected to put himself on guard. The interval between man and beast was terribly small.

"Master Juancho is not easily frightened," observed some of the more callous spectators.

"Juancho, have a care!" cried others, more humane; "Juancho de mi vida, Juancho of my heart, Juancho of my soul, the bull is upon you!"

As to Militona, whether it was that the habit of bull-fights had blunted her sensibility, or that she had entire confidence in the consummate skill of Juancho, or because she took little interest in the man over whom she exercised such influence, her face continued as calm as if nothing unusual was occurring; only a slight flush appeared in the centre of her cheek, and the lace of her mantilla rose and fell upon her bosom with increased rapidity.

The cries of the spectators roused Juancho from his stupor: he drew hastily back, and waved the scarlet folds of the muleta before the eyes of the bull. The instinct of self-preservation, the pride of the gladiator, struggled in his breast with the desire to watch Militona; a moment's neglect, a glance on one side, might cost him his life. It was an infernal predicament for a jealous man. To behold, beside the woman he loved, a gay, handsome, and attentive rival, while he, in the middle of a circus, the eyes of twelve thousand spectators riveted upon him, had, within a few inches of his breast, the sharp horns of a ferocious beast which, under pain of dishonour, he could only kill in a certain manner and by a wound in a certain place.

The torero, once more master of the jurisdiction, as it is said in tauromachian slang, settled himself firmly on his heels, and manoeuvred with the muleta to make the bull lower his head.

"What could he say to her," thought Jauncho, "that young fellow on whom she smiled so sweetly?" Swayed by the reflection, he again forgot his formidable antagonist, and involuntarily raised his eyes. The bull, profiting by the momentary inattention, rushed upon the man; the latter, taken unawares, leaped backwards, and, by a mechanical movement, made a thrust with his sword. Several inches of the blade entered, but in the wrong place. The weapon met the bone; a furious movement of the bull made it rebound from the wound amidst a spout of blood, and fall to the ground some paces off. Juancho was disarmed, and the bull more dangerous than ever, for the misdirected thrust had served but to exasperate him. The chulos ran to the rescue, waving their pink and blue cloaks. Militona grew pale; the old woman uttered lamentable ejaculations, and sighed like a stranded whale. The public, beholding Juancho's inconceivable awkwardness, commenced one of those tremendous uproars in which the Spanish people excel: a perfect hurricane of insulting epithets, of vociferations and maledictions. "Away with the dog!" was shouted on all sides; "Down with the thief, the assassin! To the galleys with him! To Ceuta! The clumsy butcher, to spoil such a noble beast!" And so on, through the entire vocabulary of abuse which the Spanish tongue so abundantly supplies. Juancho stood erect under the storm of insult, biting his lips, and tearing with his right hand the lace frills of his shirt. His sleeve, ripped open by the bull's horn, disclosed his arm a long violet scar. For an he tottered, and seemed about to fall, suffocated by the violence of his emotions; but he promptly recovered himself, ran to his sword, picked it up, straightened the bent blade with his foot, and placed himself with his back towards the place where Militona sat. At a sign he made, the chulos led the bull towards him by tantalising it with their cloaks; and this time he dealt the animal a downward thrust, in strict conformity with the laws of the sport—such a one as the great Montes of Chiclana himself would not have disowned. The sword was planted between the shoulders, and its cross-hilt, rising between the horns of the bull, reminded of those Gothic engravings where St Hubert is seen kneeling before a stag which bears a crucifix in its antlers.

The bull fell heavily on its knees before Juancho, as if doing homage to his superiority, and after a short convulsion rolled over, its four feet in the air.

"Juancho has taken a brilliant revenge! What a splendid thrust! He is superior to Arjona and the Chiclanero; do you not think so, Senorita?" cried Andres enthusiastically to his neighbour.

"For God's sake, sir, not another word!" replied Militona very quickly, without turning her head and scarcely moving her lips. The words were spoken in a tone at once so imperative and so imploring, that Andres immediately saw it was not the artifice of a young girl begging to be let alone, and hoping to be disobeyed. Neither could modesty dictate the injunction. Nothing he had said called for such rigour, and manolas, the grisettes of Madrid, are not usually—be it said without calumny—of such extreme susceptibility. Real terror, apprehension of a danger unknown to Andres, was indicated by the hasty sentence.

"Can she be a princess in disguise?" said Andres to himself, considerably puzzled how to act. "If I hold my tongue, I shall look like a fool, or, at any rate, like a very middling sort of Don Juan: if I persist, I shall perhaps cause the poor girl some disagreeable scene. Can she be afraid of the duenna? Hardly. When that amiable old sorceress devoured my comfits, she became in some sort an accomplice. It cannot be she whom my infanta dreads. Is there a father, brother, husband, or jealous lover in the neighbourhood?" But on looking around, Andres could discover no one who seemed to pay the slightest attention to the proceedings of the beautiful manola.

From the moment of the bull's death till the end of the fight, Juancho did not once look at Militona. He despatched with unparalleled dexterity two other bulls that fell to his share, and was applauded as vehemently as he had previously been hissed. Andres, either not deeming it prudent, or not finding a good pretext to renew the conversation, didn't speak another word to Militona, and even left the circus a few minutes before the conclusion of the performances. Whilst stepping across the benches, he whispered something to a boy of quick and intelligent physiognomy, and then immediately disappeared.

The boy, when the audience rose to depart, mingled in the crowd, and, without any apparent design, attached himself to the steps of Militona and the duenna. He saw them get into their cabriolet, and when the vehicle rolled away on its great scarlet wheels, he hung on behind, as if giving way to a childish impulse, and was whirled through a cloud of dust, singing at the top of his voice the popular ditty of the Bulls of Puerto.

"Well done!" exclaimed Andres, who, from an alley of the Prado, which he had already reached, saw cab and boy rattle past: "in an hour I shall know the address of the charming manola."

Andres had reckoned without the chapter of accidents. In the Calle de los Desamparados, a cut across the face from the whip of the surly calesero, forced the ragged Mercury to let go his hold. Before he could pick himself up, and rub the dust and tears from his eyes, the vehicle was at the farther end of the street, and although Perico, impressed with the importance of his mission, followed it at the top of his speed, he lost sight of it in the labyrinth of lanes adjacent to the Plaza de Lavapies—literally, Washfeet Square—a low quarter of Madrid. The most he could ascertain was, that the calesin had deposited its burthen in one of four streets, but in which of them it was impossible to say. With the bait of a dollar before his eyes, however, the urchin was not to be discouraged; and late that night, as Don Andres was returning from a wearisome tertulia, whither he had been compelled to accompany Dona Feliciana de los Rios, he felt a pull at the skirt of his coat. It was Perico.

"Caballero," said the child, "she lives in the Calle del Povar, the third house on the right. I saw her at her window, taking in the water jar."

It is difficult to describe the style of architecture of the house inhabited by Militona, unless we designate it as the order composite. Its front was characterised by a total absence of symmetry; the walls, sadly out of the perpendicular, seemed about to fall, and would doubtless have done so but for the support of sundry iron curves and crosses, which held the bricks together, and of two adjacent houses of more solid construction. From the lower part of the ricketty fabric the plaster had peeled off in large scales, exposing the foundation wall; whilst the upper stories, better preserved, exhibited traces of old pink paint, as if the poor house blushed for shame of its miserable condition. Near the roof of broken and disorderly tiles, which marked out a brown festoon against the bright blue sky, was a little window, surrounded by a recent coat of white plaster. On the right of this casement hung a cage, containing a quail: on the left another cage, of minute dimensions, decorated with red and yellow beads, served as palace to a cricket. A jar of porous earth, suspended by the ears to a string, and covered with a pearly moisture, held water cooling in the evening breeze, and from time to time allowed a few drops to fall upon two pots of sweet basil that stood beneath it. The window was that of Militona's apartment.

If the reader will venture to ascend with us this dark and broken staircase, we will follow Militona as she trips lightly up it on her return from the bull-fight; whilst old Aldonsa tolls behind, calling upon the saints for succour, and clinging to the greasy rope that does duty as a banister. On reaching the topmost landing-place, the pretty manola raised a fragment of matting that hung before one of those many-panelled doors common in Madrid, took her key and let herself in. The interior of the room was humble enough. Whitewash replaced paper; a scratched mirror—which reflected very imperfectly the charming countenance of its owner—a plaster cast of St Antony, flanked by two blue glass vases containing artificial flowers, a deal table, two chairs, and a little bed covered with a muslin quilt, composed the entire furniture. We must not forget an image of Our Lady, rudely painted and gilt on glass, engravings of the fight of the second of May, of the funeral of Daoiz and Velarde, and of a picador on horseback; a tambourine, a guitar, and a branch of palm, brought from church on the previous Palm Sunday. Such was Militona's room; and although it contained but the barest necessaries of life, it had not the chill and dreary look of misery. A cheerful gleam illuminated it; the red brick floor was gay and pleasant to the eye; there was no shade on the white walls, or cobweb on the raftered roof—all was fresh, and bright, and cheerful in the poor garret. In England it would have been perfect destitution, in Spain it was almost comfort, and more than was necessary for happiness.

The old woman was at last at the top of the stairs; she entered the room and let herself fall upon one of the two chairs, which cracked under her weight. "The water jar, Militona, for mercy's sake! I am half suffocated with the heat and dust; and those accursed lozenges have put my throat in a flame."

"You should not have eaten so many, tia," said the young girl, smiling, and placing the jar to the old lady's lips. Aldonsa drank eagerly, passed the back of her hand over her mouth, and fanned herself in silence.

"Talking of lozenges," said she after a pause, "how furiously Juancho looked at us! I am sure he missed the bull because that young spark spoke to you. Juancho is jealous as a tiger, and if he has fallen in with yonder pretty gentleman, he will have made him repent his gallantry. I would not give much for the young man's skin; it will have some famous holes in it. Do you remember the slash he gave Luca, for offering you a nosegay at the festival of San Isidro?"

"I hope Juancho will commit no violence," exclaimed the young girl—"What frightful slavery to be thus persecuted by his ferocious love!"

"It is your fault," retorted Aldonsa. "Why are you so pretty?"

A sharp rap at the door, sounding as if given by an iron finger, interrupted the conversation. The old woman got up and looked through the little grating, inserted, according to Spanish custom, in the centre of the door. Through the bars appeared the countenance of Juancho, pale beneath the bronzed tint with which the sun of the arena had overlaid it. Aldonsa opened the door and the torero entered. His features betrayed the violent emotions that had agitated him in the bull-ring. To the shame of having been hissed was superadded rage at not having quitted the circus soon enough to overtake the young man who had been so attentive to Militona. Where could he now find him? Doubtless he had followed the manola and spoken to her again. And at the thought, Juancho's hand mechanically sank to his girdle to seek his knife.

The torero sat down upon the second chair. Militona stood at the window, pulling a flower to pieces; the old woman fanned herself more rapidly than ever: an awkward silence reigned in the apartment. Aldonsa was the first to break it.

"Does your arm hurt you, Juancho?"

"No," replied the bull-fighter, fixing his deep gaze upon Militona.

"You should bandage it, and apply salt and water," said the old woman, determined not to let the conversation drop.

Juancho made no reply, but addressed himself to Militona.

"Who was the young man who sat beside you at the bull-fight?"

"I do not know him. I never saw him before."

"But you would like to know him?"

"The supposition is polite. Well, and what if I should?"

"I would kill him, the dainty gentleman in polished boots and white gloves."

"You talk like a madman, Juancho. What right have I given you to be jealous of me? You love me, you say—is that my fault? Am I obliged to adore you, because you have taken it into your head to find me pretty?"

"True enough," interposed the old woman, "she is not obliged. Nevertheless, you would make a handsome couple. Prettier hand never rested on more vigorous arm; and if you danced a cachuca together at the garden of the Delicias, people would stand on the chairs to look at you."

"Have I played the coquet with you, Juancho? Have I sought, by word, or look, or smile, to engage your affections?"

"No," replied the torero in a gloomy voice.

"I never promised you any thing, or gave you any hope: I always bade you forget me. Why torment and offend me by your unjustifiable violence? You crippled poor Luca, an honest fellow, who amused me and made me laugh, and you wounded your friend Gines almost to death, because he happened to touch my hand. Do you think such conduct advances you in my good opinion? And to-day at the circus you behaved absurdly; whilst watching me, you let the bull come upon you, and gave a miserable thrust."

"But I love you, Militona!" exclaimed the bull-fighter passionately. "I love you with all my heart and soul; I see but you in the world, and a bull's horn entering my breast would not make me turn my head when you smile upon another man. True, my manners are not gentle, for I have passed my life in contests with savage beasts, in slaying and exposing myself to be slain. I cannot be soft and simpering like those delicate young gentlemen who pass their time in reading the papers and having their hair curled! But if you will not be mine," resumed Juancho after a pause, striking the table violently with his fist, "at any rate no one else shall call you his." And with these words he got up and left the room. "I will find him!" he muttered, as he strode down the stairs, "and cool his courtship with three inches of steel."

All that night Juancho kept watch and ward in front of Militona's dwelling, in hopes of falling in with her new admirer. Militona learned this from old Aldonsa, who lived in the house, and she felt seriously alarmed lest the handsome cavalier who had been so courteous to her at the circus, and whom she could not remember without a certain interest, should come to harm at the hands of the terrible torero who thus tyrannised over her inclinations and scared away all aspirants to her favour. Juancho, meanwhile, steady in his resolve to exterminate his rival, had betaken himself, on coming off guard in the Calle del Povar, to a tailor's in the Calle Mayor, and there had exchanged his usual majo's dress for a suit of black and a round hat. Thus metamorphosed into a sober citizen, he passed the day and evening in the Prado, the most elegant coffee-houses, the theatres—in every place, in short, where he thought it likely he should meet the object of his anger. But nowhere could he find him, and that for the best of reasons. At the very hour that the torero purchased the disguise intended to facilitate his revenge, Don Andres, in the back shop of a clothes-dealer on the Rastro—the great Madrid market for second-hand articles of every description—donned the complete costume of a manolo, trusting it would aid him in his designs upon Militona. Equipped in a round jacket of snuff-coloured cloth, abundantly decorated with small buttons, in loose pantaloons, a silk sash, a dark cloak and velvet-trimmed hat, which garments, although not quite new, were not wanting in a certain elegance, and sat trimly upon his well-made person, Andres hurried to the Calle del Povar. He at once recognised the window described to him by Perico; a curtain was drawn before it on the inner side, and nothing indicated that the room had an occupant.

"Doubtless she is gone out," thought Andres, "and will return only when her day's work is finished. She must be a needle-woman, cigar-maker, embroideress, or something of that kind," and he walked on.

Militona had not gone out. She was cutting out a dress upon her little table. The occupation required no great mystery, but nevertheless her door was bolted, for fear probably of some sudden invasion on the part of Juancho, rendered doubly dangerous by the absence of Tia Aldonsa. As she worked, Militona's thoughts travelled faster than her needle. They ran upon the young man who had gazed at her the previous evening, at the circus, with so tender and ardent a gaze, and who had spoken a few words to her in a voice that still sounded pleasantly in her ear.

It was night, and Juancho, straitened and uncomfortable in his modern costume, and wearied with fruitless researches, paced the alleys of the Prado with hasty steps, looking every man in the face, but without discovering his rival. At the same hour, Andres, seated in an orchateria de chufas (orgeat-shop) nearly opposite Militona's house, quietly consumed a glass of iced lemonade. He had placed himself on picket there, with Perico for his vedette. Juancho would have passed him by without recognising him, or thinking of seeking his enemy under the round jacket and felt hat of a manolo, but Militona, concealed in the corner of her window, had not been deceived for an instant by the young man's disguise. Love has sharper eyes than hatred. Devoured by anxiety, the manola asked herself what could be the projects of the persevering cavalier, and dreaded the terrible scene that must ensue should Juancho discover him. Andres, his elbows upon the table, watched every one who went in or out of the house; but night came and Militona had not appeared. He began to doubt the correctness of his emissary's information, when a light in the young girl's window showed that the room was inhabited. Hastily writing a few words in pencil on a scrap of paper, he called Perico, who lingered in the neighbourhood, and bade him take the billet to the pretty manola. Perico slipped into the house, fumbled his way up stairs, and discovered Militona's door by the light shining through the cracks. Two discreet taps; the wicket was half opened, and the note taken in.

"It is to be hoped she can read," thought Andres, as he paid for his lemonade, left the shop, and walked slowly up and down the street. This was what he had written:—

"One who cannot forget you, and who would grieve to do so, ardently desires to see you again; but after your last words at the circus, and ignorant of your position, he fears to place you in peril by seeking an interview. Danger to himself would be no obstacle. Extinguish your lamp, and throw your answer from the window."

In a few minutes the lamp disappeared, the window opened, and Militona took in her water-jar. In so doing she upset one of the pots of sweet basil, which fell into the street and was broken to pieces. Amidst the brown earth scattered upon the pavement, something white was visible. It was Militona's answer. Andres called a sereno, or watchman, who just then passed, with his lantern at the end of his halbert, and begging him to lower the light, read the following words, written in a tremulous hand, and in large irregular letters:—

"Begone instantly.... I have no time to say more. To morrow, at ten o'clock, in the church of San Isidro. For Heaven's sake begone! your life is at stake."

"Thank you, my good man," said Andres, putting a real into the sereno's hand, "you may go."

The street was quite deserted, and Andres was walking slowly away, when the apparition of a man, wrapped in a cloak, beneath which the handle of a guitar formed an acute angle, excited his curiosity, and he stepped into the dark shadow of a low archway. The man threw back the folds of his cloak, brought his guitar forward, and began that monotonous thrumming which serves as accompaniment to serenades and seguidillas. The object of this prelude evidently was to awaken the lady in whose honour it was perpetrated; but Militona's window continued closed and dark; and at last the man, compelled to content himself with an invisible auditory,—in spite of the Spanish proverb, which says, no woman sleeps so soundly that the twang of a guitar will not bring her to the window,—began to sing in a strong Andalusian accent. The serenade consisted of a dozen verses, in which the singer celebrated the charms of a cruel mistress, vowed inextinguishable love, and denounced fearful vengeance upon all rivals. The menaces, however, were far more abundant, in this rude ditty, than the praises of beauty or protestations of affection.

"Caramba!" thought Andres, when the song concluded, "what ferocious poetry! Nothing tame about those couplets. Let us see if Militona is touched by the savage strain. This must be the terrible lover by whom she is so frightened. She might be alarmed at less."

Don Andres advanced his head a little; a moonbeam fell upon it, and Juancho's quick eye detected him. "Good!" said Andres to himself, "I am caught. Now then, cool and steady."

Juancho threw down his guitar, which resounded mournfully on the pavement, and ran up to Andres, whose face was now in the full moonlight, and whom he at once recognised.

"What do you here at this hour?" said the bull-fighter, in a voice that trembled with passion.

"I listen to your music; it is a refined amusement."

"If you listened, you heard that I allow no one to set foot in this street when I sing."

"I am naturally very disobedient," replied Andres, with perfect coolness.

"You will change your character to-day."

"Certainly not—I am attached to my habits."

"Defend yourself, then, or die!" cried Juancho, drawing his knife, and rolling his cloak round his arm. His movements were imitated by Andres, who placed himself on guard with a promptness that showed knowledge of the weapon, and somewhat surprised the bull-fighter. Andres had long practised the navaja under one of the best teachers in Seville, as at Paris one sees young men of fashion take lessons of savate and singlestick, reduced to mathematical principles by Lecourt and Boucher.

Juancho hovered about his adversary, advancing his left arm, protected by numerous folds of cloth, as a buckler, his right drawn back to give more swing and force to the blow; now stooping with knees bent, then rising up like a giant, and again sinking down like a dwarf; but the point of his knife was always met by the cloaked arm of Andres. Alternately retreating and suddenly and impetuously attacking, he sprang right and left, balancing his blade on his hand, as though about to hurl it at his foe. Andres replied several times to these varied attacks by such rapid and well-directed thrusts, that a less adroit combatant than Juancho would hardly have parried them. It was truly a fine fight, and worthy a circle of spectators learned in the art; but, unfortunately, the windows were all closed, and the street was empty. Academicians of San Lucar, of the Potro of Cordova, of the Albaycin of Granada, and of the barrio of Triana,[12] why were ye not there to witness the doughty deeds of those valiant champions?

The two champions, vigorous though they were, grew fatigued with such violent exertions; the sweat streamed from their temples, their breasts heaved like the bellows of a forge, their feet were heavier on the ground, their movements less elastic. Juancho felt the point of Andres' knife pierce his sleeve, and his rage redoubled; with a desperate bound, and at risk of his life, he sprang, like a panther, upon his enemy. Andres fell backwards, and, in his fall, burst open the imperfectly-fastened door of Militona's house, in front of which the duel occurred. Juancho walked quietly away. The sereno, who just then passed the end of the street, uttered his monotonous cry;—"Las once y media, y sereno."[13]

In an agony of anxiety, Militona had listened from her window to the noise of this conflict; she would have called for help, but her tongue clove to her palate, and terror compressed her throat with its iron fingers. At last, half frantic, and unconscious of what she did, she staggered downstairs, and reached the door just as it was forced open by the weight of Andres' inanimate body.

The next morning, soon after day-break, when the torero, in cloak and slouched hat, walked into the neighbourhood of the Plaza de Lavapies to hear what was said of the night's events, he learned, to his intense horror, that Andres, severely but not mortally wounded, had been conveyed to Militona's room, and placed in her bed, where he now lay, carefully tended by the manola, of whose humane and charitable conduct the gossips of the quarter were loud in praise. When Juancho heard this, his knees shook, and he was forced to support himself against the wall. His rival in the chamber, and on the bed, of Militona! He could scarcely refrain from rolling on the ground, and tearing his breast with his nails. Recovering himself, he entered the house and ascended the stairs with a heavy and sinister-sounding step. "In her chamber! In her chamber!" he muttered. And, as he spoke, he instinctively opened and shut his long Albacete knife. On reaching the top of the stairs, he knocked violently at the manola's door.

Andres started on his bed of suffering; Militona, who was seated near him, turned deadly pale, and rose to her feet as if impelled by springs. Tia Aldonsa looked horribly frightened, and devoutly crossed herself. The blow was so imperative as to command attention; a repetition of the summons would have forced the door from its hinges. With trembling hand Aldonsa opened the wicket, and beheld Juancho's face at the aperture. Medusa's mask, livid amidst its grim and snaky locks, could hardly have produced a more terrible effect upon the poor old woman. Speechless and petrified, she stood with fixed eyeballs, open mouth, and hands extended. True it was, that the torero's head, seen through the grating, had no very amiable and encouraging aspect; his eyes were injected with blood; his face was livid, and his cheek-bones, whence the usual ruddy tinge had fled, formed two white spots in his cadaverous countenance; his distended nostrils palpitated like those of ferocious beasts that had scent of a prey; his teeth were pressed upon his lip, which was swollen and bloody from the bite. Jealousy, fury, and revenge had set their stamp on his distorted features.

"Blessed Lady of Almudena!" muttered the old woman, "deliver us from this peril, and I promise you a wax taper with a velvet handle."

Courageous as he was, Andres experienced that uneasy feeling to which the bravest men are subject when exposed to a danger against which they are defenceless. He mechanically extended his hand to seek some weapon.

As nobody opened the door, Juancho applied his shoulder to it and gave a push; the planks cracked, and the plaster crumbled from round the lock and hinges. Then Militona, placing herself before Andres, said in a calm and firm voice to the old woman, who was half crazed with terror:

"Aldonsa, open the door; I insist upon it."

Aldonsa drew the bolt, and, standing close to the wall, pulled the door back upon her for protection, like a helot letting a tiger into the arena, or a servant admitting into the bull-ring some furious native of Gaviria or Colmenar. Juancho, who expected more resistance, entered slowly, as if disconcerted by the absence of obstacles. But a single glance at Andres, stretched in Militona's bed, brought back all his fury. He seized the door, to which Tia Aldonsa, who thought her last hour come, clung with all her might, and shutting it in spite of the poor old woman's efforts, placed his back against it and crossed his arms upon his breast.

"Angels of heaven!" muttered Aldonsa, her teeth chattering with terror, "he will murder us all three. I will call out of the window."

And she made a step in that direction. But Juancho, guessing her intention, seized her by the gown, and with a single jerk replaced her against the wall, her skirt half torn off.

"Hag!" he cried, "if you attempt to call out, I will twist your neck like a fowl's, and send your old soul to the devil. Come not between me and the object of my wrath, or I crush you on my path."

And he pointed to Andres, who, pale and feeble, in vain endeavoured to raise his head from the pillow. It was a horrible situation. No noise had been made that could alarm the neighbours, who, moreover, would have been more likely to lock themselves in their rooms for fear of Juancho, than to render assistance. There were no means of apprising the police, or obtaining succour from without. Poor Andres, severely wounded, weak from loss of blood, without arms, and unable to use them had he had any, lay at the mercy of a ruffian intoxicated with rage and jealousy. All this because he had ogled a pretty manola at a bull-fight. It is allowable to suppose that at that moment he regretted the tea-table, piano, and prosaic society of Dona Feliciana de los Rios. Nevertheless, on casting a supplicatory glance at Militona, as if to implore her not to risk her safety in his defence, he found her so marvellously lovely in her pallor and emotion, that he could not think her acquaintance dearly purchased even by this great peril. She stood erect, one hand on the edge of Andres' bed, whom she seemed resolved to protect, the other extended towards the door with a gesture of supreme majesty.

"What do you here, murderer?" she cried, in clear and thrilling tones. "You sought a lover; you find a wounded and helpless man. Begone! Fear you not lest the wound break out afresh at your presence? Are you not sick of bloodshed? Do you come as an assassin?"

The young girl accentuated the last word in so singular a manner, and accompanied it with so piercing and terrible a look, that Juancho was embarrassed, reddened, turned pale, and the ferocity of his countenance was exchanged for an expression of uneasiness. After a pause, he spoke in a choked and faltering voice.

"Swear, by the relics of Monte Sagrado, and by the image of the Virgin del Pilar, by your dead father, and your sainted mother, that you do not love this man, and I instantly depart."

Andres awaited Militona's reply with intense anxiety. She made none. Her long black lashes drooped over her cheek, which was suffused with a faint tinge of pink. Although this silence was perhaps his doom to death, Andres felt his heart leap with joy.

"If you will not swear," continued Juancho, "affirm it. I will believe you; you have never lied. But if you keep silence, I must kill him." And he approached the bed with uplifted knife.

"You love him?"

"Yes!" exclaimed the young girl, with flashing eyes and a voice trembling with passion and indignation. "I love him. If he dies on my account, let him know at least that he is beloved. Let him carry to his grave that word, his consolation and your torture."

With a bound, Juancho stood beside Militona, whose arm he rudely grasped.

"Do not repeat it," he exclaimed, "or I throw you, with my knife in your heart, upon the body of your minion."

"What care I!" cried the courageous girl. "Think you I will live, if he dies?"

Andres made a desperate effort to raise himself. He endeavoured to call out; a reddish foam rose to his lips—his wound had opened. He fell back senseless upon his pillow.

"If you do not depart," cried Militona to the torero, "I hold you vile, base, and a coward. I believe all that has been said of you; I believe that you could have saved Domingues when the bull knelt upon his breast, and that you would not, because you were meanly jealous of him."

"Militona! Militona! you have a right to hate me, although never did man love woman as I love you; but you have no right to despise me. No human power could save Domingues."

"If you would not have me think you an assassin, depart!"

"Yes, I will wait till he is cured," replied Juancho, in a gloomy tone.—"Take good care of him. I have sworn, that whilst I live, no man shall call you his."

During this stormy scene, old Aldonsa had slipped out to sound an alarm in the neighbourhood. Five or six men now rushed into the room, seized Juancho and dragged him out with them. But on the landing-place he shook them from him, as a bull shakes off a pack of dogs, and forcing his way through all opposition, reached the street and was lost to view in the maze of buildings that surrounds the Plaza de Lavapies.

The friends of Don Andres de Salcedo, uneasy at his disappearance, had already applied to the police to obtain news of his fate. Researches were made, and Argamasilla and Covachuelo, two of the most wily alguazils of the secret police, at last succeeded in ferreting out traces of the missing cavalier. Orders were given to arrest Juancho the bull-fighter, on a charge of assassination. But the Madrid police are not very celebrated for courage and decision, and the two thief-catchers above named, to whom the execution of the warrant was intrusted, proceeded on their mission with infinite delicacy, awed by the notorious strength and fierceness of the torero. Evil tongues were ready to assert that they took considerable pains not to meet with the man for whose capture they affected to be anxious. At last, however, a clumsy spy reported to them that the object of their timid researches had just entered the circus with as calm an air as if he had no crime upon his conscience, or fear of the arm of justice. Argamasilla and Covachuelo could no longer evade the performance of their duty, and were compelled to betake themselves to the place pointed out.

The unwelcome information was correct. Juancho had gone to the circus,—driven thither by the force of habit rather than by any interest in the sport that had once engrossed his thoughts and energies. Since the terrible scene in Militona's room had convinced him she loved another, his courage and energy seemed to have deserted him. He was morose, listless, and indifferent to every thing. Nevertheless he had instinctively wandered down to the bull-ring, to look at some remarkably fine beasts that had been brought to the stable for the next day's fight. He was still there, and was walking across the arena, when Argamasilla and Covachuelo arrived with a little squad of assistants, and Covachuelo, with infinite ceremony and courtesy, informed Juancho that he was under the painful necessity of conducting him to prison. Juancho shrugged his shoulders contemptuously and walked on. The alguazil made a sign, and two men laid hands upon the torero, who brushed them away as though they had been flies upon his sleeve. The whole band then precipitated themselves upon him; he struggled furiously, and knocked them about like nine-pins, but, sensible that he must at last be overpowered by numbers, he managed gradually to get near the toril,[14] and then, shaking off his assailants by a sudden effort, he opened the door, and took refuge in that dangerous asylum. His enemies endeavoured to follow him, but whilst they tried to force the door, it suddenly flew open, and a bull, hunted from his stall by Juancho, dashed with lowered horns and dreadful bellow amongst the terrified troop. The poor devils had but just time to climb the barriers, and one of them only escaped with a terrible rent in his lower garments.

This daring proceeding of the besieged greatly disconcerted the besiegers. Nevertheless they plucked up courage, and, after a while, ventured to return to the charge. This time two bulls rushed out, and as the police dispersed and got away with all the agility of fear, the wild animals, seeing no human foes, turned their wrath against each other, crossed their horns, and with muzzles in the dust of the circus, made furious efforts for mastery.

"Comrade," cried Covachuelo to Juancho, "we know the extent of your ammunition. You have still five bulls to let off; after that you will be compelled to surrender unconditionally. If you capitulate and come out at once, I will take you to prison with due regard for your feelings, without handcuffs, in a coach at your own expense, and will say nothing in my report of the resistance you have made, which would aggravate your case."

Juancho, careless about his liberty, ceased his defence, and gave himself up to Argamasilla and Covachuelo, who took him to prison with all the honours of war.

The torero's case was a bad one. The public prosecutor represented the nocturnal combat as an attempted assassination. Fortunately Andres, whom a good constitution and Militona's unremitting care speedily restored to health, interceded for him, representing the affair as a duel, fought with an unusual weapon certainly, but with one which he could accept, because he was acquainted with its management. The generous young man, happy in Militona's love, thought poor Juancho had suffered sufficiently on his account, without being sent to the galleys for a wound now perfectly healed. Andres held his present happiness cheaply bought at the price of a stab. And as a murder can hardly be very severely punished, when the victim is in perfect health and pleads for his assassin, the result of Salcedo's mediation, and of the interest he made, was the release of Juancho, who left his prison with the bitter regret of owing his liberty to the man he most hated upon earth, and from whom he would sooner have died than receive a favour.

"Unhappy wretch that I am!" he exclaimed, when he once more found himself unfettered and in sunshine. "Henceforward, I must hold this man's life sacred, or deserve the epithet of coward and villain. Oh! I would a thousand times have preferred the galleys! In ten years I should have returned and could have revenged myself."

From that day Juancho disappeared. It was said that he had been seen galloping on his famous black horse in the direction of Andalusia. Be that as it might, he was no more seen in Madrid.

The departure of the bull-fighter was shortly followed by the marriage of Andres and Militona, Andres having been released from his previous engagement with Dona Feliciana de los Rios, who had discovered, during his illness, that she had in fact very little affection for her betrothed husband, and had encouraged the attentions of a rich English traveller. The double marriage took place on the same day and in the same church. Militona had insisted on making her own wedding dress; it was a masterpiece, and seemed cut out of the leaves of a lily. It was so well made, that nobody remarked it. Feliciana's dress was extravagantly rich. When they came out of church, every body said of Feliciana, "What a lovely gown!" and, of Militona, "What a charming person!"

Two months had elapsed, and Don Andres de Salcedo and his lady lived in retirement at a delicious country villa near Granada. With good sense that equalled her beauty, Militona refused to mix in the society to which her marriage elevated her, until she should have repaired the deficiencies of an imperfect education. The departure of a friend for the Manillas, compelled her husband to visit Cadiz, and she accompanied him. They found the Gaditanos raving of a torero who performed prodigies of skill and courage. Such temerity had never before been witnessed. He gave out that he came from Lima in South America, and was then engaged at Puerto-de-Santa-Maria. Thither Andre's, who felt his old tauromachian ardour revive at the report of such prowess, persuaded his wife to accompany him, and at the appointed hour they took their places in a box at the circus. On all sides they heard praises of this famous torero. His incredible feats were in every body's mouth, and all declared that if he was not killed, he would very soon eclipse the fame of the great Montes himself.

The fight began, and the torero made his appearance. He was dressed in black; his vest, garnished with ornaments of silk and jet, had a sombre richness harmonizing with the wild and almost sinister countenance of its wearer; a yellow sash was twisted round his meagre person, which seemed composed solely of bone and muscle. His dark countenance was traversed by furrows, traced, as it seemed, rather by the hand of care than by lapse of years; for although youth had disappeared from his features, middle age had not yet set its stamp upon them. There was something in the face and figure of the man which Audres thought he remembered; but he could not call to mind when or where he had seen him. Militona, on the other hand, did not doubt for an instant. In spite of his small resemblance to his former self, she at once recognised Juancho.

The terrible change wrought in so short a time had something that alarmed her. It proved how terrible was the passion that had thus played havoc with this man of iron frame.

Hastily opening her fan to conceal her face, she said to Andres in a hurried voice:

"It is Juancho."

But her movement was too late; the torero had seen her; with his hand he waved a salutation.

"Juancho it really is!" cried Andres; "the poor fellow is sadly changed; he has grown ten years older. Ah! he is the new torero, of whom they talk so much: he has returned to the bull-ring."

"Let us go, Andres," said Militona to her husband. "I know not why, but I am very uneasy; I feel sure something will happen."

"What can happen," replied Andres, "except the death of horses and the fall of a few picadores?"

"I fear lest Juancho should commit some extravagance,—some furious act."

"You cannot forget that unlucky stab, or lucky one, I should rather call it, since to it I owe my present happiness." And Andres tenderly pressed the hand of his bride, to whose cheeks the blood that for an instant had left them, now began to return. "If you knew Latin—which you fortunately do not—I would tell you that the law of non bis in idem guarantees my safety. Besides the honest fellow has had time to calm himself."

Juancho performed prodigies. He behaved as if invulnerable; took bulls by the tail and made them waltz, put his foot between their horns and leaped over them, tore off the ribbons with which they were adorned, planted himself right in their path and harassed them with unparalleled audacity. The delighted spectators were outrageous in their applause, and swore that such a bull-fight had never been witnessed since the days of the Cid Campeador. The other bull-fighters, electrified by the example of their chief, seemed equally reckless of danger. The picadores advanced to the very centre of the circus, the banderillos drove their darts into the flanks of the bull without once missing. When any of them were hard pressed, Juancho was ever at hand, prompt to distract the attention of the furious beast, and draw its anger on himself. One of the chulos fell, and would have been ripped from navel to chin, had not Juancho, at risk of his life, forced the bull from its victim. Every thrust he gave was delivered with such skill and force that the sword entered exactly between the shoulders, and disappeared to the hilt. The bulls fell at his feet as though struck by lightning, and a second blow was never once required.

"Caramba!" exclaimed Andres, "Montes, the Chiclanero, Arjona, Labi, and the rest of them, had better take care; Juancho will excel them all, if he has not done so already."

But such exploits as these were not destined to be repeated; Juancho attained that day the highest sublimity of the art; he did things that will never be done again. Militona herself could not help applauding; Andres was wild with delight and admiration; the delirium was at its height; frantic acclamations greeted every movement of Juancho.

The sixth bull was let into the arena.

Then an extraordinary and unheard-of thing occurred: Juancho, after playing the bull and manoeuvring his cloak with consummate dexterity, took his sword, and, instead of plunging it into the animal's neck, as was expected, hurled it from him with such force, that it turned over and over in the air, and stuck deep in the ground at the other end of the circus.

"What is he about," was shouted on all sides. "This is madness—not courage! What new scheme is this? Will he kill the bull with his bare hands?"

Juancho cast one look at Militona—one ineffable look of love and suffering. Then he remained motionless before the bull. The beast lowered its head. One of its horns entered the breast of the man, and came out red to the very root. A shriek of horror from a thousand voices rent the sky.

Militona fell back upon her chair in a deathlike swoon.


[11] Sombra por la tarde,—"shade for the afternoon." The tickets for the bull-fight vary in value according as they are for the sunny or shady side of the arena.

[12] Places of bad fame in the respective towns, frequented by thieves and suspicious characters.

[13] "Half-past eleven, and a fine night."

[14] The stable where the bulls are kept.




"Hallo, Tom! Are you not up yet? Why, man, the judges have gone down to the court half an hour ago, escorted by the most ragged regiment of ruffians that ever handled a Lochaber-axe."

Such was my matutinal salutation to my friend Thomas Strachan, as I entered his room on a splendid spring morning. Tom and I were early college allies. We had attended, or rather, to speak more correctly, taken out tickets for the different law classes during the same sessions. We had fulminated together within the walls of the Juridical Society on legal topics which might have broken the heart of Erskine, and rewarded ourselves diligently thereafter with the usual relaxations of a crab and a comfortable tumbler. We had aggravated the same grinder with our deplorable exposition of the Pandects, and finally assumed, on the same day, the full-blown honours of the Advocate's wig and gown. Nor did our fraternal parallel end there: for although we had walked the boards of the Parliament House with praiseworthy diligence for a couple of sessions, neither of us had experienced the dulcet sensation which is communicated to the palm by the contact of the first professional guinea. In vain did we attempt to insinuate ourselves into the good graces of the agents, and coin our intellects into such jocular remarks, as are supposed to find most favour in the eyes of facetious practitioners. In vain did I carry about with me, for a whole week, an artificial process most skilfully made up; and in vain did Tom compound and circulate a delectable ditty, entitled, "The Song of the Multiplepoinding." Not a single solicitor would listen to our wooing, or even intrust us with the task of making the simplest motion. I believe they thought me too fast, and Tom too much of a genius: and, therefore, both of us were left among the ranks of the briefless army of the stove. This would not do. Our souls burned within us with a noble thirst for legal fame and fees. We held a consultation (without an agent) at the Rainbow, and finally determined that since Edinburgh would not hear us, Jedburgh should have the privilege of monopolising our maiden eloquence at the ensuing justiciary circuit. Jedburgh presents a capital field to the ambition of a youthful advocate. Very few counsel go that way; the cases are usually trifling, and the juries easily bamboozled. It has besides this immense advantage—that should you by any accident happen to break down, nobody will in all probability be the wiser for it, provided you have the good sense to ingratiate yourself with the circuit-clerk.

Tom and I arrived at Jedburgh the afternoon before the circuit began. I was not acquainted with a human being within the parliamentary boundaries of that respectable borough, and therefore experienced but a slight spasm of disappointment when informed by the waiter at the inn, that no inquiries had yet been made after me, on the part of writers desirous of professional assistance. Strachan had been wiser. Somehow or other, he had gotten a letter of introduction to one Bailie Beerie, a notable civic dignitary of the place; and accordingly, on presenting his credentials, was invited by that functionary to dinner, with a hint that he "might maybe see a wheen real leddies in the evening." This pointed so plainly to a white choker and dress boots, that Strachan durst not take the liberty of volunteering the attendance of his friend; and accordingly I had been left alone to wile away, as I best might, the tedium of a sluggish evening. Before starting, however, Tom pledged himself to return in time for supper; as he entertained a painful conviction that the party would be excessively slow.

So long as it was light, I amused myself pretty well, by strolling along the banks of the river, and enunciating a splendid speech for the pannel in an imaginary case of murder. However, before I reached the peroration, (which was to consist of a vivid picture of the deathbed of a despairing jury-man, conscience-stricken by the recollection of an erroneous verdict,) the shades of evening began to close in; the trouts ceased to leap in the pool, and the rooks desisted from their cawing. I returned to discuss my solitary mutton at the inn; and then, having nothing to do, sat down to a moderate libation, and an odd number of the Temperance Magazine, which valuable tract had been left for the reformation of the traveller by some peripatetic disciple of Father Mathew.

Nine o'clock came, but so did not Strachan. I began to wax wroth, muttered anathemas against my faithless friend, rang for the waiter, and—having ascertained the fact that a Masonic Lodge was that evening engaged in celebrating the festival of its peculiar patron—I set out for the purpose of assisting in the pious and mystic labours of the Brethren of the Jedburgh St Jeremy. At twelve, when I returned to my quarters, escorted by the junior deacon, I was informed that Strachan had not made his appearance, and accordingly I went to bed.

Next morning, I found Tom, as already mentioned, in his couch. There was a fine air of negligence in the manner in which his habiliments were scattered over the room. One glazed boot lay within the fender, whilst the other had been chucked into a coal-scuttle; and there were evident marks of mud on the surface of his glossy kerseymeres. Strachan himself looked excessively pale, and the sole rejoinder he made to my preliminary remark was, a request for soda-water.

"Tom," said I, inexpressibly shocked at the implied confession of the nature of his vespers—"I wonder you are not ashamed of yourself! Have you no higher regard for the dignity of the bar you represent, than to expose yourself before a Jedburgh Bailie?"

"Dignity be hanged!" replied the incorrigible Strachan. "Bailie Beerie is a brick, and I won't hear a word against him. But, O Fred! if you only knew what you missed last night! Such a splendid woman—by Jove, sir, a thoroughbred angel. A bust like one of Titian's beauties, and the voice of a lovelorn nightingale!"

"One of the Misses Beerie, I presume. Come, Tom, I think I can fill up your portrait. Hair of the auburn complexion, slightly running into the carrot—skin fair, but freckled—greenish eyes—red elbows—culpable ankles—elephantine waist—and sentiments savouring of the Secession."

"Ring the bell for the waiter, and hold your impious tongue. You never were farther from the mark in your life. The wing of the raven is not more glossy than her hair—and oh, the depth and melting lustre of those dark unfathomable eyes! Waiter! a bottle of soda-water, and you may put in a thimbleful of cognac."

"Come, Tom!—none of your ravings. Is this an actual Armida, or a new freak of your own imagination?"

"Bona fide—an angel in every thing, barring the wings."

"Then how the deuce did such a phenomenon happen to emerge at the Bailie's?"

"That's the very question I was asking myself during the whole time of dinner. She was clearly not a Scotswoman. When she spoke, it was in the sweet low accents of a southern clime, and she waved away the proffered haggis with an air of the prettiest disgust!"

"But the Bailie knew her?"

"Of course he did. I got the whole story out of him after dinner, and, upon my honour, I think it is the most romantic one I have ever heard. About a week ago, the lady arrived here without attendants. Some say she came in the mail-coach—others in a dark travelling chariot and pair. However, what matters it? the jewel can derive no lustre or value from the casket!"

"Yes—but one always likes to have some kind of idea of the setting. Get on."

"She seemed in great distress, and inquired whether there were any letters at the post-office addressed to the Honourable Dorothea Percy. No such epistle was to be found. She then interrogated the landlord, whether an elderly lady, whose appearance she minutely described, had been seen in the neighbourhood of Jedburgh; but except old Mrs Slammingham of Summertrees, who has been bed-ridden for years, there was nobody in the county who at all answered to the description. On hearing this, the lady seemed profoundly agitated—shut herself up in a private parlour, and refused all sustenance."

"Had she not a reticule with sandwiches, Tom?"

"Do not tempt me to commit justifiable homicide—you see I am in the act of shaving.—At last the landlady, who is a most respectable person, and who felt deeply interested at the desolate situation of the poor young lady, ventured to solicit an interview. She was admitted. There are moments when the sympathy of even the humblest friend is precious. Miss Percy felt grateful for the interest so displayed, and confided the tale of her griefs to the matronly bosom of the hostess."

"And she told you?

"No,—but she told Bailie Beerie. That active magistrate thought it his duty to interfere. He waited upon Miss Percy, and from her lips he gathered the full particulars of her history. Percy is not her real name, but she is the daughter of an English peer of very ancient family. Her father having married a second time, Dorothea was exposed to the persecutions of a low-minded vulgar woman, whose whole ideas were of that mean and mercenary description which characterise the Caucasian race. Naomi Shekles was the offspring of a Jew, and she hated, whilst she envied, the superior charms of the noble Norman maiden. But she had gained an enormous supremacy over the wavering intellect of the elderly Viscount; and Dorothea was commanded to receive, with submission, the addressses of a loathsome apostate, who had made a prodigious fortune in the railways."

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse