Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Kevin Handy, John Hagerson and the Online Distributed
IN THE PALACE OF THE KING
A LOVE STORY OF OLD MADRID
F. MARION CRAWFORD
To my old friend
GEORGE P. BRETT
New York, October, 1906
* * * * *
Two young girls sat in a high though very narrow room of the old Moorish
palace to which King Philip the Second had brought his court when he
finally made Madrid his capital. It was in the month of November, in the
afternoon, and the light was cold and grey, for the two tall windows
looked due north, and a fine rain had been falling all the morning. The
stones in the court were drying now, in patches, but the sky was like a
smooth vault of cast lead, closing over the city that lay to the
northward, dark, wet and still, as if its life had shrunk down under
ground, away from the bitter air and the penetrating damp.
The room was scantily furnished, but the few objects it contained, the
carved table, the high-backed chairs and the chiselled bronze brazier,
bore the stamp of the time when art had not long been born again. On the
walls there were broad tapestries of bold design, showing green forests
populated by all sorts of animals in stiff attitudes, staring at one
another in perpetual surprise. Below the tapestry a carved walnut
wainscoting went round the room, and the door was panelled and flanked
by fluted doorposts of the same dark wood, on which rested corbels
fashioned into curling acanthus leaves, to hold up the cornice, which
itself made a high shelf over the door. Three painted Italian vases,
filled with last summer's rose leaves and carefully sealed lest the
faint perfume should be lost, stood symmetrically on this projection,
their contents slowly ripening for future use. The heap of white ashes,
under which the wood coals were still alive in the big brazier, diffused
a little warmth through the chilly room.
The two girls were sitting at opposite ends of the table. The one held a
long goose-quill pen, and before her lay several large sheets of paper
covered with fine writing. Her eyes followed the lines slowly, and from
time to time she made a correction in the manuscript. As she read, her
lips moved to form words, but she made no sound. Now and then a faint
smile lent singular beauty to her face, and there was more light in her
eyes, too; then it disappeared again, and she read on, carefully and
intently, as if her soul were in the work.
She was very fair, as Spaniards sometimes are still, and were more often
in those days, with golden hair and deep grey eyes; she had the high
features, the smooth white throat, and the finely modelled ears that
were the outward signs of the lordly Gothic race. When she was not
smiling, her face was sad, and sometimes the delicate colour left her
clear cheek and she grew softly pale, till she seemed almost delicate.
Then the sensitive nostrils quivered almost imperceptibly, and the
curving lips met closely as if to keep a secret; but that look came
seldom, and for the most part her eyes were quiet and her mouth was
kind. It was a face that expressed devotion, womanly courage, and
sensitiveness rather than an active and dominating energy. The girl was
indeed a full-grown woman, more than twenty years of age, but the early
bloom of girlhood was on her still, and if there was a little sadness in
the eyes, a man could guess well enough that it rose from the heart, and
had but one simple source, which was neither a sudden grief nor a
long-hidden sorrow, but only youth's one secret--love. Maria Dolores de
Mendoza knew all of fear for the man she loved, that any woman could
know, and much of the hope that is love's early life; but she knew
neither the grief, nor the disappointment, nor the shame for another,
nor for herself, nor any of the bitterness that love may bring. She did
not believe that such things could be wrung from hearts that were true
and faithful; and in that she was right. The man to whom she had given
her heart and soul and hope had given her his, and if she feared for
him, it was not lest he should forget her or his own honour. He was a
man among men, good and true; but he was a soldier, and a leader, who
daily threw his life to the battle, as Douglas threw the casket that
held the Bruce's heart into the thick of the fight, to win it back, or
die. The man she loved was Don John of Austria, the son of the great
dead Emperor Charles the Fifth, the uncle of dead Don Carlos and the
half brother of King Philip of Spain--the man who won glory by land and
sea, who won back Granada a second time from the Moors, as bravely as
his great grandfather Ferdinand had won it, but less cruelly, who won
Lepanto, his brother's hatred and a death by poison, the foulest stain
in Spanish history.
It was November now, and it had been June of the preceding year when he
had ridden away from Madrid to put down the Moriscoes, who had risen
savagely against the hard Spanish rule. He had left Dolores de Mendoza
an hour before he mounted, in the freshness of the early summer morning,
where they had met many a time, on a lonely terrace above the King's
apartments. There were roses there, growing almost wild in great earthen
jars, where some Moorish woman had planted them in older days, and
Dolores could go there unseen with her blind sister, who helped her
faithfully, on pretence of taking the poor girl thither to breathe the
sweet quiet air. For Inez was painfully sensitive of her affliction, and
suffered, besides blindness, all that an over-sensitive and imaginative
being can feel.
She was quite blind, with no memory of light, though she had been born
seeing, as other children. A scarlet fever had destroyed her sight.
Motherless from her birth, her father often absent in long campaigns,
she had been at the mercy of a heartless nurse, who had loved the fair
little Dolores and had secretly tormented the younger child, as soon as
she was able to understand, bringing her up to believe that she was so
repulsively ugly as to be almost a monster. Later, when the nurse was
gone, and Dolores was a little older, the latter had done all she could
to heal the cruel wound and to make her sister know that she had soft
dark hair, a sad and gentle face, with eyes that were quite closed, and
a delicate mouth that had a little half painful, half pathetic way of
twitching when anything hurt her,--for she was easily hurt. Very pale
always, she turned her face more upwards than do people who have sight,
and being of good average woman's height and very slender and finely
made, this gave her carriage an air of dignity that seemed almost pride
when she was offended or wounded. But the first hurt had been deep and
lasting, and she could never quite believe that she was not offensive to
the eyes of those who saw her, still less that she was sometimes almost
beautiful in a shadowy, spiritual way. The blind, of all their
sufferings, often feel most keenly the impossibility of knowing whether
the truth is told them about their own looks; and he who will try and
realize what it is to have been always sightless will understand that
this is not vanity, but rather a sort of diffidence towards which all
people should be very kind. Of all necessities of this world, of all
blessings, of all guides to truth, God made light first. There are many
sharp pains, many terrible sufferings and sorrows in life that come and
wrench body and soul, and pass at last either into alleviation or
recovery, or into the rest of death; but of those that abide a lifetime
and do not take life itself, the worst is hopeless darkness. We call
ignorance 'blindness,' and rage 'blindness,' and we say a man is 'blind'
Inez sat opposite her sister, at the other end of the table, listening.
She knew what Dolores was doing, how during long months her sister had
written a letter, from time to time, in little fragments, to give to the
man she loved, to slip into his hand at the first brief meeting or to
drop at his feet in her glove, or even, perhaps, to pass to him by the
blind girl's quick fingers. For Inez helped the lovers always, and Don
John was very gentle with her, talking with her when he could, and even
leading her sometimes when she was in a room she did not know. Dolores
knew that she could only hope to exchange a word with him when he came
back, and that the terrace was bleak and wet now, and the roses
withered, and that her father feared for her, and might do some
desperate thing if he found her lover talking with her where no one
could see or hear. For old Mendoza knew the world and the court, and he
foresaw that sooner or later some royal marriage would be made for Don
John of Austria, and that even if Dolores were married to him, some
tortuous means would be found to annul her marriage, whereby a great
shame would darken his house. Moreover, he was the King's man, devoted
to Philip body and soul, as his sovereign, ready to give his life ten
times for his sovereign's word, and thinking it treason to doubt a royal
thought or motive. He was a rigid old man, a Spaniard of Spain's great
days, fearless, proud, intolerant, making Spain's honour his idol,
capable of gentleness only to his children, and loving them dearly, but
with that sort of severity and hardness in all questions where his
authority was concerned which can make a father's true affection the
most intolerable burden to a girl of heart, and which, where a son is
its object, leads sooner or later to fierce quarrels and lifelong
estrangement. And so it had happened now. For the two girls had a
brother much older than they, Rodrigo; and he had borne to be treated
like a boy until he could bear no more, and then he had left his
father's house in anger to find out his own fortune in the world, as
many did in his day,--a poor gentleman seeking distinction in an army of
men as brave as himself, and as keen to win honour on every field. Then,
as if to oppose his father in everything, he had attached himself to Don
John, and was spoken of as the latter's friend, and Mendoza feared lest
his son should help Don John to a marriage with Dolores. But in this he
was mistaken, for Rodrigo was as keen, as much a Spaniard, and as much
devoted to the honour of his name as his father could be; and though he
looked upon Don John as the very ideal of what a soldier and a prince
should be, he would have cut off his own right hand rather than let it
give his leader the letter Dolores had been writing so long; and she
knew this and feared her brother, and tried to keep her secret from him.
Inez knew all, and she also was afraid of Rodrigo and of her father,
both for her sister's sake and her own. So, in that divided house, the
father was against the son, and the daughters were allied against them
both, not in hatred, but in terror and because of Dolores' great love
for Don John of Austria.
As they sat at the table it began to rain again, and the big drops beat
against the windows furiously for a few minutes. The panes were round
and heavy, and of a greenish yellow colour, made of blown glass, each
with a sort of knob in the middle, where the iron blowpipe had been
separated from the hot mass. It was impossible to see through them at
all distinctly, and when the sky was dark with rain they admitted only a
lurid glare into the room, which grew cold and colourless again when the
rain ceased. Inez had been sitting motionless a long time, her elbow on
the table, her chin resting upon her loosely clasped white hands, her
blind face turned upward, listening to the turning of the pages and to
the occasional scratching of her sister's pen. She sighed, moved, and
let her hands fall upon the table before her in a helpless, half
despairing way, as she leaned back in the big carved chair. Dolores
looked up at once, for she was used to helping her sister in her
slightest needs and to giving her a ready sympathy in every mood.
"What is it?" she asked quickly. "Do you want anything, dear?"
"Have you almost finished?"
The girl's voice would almost have told that she was blind. It was sweet
and low, but it lacked life; though not weak, it was uncertain in
strength and full of a longing that could never be satisfied, but that
often seemed to come within possible reach of satisfaction. There was in
the tones, too, the perpetual doubt of one from whom anything might be
hidden by silence, or by the least tarn of words. Every passing hope and
fear, and every pleasure and pain, were translated into sound by its
quick changes. It trusted but could not always quite promise to believe;
it swelled and sank as the sensitive heart beat faster or slower. It
came from a world without light, in which only sound had meaning, and
only touch was certainty.
"Yes," answered Dolores. "I have almost finished--there is only half a
page more to read over."
"And why do you read it over?" asked Inez. "Do you change what you have
written? Do you not think now exactly as you did when you wrote?"
"No; I feel a great deal more--I want better words! And then it all
seems so little, and so badly written, and I want to say things that no
one ever said before, many, many things. He will laugh--no, not that!
How could he? But my letter will seem childish to him. I know it will. I
wish I had never written it I Do you think I had better give it to him,
"How can I tell?" asked Inez hopelessly. "You have never read it to me.
I do not know what you have said to him."
"I have said that I love him as no man was ever loved before," answered
Dolores, and the true words seemed to thrill with a life of their own as
she spoke them.
Then she was silent for a moment, and looked down at the written pages
without seeing them. Inez did not move, and seemed hardly to breathe.
Then Dolores spoke again, pressing both her hands upon the paper before
"I have told him that I love him, and shall love him for ever and ever,"
she said; "that I will live for him, die for him, suffer for him, serve
him! I have told him all that and much more."
"More? That is much already. But he loves you, too. There is nothing you
can promise which he will not promise, and keep, too, I think. But more!
What more can you have said than that?"
"There is nothing I would not say if I could find words!"
There was a fullness of life in her voice which, to the other's
uncertain tones, was as sunshine to moonlight.
"You will find words when you see him this evening," said Inez slowly.
"And they will be better than anything you can write. Am I to give him
Dolores looked at her sister quickly, for there was a little constraint
in the accent of the last phrase.
"I do not know," she answered. "How can I tell what may happen, or how I
shall see him first?"
"You will see him from the window presently. I can hear the guards
forming already to meet him--and you--you will be able to see him from
Inez had stopped and had finished her speech, as if something had choked
her. She turned sideways in her chair when she had spoken, as if to
listen better, for she was seated with her back to the light.
"I will tell you everything," said Maria Dolores softly. "It will be
almost as if you could see him, too."
Inez spoke the one word and broke off abruptly, and rose from her chair.
In the familiar room she moved almost as securely as if she could see.
She went to the window and listened. Dolores came and stood beside her.
"What is it, dear?" she asked. "What is the matter? What has hurt you?
"Nothing," answered the blind girl, "nothing, dear. I was thinking--how
lonely I shall be when you and he are married, and they send me to a
convent, or to our dismal old house in Valladolid."
A faint colour came into her pale face, and feeling it she turned away
from Dolores; for she was not speaking the truth, or at least not half
of it all.
"I will not let you go!" answered Dolores, putting one arm round her
sister's waist. "They shall never take you from me. And if in many years
from now we are married, you shall always be with us, and I will always
take care of you as I do now."
Inez sighed and pressed her forehead and blind eyes to the cold window,
almost withdrawing herself from the pressure of Dolores' arm. Down below
there was tramping of heavy feet, as the companies of foot guards took
their places, marching across the broad space, in their wrought steel
caps and breastplates, carrying their tasselled halberds on their
shoulders. An officer's voice gave sharp commands. The gust that had
brought the rain had passed by, and a drizzling mist, caused by a sudden
chill, now completely obscured the window.
"Can you see anything?" asked Inez suddenly, in a low voice. "I think I
hear trumpets far away."
"I cannot see--there is mist on the glass, too. Do you hear the trumpets
"I think I do. Yes--I hear them clearly now." She stopped. "He is
coming," she added under her breath.
Dolores listened, but she had not the almost supernatural hearing of the
blind, and could distinguish nothing but the tramping of the soldiers
below, and her sister's irregular breathing beside her, as Inez held her
breath again and again in order to catch the very faint and distant
"Open the window," she said almost sharply, "I know I hear the
Her delicate fingers felt for the bolts with almost feverish anxiety.
Dolores helped her and opened the window wide. A strain of distant
clarions sounding a triumphant march came floating across the wet city.
Dolores started, and her face grew radiant, while her fresh lips opened
a little as if to drink in the sound with the wintry air. Beside her,
Inez grew slowly pale and held herself by the edge of the window frame,
gripping it hard, and neither of the two girls felt any sensation of
cold. Dolores' grey eyes grew wide and bright as she gazed fixedly
towards the city where the avenue that led to the palace began, but
Inez, bending a little, turned her ear in the same direction, as if she
could not bear to lose a single note of the music that told her how Don
John of Austria had come home in triumph, safe and whole, from his long
campaign in the south.
Slowly it came nearer, strain upon strain, each more clear and loud and
full of rejoicing. At first only the high-pitched clarions had sent
their call to the window, but now the less shrill trumpets made rich
harmonies to the melody, and the deep bass horns gave the marching time
to the rest, in short full blasts that set the whole air shaking as with
little peak of thunder. Below, the mounted officers gave orders,
exchanged short phrases, cantered to their places, and came back again a
moment later to make some final arrangement--their splendid gold-inlaid
corslets and the rich caparisons of their horses looking like great
pieces of jewelry that moved hither and thither in the thin grey mist,
while the dark red and yellow uniforms of the household guards
surrounded the square on three sides with broad bands of colour. Dolores
could see her father, who commanded them and to whom the officers came
for orders, sitting motionless and erect on his big black horse--a stern
figure, with close-cut grey beard, clad all in black saving his heavily
gilded breastplate and the silk sash he wore across it from shoulder to
sword knot. She shrank back a little, for she would not have let him see
her looking down from an upper window to welcome the returning visitor.
"What is it? Do you see him? Is he there?" Inez asked the questions in a
breath, as she heard her sister move.
"No--our father is below on his horse. He must not see us." And she
moved further into the embrasure.
"You will not be able to see," said Inez anxiously. "How can you tell
me--I mean, how can you see, where you are?"
Dolores laughed softly, but her laugh trembled with the happiness that
was coming so soon.
"Oh, I see very well," she answered. "The window is wide open, you
Inez leaned back against the wall beside the window, letting her hand
drop in a hopeless gesture. The sample answer had hurt her, who could
never see, by its mere thoughtlessness and by the joy that made her
sister's voice quaver. The music grew louder and louder, and now there
came with it the sound of a great multitude, cheering, singing the march
with the trumpets, shouting for Don John; and all at once as the throng
burst from the street to the open avenue the voices drowned the clarions
for a moment, and a vast cry of triumph filled the whole air.
"He is there! He is there!" repeated Inez, leaning towards the window
and feeling for the stone sill.
But Dolores could not hear for the shouting. The clouds had lifted to
the westward and northward; and as the afternoon sun sank lower they
broke away, and the level rays drank up the gloom of the wintry day in
an instant. Dolores stood motionless before the window, undazzled, like
a statue of ivory and gold in a stone niche. With the light, as the
advancing procession sent the people before it, the trumpets rang high
and clear again, and the bright breastplates of the trumpeters gleamed
like dancing fire before the lofty standard that swayed with the slow
pace of its bearer's horse. Brighter and nearer came the colours, the
blazing armour, the standard, the gorgeous procession of victorious
men-at-arms; louder and louder blew the trumpets, higher and higher the
clouds were lifted from the lowering sun. Half the people of Madrid went
before, the rest flocked behind, all cheering or singing or shouting.
The stream of colour and light became a river, the river a flood, and in
the high tide of a young victor's glory Don John of Austria rode onward
to the palace gate. The mounted trumpeters parted to each side before
him, and the standard-bearer ranged his horse to the left, opposite the
banner of the King, which held the right, and Don John, on a grey Arab
mare, stood out alone at the head of his men, saluting his royal brother
with lowered sword and bent head. A final blast from the trumpets
sounded full and high, and again and again the shout of the great throng
went up like thunder and echoed from the palace walls, as King Philip,
in his balcony above the gate, returned the salute with his hand, and
bent a little forward over the stone railing.
Dolores de Mendoza forgot her father and all that he might say, and
stood at the open window, looking down. She had dreamed of this moment;
she had seen visions of it in the daytime; she had told herself again
and again what it would be, how it must be; but the reality was beyond
her dreams and her visions and her imaginings, for she had to the full
what few women have in any century, and what few have ever had in the
blush of maidenhood,--the sight of the man she loved, and who loved her
with all his heart, coming home in triumph from a hard-fought war,
himself the leader and the victor, himself in youth's first spring, the
young idol of a warlike nation, and the centre of military glory.
When he had saluted the King he sat still a moment on his horse and
looked upward, as if unconsciously drawn by the eyes that, of all
others, welcomed him at that moment; and his own met them instantly and
smiled, though his face betrayed nothing. But old Mendoza, motionless in
his saddle, followed the look, and saw; and although he would have
praised the young leader with the best of his friends, and would have
fought under him and for him as well as the bravest, yet at that moment
he would gladly have seen Don John of Austria fall dead from his horse
before his eyes.
Don John dismounted without haste, and advanced to the gate as the King
disappeared from the balcony above. He was of very graceful figure and
bearing, not short, but looking taller than he really was by the
perfection of his proportions. The short reddish brown hair grew close
and curling on his small head, but left the forehead high, while it set
off the clear skin and the mobile features. A very small moustache
shaded his lip without hiding the boyish mouth, and at that time he wore
no beard. The lips, indeed, smiled often, and the expression of the
mouth was rather careless and good-humoured than strong. The strength of
the face was in the clean-cut jaw, while its real expression was in the
deep-set, fiery blue eyes, that could turn angry and fierce at one
moment, and tender as a woman's the next.
He wore without exaggeration the military dress of his time,--a
beautifully chiselled corslet inlaid with gold, black velvet sleeves,
loose breeches of velvet and silk, so short that they did not descend
half way to the knees, while his legs were covered by tight hose and
leather boots, made like gaiters to clasp from the knee to the ankle and
heel. Over his shoulder hung a short embroidered cloak, and his head
covering was a broad velvet cap, in which were fastened the black and
yellow plumes of the House of Austria.
As he came near to the gate, many friends moved forward to greet him,
and he gave his hand to all, with a frank smile and words of greeting.
But old Mendoza did not dismount nor move his horse a step nearer. Don
John, looking round before he went in, saw the grim face, and waved his
hand to Dolores' father; but the old man pretended that he saw nothing,
and made no answering gesture. Some one in the crowd of courtiers
laughed lightly. Old Mendoza's face never changed; but his knees must
have pressed the saddle suddenly, for his black horse stirred uneasily,
and tried to rear a little. Don John stopped short, and his eyes
hardened and grew very light before the smile could fade from his lips,
while he tried to find the face of the man whose laugh he had heard. But
that was impossible, and his look was grave and stern as he went in
under the great gate, the multitude cheering after him.
From her high window Dolores had seen and heard also, for she had
followed every movement he made and every change of his expression, and
had faithfully told her sister what she saw, until the laugh came, short
and light, but cutting. And Inez heard that, too, for she was leaning
far forward upon the broad stone sill to listen for the sound of Don
John's voice. She drew back with a springing movement, and a sort of cry
"Some one is laughing at me!" she cried. "Some one is laughing because I
am trying to see!"
Instantly Dolores drew her sister to her, kissing her tenderly, and
soothing her as one does a frightened child.
"No, dear, no! It was not that--I saw what it was. Nobody was looking at
you, my darling. Do you know why some one laughed? It hurt me, too. He
smiled and waved his hand to our father, who took no notice of him. The
laugh was for that--and for me, because the man knew well enough that
our father does not mean that we shall ever marry. Do you see, dear? It
was not meant for you."
"Did he really look up at us when you said so?" asked Inez, in a
"Who? The man who laughed?"
"No. I mean--"
"Don John? Yes. He looked up to us and smiled--as he often does at
me--with his eyes only, while his face was quite grave. He is not
changed at all, except that he looks more determined, and handsomer, and
braver, and stronger than ever! He does each time I see him!"
But Inez was not listening.
"That was worth living for--worth being blind for," she said suddenly,
"to hear the people shout and cheer for him as he came along. You who
can see it all do not understand what the sound means to me. For a
moment--only for a moment--I saw light--I know I saw a bright light
before my eyes. I am not dreaming. It made my heart beat, and it made my
head dizzy. It must have been light. Do you think it could be, Dolores?"
"I do not know, dear," answered the other gently.
But as the day faded and they sat together in the early dusk, Dolores
looked long and thoughtfully at the blind face. Inez loved Don John,
though she did not know it, and without knowing it she had told her
* * * * *
When Don John had disappeared within the palace the people lingered a
little while, hoping that something might happen which would be worth
seeing, and then, murmuring a little in perfectly unreasonable
disappointment, they slowly dispersed. After that old Mendoza gave his
orders to the officers of the guards, the men tramped away, one
detachment after another, in a regular order; the cavalry that had
ridden up with Don John wheeled at a signal from the trumpets, and began
to ride slowly back to the city, pressing hard upon the multitude, and
before it was quite dark the square before the palace was deserted
again. The sky had cleared, the pavement was dry again, and the full
moon was rising. Two tall sentinels with halberds paced silently up and
down in the shadow.
Dolores and her sister were still sitting in the dark when the door
opened, and a grey-haired servant in red and yellow entered the room,
bearing two lighted wax candles in heavy bronze candlesticks, which he
set upon the table. A moment later he was followed by old Mendoza, still
in his breastplate, as he had dismounted, his great spurs jingling on
his heavy boots, and his long basket-hilted sword trailing on the marble
pavement. He was bareheaded now, and his short hair, smooth and
grizzled, covered his energetic head like a close-fitting skull cap of
iron-grey velvet. He stood still before the table, his bony right hand
resting upon it and holding both his long gloves. The candlelight shone
upward into his dark face, and gleamed yellow in his angry eyes.
Both the girls rose instinctively as their father entered; but they
stood close together, their hands still linked as if to defend each
other from a common enemy, though the hard man would have given his life
for either of them at any moment since they had come into the world.
They knew it, and trembled.
"You have made me the laughing-stock of the court," he began slowly, and
his voice shook with anger. "What have you to say in your defence?"
He was speaking to Dolores, and she turned a little pale. There was
something so cruelly hard in his tone and bearing that she drew back a
little, not exactly in bodily fear, but as a brave man may draw back a
step when another suddenly draws a weapon upon him. Instantly Inez moved
forward, raising one white hand in protest, and turning her blind face
to her father's gleaming eyes.
"I am not speaking to you," he said roughly, "but you," he went on,
addressing Dolores, and the heavy table shook under his hand. "What
devil possessed you that you should shame me and yourself, standing at
your window to smile at Don John, as if he were the Espadero at a bull
fight and you the beauty of the ring--with all Madrid there to look on,
from his Majesty the King to the beggar in the road? Have you no
modesty, no shame, no blood that can blush? And if not, have you not
even so much woman's sense as should tell you that you are ruining your
name and mine before the whole world?"
"Father! For the sake of heaven do not say such words--you must not! You
Dolores' face was quite white now, as she gently pushed Inez aside and
faced the angry man. The table was between them.
"Have I said one word more than the very truth?" asked Mendoza. "Does
not the whole court know that you love Don John of Austria--"
"Let the whole world know it!" cried the girl bravely. "Am I ashamed to
love the best and bravest man that breathes?"
"Let the whole world know that you are willing to be his toy, his
"His wife, sir!" Dolores' voice was steady and clear as she interrupted
her father. "His wife," she repeated proudly; "And to-morrow, if you and
the King will not hinder us. God made you my father, but neither God nor
man has given you the right to insult me, and you shall not be
unanswered, so long as I have strength and breath to speak. But for you,
I should be Don John of Austria's wife to-day--and then, then his 'toy,'
his 'plaything'--yes, and his slave and his servant--what you will! I
love him, and I would work for him with my hands, as I would give my
blood and my life for his, if God would grant me that happiness and
grace, since you will not let me be his wife!"
"His wife!" exclaimed Mendoza, with a savage sneer. "His wife--to be
married to-day and cast off to-morrow by a turn of the pen and the
twisting of a word that would prove your marriage void, in order that
Don John may be made the husband of some royal widowed lady, like Queen
Mary of the Scots! His wife!" He laughed bitterly.
"You have an exalted opinion of your King, my father, since you suppose
that he would permit such deeds in Spain!"
Dolores had drawn herself up to her full height as she spoke, and she
remained motionless as she awaited the answer to what she had said. It
was long in coming, though Mendoza's dark eyes met hers unflinchingly,
and his lips moved more than once as if he were about to speak. She had
struck a blow that was hard to parry, and she knew it. Inez stood beside
her, silent and breathing hard as she listened.
"You think that I have nothing to say," he began at last, and his tone
had changed and was more calm. "You are right, perhaps. What should I
say to you, since you have lost all sense of shame and all thought of
respect or obedience? Do you expect that I shall argue with you, and try
to convince you that I am right, instead of forcing you to respect me
and yourself? Thank Heaven, I have never yet questioned my King's
thoughts, nor his motives, nor his supreme right to do whatsoever may be
for the honour and glory of Spain. My life is his, and all I have is
his, to do with it all as he pleases, by grace of his divine right. That
is my creed and my law--and if I have failed to bring you up in the same
belief, I have committed a great sin, and it will be counted against me
hereafter, though I have done what I could, to the best of my
Mendoza lifted his sheathed sword and laid his right hand upon the
cross-bar of the basket hilt.
"God--the King--Spain!" he said solemnly, as he pressed his lips to it
once for each article of his faith.
"I do not wish to shake your belief," said Dolores coldly. "I daresay
that is impossible!"
"As impossible as it is to make me change my determination," answered
Mendoza, letting his long sword rest on the pavement again.
"And what may your determination be?" asked the girl, still facing him.
Something in his face forewarned her of near evil and danger, as he
looked at her long without answering. She moved a little, so as to stand
directly in front of Inez. Taking an attitude that was almost defiant,
she began to speak rapidly, holding her hands behind her and pressing
herself back against her sister to attract the latter's attention; and
in her hand she held the letter she had written to Don John, folded into
the smallest possible space, for she had kept it ready in the wrist of
her tight sleeve, not knowing what might happen any moment to give her
an opportunity of sending it.
"What have you determined?" she asked again, and then went on without
waiting for a reply. "In what way are you going to exhibit your power
over me? Do you mean to take me away from the court to live in
Valladolid again? Are you going to put me in the charge of some sour old
woman who will never let me out of her sight from morning till morning?"
She had found her sister's hand behind hers and had thrust the letter
into the fingers that closed quickly upon it. Then she laughed a little,
almost gaily. "Do you think that a score of sour old duennas could teach
me to forget the man I love, or could prevent me from sending him a
message every day if I chose? Do you think you could hinder Don John of
Austria, who came back an hour ago from his victory the idol of all
Spain, the favourite of the people--brave, young, powerful, rich,
popular, beloved far more than the King himself, from seeing me every
day if he chose, so long as he were not away in war? And then--I will
ask you something more--do you think that father, or mother, or king, or
law, or country has power to will away the love of a woman who loves
with all her heart and soul and strength? Then answer me and tell me
what you have determined to do with me, and I will tell you my
determination, too, for I have one of my own, and shall abide by it,
come what may, and whatsoever you may do!"
She paused, for she had heard Inez softly close the door as she went
out. The letter at least was safe, and if it were humanly possible, Inez
would find a means of delivering it; for she had all that strange
ingenuity of the blind in escaping observation which it seems impossible
that they should possess, but of which every one who has been much with
them is fully aware. Mendoza had seen Inez go out, and was glad that she
was gone, for her blind face sometimes disturbed him when he wished to
assert his authority.
"Yes," he said, "I will tell you what I mean to do, and it is the only
thing left to me, for you have given me no choice. You are disobedient
and unruly, you have lost what little respect you ever had--or
showed--for me. But that is not all. Men have had unruly daughters
before, and yet have married them well, and to men who in the end have
ruled them. I do not speak of my affection for you both, since you have
none for me. But now, you are going beyond disobedience and lawlessness,
for you are ruining yourself and disgracing me, and I will neither
permit the one nor suffer the other." His voice rose harshly. "Do you
understand me? I intend to protect my name from you, and yours from the
world, in the only way possible. I intend to send you to Las Huelgas
to-morrow morning. I am in earnest, and unless you consent to give up
this folly and to marry as I wish, you shall stay there for the rest of
your natural life. Do you understand? And until to-morrow morning you
shall stay within these doors. We shall see whether Don John of Austria
will try to force my dwelling first and a convent of holy nuns
afterwards. You will be safe from him, I give you my word of
honour,--the word of a Spanish gentleman and of your father. You shall
be safe forever. And if Don John tries to enter here to-night, I will
kill him on the threshold. I swear that I will."
He ceased speaking, turned, and began to walk up and down the small
room, his spurs and sword clanking heavily at every step. He had folded
his arms, and his head was bent low.
A look of horror and fear had slowly risen in Dolores' face, for she
knew her father, and that he kept his word at every risk. She knew also
that the King held him in very high esteem, and was as firmly opposed to
her marriage as Mendoza himself, and therefore ready to help him to do
what he wished. It had never occurred to her that she could be suddenly
thrust out of sight in a religious institution, to be kept there at her
father's pleasure, even for her whole life. She was too young and too
full of life to have thought of such a possibility. She had indeed heard
that such things could be done, and had been done, but she had never
known such a case, and had never realized that she was so completely at
her father's mercy. For the first time in her life she felt real fear,
and as it fell upon her there came the sickening conviction that she
could not resist it, that her spirit was broken all at once, that in a
moment more she would throw herself at her father's feet and implore
mercy, making whatever promise he exacted, yet making it falsely, out of
sheer terror, in an utter degradation and abasement of all moral
strength, of which she had never even dreamed. She grew giddy as she
felt it coming upon her, and the lights of the two candles moved
strangely. Already she saw herself on her knees, sobbing with fear,
trying to take her father's hand, begging forgiveness, denying her love,
vowing submission and dutiful obedience in an agony of terror. For on
the other side she saw the dark corridors and gloomy cells of Las
Huelgas, the veiled and silent nuns, the abomination of despair that was
before her till she should die and escape at last,--the faint hope which
would always prevent her from taking the veil herself, yet a hope
fainter and fainter, crossed by the frightful uncertainty in which she
should be kept by those who guarded her. They would not even tell her
whether the man she loved were alive or dead, she could never know
whether he had given up her love, himself in despair, or whether, then,
as years went by, he would not lose the thread that took him back to the
memory of her, and forget--and love again.
But then her strong nature rose again, and the vision of fear began to
fade as her faith in his love denied the last thought with scorn. Many a
time, when words could tell no more, and seemed exhausted just when
trust was strongest, he had simply said, "I love you, as you love me,"
and somehow the little phrase meant all, and far more than the tender
speeches that sometimes formed themselves so gracefully, and yet
naturally and simply, because they, too, came straight from the heart.
So now, in her extreme need, the plain words came back to her in his
voice, "I love you, as you love me," with a sudden strength of faith in
him that made her live again, and made fear seem impossible. While her
father slowly paced the floor in silence, she thought what she should
do, and whether there could be anything which she would not do, if Don
John of Austria were kept a prisoner from her; and she felt sure that
she could overcome every obstacle and laugh at every danger, for the
hope of getting to him. If she would, so would he, since he loved her as
she loved him. But for all the world, he would not have her throw
herself upon her father's mercy and make false promises and sob out
denials of her love, out of fear. Death would be better than that.
"Do as you will with me, since you have the power," she said at last,
quite calmly and steadily.
Instantly the old man stopped in his walk, and turned towards her,
almost as if he himself were afraid now. To her amazement she saw that
his dark eyes were moist with tears that clung but half shed to the
rugged lids and rough lashes. He did not speak for some moments, while
she gazed at him in wonder, for she could not understand. Then all at
once he lifted his brown hands and covered his face with a gesture of
"Dolores! My child, my little girl!" he cried, in a broken voice.
Then he sat down, as it overcome, clasped his hands on the hilt of his
sword, and rested his forehead against them, rocking himself with a
barely perceptible motion. In twenty years, Dolores had never
understood, not even guessed, that the hard man, ever preaching of
wholesome duty and strict obedience, always rebuking, never satisfied,
ill pleased almost always, loved her with all his heart, and looked upon
her as the very jewel of his soul. She guessed it now, in a sudden burst
of understanding; but it was so new, so strange, that she could not have
told what she felt. There was at best no triumph at the thought that, of
the two, he had broken down first in the contest. Pity came first,
womanly, simple and kind, for the harsh nature that was so wounded at
last. She came to his side, and laid one hand upon his shoulder,
"I am very, very sorry that I have hurt you," she said, and waited for
him to speak, pressing his shoulder with a gentle touch.
He did not look up, and still he rocked himself gently, leaning on his
sword. The girl suffered, too, to see him suffering so. A little while
ago he had been hard, fierce, angry, cruel, threatening her with a
living death that had filled her with horror. It had seemed quite
impossible that there could be the least tenderness in him for any
one--least of all for her.
"God be merciful to me," he said at length in very low tones. "God
forgive me if it is my fault--you do not love me--I am nothing to you
but an unkind old man, and you are all the world to me, child!"
He raised his head slowly and looked into her face. She was startled at
the change in his own, as well as deeply touched by what he said. His
dark cheeks had grown grey, and the tears that would not quite fall were
like a glistening mist under the lids, and almost made him look
sightless. Indeed, he scarcely saw her distinctly. His clasped hands
trembled a little on the hilt of the sword he still held.
"How could I know?" cried Dolores, suddenly kneeling down beside him.
"How could I guess? You never let me see that you were fond of me--or I
have been blind all these years--"
"Hush, child!" he said. "Do not hurt me any more--it must have been my
He grew more calm, and though his face was very grave and sad, the
natural dark colour was slowly coming back to it now, and his hands were
steady again. The girl was too young, and far too different from him, to
understand his nature, but she was fast realizing that he was not the
man he had always seemed to her.
"Oh, if I had only known!" she cried, in deep distress. "If I had only
guessed, I would have been so different! I was always frightened, always
afraid of you, since I can remember--I thought you did not care for us
and that we always displeased you--how could we know?"
Mendoza lifted one of his hands from the sword hilt, and took hers, with
as much gentleness as was possible to him. His eyes became clear again,
and the profound emotion he had shown subsided to the depths whence it
"We shall never quite understand each other," he said quietly. "You
cannot see that it is a man's duty to do what is right for his children,
rather than to sacrifice that in order to make them love him."
It seemed to Dolores that there might be a way open between the two, but
she said nothing, and left her hand in his, glad that he was kind, but
feeling, as he felt, that there could never be any real understanding
between them. The breach had existed too long, and it was far too wide.
"You are headstrong, my dear," he said, nodding at each word. "You are
very headstrong, if you will only reflect."
"It is not my head, it is my heart," answered Dolores. "And besides,"
she added with a smile, "I am your daughter, and you are not of a very
gentle and yielding disposition, are you?"
"No," he answered with hesitation, "perhaps not." Then his face relaxed
a little, and he almost smiled too.
It seemed as if the peace were made and as if thereafter there need not
be trouble again. But it was even then not far off, for it was as
impossible for Mendoza to yield as it would have been for Dolores to
give up her love for Don John. She did not see this, and she fancied
that a real change had taken place in his disposition, so that he would
forget that he had threatened to send her to Las Huelgas, and not think
of it again.
"What is done cannot be undone," he said, with renewed sadness. "You
will never quite believe that you have been everything to me during your
life. How could you not be, my child? I am very lonely. Your mother has
been dead nearly eighteen years, and Rodrigo--"
He stopped short suddenly, for he had never spoken his son's name in the
girl's hearing since Rodrigo had left him to follow his own fortunes.
"I think Rodrigo broke my heart," said the old man, after a short pause,
controlling his voice so that it sounded dry and indifferent. "And if
there is anything left of it, you will break the rest."
He rose, taking his hand from hers, and turning away, with the roughness
of a strong, hard man, who has broken down once under great emotion and
is capable of any harshness in his fear of yielding to it again. Dolores
started slightly and drew back. In her the kindly impression was still
strong, but his tone and manner wounded her.
"You are wrong," she said earnestly. "Since you have shown me that you
love me, I will indeed do my best not to hurt you or displease you. I
will do what I can--what I can."
She repeated the last words slowly and with unconscious emphasis. He
turned his face to her again instantly.
"Then promise me that you will never see Don John of Austria again, that
you will forget that you ever loved him, that you will put him
altogether out of your thoughts, and that you will obediently accept the
marriage I shall make for you."
The words of refusal to any such obedience as that rose to the girl's
lips, ready and sharp. But she would not speak them this time, lest more
angry words should answer hers. She looked straight at her father's
eyes, holding her head proudly high for a moment. Then, smiling at the
impossibility of what he asked, she turned from him and went to the
window in silence. She opened it wide, leaned upon the stone sill and
looked out. The moon had risen much higher now, and the court was white.
She had meant to cut short the discussion without rousing anger again,
but she could have taken no worse way to destroy whatever was left of
her father's kindlier mood. He did not raise his voice now, as he
followed her and spoke.
"You refuse to do that?" he said, with an already ominous interrogation
in his tone.
"You ask the impossible," she answered, without looking round. "I have
not refused, for I have no will in this, no choice. You can do what you
please with me, for you have power over my outward life--and if you
lacked it, the King would help you. But you have no power beyond that,
neither over my heart nor over my soul. I love him--I have loved him
long, and I shall love him till I die, and beyond that, forever and
ever, beyond everything--beyond the great to-morrow of God's last
judgment! How can I put him out of my thoughts, then? It is madness to
ask it of me."
She paused a moment, while he stood behind her, getting his teeth and
slowly grinding the heel of one heavy boot on the pavement.
"And as for threatening me," she continued, "you will not kill Don John,
nor even try to kill him, for he is the King's brother. If I can see him
this evening, I will--and there will be no risk for him. You would not
murder him by stealth, I suppose? No! Then you will not attack him at
all, and if I can see him, I will--I tell you so, frankly. To-morrow or
the next day, when the festivities they have for him are over, and you
yourself are at liberty, take me to Las Huelgas, if you will, and with
as little scandal as possible. But when I am there, set a strong guard
of armed men to keep me, for I shall escape unless you do. And I shall
go to Don John. That is all I have to say. That is my last word."
"I gave you mine, and it was my word of honour," said Mendoza. "If Don
John tries to enter here, to see you, I will kill him. To-morrow, you
shall go to Las Huelgas."
Dolores made no answer and did not even turn her head. He left her and
went out. She heard his heavy tread in the hall beyond, and she heard a
bolt slipped at the further door. She was imprisoned for the night, for
the entrance her father had fastened was the one which cut off the
portion of the apartment in which the sisters lived from the smaller
part which he had reserved for himself. These rooms, from which there
was no other exit, opened, like the sitting-room, upon the same hall.
When Dolores knew that she was alone, she drew back from the window and
shut it. It had served its purpose as a sort of refuge from her father,
and the night air was cold. She sat down to think, and being in a
somewhat desperate mood, she smiled at the idea of being locked into her
room, supperless, like a naughty child. But her face grew grave
instantly as she tried to discover some means of escape. Inez was
certainly not in the apartment--she must have gone to the other end of
the palace, on pretence of seeing one of the court ladies, but really in
the hope of giving Don John the letter. It was more than probable that
she would not be allowed to enter when she came back, for Mendoza would
distrust her. That meant that Dolores could have no communication with
any one outside her rooms during the evening and night, and she knew her
father too well to doubt that he would send her to Las Huelgas in the
morning, as he had sworn to do. Possibly he would let her serving-woman
come to her to prepare what she needed for the journey, but even that
was unlikely, for he would suspect everybody.
The situation looked hopeless, and the girl's face grew slowly pale as
she realized that after all she might not even exchange a word with Don
John before going to the convent--she might not even be able to tell him
whither they were sending her, and Mendoza might keep the secret for
years--and she would never be allowed to write, of course.
She heard the further door opened again, the bolt running back with a
sharp noise. Then she heard her father's footsteps and his voice calling
to Inez, as he went from room to room. But there was no answer, and
presently he went away, bolting the door a second time. There could be
no more doubt about it now. Dolores was quite alone. Her heart beat
heavily and slowly. But it was not over yet. Again the bolt slipped in
the outer hall, and again she heard the heavy steps. They came straight
towards the door. He had perhaps changed his mind, or he had something
more to say; she held her breath, but he did not come in. As if to make
doubly sure, he bolted her into the little room, crossed the hall a last
time, and bolted it for the night, perfectly certain that Dolores was
safely shut off from the outer world.
For some minutes she sat quite still, profoundly disturbed, and utterly
unable to find any way out of her difficulty, which was, indeed, that
she was in a very secure prison.
Then again there was a sound at the door, but very soft this time, not
half as loud in her ears as the beating of her own heart. There was
something ghostly in it, for she had heard no footsteps. The bolt moved
very slowly and gently--she had to strain her ears to hear it move. The
sound ceased, and another followed it--that of the door being cautiously
opened. A moment later Inez was in the room--turning her head anxiously
from side to side to hear Dolores' breathing, and so to find out where
she was. Then as Dolores rose, the blind girl put her finger to her
lips, and felt for her sister's hand.
"He has the letter," she whispered quickly. "I found him by accident,
very quickly. I am to say to you that after he has been some time in the
great hall, he will slip away and come here. You see our father will be
on duty and cannot come up."
Dolores' hand trembled violently.
"He swore to me that he would kill Don John if he came here," she
whispered. "He will do it, if it costs his own life! You must find him
again--go quickly, dear, for the love of Heaven!" Her anxiety increased.
"Go--go, darling--do not lose a moment--he may come sooner--save him,
"I cannot go," answered Inez, in terror, as she understood the
situation. "I had hidden myself, and I am locked in with you. He called
me, but I kept quiet, for I knew he would not let me stay." She buried
her face in her hands and sobbed aloud in an agony of fear.
Dolores' lips were white, and she steadied herself against a chair.
* * * * *
Dolores stood leaning against the back of the chair, neither hearing nor
seeing her sister, conscious only that Don John was in danger and that
she could not warn him to be on his guard. She had not believed herself
when she had told her father that he would not dare to lift his hand
against the King's half brother. She had said the words to give herself
courage, and perhaps in a rush of certainty that the man she loved was a
match for other men, hand to hand, and something more. It was different
now. Little as she yet knew of human nature, she guessed without
reasoning that a man who has been angry, who has wavered and given way
to what he believes to be weakness, and whose anger has then burst out
again, is much more dangerous than before, because his wrath is no
longer roused against another only, but also against himself. More
follies and crimes have been committed in that second tide of passion
than under a first impulse. Even if Mendoza had not fully meant what he
had said the first time, he had meant it all, and more, when he had last
spoken. Once more the vision of fear rose before Dolores' eyes, nobler
now; because it was fear for another and not for herself, but therefore
also harder to conquer.
Inez had ceased from sobbing now, and was sitting quietly in her
accustomed seat, in that attitude of concentrated expectancy of sounds
which is so natural to the blind, that one can almost recognize
blindness by the position of the head and body without seeing the face.
The blind rarely lean back in a chair; more often the body is quite
upright, or bent a little forward, the face is slightly turned up when
there is total silence, often turned down when a sound is already heard
distinctly; the knees are hardly ever crossed, the hands are seldom
folded together, but are generally spread out, as if ready to help the
hearing by the sense of touch--the lips are slightly parted, for the
blind know that they hear by the mouth as well as with their ears--the
expression of the face is one of expectation and extreme attention,
still, not placid, calm, but the very contrary of indifferent. It was
thus that Inez sat, as she often sat for hours, listening, always and
forever listening to the speech of things and of nature, as well as for
human words. And in listening, she thought and reasoned patiently and
continually, so that the slightest sounds had often long and accurate
meanings for her. The deaf reason little or ill, and are very
suspicious; the blind, on the contrary, are keen, thoughtful, and
ingenious, and are distrustful of themselves rather than of others. Inez
sat quite still, listening, thinking, and planning a means of helping
But Dolores stood motionless as if she were paralyzed, watching the
picture that "he could not chase away. For she saw the familiar figure
of the man she loved coming down the gloomy corridor, alone and unarmed,
past the deep embrasures through which the moonlight streamed, straight
towards the oak door at the end; and then, from one of the windows
another figure stood out, sword in hand, a gaunt man with a grey beard,
and there were few words, and an uncertain quick confounding of shadows
with a ray of cold light darting hither and thither, then a fall, and
then stillness. As soon as it was over, it began again, with little
change, save that it grew more distinct, till she could see Don John's
white face in the moonlight as he lay dead on the pavement of the
It became intolerable at last, and she slowly raised one hand and
covered her eyes to shut out the sight.
"Listen," said Inez, as Dolores stirred. "I have been thinking. You must
see him to-night, even if you are not alone with him. There is only one
way to do that; you must dress yourself for the court and go down to the
great hall with the others and speak to him--then you can decide how to
"Inez--I have not told you the rest! To-morrow I am to be sent to Las
Huelgas, and kept there like a prisoner." Inez uttered a low cry of
"To a convent!" It seemed like death.
Dolores began to tell her all Mendoza had said, but Inez soon
interrupted her. There was a dark flush in the blind girl's face.
"And he would have you believe that he loves you?" she cried
indignantly. "He has always been hard, and cruel, and unkind, he has
never forgiven me for being blind---he will never forgive you for being
young! The King! The King before everything and every one--before
himself, yes, that is well, but before his children, his soul, his
heart--he has no heart! What am I saying--" She stopped short.
"And yet, in his strange way, he loves us both," said Dolores. "I cannot
understand it, but I saw his face when there were tears in his eyes, and
I heard his voice. He would give his life for us."
"And our lives, and hearts, and hopes to feed his conscience and to save
his own soul!"
Inez was trembling with anger, leaning far forward, her face flushed,
one slight hand clenched, the other clenching it hard. Dolores was
silent. It was not the first time that Inez had spoken in this way, for
the blind girl could be suddenly and violently angry for a good cause.
But now her tone changed.
"I will save you," she said suddenly, "but there is no time to be lost.
He will not come back to our rooms now, and he knows well enough that
Don John cannot come here at this hour, so that he is not waiting for
him. We have this part of the place to ourselves, and the outer door
only is bolted now. It will take you an hour to dress--say
three-quarters of an hour. As soon as you get out, you must go quickly
round the palace to the Duchess Alvarez. Our father will not go there,
and you can go down with her, as usual--but tell her nothing. Our father
will be there, and he will see you, but he will not care to make an open
scandal in the court. Don John will come and speak to you; you must stay
beside the Duchess of course--but you can manage to exchange a few
Dolores listened intently, and her face brightened a little as Inez went
on, only to grow sad and hopeless again a moment later. It was all an
"That would be possible if I could once get beyond the door of the
hall," she said despondently. "It is of no use, dear! The door is
"They will open it for me. Old Eudaldo is always within hearing, and he
will do anything for me. Besides, I shall seem to have been shut in by
mistake, do you see? I shall say that I am hungry, thirsty, that I am
cold, that in locking you in our father locked me in, too, because I was
asleep. Then Eudaldo will open the door for me. I shall say that I am
going to the Duchess's."
"You will cover yourself entirely with my black cloak and draw it over
your head and face. We are of the same height--you only need to walk as
I do--as if you were blind--across the hall to the left. Eudaldo will
open the outer door for you. You will just nod to thank him, without
speaking, and when you are outside, touch the wall of the corridor with
your left hand, and keep close to it. I always do, for fear of running
against some one. If you meet any of the women, they will take you for
me. There is never much light in the corridor, is there? There is one
oil lamp half way down, I know, for I always smell it when I pass in the
"Yes, it is almost dark there--it is a little lamp. Do you really think
this is possible?"
"It is possible, not sure. If you hear footsteps in the corridor beyond
the corner, you will have time to slip into one of the embrasures. But
our father will not come now. He knows that Don John is in his own
apartments with many people. And besides, it is to be a great festival
to-night, and all the court people and officers, and the Archbishop, and
all the rest who do not live in the palace will come from the city, so
that our father will have to command the troops and give orders for the
guards to march out, and a thousand things will take his time. Don John
cannot possibly come here till after the royal supper, and if our father
can come away at all, it will be at the same time. That is the danger."
Dolores shivered and saw the vision in the corridor again.
"But if you are seen talking with Don John before supper, no one will
suppose that in order to meet him you would risk coming back here, where
you are sure to be caught and locked up again. Do you see?"
"It all depends upon whether I can get out," answered Dolores, but there
was more hope in her tone. "How am I to dress without a maid?" she asked
"Trust me," said Inez, with a laugh. "My hands are better than a
serving-woman's eyes. You shall look as you never looked before. I know
every lock of your hair, and just how it should be turned and curled and
fastened in place so that it cannot possibly get loose. Come, we are
wasting time. Take off your slippers as I have done, so that no one
shall hear us walking through the hall to your room, and bring the
candles with you if you choose--yes, you need them to pick out the
colours you like."
"If you think it will be safer in the dark, it does not matter," said
Dolores. "I know where everything is."
"It would be safer," answered Inez thoughtfully. "It is just possible
that he might be in the court and might see the light in your window,
whereas if it burns here steadily, he will suspect nothing. We will bolt
the door of this room, as I found it. If by any possibility he comes
back, he will think you are still here, and will probably not come in."
"Pray Heaven he may not!" exclaimed Dolores, and she began to go towards
Inez was there before her, opening it very cautiously.
"My hands are lighter than yours," she whispered.
They both passed out, and Inez slipped the bolt back into its place with
"Is there light here?" she asked under her breath.
"There is a very small lamp on the table. I can just see my door."
"Put it out as we pass," whispered Inez. "I will lead you if you cannot
find your way."
They moved cautiously forward, and when they reached the table, Dolores
bent down to the small wick and blew out the flame. Then she felt her
sister's hand taking hers and leading her quickly to the other door. The
blind girl was absolutely noiseless in her movements, and Dolores had
the strange impression that she was being led by a spirit through the
darkness. Inez stopped a moment, and then went slowly on; they had
entered the room though Dolores had not heard the door move, nor did she
hear it closed behind her again. Her own room was perfectly dark, for
the heavy curtain that covered the window was drawn; she made a step
alone, and cautiously, and struck her knee against a chair.
"Do not move," whispered Inez. "You will make a noise. I can dress you
where you stand, or if you want to find anything, I will lead you to the
place where it is. Remember that it is always day for me."
Dolores obeyed, and stood still, holding her breath a little in her
intense excitement. It seemed impossible that Inez could do all she
promised without making a mistake, and Dolores would not have been a
woman had she not been visited just then by visions of ridicule. Without
light she was utterly helpless to do anything for herself, and she had
never before then fully realized the enormous misfortune with which her
sister had to contend. She had not guessed, either, what energy and
quickness of thought Inez possessed, and the sensation of being advised,
guided, and helped by one she had always herself helped and protected
They spoke in quick whispers of what she was to wear and of how her hair
was to be dressed, and Inez found what was wanted without noise, and
almost as quickly as Dolores could have done in broad daylight, and
placed a chair for her, making her sit down in it, and began to arrange
her hair quickly and skilfully. Dolores felt the spiritlike hands
touching her lightly and deftly in the dark--they were very slight and
soft, and did not offend her with a rough movement or a wrong turn, as
her maid's sometimes did. She felt her golden hair undone, and swiftly
drawn out and smoothed without catching, or tangling, or hurting her at
all, in a way no woman had ever combed it, and the invisible hands
gently divided it, and turned it upon her head, slipping the hairpins
into the right places as if by magic, so that they were firm at the
first trial, and there was a faint sound of little pearls tapping each
other, and Dolores felt the small string laid upon her hair and fastened
in its place,--the only ornament a young girl could wear for a
headdress,--and presently it was finished, and Inez gave a sigh of
satisfaction at her work, and lightly felt her sister's head here and
there to be sure that all was right. It felt as if soft little birds
were just touching the hair with the tips of their wings as they
fluttered round it. Dolores had no longer any fear of looking ill
dressed in the blaze of light she was to face before long. The dressing
of her hair was the most troublesome part, she knew, and though she
could not have done it herself, she had felt that every touch and turn
had been perfectly skilful.
"What a wonderful creature you are!" she whispered, as Inez bade her
"You have beautiful hair," answered the blind girl, "and you are
beautiful in other ways, but to-night you must be the most beautiful of
all the court, for his sake--so that every woman may envy you, and every
man envy him, when they see you talking together. And now we must be
quick, for it has taken a long time, and I hear the soldiers marching
out again to form in the square. That is always just an hour and a half
before the King goes into the hall. Here--this is the front of the
"No--it is the back!"
Inez laughed softly, a whispering laugh that Dolores could scarcely
"It is the front," she said. "You can trust me in the dark. Put your
arms down, and let me slip it over your head so as not to touch your
hair. No---hold your arms down!"
Dolores had instinctively lifted her hands to protect her headdress.
Then all went quickly, the silence only broken by an occasional
whispered word and by the rustle of silk, the long soft sound of the
lacing as Inez drew it through the eyelets of the bodice, the light
tapping of her hands upon the folds and gatherings of the skirt and on
the puffed velvet on the shoulders and elbows.
"You must be beautiful, perfectly beautiful to-night," Inez repeated
more than once.
She herself did not understand why she said it, unless it were that
Dolores' beauty was for Don John of Austria, and that nothing in the
whole world could be too perfect for him, for the hero of her thoughts,
the sun of her blindness, the immeasurably far-removed deity of her
heart. She did not know that it was not for her sister's sake, but for
his, that she had planned the escape and was taking such infinite pains
that Dolores might look her best. Yet she felt a deep and delicious
delight in what she did, like nothing she had ever felt before, for it
was the first time in her life that she had been able to do something
that could give him pleasure; and, behind that, there was the belief
that he was in danger, that she could no longer go to him nor warn him
now, and that only Dolores herself could hinder him from coming
unexpectedly against old Mendoza, sword in hand, in the corridor.
"And now my cloak over everything," she said. "Wait here, for I must get
it, and do not move!"
Dolores hardly knew whether Inez left the room or not, so noiselessly
did the girl move. Then she felt the cloak laid upon her shoulders and
drawn close round her to hide her dress, for skirts were short in those
days and easily hidden. Inez laid a soft silk handkerchief upon her
sister's hair, lest it should be disarranged by the hood which she
lightly drew over all, assuring herself that it would sufficiently hide
"Now come with me," she whispered. I will lead you to the door that is
bolted and place you just where it will open. Then I will call Eudaldo
and speak to him, and beg him to let me out. If he does, bend your head
and try to walk as I do. I shall be on one side of the door, and, as the
room is dark, he cannot possibly see me. While he is opening the outer
door for you, I will slip back into my own room. Do you understand? And
remember to hide in an embrasure if you hear a man's footsteps. Are you
quite sure you understand?"
"Yes; it will be easy if Eudaldo opens. And I thank you, dear; I wish I
knew how to thank you as I ought! It may have saved his life--"
"And yours, too, perhaps," answered Inez, beginning to lead her away.
"You would die in the convent, and you must not come back--you must
never come back to us here--never till you are married. Good-by,
Dolores--dear sister. I have done nothing, and you have done everything
for me all your life. Good-by--one kiss--then we must go, for it is
With her soft hands she drew Dolores' head towards her, lifted the hood
a little, and kissed her tenderly. All at once there were tears on both
their faces, and the arms of each clasped the other almost desperately.
"You must come to me, wherever I am," Dolores said.
"Yes, I will come, wherever you are. I promise it."
Then she disengaged herself quickly, and more than ever she seemed a
spirit as she went before, leading her sister by the hand. They reached
the door, and she made Dolores stand before the right hand panel, ready
to slip out, and once more she touched the hood to be sure it hid the
face. She listened a moment. A harsh and regular sound came from a
distance, resembling that made by a pit-saw steadily grinding its way
lengthwise through a log of soft pine wood.
"Eudaldo is asleep," said Inez, and even at this moment she could hardly
suppress a half-hysterical laugh. "I shall have to make a tremendous
noise to wake him. The danger is that it may bring some one else,---the
women, the rest of the servants."
"What shall we do?" asked Dolores, in a distressed whisper.
She had braced her nerves to act the part of her sister at the dangerous
moment, and her excitement made every instant of waiting seem ten times
its length. Inez did not answer the question at once. Dolores repeated
it still more anxiously.
"I was trying to make up my mind," said the other at last. "You could
pass Eudaldo well enough, I am sure, but it might be another matter if
the hall were full of servants, as it is certain that our father has
given a general order that you are not to be allowed to go out. We may
wait an hour for the man to wake."
Dolores instinctively tried the door, but it was solidly fastened from
the outside. She felt hot and cold by turns as her anxiety grew more
intolerable. Each minute made it more possible that she might meet her
father somewhere outside.
"We must decide something!" she whispered desperately. "We cannot wait
"I do not know what to do," answered Inez. "I have done all I can; I
never dreamt that Eudaldo would be asleep. At least, it is a sure sign
that our father is not in the house."
"But he may come at any moment! We must, we must do something at once!"
"I will knock softly," said Inez. "Any one who hears it will suppose it
is a knock at the hall door. If he does not open, some one will go and
wake him up, and then go away again so as not to be seen."
She clenched her small hand, and knocked three times. Such a sound could
make not the slightest impression upon Eudaldo's sound sleep, but her
reasoning was good, as well as ingenious. After waiting a few moments,
she knocked again, more loudly. Dolores held her breath in the silence
that followed. Presently a door was opened, and a woman's voice was
heard, low but sharp.
"Eudaldo, Eudaldo! Some one is knocking at the front door!"
The woman probably shook the old man to rouse him, for his voice came
next, growling and angry.
"Witch! Hag! Mother of malefactors! Let me alone--I am asleep. Are you
trying to tear my sleeve off with your greasy claws? Nobody is knocking;
you probably hear the wine thumping in your ears!"
The woman, who was the drudge and had been cleaning the kitchen, was
probably used to Eudaldo's manner of expressing himself, for she only
"Wine makes men sleep, but it does not knock at doors," she answered.
"Some one has knocked twice. You had better go and open the door."
A shuffling sound and a deep yawn announced that Eudaldo was getting out
of his chair. The two girls heard him moving towards the outer entrance.
Then they heard the woman go away, shutting the other door behind her,
as soon as she was sure that Eudaldo was really awake. Then Inez called
"Eudaldo? Here--it was I that knocked--you must let me out, please--come
"Dona Inez?" asked the old man, standing still.
"Hush!" answered the girl. "Come nearer." She waited, listening while he
approached. "Listen to me," she continued. "The General has locked me
in, by mistake. He did not know I was here when he bolted the door. And
I am hungry and thirsty and very cold, Eudaldo--and you must let me out,
and I will run to the Duchess Alvarez and stay with her little girl.
Indeed, Eudaldo, the General did not mean to lock me in, too."
"He said nothing about your ladyship to me," answered the servant
doubtfully. "But I do not know--" he hesitated.
"Please, please, Eudaldo," pleaded Inez, "I am so cold and lonely
"But Dona Dolores is there, too," observed Eudaldo.
Dolores held her breath and steadied herself against the panel.
"He shut her into the inner sitting-room. How could I dare to open the
door! You may go in and knock--she will not answer you."
"Is your ladyship sure that Dona Dolores is within?" asked Eudaldo, in a
more yielding tone.
"Absolutely, perfectly sure!" answered Inez, with perfect truth. "Oh, do
please let me out."
Slowly the old man drew the bolt, while Dolores' heart stood still, and
she prepared herself for the danger; for she knew well enough that the
faithful old servant feared his master much more than he feared the
devil and all evil spirits, and would prevent her from passing, even
with force, if he recognized her.
"Thank you, Eudaldo--thank you!" cried Inez, as the latch turned. "And
open the front door for me, please," she said, putting her lips just
where the panel was opening.
Then she drew back into the darkness. The door was wide open now, and
Eudaldo was already shuffling towards the entrance. Dolores went
forward, bending her head, and trying to affect her sister's step. No
distance had ever seemed so long to her as that which separated her from
the hall door which Eudaldo was already opening for her. But she dared
not hasten her step, for though Inez moved with perfect certainty in the
house, she always walked with a certain deliberate caution, and often
stopped to listen, while crossing a room. The blind girl was listening
now, with all her marvellous hearing, to be sure that all went well till
Dolores should be outside. She knew exactly how many steps there were
from where she stood to the entrance, for she had often counted them.
Dolores must have been not more than three yards from the door, when
Inez started involuntarily, for she heard a sound from without, far
off--so far that Dolores could not possibly have heard it yet, but
unmistakable to the blind girl's keener ear. She listened
intently--there were Dolores' last four steps to the open doorway, and
there were others from beyond, still very far away in the vaulted
corridors, but coming nearer. To call her sister back would have made
all further attempt at escape hopeless--to let her go on seemed almost
equally fatal--Inez could have shrieked aloud. But Dolores had already
gone out, and a moment later the heavy door swung back to its place, and
it was too late to call her. Like an immaterial spirit, Inez slipped
away from the place where she stood and went back to Dolores' room,
knowing that Eudaldo would very probably go and knock where he supposed
her sister to be a prisoner, before slipping the outer bolt again. And
so he did, muttering an imprecation upon the little lamp that had gone
out and left the small hall in darkness. Then he knocked, and spoke
through the door, offering to bring her food, or fire, and repeating his
words many times, in a supplicating tone, for he was devoted to both the
sisters, though terror of old Mendoza was the dominating element in his
At last he shook his head and turned despondently to light the little
lamp again; and when he had done that, he went away and bolted the door
after him, convinced that Inez had gone out and that Dolores had stayed
behind in the last room.
When she had heard him go away the last time, the blind girl threw
herself upon Dolores' bed, and buried her face in the down cushion,
sobbing bitterly in her utter loneliness; weeping, too, for something
she did not understand, but which she felt the more painfully because
she could not understand it, something that was at once like a burning
fire and an unspeakable emptiness craving to be filled, something that
longed and feared, and feared longing, something that was a strong
bodily pain but which she somehow knew might have been the source of all
earthly delight,--an element detached from thought and yet holding it,
above the body and yet binding it, touching the soul and growing upon
it, but filling the soul itself with fear and unquietness, and making
her heart cry out within her as if it were not hers and were pleading to
be free. So, as she could not understand that this was love, which, as
she had heard said, made women and men most happy, like gods and
goddesses, above their kind, she lay alone in the darkness that was
always as day to her, and wept her heart out in scalding tears.
In the corridor outside, Dolores made a few steps, remembering to put
out her left hand to touch the wall, as Inez had told her to do; and
then she heard what had reached her sister's ears much sooner. She stood
still an instant, strained her eyes to see in the dim light of the
single lamp, saw nothing, and heard the sound coming nearer. Then she
quickly crossed the corridor to the nearest embrasure to hide herself.
To her horror she realized that the light of the full moon was streaming
in as bright as day, and that she could not be hid. Inez knew nothing of
She pressed herself to the wall, on the side away from her own door,
making herself as small as she could, for it was possible that whoever
came by might pass without turning his head. Nervous and exhausted by
all she had felt and been made to feel since the afternoon, she held her
breath and waited.
The regular tread of a man booted and spurred came relentlessly towards
her, without haste and without pause. No one who wore spurs but her
father ever came that way. She listened breathlessly to the hollow
echoes, and turned her eyes along the wall of the embrasure. In a moment
she must see his gaunt figure, and the moonlight would be white on his
short grey beard.
* * * * *
Dolores knew that there was no time to reflect as to what she should do,
if her father found her hiding in the embrasure, and yet in those short
seconds a hundred possibilities flashed through her disturbed thoughts.
She might slip past him and run for her life down the corridor, or she
might draw her hood over her face and try to pretend that she was some
one else,--but he would recognize the hood itself as belonging to
Inez,--or she might turn and lean upon the window-sill, indifferently,
as if she had a right to be there, and he might take her for some lady
of the court, and pass on. And yet she could not decide which to
attempt, and stood still, pressing herself against the wall of the
embrasure, and quite forgetful of the fact that the bright moonlight
fell unhindered through all the other windows upon the pavement, whereas
she cast a shadow from the one in which she was standing, and that any
one coming along the corridor would notice it and stop to see who was
There was something fateful and paralyzing in the regular footfall that
was followed instantly by the short echo from the vault above. It was
close at hand now she was sure that at the very next instant she should
see her father's face, yet nothing came, except the sound, for that
deceived her in the silence and seemed far nearer than it was. She had
heard horrible ghost stories of the old Alcazar, and as a child she had
been frightened by tales of evil things that haunted the corridors at
night, of wraiths and goblins and Moorish wizards who dwelt in secret
vaults, where no one knew, and came out in the dark, when all was still,
to wander in the moonlight, a terror to the living. The girl felt the
thrill of unearthly fear at the roots of her hair, and trembled, and the
sound seemed to be magnified till it reechoed like thunder, though it
was only the noise of an advancing footfall, with a little jingling of
But at last there was no doubt. It was close to her, and she shut her
eyes involuntarily. She heard one step more on the stones, and then
there was silence. She knew that her father had seen her, had stopped
before her, and was looking at her. She knew how his rough brows were
knitting themselves together, and that even in the pale moonlight his
eyes were fierce and angry, and that his left hand was resting on the
hilt of his sword, the bony brown fingers tapping the basket nervously.
An hour earlier, or little more, she had faced him as bravely as any
man, but she could not face him now, and she dared not open her eyes.
"Madam, are you ill, or in trouble?" asked a young voice that was soft
She opened her eyes with a sharp cry that was not of fear, and she threw
back her hood with one hand as the looked.
Don John of Austria was there, a step from her, the light full on his
face, bareheaded, his cap in his hand, bending a little towards her, as
one does towards a person one does not know, but who seems to be in
distress and to need help. Against the whiteness without he could not
see her face, nor could he recognize her muffled figure.
"Can I not help you, Madam?" asked the kind voice again, very gravely.
Then she put out her hands towards him and made a step, and as the hood
fell quite back with the silk kerchief, he saw her golden hair in the
silver light. Slowly and in wonder, and still not quite believing, he
moved to meet her movement, took her hands in his, drew her to him,
turned her face gently, till he saw it well. Then he, too, uttered a
little sound that was neither a word nor a syllable nor a cry--a sound
that was half fierce with strong delight as his lips met hers, and his
hands were suddenly at her waist lifting her slowly to his own height,
though he did not know it, pressing her closer and closer to him, as if
that one kiss were the first and last that ever man gave woman.
A minute passed, and yet neither he nor she could speak. She stood with
her hands clasped round his neck, and her head resting on his breast
just below the shoulder, as if she were saying tender words to the heart
she heard beating so loud through the soft black velvet. She knew that
it had never beaten in battle as it was beating now, and she loved it
because it knew her and welcomed her; but her own stood still, and now
and then it fluttered wildly, like a strong young bird in a barred cage,
and then was quite still again. Bending his face a little, he softly
kissed her hair again and again, till at last the kisses formed
themselves into syllables and words, which she felt rather than heard.
"God in heaven, how I love you--heart of my heart--life of my life--love
of my soul!"
And again he repeated the same words, and many more like them, with
little change, because at that moment he had neither thought nor care
for anything else in the world, not for life nor death nor kingdom nor
glory, in comparison with the woman he loved. He could not hear her
answers, for she spoke without words to his heart, hiding her face where
she heard it throbbing, while her lips pressed many kisses on the
Then, as thought returned, and the first thought was for him, she drew
back a little with a quick movement, and looked up to him with
frightened and imploring eyes.
"We must go!" she cried anxiously, in a very low voice. "We cannot stay
here. My father is very angry--he swore on his word of honour that he
would kill you if you tried to see me to-night!"
Don John laughed gently, and his eyes brightened. Before she could speak
again, he held her close once more, and his kisses were on her cheeks
and her eyes, on her forehead and on her hair, and then again upon her
lips, till they would have hurt her if she had not loved them so, and
given back every one. Then she struggled again, and he loosed his hold.
"It is death to stay here," she said very earnestly.
"It is worse than death to leave you," he answered. "And I will not," he
added an instant later, "neither for the King, nor for your father, nor
for any royal marriage they may try to force upon me."
She looked into his eyes for a moment, before she spoke, and there was
deep and true trust in her own.
"Then you must save me," she said quietly. "He has vowed that I shall be
sent to the convent of Las Huelgas to-morrow morning. He locked me into
the inner room, but Inez helped me to dress, and I got out under her
She told him in a few words what she had done and had meant to do, in
order to see him, and how she had taken his step for her father's. He
listened gravely, and she saw his face harden slowly in an expression
she had scarcely ever seen there. When she had finished her story he was
silent for a moment.
"We are quite safe here," he said at last, "safer than anywhere else, I
think, for your father cannot come back until the King goes to supper.
For myself, I have an hour, but I have been so surrounded and pestered
by visitors in my apartments that I have not found time to put on a
court dress--and without vanity, I presume that I am a necessary figure
at court this evening. Your father is with Perez, who seems to be acting
as master of ceremonies and of everything else, as well as the King's
secretary--they have business together, and the General will not have a
moment. I ascertained that, before coming here, or I should not have
come at this hour. We are safe from him here, I am sure."
"You know best," answered Dolores, who was greatly reassured by what he
said about Mendoza.
"Let us sit down, then. You must be tired after all you have done. And
we have much to say to each other."
"How could I be tired now?" she asked, with a loving smile; but she sat
down on the stone seat in the embrasure, close to the window.
It was just wide enough for two to sit there, and Don John took his
place beside her, and drew one of her hands silently to him between both
his own, and kissed the tips of her fingers a great many times. But he
felt that she was watching his face, and he looked up and saw her
eyes--and then, again, many seconds passed before either could speak.
They were but a boy and girl together, loving each other in the tender
first love of early youth, for the victor of the day, the subduer of the
Moors, the man who had won back Granada, who was already High Admiral of
Spain, and who in some ten months from that time was to win a decisive
battle of the world at Lepanto, was a stripling of twenty-three
summers--and he had first seen Dolores when he was twenty and she
seventeen, and now it was nearly two years since they had met.
He was the first to speak, for he was a man of quick and unerring
determinations that led to actions as sudden as they were bold and
brilliant, and what Dolores had told him of her quarrel with her father
was enough to rouse his whole energy at once. At all costs she must
never be allowed to pass the gates of Las Huelgas. Once within the
convent, by the King's orders, and a close prisoner, nothing short of a
sacrilegious assault and armed violence could ever bring her out into
the world again. He knew that, and that he must act instantly to prevent
it, for he knew Mendoza's character also, and had no doubt but that he
would do what he threatened. It was necessary to put Dolores beyond his
reach at once, and beyond the King's also, which was not an easy matter
within the walls of the King's own palace, and on such a night. Don John
had been but little at the court and knew next to nothing of its
intrigues, nor of the mutual relations of the ladies and high officers
who had apartments in the Alcazar. In his own train there were no women,
of course. Dolores' brother Rodrigo, who had fought by his side at
Granada, had begged to be left behind with the garrison, in order that
he might not be forced to meet his father. Dona Magdalena Quixada, Don
John's adoptive mother, was far away at Villagarcia. The Duchess
Alvarez, though fond of Dolores, was Mistress of the Robes to the young
Queen, and it was not to be hoped nor expected that she should risk the
danger of utter ruin and disgrace if it were discovered that she had
hidden the girl against the King's wishes. Yet it was absolutely
necessary that Dolores should be safely hidden within an hour, and that
she should be got out of the palace before morning, and if possible
conveyed to Villagarcia. Don John saw in a moment that there was no one
to whom he could turn.
Again he took Dolores' hand in his, but with a sort of gravity and
protecting authority that had not been in his touch the first time.
Moreover, he did not kiss her fingers now, and he resolutely looked at
the wall opposite him. Then, in a low and quiet voice, he laid the
situation before her, while she anxiously listened.
"You see," he said at last, "there is only one way left. Dolores, do you
altogether trust me?"
She started a little, and her fingers pressed his hand suddenly.
"Trust you? Ah, with all my soul!"
"Think well before you answer," he said. "You do not quite
understand--it is a little hard to put it clearly, but I must. I know
you trust me in many ways, to love you faithfully always, to speak truth
to you always, to defend you always, to help you with my life when you
shall be in need. You know that I love you so, as you love me. Have we
not often said it? You wrote it in your letter, too--ah, dear, I thank
you for that. Yes, I have read it--I have it here, near my heart, and I
shall read it again before I sleep--"
Without a word, and still listening, she bent down and pressed her lips
to the place where her letter lay. He touched her hair with his lips and
went on speaking, as she leaned back against the wall again.
"You must trust me even more than that, my beloved," he said. "To save
you, you must be hidden by some one whom I myself can trust--and for
such a matter there is no one in the palace nor in all Madrid--no one to
whom I can turn and know that you will be safe--not one human being,
"Except yourself!" Dolores loved the words, and gently pressed his hand.
"I thank you, dearest heart--but do you know what that means? Do you
understand that I must hide you myself, in my own apartments, and keep
you there until I can take you out of the palace, before morning?"
She was silent for a few moments, turning her face away from him. His
"No, dear," he said sadly, "you do not trust me enough for that--I see
it--what woman could?"
Her hand trembled and started in his, then pressed it hard, and she
turned her face quite to him.
"You are wrong," she said, with a tremor in her voice. "I love you as no
man was ever loved by any woman, far beyond all that all words can say,
and I shall love you till I die, and after that, for ever--even if I can
never be your wife. I love you as no one loves in these days, and when I
say that it is as you love me, I mean a thousand fold for every word. I
am not the child you left nearly two years ago. I am a woman now, for I
have thought and seen much since then--and I love you better and more
than then. God knows, there is enough to see and to learn in this
court--that should be hidden deep from honest women's sight! You and I
shall have a heaven on this earth, if God grants that we may be joined
together--for I will live for you, and serve you, and smooth all trouble
out of your way--and ask nothing of you but your love. And if we cannot
marry, then I will live for you in my heart, and serve you with my soul,
and pray Heaven that harm may never touch you. I will pray so fervently
that God must hear me. And so will you pray for me, as you would fight
for me, if you could. Remember, if you will, that when you are in battle
for Spain, your sword is drawn for Spain's honour, and for the honour of
every Christian Spanish woman that lives--and for mine, too!"
The words pleased him, and his free hand was suddenly clenched.
"You would make cowards fight like wolves, if you could speak to them
like that!" he said.
"I am not speaking to cowards," she answered, with a loving smile. "I am
speaking to the man I love, to the best and bravest and truest man that
breathes--and not to Don John of Austria, the victorious leader, but to
you, my heart's love, my life, my all, to you who are good and brave and
true to me, as no man ever was to any woman. No--" she laughed happily,
and there were tears in her eyes--"no, there are no words for such love
"May I be all you would have me, and much more," he said fervently, and
his voice shook in the short speech.
"I am giving you all I have, because it is not belief, it is certainty.
I know you are all that I say you are, and more too. And I trust you, as
you mean it, and as you need my trust to save me. Take me where you
will. Hide me in your own room if you must, and bolt and bar it if need
be. I shall be as safe with you as I should be with my mother in heaven.
I put my hands between yours."
Again he heard her sweet low laughter, full of joy and trust, and she
laid her hands together between his and looked into his eyes, straight
and clear. Then she spoke softly and solemnly.
"Into your hands I put my life, and my faith, and my maiden honour,
trusting them all to you alone in this world, as I trust them to God."
Don John held her hands tightly for a moment, still looking into her
eyes as if he could see her soul there, giving itself to his keeping.
But he swore no great oath, and made no long speech; for a man who has
led men to deeds of glory, and against whom no dishonourable thing was
ever breathed, knows that his word is good.
"You shall not regret that you trust me, and you will be quite safe," he
She wanted no more. Loving as she did, she believed in him without
promises, yet she could not always believe that he quite knew how she
"You are dearer to me than I knew," he said presently, breaking the
silence that followed. "I love you even more, and I thought it could
never be more, when I found you here a little while ago--because you do
really trust me."
"You knew it," the said, nestling to him. "But you wanted me to tell
you. Yes--we are nearer now."
"Far nearer--and a world more dear," he answered. "Do you know? In all
these months I have often and often again wondered how we should meet,
whether it would be before many people, or only with your sister Inez
there--or perhaps alone. But I did not dare hope for that."
"Nor I. I have dreamt of meeting you a hundred times--and more than
that! But there was always some one in the way. I suppose that if we had
found each other in the court and had only been able to say a few words,
it would have been a long time before we were quite ourselves
together--but now, it seems as if we had never been parted at all, does
"As if we could never be parted again," he answered softly.
For a little while there was silence, and though there was to be a great
gathering of the court, that night, all was very still where the lovers
sat at the window, for the throne room and the great halls of state were
far away on the other side of the palace, and the corridor looked upon a
court through which few persons had to pass at night. Suddenly from a
distance there came the rhythmical beat of the Spanish drums, as some
detachment of troops marched by the outer gate. Don John listened.
"Those are my men," he said. "We must go, for now that they are below I
can send my people on errands with orders to them, until I am alone.
Then you must come in. At the end of my apartments there is a small
room, beyond my own. It is furnished to be my study, and no one will
expect to enter it at night. I must put you there, and lock the door and
take the key with me, so that no one can go in while I am at court--or
else you can lock it on the inside, yourself. That would be better,
perhaps," he added rather hurriedly.
"No," said the girl quietly. "I prefer that you should have the key. I
shall feel even safer. But how can I get there without being seen? We
cannot go so far together without meeting some one."
He rose, and she stood up beside him.
"My apartments open upon the broad terrace on the south side," he said.
"At this time there will be only two or three officers there, and my two
servants. Follow me at a little distance, with your hood over your face,
and when you reach the sentry-box at the corner where I turn off, go in.
There will be no sentinel there, and the door looks outward. I shall
send away every one, on different errands, in five minutes. When every
one is gone I will come for you. Is that clear?"
"Perfectly." She nodded, as if she had made quite sure of what he had
explained. Then she put up her hands, as if to say good-by. "Oh, if we
could only stay here in peace!" she cried.
He said nothing, for he knew that there was still much danger, and he
was anxious for her. He only pressed her hands and then led her away.
They followed the corridor together, side by side, to the turning. Then
he whispered to her to drop behind, and she let him go on a dozen paces
and followed him. The way was long, and ill lighted at intervals by oil
lamps hung from the vault by small chains; they cast a broad black
shadow beneath them, and shed a feeble light above. Several times
persons passed them, and Dolores' heart beat furiously. A court lady,
followed by a duenna and a serving-woman, stopped with a winning smile,
and dropped a low courtesy to Don John, who lifted his cap, bowed, and
went on. They did not look at Dolores. A man in a green cloth apron and
loose slippers, carrying five lighted lamps in a greasy iron tray,
passed with perfect indifference, and without paying the least attention
to the victor of Granada. It was his business to carry lamps in that
part of the palace--he was not a human being, but a lamplighter. They
went on, down a short flight of broad steps, and then through a wider
corridor where the lights were better, though the night breeze was
blowing in and made them flicker and flare.
A corporal's guard of the household halberdiers came swinging down at a
marching step, coming from the terrace beyond. The corporal crossed his
halberd in salute, but Don John stopped him, for he understood at once
that a sentry had been set at his door.
"I want no guard," he said. "Take the man away."
"The General ordered it, your Highness," answered the man, respectfully.
"Request your captain to report to the General that I particularly
desire no sentinel at my door. I have no possessions to guard except my
reputation, and I can take care of that myself." He laughed
The corporal grinned--he was a very dark, broad-faced man, with high
cheek bones, and ears that stuck out. He faced about with his three
soldiers, and followed Don John to the terrace--but in the distance he
had seen the hooded figure of a woman.
Not knowing what to do, for she had heard the colloquy, Dolores stood
still a moment, for she did not care to pass the soldiers as they came
back. Then she turned and walked a little way in the other direction, to
gain time, and kept on slowly. In less than a minute they returned,
bringing the sentinel with them. She walked slowly and counted them as
they went past her--and then she started as if she had been stung, and
blushed scarlet under her hood, for she distinctly heard the big
corporal laugh to himself when he had gone by. She knew, then, how she
trusted the man she loved.
When the soldiers had turned the corner and were out of sight, she ran
back to the terrace and hid herself in the stone sentry-box just
outside, still blushing and angry. On the side of the box towards Don
John's apartment there was a small square window just at the height of
her eyes, and she looked through it, sure that her face could not be
seen from without. She looked from mere curiosity, to see what sort of
men the officers were, and Don John's servants; for everything connected
with him or belonging to him in any way interested her most intensely.
Two tall captains came out first, magnificent in polished breastplates
with gold shoulder straps and sashes and gleaming basket-hilted swords,
that stuck up behind them as their owners pressed down the hilts and
strutted along, twisting their short black moustaches in the hope of
meeting some court lady on their way. Then another and older man passed,
also in a soldier's dress, but with bent head, apparently deep in
thought. After that no one came for some time--then a servant, who
pulled something out of his pocket and began to eat it, before he was in