Part 2 out of 5
Then a woman came past the little window. Dolores saw her as distinctly
as she had seen the four men. She came noiselessly and stealthily,
putting down her foot delicately, like a cat. She was a lady, and she
wore a loose cloak that covered all her gown, and on her head a thick
veil, drawn fourfold across her face. Her gait told the girl that she
was young and graceful--something in the turn of the head made her sure
that she was beautiful, too--something in the whole figure and bearing
was familiar. The blood sank from Dolores' cheeks, and she felt a chill
slowly rising to her heart. The lady entered the corridor and went on
quickly, turned, and was out of sight.
Then all at once, Dolores laughed to herself, noiselessly, and was happy
again, in spite of her danger. There was nothing to disturb her, she
reflected. The terrace was long, there were doubtless other apartments
beyond Don John's, though she had not known it. The lady had indeed
walked cautiously, but it might well be that she had reasons for not
being seen there, and that the further rooms were not hers. The Alcazar
was only an old Moorish castle, after all, restored and irregularly
enlarged, and altogether very awkwardly built, so that many of the
apartments could only be reached by crossing open terraces.
When Don John came to get her in the sentry-box, Dolores' momentary
doubt was gone, though not all her curiosity. She smiled as she came out
of her hiding-place and met his eyes--clear and true as her own. She
even hated herself for having thought that the lady could have come from
his apartment at all. The light was streaming from his open door as he
led her quickly towards it. There were three windows beyond it, and
there the terrace ended. She looked at the front as they were passing,
and counted again three windows between the open door and the corner
where the sentry-box stood.
"Who lives in the rooms beyond you?" she asked quickly.
"No one--the last is the one where you are to be." He seemed surprised.
They had reached the open door, and he stood aside to let her go in.
"And on this side?" she asked, speaking with a painful effort.
"My drawing-room and dining-room," he answered.
She paused and drew breath before she spoke again, and she pressed one
hand to her side under her cloak.
"Who was the lady who came from here when all the men were gone?" she
asked, very pale.
* * * * *
Don John was a man not easily taken off his guard, but he started
perceptibly at Dolores' question. He did not change colour, however, nor
did his eyes waver; he looked fixedly into her face.
"No lady has been here," he answered quietly.
Dolores doubted the evidence of her own senses. Her belief in the man
she loved was so great that his words seemed at first to have destroyed
and swept away what must have been a bad dream, or a horrible illusion,
and her face was quiet and happy again as she passed him and went in
through the open entrance. She found herself in a vestibule from which
doors opened to the right and left. He turned in the latter direction,
leading the way into the room.
It was his bedchamber. Built in the Moorish manner, the vaulting began
at the height of a man's head, springing upward in bold and graceful
curves to a great height. The room was square and very large, and the
wall below the vault was hung with very beautiful tapestries
representing the battle of Pavia, the surrender of Francis the First,
and a sort of apotheosis of the Emperor Charles, the father of Don John.
There were two tall windows, which were quite covered by curtains of a
dark brocade, in which the coats of Spain and the Empire were woven in
colours at regular intervals; and opposite them, with the head to the
wall, stood a vast curtained bedstead with carved posts twice a man's
height. The vaulting had been cut on that side, in order that the foot
of the bed might stand back against the wall. The canopy had coats of
arms at the four corners, and the curtains were of dark green corded
silk, heavily embroidered with gold thread in the beautiful scrolls and
arabesques of the period of the Renascence. A carved table, dark and
polished, stood half way between the foot of the bedstead and the space
between the windows, where a magnificent kneeling-stool with red velvet
cushions was placed under a large crucifix. Half a dozen big chairs were
ranged against the long walls on each side of the room, and two
commodious folding chairs with cushions of embossed leather were beside
the table. Opposite the door by which Dolores had entered, another
communicated with the room beyond. Both were carved and ornamented with
scroll work of gilt bronze, but were without curtains. Three or four
Eastern, rugs covered the greater part of the polished marble pavement,
which here and there reflected the light of the tall wax torches that
stood on the table in silver candlesticks, and on each side of the bed
upon low stands. The vault above the tapestried walls was very dark
blue, and decorated with gilded stars in relief. Dolores thought the
room gloomy, and almost funereal. The bed looked like a catafalque, the
candles like funeral torches, and the whole place breathed the
magnificent discomfort of royalty, and seemed hardly intended for a
Dolores barely glanced at it all, as her companion locked the first door
and led her on to the next room. He knew that he had not many minutes to
spare, and was anxious that she should be in her hiding-place before his
servants came back. She followed him and went in. Unlike the bedchamber,
the small study was scantily and severely furnished. It contained only a
writing-table, two simple chairs, a straight-backed divan covered with
leather, and a large chest of black oak bound with ornamented steel
work. The window was curtained with dark stuff, and two wax candles
burned steadily beside the writing-materials that were spread out ready
"This is the room," Don John said, speaking for the first time since
they had entered the apartments.
Dolores let her head fall back, and began to loosen her cloak at her
throat without answering him. He helped her, and laid the long garment
upon the divan. Then he turned and saw her in the full light of the
candles, looking at him, and he uttered an exclamation.
"What is it?" she asked almost dreamily.
"You are very beautiful," he answered in a low voice. "You are the most
beautiful woman I ever saw."
The merest girl knows the tone of a man whose genuine admiration breaks
out unconsciously in plain words, and Dolores was a grown woman. A faint
colour rose in her cheek, and her lips parted to smile, but her eyes
were grave and anxious, for the doubt had returned, and would not be
thrust away. She had seen the lady in the cloak and veil during several
seconds, and though Dolores, who had been watching the men who passed,
had not actually seen her come out of Don John's apartments, but had
been suddenly aware of her as she glided by, it seemed out of the
question that she should have come from any other place. There was
neither niche nor embrasure between the door and the corridor, in which
the lady could have been hidden, and it was hardly conceivable that she
should have been waiting outside for some mysterious purpose, and should
not have fled as soon as she heard the two officers coming out, since
she evidently wished to escape observation. On the other hand, Don John
had quietly denied that any woman had been there, which meant at all
events that he had not seen any one. It could mean nothing else.
Dolores was neither foolishly jealous nor at all suspicious by nature,
and the man was her ideal of truthfulness and honour. She stood looking
at him, resting one hand on the table, while he came slowly towards her,
moving almost unconsciously in the direction of her exquisite beauty, as
a plant lifts itself to the sun at morning. He was near to her, and he
stretched out his arms as if to draw her to him. She smiled then, for in
his eyes she forgot her trouble for a moment, and she would have kissed
him. But suddenly his face grew grave, and he set his teeth, and instead
of taking her into his arms, he took one of her hands and raised it to
his lips, as if it had been the hand of his brother's wife, the young
"Why?" she asked in surprise, and with a little start.
"You are here under my protection," he answered. "Let me have my own
"Yes, I understand. How good you are to me!" She paused, and then went
on, seating herself upon one of the chairs by the table as she spoke.
"You must leave me now," she said. "You must lock me in and keep the
key. Then I shall know that I am safe; and in the meantime you must
decide how I am to escape--it will not be easy." She stopped again. "I
wonder who that woman was!" she exclaimed at last.
"There was no woman here," replied Don John, as quietly and assuredly as
He was leaning upon the table at the other side, with both hands resting
upon it, looking at her beautiful hair as she bent her head.
"Say that you did not see her," she said, "not that she was not here,
for she passed me after all the men, walking very cautiously to make no
noise; and when she was in the corridor she ran--she was young and
light-footed. I could not see her face."
"You believe me, do you not?" asked Don John, bending over the table a
little, and speaking very anxiously.
She turned her face up instantly, her eyes wide and bright.
"Should I be here if I did not trust you and believe you?" she asked
almost fiercely. "Do you think--do you dare to think--that I would have
passed your door if I had supposed that another woman had been here
before me, and had been turned out to make room for me, and would have
stayed here--here in your room--if you had not sent her away? If I had
thought that, I would have left you at your door forever. I would have
gone back to my father. I would have gone to Las Huelgas to-morrow, and
not to be a prisoner, but to live and die there in the only life fit for
a broken-hearted woman. Oh, no! You dare not think that,--you who would
dare anything! If you thought that, you could not love me as I love
you,--believing, trusting, staking life and soul on your truth and
The generous spirit had risen in her eyes, roused not against him, but
by all his question might be made to mean; and as she met his look of
grateful gladness her anger broke away, and left only perfect love and
trust behind it.
"A man would die for you, and wish he might die twice," he answered,
standing upright, as if a weight had been taken from him and he were
free to breathe.
She looked up at the pale, strong features of the young fighter, who was
so great and glorious almost before the down had thickened on his lip;
and she saw something almost above nature in his face,--something high
and angelic, yet manly and well fitted to face earthly battles. He was
her sun, her young god, her perfect image of perfection, the very source
of her trust. It would have killed her to doubt him. Her whole soul went
up to him in her eyes; and as he was ready to die for her, she knew that
for him she would suffer every anguish death could hold, and not flinch.
Then she looked down, and suddenly laughed a little oddly, and her
finger pointed towards the pens and paper.
"She has left something behind," she said. "She was clever to get in
here and slip out again without being seen."
Don John looked where she pointed, and saw a small letter folded round
the stems of two white carnations, and neatly tied with a bit of twisted
silk. It was laid between the paper and the bronze inkstand, and half
hidden by the broad white feather of a goose-quill pen, that seemed to
have been thrown carelessly across the flowers. It lay there as if meant
to be found, only by one who wrote, and not to attract too much
"Oh!" he exclaimed, in a rather singular tone, as he saw it, and a
boyish blush reddened his face.
Then he took the letter and drew out the two flowers by the blossoms
very carefully. Dolores watched him. He seemed in doubt as to what he
should do; and the blush subsided quickly, and gave way to a look of
settled annoyance. The carnations were quite fresh, and had evidently
not been plucked more than an hour. He held them up a moment and looked
at them, then laid them down again and took the note. There was no
writing on the outside. Without opening it he held it to the flame of
the candle, but Dolores caught his wrist.
"Why do you not read it?" she asked quickly.
"Dear, I do not know who wrote it, and I do not wish to know anything
you do not know also."
"You have no idea who the woman is?" Dolores looked at him wonderingly.
"Not the very least," he answered with a smile.
"But I should like to know so much!" she cried. "Do read it and tell me.
I do not understand the thing at all."
"I cannot do that." He shook his head. "That would be betraying a
woman's secret. I do not know who it is, and I must not let you know,
for that would not be honourable."
"You are right," she said, after a pause. "You always are. Burn it."
He pushed the point of a steel erasing-knife through the piece of folded
paper and held it over the flame. It turned brown, crackled and burst
into a little blaze, and in a moment the black ashes fell fluttering to
"What do you suppose it was?" asked Dolores innocently, as Don John
brushed the ashes away.
"Dear--it is very ridiculous--I am ashamed of it, and I do not quite
know how to explain it to you." Again he blushed a little. "It seems
strange to speak of it--I never even told my mother. At first I used to
open them, but now I generally burn them like this one."
"Generally! Do you mean to say that you often find women's letters with
flowers in them on your table?"
"I find them everywhere," answered Don John, with perfect simplicity. "I
have found them in my gloves, tied into the basket hilt of my
sword--often they are brought to me like ordinary letters by a messenger
who waits for an answer. Once I found one on my pillow!"
"But"--Dolores hesitated--"but are they--are they all from the same
person?" she asked timidly. Don John laughed, and shook his head.
"She would need to be a very persistent and industrious person," he
answered. "Do you not understand?"
"No. Who are these women who persecute you with their writing? And why
do they write to you? Do they want you to help them?"
"Not exactly that;" he was still smiling. "I ought not to laugh, I
suppose. They are ladies of the court sometimes, and sometimes others,
and I--I fancy that they want me to--how shall I say?--to begin by
writing them letters of the same sort."
"What sort of letters?"
"Why--love letters," answered Don John, driven to extremity in spite of
"Love letters!" cried Dolores, understanding at last. "Do you mean to
say that there are women whom you do not know, who tell you that they
love you before you have ever spoken to them? Do you mean that a lady of
the court, whom you have probably never even seen, wrote that note and
tied it up with flowers and risked everything to bring it here, just in
the hope that you might notice her? It is horrible! It is vile! It is
shameless! It is beneath anything!"
"You say she was a lady--you saw her. I did not. But that is what she
did, whoever she may be."
"And there are women like that--here, in the palace! How little I know!"
"And the less you learn about the world, the better," answered the young
"But you have never answered one, have you?" asked Dolores, with a scorn
that showed how sure she was of his reply.
"No." He spoke thoughtfully. "I once thought of answering one. I meant
to tell her that she was out of her senses, but I changed my mind. That
was long ago, before I knew you--when I was eighteen."
"Ever since you were a boy!"
The look of wonder was not quite gone from her face yet, but she was
beginning to understand more clearly, though still very far from
distinctly. It did not occur to her once that such things could be
temptations to the brilliant young leader whom every woman admired and
every man flattered, and that only his devoted love for her had kept him
out of ignoble adventures since he had grown to be a man. Had she seen
that, she would have loved him even better, if it were possible. It was
all, as she had said, shameless and abominable. She had thought that she
knew much of evil, and she had even told him so that evening, but this
was far beyond anything she had dreamt of in her innocent thoughts, and
she instinctively felt that there were lower depths of degradation to
which a woman could fall, and of which she would not try to guess the
vileness and horror.
"Shall I burn the flowers, too?" asked Don John, taking them in his
"The flowers? No. They are innocent and fresh. What have they to do with
her? Give them to me."
He raised them to his lips, looking at her, and then held them out. She
took them, and kissed them, as he had done, and they both smiled
happily. Then she fastened them in her hair.
"No one will see me to-night but you," she said. "I may wear flowers in
my hair like a peasant woman!"
"How they make the gold gleam!" he exclaimed, as he looked. "It is
almost time that my men came back," he said sadly. "When I go down to
the court, I shall dismiss them. After the royal supper I shall try and
come here again and see you. By that time everything will be arranged. I
have thought of almost everything already. My mother will provide you
with everything you need. To-morrow evening I can leave this place
myself to go and see her, as I always do."
He always spoke of Dona Magdalena Quixada as his mother--he had never
known his own.
Dolores rose from her seat, for he was ready to go.
"I trust you in everything," she said simply. "I do not need to know how
you will accomplish it all--it is enough to know that you will. Tell
Inez, if you can--protect her if my father is angry with her."
He held out his hand to take hers, and she was going to give it, as she
had done before. But it was too little. Before he knew it she had thrown
her arms round his neck, and was kissing him, with little cries and
broken words of love. Then she drew back suddenly.
"I could not help it," she said. "Now lock me in. No--do not say
good-by--even for two hours!"
"I will come back as soon as I can," he answered, and with a long look
he left her, closed the door and locked it after him, leaving her alone.
She stood a few moments looking at the panels as if her sight could
pierce them and reach him on the other side, and she tried to hold the
last look she had seen in his eyes. Hardly two minutes had elapsed
before she heard voices and footsteps in the bedchamber. Don John spoke
in short sentences now and then to his servants, and his voice was
commanding though it was kindly. It seemed strange to be so near him in
his life; she wondered whether she should some day always be near him,
as she was now, and nearer; she blushed, all alone. So many things had
happened, and he and she had found so much to say that nothing had been
said at all of what was to follow her flight to Villagarcia. She was to
leave for the Quixadas' house before morning, but Quixada and his wife
could not protect her against her father, if he found out where she was,
unless she were married. After that, neither Mendoza nor any one else,
save the King himself, would presume to interfere with the liberty of
Don John of Austria's wife. All Spain would rise to protect her--she was
sure of that. But they had said nothing about a marriage and had wasted
time over that unknown woman's abominable letter. Since she reasoned it
out to herself, she saw that in all probability the ceremony would take
place as soon as Don John reached Villagarcia. He was powerful enough to
demand the necessary permission of the Archbishop, and he would bring it
with him; but no priest, even in the absence of a written order, would
refuse to marry him if he desired it. Between the real power he
possessed and the vast popularity he enjoyed, he could command almost
She heard his voice distinctly just then, though she was not listening
for it. He was telling a servant to bring white shoes. The fact struck
her because she had never seen him wear any that were not black or
yellow. She smiled and wished that she might bring him his white shoes
and hang his order of the Golden Fleece round his neck, and breathe on
the polished hilt of his sword and rub it with soft leather. She had
seen Eudaldo furbish her father's weapons in that way since she had been
It had all come so suddenly in the end. Shading her eyes from the
candles with her hand, she rested one elbow on the table, and tried to
think of what should naturally have happened, of what must have happened
if the unknown voice among the courtiers had not laughed and roused her
father's anger and brought all the rest. Don John would have come to the
door, and Eudaldo would have let him in--because no one could refuse him
anything and he was the King's brother. He would have spent half an hour
with her in the little drawing-room, and it would have been a
constrained meeting, with Inez near, though she would presently have
left them alone. Then, by this time, she would have gone down with the
Duchess Alvarez and the other maids of honour, and by and by she would
have followed the Queen when she entered the throne room with the King
and Don John; and she might not have exchanged another word with the
latter for a whole day, or two days. But now it seemed almost certain
that she was to be his wife within the coming week. He was in the next
"Do not put the sword away," she heard him say. "Leave it here on the
Of course; what should he do with a sword in his court dress? But if he
had met her father in the corridor, coming to her after the supper, he
would have been unarmed. Her father, on the contrary, being on actual
duty, wore the sword of his rank, like any other officer of the guards,
and the King wore a rapier as a part of his state dress.
She was astonished at the distinctness with which she heard what was
said in the next room. That was doubtless due to the construction of the
vault, as she vaguely guessed. It was true that Don John spoke very
clearly, but she could hear the servants' subdued answers almost as
well, when she listened. It seemed to her that he took but a very short
time to dress.
"I have the key of that room," he said presently. "I have my papers
there. You are at liberty till midnight. My hat, my gloves. Call my
gentlemen, one of you, and tell them to meet me in the corridor."
She could almost hear him drawing on his gloves. One of the servants
"Fadrique," said Don John, "leave out my riding-cloak. I may like to
walk on the terrace in the moonlight, and it is cold. Have my drink
ready at midnight and wait for me. Send Gil to sleep, for he was up last
There was a strange pleasure in hearing his familiar orders and small
directions and in seeing how thoughtful he was for his servants. She
knew that he had always refused to be surrounded by valets and
gentlemen-in-waiting, and lived very simply when he could, but it was
different to be brought into such close contact with his life. There was
a wonderful gentleness in his ways that contrasted widely with her
father's despotic manner and harsh tone when he gave orders. Mendoza
believed himself the type and model of a soldier and a gentleman, and he
maintained that without rigid discipline there could be no order and no
safety at home or in the army. But between him and Don John there was
all the difference that separates the born leader of men from the mere
Dolores listened. It was clear that Don John was not going to send
Fadrique away in order to see her again before he went down to the
throne room, though she had almost hoped he might.
On the contrary, some one else came. She heard Fadrique announce him.
"The Captain Don Juan de Escobedo is in waiting, your Highness," said
the servant. "There is also Adonis."
"Adonis!" Don John laughed, not at the name, for it was familiar to him,
but at the mere mention of the person who bore it and who was the King's
dwarf jester, Miguel de Antona, commonly known by his classic nickname.
"Bring Adonis here--he is an old friend."
The door opened again, and Dolores heard the well-known voice of the
hunchback, clear as a woman's, scornful and full of evil laughter,--the
sort of voice that is heard instantly in a crowd, though it is not
always recognizable. The fellow came in, talking loud.
"Ave Caesar!" he cried from the door. "Hail, conqueror! All hail, thou
favoured of heaven, of man,--and of the ladies!"
"The ladies too?" laughed Don John, probably amused by the dwarfs
antics. "Who told you that?"
"The cook, sir. For as you rode up to the gate this afternoon a scullery
maid saw you from the cellar grating and has been raving mad ever since,
singing of the sun, moon, and undying love, until the kitchen is more
like a mad-house than this house would be if the Day of Judgment came
before or after Lent."
"Do you fast in Lent, Adonis?"
"I fast rigidly three times a day, my lord conqueror,--no, six, for I
eat nothing either just before or just after my breakfast, my dinner,
and my supper. No monk can do better than that, for at those times I eat
nothing at all."
"If you said your prayers as often as you fast, you would be in a good
way," observed Don John.
"I do, sir. I say a short grace before and after eating. Why have you
come to Madrid, my lord? Do you not know that Madrid is the worst, the
wickedest, the dirtiest, vilest, and most damnable habitation devised by
man for the corruption of humanity? Especially in the month of November?
Has your lordship any reasonable reason for this unreason of coming
here, when the streets are full of mud, and men's hearts are packed like
saddle-bags with all the sins they have accumulated since Easter and
mean to unload at Christmas? Even your old friends are shocked to see so
young and honest a prince in such a place!"
"My old friends? Who?"
"I saw Saint John the Conqueror graciously wave his hand to a most
highly respectable old nobleman this afternoon, and the nobleman was so
much shocked that he could not stir an arm to return the salutation! His
legs must have done something, though, for he seemed to kick his own
horse up from the ground under him. The shock must have been terrible.
As for me, I laughed aloud, which made both the old nobleman and Don
Julius Caesar of Austria exceedingly angry. Get before me, Don Fadrique!
I am afraid of the terror of the Moors,--and no shame to me either! A
poor dwarf, against a man who tears armies to shreds,--and sends
scullery maids into hysterics! What is a poor crippled jester compared
with a powerful scullery maid or an army of heathen Moriscoes? Give me
that sword, Fadrique, or I am a dead man!"
But Don John was laughing good-naturedly.
"So it was you, Adonis? I might have-known your voice, I should think."
"No one ever knows my voice, sir. It is not a voice, it is a freak of
grammar. It is masculine, feminine, and neuter in gender, singular by
nature, and generally accusative, and it is optative in mood and full of
acute accents. If you can find such another voice in creation, sir, I
will forfeit mine in the King's councils."
Adonis laughed now, and Dolores remembered the laughter she had heard
from the window.
"Does his Majesty consult you on matters of state?" inquired Don John.
"Answer quickly, for I must be going."
"It takes twice as long to tell a story to two men, as to tell it to
one,--when you have to tell them different stories,"
"Go, Fadrique," said Don John, "and shut the door."
The dwarf, seeing the servant gone, beckoned Don John to the other side
of the room.
"It is no great secret, being only the King's," he said. "His Majesty
bids me tell your Serene Highness that he wishes to speak with you
privately about some matters, and that he will come here soon after
supper, and begs you to be alone."
"I will be here--alone."
"Excellent, sir. Now there is another matter of secrecy which is just
the contrary of what I have told you, for it is a secret from the King.
A lady laid a letter and two white carnations on your writing-table. If
there is any answer to be taken, I will take it."
"There is none," answered Don John sternly, "Tell the lady that I burned
the letter without reading it. Go, Adonis, and the next time you come
here, do not bring messages from women. Fadrique!"
"Your Highness burned the letter without reading it?"
"I am sorry," said the dwarf, in a low voice.
No more words were spoken, and in a few moments there was deep silence,
for they were all gone, and Dolores was alone, locked into the little
* * * * *
The great throne room of the palace was crowded with courtiers long
before the time when the King and Queen and Don John of Austria were to
appear, and the entries and halls by which it was approached were almost
as full. Though the late November air was keen, the state apartments
were at summer heat, warmed by thousands of great wax candles that
burned in chandeliers, and in huge sconces and on high candelabra that
stood in every corner. The light was everywhere, and was very soft and
yellow, while the odour of the wax itself was perceptible in the air,
and helped the impression that the great concourse was gathered in a
wide cathedral for some solemn function rather than in a throne room to
welcome a victorious soldier. Vast tapestries, dim and rich in the thick
air, covered the walls between the tall Moorish windows, and above them
the great pointed vaulting, ornamented with the fantastically modelled
stucco of the Moors, was like the creamy crests of waves lashed into
foam by the wind, thrown upright here, and there blown forward in swift
spray, and then again breaking in the fall to thousands of light and
exquisite shapes; and the whole vault thus gathered up the light of the
candles into itself and shed it downward, distributing it into every
corner and lighting every face in a soft and golden glow.
At the upper end, between two great doors that were like the gateways of
an eastern city, stood the vacant throne, on a platform approached by
three broad steps and covered with deep red cloth; and there stood
magnificent officers of the guard in gilded corslets and plumed steel
caps, and other garments of scarlet and gold, with their drawn swords
out. But Mendoza was not there yet, for it was his duty to enter with
the King's own guard, preceding the Majorduomo. Above the throne, a huge
canopy of velvet, red and yellow, was reared up around the royal coat of
To the right and left, on the steps, stood carved stools with silken
cushions--those on the right for the chief ministers and nobles of the
kingdom, those on the left for the great ladies of the court. These
would all enter in the King's train and take their places. For the
throng of courtiers who filled the floor and the entries there were no
seats, for only a score of the highest and greatest personages were
suffered to sit in the royal presence. A few, who were near the windows,
rested themselves surreptitiously on the high mouldings of the
pilasters, pushing aside the curtains cautiously, and seeming from a
distance to be standing while they were in reality comfortably seated,
an object of laughing envy and of many witticisms to their less
fortunate fellow-courtiers. The throng was not so close but that it was
possible to move in the middle of the hall, and almost all the persons
there were slowly changing place, some going forward to be nearer the
throne, others searching for their friends among their many
acquaintances, that they might help the tedious hour to pass more
Seen from the high gallery above the arch of the great entrance the hall
was a golden cauldron full of rich hues that intermingled in streams,
and made slow eddies with deep shadows, and then little waves of light
that turned upon themselves, as the colours thrown into the dyeing vat
slowly seethe and mix together in rivulets of dark blue and crimson, and
of splendid purple that seems to turn black in places and then is
suddenly shot through with flashes of golden and opalescent light. Here
and there also a silvery gleam flashed in the darker surface, like a
pearl in wine, for a few of the court ladies were dressed all in white,
with silver and many pearls, and diamonds that shed little rays of their
The dwarf Adonis had been there for a few moments behind the lattice
which the Moors had left, and as he stood there alone, where no one ever
thought of going, he listened to the even and not unmusical sound that
came up from the great assembly--the full chorus of speaking voices
trained never to be harsh or high, and to use chosen words, with no loud
exclamations, laughing only to please and little enough out of
merriment; and they would not laugh at all after the King and Queen came
in, but would only murmur low and pleasant flatteries, the change as
sudden as when the musician at the keys closes the full organ all at
once and draws gentle harmonies from softer stops.
The jester had stood there, and looked down with deep-set, eager eyes,
his crooked face pathetically sad and drawn, but alive with a swift and
meaning intelligence, while the thin and mobile lips expressed a sort of
ready malice which could break out in bitterness or turn to a kindly
irony according as the touch that moved the man's sensitive nature was
cruel or friendly. He was scarcely taller than a boy of ten years old,
but his full-grown arms hung down below his knees, and his man's head,
with the long, keen face, was set far forward on his shapeless body, so
that in speaking with persons of ordinary stature he looked up under his
brows, a little sideways, to see better. Smooth red hair covered his
bony head, and grew in a carefully trimmed and pointed beard on his
pointed chin. A loose doublet of crimson velvet hid the outlines of his
crooked back and projecting breastbone, and the rest of his dress was of
materials as rich, and all red. He was, moreover, extraordinarily
careful of his appearance, and no courtier had whiter or more delicately
tended hands or spent more time before the mirror in tying a shoulder
knot, and in fastening the stiffened collar of white embroidered linen
at the fashionable angle behind his neck.
He had entered the latticed gallery on his way to Don John's apartments
with the King's message. A small and half-concealed door, known to few
except the servants of the palace, opened upon it suddenly from a niche
in one of the upper corridors. In Moorish days the ladies of the harem
had been wont to go there unseen to see the reception of ambassadors of
state, and such ceremonies, at which, even veiled, they could never be
He only stayed a few moments, and though his eyes were eager, it was by
habit rather than because they were searching for any one in the crowd.
It pleased him now and then to see the court world as a spectacle, as it
delights the hard-worked actor to be for once a spectator at another's
play. He was an integral part of the court himself, a man of whom most
was often expected when he had the least to give, to whom it was
scarcely permitted to say anything in ordinary language, but to whom
almost any license of familiar speech was freely allowed. He was not a
man, he was a tradition, a thing that had to be where it was from
generation to generation; wherever the court had lived a jester lay
buried, and often two and three, for they rarely lived an ordinary
lifetime. Adonis thought of that sometimes, when he was alone, or when
he looked down at the crowd of delicately scented and richly dressed men
and women, every one called by some noble name, who would doubtless
laugh at some jest of his before the night was over. To their eyes the
fool was a necessary servant, because there had always been a fool at
court; he was as indispensable as a chief butler, a chief cook, or a
state coachman, and much more amusing. But he was not a man, he had no
name, he had no place among men, he was not supposed to have a mother, a
wife, a home, anything that belonged to humanity. He was well lodged,
indeed, where the last fool had died, and richly clothed as the other
had been, and he fed delicately, and was given the fine wines of France
to drink, lest his brain should be clouded by stronger liquor and he
should fail to make the court laugh. But he knew well enough that
somewhere in Toledo or Valladolid the next court jester was being
trained to good manners and instructed in the art of wit, to take the
vacant place when he should die. It pleased him therefore sometimes to
look down at the great assemblies from the gallery and to reflect that
all those magnificent fine gentlemen and tenderly nurtured beauties of
Spain were to die also, and that there was scarcely one of them, man or
woman, for whose death some one was not waiting, and waiting perhaps
with evil anxiety and longing. They were splendid to see, those fair
women in their brocades and diamonds, those dark young princesses and
duchesses in velvet and in pearls. He dreamed of them sometimes,
fancying himself one of those Djin of the southern mountains of whom the
Moors told blood-curdling tales, and in the dream he flew down from the
gallery on broad, black wings and carried off the youngest and most
beautiful, straight to his magic fortress above the sea.
They never knew that he was sometimes up there, and on this evening he
did not wait long, for he had his message to deliver and must be in
waiting on the King before the royal train entered the throne room.
After he was gone, the courtiers waited long, and more and more came in
from without. Now and then the crowd parted as best it might, to allow
some grandee who wore the order of the Golden Fleece or of some other
exalted order, to lead his lady nearer to the throne, as was his right,
advancing with measured steps, and bowing gravely to the right and left
as he passed up to the front among his peers. And just behind them, on
one aide, the young girls, of whom many were to be presented to the King
and Queen that night, drew together and talked in laughing whispers,
gathering in groups and knots of three and four, in a sort of irregular
rank behind their mothers or the elder ladies who were to lead them to
the royal presence and pronounce their names. There was more light where
they were gathered, the shadows were few and soft, the colours tender as
the tints of roses in a garden at sunset, and from the place where they
stood the sound of young voices came silvery and clear. That should have
been Inez de Mendoza's place if she had not been blind. But Inez had
never been willing to be there, though she had more than once found her
way to the gallery where the dwarf had stood, and had listened, and
smelled the odour of the wax candles and the perfumes that rose with the
It was long before the great doors on the right hand of the canopy were
thrown open, but courtiers are accustomed from their childhood to long
waiting, and the greater part of their occupation at court is to see and
to be seen, and those who can do both and can take pleasure in either
are rarely impatient. Moreover, many found an opportunity of exchanging
quick words and of making sudden plans for meeting, who would have found
it hard to exchange a written message, and who had few chances of seeing
each other in the ordinary course of their lives; and others had waited
long to deliver a cutting speech, well studied and tempered to hurt, and
sought their enemies in the crowd with the winning smile a woman wears
to deal her keenest thrust. There were men, too, who had great interests
at stake and sought the influence of such as lived near the King,
flattering every one who could possibly be of use, and coolly
overlooking any who had a matter of their own to press, though they were
of their own kin. Many officers of Don John's army were there, too,
bright-eyed and bronzed from their campaigning, and ready to give their
laurels for roses, leaf by leaf, with any lady of the court who would
make a fair exchange--and of these there were not a few, and the time
seemed short to them. There were also ecclesiastics, but not many, in
sober black and violet garments, and they kept together in one corner
and spoke a jargon of Latin and Spanish which the courtiers could not
understand; and all who were there, the great courtiers and the small,
the bishops and the canons, the stout princesses laced to suffocation
and to the verge of apoplexy, and fanning themselves desperately in the
heat, and their slim, dark-eyed daughters, cool and laughing--they were
all gathered together to greet Spain's youngest and greatest hero, Don
John of Austria, who had won back Granada from the Moors.
As the doors opened at last, a distant blast of silver trumpets rang in
from without, and the full chorus of speaking voices was hushed to a
mere breathing that died away to breathless silence during a few moments
as the greatest sovereign of the age, and one of the strangest figures
of all time, appeared before his court. The Grand Master of Ceremonies
entered first, in his robe of office, bearing a long white staff. In the
stillness his voice rang out to the ends of the hall:
"His Majesty the King! Her Majesty the Queen!"
Then came a score of halberdiers of the guard, picked men of great
stature, marching in even steps, led by old Mendoza himself, in his
breastplate and helmet, sword in hand; and he drew up the guard at one
side in a rank, making them pass him so that he stood next to the door.
After the guards came Philip the Second, a tall and melancholy figure;
and with him, on his left side, walked the young Queen, a small, thin
figure in white, with sad eyes and a pathetic face--wondering, perhaps,
whether she was to follow soon those other queens who had walked by the
same King to the same court, and had all died before their time--Mary of
Portugal, Mary of England, Isabel of Valois.
The King was one of those men who seem marked by destiny rather than by
nature, fateful, sombre, almost repellent in manner, born to inspire a
vague fear at first sight, and foreordained to strange misfortune or to
extraordinary success, one of those human beings from whom all men
shrink instinctively, and before whom they easily lose their fluency of
speech and confidence of thought. Unnaturally still eyes, of an
uncertain colour, gazed with a terrifying fixedness upon a human world,
and were oddly set in the large and perfectly colourless face that was
like an exaggerated waxen mask. The pale lips did not meet evenly, the
lower one protruding, forced, outward by the phenomenal jaw that has
descended to this day in the House of Austria. A meagre beard, so fair
that it looked faded, accentuated the chin rather than concealed it, and
the hair on the head was of the same undecided tone, neither thin nor
thick, neither long nor short, but parted, and combed with the utmost
precision about the large but very finely moulded ears. The brow was
very full as well as broad, and the forehead high, the whole face too
large, even for a man so tall, and disquieting in its proportions.
Philip bent his head forward a little when at rest; when he looked about
him it moved with something of the slow, sure motion of a piece of
mechanism, stopping now and then, as the look in the eyes solidified to
a stare, and then, moving again, until curiosity was satisfied and it
resumed its first attitude, and remained motionless, whether the lips
were speaking or not.
Very tall and thin, and narrow chested, the figure was clothed all in
cream-coloured silk and silver, relieved only by the collar of the
Golden Fleece, the solitary order the King wore. His step was ungraceful
and slow, as if his thin limbs bore his light weight with difficulty,
and he sometimes stumbled in walking. One hand rested on the hilt of his
sword as he walked, and even under the white gloves the immense length
of the fingers and the proportionate development of the long thumb were
clearly apparent. No one could have guessed that in such a figure there
could be much elasticity or strength, and yet, at rare moments and when
younger, King Philip displayed such strength and energy and quickness as
might well have made him the match of ordinary men. As a rule his anger
was slow, thoughtful, and dangerous, as all his schemes were vast and
With the utmost deliberation, and without so much as glancing at the
courtiers assembled, he advanced to the throne and sat down, resting
both hands on the gilded arms of the great chair; and the Queen took her
place beside him. But before he had settled himself, there was a low
sound of suppressed delight in the hall, a moving of heads, a
brightening of women's eyes, a little swaying of men's shoulders as they
tried to see better over those who stood before them; and voices rose
here and there above the murmur, though not loudly, and were joined by
others. Then the King's waxen face darkened, though the expression did
not change and the still eyes did not move, but as if something passed
between it and the light, leaving it grey in the shadow. He did not turn
to look, for he knew that his brother had entered the throne room and
that every eye was upon him.
Don John was all in dazzling white--white velvet, white satin, white
silk, white lace, white shoes, and wearing neither sword nor ornament of
any kind, the most faultless vision of young and manly grace that ever
glided through a woman's dream.
His place was on the King's right, and he passed along the platform of
the throne with an easy, unhesitating step, and an almost boyish smile
of pleasure at the sounds he heard, and at the flutter of excitement
that was in the air, rather to be felt than otherwise perceived. Coming
up the steps of the throne, he bent one knee before his brother, who
held out his ungloved hand for him to kiss--and when that was done, he
knelt again before the Queen, who did likewise. Then, bowing low as he
passed back before the King, he descended one step and took the chair
set for him in the place that was for the royal princes.
He was alone there, for Philip was again childless at his fourth
marriage, and it was not until long afterwards that a son was born who
lived to succeed him; and there were no royal princesses in Madrid, so
that Don John was his brother's only near blood relation at the court,
and since he had been acknowledged he would have had his place by right,
even if he had not beaten the Moriscoes in the south and won back
After him came the high Ministers of State and the ambassadors in a rich
and stately train, led in by Don Antonio Perez, the King's new
favourite, a man of profound and evil intelligence, upon whom Philip was
to rely almost entirely during ten years, whom he almost tortured to
death for his crimes, and who in the end escaped him, outlived him, and
died a natural death, in Paris, when nearly eighty. With these came also
the court ladies, the Queen's Mistress of the Robes, and the maids of
honour, and with the ladies was Dona Ana de la Cerda, Princess of Eboli
and Melito and Duchess of Pastrana, the wife of old Don Ruy Gomez de
Silva, the Minister. It was said that she ruled her husband, and Antonio
Perez and the King himself, and that she was faithless to all three.
She was not more than thirty years of age at that time, and she looked
younger when seen in profile. But one facing her might have thought her
older from the extraordinary and almost masculine strength of her small
head and face, compact as a young athlete's, too square for a woman's,
with high cheekbones, deep-set black eyes and eyebrows that met between
them, and a cruel red mouth that always curled a little just when she
was going to speak, and showed extraordinarily perfect little teeth,
when the lips parted. Yet she was almost beautiful when she was not
angry or in a hurtful mood. The dark complexion was as smooth as a
perfect peach, and tinged with warm colour, and her eyes could be like
black opals, and no woman in Spain or Andalusia could match her for
grace of figure and lightness of step.
Others came after in the long train. Then, last of all, at a little
distance from the rest, the jester entered, affecting a very dejected
air. He stood still a while on the platform, looking about as if to see
whether a seat had been reserved for him, and then, shaking his head
sadly, he crouched down, a heap of scarlet velvet with a man's face,
just at Don John's feet, and turning a little towards him, so as to
watch his eyes. But Don John would not look at him, and was surprised
that he should put himself there, having just been dismissed with a
sharp reprimand for bringing women's messages.
The ceremony, if it can be called by that name, began almost as soon as
all were seated. At a sign from the King, Don Antonio Perez rose and
read out a document which he had brought in his hand. It was a sort of
throne speech, and set forth briefly, in very measured terms, the
results of the long campaign against the Moriscoes, according high
praise to the army in general, and containing a few congratulatory
phrases addressed to Don John himself. The audience of nobles listened
attentively, and whenever the leader's name occurred, the suppressed
flutter of enthusiasm ran through the hall like a breeze that stirs
forest leaves in summer; but when the King was mentioned the silence was
dead and unbroken. Don John sat quite still, looking down a little, and
now and then his colour deepened perceptibly. The speech did not hint at
any reward or further distinction to be conferred on him.
When Perez had finished reading, he paused a moment, and the hand that
held the paper fell to his side. Then he raised his voice to a higher
"God save his Majesty Don Philip Second!" be cried. "Long live the
The courtiers answered the cheer, but moderately, as a matter of course,
and without enthusiasm, repeating it three times. But at the last time a
single woman's voice, high and clear above all the rest, cried out other
"God save Don John of Austria! Long live Don John of Austria!"
The whole multitude of men and women was stirred at once, for every
heart was in the cheer, and in an instant, courtiers though they were,
the King was forgotten, the time, the place, and the cry went up all at
once, full, long and loud, shaming the one that had gone before it.
King Philip's hands strained at the arms of his great chair, and he half
rose, as if to command silence; and Don John, suddenly pale, had half
risen, too, stretching out his open hand in a gesture of deprecation,
while the Queen watched him with timidly admiring eyes, and the dark
Princess of Eboli's dusky lids drooped to hide her own, for she was
watching him also, but with other thoughts. For a few seconds longer,
the cheers followed each other, and then they died away to a comparative
silence. The dwarf rocked himself, his head between his knees, at Don
"God save the Fool!" he cried softly, mimicking the cheer, and he seemed
to shake all over, as he sat huddled together, swinging himself to and
But no one noticed what he said, for the King had risen to his feet as
soon as there was silence. He spoke in a muffled tone that made his
words hard to understand, and those who knew him best saw that he was
very angry. The Princess of Eboli's red lips curled scornfully as she
listened, and unnoticed she exchanged a meaning glance with Antonio
Perez; for he and she were allies, and often of late they had talked
long together, and had drawn sharp comparisons between the King and his
brother, and the plan they had made was to destroy the King and to crown
Don John of Austria in his place; but the woman's plot was deeper, and
both were equally determined that Don John should not marry without
their consent, and that if he did, his marriage should not hold, unless,
as was probable, his young wife should fall ill and die of a sickness
unknown to physicians.
All had risen with the King, and he addressed Don John amidst the most
"My brother," he said, "your friends have taken upon themselves
unnecessarily to use the words we would have used, and to express to you
their enthusiasm for your success in a manner unknown at the court of
Spain. Our one voice, rendering you the thanks that are your due, can
hardly give you great satisfaction after what you have heard just now.
Yet we presume that the praise of others cannot altogether take the
place of your sovereign's at such a moment, and we formally thank you
for the admirable performance of the task entrusted to you, promising
that before long your services shall be required for an even more
arduous undertaking. It is not in our power to confer upon you any
personal distinction or public office higher than you already hold, as
our brother, and as High Admiral of Spain; but we trust the day is not
far distant when a marriage befitting your rank may place you on a level
Don John had moved a step forward from his place and stood before the
King, who, at the end of his short speech, put his long arms over his
brother's shoulders, and proceeded to embrace him in a formal manner by
applying one cheek to his and solemnly kissing the air behind Don John's
head, a process which the latter imitated as nearly as he could. The
court looked on in silence at the ceremony, ill satisfied with Philip's
cold words. The King drew back, and Don John returned to his place. As
he reached it the dwarf jester made a ceremonious obeisance and handed
him a glove which he had dropped as he came forward. As he took it he
felt that it contained a letter, which made a slight sound when his hand
crumpled it inside the glove. Annoyed by the fool's persistence, Don
John's eyes hardened as he looked at the crooked face, and almost
imperceptibly he shook his head. But the dwarf was as grave as he, and
slightly bent his own, clasping his hands in a gesture of supplication.
Don John reflected that the matter must be one of importance this time,
as Adonis would not otherwise have incurred the risk of passing the
letter to him under the eyes of the King and the whole court.
Then followed the long and tedious procession of the court past the
royal pair, who remained seated, while all the rest stood up, including
Don John himself, to whom a master of ceremonies presented the persons
unknown to him, and who were by far the more numerous. To the men, old
and young, great or insignificant, he gave his hand with frank
cordiality. To the women he courteously bowed his head. A full hour
passed before it was over, and still he grasped the glove with the
crumpled letter in his hand, while the dwarf stood at a little distance,
watching in case it should fall; and as the Duchess Alvarez and the
Princess of Eboli presented the ladies of Madrid to the young Queen, the
Princess often looked at Don John and often at the jester from beneath
her half-dropped lids. But she did not make a single mistake of names
nor of etiquette, though her mind was much preoccupied with other
The Queen was timidly gracious to every one; but Philip's face was
gloomy, and his fixed eyes hardly seemed to see the faces of the
courtiers as they passed before him, nor did he open his lips to address
a word to any of them, though some were old and faithful servants of his
own and of his father's.
In his manner, in his silence, in the formality of the ceremony, there
was the whole spirit of the Spanish dominion. It was sombrely
magnificent, and it was gravely cruel; it adhered to the forms of
sovereignty as rigidly as to the outward practices of religion; its
power extended to the ends of the world, and the most remote countries
sent their homage and obeisance to its head; and beneath the dark
splendour that surrounded its gloomy sovereigns there was passion and
hatred and intrigue. Beside Don John of Austria stood Antonio Perez, and
under the same roof with Dolores de Mendoza dwelt Ana de la Cerda,
Princess of Eboli, and in the midst of them all Miguel de Antona, the
* * * * *
When the ceremony was over, and every one on the platform and steps of
the throne moved a little in order to make way for the royal personages,
making a slight momentary confusion, Adonis crept up behind Don John,
and softly touched his sleeve to attract his attention. Don John looked
round quickly, and was annoyed to see the dwarf there. He did not notice
the fact that Dona Ana de la Cerda was watching them both, looking
sideways without turning her head.
"It is a matter of importance," said the jester, in a low voice. "Read
it before supper if you can."
Don John looked at him a moment, and turned away without answering, or
even making a sign that he understood. The dwarf met Dona Ana's eyes,
and grew slowly pale, till his face was a yellow mask; for he feared
The door on the other side of the throne was opened, and the King and
Queen, followed by Don John, and preceded by the Master of Ceremonies,
went out. The dwarf, who was privileged, went after them with his
strange, rolling step, his long arms hanging down and swinging
irregularly, as if they did not belong to his body, but were only
stuffed things that hung loose from his shoulders.
As on all such state occasions, there were separate suppers, in separate
apartments, one for the King, and one for the ministers of state and the
high courtiers; thirdly, a vast collation was spread in a hall on the
other side of the throne room for the many nobles who were but guests at
the court and held no office nor had any special privileges. It was the
custom at that time that the supper should last an hour, after which all
reentered the throne room to dance, except the King and Queen, who
either retired to the royal apartments, or came back for a short time
and remained standing on the floor of the hall, in order to converse
with a few of the grandees and ambassadors.
The royal party supped in a sombre room of oval shape, dark with
tapestries and splendid with gold. The King and Queen sat side by side,
and Don John was placed opposite them at the table, of which the shape
and outline corresponded on a small scale with those of the room. Four
or five gentlemen, whose office it was, served the royal couple,
receiving the dishes and wines from the hands of the chief butler; and
he, with two other servants in state liveries, waited on Don John.
Everything was most exactly ordered according to the unchangeable rules
of the most formal court in Europe, not even excepting that of Rome.
Philip sat in gloomy silence, eating nothing, but occasionally drinking
a little Tokay wine, brought with infinite precaution from Hungary to
Madrid. As be said nothing, neither the Queen nor Don John could speak,
it being ordained that the King must be the first to open his lips. The
Queen, however, being young and of a good constitution in spite of her
almost delicate appearance, began to taste everything that was set
before her, glancing timidly at her husband, who took no notice of her,
or pretended not to do so. Don John, soldier-like, made a sparing supper
of the first thing that was offered to him, and then sat silently
watching the other two. He understood very well that his brother wished
to see him in private, and was annoyed that the Queen should make the
meal last longer than necessary. The dwarf understood also, and smiled
to himself in the corner where he stood waiting in case the King should
wish to be amused, which on that particular evening seemed far from
likely. But sometimes he turned pale and his lips twisted a little as if
he were suffering great pain; for Don John had not yet read the letter
that was hidden in his glove; and Adonis saw in the dark corners of the
room the Princess of Eboli's cruel half-closed eyes, and he fancied he
heard her deep voice, that almost always spoke very sweetly, telling him
again and again that if Don John did not read her letter before he met
the King alone that night, Adonis should before very long cease to be
court jester, and indeed cease to be anything at all that 'eats and
drinks and sleeps and wears a coat'--as Dante had said. What Dona Ana
said she would do, was as good as done already, both then and for nine
years from that time, but thereafter she paid for all her deeds, and
more too. But this history is not concerned with those matters, being
only the story of what happened in one night at the old Alcazar of
King Philip sat a little bent in his chair, apparently staring at a
point in space, and not opening his lips except to drink. But his
presence filled the shadowy room, his large and yellowish face seemed to
be all visible from every part of it, and his still eyes dominated
everything and every one, except his brother. It was as if the
possession of some supernatural and evil being were stealing slowly upon
all who were there; as if a monstrous spider sat absolutely motionless
in the midst of its web, drawing everything within reach to itself by
the unnatural fascination of its lidless sight--as if the gentlemen in
waiting were but helpless flies, circling nearer and nearer, to be
caught at last in the meshes, and the Queen a bright butterfly, and Don
John a white moth, already taken and soon to be devoured. The dwarf
thought of this in his corner, and his blood was chilled, for three
queens lay in their tombs in three dim cathedrals, and she who sat at
table was the fourth who had supped with the royal Spider in his web.
Adonis watched him, and the penetrating fear he had long known crept all
through him like the chill that shakes a man before a marsh fever, so
that he had to set his teeth with all his might, lest they should
chatter audibly. As he looked, he fancied that in the light of the waxen
torches the King's face turned by degrees to an ashy grey, and then more
slowly to a shadowy yellow again, as he had seen a spider's ugly body
change colour when the flies came nearer, and change again when one was
entangled in the threads. He thought that the faces of all the people in
the room changed, too, and that he saw in them the look that only near
and certain death can bring, which is in the eyes of him who goes out
with bound hands, at dawn, amongst other men who will see the rising sun
shine on his dead face. That fear came on the dwarf sometimes, and he
dreaded always lest at that moment the King should call to him and bid
him sing or play with words. But this had never happened yet. There were
others in the room, also, who knew something of that same terror, though
in a less degree, perhaps because they knew Philip less well than the
jester, who was almost always near him. But Don John sat quietly in his
place, no more realizing that there could be danger than if he had been
charging the Moors at the head of his cavalry, or fighting a man hand to
hand with drawn swords.
But still the fear grew, and even the gentlemen and the servants
wondered, for it had never happened that the King had not at last broken
the silence at supper, so that all guessed trouble near at hand, and
peril for themselves. The Queen grew nervous and ceased to eat. She
looked from Philip to Don John, and more than once seemed about to
speak, but recollected herself and checked the words. Her hand shook and
her thin young nostrils quivered now and then. Evil was gathering in the
air, and she felt it approaching, though she could not tell whence it
came. A sort of tension took possession of every one, like what people
feel in southern countries when the southeast wind blows, or when,
almost without warning, the fresh sea-breeze dies away to a dead calm
and the blackness rises like a tide of pitch among the mountains of the
coast, sending up enormous clouds above it to the pale sky, and lying
quite still below; and the air grows lurid quickly, and heavy to breathe
and sultry, till the tempest breaks in lightning and-thunder and
In the midst of the brewing storm the dwarf saw only the Spider in its
web, illuminated by the unearthly glare of his own fear, and with it the
frightened butterfly and the beautiful silver moth, that had never
dreamed of danger. He shrank against the hangings, pressing backwards
till he hurt his crooked back against the stone wall behind the
tapestry, and could have shrieked with fear had not a greater fear made
him dumb. He felt that the King was going to speak to him, and that he
should not be able to answer him. A horrible thought suddenly seized
him, and he fancied that the King had seen him slip the letter into Don
John's glove, and would ask for it, and take it, and read it--and that
would be the end. Thrills of torment ran through him, and he knew how it
must feel to lie bound on the rack and to hear the executioner's hands
on the wheel, ready to turn it again at the judge's word. He had seen a
man tortured once, and remembered his face. He was sure that the King
must have seen the letter, and that meant torment and death, and the
King was angry also because the court had cheered Don John. It was
treason, and he knew it--yet it would have been certain death, too, to
refuse to obey Dona Ana. There was destruction on either side, and he
could not escape. Don John had not read the writing yet, and if the King
asked for it, he would probably give it to him without a thought,
unopened, for he was far too simple to imagine that any one could accuse
him of a treasonable thought, and too boyishly frank to fancy that his
brother could be jealous of him--above all, he was too modest to suppose
that there were thousands who would have risked their lives to set him
on the throne of Spain. He would therefore give the King the letter
unopened, unless, believing it to be a love message from some foolish
woman, he chose to tear it up unread. The wretched jester knew that
either would mean his own disgrace and death, and he quivered with agony
from head to foot.
The lights moved up and down before his sight, the air grew heavier, the
royal Spider took gigantic proportions, and its motionless eyes were
lurid with evil It was about to turn to him; he felt it turning already,
and knew that it saw him in his corner, and meant to draw him to it,
very slowly. In a moment he should fall to the floor a senseless heap,
out of deadly fear--it would be well if his fear really killed him, but
he could not even hope for that. His hands gripped the hangings on each
side of him as he shrank and crushed his deformity against the wall.
Surely the King was taming his head. Yes--he was right. He felt his
short hair rising on his scalp and unearthly sounds screamed in his
ears. The terrible eyes were upon him now, but he could not move hand or
foot--if he had been nailed to the wall to die, he could not have been
Philip eyed him with cold curiosity, for it was not an illusion, and he
was really looking steadily at the dwarf. After a long time, his
protruding lower lip moved two or three times before he spoke. The
jester should have come forward at his first glance, to answer any
question asked him. Instead, his colourless lips were parted and tightly
drawn back, and his teeth were chattering, do what he could to close
them. The Queen and Don John followed the King's gaze and looked at the
dwarf in surprise, for his agony was painfully visible.
"He looks as if he were in an ague," observed Philip, as though he were
watching a sick dog.
He had spoken at last, and the fear of silence was removed. An audible
sigh of relief was heard in the room.
"Poor man!" exclaimed the Queen. "I am afraid he is very ill!"
"It is more like--" began Don John, and then he checked himself, for he
had been on the point of saying that the dwarfs fit looked more like
physical fear than illness, for he had more than once seen men afraid of
death; but he remembered the letter in his glove and thought the words
might rouse Philip's suspicions.
"What was your Serene Highness about to say?" enquired the King,
speaking coldly, and laying stress on the formal title which he had
himself given Don John the right to use.
"As your Majesty says, it is very like the chill of a fever," replied
But it was already passing, for Adonis was not a natural coward, and the
short conversation of the royal personages had broken the spell that
held him, or had at least diminished its power. When he had entered the
room he had been quite sure that no one except the Princess had seen him
slip the letter into Don John's glove. That quieting belief began to
return, his jaw became steady, and he relaxed his hold on the
tapestries, and even advanced half a step towards the table.
"And now he seems better," said the King, in evident surprise. "What
sort of illness is this, Fool? If you cannot explain it, you shall be
sent to bed, and the physicians shall practise experiments upon your
vile body, until they find out what your complaint is, for the
advancement of their learning."
"They would advance me more than their science, Sire," answered Adonis,
in a voice that still quaked with past fear, "for they would send me to
paradise at once and learn nothing that they wished to know."
"That is probable," observed Don John, thoughtfully, for he had little
belief in medicine generally, and none at all in the present case.
"May it please your Majesty," said Adonis, taking heart a little, "there
are musk melons on the table."
"Well, what of that?" asked the King.
"The sight of melons on your Majesty's table almost kills me," answered
"Are you so fond of them that you cannot bear to see them? You shall
have a dozen and be made to eat them all. That will cure your abominable
"Provided that the King had none himself, I would eat all the rest,
until I died of a surfeit of melons like your Majesty's great-grandsire
of glorious and happy memory, the Emperor Maximilian."
Philip turned visibly pale, for he feared illness and death as few have
"Why has no one ever told me that?" he asked in a muffled and angry
voice, looking round the room, so that the gentlemen and servants shrank
back a little.
No one answered his question, for though the fact was true, it had been
long forgotten, and it would have been hard for any of those present to
realize that the King would fear a danger so far removed. But the dwarf
knew him well.
"Let there be no more melons," said Philip, rising abruptly, and still
Don John had suppressed a smile, and was taken unawares when the King
rose, so that in standing up instantly, as was necessary according to
the rules, his gloves slipped from his knees, where he had kept them
during supper, to the floor, and a moment passed before he realized that
they were not in his hand. He was still in his place, for the King had
not yet left his own, being engaged in saying a Latin grace in a low
tone, He crossed himself devoutly, and an instant later Don John stooped
down and picked up what he had dropped. Philip could not but notice the
action, and his suspicions were instantly roused.
"What have you found?" he asked sharply, his eyes fixing themselves
"My gloves, Sire. I dropped them."
"And are gloves such precious possessions that Don John of Austria must
stoop to pick them up himself?"
Adonis began to tremble again, and all his fear returned, so that he
almost staggered against the wall. The Queen looked on in surprise, for
she had not been Philip's wife many months. Don John was unconcerned,
and laughed in reply to the question.
"It chances that after long campaigning these are the only new white
gloves Don John of Austria possesses," he answered lightly.
"Let me see them," said the King, extending his hand, and smiling
With some deliberation Don John presented one of the gloves to his
brother, who took it and pretended to examine it critically, still
smiling. He turned it over several times, while Adonis looked on,
gasping for breath, but unnoticed.
"The other," said Philip calmly.
Adonis tried to suppress a groan, and his eyes were fixed on Don John's
face. Would he refuse? Would he try to extract the letter from the glove
under his brother's eyes? Would he give it up?
Don John did none of those things, and there was not the least change of
colour in his cheek. Without any attempt at concealment he took the
letter from its hiding-place, and held out the empty glove with his
other hand. The King drew back, and his face grew very grey and shadowy
"What have you in your other hand?" he asked in a voice indistinct with
"A lady's letter, Sire," replied Don John, unmoved.
"Give it to me at once!"
"That, your Majesty, is a request I will not grant to any gentleman in
He undid a button of his close-fitting doublet, thrust the letter into
the opening and fastened the button again, before the King could speak.
The dwarf's heart almost stood still with joy,--he could have crawled to
Don John's feet to kiss the dust from his shoes. The Queen smiled
nervously, between fear of the one man and admiration for the other.
"Your Serene Highness," answered Philip, with a frightful stare, "is the
first gentleman of Spain who has disobeyed his sovereign."
"May I be the last, your Majesty," said Don John, with a courtly gesture
which showed well enough that he had no intention of changing his mind.
The King turned from him coldly and spoke to Adonis, who had almost got
his courage back a second time.
"You gave my message to his Highness, Fool?" he asked, controlling his
voice, but not quite steadying it to a natural tone.
"Go and tell Don Antonio Perez to come at once to me in my own
The dwarf bent till his crooked back was high above his head, and he
stepped backwards towards the door through which the servants had
entered and gone out. When he had disappeared, Philip turned and, as if
nothing had happened, gave his hand to the Queen to lead her away with
all the prescribed courtesy that was her due. The servants opened wide
the door, two gentlemen placed themselves on each side of it, the chief
gentleman in waiting went before, and the royal couple passed out,
followed at a little distance by Don John, who walked unconcernedly,
swinging his right glove carelessly in his hand as he went. The four
gentlemen walked last. In the hall beyond, Mendoza was in waiting with
A little while after they were all gone, Adonis came back from his
errand, with his rolling step, and searched for the other glove on the
floor, where the King had dropped it. He found it there at once and hid
it in his doubtlet. No one was in the room, for the servants had
disappeared as soon as they could. The dwarf went quickly to Don John's
place, took a Venetian goblet full of untasted wine that stood there and
drank it at a draught. Then he patted himself comfortably with his other
hand and looked thoughtfully at the slices of musk melon that lay in the
golden dish flanked by other dishes full of late grapes and pears.
"God bless the Emperor Maximilian!" he said in a devout tone. "Since he
could not live for ever, it was a special grace of Providence that his
death should be by melons."
Then he went away again, and softly closed the door behind him, after
looking back once more to be sure that no one was there after all, and
perhaps, as people sometimes do on leaving a place where they have
escaped a great danger, fixing its details unconsciously in his memory,
with something almost akin to gratitude, as if the lifeless things had
run the risk with them and thus earned their lasting friendship. Thus
every man who has been to sea knows how, when his vessel has been hove
to in a storm for many hours, perhaps during more than one day, within a
few miles of the same spot, the sea there grows familiar to him as a
landscape to a landsman, so that when the force of the gale is broken at
last and the sea subsides to a long swell, and the ship is wore to the
wind and can lay her course once more, he looks astern at the grey water
he has learned to know so well and feels that he should know it again if
he passed that way, and he leaves it with a faint sensation of regret.
So Adonis, the jester, left the King's supper-room that night, devoutly
thanking Heaven that the Emperor Maximilian had died of eating too many
melons more than a hundred and fifty years ago.
Meanwhile, the King had left the Queen at the door of her apartments,
and had dismissed Don John in angry silence by a gesture only, as he
went on to his study. And when there, he sent away his gentlemen and
bade that no one should disturb him, and that only Don Antonio Perez,
the new favourite, should be admitted. The supper had scarcely lasted
half an hour, and it was still early in the evening when he found
himself alone and was able to reflect upon what had happened, and upon
what it would be best to do to rid himself of his brother, the hero and
idol of Spain.
He did not admit that Don John of Austria could be allowed to live on,
unmolested, as if he had not openly refused to obey an express command
and as if he were not secretly plotting to get possession of the throne.
That was impossible. During more than two years, Don John's popularity,
not only with the people, but with the army, which was a much more
serious matter, had been steadily growing; and with it and even faster
than it, the King's jealousy and hatred had grown also, till it had
become a matter of common discussion and jest among the soldiers when
their officers were out of hearing.
But though it was without real cause, it was not without apparent
foundation. As Philip slowly paced the floor of his most private room,
with awkward, ungainly steps, stumbling more than once against a cushion
that lay before his great armchair, he saw clearly before him the whole
dimensions of that power to which he had unwillingly raised his brother.
The time had been short, but the means used had been great, for they had
been intended to be means of destruction, and the result was tremendous
when they turned against him who used them. Philip was old enough to
have been Don John's father, and he remembered how indifferent he had
been to the graceful boy of twelve, whom they called Juan Quixada, when
he had been brought to the old court at Valladolid and acknowledged as a
son of the Emperor Charles. Though he was his brother, Philip had not
even granted him the privilege of living in the palace then, and had
smiled at the idea that he should be addressed as "Serene Highness."
Even as a boy, he had been impatient to fight; and Philip remembered how
he was always practising with the sword or performing wild feats of
skill and strength upon half-broken horses, except when he was kept to
his books by Dona Magdalena Quixada, the only person in the world whom
he ever obeyed without question. Every one had loved the boy from the
first, and Philip's jealousy had begun from that; for he, who was loved
by none and feared by all, craved popularity and common affection, and
was filled with bitter resentment against the world that obeyed him but
refused him what he most desired.
Little more than ten years had passed since the boy had come, and he had
neither died a natural death nor fallen in battle, and was grown up to
young manhood, and was by far the greatest man in Spain. He had been
treated as an inferior, the people had set him up as a god. He had been
sent out to command expeditions that be might fail and be disgraced; but
he had shown deeper wisdom than his elders, and had come back covered
with honour; and now he had been commanded to fight out the final battle
of Spain with the Moriscoes, in the hope that he might die in the fight,
since he could not be dishonoured, and instead he had returned in
triumph, having utterly subdued the fiercest warriors in Europe, to reap
the ripe harvest of his military glory at an age when other men were in
the leading-strings of war's school, and to be acclaimed a hero as well
as a favourite by a court that could hardly raise a voice to cheer for
its own King. Ten years had done all that. Ten more, or even five, might
do the rest. The boy could not be without ambition, and there could be
no ambition for him of which the object should be less than a throne.
And yet no word had been breathed against him,--his young reputation was
charmed, as his life was. In vain Philip had bidden Antonio Perez and
the Princess of Eboli use all their wits and skill to prove that he was
plotting to seize the crown. They answered that he loved a girl of the
court, Mendoza's daughter, and that besides war, for war's sake, he
cared for nothing in the world but Dolores and his adopted mother.
They spoke the truth, for they had reason to know it, having used every
means in their power to find out whether he could be induced to quarrel
with Philip and enter upon a civil war, which could have had but one
issue, since all Spain would have risen to proclaim him king. He had
been tempted by questions, and led into discussions in which it seemed
certain that he must give them some hope. But they and their agents lost
heart before the insuperable obstacle of the young prince's loyalty. It
was simple, unaffected, and without exaggeration. He never drew his
sword and kissed the blade, and swore by the Blessed Virgin to give his
last drop of blood for his sovereign and his country. He never made
solemn vows to accomplish ends that looked impossible. But when the
charge sounded, he pressed his steel cap a little lower upon his brow,
and settled himself in the saddle without any words and rode at death
like the devil incarnate; and then men followed him, and the impossible
was done, and that was all. Or he could wait and watch, and manoeuvre
for weeks, until he had his foe in his hand, with a patience that would
have failed his officers and his men, had they not seen him always ready
and cheerful, and fully sure that although he might fail twenty times to
drive the foe into the pen, he should most certainly succeed in the
end,--as he always did.
Philip paced the chamber in deep and angry thought. If at that moment
any one had offered to rid him of his brother, the reward would have
been ready, and worth a murderer's taking. But the King had long
cherished the scheme of marrying Don John to Queen Mary of
Scotland,--whose marriage with Bothwell could easily be annulled--in
order that his presumptuous ambition might be satisfied, and at the same
time that he might make of his new kingdom a powerful ally of Spain
against Elizabeth of England. It was for this reason that he had long
determined to prevent his brother's marriage with Maria Dolores de
Mendoza. Perez and Dona Ana de la Cerda, on the other hand, feared that
if Don John were allowed to marry the girl he so devotedly loved, he
would forget everything for her, give up campaigning, and settle to the
insignificance of a thoroughly happy man. For they knew the world well
from their own point of view. Happiness is often like sadness, for it
paralyzes those to whose lot it falls; but pain and danger rouse man's
strength of mind and body.
Yet though the King and his treacherous favourite had diametrically
opposite intentions, a similar thought had crossed the minds of both,
even before Don John had ridden up to the palace gate late on that
afternoon, from his last camping ground outside the city walls. Both had
reasoned that whoever was to influence a man so straightforward and
fearless must have in his power and keeping the person for whom Don John
would make the greatest sacrifice of his life; and that person, as both
knew, was Dolores herself. Yet when Antonio Perez entered Philip's
study, neither had guessed the other's thought.
* * * * *
The court had been still at supper when Adonis had summoned Don Antonio
Perez to the King, and the Secretary, as he was usually called, had been
obliged to excuse his sudden departure by explaining that the King had
sent for him unexpectedly. He was not even able to exchange a word with
Dona Ana, who was seated at another of the three long tables and at some
distance from him. She understood, however, and looked after him
anxiously. His leaving was not signal for the others, but it caused a
little stir which unhinged the solemn formality of the supper. The
Ambassador of the Holy Roman Empire presently protested that he was
suffering from an unbearable headache, and the Princess of Eboli, next
to whom he was seated, begged him not to stand upon ceremony, since
Perez was gone from the room, but to order his coach at once; she found
it hot, she said, and would be glad to escape. The two rose together,
and others followed their example, until the few who would have stayed
longer were constrained to imitate the majority. When Mendoza, relieved
at last from his duty, went towards the supper-room to take the place
that was kept for him at one of the tables, he met Dona Ana in the
private corridor through which the officers and ladies of the household
passed to the state apartments. He stood still, surprised to see her
"The supper is over," she said, stopping also, and trying to scrutinize
the hard old face by the dim light of the lamps. "May I have a word with
you, General? Let us walk together to your apartments."
"It is far, Madam," observed Mendoza, who suspected at once that she
wished to see Dolores.
"I shall be glad to walk a little, and breathe the air," she answered.
"Your corridor has arches open to the air, I remember." She began to
walk, and he was obliged to accompany her. "Yes," she continued
indifferently, "we have had such changeable weather to-day! This morning
it almost snowed, then it rained, then it, began to freeze, and now it
feels like summer! I hope Dolores has not taken cold? Is she ill? She
was not at court before supper."
"The weather is indeed very changeable," replied the General, who did
not know what to say, and considered it beneath his dignity to lie
except by order of the King.
"Yes--yes, I was saying so, was I not? But Dolores--is she ill? Please
tell me." The Princess spoke almost anxiously.
"No, Madam, my daughters are well, so far as I know."
"But then, my dear General, it is strange that you should not have sent
an excuse for Dolores' not appearing. That is the rule, you know. May I
ask why you ventured to break it?" Her tone grew harder by degrees.
"It was very sudden," said Mendoza, trying to put her off. "I hope that
your Grace will excuse my daughter."
"What was sudden?" enquired Dona Ana coldly. "You say she was not taken
"Her--her not coming to court." Mendoza hesitated and pulled at his grey
beard as they went along. "She fully intended to come," he added, with
Dona Ana walked more slowly, glancing sideways at his face, though she
could hardly see it except when they passed by a lamp, for he was very
tall, and she was short, though exquisitely proportioned.
"I do not understand," she said, in a clear, metallic voice. "I have a
right to an explanation, for it is quite impossible to give the ladies
of the court who live in the palace full liberty to attend upon the
Queen or not, as they please. You will be singularly fortunate if Don
Antonio Perez does not mention the matter to the King."
Mendoza was silent, but the words had their effect upon him, and a very
unpleasant one, for they contained a threat.
"You see," continued the Princess, pausing as they reached a flight of
steps which they would have to ascend, "every one acknowledges the
importance of your services, and that you have been very poorly rewarded
for them. But that is in a degree your own fault, for you have refused
to make friends when you might, and you have little interest with the
"I know it," said the old soldier, rather bitterly. "Princess," he
continued, without giving her time to say more, "this is a private
matter, which concerns only me and my daughter. I entreat you to
overlook the irregularity and not to question me further. I will serve
you in any way in my power--"
"You cannot serve me in any way," answered Dona Ana cruelly. "I am
trying to help you," she added, with a sudden change of tone. "You see,
my dear General, you are no longer young. At your age, with your name
and your past services, you should have been a grandee and a rich man.
You have thrown away your opportunities of advancement, and you have
contented yourself with an office which is highly honourable--but poorly
paid, is it not? And there are younger men who court it for the honour
alone, and who are willing to be served by their friends."
"Who is my successor?" asked Mendoza, bravely controlling his voice
though he felt that he was ruined.
The skilful and cruel woman began to mount the steps in silence, in
order to let him suffer a few moments, before she answered. Reaching the
top, she spoke, and her voice was soft and kind.
"No one," she answered, "and there is nothing to prevent you from
keeping your post as long as you like, even if you become infirm and
have to appoint a deputy--but if there were any serious cause of
complaint, like this extraordinary behaviour of Dolores--why, perhaps--"
She paused to give her words weight, for she knew their value.
"Madam," said Mendoza, "the matter I keep from you does not touch my
honour, and you may know it, so far as that is concerned. But it is one
of which I entreat you not to force me to speak."
Dona Ana softly passed her arm through his.
"I am not used to walking so fast," she said, by way of explanation.
"But, my dear Mendoza," she went on, pressing his arm a little, "you do
not think that I shall let what you tell me go further and reach any one
else--do you? How can I be of any use to you, if you have no confidence
in me? Are we not relatives? You must treat me as I treat you."
Mendoza wished that he could.
"Madam," he said almost roughly, "I have shut my daughter up in her own
room and bolted the door, and to-morrow I intend to send her to a
convent, and there she shall stay until she changes her mind, for I will
not change mine"
"Oh!" ejaculated Dona Ana, with a long intonation, as if grasping the
position of affairs by degrees. "I understand," she said, after a long
time. "But then you and I are of the same opinion, my dear friend. Let
us talk about this."
Mendoza did not wish to talk of the matter at all, and said nothing, as
they slowly advanced. They had at last reached the passage that ended at
his door, and he slackened his pace still more, obliging his companion,
whose arm was still in his, to keep pace with him. The moonlight no
longer shone in straight through the open embrasures, and there was a
dim twilight in the corridor.
"You do not wish Dolores to marry Don John of Austria, then," said the
Princess presently, in very low tones. "Then the King is on your side,
and so am I. But I should like to know your reason for objecting to such
a very great marriage."
"Simple enough, Madam. Whenever it should please his Majesty's policy to
marry his brother to a royal personage, such as Queen Mary of Scotland,
the first marriage would be proved null and void, because the King would
command that it should be so, and my daughter would be a dishonoured
woman, fit for nothing but a convent."
"Do you call that dishonour?" asked the Princess thoughtfully. "Even if
that happened, you know that Don John would probably not abandon
Dolores. He would keep her near him--and provide for her generously--"
"Madam!" cried the brave old soldier, interrupting her in sudden and
generous anger, "neither man nor woman shall tell me that my daughter
could ever fall to that!"
She saw that she had made a mistake, and pressed his arm soothingly.
"Pray, do not be angry with me, my dear friend. I was thinking what the
world would say--no, let me speak! I am quite of your opinion that
Dolores should be kept from seeing Don John, even by quiet force if
necessary, for they will certainly be married at the very first
opportunity they can find. But you cannot do such things violently, you
know. You will make a scandal. You cannot take your daughter away from
court suddenly and shut her up in a convent without doing her a great
injury. Do you not see that? People will not understand that you will
not let her marry Don John--I mean that most people would find it hard
to believe. Yes, the world is bad, I know; what can one do? The world
would say--promise me that you will not be angry, dear General! You can
guess what the world would say."'
"I see--I see!" exclaimed the old man, in sudden terror for his
daughter's good name. "How wise you are!"
"Yes," answered Dona Ana, stopping at ten paces from the door, "I am
wise, for I am obliged to be. Now, if instead of locking Dolores into
her room two or three hours ago, you had come to me, and told me the
truth, and put her under my protection, for our common good, I would
have made it quite impossible for her to exchange a word with Don John,
and I would have taken such good care of her that instead of gossiping
about her, the world would have said that she was high in favour, and
would have begun to pay court to her. You know that I have the power to
"How very wise you are!" exclaimed Mendoza again, with more emphasis.
"Very well. Will you let me take her with me now, my dear friend? I will
console her a little, for I daresay she has been crying all alone in her
room, poor girl, and I can keep her with me till Don John goes to
Villagarcia. Then we shall see."
Old Mendoza was a very simple-hearted man, as brave men often are, and a
singularly spotless life spent chiefly in war and austere devotion had
left him more than ignorant of the ways of the world. He had few
friends, chiefly old comrades of his own age who did not live in the
palace, and he detested gossip. Had he known what the woman was with
whom he was speaking, he would have risked Dolores' life rather than
give her into the keeping of Dona Ana. But to him, the latter was simply
the wife of old Don Ruy Gomez de Silva, the Minister of State, and she
was the head of the Queen's household. No one would have thought of
repeating the story of a court intrigue to Mendoza, but it was also true
that every one feared Dona Ana, whose power was boundless, and no one
wished to be heard speaking ill of her. To him, therefore, her
proposition seemed both wise and kind.
"I am very grateful," he said, with some emotion, for he believed that
she was helping him to save his fortune and his honour, as was perhaps
really the case, though she would have helped him to lose both with
equally persuasive skill could his ruin have served her. "Will you come
in with me, Princess?" he asked, beginning to move towards the door.
"Yes. Take me to her room and leave me with her."
"Indeed, I would rather not see her myself this evening," said Mendoza,
feeling his anger still not very far from the surface. "You will be able
to speak more wisely than I should."
"I daresay," answered Dona Ana thoughtfully. "If you went with me to
her, there might be angry words again, and that would make it much
harder for me. If you will leave me at the door of her rooms, and then
go away, I will promise to manage the rest. You are not sorry that you
have told me, now, are you, my dear friend?"
"I am most grateful to you. I shall do all I can to be of service to
you, even though you said that it was not in my power to serve you."
"I was annoyed," said Dona Ana sweetly. "I did not mean it--please
They reached the door, and as she withdrew her hand from his arm, he
took it and ceremoniously kissed her gloved fingers, while she smiled
graciously. Then he knocked three times, and presently the shuffling of
Eudaldo's slippers was heard within, and the old servant opened
sleepily. On seeing the Princess enter first, he stiffened himself in a
military fashion, for he had been a soldier and had fought under Mendoza
when both were younger.
"Eudaldo," said the General, in the stern tone he always used when
giving orders, "her Excellency the Princess of Eboli will take Dona
Dolores to her own apartments this evening. Tell the maid to follow
later with whatever my daughter needs, and do you accompany the ladies
with a candle."
But at this Dona Ana protested strongly. There was moonlight, there were
lamps, there was light everywhere, she said. She needed no one. Mendoza,
who had no man-servant in the house but Eudaldo, and eked out his meagre
establishment by making use of his halberdiers when he needed any one,
yielded after very little persuasion.
"Open the door of my daughter's apartments," he said to Eudaldo.
"Madam," he said, turning to the Princess, "I have the honour to wish
you good-night. I am your Grace's most obedient servant. I must return
to my duty."
"Good-night, my dear friend," answered Dona Ana, nodding graciously.
Mendoza bowed low, and went out again, Eudaldo closing the door behind
him. He would not be at liberty until the last of the grandees had gone
home, and the time he had consumed in accompanying the Princess was just
what he could have spared for his supper. She gave a short sigh of
relief as she heard his spurred heels and long sword on the stone
pavement. He was gone, leaving Dolores in her power, and she meant to
use that power to the utmost.
Eudaldo shuffled silently across the hall, to the other door, and she
followed him. He drew the bolt.
"Wait here," she said quietly. "I wish to see Dona Dolores alone."
"Her ladyship is in the farther room, Excellency," said the servant,
bowing and standing back.
She entered and closed the door, and Eudaldo returned to his big chair,
to doze until she should come out.
She had not taken two steps in the dim room, when a shadow flitted
between her and the lamp, and it was almost instantly extinguished. She
uttered an exclamation of surprise and stood still. Anywhere save in
Mendoza's house, she would have run back and tried to open the door as
quickly as possible, in fear of her life, for she had many enemies, and
was constantly on her guard. But she guessed that the shadowy figure she
had seen was Dolores. She spoke, without hesitation, in a gentle voice.
"Dolores! Are you there?" she asked.
A moment later she felt a small hand on her arm.
"Who is it?" asked a whisper, which might have come from Dolores' lips
for all Dona Ana could tell.
She had forgotten the existence of Inez, whom she had rarely seen, and
never noticed, though she knew that Mendoza had a blind daughter.
"It is I--the Princess of Eboli," she answered in the same gentle tone.
"Hush! Whisper to me."
"Your father has gone back to his duty, my dear--you need not be
"Yes, but Eudaldo is outside--he hears everything when he is not asleep.
What is it, Princess? Why are you here?"
"I wish to talk with you a little," replied Dona Ana, whispering now, to
please the girl. "Can we not get a light? Why did you put out the lamp?
I thought you were in another room."
"I was frightened. I did not know who you were. We can talk in the dark,
if you do not mind. I will lead you to a chair. I know just where
everything is in this room."
The Princess suffered herself to be led a few steps, and presently she
felt herself gently pushed into a seat. She was surprised, but realizing
the girl's fear of her father, she thought it best to humour her. So far
Inez had said nothing that could lead her visitor to suppose that she
was not Dolores. Intimate as the devoted sisters were, Inez knew almost
as much of the Princess as Dolores herself; the two girls were of the
same height, and so long as the conversation was carried on in whispers,
there was no possibility of detection by speech alone. The quick-witted
blind girl reflected that it was strange if Dona Ana had not seen
Dolores, who must have been with the court the whole evening, and she
feared some harm. That being the case, her first impulse was to help her
sister if possible, but so long as she was a prisoner in Dolores' place,
she could do nothing, and she resolved that the Princess should help her
Dona Ana began to speak quickly and fluently in the dark. She said that
she knew the girl's position, and had long known how tenderly she loved
Don John of Austria, and was loved by him. She sympathized deeply with
them both, and meant to do all in her power to help them. Then she told
how she had missed Dolores at court that night.
Inez started involuntarily and drew her breath quickly, but Dona Ana
thought it natural that Dolores should give some expression to the
disappointment she must have felt at being shut up a prisoner on such an
occasion, when all the court was assembled to greet the man she loved.
Then the Princess went on to tell how she had met Mendoza and had come
with him, and how with great difficulty she had learned the truth, and
had undertaken Dolores' care for a few days; and how Mendoza had been
satisfied, never suspecting that she really sympathized with the lovers.
That was a state secret, but of course Dolores must know it. The King
privately desired the marriage, she said, because he was jealous of his
brother and wished that he would tire of winning battles and live
quietly, as happy men do.
"Don John will tell you, when you see him," she continued. "I sent him
two letters this evening. The first he burned unopened, because he
thought it was a love letter, but he has read the second by this time.
He had it before supper."
"What did you write to him?" asked Inez, whispering low.
"He will tell you. The substance was this: If he would only be prudent,
and consent to wait two days, and not attempt to see you alone, which
would make a scandal, and injure you, too, if any one knew it, the King
would arrange everything at his own pleasure, and your father would give
his consent. You have not seen Don John since he arrived, have you?" She
asked the question anxiously.
"Oh no!" answered the blind girl, with conviction. "I have not seen him.
I wish to Heaven I had!"
"I am glad of that," whispered the Princess. "But if you will come with
me to my apartments, and stay with me till matters are arranged--well--I
will not promise, because it might be dangerous, but perhaps you may see
him for a moment."
"Really? Do you think that is possible?" In the dark Inez was smiling
"Perhaps. He might come to see me, for instance, or my husband, and I
could leave you together a moment."
"That would be heaven!" And the whisper came from the heart.
"Then come with me now, my dear, and I will do my best," answered the
"Indeed I will! But will you wait one moment while I dress? I am in my
old frock--it is hardly fit to be seen."
This was quite true; but Inez had reflected that dressed as she was she
could not pass Eudaldo and be taken by him for her sister, even with a
hood over her head. The clothes Dolores had worn before putting on her
court dress were in her room, and Dolores' hood was there, too. Before
the Princess could answer, Inez was gone, closing the door of the
bedroom behind her. Dona Ana, a little taken by surprise again, was fain
to wait where she was, in the dark, at the risk of hurting herself
against the furniture. Then it struck her that Dolores must be dressing
in the dark, for no light had come from the door as it was opened and
shut. She remembered the blind sister then, and she wondered idly
whether those who lived continually with the blind learned from them to
move easily in the dark and to do everything without a light. The
question did not interest her much, but while she was thinking of it the
door opened again. A skirt and a bodice are soon changed. In a moment
she felt her hand taken, and she rose to her feet.
"I am ready, Princess. I will open the door if you will come with me. I
have covered my head and face," she added carelessly, though always
whispering, "because I am afraid of the night air."
"I was going to advise you to do it in any case, my dear. It is just as
well that neither of us should be recognized by any one in the corridors
so far from my apartments."
The door opened and let in what seemed a flood of light by comparison
with the darkness. The Princess went forward, and Eudaldo got upon his
legs as quickly as he could to let the two ladies out, without looking
at them as they crossed the hall. Inez followed her companion's footfall
exactly, keeping one step behind her by ear, and just pausing before
passing out. The old servant saw Dolores' dress and Dolores' hood, which
he expected to see, and no more suspected anything than he had when, as
he supposed, Inez, had gone out earlier.
But Inez herself had a far more difficult part to perform than her
sister's. Dolores had gone out alone, and no one had watched her beyond
the door, and Dolores had eyes, and could easily enough pretend that she
could not see. It was another matter to be blind and to play at seeing,
with a clever woman like the Princess at one's elbow, ready to detect
the slightest hesitation. Besides, though she had got out of the
predicament in which it had been necessary to place her, it was quite
impossible to foresee what might happen when the Princess discovered
that she had been deceived, and that catastrophe must happen sooner or
later, and might occur at any moment. The Princess walked quickly, too,
with a gliding, noiseless step that was hard to follow. Fortunately Inez
was expected to keep to the left of a superior like her companion, and
was accustomed to taking that side when she went anywhere alone in the
palace. That made it easier, but trouble might come at one of the short
flights of steps down and up which they would have to pass to reach the
Princess's apartments. And then, once there, discovery must come, to a
certainty, and then, she knew not what.
She had not run the risk for the sake of being shut up again. She had
got out by a trick in order to help her sister, if she could find her,
and in order to be at liberty the first thing necessary was to elude her
companion. To go to the door of her apartments would be fatal, but she
had not had time to think what she should do. She thought now, with all
the concentration of her ingenuity. One chance presented itself to her
mind at once. They most pass the pillar behind which was the concealed
entrance to the Moorish gallery above the throne room, and it was not at
all likely that Dona Ana should know of its existence, for she never
came to that part of the palace, and if Inez lagged a little way behind,
before they reached the spot, she could slip noiselessly behind the
pillar and disappear. She could always trust herself not to attract
attention when she had to open and shut a door.