Part 3 out of 5
The Princess spoke rarely, making little remarks now and then that
hardly required an answer, but to which Inez answered in monosyllables,
speaking in a low voice through the thick veil she had drawn over her
mantle under her hood, on pretence of fearing the cold. She thought it a
little safer to speak aloud in that way, lest her companion should
wonder at her total silence.
She knew exactly where she was, for she touched each corner as she
passed, and counted her steps between one well-known point and the next,
and she allowed the Princess to gain a little as they neared the last
turning before reaching the place where she meant to make the attempt.
She hoped in this way, by walking quite noiselessly, and then stopping
suddenly just before she reached the pillar, to gain half a dozen paces,
and the Princess would take three more before she stopped also. Inez had
noticed that most people take at least three steps before they stop, if
any one calls them suddenly when they are walking fast. It seems to need
as much to balance the body when its speed is checked. She noticed
everything that could be heard.
She grew nervous. It seemed to her that her companion was walking more
slowly, as if not wishing to leave her any distance behind. She
quickened her own pace again, fearing that she had excited suspicion.
Then she heard the Princess stop suddenly, and she had no choice but to
do the same. Her heart began to beat painfully, as she saw her chance
slipping from her. She waited for Dona Ana to speak, wondering what was
"I have mistaken the way," said the Princess, in a tone of annoyance. "I
do not know where I am. We had better go back and turn down the main
staircase, even if we meet some one. You see, I never come to this part
of the palace."
"I think we are on the right corridor," said Inez nervously. "Let me go
as far as the corner. There is a light there, and I can tell you in a
moment." In her anxiety to seem to see, she had forgotten for the moment
to muffle her voice in her veil.
They went on rapidly, and the Dona Ana did what most people do when a
companion offers to examine the way,--she stood still a moment and
hesitated, looking after the girl, and then followed her with the slow
step with which a person walks who is certain of having to turn back.
Inez walked lightly to the corner, hardly touching the wall, turned by
the corner, and was out of sight in a moment. The Princess walked
faster, for though she believed that Dolores trusted her, it seemed
foolish to give the girl a chance. She reached the corner, where there
was a lamp,--and she saw that the dim corridor was empty to the very
* * * * *
The Princess was far from suspecting, even then, that she had been
deceived about her companion's identity as well as tricked at the last,
when Inez escaped from her. She would have laughed at the idea that any
blind person could have moved as confidently as Inez, or could
afterwards have run the length of the next corridor in what had seemed
but an instant, for she did not know of the niche behind the pillar, and
there were pilasters all along, built into the wall. The construction of
the high, springing vault that covered the whole throne room required
them for its solidity, and only the one under the centre of the arch was
built as a detached pillar, in order to give access to the gallery. Seen
from either end of the passage, it looked exactly like the rest, and few
persons would have noticed that it differed from them, even in passing
Dona Ana stood looking in the direction she supposed the girl to have
taken. An angry flush rose in her cheek, she bit her lips till they
almost bled, and at last she stamped once before she turned away, so
that her little slipper sent a sharp echo along the corridor. Pursuit
was out of the question, of course, though she could run like a deer;
some one might meet her at any turning, and in an hour the whole palace
would know that she had been seen running at full speed after some
unknown person. It would be bad enough if she were recognized walking
alone at night at a distance from her own apartments. She drew her veil
over her face so closely that she could hardly see her way, and began to
retrace her steps towards the principal staircase, pondering as to what
she should say to Mendoza when he discovered that she had allowed his
daughter to escape. She was a woman of manlike intelligence and not
easily unbalanced by a single reverse, however, and before she had gone
far her mind began to work clearly. Dolores, she reasoned, would do one
of two things. She would either go straight to Don John's apartments,
wait for him, and then tell him her story, in the hope that he would
protect her, or she would go to the Duchess Alvarez and seek protection
there. Under no circumstances would she go down to the throne room
without her court dress, for her mere appearance there, dressed as she
was, would produce the most profound astonishment, and could do her no
possible good. And as for her going to the Duchess, that was impossible,
too. If she had run away from Dona Ana, she had done so because the idea
of not seeing Don John for two days was intolerable, and she meant to
try and see him at once. The Duchess was in all probability with the
Queen, in the latter's private apartments, as Dolores would know. On the
whole, it seemed far more likely that she had done the rashest thing
that had suggested itself to her, and had gone directly to the man she
loved,--a man powerful enough to protect her against all comers, at the
present time, and quite capable of facing even the King's displeasure.
But the whole object of Dona Ana's manoeuvre had been to get possession
of Dolores' person, as a means of strongly influencing Don John's
actions, in order thus to lead him into a false position from which he
should not be able to escape without a serious quarrel with King Philip,
which would be the first step towards the execution of the plot
elaborated by Dona Ana and Perez together. Anything which could produce
an open difference between the brothers would serve to produce two
parties in Spain, of which the one that would take Don John's side would
be by far the stronger. His power would be suddenly much increased, an
organized agitation would be made throughout the country to set him on
the throne, and his popularity, like Caesar's, would grow still more,
when he refused the crown, as he would most certainly do. But just then
King Philip would die suddenly of a fever, or a cold, or an indigestion,
as the conspirators thought best. There would be no direct male heir to
the throne but Don John himself, the acknowledged son of the Emperor
Charles; and even Don John would then be made to see that he could only
serve his country by ruling it, since it cried out for his rule and
would have no other. It was a hard and dangerous thing to lead King
Philip; it would be an easy matter to direct King John. An honest and
unsuspicious soldier would be but as a child in such skilful hands. Dona
Ana and Perez would rule Spain as they pleased, and by and by Don John
should be chosen Emperor also by the Electors of the Holy Roman Empire,
and the conspirators would rule the world, as Charles the Fifth had
ruled it. There was no limit to their ambition, and no scruple would
stand between them and any crime, and the stake was high and worth many
The Princess walked slowly, weighing in the balance all there was to
lose or gain. When she reached the head of the main staircase, she had
not yet altogether decided how to act, and lest she should meet some one
she returned, and walked up and down the lonely corridor nearly a
quarter of an hour, in deep thought. Suddenly a plan of action flashed
upon her, and she went quickly on her way, to act at once.
Don John, meanwhile, had read the letter she had sent him by the dwarf
jester. When the King had retired into his own apartments, Don John
found himself unexpectedly alone. Mendoza and the guard had filed into
the antechamber, the gentlemen in waiting, being temporarily at liberty,
went to the room leading out of it on one side, which was appropriated
to their use. The sentries were set at the King's door, and Mendoza
marched his halberdiers out again and off to their quarters, while the
servants disappeared, and the hero of the day was left to himself. He
smiled at his own surprise, recollecting that he should have ordered his
own attendants to be in waiting after the supper, whereas he had
dismissed them until midnight.
He turned on his heel and walked away to find a quiet place where he
might read the paper which had suddenly become of such importance, and
paused at a Moorish niche, where Philip had caused a sacred picture to
be placed, and before which a hanging silver lamp shed a clear light.
The small sheet of paper contained but little writing. There were half a
dozen sentences in a clear hand, without any signature--it was what has
since then come to be called an anonymous letter. But it contained
neither any threat, nor any evidence of spite; it set forth in plain
language that if, as the writer supposed, Don John wished to marry
Dolores de Mendoza, it was as necessary for her personal safety as for
the accomplishment of his desires, that he should make no attempt to see
her for at least two days, and that, if he would accept this advice, he
should have the support of every noble and minister at court, including
the very highest, with the certainty that no further hindrance would be
set in his way; it added that the letter he had burned had contained the
same words, and that the two flowers had been intended to serve as a
signal which it was now too late to use. It would be sufficient if he
told the bearer of the present letter that he agreed to take the advice
it contained. His assent in that way would, of course, be taken by the
writer to mean that he promised, on his word. That was all.
He did not like the last sentence, for it placed him in an awkward
position, as a man of honour, since he had already seen Dolores, and
therefore could not under any circumstances agree to take advice
contrary to which he had already acted. The most he could now say to the
dwarf would be that he could give no answer and would act as carefully
as possible. For the rest, the letter contained nothing treasonable, and
was not at all what he had expected and believed it to be. It appeared
to be written in a friendly spirit, and with the exception of his own
brother and Mendoza, he was not aware that he had an enemy in Spain, in
which he was almost right. Nevertheless, bold and frank as he was by
nature, he knew enough of real warfare to distrust appearances. The
writer was attached to the King's person, or the letter might have been
composed, and even written in an assumed hand, by the King himself, for
Philip was not above using the methods of a common conspirator. The
limitation of time set upon his prudence was strange, too. If he had not
seen her and agreed to the terms, he would have supposed that Dolores
was being kept out of his way during those two days, whereas in that
time it would be possible to send her very far from Madrid, or to place
her secretly in a convent where it would be impossible to find her. It
flashed upon him that in shutting up Dolores that evening Mendoza had
been obeying the King's secret orders, as well as in telling her that
she was to be taken to Las Huelgas at dawn. No one but Philip could have
written the letter--only the dwarf's fear of Philip's displeasure could
have made him so anxious that it should be read at once. It was all as
clear as daylight now, and the King and Mendoza were acting together.
The first letter had been brought by a woman, who must have got out
through the window of the study, which was so low that she could almost
have stepped from it to the terrace without springing. She had watched
until the officers and the servants had gone out and the way was clear.
Nothing could have been simpler or easier.
He would have burnt the letter at the lamp before the picture, had he
not feared that some one might see him do it, and he folded it again and
thrust it back under his doublet. His face was grave as he turned away,
for the position, as he understood it, was a very desperate one. He had
meant to send Dolores to Villagarcia, but it was almost impossible that
such a matter should remain unknown, and in the face of the King's
personal opposition, it would probably ruin Quixada and his wife. He, on
his side, might send Dolores to a convent, under an assumed name, and
take her out again before she was found, and marry her. But that would
be hard, too, for no places were more directly under the sovereign's
control than convents and monasteries. Somewhere she must go, for she
could not possibly remain concealed in his study more than three or four
Suddenly he fancied that she might be in danger even now. The woman who
had brought the first letter had of course left the window unfastened.
She, or the King, or any one, might get in by that way, and Dolores was
alone. They might have taken her away already. He cursed himself for not
having looked to see that the window was bolted. The man who had won
great battles felt a chill at his heart, and he walked at the best of
his speed, careless whether he met any one or not. But no place is more
deserted than the more distant parts of a royal palace when there is a
great assembly in the state apartments. He met no one on his way, and
entered his own door alone. Ten minutes had not elapsed since the King
had left the supper-room, and it was almost at that moment that Dona Ana
Dolores started to her feet as she heard his step in the next room and
then the key in the lock, and as he entered her hands clasped themselves
round his neck, and her eyes looked into his. He was very pale when he
saw her at last, for the belief that she had been stolen away had grown
with his speed, till it was an intolerable certainty.
"What is it? What has happened?" she cried anxiously. "Why are you so
white? Are you ill?"
"I was frightened," he said simply. "I was afraid you were gone. Look
He led her to the window, and drew the curtain to one side. The cool air
rushed in, for the bolts were unfastened, and the window was ajar. He
closed it and fastened it securely, and they both came back.
"The woman got out that way," he said, in explanation. "I understand it
all now--and some one might have come back."
He told her quietly what had happened, and showed her the letter, which
she read slowly to the end before she gave it back to him.
"Then the other was not a love letter, after all," she said, with a
little laugh that had more of relief in it than amusement, though she
did not know it herself.
"No," he answered gravely. "I wish I had read it. I should at least have
shut the window before leaving you!"
Careless of any danger to herself, she sat looking up into his anxious
face, her clasped hands lying in his and quite covered by them, as he
stood beside her. There was not a trace of fear in her own face, nor
indeed of any feeling but perfect love and confidence. Under the gaze of
her deep grey eyes his expression relaxed for a moment, and grew like
hers, so that it would have been hard to say which trusted the other the
"What does anything matter, since we are together now?" she asked. "I am
with you, can anything happen to me?"
"Not while I am alive," he answered, but the look of anxiety for her
returned at once. "You cannot stay here."
"No--you will take me away. I am ready--"
"I do not mean that. You cannot stay in this room, nor in my apartments.
The King is coming here in a few minutes. I cannot tell what he may
do--he may insist on seeing whether any one is here, listening, for he
is very suspicious, and he only comes here because he does not even
trust his own apartments. He may wish to open the door--"
"I will lock it on the inside. You can say that it is locked, and that
you have not the key. If he calls men to open it, I will escape by the
window, and hide in the old sentry-box. He will not stay talking with
you till morning!"
She laughed, and he saw that she was right, simply because there was no
other place where she could be even as safe as where she was. He slowly
nodded as she spoke.
"You see," she cried, with another little laugh of happy satisfaction,
"you must keep me here whether you will or not! You are really
afraid--frightened like a boy! You! How men would stare if they could
see you afraid!"
"It is true," he answered, with a faint smile.
"But I will give you courage!" she said. "The King cannot come yet.
Perez can only have just gone to him, you say. They will talk at least
half an hour, and it is very likely that Perez will persuade him not to
come at all, because he is angry with you. Perhaps Perez will come
instead, and he will be very smooth and flattering, and bring messages
of reconciliation, and beg to make peace. He is very clever, but I do
not like his face. He makes me think of a beautiful black fox! Even if
the King comes himself, we have more than half an hour. You can stay a
little while with me--then go into your room and sit down and read, as
if you were waiting for him. You can read my letter over, and I will sit
here and say all the things I wrote, over and over again, and you will
know that I am saying them--it will be almost as if I were with you, and
could say them quite close to you--like this--I love you!"
She had drawn his hand gently down to her while she was speaking, and
she whispered the last words into his ear with a delicate little kiss
that sent a thrill straight to his heart.
"You are not afraid any more now, are you?" she asked, as she let him
go, and he straightened himself suddenly as a man drawing back from
something he both fears and loves.
He opened and shut his hands quickly two or three times, as some nervous
men do, as if trying to shake them clear from a spell, or an influence.
Then he began to walk up and down, talking to her.
"I am at my wit's end," he said, speaking fast and not looking at her
face, as he turned and turned again. "I cannot send you to
Villagarcia--there are things that neither you nor I could do, even for
each other, things you would not have me do for you, Dolores. It would
be ruin and disgrace to my adopted mother and Quixada--it might be
worse, for the King can call anything he pleases high treason. It is
impossible to take you there without some one knowing it--can I carry
you in my arms? There are grooms, coachmen, servants, who will tell
anything under examination--under torture! How can I send you there?"
"I would not go," answered Dolores quietly.
"I cannot send you to a convent, either," he went on, for he had taken
her answer for granted, as lovers do who trust each other. "You would be
found in a day, for the King knows everything. There is only one place,
where I am master--"
He stopped short, and grew very pale again, looking at the wall, but
seeing something very far away.
"Where?" asked Dolores. "Take me there! Oh, take me where you are
master--where there is no king but you, where we can be together all our
lives, and no one can come between us!"
He stood motionless, staring at the wall, contemplating in amazement the
vastness of the temptation that arose before him. Dolores could not
understand, but she did what a loving women does when the man she loves
seems to be in a great distress. She came and stood beside him, passing
one arm through his and pressing it tenderly, without a word. There are
times when a man needs only that to comfort him and give him strength.
But even a woman does not always know them.
Very slowly he turned to her, almost as if he were trying to resist her
eyes and could not. He took his arm from hers and his hands framed her
face softly, and pushed the gold hair gently back on her forehead. But
she grew frightened by degrees, for there was a look in his eyes she had
never seen there, and that had never been in them before, neither in
love nor in battle. His hands were quite cold, and his face was like a
beautiful marble, but there was an evil something in it, as in a fallen
angel's, a defiance of God, an irresistible strength to do harm, a
terror such as no man would dare to meet.
"You are worth it," he said in a tone so different from his natural
voice that Dolores started, and would have drawn back from him, but
could not, for his hands held her, shaking a little fiercely.
"What? What is it?" she asked, growing more and more frightened--half
believing that he was going mad.
"You are worth it," he repeated. "I tell you, you are worth that, and
much more, and the world, and all the world holds for me, and all earth
and heaven besides. You do not know how I love you--you can never
Her eyes grew tender again, and her hands went up and pressed his that
still framed her face.
"As I love you--dear love!" she answered, wondering, but happy.
"No--not now. I love you more. You cannot guess--you shall see what I
will do for your sake, and then you will understand."
He uttered an incoherent exclamation, and his eyes dazzled her as he
seized her in his arms and pressed her to him so that she could have
cried out. And suddenly he kissed her, roughly, almost cruelly, as if he
meant to hurt her, and knew that he could. She struggled in his arms, in
an unknown terror of him, and her senses reeled.
Then all at once, he let her go, and turned from her quickly, leaving
her half fainting, so that she leaned against the wall and pressed her
cheek to the rough hanging. She felt a storm of tears, that she could
not understand, rising in her heart and eyes and throat. He had crossed
the room, getting as far as he could from her, and stood there, turned
to the wall, his arms bent against it and his face buried in his sleeve.
He breathed hard, and spoke as if to himself in broken words.
"Worth it? My God! What are you not worth?"
There was such a ring of agony and struggling in his voice that Dolores
forgot herself and stood up listening, suddenly filled with anxiety for
him again. He was surely going mad. She would have gone to him again,
forgetting her terror that was barely past, the woman's instinct to help
the suffering man overruling everything else. It was for his sake that
she stayed where she was, lest if she touched him he should lose his
"Oh, there is one place, where I am master and lord!" he was saying.
"There is one thing to do--one thing--"
"What is the thing?" she asked very gently. "Why are you suffering so?
Where is the place?"
He turned suddenly, as he would have turned in his saddle in battle at a
trumpet call, straight and strong, with fixed eyes and set lips, that
"There is Granada," he said. "Do you understand now?"
"No," she answered timidly. "I do not understand. Granada? Why there? It
is so far away--"
He laughed harshly.
"You do not understand? Yes, Granada is far away--far enough to be
another kingdom--so far that John of Austria is master there--so far
that with his army at his back he can be not only its master, but its
King? Do you understand now? Do you see what I will do for your sake?"
He made one step towards her, and she was very white.
"I will take you, and go back to-morrow. Do you think the Moors are not
men, because I beat them? I tell you that if I set up my standard in
Granada and call them to me, they will follow me--if I lead them to the
gate of Madrid. Yes--and so will more than half the Spanish army, if I
will! But I do not want that--it is not the kingdom--what should I care
for that? Could I not have taken it and held it? It is for you, dear
love--for your sake only--that we may have a world of our own--a kingdom
in which you are queen! Let there be war--why should I care? I will set
the world ablaze and let it burn to its own ashes, but I will not let
them take you from me, neither now, nor ever, while I am alive!"
He came quickly towards her now, and she could not draw back, for the
wall was behind her. But she thrust out her hands against him to keep
him off. The gesture stopped him, just when he would have taken her in
"No, no!" she cried vehemently. "You must not say such things, you must
not think such thoughts! You are beside yourself, and you will drive me
"But it will be so easy--you shall see--"
She cut his words short.
"It must not be easy, it must not be possible, it must not be at all! Do
you believe that I love you and that I would let you do such deeds? Oh,
no! That would not be love at all--it would be hate, it would be treason
to you, and worse treason than yours against your brother!"
The fierce light was sinking from his face. He had folded his arms and
stood very still, listening to her.
"You!" she cried, with rising energy. "You, the brave soldier, the
spotless man, the very soul of honour made flesh and blood! You, who
have but just come back in triumph from fighting your King's
enemies--you against whom no living being has ever dared to breathe a
slander or a slighting word. Oh, no, no, no, no! I could not bear that
you should betray your faith and your country and yourself, and be
called traitor for my sake! Not for ten lives of mine shall you ruin
yours. And not because I might love you less if you had done that deed.
God help me! I think I should love you if you committed any crime! The
shame is the more to me--I know it. I am only a woman! But rather than
let my love ruin you, make a traitor of you and lose you in this world
and the next, my soul shall go first--life, soul, honour, everything!
You shall not do it! You think that you love me more than I love you,
but you do not. For to save you as you are, I love you so dearly that I
will leave you--leave you to honour, leave you to your King, leave you
to the undying glory of the life you have lived, and will live, in
memory of my love!"
The splendid words rang from her lips like a voice from heaven, and her
eyes were divinely lightened. For they looked up, and not at him,
calling Heaven to witness that she would keep her promise. As her open
hand unconsciously went out, he took it tenderly, and felt her fingers
softly closing on his own, as if she would lift him to himself again,
and to the dear light of her own thoughts. There was silence for a
"You are better and wiser than I," he said, and his tone told her that
the madness was past.
"And you know that I am right? You see that I must leave you, to save
you from me?"
"Leave me--now?" he cried. "You only said that--you meant me to
understand--you did not mean that you would leave me now?"
"I do mean it," she said, in a great effort. "It is all I can do, to
show you how I love you. As long as I am in your life you will be in
danger--you will never be safe from yourself--I see it all now! I stand
between you and all the world would give you--I will not stand between
you and honour!"
She was breaking down, fight as she would against the pain. He could say
nothing, for he could not believe that she really was in earnest.
"I must!" she exclaimed suddenly. "It is all I can do for you--it is my
The tears broke from her eyes, but she held her head high, and let them
"Take it!" she repeated. "It is all I have to give for yours and your
honour. Good-by--oh, love, I love you so dearly! Once more, before I
She almost, fell into his arms as she buried her face on his shoulder
and clasped his throat as she was wont. He kissed her hair gently, and
from time to time her whole frame shook with the sobs she was choking
"It kills me," she said in a broken voice. "I cannot--I thought I was so
strong! Oh, I am the most miserable living woman in the world!"
She broke away from him wildly and threw herself upon a chair, turning
from him to its cushion and hiding her face in her hands, choking,
pressing the furious tears back upon her eyes, shaking from head to
"You cannot go! You cannot!" he cried, falling on his knees beside her
and trying to take her hands in his. "Dolores--look at me! I will do
anything--promise anything--you will believe me! Listen, love--I give
you my word--I swear before God--"
"No--swear nothing--" she said, between the sobs that broke her voice.
"But I will!" he insisted, drawing her hands down till she looked at
him. "I swear upon my honour that I will never raise my hand against the
King--that I will defend him, and fight for him, and be loyal to him,
whatever he may do to me--and that even for you, I will never strike a
blow in battle nor speak a word in peace that is not all honourable,
through and through,--even as I have fought and spoken until now!"
As she listened to his words her weeping subsided, and her tearful eyes
took light and life again. She drew him close, and kissed him on the
"I am so glad--so happy!" she cried softly. "I should never have had
strength to really say good-by!"
* * * * *
Don John smoothed her golden hair. Never since he had known that he
loved her, had she seemed so beautiful as then, and his thought tried to
hold her as she was, that she might in memory be always the same. There
was colour in her cheeks, a soft flush of happiness that destroyed all
traces of her tears, so that they only left her grey eyes dark and
tender under the long wet lashes.
"It was a cruel dream, dear love! It was not true!" Finding him again,
her voice was low, and sweet with joy.
He smiled, too, and his own eyes were quiet and young, now that the
tempest had passed away, almost out of recollection. It had raged but
for a few moments, but in that time both he and she had lived and loved
as it were through years, and their love had grown better and braver.
She knew that his word was enough, and that he would die rather than
break it; but though she had called herself weak, and had seemed to
break down in despair, she would have left him for ever rather than
believe that he was still in danger through her. She did not again ask
herself whether her sudden resolution had been all for his sake, and had
not formed itself because she dreaded to think of being bound to one who
betrayed his country. She knew it and needed no further self-questioning
to satisfy her. If such a man could have committed crimes, she would
have hated them, not him, she would have pardoned him, not them, she
would still have laid her hand in his before the whole world, though it
should mean shame and infamy, because she loved him and would always
love him, and could never have left him for her own sake, come all that
might. She had said it was a shame to her that she would have loved him
still; yet if it had been so, she would have gloried in being shamed for
his sake, for even then her love might have brought him back from the
depths of evil and made him again for her in truth what he had once
seemed to the whole world. She could have done that, and if in the end
she had saved him she would have counted the price of her name as very
little to set against his salvation from himself. She would have given
that and much more, for her love, as she would freely give all for him
and even for his memory, if he were dead, and if by some unimaginable
circumstances her ruin before the world could keep his name spotless,
and his glory unsullied. For there is nothing that a true-hearted loving
woman will not give and do for him she loves and believes and trusts;
and though she will give the greatest thing last of all, she will give
it in the end, if it can save him from infamy and destruction. For it is
the woman's glory to give, as it is the man's to use strength in the
hour of battle and gentleness in the day of peace, and to follow honour
"Forget it all," answered Don John presently. "Forget it, dear, and
forgive me for it all."
"I can forget it, because it was only a dream," she said, "and I have
nothing to forgive. Listen to me. If it were true--even if I believed
that we had not been dreaming, you and I, could I have anything to
forgive you? What?"
"The mere thought that I could betray a trust, turn against my sovereign
and ruin my country," he answered bravely, and a blush of honest shame
rose in his boyish cheeks.
"It was for me," said Dolores.
That should explain all, her heart said. But he was not satisfied, and
being a man he began to insist.
"Not even for you should I have thought of it," he said. "And there is
the thought to forgive, if nothing else."
"No--you are wrong, love. Because it was for me, it does not need my
forgiveness. It is different--you do not understand yet. It is I who
should have never forgiven myself on earth nor expected pardon
hereafter, if I had let myself be the cause of such deeds, if I had let
my love stand between you and honour. Do you see?"
"I see," he answered. "You are very brave and kind and good. I did not
know that a woman could be like you."
"A woman could be anything--for you--dare anything, do anything,
sacrifice anything! Did I not tell you so, long ago? You only half
believed me, dear--perhaps you do not quite believe me now--"
"Indeed, indeed I do, with all my soul! I believe you as I love you, as
I believe in your love--"
"Yes. Tell me that you do--and tell me that you love me! It is so good
to hear, now that the bad dream is gone."
"Shall I tell you?" He smiled, playing with her hand. "How can I? There
are so few words in which to say so much. But I will tell you this--I
would give my word for you. Does that sound little? You should know, for
you know at what price you would have saved my honour a while ago. I
believe in you so truly that I would stake my word, and my honour, and
my Christian oath upon your faith, and promise for you before God or man
that you will always love me as you do to-day."
"You may pledge all three. I will, and I will give you all I have that
is not God's--and if that is not enough, I will give my soul for yours,
if I may, to suffer in your stead."
She spoke quietly enough, but there was a little quaver of true
earnestness in her voice, that made each word a solemn promise.
"And besides that," she added, "you see how I trust you."
She smiled again as she looked at him, and knew how safe she was, far
safer now than when she had first come with him to the door. Something
told her that he had mastered himself--she would not have wished to
think that she had ruled him? it was enough if she had shown him the
way, and had helped him. He pressed her hand to his cheek and looked
down thoughtfully, wishing that he could find such simple words that
could say so much, but not trusting himself to speak. For though, in
love, a man speaks first, he always finds the least to say of love when
it has strongest hold of him; but a woman has words then, true and
tender, that come from her heart unsought. Yet by and by, if love is not
enduring, so that both tire of it, the man plays the better comedy,
because he has the greater strength, and sometimes what he says has the
old ring in it, because it is so well said, and the woman smiles and
wonders that his love should have lasted longer than hers, and desiring
the illusion, she finds old phrases again; yet there is no life in them,
because when love is dead she thinks of herself, and instead, it was
only of him she thought in the good days when her heart used to beat at
the sound of his footfall, and the light grew dim and unsteady as she
felt his kiss. But the love of these two was not born to tire; and
because he was so young, and knew the world little, save at his sword's
point, he was ashamed that he could not speak of love as well as she.
"Find words for me," he said, "and I will say them, for yours are better
"Say, 'I love you, dear,' very softly and gently--not roughly, as you
sometimes do. I want to hear it gently now, that, and nothing else."
She turned a little, leaning towards him, her face near his, her eyes
quiet and warm, and she took his hands and held them together before her
as if he were her prisoner--and indeed she meant that he should not
suddenly take her in his arms, as he often did.
"I love you, dear," he repeated, smiling, and pretending to be very
"That is not quite the way," she said, with a girlish laugh. "Say it
again--quite as softly, but more tenderly! You must be very much in
earnest, you know, but you must not be in the least violent." She
laughed again. "It is like teaching a young lion," she added. "He may
eat you up at any moment, instead of obeying you. Tell me, you have a
little lion that follows you like a dog when you are in your camp, have
you not? You have not told me about him yet. How did you teach him?"
"I did not try to make him say 'I love you, dear,'" answered Don John,
laughing in his turn.
As he spoke a distant sound caught his ear, and the smile vanished from
his face, for though he heard only the far off rumbling of a coach in
the great court, it recalled him to reality.
"We are playing with life and death," he said suddenly. "It is late, the
King may be here at any moment, and we have decided nothing." He rose.
"Is it late?" asked Dolores, passing her hand over her eyes dreamily. "I
had forgotten--it seems so short. Give me the key on my side of the
door--we had decided that, you know. Go and sit down in your room, as we
agreed. Shall you read my letter again, love? It may be half an hoar
still before the King comes. When he is gone, we shall have all the
night in which to decide, and the nights are very long now. Oh, I hate
to lose one minute of you! What shall you say to the King?"
"I do not know what he may say to me," answered Don John. "Listen and
you shall hear--I would rather know that you hear everything I say. It
will be as if I were speaking before you, and of course I should tell
you everything the King says. He will speak of you, I think."
"Indeed, it would be hard not to listen," said Dolores. "I should have
to stop my ears, for one cannot help hearing every word that is said in
the next room. Do you know? I heard you ask for your white shoes! I
hardly dared to breathe for fear the servants should find out that I was
"So much the better then. Sit in this chair near the door. But be
careful to make no noise, for the King is very suspicious."
"I know. Do not be afraid; I will be as quiet as a mouse. Go, love, go!
It is time--oh, how I hate to let you leave me! You will be careful? You
will not be angry at what he says? You would be wiser if you knew I were
not hearing everything; you will want to defend me if he says the least
word you do not like, but let him say what he will! Anything is better
than an open quarrel between you and the King! Promise me to be very
moderate in what you say, and very patient. Remember that he is the
"And my brother," said Don John, with some bitterness. "Do not fear. You
know what I have promised you. I will bear anything he may say that
concerns me as well as I can, but if he says anything slighting of
"But he may--that is the danger. Promise me not to be angry--"
"How can I promise that, if he insults you?"
"No, I did not mean that exactly. Promise that you will not forget
everything and raise your hand against him. You see I know you would."
"No, I will not raise my hand against him. That was in the promise I
made you. And as for being angry, I will do my best to keep my temper."
"I know you will. Now you must go. Good-by, love! Good-by, for a little
"For such a little time shall we say good-by? I hate the word; it makes
me think of the day when I left you last."
"How can I tell what may happen to you when you are out of my sight?"
asked Dolores. "And what is 'good-by' but a blessing each prays for the
other? That is all it means. It does not mean that we part for long,
love. Why, I would say it for an hour! Good-by, dear love, good-by!"
She put up her face to kiss him, and it was so full of trust and
happiness that the word lost all the bitterness it has gathered through
ages of partings, and seemed, what she said it was, a loving blessing.
Yet she said it very tenderly, for it was hard to let him go even for
less than an hour. He said it, too, to please her; but yet the syllables
came mournfully, as if they meant a world more than hers, and the sound
of them half frightened her, so that she was sorry she had asked him for
"Not so!" she cried, in quick alarm. "You are not keeping anything from
me? You are only going to the next room to meet the King--are you sure?"
"That is all. You see, the word frightened you. It seems such a sad word
to me--I will not say it again."
He kissed her gently, as if to soothe her fear, and then he opened the
door and set the key in the lock on the inside. Then when he was
outside, he lingered a moment, and their lips met once more without a
word, and they nodded and smiled to one another a last time, and he
closed the door and heard her lock it.
When she was alone, she turned away as if he were gone from her
altogether instead of being in the next room, where she could hear him
moving now and then, as he placed his chair near the light to read and
arranged the candlesticks on the table. Then he went to the other door
and opened it and opened the one beyond upon the terrace, and she knew
that he was looking out to see if any one were there. But presently he
came back and sat down, and she distinctly heard the rustle of the
strong writing-paper as he unfolded a letter. It was hers. He was going
to read it, as they had agreed.
So she sat down where she could look at the door, and she tried to force
her eyes to see through it, to make him feel that she was watching him,
that she came near him and stood beside him, and softly read the words
for him, but without looking at them, because she knew them all by
heart. But it was not the same as if she had seen him, and it was very
hard to be shut off from his sight by an impenetrable piece of wood, to
lose all the moments that might pass before the King chose to come.
Another hour might pass. No one could even tell whether he would come at
all after he had consulted with Antonio Perez. The skilful favourite
desired a quarrel between his master and Don John with all his heart,
but he was not ready for it yet. He must have possession of Dolores
first and hide her safely; and when the quarrel came, Don John should
believe that the King had stolen her and imprisoned her, and that she
was treated ill; and for the woman he loved, Don John would tear down
the walls of Madrid, if need be, and if at the last he found her dead,
there would be no harm done, thought Perez, and Don John would hate his
brother even to death, and all Spain would cry out in sympathy and
horror. But all this Dolores could neither know nor even suspect. She
only felt sure that the King and Perez were even now consulting together
to hinder her marriage with Don John, and that Perez might persuade the
King not to see his brother that night.
It was almost intolerable to think that she might wait there for hours,
wasting the minutes for which she would have given drops of blood.
Surely they both were overcautious. The door could be left open, so that
they could talk, and at the first sound without, she could lock it again
and sit down. That would be quite as safe.
She rose and was almost in the act of opening the door again when she
stopped and hesitated. It was possible that at any moment the King might
be at the door; for though she could hear every sound that came from the
next room, the thick curtains that hid the window effectually shut out
all sound from without. It struck her that she could go to the window,
however, and look out. Yet a ray of light might betray her presence in
the room to any one outside, and if she drew aside the curtain the light
would shine out upon the terrace. She listened at Don John's door, and
presently she heard him turn her letter in his hand, and all her heart
went out to him, and she stood noiselessly kissing the panels and saying
over again in her heart that she loved him more than any words could
tell. If she could only see out of the window and assure herself that no
one was coming yet, there would be time to go to him again, for one
moment only, and say the words once more.
Then she sat down and told herself how foolish she was. She had been
separated from him for many long and empty months, and now she had been
with him and talked long with him twice in leas than three hours, and
yet she could not bear that he should be out of her sight five minutes
without wishing to risk everything to see him again. She tried to laugh
at herself, repeating over and over again that she was very, very
foolish, and that she should have a just contempt for any woman who
could be as foolish as she. For some moments she sat still, staring at
In the thought of him that filled her heart and soul and mind, she saw
that her own life had begun when he had first spoken to her, and she
felt that it would end with the last good-by, because if he should die
or cease to love her, there would be nothing more to live for. Her early
girlhood seemed dim and far away, dull and lifeless, as if it had not
been hers at all, and had no connection with the present. She saw
herself in the past, as she could not see herself now, and the child she
remembered seemed not herself but another--a fair-haired girl living in
the gloomy old house in Valladolid, with her blind sister and an old
maiden cousin of her father's, who had offered to bring up the two and
to teach them, being a woman of some learning, and who fulfilled her
promise in such a conscientious and austere way as made their lives
something of a burden under her strict rule. But that was all forgotten
now, and though she still lived in Valladolid she had probably changed
but little in the few years since Dolores had seen her; she was part of
the past, a relic of something that had hardly ever had a real
existence, and which it was not at all necessary to remember. There was
one great light in the girl's simple existence, it had come all at once,
and it was with her still. There was nothing dim nor dark nor forgotten
about the day when she had been presented at court by the Duchess
Alvarez, and she had first seen Don John, and he had first seen her and
had spoken to her, when he had talked with the Duchess herself. At the
first glance--and it was her first sight of the great world--she had
seen that of all the men in the great hall, there was no one at all like
him. She had no sooner looked into his face and cast her eyes upon his
slender figure, all in white then, as he was dressed to-night, than she
began to compare him with the rest. She looked so quickly from one to
another that any one might have thought her to be anxiously searching
for a friend in the crowd. But she had none then, and she was but
assuring herself once, and for all her life, that the man she was to
love was immeasurably beyond all other men, though the others were the
very flower of Spain's young chivalry.
Of course, as she told herself now, she had not loved him then, nor even
when she heard his voice speaking to her the first time and was almost
too happy to understand his words. But she had remembered them. He had
asked her whether she lived in Madrid. She had told him that she lived
in the Alcazar itself, since her father commanded the guards and had his
quarters in the palace. And then Don John had looked at her very fixedly
for a moment, and had seemed pleased, for he smiled and said that he
hoped he might see her often, and that if it were in his power to be of
use to her father, he would do what he could. She was sure that she had
not loved him then, though she had dreamed of his winning face and voice
and had thought of little else all the next day, and the day after that,
with a sort of feverish longing to see him again, and had asked the
Duchess Alvarez so many questions about him that the Duchess had smiled
oddly, and had shaken her handsome young head a little, saying that it
was better not to think too much about Don John of Austria. Surely, she
had not loved him already, at first sight. But on the evening of the
third day, towards sunset, when she had been walking with Inez on a
deserted terrace where no one but the two sisters ever went, Don John
had suddenly appeared, sauntering idly out with one of his gentlemen on
his left, as if he expected nothing at all; and he had seemed very much
surprised to see her, and had bowed low, and somehow very soon, blind
Inez, who was little more than a child three years ago, was leading the
gentleman about the terrace, to show him where the best roses grew,
which she knew by their touch and smell, and Don John and Dolores were
seated on an old stone bench, talking earnestly together. Even to
herself she admitted that she had loved him from that evening, and
whenever she thought of it she smelt the first scent of roses, and saw
his face with the blaze of the sunset in his eyes, and heard his voice
saying that he should come to the terrace again at that hour, in which
matter he had kept his word as faithfully as he always did, and
presumably without any especial effort. So she had known him as he
really was, without the formalities of the court life, of which she was
herself a somewhat insignificant part; and it was only when he said a
few words to her before the other ladies that she took pains to say
'your Highness' to him once or twice, and he called her 'Dona Dolores,'
and enquired in a friendly manner about her father's health. But on the
terrace they managed to talk without any such formal mode of address,
and used no names at all for each other, until one day--but she would
not think of that now. If she let her memory run all its course, she
could not sit there with the door closed between him and her, for
something stronger than she would force her to go and open it, and make
sure he was there. This method, indeed, would be a very certain one,
leaving no doubt whatever, but at the present moment it would be foolish
to resort to it, and, perhaps, it would be dangerous, too. The past was
so beautiful and peaceful; she could think its history through many
times up to that point, where thinking was sure to end suddenly in
something which was too present for memory and too well remembered not
to be present.
It came back to her so vividly that she left her seat again and went to
the curtained window, as if to get as far as possible from the
irresistible attraction. Standing there she looked back and saw the key
in the lock. It was foolish, girlish, childish, at such a time, but she
felt that as long as it was there she should want to turn it. With a
sudden resolution and a smile that was for her own weakness, she went to
the door again, listened for footsteps, and then quietly took the key
from the lock. Instantly Don John was on the other side, calling to her
"What is it?" he asked. "For Heaven's sake do not come in, for I think I
hear him coming."
"No," she answered through the panel. "I was afraid I should turn the
key, so I have taken it out." She paused. "I love you!" she said, so
that he could hear, and she kissed the wood, where she thought his face
must be, just above her own.
"I love you with all my heart!" he answered gently. "Hush, dear love, he
They were like two children, playing at a game; but they were playing on
the very verge of tragedy, playing at life with death at the door and
the safety of a great nation hanging in the balance.
A moment later, Dolores heard Don John opening and shutting the other
doors again, and then there were voices. She heard her father's name
spoken in the King's unmistakable tones, at once harsh and muffled.
Every word came to her from the other room, as if she were present.
"Mendoza," said Philip, "I have private matters to discuss with his
Highness. I desire you to wait before the entrance, on the terrace, and
to let no one pass in, as we do not wish to be disturbed."
Her father did not speak, but she knew how he was bending a little
stiffly, before he went backwards through the open door. It closed
behind him, and the two brothers were alone. Dolores' heart beat a
little faster, and her face grew paler as she concentrated her attention
upon making no noise. If they could hear her as she heard them, a mere
rustling of her silk gown would be enough to betray her, and if then the
King bade her father take her with him, all would be over, for Don John
would certainly not use any violence to protect her.
"This is your bedchamber," said Philip's voice.
He was evidently examining the room, as Don John had anticipated that he
would, for he was moving about. There was no mistaking his heavy steps
for his brother's elastic tread.
"There is no one behind the curtain," said the King, by which it was
clear that he was making search for a possible concealed listener. He
was by no means above such precautions.
"And that door?" he said, with a question. "What is there?"
Dolores' heart almost stood still, as she held her breath, and heard the
clumsy footfall coming nearer.
"It is locked," said Don John, with undisturbed calm. "I have not the
key. I do not know where it is,--it is not here."
As Dolores had taken it from the lock, even the last statement was true
to the letter, and in spite of her anxiety she smiled as she heard it,
but the next moment she trembled, for the King was trying the door, and
it shook under his hand, as if it must fly open.
"It is certainly locked," he said, in a discontented tone. "But I do not
like locked doors, unless I know what is beyond them."
He crossed the room again and called out to Mendoza, who answered at
"Mendoza, come here with me. There is a door here, of which his Highness
has not the key. Can you open it?"
"I will try, your Majesty," answered the General's hard voice.
A moment later the panels shook violently under the old man's weight,
for he was stronger than one might have thought, being lean and tough
rather than muscular. Dolores took the moment when the noise was loudest
and ran a few steps towards the window. Then the sounds ceased suddenly,
and she stood still.
"I cannot open it, your Majesty," said Mendoza, in a disconsolate tone.
"Then go and get the key," answered the King almost angrily.
* * * * *
Inez remained hidden a quarter of an hour in the gallery over the throne
room, before she ventured to open the door noiselessly and listen for
any sound that might come from the passage. She was quite safe there, as
long as she chose to remain, for the Princess had believed that she had
fled far beyond and was altogether out of reach of any one whose dignity
would not allow of running a race. It must be remembered that at the
time she entered the gallery Mendoza had returned to his duty below, and
that some time afterwards he had accompanied the King to Don John's
apartments, and had then been sent in search of the key to the locked
The blind girl was of course wholly ignorant of his whereabouts, and
believed him to be in or about the throne room. Her instinct told her
that since Dolores had not gone to the court, as she had intended, with
the Duchess Alvarez, she must have made some last attempt to see Don
John alone. In her perfect innocence such an idea seemed natural enough
to Inez, and it at first occurred to her that the two might have
arranged to meet on the deserted terrace where they had spent so many
hours in former times. She went there first, finding her way with some
little difficulty from the corridor where the gallery was, for the
region was not the one to which she was most accustomed, though there
was hardly a corner of the upper story where she had never been.
Reaching the terrace, she went out and called softly, but there was no
answer, nor could she hear any sound. The night was not cold now, but
the breeze chilled her a little, and just then the melancholy cry of a
screech owl pierced the air, and she shivered and went in again.
She would have gone to the Duchess Alvarez had she not been sure that
the latter was below with the Queen, and even as it was, she would have
taken refuge in the Duchess's apartments with the women, and she might
have learned something of Dolores there. But her touch reminded her that
she was dressed in her sister's clothes, and that many questions might
be asked her which it would be hard to answer. And again, it grew quite
clear to her that Dolores must be somewhere near Don John, perhaps
waiting in some concealed corner until all should be quiet. It was more
than probable that he would get her out of the palace secretly during
the night and send her to his adoptive mother at Villagarcia. She had
not believed the Princess's words in the least, but she had not
forgotten them, and had argued rightly enough to their real meaning.
In the upper story all was still now. She and Dolores had known where
Don John was to be lodged in the palace nearly a month before he had
returned, and they had been there more than once, when no one was on the
terrace, and Dolores had made her touch the door and the six windows,
three on each side of it. She could get there without difficulty,
provided that no one stopped her.
She went a little way in the right direction and then hesitated. There
was more danger to Dolores than to herself if she should be recognized,
and, after all, if Dolores was near Don John she was safer than she
could be anywhere else. Inez could not help her very much in any way if
she found her there, and it would be hard to find her if she had met
Mendoza at first and if he had placed her in the keeping of a third
person. She imagined what his astonishment would have been had he found
the real Dolores in her court dress a few moments after Inez had been
delivered over to the Princess disguised in Dolores' clothes, and she
almost smiled. But then a great loneliness and a sense of helplessness
came over her, and she turned back and went out upon the deserted
terrace again and sat down upon the old stone seat, listening for the
screech owl and the fluttering of the bats that flew aimlessly in and
out, attracted by the light and then scared away by it again because the
moon was at the full.
Inez had never before then wandered about the palace at night, and
though darkness and daylight were one to her, there was something in the
air that frightened her, and made her feel how really helpless she was
in spite of her almost superhuman hearing and her wonderful sense of
touch. It was very still--it was never so still by day. It seemed as if
people must be lying in wait for her, holding their breath lest she
should hear even that. She had never felt blind before; she had never so
completely realized the difference between her life and the lives of
others. By day, she could wander where she pleased on the upper
story--it was cheerful, familiar; now and then some one passed and
perhaps spoke to her kindly, as every one did who knew her; and then
there was the warm sunlight at the windows, and the cool breath of the
living day in the corridors. The sounds guided her, the sun warmed her,
the air fanned her, the voices of the people made her feel that she was
one of them. But now, the place was like an empty church, full of tombs
and silent as the dead that lay there. She felt horribly lonely, and
cold, and miserable, and she would have given anything to be in bed in
her own room. She could not go there. Eudaldo would not understand her
return, after being told that she was to stay with the Princess, and she
would be obliged to give him some explanation. Then her voice would
betray her, and there would be terrible trouble. If only she had kept
her own cloak to cover Dolores' frock, she could have gone back and the
servant would have thought it quite natural Indeed, by this time he
would be expecting her. It would be almost better to go in after all,
and tell him some story of her having mistaken her sister's skirt for
her own, and beg him to say nothing. She could easily confuse him a
little so that he would not really understand--and then in a few minutes
she could be in her own room, safe and in bed, and far away from the
dismal place where she was sitting and shivering as she listened to the
She rose and began to walk towards her father's quarters. But suddenly
she felt that it was cowardly to go back without accomplishing the least
part of her purpose, and without even finding out whether Dolores was in
safety after all. There was but one chance of finding her, and that lay
in searching the neighbourhood of Don John's lodging. Without hesitating
any longer, she began to find her way thither at once. She determined
that if she were stopped, either by her father or the Princess, she
would throw back her head and show her face at once. That would be the
safest way in the end.
She reached Don John's windows unhindered at last. She had felt every
corner, and had been into the empty sentry-box; and once or twice, after
listening a long time, she had called Dolores in a very low tone. She
listened by the first window, and by the second and third, and at the
door, and then beyond, till she came to the last. There were voices
there, and her heart beat quickly for a moment. It was impossible to
distinguish the words that were spoken, through the closed window and
the heavy curtains, but the mere tones told her that Don John and
Dolores were there together. That was enough for her, and she could go
back to her room; for it seemed quite natural to her that her sister
should be in the keeping of the man she loved,--she was out of harm's
way and beyond their father's power, and that was all that was
necessary. She would go back to her room at once, and explain the matter
of her dress to Eudaldo as best she might. After all, why should he care
what she wore or where she had been, or whether in the Princess's
apartments she had for some reason exchanged gowns with Dolores. Perhaps
he would not even notice the dress at all.
She meant to go at once, but she stood quite still, her hands resting on
the low sill of the window, while her forehead pressed against the cold
round panes of glass. Something hurt her which she could not understand,
as she tried to fancy the two beautiful young beings who were
within,--for she knew what beauty they had, and Dolores had described
Don John to her as a young god. His voice came to her like strains of
very distant sweet music, that connect themselves to an unknown melody
in the fancy of him who faintly hears. But Dolores was hearing every
word he said, and it was all for her; and Dolores not only heard, but
saw; and seeing and hearing, she was loved by the man who spoke to her,
as dearly as she loved him.
Then utter loneliness fell upon the blind girl as she leaned against the
window. She had expected nothing, she had asked nothing, even in her
heart; and she had less than nothing, since never on earth, nor in
heaven hereafter, could Don John say a loving word to her. And yet she
felt that something had been taken from her and given to her
sister,--something that was more to her than life, and dearer than the
thought of sight to her blindness. She had taken what had not been given
her, in innocent girlish thoughts that were only dreams, and could hurt
no one. He had always spoken gently to her, and touched her hand kindly;
and many a time, sitting alone in the sun, she had set those words to
the well-remembered music of his voice, and she had let the memory of
his light touch on her fingers thrill her strangely to the very quick.
It had been but the reflection of a reflection in her darkness, wherein
the shadow of a shadow seemed as bright as day. It had been all she had
to make her feel that she was a part of the living, loving world she
could never see. Somehow she had unconsciously fancied that with a
little dreaming she could live happy in Dolores' happiness, as by a
proxy, and she had never called it love, any more than she would have
dared to hope for love in return. Yet it was that, and nothing
else,--the love that is so hopeless and starving, and yet so innocent,
that it can draw the illusion of an airy nourishment from that which to
another nature would be the fountain of all jealousy and hatred.
But now, without reason and without warning, even that was taken from
her, and in its place something burned that she did not know, save that
it was a bad thing, and made even blackness blacker. She heard their
voices still. They were happy together, while she was alone outside, her
forehead resting against the chill glass, and her hands half numb upon
the stone; and so it would always be hereafter. They would go, and take
her life with them, and she should be left behind, alone for ever; and a
great revolt against her fate rose quickly in her breast like a flame
before the wind, and then, as if finding nothing to consume, sank down
again into its own ashes, and left her more lonely than before. The
voices had ceased now, or else the lovers were speaking very low,
fearing, perhaps, that some one might be listening at the window. If
Inez had heard their words at first, she would have stopped her ears or
gone to a distance, for the child knew what that sort of honour meant,
and had done as much before. But the unformed sound had been good to
hear, and she missed it. Perhaps they were sitting close and, hand in
hand, reading all the sweet unsaid things in one another's eyes. There
must be silent voices in eyes that could see, she thought. She took
little thought of the time, yet it seemed long to her since they had
spoken. Perhaps they had gone to another room. She moved to the next
window and listened there, but no sound came from within. Then she heard
footfalls, and one was her father's. Two men were coming out by the
corridor, and she had not time to reach the sentry-box. With her hands
out before her, she went lightly away from the windows to the outer side
of the broad terrace, and cowered down by the balustrade as she ran
against it, not knowing whether she was in the moonlight or the shade.
She had crossed like a shadow and was crouching there before Mendoza and
the King came out. She knew by their steady tread, that ended at the
door, that they had not noticed her; and as the door closed behind them,
she ran back to the window again and listened, expecting to hear loud
and angry words, for she could not doubt that the King and her father
had discovered that Dolores was there, and had come to take her away.
The Princess must have told Mendoza that Dolores had escaped. But she
only heard men's voices speaking in an ordinary tone, and she understood
that Dolores was concealed. Almost at once, and to her dismay, she heard
her father's step in the hall, and now she could neither pass the door
nor run across the terrace again. A moment later the King called him
from within. Instantly she slipped across to the other side, and
listened again. They were shaking a door,--they were in the very act of
finding Dolores. Her heart hurt her. But then the noise stopped, as if
they had given up the attempt, and presently she heard her father's step
again. Thinking that he would remain in the hall until the King called
him,--for she could not possibly guess what had happened,--she stood
The door opened without warning, and he was almost upon her before she
knew it. To hesitate an instant was out of the question, and for the
second time that night she fled, running madly to the corridor, which
was not ten steps from where she had been standing, and as she entered
it the light fell upon her from the swinging lamp, though she did not
Old as he was, Mendoza sprang forward in pursuit when he saw her figure
in the dimness, flying before him, but as she reached the light of the
lamp he stopped himself, staggering one or two steps and then reeling
against the wall. He had recognized Dolores' dress and hood, and there
was not the slightest doubt in his mind but that it was herself. In that
same dress he had seen her in the late afternoon, she had been wearing
it when he had locked her into the sitting-room, and, still clad in it,
she must have come out with the Princess. And now she was running before
him from Don John's lodging. Doubtless she had been in another room and
had slipped out while he was trying the door within.
He passed his hand over his eyes and breathed hard as he leaned against
the wall, for her appearance there could only mean one thing, and that
was ruin to her and disgrace to his name--the very end of all things in
his life, in which all had been based upon his honour and every action
had been a tribute to it.
He was too much stunned to ask himself how the lovers had met, if there
had been any agreement between them, but the frightful conviction took
hold of him that this was not the first time, that long ago, before Don
John had led the army to Granada, Dolores had found her way to that same
door and had spent long hours with her lover when no one knew. Else she
could not have gone to him without agreement, at an instant's notice, on
the very night of his return.
Despair took possession of the unhappy man from that moment. But that
the King was with Don John, Mendoza would have gone back at that moment
to kill his enemy and himself afterwards, if need be. He remembered his
errand then. No doubt that was the very room where Dolores had been
concealed, and she had escaped from it by some other way, of which her
father did not know. He was too dazed to think connectedly, but he had
the King's commands to execute at once. He straightened himself with a
great effort, for the weight of his years had come upon him suddenly and
bowed him like a burden. With the exertion of his will came the thirst
for the satisfaction of blood, and he saw that the sooner he returned
with the key, the sooner he should be near his enemy. But the pulses
came and went in his throbbing temples, as when a man is almost spent in
a struggle with death, and at first he walked uncertainly, as if he felt
no ground under his feet.
By the time he had gone a hundred yards he had recovered a sort of
mechanical self-possession, such as comes upon men at very desperate
times, when they must not allow themselves to stop and think of what is
before them. They were pictures, rather than thoughts, that formed
themselves in his brain as he went along, for he saw all the past years
again, from the day when his young wife had died, he being then already
in middle age, until that afternoon. One by one the years came back, and
the central figure in each was the fair-haired little child, growing
steadily to be a woman, all coming nearer and nearer to the end he had
seen but now, which was unutterable shame and disgrace, and beyond which
there was nothing. He heard the baby voice again, and felt the little
hands upon his brow, and saw the serious grey eyes close to his own; and
then the girl, gravely lovely--and her far-off laugh that hardly ever
rippled through the room when he was there; and then the stealing
softness of grown maidenhood, winning the features one by one, and
bringing back from death to life the face he had loved best, and the
voice with long-forgotten tones that touched his soul's quick, and
dimmed his sight with a mist, so that he grew hard and stern as he
fought within him against the tenderness he loved and feared. All this
he saw and heard and felt again, knowing that each picture must end but
in one way, in the one sight he had seen and that had told his shame--a
guilty woman stealing by night from her lover's door. Not only that,
either, for there was the almost certain knowledge that she had deceived
him for years, and that while he had been fighting so hard to save her
from what seemed but a show of marriage, she had been already lost to
him for ever and ruined beyond all hope of honesty.
They were not thoughts, but pictures of the false and of the true, that
rose and glowed an instant and then sank like the inner darkness of his
soul, leaving only that last most terrible one of all behind them,
burned into his eyes till death should put out their light and bid him
rest at last, if he could rest even in heaven with such a memory.
It was too much, and though he walked upright and gazed before him, he
did not know his way, and his feet took him to his own door instead of
on the King's errand. His hand was raised to knock before he understood,
and it fell to his side in a helpless, hopeless way, when he saw where
he was. Then he turned stiffly, as a man turns on parade, and gathered
his strength and marched away with a measured tread. For the world and
what it held he would not have entered his dwelling then, for he felt
that his daughter was there before him, and that if he once saw her face
he should not be able to hold his hand. He would not see her again on
earth, lest he should take her life for what she had done.
He was more aware of outward things after that, though he almost
commanded himself to do what he had to do, as he would have given orders
to one of his soldiers. He went to the chief steward's office and
demanded the key of the room in the King's name. But it was not
forthcoming, and the fact that it could not be found strengthened his
conviction that Don John had it in his keeping. Yet, for the sake of
form, he insisted sternly, saying that the King was waiting for it even
then. Servants were called and examined and threatened, but those who
knew anything about it unanimously declared that it had been left in the
door, while those who knew nothing supported their fellow-servants by
the same unhesitating assertion, till Mendoza was convinced that he had
done enough, and turned his back on them all and went out with a grey
look of despair on his face.
He walked rapidly now, for he knew that he was going back to meet his
enemy, and he was trying not to think what he should do when he should
see Don John before him and at arm's length, but defended by the King's
presence from any sudden violence. He knew that in his heart there was
the wild resolve to tell the truth before his master and then to take
the payment of blood with one thrust and destroy himself with the next,
but though he was half mad with despair, he would not let the thought
become a resolve. In his soldier's nature, high above everything else
and dominating his austere conscience of right and wrong, as well as
every other instinct of his heart, there was the respect of his
sovereign and the loyalty to him at all costs, good or bad, which sent
self out of sight where his duty to the King was concerned.
* * * * *
When he had sent away Mendoza, the King remained standing and began to
pace the floor, while Don John stood by the table watching him and
waiting for him to speak. It was clear that he was still angry, for his
anger, though sometimes suddenly roused, was very slow to reach its
height, and slower still to subside; and when at last it had cooled, it
generally left behind it an enduring hatred, such as could be satisfied
only by the final destruction of the object that had caused it. That
lasting hate was perhaps more dangerous than the sudden outburst had
been, but in moments of furious passion Philip was undoubtedly a man to
He was evidently not inclined to speak until he had ascertained that no
one was listening in the next room, but as he looked from time to time
at Don John his still eyes seemed to grow almost yellow, and his lower
lip moved uneasily. He knew, perhaps, that Mendoza could not at once
find the servant in whose keeping the key of the door was supposed to
be, and he grew impatient by quick degrees until his rising temper got
the better of his caution. Don John instinctively drew himself up, as a
man does who expects to be attacked. He was close to the table, and
remained almost motionless during the discussion that followed, while
Philip paced up and down, sometimes pausing before his brother for a
moment, and then turning again to resume his walk. His voice was muffled
always, and was hard to hear; now and then it became thick and
indistinct with rage, and he cleared his throat roughly, as if he were
angry with it, too. At first he maintained the outward forms of courtesy
in words if not in tone, but long before his wrath had reached its final
climax he forgot them altogether.
"I had hoped to speak with you in privacy, on matters of great
importance. It has pleased your Highness to make that impossible by your
Don John raised his eyebrows a little incredulously, and answered with
"I do not recollect doing anything which should seem extraordinary to
"You contradict me," retorted Philip. "That is extraordinary enough, I
should think. I am not aware that it is usual for subjects to contradict
the King. What have you to say in explanation?"
"Nothing. The facts explain themselves well enough."
"We are not in camp," said Philip. "Your Highness is not in command
here, and I am not your subordinate. I desire you to remember whom you
are addressing, for your words will be remembered."
"I never said anything which I wished another to forget," answered Don
"Take care, then!" The King spoke sullenly, and turned away, for he was
slow at retort until he was greatly roused.
Don John did not answer, for he had no wish to produce such a result,
and moreover he was much more preoccupied by the serious question of
Dolores' safety than by any other consideration. So far the King had
said nothing which, but for some derogation from his dignity, might not
have been said before any one, and Don John expected that he would
maintain the same tone until Mendoza returned. It was hard to predict
what might happen then. In all probability Dolores would escape by the
window and endeavour to hide herself in the empty sentry-box until the
interview was over. He could then bring her back in safety, but the
discussion promised to be long and stormy, and meanwhile she would be in
constant danger of discovery. But there was a worse possibility, not
even quite beyond the bounds of the probable. In his present mood,
Philip, if he lost his temper altogether, would perhaps be capable of
placing Don John under arrest. He was all powerful, he hated his
brother, and he was very angry. His last words had been a menace, or had
sounded like one, and another word, when Mendoza returned, could put the
threat into execution. Don John reflected, if such thought could be
called reflection, upon the situation that must ensue, and upon the
probable fate of the woman he loved. He wondered whether she were still
in the room, for hearing that the door was to be opened, she might have
thought it best to escape at once, while her father was absent from the
terrace on his errand. If not, she could certainly go out by the window
as soon as she heard him coming back. It was clearly of the greatest
importance to prevent the King's anger from going any further. Antonio
Perez had recognized the same truth from a very different point of view,
and had spent nearly three-quarters of an hour in flattering his master
with the consummate skill which he alone possessed. He believed that he
had succeeded when the King had dismissed him, saying that he would not
see Don John until the morning. Five minutes after Perez was gone,
Philip was threading the corridors, completely disguised in a long black
cloak, with the ever-loyal Mendoza at his heels. It was not the first
time that he had deceived his deceivers.
He paced the room in silence after he had last spoken. As soon as Don
John realized that his liberty might be endangered, he saw that he must
say what he could in honour and justice to save himself from arrest,
since nothing else could save Dolores.
"I greatly regret having done anything to anger your Majesty," he said,
with quiet dignity. "I was placed in a very difficult position by
unforeseen circumstances. If there had been time to reflect, I might
have acted otherwise."
"Might have acted otherwise!" repeated Philip harshly. "I do not like
those words. You might have acted otherwise than to defy your sovereign
before the Queen! I trusted you might, indeed!"
He was silent again, his protruding lip working angrily, as if he had
tasted something he disliked. Don John's half apology had not been
received with much grace, but he saw no way open save to insist that it
"It is certainly true that I have lived much in camps of late," he
answered, "and that a camp is not a school of manners, any more than the
habit of commanding others accustoms a man to courtly submission."
"Precisely. You have learned to forget that you have a superior in
Spain, or in the world. You already begin to affect the manners and
speech of a sovereign--you will soon claim the dignity of one, too, I
have no doubt. The sooner we procure you a kingdom of your own, the
better, for your Highness will before long become an element of discord
"Rather than that," answered Don John, "I will live in retirement for
the rest of my life."
"We may require it of your Highness," replied Philip, standing still and
facing his brother. "It may be necessary for our own safety that you
should spend some time at least in very close retirement--very!" He
"I should prefer that to the possibility of causing any disturbance in
your Majesty's kingdom."
Nothing could have been more gravely submissive than Don John's tone,
but the King was apparently determined to rouse his anger.
"Your deeds belie your words," he retorted, beginning to walk again.
"There is too much loyalty in what you say, and too much of a rebellious
spirit in what you do. The two do not agree together. You mock me."
"God forbid that!" cried Don John. "I desire no praise for what I may
have done, but such as my deeds have been they have produced peace and
submission in your Majesty's kingdom, and not rebellion--"
"And is it because you have beaten a handful of ill-armed Moriscoes, in
the short space of two years, that the people follow you in throngs
wherever you go, shouting for you, singing your praises, bringing
petitions to you by hundreds, as if you were King--as if you were more
than that, a sort of god before whom every one must bow down? Am I so
simple as to believe that what you have done with such leisure is enough
to rouse all Spain, and to make the whole court break out into cries of
wonder and applause as soon as you appear? If you publicly defy me and
disobey me, do I not know that you believe yourself able to do so, and
think your power equal to mine? And how could that all be brought about,
save by a party that is for you, by your secret agents everywhere, high
and low, forever praising you and telling men, and women, too, of your
graces, and your generosities, and your victories, and saying that it is
a pity so good and brave a prince should be but a leader of the King's
armies, and then contrasting the King himself with you, the cruel King,
the grasping King, the scheming King, the King who has every fault that
is not found in Don John of Austria, the people's god! Is that peace and
submission? Or is it the beginning of rebellion, and revolution, and
civil war, which is to set Don John of Austria on the throne of Spain,
and send King Philip to another world as soon as all is ready?"
Don John listened in amazement. It had never occurred to him any one
could believe him capable of the least of the deeds Philip was
attributing to him, and in spite of his resolution his anger began to
rise. Then, suddenly, as if cold water had been dashed in his face, he
remembered that an hour had not passed since he had held Dolores in his
arms, swearing to do that of which he was now accused, and that her
words only had held him back. It all seemed monstrous now. As she had
said, it had been only a bad dream and he had wakened to himself again.
Yet the thought of rebellion had more than crossed his mind, for in a
moment it had taken possession of him and had seemed to change all his
nature from good to bad. In his own eyes he was rebuked, and he did not
answer at once.
"You have nothing to say!" exclaimed Philip scornfully. "Is there any
reason why I should not try you for high treason?"
Don John started at the words, but his anger was gone, and he thought
only of Dolores' safety in the near future.
"Your Majesty is far too just to accuse an innocent man who has served
you faithfully," he answered.
Philip stopped and looked at him curiously and long, trying to detect
some sign of anxiety if not of fear. He was accustomed to torture men
with words well enough, before he used other means, and he himself had
not believed what he had said. It had been only an experiment tried on a
mere chance, and it had failed. At the root of his anger there was only
jealousy and personal hatred of the brother who had every grace and
charm which he himself had not.
"More kind than just, perhaps," he said, with a slight change of tone
towards condescension. "I am willing to admit that I have no proofs
against you, but the evidence of circumstances is not in your favour.
Take care, for you are observed. You are too much before the world, too
imposing a figure to escape observation."
"My actions will bear it. I only beg that your Majesty will take account
of them rather than listen to such interpretation as may be put upon
them by other men."
"Other men do nothing but praise you," said Philip bluntly. "Their
opinion of you is not worth having! I thought I had explained that
matter sufficiently. You are the idol of the people, and as if that were
not enough, you are the darling of the court, besides being the women's
favourite. That is too much for one man to be--take care, I say, take
care! Be at more pains for my favour, and at less trouble for your
"So far as that goes," answered Don John, with some pride, "I think that
if men praise me it is because I have served the King as well as I
could, and with success. If your Majesty is not satisfied with what I
have done, let me have more to do. I shall try to do even the
"That will please the ladies," retorted Philip, with a sneer. "You will
be overwhelmed with correspondence--your gloves will not hold it all"
Don John did not answer, for it seemed wiser to let the King take this
ground than return to his former position.
"You will have plenty of agreeable occupation in time of peace. But it
is better that you should be married soon, before you become so
entangled with the ladies of Madrid as to make your marriage
"Saving the last clause," said Don John boldly, "I am altogether of your
Majesty's opinion. But I fear no entanglements here."
"No--you do not fear them. On the contrary, you live in them as if they
were your element."
"No man can say that," answered Don John.
"You contradict me again. Pray, if you have no entanglements, how comes
it that you have a lady's letter in your glove?"
"I cannot tell whether it was a lady's letter or a man's."
"Have you not read it?"
"And you refused to show it to me on the ground that it was a woman's
"I had not read it then. It was not signed, and it might well have been
written by a man."
Don John watched the King's face. It was for from improbable, he
thought, that the King had caused it to be written, or had written it
himself, that he supposed his brother to have read it, and desired to
regain possession of it as soon as possible. Philip seemed to hesitate
whether to continue his cross-examination or not, and he looked at the
door leading into the antechamber, suddenly wondering why Mendoza had
not returned. Then he began to speak again, but he did not wish, angry
though he was, to face alone a second refusal to deliver the document to
him. His dignity would have suffered too much.
"The facts of the case are these," he said, as if he were recapitulating
what had gone before in his mind. "It is my desire to marry you to the
widowed Queen of Scots, as you know. You are doing all you can to oppose
me, and you have determined to marry the dowerless daughter of a poor
soldier. I am equally determined that you shall not disgrace yourself by
such an alliance."
"Disgrace!" cried Don John loudly, almost before the word had passed the
King's lips, and he made half a step forward. "You are braver than I
thought you, if you dare use that word to me!"
Philip stepped back, growing livid, and his hand was on his rapier. Don
John was unarmed, but his sword lay on the table within his reach.
Seeing the King afraid, he stepped back.
"No," he said scornfully, "I was mistaken. You are a coward." He laughed
as he glanced at Philip's hand, still on the hilt of his weapon and
ready to draw it.
In the next room Dolores drew frightened breath, for the tones of the
two men's voices had changed suddenly. Yet her heart had leapt for joy
when she had heard Don John's cry of anger at the King's insulting word.
But Don John was right, for Philip was a coward at heart, and though he
inwardly resolved that his brother should be placed under arrest as soon
as Mendoza returned, his present instinct was not to rouse him further.
He was indeed in danger, between his anger and his fear, for at any
moment he might speak some bitter word, accustomed as he was to the
perpetual protection of his guards, but at the next his brother's hands
might be on his throat, for he had the coward's true instinct to
recognize the man who was quite fearless.
"You strangely forget yourself," he said, with an appearance of dignity.
"You spring forward as if you were going to grapple with me, and then
you are surprised that I should be ready to defend myself."
"I barely moved a step from where I stand," answered Don John, with
profound contempt. "I am unarmed, too. There lies my sword, on the
table. But since you are the King as well as my brother, I make all
excuses to your Majesty for having been the cause of your fright."
Dolores understood what had happened, as Don John meant that she should.
She knew also that her position was growing more and more desperate and
untenable at every moment; yet she could not blame her lover for what he
had said. Even to save her, she would not have had him cringe to the
King and ask pardon for his hasty word and movement, still less could
she have borne that he should not cry out in protest at a word that
insulted her, though ever so lightly.
"I do not desire to insist upon our kinship," said Philip coldly. "If I
chose to acknowledge it when you were a boy, it was out of respect for
the memory of the Emperor. It was not in the expectation of being called
brother by the son of a German burgher's daughter."
Don John did not wince, for the words, being literally true and without
exaggeration, could hardly be treated as an insult, though they were
meant for one, and hurt him, as all reference to his real mother always
"Yes," he said, still scornfully. "I am the son of a German burgher's
daughter, neither better nor worse. But I am your brother, for all that,
and though I shall not forget that you are King and I am subject, when
we are before the world, yet here, we are man and man, you and I,
brother and brother, and there is neither King nor prince. But I shall
not hurt you, so you need fear nothing. I respect the brother far too
little for that, and the sovereign too much."
There was a bad yellow light in Philip's face, and instead of walking
towards Don John and away from him, as he had done hitherto, he began to
pace up and down, crossing and recrossing before him, from the foot of
the great canopied bed to one of the curtained windows, keeping his eyes
upon his brother almost all the time.
"I warned you when I came here that your words should be remembered," he
said. "And your actions shall not be forgotten, either. There are safe
places, even in Madrid, where you can live in the retirement you desire
so much, even in total solitude."
"If it pleases your Majesty to imprison Don John of Austria, you have
the power. For my part, I shall make no resistance."
"Who shall, then?" asked the King angrily. "Do you expect that there
will be a general rising of the people to liberate you, or that there
will be a revolution within the palace, brought on by your party, which
shall force me to set you free for reasons of state? We are not in Paris
that you should expect the one, nor in Constantinople where the other
might be possible. We are in Spain, and I am master, and my will shall
be done, and no one shall cry out against it. I am too gentle with you,
too kind! For the half of what you have said and done, Elizabeth of
England would have had your life to-morrow--yes, I consent to give you a
chance, the benefit of a doubt there is still in my thoughts about you,
because justice shall not be offended and turned into an instrument of
revenge. Yes--I am kind, I am clement. We shall see whether you can save
yourself. You shall have the chance."
"What chance is that?" asked Don John, growing very quiet, for he saw
the real danger near at hand again.
"You shall have an opportunity of proving that a subject is at liberty
to insult his sovereign, and that the King is not free to speak his mind
to a subject. Can you prove that?"
"Then you can be convicted of high treason," answered Philip, his evil
mouth curling. "There are several methods of interrogating the accused,"
he continued. "I daresay you have heard of them."
"Do you expect to frighten me by talking of torture?" asked Don John,
with a smile at the implied suggestion.
"Witnesses are also examined," replied the King, his voice thickening
again in anticipation of the effect he was going to produce upon the man
who would not fear him. "With them, even more painful methods are often
employed. Witnesses may be men or women, you know, my dear brother--" he
pronounced the word with a sneer--"and among the many ladies of your
"There are very few."
"It will be the easier to find the two or three, or perhaps the only
one, whom it will be necessary to interrogate--in your presence, most
probably, and by torture."
"I was right to call you a coward," said Don John, slowly turning pale
till his face was almost as white as the white silks and satins of his
"Will you give me the letter you were reading when I came here?"
"Not to save yourself from the executioner's hands?"
"Not to save--" Philip paused, and a frightful stare of hatred fixed his
eyes on his brother. "Will you give me that letter to save Dolores de
Mendoza from being torn piecemeal?"
By instinct Don John's hand went to the hilt of his sheathed sword this
time, as he cried out in rage, and sprang forward. Even then he would
have remembered the promise he had given and would not have raised his
hand to strike. But the first movement was enough, and Philip drew his
rapier in a flash of light, fearing for his life. Without waiting for an
attack he made a furious pass at his brother's body. Don John's hand
went out with the sheathed sword in a desperate attempt to parry the
thrust, but the weapon was entangled in the belt that hung to it, and
Philip's lunge had been strong and quick as lightning.
With a cry of anger Don John fell straight backwards, his feet seeming
to slip from under him on the smooth marble pavement, and with his fall,
as he threw out his hands to save himself, the sword flew high into the
air, sheathed as it was, and landed far away. He lay at full length with
one arm stretched out, and for a moment the hand twitched in quick
spasms. Then it was quite still.
At his feet stood Philip, his rapier in his hand, and blood on its fine
point. His eyes shone yellow in the candlelight, his jaw had dropped a
little, and he bent forwards, looking intently at the still, white face.
He had longed for that moment ever since he had entered his brother's
room, though even he himself had not guessed that he wanted his
brother's life. There was not a sound in the room as he looked at what
he had done, and two or three drops of blood fell one by one, very
slowly, upon the marble. On the dazzling white of Don John's doublet
there was a small red stain. As Philip watched it, he thought it grew
wider and brighter.
Beyond the door, Dolores had fallen upon her knees, pressing her hands
to her temples in an agony beyond thought or expression. Her fear had
risen to terror while she listened to the last words that had been
exchanged, and the King's threat had chilled her blood like ice, though
she was brave. She had longed to cry out to Don John to give up her
letter or the other, whichever the King wanted--she had almost tried to
raise her voice, in spite of every other fear, when she had heard Don
John's single word of scorn, and the quick footsteps, the drawing of the
rapier from its sheath, the desperate scuffle that had not lasted five
seconds, and then the dull fall which meant that one was hurt.
It could only be the King,--but that was terrible enough,--and yet, if
the King had fallen, Don John would have come to the door the next
instant. All was still in the room, but her terror made wild noises in
her ears. The two men might have spoken now and she could not have heard
them,--nor the opening of a door, nor any ordinary sound. It was no
longer the fear of being heard, either, that made her silent. Her throat
was parched and her tongue paralyzed. She remembered suddenly that Don
John had been unarmed, and how he had pointed out to Philip that his
sword lay on the table. It was the King who had drawn his own, then, and
had killed his unarmed brother. She felt as if something heavy were
striking her head as the thoughts made broken words, and flashes of
light danced before her eyes. With her hands she tried to press feeling
and reason and silence back into her brain that would not be quieted,
but the certainty grew upon her that Don John was killed, and the tide
of despair rose higher with every breath.
The sensation came upon her that she was dying, then and there, of a
pain human nature could not endure, far beyond the torments Philip had
threatened, and the thought was merciful, for she could not have lived
an hour in such agony,--something would have broken before then. She was
dying, there, on her knees before the door beyond which her lover lay
suddenly dead. It would be easy to die. In a moment more she would be
with him, for ever, and in peace. They would find her there, dead, and
perhaps they would be merciful and bury her near him. But that would
matter little, since she should be with him always now. In the first
grief that struck her, and bruised her, and numbed her as with material
blows, she had no tears, but there was a sort of choking fire in her
throat, and her eyes burned her like hot iron.
She did not know how long she knelt, waiting for death. She was dying,
and there was no time any more, nor any outward world, nor anything but
her lover's dead body on the floor in the next room, and his soul
waiting for hers, waiting beside her for her to die also, that they
might go together. She was so sure now, that she was wondering dreamily
why it took so long to die, seeing that death had taken him so quickly.
Could one shaft be aimed so straight and could the next miss the mark?
She shook all over, as a new dread seized her. She was not dying,--her
life clung too closely to her suffering body, her heart was too young
and strong to stand still in her breast for grief. She was to live, and
bear that same pain a lifetime. She rocked herself gently on her knees,
bowing her head almost to the floor.
She was roused by the sound of her father's voice, and the words he was
speaking sent a fresh shock of horror through her unutterable grief, for
they told her that Don John was dead, and then something else so strange
that she could not understand it.
Philip had stood only a few moments, sword in hand, over his brother's
body, staring down at his face, when the door opened. On the threshold
stood old Mendoza, half-stunned by the sight he saw. Philip heard, stood
up, and drew back as his eyes fell upon the old soldier. He knew that
Mendoza, if no one else, knew the truth now, beyond any power of his to
conceal it. His anger had subsided, and a sort of horror that could
never be remorse, had come over him for what he had done. It must have
been in his face, for Mendoza understood, and he came forward quickly
and knelt down upon the floor to listen for the beating of the heart,
and to try whether there was any breath to dim the brightness of his
polished scabbard. Philip looked on in silence. Like many an old soldier
Mendoza had some little skill, but he saw the bright spot on the white
doublet, and the still face and the hands relaxed, and there was neither
breath nor beating of the heart to give hope. He rose silently, and
shook his head. Still looking down he saw the red drops that had fallen
upon the pavement from Philip's rapier, and looking at that, saw that
the point was dark. With a gesture of excuse he took the sword from the
King's hand and wiped it quite dry and bright upon his own handkerchief,
and gave it back to Philip, who sheathed it by his side, but never
Together the two looked at the body for a full minute and more, each
silently debating what should be done with it. At last Mendoza raised
his head, and there was a strange look in his old eyes and a sort of wan
greatness came over his war-worn face. It was then that he spoke the
words Dolores heard.
"I throw myself upon your Majesty's mercy! I have killed Don John of
Austria in a private quarrel, and he was unarmed."
Philip understood well enough, and a faint smile of satisfaction flitted
through the shadows of his face. It was out of the question that the
world should ever know who had killed his brother, and he knew the man
who offered to sacrifice himself by bearing the blame of the deed.
Mendoza would die, on the scaffold if need be, and it would be enough
for him to know that his death saved his King. No word would ever pass
his lips. The man's loyalty would bear any proof; he could feel horror
at the thought that Philip could have done such a deed, but the King's
name must be saved at all costs, and the King's divine right must be
sustained before the world. He felt no hesitation from the moment when
he saw clearly how this must be done. To accuse some unknown murderer
and let it be supposed that he had escaped would have been worse than
useless; the court and half Spain knew of the King's jealousy of his
brother, every one had seen that Philip had been very angry when the
courtiers had shouted for Don John; already the story of the quarrel
about the glove was being repeated from mouth to mouth in the throne
room, where the nobles had reassembled after supper. As soon as it was
known that Don John was dead, it would be believed by every one in the
palace that the King had killed him or had caused him to be murdered.
But if Mendoza took the blame upon himself, the court would believe him,
for many knew of Dolores' love for Don John, and knew also how bitterly
the old soldier was opposed to their marriage, on the ground that it
would be no marriage at all, but his daughter's present ruin. There was
no one else in the palace who could accuse himself of the murder and who
would be believed to have done it without the King's orders, and Mendoza
knew this, when he offered his life to shield Philip's honour. Philip
knew it, too, and while he wondered at the old man's simple devotion, he
accepted it without protest, as his vast selfishness would have
permitted the destruction of all mankind, that it might be satisfied and
He looked once more at the motionless body at his feet, and once more at
the faithful old man. Then he bent his head with condescending gravity,
as if he were signifying his pleasure to receive kindly, for the giver's
sake, a gift of little value.
"So be it," he said slowly.
Mendoza bowed his head, too, as if in thanks, and then taking up the
long dark cloak which the King had thrown off on entering, he put it
upon Philip's shoulders, and went before him to the door. And Philip
followed him without looking back, and both went out upon the terrace,
leaving both doors ajar after them. They exchanged a few words more as
they walked slowly in the direction of the corridor.
"It is necessary that your Majesty should return at once to the throne
room, as if nothing had happened," said Mendoza. "Your Majesty should be
talking unconcernedly with some ambassador or minister when the news is
brought that his Highness is dead."
"And who shall bring the news?" asked Philip calmly, as if he were
speaking to an indifferent person.
"I will, Sire," answered Mendoza firmly.
"They will tear you in pieces before I can save you," returned Philip,
in a thoughtful tone.
"So much the better. I shall die for my King, and your Majesty will be
spared the difficulty of pardoning a deed which will be unpardonable in
the eyes of the whole world."
"That is true," said the King meditatively. "But I do not wish you to
die, Mendoza," he added, as an afterthought. "You must escape to France
or to England."
"I could not make my escape without your Majesty's help, and that would
soon be known. It would then be believed that I had done the deed by
your Majesty's orders, and no good end would have been gained."
"You may be right. You are a very brave man, Mendoza--the bravest I have
ever known. I thank you. If it is possible to save you, you shall be
"It will not be possible," replied the soldier, in a low and steady
voice. "If your Majesty will return at once to the throne room, it may
be soon over. Besides, it is growing late, and it must be done before
the whole court."
They entered the corridor, and the King walked a few steps before
Mendoza, covering his head with the hood of his cloak lest any one
should recognize him, and gradually increasing his distance as the old
man fell behind. Descending by a private staircase, Philip reentered his
own apartments by a small door that gave access to his study without
obliging him to pass through the antechamber, and by which he often came
and went unobserved. Alone in his innermost room, and divested of his
hood and cloak, the King went to a Venetian mirror that stood upon a
pier table between the windows, and examined his face attentively. Not a
trace of excitement or emotion was visible in the features he saw, but
his hair was a little disarranged, and he smoothed it carefully and
adjusted it about his ears. From a silver box on the table he took a
little scented lozenge and put it into his mouth. No reasonable being
would have suspected from his appearance that he had been moved to
furious anger and had done a murderous deed less than twenty minutes
earlier. His still eyes were quite calm now, and the yellow gleam in
them had given place to their naturally uncertain colour. With a smile
of admiration for his own extraordinary powers, he turned and left the
room. He was enjoying one of his rare moments of satisfaction, for the
rival he had long hated and was beginning to dread was never to stand in
his way again nor to rob him of the least of his attributes of
* * * * *
Dolores had not understood her father's words. All that was clear to her
was that Don John was dead and that his murderers were gone. Had there
been danger still for herself, she could not have felt it; but there was
none now as she laid her hand upon the key to enter the bedchamber. At
first the lock would not open, as it had been injured in some way by
being so roughly shaken when Mendoza had tried it. But Dolores'
desperate fingers wound themselves upon the key like little ropes of
white silk, slender but very strong, and she wrenched at the thing
furiously till it turned. The door flew open, and she stood motionless a
moment on the threshold. Mendoza had said that Don John was dead, but
she had not quite believed it.
He lay on his back as he had fallen, his feet towards her, his graceful
limbs relaxed, one arm beside him, the other thrown back beyond his
head, the colourless fingers just bent a little and showing the nervous