Part 4 out of 5
beauty of the hand. The beautiful young face was white as marble, and
the eyes were half open, very dark under the waxen lids. There was one
little spot of scarlet on the white satin coat, near the left breast.
Dolores saw it all in the bright light of the candles, and she neither
moved nor closed her fixed eyes as she gazed. She felt that she was at
the end of life; she stood still to see it all and to understand. But
though she tried to think, it was as if she had no mind left, no
capacity for grasping any new thought, and no power to connect those
that had disturbed her brain with the present that stared her in the
face. An earthquake might have torn the world open under her feet at
that moment, swallowing up the old Alcazar with the living and the dead,
and Dolores would have gone down to destruction as she stood,
unconscious of her fate, her eyes fixed upon Don John's dead features,
her own life already suspended and waiting to follow his. It seemed as
if she might stand there till her horror should stop the beating of her
own heart, unless something came to rouse her from the stupor she was
But gradually a change came over her face, her lids drooped and
quivered, her face turned a little upward, and she grasped the doorpost
with one hand, lest she should reel and fall. Then, knowing that she
could stand no longer, instinct made a last effort upon her; its
invisible power thrust her violently forward in a few swift steps, till
her strength broke all at once, and she fell and lay almost upon the
body of her lover, her face hidden upon his silent breast, one hand
seeking his hand, the other pressing his cold forehead.
It was not probable that any one should find her there for a long time.
The servants and gentlemen had been dismissed, and until it was known
that Don John was dead, no one would come. Even if she could have
thought at all, she would not have cared who saw her lying there; but
thought was altogether gone now, and there was nothing left but the
ancient instinct of the primeval woman mourning her dead mate alone,
with long-drawn, hopeless weeping and blinding tears.
They came, too, when she had lain upon his breast a little while and
when understanding had wholly ceased and given way to nature. Then her
body shook and her breast heaved strongly, almost throwing her upon her
side as she lay, and sounds that were hardly human came from her lips;
for the first dissolving of a woman's despair into tears is most like
the death agony of those who die young in their strength, when the limbs
are wrung at the joints and the light breaks in the upturned eyes, when
the bosom heaves and would take in the whole world at one breath, when
the voice makes sounds of fear that are beyond words and worse to hear
than any words could be.
Her weeping was wild at first, measureless and violent, broken by sharp
cries that hurt her heart like jagged knives, then strangled to a
choking silence again and again, as the merciless consciousness that
could have killed, if it had prevailed, almost had her by the throat,
but was forced back again with cruel pain by the young life that would
not die, though living was agony and death would have been as welcome as
Then her loud grief subsided to a lower key, and her voice grew by
degrees monotonous and despairing as the turning tide on a quicksand,
before bad weather,--not diminished, but deeper drawn within itself; and
the low moan came regularly with each breath, while the tears flowed
steadily. The first wild tempest had swept by, and the more enduring
storm followed in its track.
So she lay a long time weeping; and then strong hands were upon her,
lifting her up and dragging her away, without warning and without word.
She did not understand, and she fancied herself in the arms of some
supernatural being of monstrous strength that was tearing her from what
was left of life and love. She struggled senselessly, but she could find
no foothold as she was swept through the open door. She gasped for
breath, as one does in bad dreams, and bodily fear almost reached her
heart through its sevenfold armour of such grief as makes fear
ridiculous and turns mortal danger to an empty show. The time had seemed
an age since she had fallen upon dead Don John--it had measured but a
short few minutes; it seemed as if she were being dragged the whole
length of the dim palace as the strong hands bore her along, yet she was
only carried from the room to the terrace; and when her eyes could see,
she knew that she was in the open air on a stone seat in the moonlight,
the cool night breeze fanning her face, while a gentle hand supported
her head,--the same hand that had been so masterfully strong a moment
earlier. A face she knew and did not dread, though it was unlike other
faces, was just at the same height with her own, though the man was
standing beside her and she was seated; and the moonlight made very soft
shadows in the ill-drawn features of the dwarf, so that his thin and
twisted lips were kind and his deep-set eyes were overflowing with human
sympathy. When he understood that she saw him and was not fainting, he
gently drew away his hand and let her head rest against the stone
She was dazed still, and the tears veiled her sight. He stood before
her, as if guarding her, ready in case she should move and try to leave
him. His long arms hung by his sides, but not quite motionless, so that
he could have caught her instantly had she attempted to spring past him;
and he was wise and guessed rightly what she would do. Her eyes
brightened suddenly, and she half rose before he held her again.
"No, no!" she said desperately. "I must go to him--let me go--let me go
But his hands were on her shoulders in an instant, and she was in a
vise, forced back to her seat.
"How dare you touch me!" she cried, in the furious anger of a woman
beside herself with grief. "How dare you lay hands on me!" she repeated
in a rising key, but struggling in vain against his greater strength.
"You would have died, if I had left you there," answered the jester.
"And besides, the people will come soon, and they would have found you
there, lying on his body, and your good name would have gone forever."
"My name! What does a name matter? Or anything? Oh, let me go! No one
must touch him--no hands that do not love him must come near him--let me
get up--let me go in again!"
She tried to force the dwarf from her--she would have struck him,
crushed him, thrown him from the terrace, if she could. She was strong,
too, in her grief; but his vast arms were like iron bars, growing from
his misshapen body. His face was very grave and kind, and his eyes more
tender than they had ever been in his life.
"No," he said gently. "You must not go. By and by you shall see him
again, but not now. Do not try, for I am much stronger than you, and I
will not let you go back into the room."
Then her strength relaxed, and she turned to the stone parapet, burying
her face in her crossed arms, and her tears came again. For this the
jester was glad, knowing that tears quench the first white heat of such
sorrows as can burn out the soul and drive the brain raving mad, when
life can bear the torture. He stood still before her, watching her and
guarding her, but he felt that the worst was past, and that before very
long he could lead her away to a place of greater safety. He had indeed
taken her as far as he could from Don John's door, and out of sight of
it, where the long terrace turned to the westward, and where it was not
likely that any one should pass at that hour. It had been the impulse of
the moment, and he himself had not recovered from the shock of finding
Don John's body lifeless on the floor. He had known nothing of what had
happened, but lurking in a corner to see the King pass on his way back
from his brother's quarters, he had made sure that Don John was alone,
and had gone to his apartment to find out, if he could, how matters had
fared, and whether he himself were in further danger or not. He meant to
escape from the palace, or to take his own life, rather than be put to
the torture, if the King suspected him of being involved in a
conspiracy. He was not a common coward, but he feared bodily pain as
only such sensitive organizations can, and the vision of the rack and
the boot had been before him since he had seen Philip's face at supper.
Don John was kind, and would have warned him if he were in danger, and
so all might have been well, and by flight or death he might have
escaped being torn limb from limb. So he had gone boldly in, and had
found the door ajar and had entered the bedchamber, and when he had seen
what was there, he would have fled at once, for his own safety, not only
because Don John's murder was sure to produce terrible trouble, and many
enquiries and trials, in the course of which he was almost sure to be
lost, but also for the more immediate reason that if he were seen near
the body when it was discovered, he should certainly be put to the
question ordinary and extraordinary for his evidence.
But he was not a common coward, and in spite of his own pardonable
terror, he thought first of the innocent girl whose name and fame would
be gone if she were found lying upon her murdered lover's body, and so
far as he could, he saved her before he thought of saving himself,
though with infinite difficulty and against her will.
Half paralyzed by her immeasurable grief, she lay against the parapet,
and the great sobs came evenly, as if they were counted, shaking her
from her head to her waist, and just leaving her a breathing space
between each one and the next. The jester felt that he could do nothing.
So long as she had seemed unconscious, he had tried to help her a little
by supporting her head with his hand and arm, as tenderly as if she had
been his own child. So long as she did not know what he was doing, she
was only a human being in distress, and a woman, and deep down in the
jester's nature there was a marvellous depth of pity for all things that
suffered--the deeper and truer because his own sufferings in the world
were great. But it was quite different now that she knew where she was
and recognized him. She was no longer a woman now, but a high-born lady,
one of the Queen's maids of honour, a being infinitely far removed above
his sphere, and whose hand he was not worthy to touch. He would have
dared to be much more familiar with the King himself than with this
young girl whom fate had placed in his keeping for a moment. In the
moonlight he watched her, and as he gazed upon her graceful figure and
small head and slender, bending arms, it seemed to him that she had come
down from an altar to suffer in life, and that it had been almost
sacrilege to lay his hands upon her shoulders and keep her from doing
her own will. He almost wondered how he had found courage to be so rough
and commanding. He was gentle of heart, though it was his trade to make
sharp speeches, and there were wonderful delicacies of thought and
feeling far down in his suffering cripple's nature.
"Come," he said softly, when he had waited a long time, and when he
thought she was growing more quiet. "You must let me take you away, Dona
Maria Dolores, for we cannot stay here."
"Take me back to him," she answered. "Let me go back to him!"
"No--to your father--I cannot take you to him. You will be safe there."
Dolores sprang to her feet before the dwarf could prevent her.
"To my father? oh, no, no, no! Never, as long as I live! I will go
anywhere, but not to him! Take your hands from me--do not touch me! I am
not strong, but I shall kill you if you try to take me to my father!"
Her small hands grasped the dwarfs wrists and wrung them with desperate
energy, and she tried to push him away, so that she might pass him. But
he resisted her quietly, planting himself in a position of resistance on
his short bowed legs, and opposing the whole strength of his great arms
to her girlish violence. Her hands relaxed suddenly in despair.
"Not to my father!" she pleaded, in a broken voice. "Oh, please,
please--not to my father!"
The jester did not fully understand, but he yielded, for he could not
carry her to Mendoza's apartments by force.
"But what can I do to put you in a place of safety?" he asked, in
growing distress. "You cannot stay here."
While he was speaking a light figure glided out from the shadows, with
outstretched hands, and a low voice called Dolores' name, trembling with
terror and emotion. Dolores broke from the dwarf and clasped her sister
in her arms.
"Is it true?" moaned Inez. "Is it true? Is he dead?" And her voice
* * * * *
The courtiers had assembled again in the great throne room after supper,
and the stately dancing, for which the court of Spain was even then
famous throughout Europe, had begun. The orchestra was placed under the
great arch of the central window on a small raised platform draped with
velvets and brocades that hung from a railing, high enough to conceal
the musicians as they sat, though some of the instruments and the moving
bows of the violins could be seen above it.
The masked dancing, if it were dancing at all, which had been general in
the days of the Emperor Maximilian, and which had not yet gone out of
fashion altogether at the imperial court of Vienna, had long been
relegated to the past in Spain, and the beautiful "pavane" dances, of
which awkward travesties survive in our day, had been introduced
instead. As now, the older ladies of the court withdrew to the sides of
the hall, leaving the polished floor free for those who danced, and sets
formed themselves in the order of their rank from the foot of the throne
dais to the lower end. As now, too, the older and graver men congregated
together in outer rooms; and there gaming-tables were set out, and the
nobles lost vast sums at games now long forgotten, by the express
authorization of the pious Philip, who saw that everything which could
injure the fortunes of the grandees must consolidate his own, by
depriving them of some of that immense wealth which was an ever-ready
element of revolution. He did everything in his power to promote the
ruin of the most powerful grandees in the kingdom by encouraging gaming
and all imaginable forms of extravagance, and he looked with suspicion
and displeasure upon those more prudent men who guarded their riches
carefully, as their fathers had done before them. But these were few,
for it was a part of a noble's dignity to lose enormous sums of money
without the slightest outward sign of emotion or annoyance.
It had been announced that the King and Queen would not return after
supper, and the magnificent gravity of the most formal court in the
world was a little relaxed when this was known. Between the strains of
music, the voices of the courtiers rose in unbroken conversation, and
now and then there was a ripple of fresh young laughter that echoed
sweetly under the high Moorish vault, and died away just as it rose
again from below.
Yet the dancing was a matter of state, and solemn enough, though it was
very graceful. Magnificent young nobles in scarlet, in pale green, in
straw colour, in tender shades of blue, all satin and silk and velvet
and embroidery, led lovely women slowly forward with long and gliding
steps that kept perfect time to the music, and turned and went back, and
wound mazy figures with the rest, under the waxen light of the waxen
torches, and returned to their places with deep curtsies on the one
side, and sweeping obeisance on the other. The dresses of the women were
richer by far with gold and silver, and pearls and other jewels, than
those of the men, but were generally darker in tone, for that was the
fashion then. Their skirts were straight and barely touched the floor,
being made for a time when dancing was a part of court life, and when
every one within certain limits of age was expected to dance well. There
was no exaggeration of the ruffle then, nor had the awkward hoop skirt
been introduced in Spain. Those were the earlier days of Queen
Elizabeth's reign, before Queen Mary was imprisoned; it was the time,
indeed, when the rough Bothwell had lately carried her off and married
her, after a fashion, with so little ceremony that Philip paid no
attention to the marriage at all, and deliberately proposed to make her
Don John's wife. The matter was freely talked of on that night by the
noble ladies of elder years who gossiped while they watched the dancing.
That was indeed such a court as had not been seen before, nor was ever
seen again, whether one count beauty first, or riches and magnificence,
or the marvel of splendid ceremony and the faultless grace of studied
manners, or even the cool recklessness of great lords and ladies who
could lose a fortune at play, as if they were throwing a handful of coin
to a beggar in the street.
The Princess of Eboli stood a little apart from the rest, having just
returned to the ball-room, and her eyes searched for Dolores in the
crowd, though she scarcely expected to see her there. It would have been
almost impossible for the girl to put on a court dress in so short a
time, though since her father had allowed her to leave her room, she
could have gone back to dress if she had chosen. The Princess had rarely
been at a loss in her evil life, and had seldom been baffled in anything
she had undertaken, since that memorable occasion on which her husband,
soon after her marriage, had forcibly shut her up in a convent for
several months, in the vain hope of cooling her indomitable temper. But
now she was nervous and uncertain of herself. Not only had Dolores
escaped her, but Don John had disappeared also, and the Princess had not
the least doubt but that the two were somewhere together, and she was
very far from being sure that they had not already left the palace.
Antonio Perez had informed her that the King had promised not to see Don
John that night, and for once she was foolish enough to believe the
King's word. Perez came up to her as she was debating what she should
do. She told him her thoughts, laughing gaily from time to time, as if
she were telling him some very witty story, for she did not wish those
who watched them to guess that the conversation was serious. Perez
laughed, too, and answered in low tones, with many gestures meant to
deceive the court.
"The King did not take my advice," he said. "I had scarcely left him,
when he went to Don John's apartments."
"How do you know that?" asked the Princess, with some anxiety.
"He found the door of an inner room locked, and he sent Mendoza to find
the key. Fortunately for the old man's feelings it could not be found!
He would have had an unpleasant surprise."
"Because his daughter was in the room that was locked," laughed Perez.
"When? How? How long ago was that?"
"Half an hour--not more."
"That is impossible. Half an hour ago Dolores de Mendoza was with me."
"Then there was another lady in the room." Perez laughed again. "Better
two than one," he added.
"You are wrong," said the Princess, and her face darkened. "Don John has
not so much as deigned to look at any other woman these two years."
"You should know that best," returned the Secretary, with a little
malice in his smile.
It was well known in the court that two or three years earlier, during
the horrible intrigue that ended in the death of Don Carlos, the
Princess of Eboli had done her best to bring Don John of Austria to her
feet, and had failed notoriously, because he was already in love with
Dolores. She was angry now, and the rich colour came into her handsome
"Don Antonio Perez," she said, "take care! I have made you. I can also
Perez assumed an air of simple and innocent surprise, as if he were
quite sure that he had said nothing to annoy her, still less to wound
her deeply. He believed that she really loved him and that he could play
with her as if his own intelligence far surpassed hers. In the first
matter he was right, but he was very much mistaken in the second.
"I do not understand," he said. "If I have done anything to offend you,
pray forgive my ignorance, and believe in the unchanging devotion of
your most faithful slave."
His dark eyes became very expressive as he bowed a little, with a
graceful gesture of deprecation. The Princess laughed lightly, but there
was still a spark of annoyance in her look.
"Why does Don John not come?" she asked impatiently. "We should have
danced together. Something must have happened--can you not find out?"
Others were asking the same question in surprise, for it had been
expected that Don John would enter immediately after the supper. His
name was heard from end to end of the hall, in every conversation,
wherever two or three persons were talking together. It was in the air,
like his popularity, everywhere and in everything, and the expectation
of his coming produced a sort of tension that was felt by every one. The
men grew more witty, the younger women's eyes brightened, though they
constantly glanced towards the door of the state apartments by which Don
John should enter, and as the men's conversation became more brilliant
the women paid less attention to it, for there was hardly one of them
who did not hope that Don John might notice her before the evening was
over,--there was not one who did not fancy herself a little in love with
him, as there was hardly a man there who would not have drawn his sword
for him and fought for him with all his heart. Many, though they dared
not say so, secretly wished that some evil might befall Philip, and that
he might soon die childless, since he had destroyed his only son and
only heir, and that Don John might be King in his stead. The Princess of
Eboli and Perez knew well enough that their plan would be popular, if
they could ever bring it to maturity.
The music swelled and softened, and rose again in those swaying strains
that inspire an irresistible bodily longing for rhythmical motion, and
which have infinite power to call up all manner of thoughts, passionate,
gentle, hopeful, regretful, by turns. In the middle of the hall, more
than a hundred dancers moved, swayed, and glided in time with the sound,
changed places, and touched hands in the measure, tripped forward and
back and sideways, and met and parted again without pause, the colours
of their dresses mingling to rich unknown hues in the soft candlelight,
as the figure brought many together, and separating into a hundred
elements again, when the next steps scattered them again; the jewels in
the women's hair, the clasps of diamonds and precious stones at throat,
and shoulder, and waist, all moved with an intricate motion, in orbits
that crossed and recrossed in the tinted sea of silk, and flashed all at
once, as the returning burden of the music brought the dancers to stand
and turn at the same beat of the measure. Yet it was all unlike the
square dancing of these days, which is either no dancing at all, but a
disorderly walk, or else is so stiffly regular and awkward that it makes
one think of a squad of recruits exercising on the drill ground. There
was not a motion, then, that lacked grace, or ease, or a certain purpose
of beauty, nor any, perhaps, that was not a phrase in the allegory of
love, from which all dancing is, and was, and always must be, drawn.
Swift, slow, by turns, now languorous, now passionate, now full of
delicious regret, singing love's triumph, breathing love's fire, sighing
in love's despair, the dance and its music were one, so was sight
intermingled with sound, and motion a part of both. And at each pause,
lips parted and glance sought glance in the light, while hearts found
words in the music that answered the language of love. Men laugh at
dancing and love it, and women, too, and no one can tell where its charm
is, but few have not felt it, or longed to feel it, and its beginnings
are very far away in primeval humanity, beyond the reach of theory,
unless instinct may explain all simply, as it well may. For light and
grace and sweet sound are things of beauty which last for ever, and love
is the source of the future and the explanation of the past; and that
which can bring into itself both love and melody, and grace and light,
must needs be a spell to charm men and women.
There was more than that in the air on that night, for Don John's return
had set free that most intoxicating essence of victory, which turns to a
mad fire in the veins of a rejoicing people, making the least man of
them feel himself a soldier, and a conqueror, and a sharer in undying
fame. They had loved him from a child, they had seen him outgrow them in
beauty, and skill, and courage, and they had loved him still the more
for being the better man; and now he had done a great deed, and had
fulfilled and overfilled their greatest expectations, and in an instant
he leapt from the favourite's place in their hearts to the hero's height
on the altar of their wonder, to be the young god of a nation that loved
him. Not a man, on that night, but would have sworn that Don John was
braver than Alexander, wiser than Charlemagne, greater than Caesar
himself; not a man but would have drawn his sword to prove it on the
body of any who should dare to contradict him,--not a mother was there,
who did not pray that her sons might be but ever so little like him, no
girl of Spain but dreamt she heard his soft voice speaking low in her
ear. Not often in the world's story has a man so young done such great
things as he had done and was to do before his short life was ended;
never, perhaps, was any man so honoured by his own people, so trusted,
and so loved.
They could talk only of him, wondering more and more that he stayed away
from them on such a night, yet sure that he would come, and join the
dancing, for as he fought with a skill beyond that of other swordsmen,
so he danced with the most surpassing grace. They longed to see him, to
look into his face, to hear his voice, perhaps to touch his hand; for he
was free of manner and gentle to all, and if he came he would go from
one to another, and remember each with royal memory, and find kind words
for every one. They wanted him among them, they felt a sort of tense
desire to see him again, and even to shout for him again, as the vulgar
herd did in the streets,--as they themselves had done but an hour ago
when he had stood out beside the throne. And still the dancers danced
through the endless measures, laughing and talking at each pause, and
repeating his name till it was impossible not to hear it, wherever one
might be in the hall, and there was no one, old or young, who did not
speak it at least once in every five minutes. There was a sort of
intoxication in its very sound, and the more they heard it, the more
they wished to hear it, coupled with every word of praise that the
language possessed. From admiration they rose to enthusiasm, from
enthusiasm to a generous patriotic passion in which Spain was the world
and Don John was Spain, and all the rest of everything was but a dull
and lifeless blank which could have no possible interest for natural
Young men, darkly flushed from dancing, swore that whenever Don John
should be next sent with an army, they would go, too, and win his
battles and share in his immortal glory; and grand, grey men who wore
the Golden Fleece, men who had seen great battles in the Emperor's day,
stood together and talked of him, and praised God that Spain had another
hero of the Austrian house, to strike terror to the heart of France, to
humble England at last, and to grasp what little of the world was not
already gathered in the hollow of Spain's vast hand.
Antonio Perez and the Princess of Eboli parted and went among the
courtiers, listening to all that was to be heard and feeding the fire of
enthusiasm, and met again to exchange glances of satisfaction, for they
were well pleased with the direction matters were taking, and the talk
grew more free from minute to minute, till many, carried away by a force
they could not understand and did not seek to question, were openly
talking of the succession to the throne, of Philip's apparent ill
health, and of the chance that they might before long be doing service
to his Majesty King John.
The music ceased again, and the couples dispersed about the hall, to
collect again in groups. There was a momentary lull in the talk, too, as
often happens when a dance is just over, and at that moment the great
door beside the throne was opened, with a noise that attracted the
attention of all; and all believed that Don John was returning, while
all eyes were fixed upon the entrance to catch the first glimpse of him,
and every one pronounced his name at once in short, glad tones of
"Don John is coming! It is Don John of Austria! Don John is there!"
It was almost a universal cry of welcome. An instant later a dead
silence followed as a chamberlain's clear voice announced the royal
presence, and King Philip advanced upon the platform of the throne. For
several seconds not a sound broke the stillness, and he came slowly
forward followed by half a dozen nobles in immediate attendance upon
him. But though he must have heard his brother's name in the general
chorus of voices as soon as the door had been thrown open, he seemed by
no means disconcerted; on the contrary, he smiled almost affably, and
his eyes were less fixed than usual, as he looked about him with
something like an air of satisfaction. As soon as it was clear that he
meant to descend the steps to the floor of the hall, the chief courtiers
came forward, Ruy Gomez de Silva, Prince of Eboli, Alvarez de Toledo,
the terrible Duke of Alva, the Dukes of Medina Sidonia and of Infantado,
Don Antonio Perez the chief Secretary, the Ambassadors of Queen
Elizabeth of England and of France, and a dozen others, bowing so low
that the plumes of their hats literally touched the floor beside them.
"Why is there no dancing?" asked Philip, addressing Ruy Gomez, with a
The Minister explained that one of the dances was but just over.
"Let there be more at once," answered the King. "Let there be dancing
and music without end to-night. We have good reason to keep the day with
rejoicing, since the war is over, and Don John of Austria has come back
The command was obeyed instantly, as Ruy Gomez made a sign to the leader
of the musicians, who was watching him intently in expectation of the
order. The King smiled again as the long strain broke the silence and
the conversation began again all through the hall, though in a far more
subdued tone than before, and with much more caution. Philip turned to
the English Ambassador.
"It is a pity," he said, "that my sister of England cannot be here with
us on such a night as this. We saw no such sights in London in my day,
"There have been changes since then, Sire," answered the Ambassador.
"The Queen is very much inclined to magnificence and to great
entertainments, and does not hesitate to dance herself, being of a very
vital and pleasant temper. Nevertheless, your Majesty's court is by far
the most splendid in the world."
"There you are right, my lord!" exclaimed the King. "And for that
matter, we have beauty also, such as is found nowhere else."
The Princess of Eboli was close by, waiting for him to speak to her, and
his eyes fixed themselves upon her face with a sort of cold and
snakelike admiration, to which she was well accustomed, but which even
now made her nervous. The Ambassador was not slow to take up the cue of
flattery, for Englishmen still knew how to flatter in Elizabeth's day.
"The inheritance of universal conquest," he said, bowing and smiling to
the Princess. "Even the victories of Don John of Austria must yield to
The Princess laughed carelessly. Had Perez spoken the words, she would
have frowned, but the King's eyes were watching her.
"His Highness has fled from the field without striking a blow," she
said. "We have not seen him this evening." As she spoke she met the
King's gaze with a look of enquiry.
"Don John will be here presently, no doubt," he said, as if answering a
question. "Has he not been here at all since supper?"
"No, Sire; though every one expected him to come at once."
"That is strange," said Philip, with perfect self-possession. "He is
fond of dancing, too--no one can dance better than he. Have you ever
known a man so roundly gifted as my brother, my lord?"
"A most admirable prince," answered the Ambassador, gravely and without
enthusiasm, for he feared that the King was about to speak of his
brother's possible marriage with Queen Mary of Scots.
"And a most affectionate and gentle nature," said Philip, musing. "I
remember from the time when he was a boy that every one loved him and
praised him, and yet he is not spoiled. He is always the same. He is my
brother--how often have I wished for such a son! Well, he may yet be
King. Who should, if not he, when I am gone?"
"Your Majesty need not anticipate such a frightful calamity!" cried the
Princess fervently, though she was at that moment weighing the
comparative advantage of several mortal diseases by which, in appearance
at least, his exit from the world might be accelerated.
"Life is very uncertain, Princess," observed the King. "My lord," he
turned to the English Ambassador again, "do you consider melons
indigestible in England? I have lately heard much against them."
"A melon is a poor thing, of a watery constitution, your Majesty,"
replied the Ambassador glibly. "There can be but little sustenance in a
hollow piece of water that is sucked from a marsh and enclosed in a
green rind. To tell the truth, I hear it ill spoken of by our
physicians, but I cannot well speak of the matter, for I never ate one
in my life, and please God I never will!"
"Why not!" enquired the King, who took an extraordinary interest in the
subject. "You fear them, then! Yet you seem to be exceedingly strong and
"Sire, I have sometimes drunk a little water for my stomach's sake, but
I will not eat it."
The King smiled pleasantly.
"How wise the English are!" he said. "We may yet learn much of them."
Philip turned away from the Ambassador and watched the dance in silence.
The courtiers now stood in a wide half circle to the right and left of
him as he faced the hall, and the dancers passed backwards and forwards
across the open space. His slow eyes followed one figure without seeing
the rest. In the set nearest to him a beautiful girl was dancing with
one of Don John's officers. She was of the rarest type of Andalusian
beauty, tall, pliant, and slenderly strong, with raven's-wing hair and
splendidly languorous eyes, her creamy cheek as smooth as velvet, and a
mouth like a small ripe fruit. As she moved she bent from the waist as
easily and naturally as a child, and every movement followed a new curve
of beauty from her white throat to the small arched foot that darted
into sight as she stepped forward now and then, to disappear instantly
under the shadow of the gold-embroidered skirt. As she glanced towards
the King, her shadowy lids half hid her eyes and the long black lashes
almost brushed her cheek. Philip could not look away from her.
But suddenly there was a stir among the courtiers, and a shadow came
between the King and the vision he was watching. He started a little,
annoyed by the interruption and at being rudely reminded of what had
happened half an hour earlier, for the shadow was cast by Mendoza, tall
and grim in his armour, his face as grey as his grey beard, and his eyes
hard and fixed. Without bending, like a soldier on parade, he stood
there, waiting by force of habit until Philip should speak to him. The
King's brows bent together, and he almost unconsciously raised one hand
to signify that the music should cease. It stopped in the midst of a
bar, leaving the dancers at a standstill in their measure, and all the
moving sea of light and colour and gleaming jewels was arrested
instantly in its motion, while every look was turned towards the King.
The change from sound to silence, from motion to immobility, was so
sudden that every one was startled, as if some frightful accident had
happened, or as if an earthquake had shaken the Alcazar to its deep
Mendoza's harsh voice spoke out alone in accents that were heard to the
end of the hall.
"Don John of Austria is dead! I, Mendoza, have killed him unarmed."
It was long before a sound was heard, before any man or woman in the
hall had breath to utter a word. Philip's voice was heard first.
"The man is mad," he said, with undisturbed coolness. "See to him,
"No, no!" cried Mendoza. "I am not mad. I have killed Don John. You
shall find him in his room as he fell, with the wound in his breast."
One moment more the silence lasted, while Philip's stony face never
moved. A single woman's shriek rang out first, long, ear-piercing,
agonized, and then, without warning, a cry went up such as the old hall
had never heard before. It was a bad cry to hear, for it clamoured for
blood to be shed for blood, and though it was not for him, Philip turned
livid and shrank back a step. But Mendoza stood like a rock, waiting to
In another moment furious confusion filled the hall. From every side at
once rose women's cries, and the deep shouts of angry men, and high,
clear yells of rage and hate. The men pushed past the ladies of the
court to the front, and some came singly, but a serried rank moved up
from behind, pushing the others before them.
"Kill him! Kill him at the King's feet! Kill him where he stands!"
And suddenly something made blue flashes of light high over the heads of
all; a rapier was out and wheeled in quick circles from a pliant wrist.
An officer of Mendoza's guard had drawn it, and a dozen more were in the
air in an instant, and then daggers by scores, keen, short, and strong,
held high at arm's length, each shaking with the fury of the hand that
Some one had screamed out the wild cry of the Spanish soldiers--'Blood!
Blood!'--and the young men took it up in a mad yell, as they pushed
forwards furiously, while the few who stood in front tried to keep a
space open round the King and Mendoza.
The old man never winced, and disdained to turn his head, though he
heard the cry of death behind him, and the quick, soft sound of daggers
drawn from leathern sheaths, and the pressing of men who would be upon
him in another moment to tear him limb from limb with their knives.
Tall old Ruy Gomez had stepped forwards to stem the tide of death, and
beside him the English Ambassador, quietly determined to see fair play
or to be hurt himself in preventing murder.
"Back!" thundered Ruy Gomez, in a voice that was heard. "Back, I say!
Are you gentlemen of Spain, or are you executioners yourselves that you
would take this man's blood? Stand back!"
"Sangre! Sangre!" echoed the hall.
"Then take mine first!" shouted the brave old Prince, spreading his
short cloak out behind him with his hands to cover Mendoza more
But still the crowd of splendid young nobles surged up to him, and back
a little, out of sheer respect for his station and his old age, and
forwards again, dagger in hand, with blazing eyes.
"Sangre! Sangre! Sangre!" they cried, blind with fury.
But meanwhile, the guards filed in, for the prudent Perez had hastened
to throw wide the doors and summon them. Weapons in hand and ready, they
formed a square round the King and Mendoza and Ruy Gomez, and at the
sight of their steel caps and breastplates and long-tasselled halberds,
the yells of the courtiers subsided a little and turned to deep curses
and execrations and oaths of vengeance. A high voice pierced the low
roar, keen and cutting as a knife, but no one knew whose it was, and
Philip almost reeled as he heard the words.
"Remember Don Carlos! Don John of Austria is gone to join Don Carlos and
Again a deadly silence fell upon the multitude, and the King leaned on
Perez' arm. Some woman's hate had bared the truth in a flash, and there
were hundreds of hands in the hall that were ready to take his life
instead of Mendoza's; and he knew it, and was afraid.
* * * * *
The agonized cry that had been first heard in the hall had come from
Inez's lips. When she had fled from her father, she had regained her
hiding-place in the gallery above the throne room. She would not go to
her own room, for she felt that rest was out of the question while
Dolores was in such danger; and yet there would have been no object in
going to Don John's door again, to risk being caught by her father or
met by the King himself. She had therefore determined to let an hour
pass before attempting another move. So she slipped into the gallery
again, and sat upon the little wooden bench that had been made for the
Moorish women in old times; and she listened to the music and the sound
of the dancers' feet far below, and to the hum of voices, in which she
often distinguished the name of Don John. She had heard all,--the cries
when it was thought that he was coming, the chamberlain's voice
announcing the King, and then the change of key in the sounds that had
followed. Lastly, she had heard plainly every syllable of her father's
speech, so that when she realized what it meant, she had shrieked aloud,
and had fled from the gallery to find her sister if she could, to find
Don John's body most certainly where it lay on the marble floor, with
the death wound at the breast. Her instinct--she could not have reasoned
then--told her that her father must have found the lovers together, and
that in sudden rage he had stabbed Don John, defenceless.
Dolores' tears answered her sister's question well enough when the two
girls were clasped in one another's arms at last. There was not a doubt
left in the mind of either. Inez spoke first. She said that she had
hidden in the gallery.
"Our father must have come in some time after the King," she said, in
broken sentences, and almost choking. "Suddenly the music stopped. I
could hear every word. He said that he had done it,--that he had
murdered Don John,--and then I ran here, for I was afraid he had killed
"Would God he had!" cried Dolores. "Would to Heaven that I were dead
beside the man I love!"
"And I!" moaned Inez pitifully, and she began to sob wildly, as Dolores
had sobbed at first.
But Dolores was silent now, as if she had shed all her tears at once,
and had none left. She held her sister in her arms, and soothed her
almost unconsciously, as if she had been a little child. But her own
thoughts were taking shape quickly, for she was strong; and after the
first paroxysm of her grief, she saw the immediate future as clearly as
the present. When she spoke again she had the mastery of her voice, and
it was clear and low.
"You say that our father confessed before the whole court that he had
murdered Don John?" she said, with a question. "What happened then? Did
the King speak? Was our father arrested? Can you remember?"
"I only heard loud cries," sobbed Inez. "I came to you--as quickly as I
could--I was afraid."
"We shall never see our father again--unless we see him on the morning
when he is to die."
"Dolores! They will not kill him, too?" In sudden and greater fear than
before, Inez ceased sobbing.
"He will die on the scaffold," answered Dolores, in the same clear tone,
as if she were speaking in a dream, or of things that did not come near
her. "There is no pardon possible. He will die to-morrow or the next
The present truth stood out in all its frightful distinctness. Whoever
had done the murder--since Mendoza had confessed it, he would be made to
die for it,--of that she was sure. She could not have guessed what had
really happened; and though the evidence of the sounds she had heard
through the door would have gone to show that Philip had done the deed
himself, yet there had been no doubt about Mendoza's words, spoken to
the King alone over Don John's dead body, and repeated before the great
assembly in the ball-room. If she guessed at an explanation, it was that
her father, entering the bedchamber during the quarrel, and supposing
from what he saw that Don John was about to attack the King, had drawn
and killed the Prince without hesitation. The only thing quite clear was
that Mendoza was to suffer, and seemed strangely determined to suffer,
for what he had or had not done. The dark shadow of the scaffold rose
before Dolores' eyes.
It had seemed impossible that she could be made to bear more than she
had borne that night, when she had fallen upon Don John's body to weep
her heart out for her dead love. But she saw that there was more to
bear, and dimly she guessed that there might be something for her to do.
There was Inez first, and she must be cared for and placed in safety,
for she was beside herself with grief. It was only on that afternoon by
the window that Dolores had guessed the blind girl's secret, which Inez
herself hardly suspected even now, though she was half mad with grief
and utterly broken-hearted.
Dolores felt almost helpless, but she understood that she and her sister
were henceforth to be more really alone in what remained of life than if
they had been orphans from their earliest childhood. The vision of the
convent, that had been unbearable but an hour since, held all her hope
of peace and safety now, unless her father could be saved from his fate
by some miracle of heaven. But that was impossible. He had given himself
up as if he were determined to die. He had been out of his mind, beside
himself, stark mad, in his fear that Don John might bring harm upon his
daughter. That was why he had killed him--there could be no other
reason, unless he had guessed that she was in the locked room, and had
judged her then and at once, and forever. The thought had not crossed
her mind till then, and it was a new torture now, so that she shrank
under it as under a bodily blow; and her grasp tightened violently upon
her sister's arm, rousing the half-fainting girl again to the full
consciousness of pain.
It was no wonder that Mendoza should have done such a deed, since he had
believed her ruined and lost to honour beyond salvation. That explained
all. He had guessed that she had been long with Don John, who had locked
her hastily into the inner room to hide her from the King. Had the King
been Don John, had she loved Philip as she loved his brother, her father
would have killed his sovereign as unhesitatingly, and would have
suffered any death without flinching. She believed that, and there was
enough of his nature in herself to understand it.
She was as innocent as the blind girl who lay in her arms, but suddenly
it flashed upon her that no one would believe it, since her own father
would not, and that her maiden honour and good name were gone for ever,
gone with her dead lover, who alone could have cleared her before the
world. She cared little for the court now, but she cared tenfold more
earnestly for her father's thought of her, and she knew him and the
terrible tenacity of his conviction when he believed himself to be
right. He had proved that by what he had done. Since she understood all,
she no longer doubted that he had killed Don John with the fullest
intention, to avenge her, and almost knowing that she was within
hearing, as indeed she had been. He had taken a royal life in atonement
for her honour, but he was to give his own, and was to die a shameful
death on the scaffold, within a few hours, or, at the latest, within a
few days, for her sake.
Then she remembered how on that afternoon she had seen tears in his
eyes, and had heard the tremor in his voice when he had said that she
was everything to him, that she had been all his life since her mother
had died--he had proved that, too; and though he had killed the man she
loved, she shrank from herself again as she thought what he must have
suffered in her dishonour. For it was nothing else. There was neither
man nor woman nor girl in Spain who would believe her innocent against
such evidence. The world might have believed Don John, if he had lived,
because the world had loved him and trusted him, and could never have
heard falsehood in his voice; but it would not believe her though she
were dying, and though she should swear upon the most sacred and true
things. The world would turn from her with an unbelieving laugh, and she
was to be left alone in her dishonour, and people would judge that she
was not even a fit companion for her blind sister in their solitude. The
King would send her to Las Huelgas, or to some other distant convent of
a severe order, that she might wear out her useless life in grief and
silence and penance as quickly as possible. She bowed her head. It was
too hard to bear.
Inez was more quiet now, and the two sat side by side in mournful
silence, leaning against the parapet. They had forgotten the dwarf, and
he had disappeared, waiting, perhaps, in the shadow at a distance, in
case he might be of use to them. But if he was within hearing, they did
not see him. At last Inez spoke, almost in a whisper, as if she were in
the presence of the dead.
"Were you there, dear?" she asked. "Did you see?"
"I was in the next room," Dolores answered. "I could not see, but I
heard. I heard him fall," she added almost inaudibly, and choking.
Inez shuddered and pressed nearer to her sister, leaning against her,
but she did not begin to sob again. She was thinking.
"Can we not help our father, at least?" she asked presently. "Is there
nothing we can say, or do? We ought to help him if we can,
Dolores--though he did it."
"I would save him with my life, if I could. God knows, I would! He was
mad when he struck the blow. He did it for my sake, because he thought
Don John had ruined my good name. And we should have been married the
day after to-morrow! God of heaven, have mercy!"
Her grief took hold of her again, like a material power, shaking her
from head to foot, and bowing her down upon herself and wringing her
hands together, so that Inez, calmer than she, touched her gently and
tried to comfort her without any words, for there were none to say,
since nothing mattered now, and life was over at its very beginning.
Little by little the sharp agony subsided to dull pain once more, and
Dolores sat upright. But Inez was thinking still, and even in her sorrow
and fright she was gathering all her innocent ingenuity to her aid.
"Is there no way?" she asked, speaking more to herself than to her
sister. "Could we not say that we were there, that it was not our father
but some one else? Perhaps some one would believe us. If we told the
judges that we were quite, quite sure that he did not do it, do you not
think--but then," she checked herself--"then it could only have been the
"Only the King himself," echoed Dolores, half unconsciously, and in a
"That would be terrible," said Inez. "But we could say that the King was
not there, you know--that it was some one else, some one we did not
Dolores rose abruptly from the seat and laid her hand upon the parapet
steadily, as if an unnatural strength had suddenly grown up in her. Inez
went on speaking, confusing herself in the details she was trying to put
together to make a plan, and losing the thread of her idea as she
attempted to build up falsehoods, for she was truthful as their father
was. But Dolores did not hear her.
"You can do nothing, child," she said at last, in a firm tone. "But I
may. You have made me think of something that I may do--it is just
possible--it may help a little. Let me think."
Inez waited in silence for her to go on, and Dolores stood as motionless
as a statue, contemplating in thought the step she meant to take if it
offered the slightest hope of saving her father. The thought was worthy
of her, but the sacrifice was great even then. She had not believed that
the world still held anything with which she would not willingly part,
but there was one thing yet. It might be taken from her, though her
father had slain Don John of Austria to save it, and was to die for it
himself. She could give it before she could be robbed of it, perhaps,
and it might buy his life. She could still forfeit her good name of her
own free will, and call herself what she was not. In words she could
give her honour to the dead man, and the dead could not rise up and deny
her nor refuse the gift. And it seemed to her that when the people
should hear her, they would believe her, seeing that it was her shame, a
shame such as no maiden who had honour left would bear before the world.
But it was hard to do. For honour was her last and only possession now
that all was taken from her.
It was not the so-called honour of society, either, based on
long-forgotten traditions, and depending on convention for its
being--not the sort of honour within which a man may ruin an honest
woman and suffer no retribution, but which decrees that he must take his
own life if he cannot pay a debt of play made on his promise to a
friend, which allows him to lie like a cheat, but ordains that he must
give or require satisfaction of blood for the imaginary insult of a
hasty word--the honour which is to chivalry what black superstition is
to the true Christian faith, which compares with real courage and truth
and honesty, as an ape compares with a man. It was not that, and Dolores
knew it, as every maiden knows it; for the honour of woman is the fact
on which the whole world turns, and has turned and will turn to the end
of things; but what is called the honour of society has been a fiction
these many centuries, and though it came first of a high parentage, of
honest thought wedded to brave deed, and though there are honourable men
yet, these are for the most part the few who talk least loudly about
honour's code, and the belief they hold has come to be a secret and a
persecuted faith, at which the common gentleman thinks fit to laugh lest
some one should presume to measure him by it and should find him
Dolores did not mean to hesitate, after she had decided what to do. But
she could not avoid the struggle, and it was long and hard, though she
saw the end plainly before her and did not waver. Inez did not
understand and kept silence while it lasted.
It was only a word to say, but it was the word which would be repeated
against her as long as she lived, and which nothing she could ever say
or do afterwards could take back when it had once been spoken--it would
leave the mark that a lifetime could not efface. But she meant to speak
it. She could not see what her father would see, that he would rather
die, justly or unjustly, than let his daughter be dishonoured before the
world. That was a part of a man's code, perhaps, but it should not
hinder her from saving her father's life, or trying to, at whatever
cost. What she was fighting against was something much harder to
understand in herself. What could it matter now, that the world should
think her fallen from her maiden estate? The world was nothing to her,
surely. It held nothing, it meant nothing, it was nothing. Her world had
been her lover, and he lay dead in his room. In heaven, he knew that she
was innocent, as he was himself, and he would see that she was going to
accuse herself that she might save her father. In heaven, he had
forgiven his murderer, and he would understand. As for the world and
what it said, she knew that she must leave it instantly, and go from the
confession she was about to make to the convent where she was to die,
and whence her spotless soul would soon be wafted away to join her true
lover beyond the earth. There was no reason why she should find it hard
to do, and yet it was harder than anything she had ever dreamed of
doing. But she was fighting the deepest and strongest instinct of
woman's nature, and the fight went hard.
She fancied the scene, the court, the grey-haired nobles, the fair and
honourable women, the brave young soldiers, the thoughtless courtiers,
the whole throng she was about to face, for she meant to speak before
them all, and to her own shame. She was as white as marble, but when she
thought of what was coming the blood sprang to her face and tingled in
her forehead, and she felt her eyes fall and her proud head bend, as the
storm of humiliation descended upon her. She could hear beforehand the
sounds that would follow her words, the sharp, short laugh of jealous
women who hated her, the murmur of surprise among the men. Then the sea
of faces would seem to rise and fall before her in waves, the lights
would dance, her cheeks would burn like flames, and she would grow
dizzy. That would be the end. Afterwards she could go out alone. Perhaps
the women would shrink from her, no man would be brave enough to lead
her kindly from the room. Yet all that she would bear, for the mere hope
of saving her father. The worst, by far the worst and hardest to endure,
would be something within herself, for which she had neither words nor
true understanding, but which was more real than anything she could
define, for it was in the very core of her heart and in the secret of
her soul, a sort of despairing shame of herself and a desolate longing
for something she could never recover.
She closed her tired eyes and pressed her hand heavily upon the stone
coping of the parapet. It was the supreme effort, and when she looked
down at Inez again she knew that she should live to the end of the
ordeal without wavering.
"I am going down to the throne room," she said, very quietly and gently.
"You had better go to our apartment, dear, and wait for me there. I am
going to try and save our father's life--do not ask me how. It will not
take long to say what I have to say, and then I will come to you."
Inez had risen now, and was standing beside her, laying a hand upon her
"Let me come, too," she said. "I can help you, I am sure I can help
"No," answered Dolores, with authority. "You cannot help me, dearest,
and it would hurt you, and you must not come."
"Then I will stay here," said Inez sorrowfully. "I shall be nearer to
him," she added under her breath.
"Stay here--yes. I will come back to you, and then--then we will go in
together, and say a prayer--his soul can hear us still--we will go and
say good-by to him--together."
Her voice was almost firm, and Inez could not see the agony in her white
face. Then Dolores clasped her in her arms and kissed her forehead and
her blind eyes very lovingly, and pressed her head to her own shoulders
and patted it and smoothed the girl's dark hair.
"I will come back," she said, "and, Inez--you know the truth, my
darling. Whatever evil they may say of me after to-night, remember that
I have said it of myself for our father's sake, and that it is not
"No one will believe it," answered Inez. "They will not believe anything
bad of you."
"Then our father must die."
Dolores kissed her once more and made her sit down, then turned and went
away. She walked quickly along the corridors and descended the second
staircase, to enter the throne room by the side door reserved for the
officers of the household and the maids of honour. She walked swiftly,
her head erect, one hand holding the folds of her cloak pressed to her
bosom, and the other, nervously clenched, and hanging down, as if she
were expecting to strike a blow.
She reached the door, and for a moment her heart stopped beating, and
her eyes closed. She heard many loud voices within, and she knew that
most of the court must still be assembled. It was better that all the
world should hear her--even the King, if he were still there. She pushed
the door open and went in by the familiar way, letting the dark cloak
that covered her court dress fall to the ground as she passed the
threshold. Half a dozen young nobles, grouped near the entrance, made
way for her to pass.
When they recognized her, their voices dropped suddenly, and they stared
after her in astonishment that she should appear at such a time. She was
doubtless in ignorance of what had happened, they thought. As for the
throng in the hall, there was no restraint upon their talk now, and
words were spoken freely which would have been high treason half an hour
earlier. There was the noise, the tension, the ceaseless talking, the
excited air, that belong to great palace revolutions.
The press was closer near the steps of the throne, where the King and
Mendoza had stood, for after they had left the hall, surrounded and
protected by the guards, the courtiers had crowded upon one another, and
those near the further door and outside it in the outer apartments had
pressed in till there was scarcely standing room on the floor of the
hall. Dolores found it hard to advance. Some made way for her with low
exclamations of surprise, but others, not looking to see who she was,
offered a passive resistance to her movements.
"Will you kindly let me pass?" she asked at last, in a gentle tone, "I
am Dolores de Mendoza."
At the name the group that barred her passage started and made way, and
going through she came upon the Prince of Eboli, not far from the steps
of the throne. The English Ambassador, who meant to stay as long as
there was anything for him to observe, was still by the Prince's side.
Dolores addressed the latter without hesitation.
"Don Ruy Gomez," she said, "I ask your help. My father is innocent, and
I can prove it. But the court must hear me--every one must hear the
truth. Will you help me? Can you make them listen?"
Ruy Gomez looked down at Dolores' pale and determined features in
"I am at your service," he answered. "But what are you going to say? The
court is in a dangerous mood to-night."
"I must speak to all," said Dolores. "I am not afraid. What I have to
say cannot be said twice--not even if I had the strength. I can save my
"Why not go to the King at once?" argued the Prince, who feared trouble.
"For the love of God, help me to do as I wish!" Dolores grasped his arm,
and spoke with an effort. "Let me tell them all, how I know that my
father is not guilty of the murder. After that take me to the King if
She spoke very earnestly, and he no longer opposed her. He knew the
temper of the court well enough, and was sure that whatever proved
Mendoza innocent would be welcome just then, and though he was far too
loyal to wish the suspicion of the deed to be fixed upon the King, he
was too just not to desire Mendoza to be exculpated if he were innocent.
"Come with me," he said briefly, and he took Dolores by the hand, and
led her up the first three steps of the platform, so that she could see
over the heads of all present.
It was no time to think of court ceremonies or customs, for there was
danger in the air. Ruy Gomez did not stop to make any long ceremony.
Drawing himself up to his commanding height, he held up his white gloves
at arm's length to attract the attention of the courtiers, and in a few
moments there was silence. They seemed an hour of torture to Dolores.
Ruy Gomez raised his voice.
"Grandees! The daughter of Don Diego de Mendoza stands here at my side
to prove to you that he is innocent of Don John of Austria's death!"
The words had hardly left his lips when a shout went up, like a ringing
cheer. But again he raised his hand.
"Hear Dona Maria Dolores de Mendoza!" he cried.
Then he stepped a little away from Dolores, and looked towards her. She
was dead white, and her lips trembled. There was an almost glassy look
in her eyes, and still she pressed one hand to her bosom, and the other
hung by her side, the fingers twitching nervously against the folds of
her skirt. A few seconds passed before she could speak.
"Grandees of Spain!" she began, and at the first words she found
strength in her voice so that it reached the ends of the hall, clear and
vibrating. The silence was intense, as she proceeded.
"My father has accused himself of a fearful crime. He is innocent. He
would no more have raised his hand against Don John of Austria than
against the King's own person. I cannot tell why he wishes to sacrifice
his life by taking upon himself the guilt. But this I know. He did not
do the deed. You ask me how I know that, how I can prove it? I was
there, I, Dolores de Mendoza, his daughter, was there unseen in my
lover's chamber when he was murdered. While he was alive I gave him all,
my heart, my soul, my maiden honour; and I was there to-night, and had
been with him long. But now that he is dead, I will pay for my father's
life with my dishonour. He must not die, for he is innocent. Grandees of
Spain, as you are men of honour, he must not die, for he is one of you,
and this foul deed was not his."
She ceased, her lids drooped till her eyes were half closed and she
swayed a little as she stood. Roy Gomez made one long stride and held
her, for he thought she was fainting. But she bit her lips, and forced
her eyes to open and face the crowd again.
"That is all," she said in a low voice, but distinctly, "It is done. I
am a ruined woman. Help me to go out."
The old Prince gently led her down the steps. The silence had lasted
long after she had spoken, but people were beginning to talk again in
lower tones. It was as she had foreseen it. She heard a scornful woman's
laugh, and as she passed along, she saw how the older ladies shrank from
her and how the young ones eyed her with a look of hard curiosity, as if
she were some wild creature, dangerous to approach, though worth seeing
from a distance.
But the men pressed close to her as she passed, and she heard them tell
each other that she was a brave woman who could dare to save her father
by such means, and there were quick applauding words as she passed, and
one said audibly that he could die for a girl who had such a true heart,
and another answered that he would marry her if she could forget Don
John. And they did not speak without respect, but in earnest, and out of
the fulness of their admiration.
At last she was at the door, and she paused to speak before going out.
"Have I saved his life?" she asked, looking up to the old Prince's kind
face. "Will they believe me?"
"They believe you," he answered. "But your father's life is in the
King's hands. You should go to his Majesty without wasting time. Shall I
go with you? He will see you, I think, if I ask it."
"Why should I tell the King?" asked Dolores. "He was there--he saw it
all--he knows the truth."
She hardly realized what she was saying.
* * * * *
Ruy Gomez was as loyal, in his way, as Mendoza himself, but his loyalty
was of a very different sort, for it was tempered by a diplomatic spirit
which made it more serviceable on ordinary occasions, and its object was
altogether a principle rather than a person. Mendoza could not conceive
of monarchy, in its abstract, without a concrete individuality
represented by King Philip; but Ruy Gomez could not imagine the world
without the Spanish monarchy, though he was well able to gauge his
sovereign's weaknesses and to deplore his crimes. He himself was
somewhat easily deceived, as good men often are, and it was he who had
given the King his new secretary, Antonio Perez; yet from the moment
when Mendoza had announced Don John's death, he had been convinced that
the deed had either been done by Philip himself or by his orders, and
that Mendoza had bravely sacrificed himself to shield his master. What
Dolores had said only confirmed his previous opinion, so far as her
father's innocence was at stake. As for her own confession, he believed
it, and in spite of himself he could not help admiring the girl's heroic
courage. Dolores might have been in reality ten times worse than she had
chosen to represent herself; she would still have been a model of all
virtue compared with his own wife, though he did not know half of the
Princess's doings, and was certainly ignorant of her relations with the
He was not at all surprised when Dolores told him at the door that
Philip knew the truth about the supposed murder, but he saw how
dangerous it might be for Dolores to say as much to others of the court.
She wished to go away alone, as she had come, but he insisted on going
"You must see his Majesty," he said authoritatively. "I will try to
arrange it at once. And I entreat you to be discreet, my dear, for your
father's sake, if not for any other reason. You have said too much
already. It was not wise of you, though it showed amazing courage. You
are your father's own daughter in that--he is one of the bravest men I
ever knew in my life."
"It is easy to be brave when one is dead already!" said Dolores, in low
"Courage, my dear, courage!" answered the old Prince, in a fatherly
tone, as they went along. "You are not as brave as you think, since you
talk of death. Your life is not over yet."
"There is little left of it. I wish it were ended already."
She could hardly speak, for an inevitable and overwhelming reaction had
followed on the great effort she had made. She put out her hand and
caught her companion's arm for support. He led her quickly to the small
entrance of the King's apartments, by which it was his privilege to pass
in. They reached a small waiting-room where there were a few chairs and
a marble table, on which two big wax candles were burning. Dolores sank
into a seat, and leaned back, closing her eyes, while Ruy Gomez went
into the antechamber beyond and exchanged a few words with the
chamberlain on duty. He came back almost immediately.
"Your father is alone with the King," he said. "We must wait."
Dolores scarcely heard what he said, and did not change her position nor
open her eyes. The old man looked at her, sighed, and sat down near a
brazier of wood coals, over which he slowly warmed his transparent
hands, from time to time turning his rings slowly on his fingers, as if
to warm them, too. Outside, the chamberlain in attendance walked slowly
up and down, again and again passing the open door, through which he
glanced at Dolores' face. The antechamber was little more than a short,
broad corridor, and led to the King's study. This corridor had other
doors, however, and it was through it that the King's private rooms
communicated with the hall of the royal apartments.
As Ruy Gomez had learned, Mendoza was with Philip, but not alone. The
old officer was standing on one side of the room, erect and grave, and
King Philip sat opposite him, in a huge chair, his still eyes staring at
the fire that blazed in the vast chimney, and sent sudden flashes of
yellow through the calm atmosphere of light shed by a score of tall
candles. At a table on one side sat Antonio Perez, the Secretary. He was
provided with writing-materials and appeared to be taking down the
conversation as it proceeded. Philip asked a question from time to time,
which Mendoza answered in a strange voice unlike his own, and between
the questions there were long intervals of silence.
"You say that you had long entertained feelings of resentment against
his Highness," said the King, "You admit that, do you?"
"I beg your Majesty's pardon. I did not say resentment. I said that I
had long looked upon his Highness's passion for my daughter with great
"Is that what he said, Perez?" asked Philip, speaking to the Secretary
without looking at him. "Read that."
"He said: I have long resented his Highness's admiration for my
daughter," answered Perez, reading from his notes.
"You see," said the King. "You resented it. That is resentment. I was
right. Be careful, Mendoza, for your words may be used against you
to-morrow. Say precisely what you mean, and nothing but what you mean."
Mendoza inclined his head rather proudly, for he detested Antonio Perez,
and it appeared to him that the King was playing a sort of comedy for
the Secretary's benefit. It seemed an unworthy interlude in what was
really a solemn tragedy.
"Why did you resent his Highness's courtship of your daughter?" enquired
Philip presently, continuing his cross-examination.
"Because I never believed that there could be a real marriage," answered
Mendoza boldly. "I believed that my child must become the toy and
plaything of Don John of Austria, or else that if his Highness married
her, the marriage would soon be declared void, in order that he might
marry a more important personage."
"Set that down," said the King to Perez, in a sharp tone. "Set that down
exactly. It is important." He waited till the Secretary's pen stopped
before he went on. His next question came suddenly.
"How could a marriage consecrated by our holy religion ever be declared
null and void?"
"Easily enough, if your Majesty wished it," answered Mendoza
unguardedly, for his temper was slowly heating.
"Write down that answer, Perez. In other words, Mendoza, you think that
I have no respect for the sacrament of marriage, which I would at any
time cause to be revoked to suit my political purposes. Is that what you
"I did not say that, Sire. I said that even if Don John married my
"I know quite well what you said," interrupted the King suavely. "Perez
has got every word of it on paper."
The Secretary's bad black eyes looked up from his writing, and he slowly
nodded as he looked at Mendoza. He understood the situation perfectly,
though the soldier was far too honourable to suspect the truth.
"I have confessed publicly that I killed Don John defenceless," he said,
in rough tones. "Is not that enough?"
"Oh, no!" Philip almost smiled, "That is not enough. We must also know
why you committed such on abominable crime. You do not seem to
understand that in taking your evidence here myself, I am sparing you
the indignity of an examination before a tribunal, and under torture--in
all probability. You ought to be very grateful, my dear Mendoza."
"I thank your Majesty," said the brave old soldier coldly.
"That is right. So we know that your hatred of his Highness was of long
standing, and you had probably determined some time ago that you would
murder him on his return." The King paused a moment and then continued.
"Do you deny that on this very afternoon you swore that if Don John
attempted to see your daughter, you would kill him at once?"
Mendoza was taken by surprise, and his haggard eyes opened wide as he
stared at Philip.
"You said that, did you not?" asked the King, insisting upon the point.
"On your honour, did you say it?"
"Yes, I said that," answered Mendoza at last. "But how did your Majesty
know that I did?"
The King's enormous under lip thrust itself forward, and two ugly lines
of amusement were drawn in his colourless cheeks. His jaw moved slowly,
as if he were biting something of which he found the taste agreeable.
"I know everything," he said slowly. "I am well served in my own house.
Perez, be careful. Write down everything. We also know, I think, that
your daughter met his Highness this evening. You no doubt found that out
as others did. The girl is imprudent. Do you confess to knowing that the
two had met this evening?"
Mendoza ground his teeth as if he were suffering bodily torture. His
brows contracted, and as Perez looked up, he faced him with such a look
of hatred and anger that the Secretary could hot meet his eyes. The King
was a sacred and semi-divine personage, privileged to ask any question
he chose and theoretically incapable of doing wrong, but it was
unbearable that this sleek black fox should have the right to hear Diego
de Mendoza confess his daughter's dishonour. Antonio Perez was not an
adventurer of low birth, as many have gratuitously supposed, for his
father had held an honourable post at court before him; but he was very
far from being the equal of one who, though poor and far removed from
the head of his own family, bore one of the most noble names in Spain.
"Let your Majesty dismiss Don Antonio Perez," said Mendoza boldly. "I
will then tell your Majesty all I know."
Perez smiled as he bent over his notes, for he knew what the answer
would be to such a demand. It came sharply.
"It is not the privilege of a man convicted of murder to choose his
hearers. Answer my questions or be silent. Do you confess that you knew
of your daughter's meeting with Don John this evening?"
Mendoza's lips set themselves tightly under his grey beard, and he
uttered no sound. He interpreted the King's words literally.
"Well, what have you to say?"
"Nothing, Sire, since I have your Majesty's permission to be silent."
"It does not matter," said Philip indifferently. "Note that he refuses
to answer the question, Perez. Note that this is equivalent to
confessing the fact, since he would otherwise deny it. His silence is &
reason, however, for allowing the case to go to the tribunal to be
examined in the usual way--the usual way," he repeated, looking hard at
Mendoza and emphasizing the words strongly.
"Since I do not deny the deed, I entreat your Majesty to let me suffer
for it quickly. I am ready to die, God knows. Let it be to-morrow
morning or to-night. Your Majesty need only sign the warrant for my
execution, which Don Antonio Perez has, no doubt, already prepared."
"Not at all, not at all," answered the King, with horrible coolness. "I
mean that you shall have a fair and open trial and every possible
opportunity of justifying yourself. There must be nothing secret about
this. So horrible a crime must be treated in the most public manner.
Though it is very painful to me to refer to such a matter, you must
remember that after it had pleased Heaven, in its infinite justice, to
bereave me of my unfortunate son, Don Carlos, the heir to the throne,
there were not wanting ill-disposed and wicked persons who actually said
that I had caused his life to be shortened by various inhuman cruelties.
No, no! we cannot have too much publicity. Consider how terrible a thing
it would be if any one should dare to suppose that my own brother had
been murdered with my consent! You should love your country too much not
to fear such a result; for though you have murdered my brother in cold
blood, I am too just to forget that you have proved your patriotism
through a long and hitherto honourable career. It is my duty to see that
the causes of your atrocious action are perfectly clear to my subjects,
so that no doubt may exist even in the most prejudiced minds. Do you
understand? I repeat that if I have condescended to examine you alone, I
have done so only out of a merciful desire to spare an old soldier the
suffering and mortification of an examination by the tribunal that is to
judge you. Understand that."
"I understand that and much more besides," answered Mendoza, in low and
"It is not necessary that you should understand or think that you
understand anything more than what I say," returned the King coldly. "At
what time did you go to his Highness's apartments this evening?"
"Your Majesty knows."
"I know nothing of it," said the King, with the utmost calm. "You were
on duty after supper. You escorted me to my apartments afterwards. I had
already sent for Perez, who came at once, and we remained here, busy
with affairs, until I returned to the throne room, five minutes before
you came and confessed the murder; did we not, Perez?"
"Most certainly, Sire," answered the Secretary gravely. "Your Majesty
must have been at work with me an hour, at least, before returning to
the throne room."
"And your Majesty did not go with me by the private staircase to Don
John of Austria's apartment?" asked Mendoza, thunderstruck by the
"With you?" cried the King, in admirably feigned astonishment. "What
madness is this? Do not write that down, Perez. I really believe the man
is beside himself!"
Mendoza groaned aloud, for he saw that he had been frightfully deceived.
In his magnificent generosity, he had assumed the guilt of the crime,
being ready and willing to die for it quickly to save the King from
blame and to put an end to his own miserable existence. But he had
expected death quickly, mercifully, within a few hours. Had he suspected
what Philip had meant to do,--that he was to be publicly tried for a
murder he had not committed, and held up to public hatred and ignominy
for days and perhaps weeks together, while a slow tribunal dragged out
its endless procedure,--neither his loyalty nor his desire for death
could have had power to bring his pride to such a sacrifice. And now he
saw that he was caught in a vise, and that no accusation he could bring
against the King could save him, even if he were willing to resort to
such a measure and so take back his word. There was no witness for him
but himself. Don John was dead, and the infamous Perez was ready to
swear that Philip had not left the room in which they had been closeted
together. There was not a living being to prove that Mendoza had not
gone alone to Don John's apartments with the deliberate intention of
killing him. He had, indeed, been to the chief steward's office in
search of a key, saying that the King desired to have it and was
waiting; but it would be said that he had used the King's authority to
try and get the key for himself because he knew that his daughter was
hidden in the locked room. He had foolishly fancied that the King would
send for him and see him alone before he died, that his sovereign would
thank him for the service that was costing his life, would embrace him
and send him to his death for the good of Spain and the divine right of
monarchy. Truly, he had been most bitterly deceived.
"You said," continued Philip mercilessly, "that you killed his Highness
when he was unarmed. Is that true?"
"His Highness was unarmed," said Mendoza, almost through his closed
teeth, for he was suffering beyond words.
"Unarmed," repeated the King, nodding to Perez, who wrote rapidly. "You
might have given him a chance for his life. It would have been more
soldier-like. Had you any words before you drew upon him? Was there any
"None. We did not speak to each other." Mendoza tried to make Philip
meet his eyes, but the King would not look at him.
"There was no altercation," said the King, looking at Perez. "That
proves that the murder was premeditated. Put it down--it is very
important. You could hardly have stabbed him in the back, I suppose. He
must have turned when he heard you enter. Where was the wound?"
"The wound that killed his Highness will be found near the heart."
"Cruel!" Philip looked down at his own hands, and he shook his head very
sadly. "Cruel, most cruel," he repeated in a low tone.
"I admit that it was a very cruel deed," said Mendoza, looking at him
fixedly. "In that, your Majesty is right."
"Did you see your daughter before or after you had committed the
murder?" asked the King calmly.
"I have not seen my daughter since the murder was committed."
"But you saw her before? Be careful, Perez. Write down every word. You
say that you saw your daughter before you did it."
"I did not say that," answered Mendoza firmly.
"It makes very little difference," said the King, "If you had seen her
with his Highness, the murder would have seemed less cold-blooded, that
is all. There would then have been something like a natural provocation
There was a low sound, as of some one scratching at the door. That was
the usual way of asking admittance to the King's room on very urgent
matters. Perez rose instantly, the King nodded to him, and he went to
the door. On opening, someone handed him a folded paper on a gold
salver. He brought it to Philip, dropped on one knee very ceremoniously,
and presented it. Philip took the note and opened it, and Perez returned
to his seat at once.
The King unfolded the small sheet carefully. The room was so full of
light that he could read it when he sat, without moving. His eyes
followed the lines quickly to the end, and returned to the beginning,
and he read the missive again more carefully. Not the slightest change
of expression was visible in his face, as he folded the paper neatly
again in the exact shape in which he had received it. Then he remained
silent a few moments. Perez held his pen ready to write, moving it
mechanically now and then as if he were writing in the air, and staring
at the fire, absorbed in his own thoughts, though his ear was on the
"You refuse to admit that you found your daughter and Don John together,
then?" The King spoke with an interrogation.
"I did not find them together," answered Mendoza. "I have said so." He
was becoming exasperated under the protracted cross-examination.
"You have not said so. My memory is very good, but if it should fail we
have everything written down. I believe you merely refused to answer
when I asked if you knew of their meeting--which meant that you did know
of it. Is that it, Perez?"
"Exactly so, Sire." The Secretary had already found the place among his
"Do you persistently refuse to admit that you had positive evidence of
your daughter's guilt before the murder?"
"I will not admit that, Sire, for it would not be true."
"Your daughter has given her evidence since," said the King, holding up
the folded note, and fixing his eyes at last on his victim's face. If it
were possible, Mendoza turned more ashy pale than before, and he started
perceptibly at the King's words.
"I shall never believe that!" he cried in a voice which nevertheless
betrayed his terror for his child.
"A few moments before this note was written," said Philip calmly, "your
daughter entered the throne room, and addressed the court, standing upon
the steps of the throne--a very improper proceeding and one which Ruy
Gomez should not have allowed. Your daughter Dolores--is that the girl's
name? Yes. Your daughter Dolores, amidst the most profound silence,
confessed that she--it is so monstrous that I can hardly bring myself to
say it--that she had yielded to the importunities of his late Highness,
that she was with him in his room a long time this evening, and that, in
fact, she was actually in his bedchamber when he was murdered."
"It is a lie!" cried Mendoza vehemently. "It is an abominable lie--she
was not in the room!"
"She has said that she was," answered Philip. "You can hardly suppose a
girl capable of inventing such damning evidence against herself, even
for the sake of saving her own father. She added that his Highness was
not killed by you. But that is puerile. She evidently saw you do it, and
has boldly confessed that she was in the room--hidden somewhere,
perhaps, since you absolutely refuse to admit that you saw her there. It
is quite clear that you found the two together and that you killed his
Highness before your daughter's eyes. Why not admit that, Mendoza? It
makes you seem a little less cold-blooded. The provocation was great--"
"She was not there," protested Mendoza, interrupting the King, for he
hardly knew what he was doing.
"She was there, since she confesses to have been in the room. I do not
tolerate interruption when I am speaking. She was there, and her
evidence will be considered. Even if you did not see her, how can you be
sure that your daughter was not there? Did you search the room? Did you
look behind the curtains?"
"I did not." The stern old man seemed to shrink bodily under the
frightful humiliation to which he was subjected.
"Very well, then you cannot swear that she was not in the room. But you
did not see her there. Then I am sorry to say that there can have been
no extenuating circumstances. You entered his Highness's bedchamber, you
did not even speak to him, you drew your sword and you killed him. All
this shows that you went there fully determined to commit the crime. But
with regard to its motive, this strange confession of your daughter's
makes that quite clear. She had been extremely imprudent with Don John,
you were aware of the fact, and you revenged yourself in the most brutal
way. Such vengeance never can produce any but the most fatal results.
You yourself must die, in the first place, a degrading and painful death
on the scaffold, and you die leaving behind you a ruined girl, who must
bury herself in a convent and never be seen by her worldly equals again.
And besides that, you have deprived your King of a beloved brother, and
Spain of her most brilliant general. Could anything be worse?"
"Yes. There are worse things than that, your Majesty, and worse things
have been done. It would have been a thousand times worse if I had done
the deed and cast the blame of it on a man so devoted to me that he
would bear the guilt in my stead, and a hundred thousand times worse if
I had then held up that man to the execration of mankind, and tortured
him with every distortion of evidence which great falsehoods can put
upon a little truth. That would indeed have been far worse than anything
I have done. God may find forgiveness for murderers, but there is only
hell for traitors, and the hell of hells is the place of men who betray
"His mind is unsettled, I fear," said the King, speaking to Perez.
"These are signs of madness."
"Indeed I fear so, Sire," answered the smooth Secretary, shaking his
head solemnly. "He does not know what he says."
"I am not mad, and I know what I am saying, for I am a man under the
hand of death." Mendoza's eyes glared at the King savagely as he spoke,
and then at Perez, but neither could look at him, for neither dared to
meet his gaze. "As for this confession my daughter has made, I do not
believe in it. But if she has said these things, you might have let me
die without the bitterness of knowing them, since that was in your
power. And God knows that I have staked my life freely for your Majesty
and for Spain these many years, and would again if I had it to lose
instead of having thrown it away. And God knows, too, that for what I
have done, be it good or bad, I will bear whatsoever your Majesty shall
choose to say to me alone in the way of reproach. But as I am a dying
man I will not forgive that scribbler there for having seen a Spanish
gentleman's honour torn to rags, and an old soldier's last humiliation,
and I pray Heaven with my dying breath, that he may some day be
tormented as he has seen me tormented, and worse, till he shall cry out
for mercy--as I will not!"
The cruelly injured man's prayer was answered eight years from that day,
and even now Perez turned slowly pale as he heard the words, for they
were spoken with all the vehemence of a dying man's curse. But Philip
was unmoved. He was probably not making Mendoza suffer merely for the
pleasure of watching his pain, though others' suffering seems always to
have caused him a sort of morbid satisfaction. What he desired most was
to establish a logical reason for which Mendoza might have committed the
crime, lest in the absence of sound evidence he himself should be
suspected of having instigated it. He had no intention whatever of
allowing Mendoza to be subjected to torture during the trial that was to
ensue. On the contrary, he intended to prepare all the evidence for the
judges and to prevent Mendoza from saying anything in self-defence. To
that end it was necessary that the facts elicited should be clearly
connected from first cause to final effect, and by the skill of Antonio
Perez in writing down only the words which contributed to that end, the
King's purpose was now accomplished. He heard every word of Mendoza's
imprecation and thought it proper to rebuke him for speaking so freely.
"You forget yourself, sir," he said coldly. "Don Antonio Perez is my
private Secretary, and you must respect him. While you belonged to the
court his position was higher and more important than your own; now that
you stand convicted of an outrageous murder in cold blood, you need not
forget that he is an innocent man. I have done, Mendoza. You will not
see me again, for you will be kept in confinement until your trial,
which can only have one issue. Come here."
He sat upright in his chair and held out his hand, while Mendoza
approached with unsteady steps, and knelt upon one knee, as was the
"I am not unforgiving," said the King. "Forgiveness is a very beautiful
Christian virtue, which we are taught to exercise from our earliest
childhood. You have cut off my dearly loved brother in the flower of his
youth, but you shall not die believing that I bear you any malice. So
far as I am able, I freely forgive you for what you have done, and in
token I give you my hand, that you may have that comfort at the last."
With incredible calmness Philip took Mendoza's hand as he spoke, held it
for a moment in his, and pressed it almost warmly at the last words. The
old man's loyalty to his sovereign had been a devotion almost amounting
to real adoration, and bitterly as he had suffered throughout the
terrible interview, he well-nigh forgot every suffering as he felt the
pressure of the royal fingers. In an instant he had told himself that it
had all been but a play, necessary to deceive Perez, and to clear the
King from suspicion before the world, and that in this sense the
unbearable agony he had borne had served his sovereign. He forgot all
for a moment, and bending his iron-grey head, he kissed the thin and
yellow hand fervently, and looked up to Philip's cold face and felt that
there were tears of gratitude in his own eyes, of gratitude at being
allowed to leave the world he hated with the certainty that his death
was to serve his sovereign idol.
"I shall be faithful to your Majesty until the end," he said simply, as
the King withdrew his fingers, and he rose to his feet.
The King nodded slowly, and his stony look watched Mendoza with a sort
of fixed curiosity. Even he had not known that such men lived.
"Call the guards to the door, Perez," he said coldly. "Tell the officer
to take Don Diego Mendoza to the west tower for to-night, and to treat
him with every consideration."
Perez obeyed. A detachment of halberdiers with an officer were stationed
in the short, broad corridor that led to the room where Dolores was
waiting. Perez gave the lieutenant his orders.
Mendoza walked backwards to the door from the King's presence, making
three low bows as he went. At the door he turned, taking no notice of
the Secretary, marched out with head erect, and gave himself up to the
* * * * *
The halberdiers closed round their old chief, but did not press upon
him. Three went before him, three behind, and one walked on each side,
and the lieutenant led the little detachment. The men were too much
accustomed to seeing courtiers in the extremes of favour and disfavour
to be much surprised at the arrest of Mendoza, and they felt no great
sympathy for him. He had always been too rigidly exacting for their
taste, and they longed for a younger commander who should devote more
time to his own pleasure and less to inspecting uniforms and finding
fault with details. Yet Mendoza had been a very just man, and he
possessed the eminently military bearing and temper which always impose
themselves on soldiers. At the present moment, too, they were more
inclined to pity him than to treat him roughly, for if they did not
guess what had really taken place, they were quite sure that Don John of
Austria had been murdered by the King's orders, like Don Carlos and
Queen Isabel and a fair number of other unfortunate persons; and if the
King had chosen Mendoza to do the deed, the soldiers thought that he was
probably not meant to suffer for it in the end, and that before long he
would be restored to his command. It would, therefore, be the better for
them, later, if they showed him a certain deference in his misfortune.
Besides, they had heard Antonio Perez tell their officer that Mendoza
was to be treated with every consideration.
They marched in time, with heavy tread and the swinging gait to right
and left that is natural to a soldier who carries for a weapon a long
halberd with a very heavy head. Mendoza was as tall as any of them, and
kept their step, holding his head high. He was bareheaded, but was
otherwise still in the complete uniform he wore when on duty on state
The corridor, which seemed short on account of its breadth and in
comparison with the great size of the halls in the palace, was some
thirty paces long and lighted by a number of chandeliers that hung from
the painted vault. The party reached the door of the waiting room and
halted a moment, while one of the King's footmen opened the doors wide.
Don Ruy Gomez and Dolores were waiting within. The servant passed
rapidly through to open the doors beyond. Ruy Gomez stood up and drew
his chair aside, somewhat surprised at the entrance of the soldiers, who
rarely passed that way. Dolores opened her eyes at the sound of
marching, but in the uncertain light of the candles she did not at first
see Mendoza, half hidden as he was by the men who guarded him. She paid
little attention, for she was accustomed to seeing such detachments of
halberdiers marching through the corridors when the sentries were
relieved, and as she had never been in the King's apartments she was not
surprised by the sudden appearance of the soldiers, as her companion
was. But as the latter made way for them he lifted his hat, which as a
Grandee he wore even in the King's presence, and he bent his head
courteously as Mendoza went by. He hoped that Dolores would not see her
father, but his own recognition of the prisoner had attracted her
attention. She sprang to her feet with a cry. Mendoza turned his head
and saw her before she could reach him, for she was moving forward. He
stood still, and the soldiers halted instinctively and parted before
her, for they all knew their commander's daughter.
"Father!" she cried, and she tried to take his hand.
But he pushed her away and turned his face resolutely towards the door
"Close up! Forward--march!" he said, in his harsh tone of command.
The men obeyed, gently forcing Dolores aside. They made two steps
forward, but Ruy Gomez stopped them by a gesture, standing in their way
and raising one hand, while he laid the other on the young lieutenant's
shoulder. Ruy Gomez was one of the greatest personages in Spain; he was
the majorduomo of the palace, and had almost unlimited authority. But
the officer had his orders directly from the King and felt bound to
carry them out to the letter.
"His Majesty has directed me to convey Don Diego de Mendoza to the west
tower without delay," he said. "I beg your Excellency to let us
Ruy Gomez still held him by the shoulder with a gentle pressure.
"That I will not," he said firmly; "and if you are blamed for being slow
in the execution of your duty, say that Ruy Gomez de Silva hindered you,
and fear nothing. It is not right that father and daughter should part
as these two are parting."
"I have nothing to say to my daughter," said Mendoza harshly; but the
words seemed to hurt him.
"Don Diego," answered Ruy Gomez, "the deed of which you have accused
yourself is as much worse than anything your child has done as hatred is
worse than love. By the right of mere humanity I take upon myself to say
that you shall be left here a while with your daughter, that you may
take leave of one another." He turned to the officer. "Withdraw your
men, sir," he said. "Wait at the door. You have my word for the security
of your prisoner, and my authority for what you do. I will call you when
it is time."
He spoke in a tone that admitted of no refusal, and he was obeyed. The
officers and the men filed out, and Ruy Gomez closed the door after
them. He himself recrossed the room and went out by the other way into
the broad corridor. He meant to wait there. His orders had been carried
out so quickly that Mendoza found himself alone with Dolores, almost as
by a surprise. In his desperate mood he resented what Ruy Gomez had
done, as an interference in his family affairs, and he bent his bushy
brows together as he stood facing Dolores, with folded arms. Four hours
had not passed since they had last spoken together alone in his own
dwelling; there was a lifetime of tragedy between that moment and this.
Dolores had not spoken since he had pushed her away. She stood beside a
chair, resting one hand upon it, dead white, with the dark shadow of
pain under her eyes, her lips almost colourless, but firm, and evenly
closed. There were lines of suffering in her young face that looked as
if they never could be effaced. It seemed to her that the worst conflict
of all was raging in her heart as she watched her father's face, waiting
for the sound of his voice; and as for him, he would rather have gone
back to the King's presence to be tormented under the eyes of Antonio
Perez than stand there, forced to see her and speak to her. In his eyes,
in the light of what he had been told, she was a ruined and shameless
woman, who had deceived him day in, day out, for more than two years.
And to her, so far as she could understand, he was the condemned
murderer of the man she had so innocently and truly loved. But yet, she
had a doubt, and for that possibility, she had cast her good name to the
winds in the hope of saving his life. At one moment, in a vision of
dread, she saw his armed hand striking at her lover--at the next she
felt that he could never have struck the blow, and that there was an
unsolved mystery behind it all. Never were two innocent human beings so
utterly deceived, each about the other.
"Father," she said, at last, in a trembling tone, "can you not speak to
me, if I can find heart to hear you?"
"What can we two say to each other?" he asked sternly. "Why did you stop
me? I am ready to die for killing the man who ruined you. I am glad. Why
should I say anything to you, and what words can you have for me? I hope
your end may come quickly, with such peace as you can find from your
shame at the last. That is what I wish for you, and it is a good wish,
for you have made death on the scaffold look easy to me, so that I long
for it. Do you understand?"
"Condemned to death!" she cried out, almost incoherently, before he had
finished speaking. "But they cannot condemn you--I have told them that I
was there--that it was not you--they must believe me--O God of mercy!"
"They believe you--yes. They believe that I found you together and
killed him. I shall be tried by judges, but I am condemned beforehand,
and I must die." He spoke calmly enough. "Your mad confession before the
court only made my conviction more certain," he said. "It gave the
reason for the deed--and it burned away the last doubt I had. If they
are slow in trying me, you will have been before the executioner, for he
will find me dead--by your hand. You might have spared me that--and
spared yourself. You still had the remnant of a good name, and your
lover being dead, you might have worn the rag of your honour still. You
have chosen to throw it away, and let me know my full disgrace before I
die a disgraceful death. And yet you wish to speak to me. Do you expect
Dolores had lost the power of speech. Passing her hand now and then
across her forehead, as though trying to brush away a material veil, she
stood half paralyzed, staring wildly at him while he spoke. But when she
saw him turn away from her towards the door, as if he would go out and
leave her there, her strength was loosed from the spell, and she sprang
before him and caught his wrists with her hands.
"I am as innocent as when my mother bore me," she said, and her low
voice rang with the truth. "I told the lie to save your life. Do you
believe me now?"
He gazed at her with haggard eyes for many moments before he spoke.
"How can it be true?" he asked, but his voice shook in his throat. "You
were there--I saw you leave his room--"
"No, that you never saw!" she cried, well knowing how impossible it was,
since she had been locked in till after he had gone away.
"I saw your dress--not this one--what you wore this afternoon."
"Not this one? I put on this court dress before I got out of the room in
which you had locked me up. Inez helped me--I pretended that I was she,
and wore her cloak, and slipped away, and I have not been back again.
You did not see me."
Mendoza passed his hand over his eyes and drew back from her. If what
she said were true, the strongest link was gone from the chain of facts
by which he had argued so much sorrow and shame. Forgetting himself and
his own near fate, he looked at the court dress she wore, and a mere
glance convinced him that it was not the one he had seen.
"But--" he was suddenly confused--"but why did you need to disguise
yourself? I left the Princess of Eboli with you, and I gave her
permission to take you away to stay with her. You needed no disguise."
"I never saw her. She must have found Inez in the room. I was gone long
"Gone--where?" Mendoza was fast losing the thread of it all--in his
confusion of ideas he grasped the clue of his chief sorrow, which was
far beyond any thought for himself. "But if you are innocent--pray God
you may be, as you say--how is it possible--oh, no! I cannot believe
it--I cannot! No woman could do that--no innocent girl could stand out
before a multitude of men and women, and say what you said--"
"I hoped to save your life. I had the strength. I did it."
Her clear grey eyes looked into his, and his doubt began to break away
before the truth.
"Make me believe it!" he cried, his voice breaking. "Oh, God! Make me
believe it before I die!"
"It is true," she cried, in a low, strong voice that carried belief to
his breast in spite of such reasoning as still had some power over him.
"It is true, and you shall believe it; and if you will not, the man you
have killed, the man I loved and trusted, the dead man who knows the
whole truth as I know it, will come back from the dead to prove it
true--for I swear it upon his soul in heaven, and upon yours and mine
that will not be long on earth--as I will swear it in the hour of your
death and mine, since we must die!"
He could not take his eyes from hers that held him, and suddenly in the
pure depths he seemed to see her soul facing him without fear, and he
knew that what she said was true, and his tortured heart leapt up at the
"I believe you, my child," he said at last, and then his grey lids half
closed over his eyes and he bent down to her, and put his arm round her.
But she shuddered at the touch of his right hand, and though she knew
that he was a condemned man, and that she might never see him again, she
could not bear to receive his parting kiss upon her forehead.
"Oh, father, why did you kill him?" she asked, turning her head away and
moving to escape from his hold.