Part 2 out of 8
'I sail to seek the Spaniard, and to find him and to kill him when
he is found. It was to come to you, Lily, that I let him go, now I
must let you go to come to him. Nay, do not weep, I have sworn to
do it, and were I to break my oath I should be dishonoured.'
'And because of this oath of yours I must be widowed, Thomas,
before I am a wife? You go and I shall never see you more.'
'Who can say, my sweet? My father went over seas and came back
safe, having passed through many perils.'
'Yes, he came back and--not alone. You are young, Thomas, and in
far countries there are ladies great and fair, and how shall I hold
my own in your heart against them, I being so far away?'
'I swear to you, Lily--'
'Nay, Thomas, swear no oaths lest you should add to your sins by
breaking them. Yet, love, forget me not, who shall forget you
never. Perhaps--oh! it wrings my heart to say it--this is our last
meeting on the earth. If so, then we must hope to meet in heaven.
At the least be sure of this, while I live I will be true to you,
and father or no father, I will die before I break my troth. I am
young to speak so largely, but it shall be as I say. Oh! this
parting is more cruel than death. Would that we were asleep and
forgotten among men. Yet it is best that you should go, for if you
stayed what could we be to each other while my father lives, and
may he live long!'
'Sleep and forgetfulness will come soon enough, Lily; none must
await them for very long. Meanwhile we have our lives to live.
Let us pray that we may live them to each other. I go to seek
fortune as well as foes, and I will win it for your sake that we
She shook her head sadly. 'It were too much happiness, Thomas.
Men and women may seldom wed their true loves, or if they do, it is
but to lose them. At the least we love, and let us be thankful
that we have learned what love can be, for having loved here,
perchance at the worst we may love otherwhere when there are none
to say us nay.'
Then we talked on awhile, babbling broken words of love and hope
and sorrow, as young folks so placed are wont to do, till at length
Lily looked up with a sad sweet smile and said:
'It is time to go, sweetheart. My father beckons me from the
lattice. All is finished.'
'Let us go then,' I answered huskily, and drew her behind the trunk
of the old beech. And there I caught her in my arms and kissed her
again and yet again, nor was she ashamed to kiss me back.
After this I remember little of what happened, except that as we
rode away I saw her beloved face, wan and wistful, watching me
departing out of her life. For twenty years that sad and beautiful
face haunted me, and it haunts me yet athwart life and death.
Other women have loved me and I have known other partings, some of
them more terrible, but the memory of this woman as she was then,
and of her farewell look, overruns them all. Whenever I gaze down
the past I see this picture framed in it and I know that it is one
which cannot fade. Are there any sorrows like these sorrows of our
youth? Can any bitterness equal the bitterness of such good-byes?
I know but one of which I was fated to taste in after years, and
that shall be told of in its place. it is a common jest to mock at
early love, but if it be real, if it be something more than the
mere arising of the passions, early love is late love also; it is
love for ever, the best and worst event which can befall a man or
woman. I say it who am old and who have done with everything, and
it is true.
One thing I have forgotten. As we kissed and clung in our despair
behind the bole of the great beech, Lily drew a ring from her
finger and pressed it into my hand saying, 'Look on this each
morning when you wake, and think of me. It had been her mother's,
and to-day it still is set upon my withered hand, gleaming in the
winter sunlight as I trace these words. Through the long years of
wild adventure, through all the time of after peace, in love and
war, in the shine of the camp fire, in the glare of the sacrificial
flame, in the light of lonely stars illumining the lonely
wilderness, that ring has shone upon my hand, reminding me always
of her who gave it, and on this hand it shall go down into the
grave. It is a plain circlet of thick gold, somewhat worn now, a
posy-ring, and on its inner surface is cut this quaint couplet:
Heart to heart,
Though far apart.
A fitting motto for us indeed, and one that has its meaning to this
That same day of our farewell I rode with my father to Yarmouth.
My brother Geoffrey did not come with us, but we parted with kindly
words, and of this I am glad, for we never saw each other again.
No more was said between us as to Lily Bozard and our wooing of
her, though I knew well enough that so soon as my back was turned
he would try to take my place at her side, as indeed happened. I
forgive it to him; in truth I cannot blame him much, for what man
is there that would not have desired to wed Lily who knew her?
Once we were dear friends, Geoffrey and I, but when we ripened
towards manhood, our love of Lily came between us, and we grew more
and more apart. It is a common case enough. Well, as it chanced
he failed, so why should I think unkindly of him? Let me rather
remember the affection of our childhood and forget the rest. God
rest his soul.
Mary, my sister, who after Lily Bozard was now the fairest maiden
in the country side, wept much at my going. There was but a year
between us, and we loved each other dearly, for no such shadow of
jealousy had fallen on our affection. I comforted her as well as I
was able, and telling her all that had passed between me and Lily,
I prayed her to stand my friend and Lily's, should it ever be in
her power to do so. This Mary promised to do readily enough, and
though she did not give the reason, I could see that she thought it
possible that she might be able to help us. As I have said, Lily
had a brother, a young man of some promise, who at this time was
away at college, and he and my sister Mary had a strong fancy for
each other, that might or might not ripen into something closer.
So we kissed and bade farewell with tears.
And after that my father and I rode away. But when we had passed
down Pirnhow Street, and mounted the little hill beyond Waingford
Mills to the left of Bungay town, I halted my horse, and looked
back upon the pleasant valley of the Waveney where I was born, and
my heart grew full to bursting. Had I known all that must befall
me, before my eyes beheld that scene again, I think indeed that it
would have burst. But God, who in his wisdom has laid many a
burden upon the backs of men, has saved them from this; for had we
foreknowledge of the future, I think that of our own will but few
of us would live to see it. So I cast one long last look towards
the distant mass of oaks that marked the spot where Lily lived, and
On the following day I embarked on board the 'Adventuress' and we
sailed. Before I left, my father's heart softened much towards me,
for he remembered that I was my mother's best beloved, and feared
also lest we should meet no more. So much did it soften indeed,
that at the last hour he changed his mind and wished to hold me
back from going. But having put my hand to the plough and suffered
all the bitterness of farewell, I would not return to be mocked by
my brother and my neighbours. 'You speak too late, father,' I
said. 'You desired me to go to work this vengeance and stirred me
to it with many bitter words, and now I would go if I knew that I
must die within a week, for such oaths cannot be lightly broken,
and till mine is fulfilled the curse rests on me.'
'So be it, son,' he answered with a sigh. 'Your mother's cruel
death maddened me and I said what I may live to be sorry for,
though at the best I shall not live long, for my heart is broken.
Perhaps I should have remembered that vengeance is in the hand of
the Lord, who wreaks it at His own time and without our help. Do
not think unkindly of me, my boy, if we should chance to meet no
more, for I love you, and it was but the deeper love that I bore to
your mother which made me deal harshly with you.'
'I know it, father, and bear no grudge. But if you think that you
owe me anything, pay it by holding back my brother from working
wrong to me and Lily Bozard while I am absent.'
'I will do my best, son, though were it not that you and she have
grown so dear to each other, the match would have pleased me well.
But as I have said, I shall not be long here to watch your welfare
in this or any other matter, and when I am gone things must follow
their own fate. Do not forget your God or your home wherever you
chance to wander, Thomas: keep yourself from brawling, beware of
women that are the snare of youth, and set a watch upon your tongue
and your temper which is not of the best. Moreover, wherever you
may be do not speak ill of the religion of the land, or make a mock
of it by your way of life, lest you should learn how cruel men can
be when they think that it is pleasing to their gods, as I have
I said that I would bear his counsel in mind, and indeed it saved
me from many a sorrow. Then he embraced me and called on the
Almighty to take me in His care, and we parted.
I never saw him more, for though he was but middle-aged, within a
year of my going my father died suddenly of a distemper of the
heart in the nave of Ditchingham church, as he stood there, near
the rood screen, musing by my mother's grave one Sunday after mass,
and my brother took his lands and place. God rest him also! He
was a true-hearted man, but more wrapped up in his love for my
mother than it is well for any man to be who would look at life
largely and do right by all. For such love, though natural to
women, is apt to turn to something that partakes of selfishness,
and to cause him who bears it to think all else of small account.
His children were nothing to my father when compared to my mother,
and he would have been content to lose them every one if thereby he
might have purchased back her life. But after all it was a noble
infirmity, for he thought little of himself and had gone through
much to win her.
Of my voyage to Cadiz, to which port I had learned that de Garcia's
ship was bound, there is little to be told. We met with contrary
winds in the Bay of Biscay and were driven into the harbour of
Lisbon, where we refitted. But at last we came safely to Cadiz,
having been forty days at sea.
ANDRES DE FONSECA
Now I shall dwell but briefly on all the adventures which befell me
during the year or so that I remained in Spain, for were I to set
out everything at length, this history would have no end, or at
least mine would find me before I came to it.
Many travellers have told of the glories of Seville, to which
ancient Moorish city I journeyed with all speed, sailing there up
the Guadalquiver, and I have to tell of lands from which no other
wanderer has returned to England, and must press on to them. To be
short then; foreseeing that it might be necessary for me to stop
some time in Seville, and being desirous to escape notice and to be
at the smallest expense possible, I bethought me that it would be
well if I could find means of continuing my studies of medicine,
and to this end I obtained certain introductions from the firm of
merchants to whose care I had been recommended, addressed to
doctors of medicine in Seville. These letters at my request were
made out not in my own name but in that of 'Diego d'Aila,' for I
did not wish it to be known that I was an Englishman. Nor, indeed,
was this likely, except my speech should betray me, for, as I have
said, in appearance I was very Spanish, and the hindrance of the
language was one that lessened every day, since having already
learned it from my mother, and taking every opportunity to read and
speak it, within six months I could talk Castilian except for some
slight accent, like a native of the land. Also I have a gift for
the acquiring of languages.
When I was come to Seville, and had placed my baggage in an inn,
not one of the most frequented, I set out to deliver a letter of
recommendation to a famous physician of the town whose name I have
long forgotten. This physician had a fine house in the street of
Las Palmas, a great avenue planted with graceful trees, that has
other little streets running into it. Down one of these I came
from my inn, a quiet narrow place having houses with patios or
courtyards on either side of it. As I walked down this street I
noticed a man sitting in the shade on a stool in the doorway of his
patio. He was small and withered, with keen black eyes and a
wonderful air of wisdom, and he watched me as I went by. Now the
house of the famous physician whom I sought was so placed that the
man sitting at this doorway could command it with his eyes and take
note of all who went in and came out. When I had found the house I
returned again into the quiet street and walked to and fro there
for a while, thinking of what tale I should tell to the physician,
and all the time the little man watched me with his keen eyes. At
last I had made up my story and went to the house, only to find
that the physician was from home. Having inquired when I might
find him I left, and once more took to the narrow street, walking
slowly till I came to where the little man sat. As I passed him,
his broad hat with which he was fanning himself slipped to the
ground before my feet. I stooped down, lifted it from the
pavement, and restored it to him.
'A thousand thanks, young sir,' he said in a full and gentle voice.
'You are courteous for a foreigner.'
'How do you know me to be a foreigner, senor?' I asked, surprised
out of my caution.
'If I had not guessed it before, I should know it now,' he
answered, smiling gravely. 'Your Castilian tells its own tale.'
I bowed, and was about to pass on, when he addressed me again.
'What is your hurry, young sir? Step in and take a cup of wine
with me; it is good.'
I was about to say him nay, when it came into my mind that I had
nothing to do, and that perhaps I might learn something from this
'The day is hot, senor, and I accept.'
He spoke no more, but rising, led me into a courtyard paved with
marble in the centre of which was a basin of water, having vines
trained around it. Here were chairs and a little table placed in
the shade of the vines. When he had closed the door of the patio
and we were seated, he rang a silver bell that stood upon the
table, and a girl, young and fair, appeared from the house, dressed
in a quaint Spanish dress.
'Bring wine,' said my host.
The wine was brought, white wine of Oporto such as I had never
'Your health, senor?' And my host stopped, his glass in his hand,
and looked at me inquiringly.
'Diego d'Aila,' I answered.
'Humph,' he said. 'A Spanish name, or perhaps an imitation Spanish
name, for I do not know it, and I have a good head for names.'
'That is my name, to take or to leave, senor?'--And I looked at him
'Andres de Fonseca,' he replied bowing, 'a physician of this city,
well known enough, especially among the fair. Well, Senor Diego, I
take your name, for names are nothing, and at times it is
convenient to change them, which is nobody's business except their
owners'. I see that you are a stranger in this city--no need to
look surprised, senor, one who is familiar with a town does not
gaze and stare and ask the path of passers-by, nor does a native of
Seville walk on the sunny side of the street in summer. And now,
if you will not think me impertinent, I will ask you what can be
the business of so healthy a young man with my rival yonder?' And
he nodded towards the house of the famous physician.
'A man's business, like his name, is his own affair, senor, I
answered, setting my host down in my mind as one of those who
disgrace our art by plying openly for patients that they may
capture their fees. 'Still, I will tell you. I am also a
physician, though not yet fully qualified, and I seek a place where
I may help some doctor of repute in his daily practice, and thus
gain experience and my living with it.'
'Ah is it so? Well, senor, then you will look in vain yonder,' and
again he nodded towards the physician's house. 'Such as he will
take no apprentice without the fee be large indeed; it is not the
custom of this city.'
'Then I must seek a livelihood elsewhere, or otherwise.'
'I did not say so. Now, senor, let us see what you know of
medicine, and what is more important, of human nature, for of the
first none of us can ever know much, but he who knows the latter
will be a leader of men--or of women--who lead the men.'
And without more ado he put me many questions, each of them so
shrewd and going so directly to the heart of the matter in hand,
that I marvelled at his sagacity. Some of these questions were
medical, dealing chiefly with the ailments of women, others were
general and dealt more with their characters. At length he
'You will do, senor,' he said; 'you are a young man of parts and
promise, though, as was to be expected from one of your years, you
lack experience. There is stuff in you, senor, and you have a
heart, which is a good thing, for the blunders of a man with a
heart often carry him further than the cunning of the cynic; also
you have a will and know how to direct it.'
I bowed, and did my best to hold back my satisfaction at his words
from showing in my face.
'Still,' he went on, 'all this would not cause me to submit to you
the offer that I am about to make, for many a prettier fellow than
yourself is after all unlucky, or a fool at the bottom, or bad
tempered and destined to the dogs, as for aught I know you may be
also. But I take my chance of that because you suit me in another
way. Perhaps you may scarcely know it yourself, but you have
beauty, senor, beauty of a very rare and singular type, which half
the ladies of Seville will praise when they come to know you.'
'I am much flattered,' I said, 'but might I ask what all these
compliments may mean? To be brief, what is your offer?'
'To be brief then, it is this. I am in need of an assistant who
must possess all the qualities that I see in you, but most of all
one which I can only guess you to possess--discretion. That
assistant would not be ill-paid; this house would be at his
disposal, and he would have opportunities of learning the world
such as are given to few. What say you?'
'I say this, senor, that I should wish to know more of the business
in which I am expected to assist. Your offers sound too liberal,
and I fear that I must earn your bounty by the doing of work that
honest men might shrink from.'
'A fair argument, but, as it happens, not quite a correct one.
Listen: you have been told that yonder physician, to whose house
you went but now, and these'--here he repeated four or five names--
'are the greatest of their tribe in Seville. It is not so. I am
the greatest and the richest, and I do more business than any two
of them. Do you know what my earnings have been this day alone? I
will tell you; just over twenty-five gold pesos,* more than all the
rest of the profession have taken together, I will wager. You want
to know how I earn so much; you want to know also, why, if I have
earned so much, I am not content to rest from my labours. Good, I
will tell you. I earn it by ministering to the vanities of women
and sheltering them from the results of their own folly. Has a
lady a sore heart, she comes to me for comfort and advice. Has she
pimples on her face, she flies to me to cure them. Has she a
secret love affair, it is I who hide her indiscretion; I consult
the future for her, I help her to atone the past, I doctor her for
imaginary ailments, and often enough I cure her of real ones. Half
the secrets of Seville are in my hands; did I choose to speak I
could set a score of noble houses to broil and bloodshed. But I do
not speak, I am paid to keep silent; and when I am not paid, still
I keep silent for my credit's sake. Hundreds of women think me
their saviour, I know them for my dupes. But mark you, I do not
push this game too far. A love philtre--of coloured water--I may
give at a price, but not a poisoned rose. These they must seek
elsewhere. For the rest, in my way I am honest. I take the world
as it comes, that is all, and, as women will be fools, I profit by
their folly and have grown rich upon it.
* About sixty-three pounds sterling.
'Yes, I have grown rich, and yet I cannot stop. I love the money
that is power; but more than all, I love the way of life. Talk of
romances and adventure! What romance or adventure is half so
wonderful as those that come daily to my notice? And I play a part
in every one of them, and none the less a leading part because I do
not shout and strut upon the boards.'
'If all this is so, why do you seek the help of an unknown lad, a
stranger of whom you know nothing?' I asked bluntly.
'Truly, you lack experience,' the old man answered with a laugh.
'Do you then suppose that I should choose one who was NOT a
stranger--one who might have ties within this city with which I was
unacquainted. And as for knowing nothing of you, young man, do you
think that I have followed this strange trade of mine for forty
years without learning to judge at sight? Perhaps I know you
better than you know yourself. By the way, the fact that you are
deeply enamoured of that maid whom you have left in England is a
recommendation to me, for whatever follies you may commit, you will
scarcely embarrass me and yourself by suffering your affections to
be seriously entangled. Ah! have I astonished you?'
'How do you know?' I began--then ceased.
'How do I know? Why, easily enough. Those boots you wear were
made in England. I have seen many such when I travelled there;
your accent also though faint is English, and twice you have spoken
English words when your Castilian failed you. Then for the maid,
is not that a betrothal ring upon your hand? And when I spoke to
you of the ladies of this country, my talk did not interest you
overmuch as at your age it had done were you heart-whole. Surely
also the lady is fair and tall? Ah! I thought so. I have noticed
that men and women love their opposite in colour, no invariable
rule indeed, but good for a guess.'
'You are very clever, senor.'
'No, not clever, but trained, as you will be when you have been a
year in my hands, though perchance you do not intend to stop so
long in Seville. Perhaps you came here with an object, and wish to
pass the time profitably till it is fulfilled. A good guess again,
I think. Well, so be it, I will risk that; object and attainment
are often far apart. Do you take my offer?'
'I incline to do so.'
'Then you will take it. Now I have something more to say before we
come to terms. I do not want you to play the part of an
apothecary's drudge. You will figure before the world as my
nephew, come from abroad to learn my trade. You will help me in it
indeed, but that is not all your duty. Your part will be to mix in
the life of Seville, and to watch those whom I bid you watch, to
drop a word here and a hint there, and in a hundred ways that I
shall show you to draw grist to my mill--and to your own. You must
be brilliant and witty, or sad and learned, as I wish; you must
make the most of your person and your talents, for these go far
with my customers. To the hidalgo you must talk of arms, to the
lady, of love; but you must never commit yourself beyond
redemption. And above all, young man'--and here his manner changed
and his face grew stern and almost fierce--'you must never violate
my confidence or the confidence of my clients. On this point I
will be quite open within you, and I pray you for your own sake to
believe what I say, however much you may mistrust the rest. If you
break faith with me, YOU DIE. You die, not by my hand, but you
die. That is my price; take it or leave it. Should you leave it
and go hence to tell what you have heard this day, even then
misfortune may overtake you suddenly. Do you understand?'
'I understand. For my own sake I will respect your confidence.'
'Young sir, I like you better than ever. Had you said that you
would respect it because it was a confidence, I should have
mistrusted you, for doubtless you feel that secrets communicated so
readily have no claim to be held sacred. Nor have they, but when
their violation involves the sad and accidental end of the
violator, it is another matter. Well now, do you accept?'
'Good. Your baggage I suppose is at the inn. I will send porters
to discharge your score and bring it here. No need for you to go,
nephew, let us stop and drink another glass of wine; the sooner we
grow intimate the better, nephew.'
It was thus that first I became acquainted with Senor Andres de
Fonseca, my benefactor, the strangest man whom I have ever known.
Doubtless any person reading this history would think that I, the
narrator, was sowing a plentiful crop of troubles for myself in
having to deal with him, setting him down as a rogue of the
deepest, such as sometimes, for their own wicked purposes, decoy
young men to crime and ruin. But it was not so, and this is the
strangest part of the strange story. All that Andres de Fonseca
told me was true to the very letter.
He was a gentleman of great talent who had been rendered a little
mad by misfortunes in his early life. As a physician I have never
met his master, if indeed he has one in these times, and as a man
versed in the world and more especially in the world of women, I
have known none to compare with him. He had travelled far, and
seen much, and he forgot nothing. In part he was a quack, but his
quackery always had a meaning in it. He fleeced the foolish,
indeed, and even juggled with astronomy, making money out of their
superstition; but on the other hand he did many a kind act without
reward. He would make a rich lady pay ten gold pesos for the
dyeing of her hair, but often he would nurse some poor girl through
her trouble and ask no charge; yes, and find her honest employment
after it. He who knew all the secrets of Seville never made money
out of them by threat of exposure, as he said because it would not
pay to do so, but really because though he affected to be a selfish
knave, at bottom his heart was honest.
For my own part I found life with him both easy and happy, so far
as mine could be quite happy. Soon I learned my role and played it
well. It was given out that I was the nephew of the rich old
physician Fonseca, whom he was training to take his place; and
this, together with my own appearance and manners, ensured me a
welcome in the best houses of Seville. Here I took that share of
our business which my master could not take, for now he never mixed
among the fashion of the city. Money I was supplied with in
abundance so that I could ruffle it with the best, but soon it
became known that I looked to business as well as to pleasure.
Often and often during some gay ball or carnival, a lady would
glide up to me and ask beneath her breath if Don Andres de Fonseca
would consent to see her privately on a matter of some importance,
and I would fix an hour then and there. Had it not been for me
such patients would have been lost to us, since, for the most part,
their timidity had kept them away.
In the same fashion when the festival was ended and I prepared to
wend homewards, now and again a gallant would slip his arm in mine
and ask my master's help in some affair of love or honour, or even
of the purse. Then I would lead him straight to the old Moorish
house where Don Andres sat writing in his velvet robe like some
spider in his web, for the most of our business was done at night;
and straight-way the matter would be attended to, to my master's
profit and the satisfaction of all. By degrees it became known
that though I was so young yet I had discretion, and that nothing
which went in at my ears came out of my lips; that I neither
brawled nor drank nor gambled to any length, and that though I was
friendly with many fair ladies, there were none who were entitled
to know my secrets. Also it became known that I had some skill in
my art of healing, and it was said among the ladies of Seville that
there lived no man in that city so deft at clearing the skin of
blemishes or changing the colour of the hair as old Fonseca's
nephew, and as any one may know this reputation alone was worth a
fortune. Thus it came about that I was more and more consulted on
my own account. In short, things went so well with us that in the
first six months of my service I added by one third to the receipts
of my master's practice, large as they had been before, besides
lightening his labours not a little.
It was a strange life, and of the things that I saw and learned,
could they be written, I might make a tale indeed, but they have no
part in this history. For it was as though the smiles and silence
with which men and women hide their thoughts were done away, and
their hearts spoke to us in the accents of truth. Now some fair
young maid or wife would come to us with confessions of wickedness
that would be thought impossible, did not her story prove itself;
the secret murder perchance of a spouse, or a lover, or a rival;
now some aged dame who would win a husband in his teens, now some
wealthy low-born man or woman, who desired to buy an alliance with
one lacking money, but of noble blood. Such I did not care to help
indeed, but to the love-sick or the love-deluded I listened with a
ready ear, for I had a fellow-feeling with them. Indeed so deep
and earnest was my sympathy that more than once I found the unhappy
fair ready to transfer their affections to my unworthy self, and in
fact once things came about so that, had I willed it, I could have
married one of the loveliest and wealthiest noble ladies of
But I would none of it, who thought of my English Lily by day and
THE SECOND MEETING
It may be thought that while I was employed thus I had forgotten
the object of my coming to Spain, namely to avenge my mother's
murder on the person of Juan de Garcia. But this was not so. So
soon as I was settled in the house of Andres de Fonseca I set
myself to make inquiries as to de Garcia's whereabouts with all
possible diligence, but without result.
Indeed, when I came to consider the matter coolly it seemed that I
had but a slender chance of finding him in this city. He had,
indeed, given it out in Yarmouth that he was bound for Seville, but
no ship bearing the same name as his had put in at Cadiz or sailed
up the Guadalquivir, nor was it likely, having committed murder in
England, that he would speak the truth as to his destination.
Still I searched on. The house where my mother and grandmother had
lived was burned down, and as their mode of life had been retired,
after more than twenty years of change few even remembered their
existence. Indeed I only discovered one, an old woman whom I found
living in extreme poverty, and who once had been my grandmother's
servant and knew my mother well, although she was not in the house
at the time of her flight to England. From this woman I gathered
some information, though, needless to say, I did not tell her that
I was the grandson of her old mistress.
It seemed that after my mother fled to England with my father, de
Garcia persecuted my grandmother and his aunt with lawsuits and by
other means, till at last she was reduced to beggary, in which
condition the villain left her to die. So poor was she indeed,
that she was buried in a public grave. After that the old woman,
my informant, said she had heard that de Garcia had committed some
crime and been forced to flee the country. What the crime was she
could not remember, but it had happened about fifteen years ago.
All this I learned when I had been about three months in Seville,
and though it was of interest it did not advance me in my search.
Some four or five nights afterwards, as I entered my employer's
house I met a young woman coming out of the doorway of the patio;
she was thickly veiled and my notice was drawn to her by her tall
and beautiful figure and because she was weeping so violently that
her body shook with her sobs. I was already well accustomed to
such sights, for many of those who sought my master's counsel had
good cause to weep, and I passed her without remark. But when I
was come into the room where he received his patients, I mentioned
that I had met such a person and asked if it was any one whom I
'Ah! nephew,' said Fonseca, who always called me thus by now, and
indeed began to treat me with as much affection as though I were
really of his blood, 'a sad case, but you do not know her and she
is no paying patient. A poor girl of noble birth who had entered
religion and taken her vows, when a gallant appears, meets her
secretly in the convent garden, promises to marry her if she will
fly with him, indeed does go through some mummery of marriage with
her--so she says--and the rest of it. Now he has deserted her and
she is in trouble, and what is more, should the priests catch her,
likely to learn what it feels like to die by inches in a convent
wall. She came to me for counsel and brought some silver ornaments
as the fee. Here they are.'
'You took them!'
'Yes, I took them--I always take a fee, but I gave her back their
weight in gold. What is more, I told her where she might hide from
the priests till the hunt is done with. What I did not like to
tell her is that her lover is the greatest villain who ever trod
the streets of Seville. What was the good? She will see little
more of him. Hist! here comes the duchess--an astrological case
this. Where are the horoscope and the wand, yes, and the crystal
ball? There, shade the lamps, give me the book, and vanish.'
I obeyed, and presently met the great lady, a stout woman attended
by a duenna, gliding fearfully through the darkened archways to
learn the answer of the stars and pay many good pesos for it, and
the sight of her made me laugh so much that I forgot quickly about
the other lady and her woes.
And now I must tell how I met my cousin and my enemy de Garcia for
the second time. Two days after my meeting with the veiled lady it
chanced that I was wandering towards midnight through a lonely part
of the old city little frequented by passers-by. It was scarcely
safe to be thus alone in such a place and hour, but the business
with which I had been charged by my master was one that must be
carried out unattended. Also I had no enemies whom I knew of, and
was armed with the very sword that I had taken from de Garcia in
the lane at Ditchingham, the sword that had slain my mother, and
which I bore in the hope that it might serve to avenge her. In the
use of this weapon I had grown expert enough by now, for every
morning I took lessons in the art of fence.
My business being done I was walking slowly homeward, and as I went
I fell to thinking of the strangeness of my present life and of how
far it differed from my boyhood in the valley of the Waveney, and
of many other things. And then I thought of Lily and wondered how
her days passed, and if my brother Geoffrey persecuted her to marry
him, and whether or no she would resist his importunities and her
father's. And so as I walked musing I came to a water-gate that
opened on to the Guadalquivir, and leaning upon the coping of a low
wall I rested there idly to consider the beauty of the night. In
truth it was a lovely, night, for across all these years I remember
it. Let those who have seen it say if they know any prospect more
beautiful than the sight of the August moon shining on the broad
waters of the Guadalquivir and the clustering habitations of the
Now as I leaned upon the wall and looked, I saw a man pass up the
steps beside me and go on into the shadow of the street. I took no
note of him till presently I heard a murmur of distant voices, and
turning my head I discovered that the man was in conversation with
a woman whom he had met at the head of the path that ran down to
the water-gate. Doubtless it was a lovers' meeting, and since such
sights are of interest to all, and more especially to the young, I
watched the pair. Soon I learned that there was little of
tenderness in this tryst, at least on the part of the gallant, who
drew continually backwards toward me as though he would seek the
boat by which doubtless he had come, and I marvelled at this, for
the moonlight shone upon the woman's face, and even at that
distance I could see that it was very fair. The man's face I could
not see however, since his back was towards me for the most part,
moreover he wore a large sombrero that shaded it. Now they came
nearer to me, the man always drawing backward and the woman always
following, till at length they were within earshot. The woman was
pleading with the man.
'Surely you will not desert me,' she said, 'after marrying me and
all that you have sworn; you will not have the heart to desert me.
I abandoned everything for you. I am in great danger. I--' and
here her voice fell so that I could not catch her words.
Then he spoke. 'Fairest, now as always I adore you. But we must
part awhile. You owe me much, Isabella. I have rescued you from
the grave, I have taught you what it is to live and love.
Doubtless with your advantages and charms, your great charms, you
will profit by the lesson. Money I cannot give you, for I have
none to spare, but I have endowed you with experience that is more
valuable by far. This is our farewell for awhile and I am
"'Neath fairer skies
Shine other eyes,"
and I--' and again he spoke so low that I could not catch his
As he talked on, all my body began to tremble. The scene was
moving indeed, but it was not that which stirred me so deeply, it
was the man's voice and bearing that reminded me--no, it could
'Oh! you will not be so cruel,' said the lady, 'to leave me, your
wife, thus alone and in such sore trouble and danger. Take me with
you, Juan, I beseech you!' and she caught him by the arm and clung
He shook her from him somewhat roughly, and as he did so his wide
hat fell to the ground so that the moonlight shone upon his face.
By Heaven! it was he--Juan de Garcia and no other! I could not be
mistaken. There was the deeply carved, cruel face, the high
forehead with the scar on it, the thin sneering mouth, the peaked
beard and curling hair. Chance had given him into my hand, and I
would kill him or he should kill me.
I took three paces and stood before him, drawing my sword as I
'What, my dove, have you a bully at hand?' he said stepping back
astonished. 'Your business, senor? Are you here to champion
beauty in distress?'
'I am here, Juan de Garcia, to avenge a murdered woman. Do you
remember a certain river bank away in England, where you chanced to
meet a lady you had known, and to leave her dead? Or if you have
forgotten, perhaps at least you will remember this, which I carry
that it may kill you,' and I flashed the sword that had been his
before his eyes.
'Mother of God! It is the English boy who--' and he stopped.
'It is Thomas Wingfield who beat and bound you, and who now
purposes to finish what he began yonder as he has sworn. Draw, or,
Juan de Garcia, I will stab you where you stand.'
De Garcia heard this speech, that to-day seems to me to smack of
the theatre, though it was spoken in grimmest earnest, and his face
grew like the face of a trapped wolf. Yet I saw that he had no
mind to fight, not because of cowardice, for to do him justice he
was no coward, but because of superstition. He feared to fight
with me since, as I learned afterwards, he believed that he would
meet his end at my hand, and it was for this reason chiefly that he
strove to kill me when first we met.
'The duello has its laws, senor,' he said courteously. 'It is not
usual to fight thus unseconded and in the presence of a woman. If
you believe that you have any grievance against me--though I know
not of what you rave, or the name by which you call me--I will meet
you where and when you will.' And all the while he looked over his
shoulder seeking some way of escape.
'You will meet me now,' I answered. 'Draw or I strike!'
Then he drew, and we fell to it desperately enough, till the sparks
flew, indeed, and the rattle of steel upon steel rang down the
quiet street. At first he had somewhat the better of me, for my
hate made me wild in my play, but soon I settled to the work and
grew cooler. I meant to kill him--more, I knew that I should kill
him if none came between us. He was still a better swordsman than
I, who, till I fought with him in the lane at Ditchingham, had
never even seen one of these Spanish rapiers, but I had the youth
and the right on my side, as also I had an eye like a hawk's and a
wrist of steel.
Slowly I pressed him back, and ever my play grew closer and better
and his became wilder. Now I had touched him twice, once in the
face, and I held him with his back against the wall of the way that
led down to the water-gate, and it had come to this, that he
scarcely strove to thrust at me at all, but stood on his defence
waiting till I should tire. Then, when victory was in my hand
disaster overtook me, for the woman, who had been watching
bewildered, saw that her faithless lover was in danger of death and
straightway seized me from behind, at the same time sending up
shriek after shriek for help. I shook her from me quickly enough,
but not before de Garcia, seeing his advantage, had dealt me a
coward's thrust that took me in the right shoulder and half
crippled me, so that in my turn I must stand on my defence if I
would keep my life in me. Meanwhile the shrieks had been heard,
and of a sudden the watch came running round the corner whistling
for help. De Garcia saw them, and disengaging suddenly, turned and
ran for the water-gate, the lady also vanishing, whither I do not
Now the watch was on me, and their leader came at me to seize me,
holding a lantern in his hand. I struck it with the handle of the
sword, so that it fell upon the roadway, where it blazed up like a
bonfire. Then I turned also and fled, for I did not wish to be
dragged before the magistrates of the city as a brawler, and in my
desire to escape I forgot that de Garcia was escaping also. Away I
went and three of the watch after me, but they were stout and scant
of breath, and by the time that I had run three furlongs I
distanced them. I halted to get my breath and remembered that I
had lost de Garcia and did not know when I should find him again.
At first I was minded to return and seek him, but reflection told
me that by now it would be useless, also that the end of it might
be that I should fall into the hands of the watch, who would know
me by my wound, which began to pain me. So I went homeward cursing
my fortune, and the woman who had clasped me from behind just as I
was about to send the death-thrust home, and also my lack of skill
which had delayed that thrust so long. Twice I might have made it
and twice I had waited, being overcautious and over-anxious to be
sure, and now I had lost my chance, and might bide many a day
before it came again.
How should I find him in this great city? Doubtless, though I had
not thought of it, de Garcia passed under some feigned name as he
had done at Yarmouth. It was bitter indeed to have been so near to
vengeance and to have missed it.
By now I was at home and bethought me that I should do well to go
to Fonseca, my master, and ask his help. Hitherto I had said
nothing of this matter to him, for I have always loved to keep my
own counsel, and as yet I had not spoken of my past even to him.
Going to the room where be was accustomed to receive patients, I
found he had retired to rest, leaving orders that I was not to
awake him this night as he was weary. So I bound up my hurt after
a fashion and sought my bed also, very ill-satisfied with my
On the morrow I went to my master's chamber where he still lay
abed, having been seized by a sudden weakness that was the
beginning of the illness which ended in his death. As I mixed a
draught for him he noticed that my shoulder was hurt and asked me
what had happened. This gave me my opportunity, which I was not
slow to take.
'Have you patience to listen to a story?' I said, 'for I would seek
'Ah!' he answered, 'it is the old case, the physician cannot heal
himself. Speak on, nephew.'
Then I sat down by the bed and told him all, keeping nothing back.
I told him the history of my mother and my father's courtship, of
my own childhood, of the murder of my mother by de Garcia, and of
the oath that I had sworn to be avenged upon him. Lastly I told
him of what had happened upon the previous night and how my enemy
had evaded me. All the while that I was speaking Fonseca, wrapped
in a rich Moorish robe, sat up in the bed holding his knees beneath
his chin, and watching my face with his keen eyes. But he spoke no
word and made no sign till I had finished the tale.
'You are strangely foolish, nephew,' he said at length. 'For the
most part youth fails through rashness, but you err by over-
caution. By over-caution in your fence you lost your chance last
night, and so by over-caution in hiding this tale from me you have
lost a far greater opportunity. What, have you not seen me give
counsel in many such matters, and have you ever known me to betray
the confidence even of the veriest stranger? Why then did you fear
'I do not know,' I answered, 'but I thought that first I would
search for myself.'
'Pride goeth before a fall, nephew. Now listen: had I known this
history a month ago, by now de Garcia had perished miserably, and
not by your hand, but by that of the law. I have been acquainted
with the man from his childhood, and know enough to hang him twice
over did I choose to speak. More, I knew your mother, boy, and now
I see that it was the likeness in your face to hers that haunted
me, for from the first it was familiar. It was I also who bribed
the keepers of the Holy Office to let your father loose, though, as
it chanced, I never saw him, and arranged his flight. Since then,
I have had de Garcia through my hands some four or five times, now
under this name and now under that. Once even he came to me as a
client, but the villainy that he would have worked was too black
for me to touch. This man is the wickedest whom I have known in
Seville, and that is saying much, also he is the cleverest and the
most revengeful. He lives by vice for vice, and there are many
deaths upon his hands. But he has never prospered in his evil-
doing, and to-day he is but an adventurer without a name, who lives
by blackmail, and by ruining women that he may rob them at his
leisure. Give me those books from the strong box yonder, and I
will tell you of this de Garcia.'
I did as he bade me, bringing the heavy parchment volumes, each
bound in vellum and written in cipher.
'These are my records,' he said, 'though none can read them except
myself. Now for the index. Ah! here it is. Give me volume three,
and open it at page two hundred and one.'
I obeyed, laying the book on the bed before him, and he began to
read the crabbed marks as easily as though they were good black-
'De Garcia--Juan. Height, appearance, family, false names, and so
on. This is it--history. Now listen.'
Then came some two pages of closely written matter, expressed in
secret signs that Fonseca translated as he read. It was brief
enough, but such a record as it contained I have never heard before
nor since. Here, set out against this one man's name, was well
nigh every wickedness of which a human being could be capable,
carried through by him to gratify his appetites and revengeful
hate, and to provide himself with gold.
In that black list were two murders: one of a rival by the knife,
and one of a mistress by poison. And there were other things even
worse, too shameful, indeed, to be written.
'Doubtless there is more that has not come beneath my notice,' said
Fonseca coolly, 'but these things I know for truth, and one of the
murders could be proved against him were he captured. Stay, give
me ink, I must add to the record.'
And he wrote in his cipher: 'In May, 1517, the said de Garcia
sailed to England on a trading voyage, and there, in the parish of
Ditchingham, in the county of Norfolk, he murdered Luisa Wingfield,
spoken of above as Luisa de Garcia, his cousin, to whom he was once
betrothed. In September of the same year, or previously, under
cover of a false marriage, he decoyed and deserted one Donna
Isabella of the noble family of Siguenza, a nun in a religious
house in this city.'
'What!' I exclaimed, 'is the girl who came to seek your help two
nights since the same that de Garcia deserted?'
'The very same, nephew. It was she whom you heard pleading with
him last night. Had I known two days ago what I know to-day, by
now this villain had been safe in prison. But perhaps it is not
yet too late. I am ill, but I will rise and see to it. Leave it
to me, nephew. Go, nurse yourself, and leave it to me; if anything
may be done I can do it. Stay, bid a messenger be ready. This
evening I shall know whatever there is to be known.'
That night Fonseca sent for me again.
'I have made inquiries,' he said. 'I have even warned the officers
of justice for the first time for many years, and they are hunting
de Garcia as bloodhounds hunt a slave. But nothing can be heard of
him. He has vanished and left no trace. To-night I write to
Cadiz, for he may have fled there down the river. One thing I have
discovered, however. The Senora Isabella was caught by the watch,
and being recognised as having escaped from a convent, she was
handed over to the executories of the Holy Office, that her case
may be investigated, or in other words, should her fault be proved,
'Can she be rescued?'
'Impossible. Had she followed my counsel she would never have been
'Can she be communicated with?'
'No. Twenty years ago it might have been managed, now the Office
is stricter and purer. Gold has no power there. We shall never
see or hear of her again, unless, indeed, it is at the hour of her
death, when, should she choose to speak with me, the indulgence may
possibly be granted to her, though I doubt it. But it is not
likely that she will wish to do so. Should she succeed in hiding
her disgrace, she may escape; but it is not probable. Do not look
so sad, nephew, religion must have its sacrifices. Perchance it is
better for her to die thus than to live for many years dead in
life. She can die but once. May her blood lie heavy on de
'Amen!' I answered.
THOMAS BECOMES RICH
For many months we heard no more of de Garcia or of Isabella de
Siguenza. Both had vanished leaving no sign, and we searched for
them in vain. As for me I fell back into my former way of life of
assistant to Fonseca, posing before the world as his nephew. But
it came about that from the night of my duel with the murderer, my
master's health declined steadily through the action of a wasting
disease of the liver which baffled all skill, so that within eight
months of that time he lay almost bedridden and at the point of
death. His mind indeed remained quite clear, and on occasions he
would even receive those who came to consult him, reclining on a
chair and wrapped in his embroidered robe. But the hand of death
lay on him, and he knew that it was so. As the weeks went by he
grew more and more attached to me, till at length, had I been his
son, he could not have treated me with a greater affection, while
for my part I did what lay in my power to lessen his sufferings,
for he would let no other physician near him.
At length when he had grown very feeble he expressed a desire to
see a notary. The man he named was sent for and remained closeted
with him for an hour or more, when he left for a while to return
with several of his clerks, who accompanied him to my master's
room, from which I was excluded. Presently they all went away,
bearing some parchments with them.
That evening Fonseca sent for me. I found him very weak, but
cheerful and full of talk.
'Come here, nephew,' he said, 'I have had a busy day. I have been
busy all my life through, and it would not be well to grow idle at
the last. Do you know what I have been doing this day?'
I shook my head.
'I will tell you. I have been making my will--there is something
to leave; not so very much, but still something.'
'Do not talk of wills,' I said; 'I trust that you may live for many
He laughed. 'You must think badly of my case, nephew, when you
think that I can be deceived thus. I am about to die as you know
well, and I do not fear death. My life has been prosperous but not
happy, for it was blighted in its spring--no matter how. The story
is an old one and not worth telling; moreover, whichever way it had
read, it had all been one now in the hour of death. We must travel
our journey each of us; what does it matter if the road has been
good or bad when we have reached the goal? For my part religion
neither comforts nor frightens me now at the last. I will stand or
fall upon the record of my life. I have done evil in it and I have
done good; the evil I have done because nature and temptation have
been too strong for me at times, the good also because my heart
prompted me to it. Well, it is finished, and after all death
cannot be so terrible, seeing that every human being is born to
undergo it, together with all living things. Whatever else is
false, I hold this to be true, that God exists and is more merciful
than those who preach Him would have us to believe.' And he ceased
Often since then I have thought of his words, and I still think of
them now that my own hour is so near. As will be seen Fonseca was
a fatalist, a belief which I do not altogether share, holding as I
do that within certain limits we are allowed to shape our own
characters and destinies. But his last sayings I believe to be
true. God is and is merciful, and death is not terrible either in
its act or in its consequence.
Presently Fonseca spoke again. 'Why do you lead me to talk of such
things? They weary me and I have little time. I was telling of my
will. Nephew, listen. Except certain sums that I have given to be
spent in charities--not in masses, mind you--I have left you all I
'You have left it to ME!' I said astonished.
'Yes, nephew, to you. Why not? I have no relations living and I
have learned to love you, I who thought that I could never care
again for any man or woman or child. I am grateful to you, who
have proved to me that my heart is not dead, take what I give you
as a mark of my gratitude.'
Now I began to stammer my thanks, but he stopped me. 'The sum that
you will inherit, nephew, amounts in all to about five thousand
gold pesos, or perhaps twelve thousand of your English pounds,
enough for a young man to begin life on, even with a wife. Indeed
there in England it may well be held a great fortune, and I think
that your betrothed's father will make no more objection to you as
a son-in-law. Also there is this house and all that it contains;
the library and the silver are valuable, and you will do well to
keep them. All is left to you with the fullest formality, so that
no question can arise as to your right to take it; indeed,
foreseeing my end, I have of late called in my moneys, and for the
most part the gold lies in strong boxes in the secret cupboard in
the wall yonder that you know of. It would have been more had I
known you some years ago, for then, thinking that I grew too rich
who was without an heir, I gave away as much as what remains in
acts of mercy and in providing refuge for the homeless and the
suffering. Thomas Wingfield, for the most part this money has come
to me as the fruit of human folly and human wretchedness, frailty
and sin. Use it for the purposes of wisdom and the advancing of
right and liberty. May it prosper you, and remind you of me, your
old master, the Spanish quack, till at last you pass it on to your
children or the poor. And now one word more. If your conscience
will let you, abandon the pursuit of de Garcia. Take your fortune
and go with it to England; wed that maid whom you desire, and
follow after happiness in whatever way seems best to you. Who are
you that you should meet out vengeance on this knave de Garcia?
Let him be, and he will avenge himself upon himself. Otherwise you
may undergo much toil and danger, and in the end lose love, and
life, and fortune at a blow.'
'But I have sworn to kill him,' I answered, 'and how can I break so
solemn an oath? How could I sit at home in peace beneath the
burden of such shame?'
'I do not know; it is not for me to judge. You must do as you
wish, but in the doing of it, it may happen that you will fall into
greater shames than this. You have fought the man and he has
escaped you. Let him go if you are wise. Now bend down and kiss
me, and bid me farewell. I do not desire that you should see me
die, and my death is near. I cannot tell if we shall meet again
when in your turn you have lain as I lie now, or if we shape our
course for different stars. If so, farewell for ever.'
Then I leant down and kissed him on the forehead, and as I did so I
wept, for not till this hour did I learn how truly I had come to
love him, so truly that it seemed to me as though my father lay
'Weep not,' he said, 'for all our life is but a parting. Once I
had a son like you, and ours was the bitterest of farewells. Now I
go to seek for him again who could not come back to me, so weep not
because I die. Good-bye, Thomas Wingfield. May God prosper and
protect you! Now go!'
So I went weeping, and that night, before the dawn, all was over
with Andres de Fonseca. They told me that he was conscious to the
end and died murmuring the name of that son of whom he spoke in his
last words to me.
What was the history of this son, or of Fonseca himself, I never
learned, for like an Indian he hid his trail as step by step he
wandered down the path of life. He never spoke of his past, and in
all the books and documents that he left behind him there is no
allusion to it. Once, some years ago, I read through the cipher
volumes of records that I have spoken of, and of which he gave me
the key before he died. They stand before me on the shelf as I
write, and in them are many histories of shame, sorrow, and evil,
of faith deluded and innocence betrayed, of the cruelty of priests,
of avarice triumphant over love, and of love triumphant over death--
enough, indeed, to furnish half a hundred of true romances. But
among these chronicles of a generation now past and forgotten,
there is no mention of Fonseca's own name and no hint of his own
story. It is lost for ever, and perhaps this is well. So died my
benefactor and best friend.
When he was made ready for burial I went in to see him and he
looked calm and beautiful in his death sleep. Then it was that she
who had arrayed him for the grave handed to me two portraits most
delicately painted on ivory and set in gold, which had been found
about his neck. I have them yet. One is of the head of a lady
with a sweet and wistful countenance, and the other the face of a
dead youth also beautiful, but very sad. Doubtless they were
mother and son, but I know no more about them.
On the morrow I buried Andres de Fonseca, but with no pomp, for he
had said that he wished as little money as possible spent upon his
dead body, and returned to the house to meet the notaries. Then
the seals were broken and the parchments read and I was put in full
possession of the dead man's wealth, and having deducted such sums
as were payable for dues, legacies, and fees, the notaries left me
bowing humbly, for was I not rich? Yes, I was rich, wealth had
come to me without effort, and I had reason to desire it, yet this
was the saddest night that I had passed since I set foot in Spain,
for my mind was filled with doubts and sorrow, and moreover my
loneliness got a hold of me. But sad as it might be, it was
destined to seem yet more sorrowful before the morning. For as I
sat making pretence to eat, a servant came to me saying that a
woman waited in the outer room who had asked to see his late
master. Guessing that this was some client who had not heard of
Fonseca's death I was about to order that she should be dismissed,
then bethought me that I might be of service to her or at the least
forget some of my own trouble in listening to hers. So I bade him
bring her in. Presently she came, a tall woman wrapped in a dark
cloak that hid her face. I bowed and motioned to her to be seated,
when suddenly she started and spoke.
'I asked to see Don Andres de Fonseca,' she said in a low quick
voice. 'You are not he, senor.'
'Andres de Fonseca was buried to-day,' I answered. 'I was his
assistant in his business and am his heir. If I can serve you in
any way I am at your disposal.'
'You are young--very young,' she murmured confusedly, 'and the
matter is terrible and urgent. How can I trust you?'
'It is for you to judge, senora.'
She thought a while, then drew off her cloak, displaying the robes
of a nun.
'Listen,' she said. 'I must do many a penance for this night's
work, and very hardly have I won leave to come hither upon an
errand of mercy. Now I cannot go back empty-handed, so I must
trust you. But first swear by thine blessed Mother of God that you
will not betray me.'
'I give you my word,' I answered; 'if that is not enough, let us
end this talk.'
'Do not be angry with me,' she pleaded; 'I have not left my convent
walls for many years and I am distraught with grief. I seek a
poison of the deadliest. I will pay well for it.'
'I am not the tool of murderers,' I answered. 'For what purpose do
you wish the poison?'
'Oh! I must tell you--yet how can I? In our convent there dies to-
night a woman young and fair, almost a girl indeed, who has broken
the vows she took. She dies to-night with her babe--thus, oh God,
thus! by being built alive into the foundations of the house she
has disgraced. It is the judgment that has been passed upon her,
judgment without forgiveness or reprieve. I am the abbess of this
convent--ask not its name or mine--and I love this sinner as though
she were my daughter. I have obtained this much of mercy for her
because of my faithful services to the church and by secret
influence, that when I give her the cup of water before the work is
done, I may mix poison with it and touch the lips of the babe with
poison, so that their end is swift. I may do this and yet have no
sin upon my soul. I have my pardon under seal. Help me then to be
an innocent murderess, and to save this sinner from her last
agonies on earth.'
I cannot set down the feelings with which I listened to this tale
of horror, for words could not carry them. I stood aghast seeking
an answer, and a dreadful thought entered my mind.
'Is this woman named Isabella de Siguenza?' I asked.
'That name was hers in the world,' she answered, 'though how you
know it I cannot guess.'
'We know many things in this house, mother. Say now, can this
Isabella be saved by money or by interest?'
'It is impossible; her sentence has been confirmed by the Tribunal
of Mercy. She must die and within two hours. Will you not give
'I cannot give it unless I know its purpose, mother. This may be a
barren tale, and the medicine might be used in such a fashion that
I should fall beneath the law. At one price only can I give it,
and it is that I am there to see it used.'
She thought a while and answered: 'It may be done, for as it
chances the wording of my absolution will cover it. But you must
come cowled as a priest, that those who carry out the sentence may
know nothing. Still others will know and I warn you that should
you speak of the matter you yourself will meet with misfortune.
The Church avenges itself on those who betray its secrets, senor.'
'As one day its secrets will avenge themselves upon the Church,' I
answered bitterly. 'And now let me seek a fitting drug--one that
is swift, yet not too swift, lest your hounds should see themselves
baffled of the prey before all their devilry is done. Here is
something that will do the work,' and I held up a phial that I drew
from a case of such medicines. Come, veil yourself, mother, and
let us be gone upon this "errand of mercy."'
She obeyed, and presently we left the house and walked away swiftly
through the crowded streets till we came to the ancient part of the
city along the river's edge. Here the woman led me to a wharf
where a boat was in waiting for her. We entered it, and were rowed
for a mile or more up the stream till the boat halted at a landing-
place beneath a high wall. Leaving it, we came to a door in the
wall on which my companion knocked thrice. Presently a shutter in
the woodwork was drawn, and a white face peeped through the grating
and spoke. My companion answered in a low voice, and after some
delay the door was opened, and I found myself in a large walled
garden planted with orange trees. Then the abbess spoke to me.
'I have led you to our house,' she said. 'If you know where you
are, and what its name may be, for your own sake I pray you forget
it when you leave these doors.'
I made no answer, but looked round the dim and dewy garden.
Here it was doubtless that de Garcia had met that unfortunate who
must die this night. A walk of a hundred paces brought us to
another door in the wall of a long low building of Moorish style.
Here the knocking and the questioning were repeated at more length.
Then the door was opened, and I found myself in a passage, ill
lighted, long and narrow, in the depths of which I could see the
figures of nuns flitting to and fro like bats in a tomb. The
abbess walked down the passage till she came to a door on the right
which she opened. It led into a cell, and here she left me in the
dark. For ten minutes or more I stayed there, a prey to thoughts
that I had rather forget. At length the door opened again, and she
came in, followed by a tall priest whose face I could not see, for
he was dressed in the white robe and hood of the Dominicans that
left nothing visible except his eyes.
'Greeting, my son,' he said, when he had scanned me for a while.
'The abbess mother has told me of your errand. You are full young
for such a task.'
'Were I old I should not love it better, father. You know the
case. I am asked to provide a deadly drug for a certain merciful
purpose. I have provided that drug, but I must be there to see
that it is put to proper use.'
'You are very cautious, my son. The Church is no murderess. This
woman must die because her sin is flagrant, and of late such
wickedness has become common. Therefore, after much thought and
prayer, and many searchings to find a means of mercy, she is
condemned to death by those whose names are too high to be spoken.
I, alas, am here to see the sentence carried out with a certain
mitigation which has been allowed by the mercy of her chief judge.
It seems that your presence is needful to this act of love,
therefore I suffer it. The mother abbess has warned you that evil
dogs the feet of those who reveal the secrets of the Church. For
your own sake I pray you to lay that warning to heart.'
'I am no babbler, father, so the caution is not needed. One word
more. This visit should be well feed, the medicine is costly.'
'Fear not, physician,' the monk answered with a note of scorn in
his voice; 'name your sum, it shall be paid to you.'
'I ask no money, father. Indeed I would pay much to be far away
to-night. I ask only that I may be allowed to speak with this girl
before she dies.'
'What!' he said, starting, 'surely you are not that wicked man? If
so, you are bold indeed to risk the sharing of her fate.'
'No, father, I am not that man. I never saw Isabella de Siguenza
except once, and I have never spoken to her. I am not the man who
tricked her but I know him; he is named Juan de Garcia.'
'Ah!' he said quickly, 'she would never tell his real name, even
under threat of torture. Poor erring soul, she could be faithful
in her unfaith. Of what would you speak to her?'
'I wish to ask her whither this man has gone. He is my enemy, and
I would follow him as I have already followed him far. He has done
worse by me and mine than by this poor girl even. Grant my
request, father, that I may be able to work my vengeance on him,
and with mine the Church's also.'
'"Vengeance is mine," saith the Lord; "I will repay." Yet it may
be, son, that the Lord will choose you as the instrument of his
wrath. An opportunity shall be given you to speak with her. Now
put on this dress'--and he handed me a white Dominican hood and
robe--'and follow me.'
'First,' I said, 'let me give this medicine to the abbess, for I
will have no hand in its administering. Take it, mother, and when
the time comes, pour the contents of the phial into a cup of water.
Then, having touched the mouth and tongue of the babe with the
fluid, give it to the mother to drink and be sure that she does
drink it. Before the bricks are built up about them both will
sleep sound, never to wake again.'
'I will do it,' murmured the abbess; 'having absolution I will be
bold, and do it for love and mercy's sake!'
'Your heart is too soft, sister. Justice is mercy,' said the monk
with a sigh. 'Alas for the frailty of the flesh that wars against
Then I clothed myself in the ghastly looking dress, and they took
lamps and motioned to me to follow them.
THE PASSING OF ISABELLA DE SIGUENZA
Silently we went down the long passage, and as we went I saw the
eyes of the dwellers in this living tomb watch us pass through the
gratings of their cell doors. Little wonder that the woman about
to die had striven to escape from such a home back to the world of
life and love! Yet for that crime she must perish. Surely God
will remember the doings of such men as these priests, and the
nation that fosters them. And, in deed, He does remember, for
where is the splendour of Spain to-day, and where are the cruel
rites she gloried in? Here in England their fetters are broken for
ever, and in striving to bind them fast upon us free Englishmen she
is broken also--never to be whole again.
At the far end of the passage we found a stair down which we
passed. At its foot was an iron-bound door that the monk unlocked
and locked again upon the further side. Then came another passage
hollowed in the thickness of the wall, and a second door, and we
were in the place of death.
It was a vault low and damp, and the waters of the river washed its
outer wall, for I could hear their murmuring in the silence.
Perhaps the place may have measured ten paces in length by eight
broad. For the rest its roof was supported by massive columns, and
on one side there was a second door that led to a prison cell. At
the further end of this gloomy den, that was dimly lighted by
torches and lamps, two men with hooded heads, and draped in coarse
black gowns, were at work, silently mixing lime that sent up a hot
steam upon the stagnant air. By their sides were squares of
dressed stone ranged neatly against the end of the vault, and
before them was a niche cut in the thickness of the wall itself,
shaped like a large coffin set upon its smaller end. In front of
this niche was placed a massive chair of chestnut wood. I noticed
also that two other such coffin-shaped niches had been cut in this
same wall, and filled in with similar blocks of whitish stone. On
the face of each was a date graved in deep letters. One had been
sealed up some thirty years before, and one hard upon a hundred.
These two men were the only occupants of the vault when we entered
it, but presently a sound of soft and solemn singing stole down the
second passage. Then the door was opened, the mason monks ceased
labouring at the heap of lime, and the sound of singing grew louder
so that I could catch the refrain. It was that of a Latin hymn for
the dying. Next through the open door came the choir, eight veiled
nuns walking two by two, and ranging themselves on either side of
the vault they ceased their singing. After them followed the
doomed woman, guarded by two more nuns, and last of all a priest
bearing a crucifix. This man wore a black robe, and his thin half-
frenzied face was uncovered. All these and other things I noticed
and remembered, yet at the time it seemed to me that I saw nothing
except the figure of the victim. I knew her again, although I had
seen her but once in the moonlight. She was changed indeed, her
lovely face was fuller and the great tormented eyes shone like
stars against its waxen pallor, relieved by the carmine of her lips
alone. Still it was the same face that some eight months before I
had seen lifted in entreaty to her false lover. Now her tall shape
was wrapped about with grave clothes over which her black hair
streamed, and in her arms she bore a sleeping babe that from time
to time she pressed convulsively to her breast.
On the threshold of her tomb Isabella de Siguenza paused and looked
round wildly as though for help, scanning each of the silent
watchers to find a friend among them. Then her eye fell upon the
niche and the heap of smoking lime and the men who guarded it, and
she shuddered and would have fallen had not those who attended her
led her to the chair and placed her in it--a living corpse.
Now the dreadful rites began. The Dominican father stood before
her and recited her offence, and the sentence that had been passed
upon her, which doomed her, 'to be left alone with God and the
child of your sin, that He may deal with you as He sees fit.'* To
all of this she seemed to pay no heed, nor to the exhortation that
followed. At length he ceased with a sigh, and turning to me said:
'Draw near to this sinner, brother, and speak with her before it is
* Lest such cruelty should seem impossible and unprecedented, the
writer may mention that in the museum of the city of Mexico, he has
seen the desiccated body of a young woman, which was found immured
in the walls of a religious building. With it is the body of an
infant. Although the exact cause of her execution remains a matter
of conjecture, there can be no doubt as to the manner of her death,
for in addition to other evidences, the marks of the rope with
which her limbs were bound in life are still distinctly visible.
Such in those days were the mercies of religion!
Then he bade all present gather themselves at the far end of the
vault that our talk might not be overheard, and they did so without
wonder, thinking doubtless that I was a monk sent to confess the
So I drew near with a beating heart, and bending over her I spoke
in her ear.
'Listen to me, Isabella de Siguenza!' I said; and as I uttered the
name she started wildly. 'Where is that de Garcia who deceived and
'How have you learnt his true name?' she answered. 'Not even
torture would have wrung it from me as you know.'
'I am no monk and I know nothing. I am that man who fought with de
Garcia on the night when you were taken, and who would have killed
him had you not seized me.'
'At the least I saved him, that is my comfort now.'
'Isabella de Siguenza,' I said, 'I am your friend, the best you
ever had and the last, as you shall learn presently. Tell me where
this man is, for there is that between us which must be settled.'
'If you are my friend, weary me no more. I do not know where he
is. Months ago he went whither you will scarcely follow, to the
furthest Indies; but you will never find him there.'
'It may still be that I shall, and if it should so chance, say have
you any message for this man?'
'None--yes, this. Tell him how we died, his child and his wife--
tell him that I did my best to hide his name from the priests lest
some like fate should befall him.'
'Is that all?'
'Yes. No, it is not all. Tell him that I passed away loving and
'My time is short,' I said; 'awake and listen!' for having spoken
thus she seemed to be sinking into a lethargy. 'I was the
assistant of that Andres de Fonseca whose counsel you put aside to
your ruin, and I have given a certain drug to the abbess yonder.
When she offers you the cup of water, see that you drink and deep,
you and the child. If so none shall ever die more happily. Do you
'Yes--yes,' she gasped, 'and may blessings rest upon you for the
gift. Now I am no more afraid--for I have long desired to die--it
was the way I feared.'
'Then farewell, and God be with you, unhappy woman.'
'Farewell,' she answered softly, 'but call me not unhappy who am
about to die thus easily with that I love.' And she glanced at the
Then I drew back and stood with bent head, speaking no word. Now
the Dominican motioned to all to take the places where they had
stood before and asked her:
'Erring sister, have you aught to say before you are silent for
'Yes,' she answered in a clear, sweet voice, that never even
quavered, so bold had she become since she learned that her death
would be swift and easy. 'Yes, I have this to say, that I go to my
end with a clean heart, for if I have sinned it is against custom
and not against God. I broke the vows indeed, but I was forced to
take those vows, and, therefore, they did not bind. I was a woman
born for light and love, and yet I was thrust into the darkness of
this cloister, there to wither dead in life. And so I broke the
vows, and I am glad that I have broken them, though it has brought
me to this. If I was deceived and my marriage is no marriage
before the law as they tell me now, I knew nothing of it, therefore
to me it is still valid and holy and on my soul there rests no
stain. At the least I have lived, and for some few hours I have
been wife and mother, and it is as well to die swiftly in this cell
that your mercy has prepared, as more slowly in those above. And
now for you--I tell you that your wickedness shall find you out,
you who dare to say to God's children--"Ye shall not love," and to
work murder on them because they will not listen. It shall find
you out I say, and not only you but the Church you serve. Both
priest and Church shall be broken together and shall be a scorn in
the mouths of men to come.'
'She is distraught,' said the Dominican as a sigh of fear and
wonder went round the vault, 'and blasphemes in her madness.
Forget her words. Shrive her, brother, swiftly ere she adds to
Then the black-robed, keen-eyed priest came to her, and holding the
cross before her face, began to mutter I know not what. But she
rose from the chair and thrust the crucifix aside.
'Peace!' she said, 'I will not be shriven by such as you. I take
my sins to God and not to you--you who do murder in the name of
The fanatic heard and a fury took him.
'Then go unshriven down to hell, you--' and he named her by ill
names and struck her in the face with the ivory crucifix.
The Dominican bade him cease his revilings angrily enough, but
Isabella de Siguenza wiped her bruised brow and laughed aloud a
dreadful laugh to hear.
'Now I see that you are a coward also,' she said. 'Priest, this is
my last prayer, that you also may perish at the hands of fanatics,
and more terribly than I die to-night.'
Then they hurried her into the place prepared for her and she spoke
'Give me to drink, for we thirst, my babe and I!'
Now I saw the abbess enter that passage whence the victim had been
led. Presently she came back bearing a cup of water in her hand
and with it a loaf of bread, and I knew by her mien that my draught
was in the water. But of what befell afterwards I cannot say
certainly, for I prayed the Dominican to open the door by which we
had entered the vault, and passing through it I stood dazed with
horror at some distance. A while went by, I do not know how long,
till at length I saw the abbess standing before me, a lantern in
her hand, and she was sobbing bitterly.
'All is done,' she said. 'Nay, have no fear, the draught worked
well. Before ever a stone was laid mother and child slept sound.
Alas for her soul who died unrepentant and unshriven!'
'Alas for the souls of all who have shared in this night's work,' I
answered. 'Now, mother, let me hence, and may we never meet
Then she led me back to the cell, where I tore off that accursed
monk's robe, and thence to the door in the garden wall and to the
boat which still waited on the river, and I rejoiced to feel the
sweet air upon my face as one rejoices who awakes from some foul
dream. But I won little sleep that night, nor indeed for some days
to come. For whenever I closed my eyes there rose before me the
vision of that beauteous woman as I saw her last by the murky
torchlight, wrapped in grave clothes and standing in the coffin-
shaped niche, proud and defiant to the end, her child clasped to
her with one arm while the other was outstretched to take the
draught of death. Few have seen such a sight, for the Holy Office
and its helpers do not seek witnesses to their dark deeds, and none
would wish to see it twice. If I have described it ill, it is not
that I have forgotten, but because even now, after the lapse of
some seventy years, I can scarcely bear to write of it or to set
out its horrors fully. But of all that was wonderful about it
perhaps the most wonderful was that even to the last this
unfortunate lady should still have clung to her love for the
villain who, having deceived her by a false marriage, deserted her,
leaving her to such a doom. To what end can so holy a gift as this
great love of hers have been bestowed on such a man? None can say,
but so it was. Yet now that I think of it, there is one thing even
stranger than her faithfulness.
It will be remembered that when the fanatic priest struck her she
prayed that he also might die at such hands and more terribly than
she must do. So it came about. In after years that very man,
Father Pedro by name, was sent to convert the heathen of Anahuac,
among whom, because of his cruelty, he was known as the 'Christian
Devil.' But it chanced that venturing too far among a clan of the
Otomie before they were finally subdued, he fell into the hands of
some priests of the war god Huitzel, and by them was sacrificed
after their dreadful fashion. I saw him as he went to his death,
and without telling that I had been present when it was uttered, I
called to his mind the dying curse of Isabella de Siguenza. Then
for a moment his courage gave way, for seeing in me nothing but an
Indian chief, he believed that the devil had put the words into my
lips to torment him, causing me to speak of what I knew nothing.
But enough of this now; if it is necessary I will tell of it in its
proper place. At least, whether it was by chance, or because she
had a gift of vision in her last hours, or that Providence was
avenged on him after this fashion, so it came about, and I do not
sorrow for it, though the death of this priest brought much
misfortune on me.
This then was the end of Isabella de Siguenza who was murdered by
priests because she had dared to break their rule.
So soon as I could clear my mind somewhat of all that I had seen
and heard in that dreadful vault, I began to consider the
circumstances in which I found myself. In the first place I was
now a rich man, and if it pleased me to go back to Norfolk with my
wealth, as Fonseca had pointed out, my prospects were fair indeed.
But the oath that I had taken hung like lead about my neck. I had
sworn to be avenged upon de Garcia, and I had prayed that the curse
of heaven might rest upon me till I was so avenged, but in England
living in peace and plenty I could scarcely come by vengeance.
Moreover, now I knew where he was, or at least in what portion of
the world I might seek him, and there where white men are few he
could not hide from me as in Spain. This tidings I had gained from
the doomed lady, and I have told her story at some length because
it was through it and her that I came to journey to Hispaniola, as
it was because of the sacrifice of her tormentor, Father Pedro, by
the priests of the Otomie that I am here in England this day, since
had it not been for that sacrifice the Spaniards would never have
stormed the City of Pines, where, alive or dead, I should doubtless
have been to this hour; for thus do seeming accidents build up the
fates of men. Had those words never passed Isabella's lips,
doubtless in time I should have wearied of a useless search and
sailed for home and happiness. But having heard them it seemed to
me, to my undoing, that this would be to play the part of a sorry
coward. Moreover, strange as it may look, now I felt as though I
had two wrongs to avenge, that of my mother and that of Isabella de
Siguenza. Indeed none could have seen that young and lovely lady
die thus terribly and not desire to wreak her death on him who had
betrayed and deserted her.
So the end of it was that being of a stubborn temper, I determined
to do violence to my own desires and the dying counsels of my
benefactor, and to follow de Garcia to the ends of the earth and
there to kill him as I had sworn to do.
First, however, I inquired secretly and diligently as to the truth
of the statement that de Garcia had sailed for the Indies, and to
be brief, having the clue, I discovered that two days after the
date of the duel I had fought with him, a man answering to de
Garcia's description, though bearing a different name, had shipped
from Seville in a carak bound for the Canary Islands, which carak
was there to await the arrival of the fleet sailing for Hispaniola.
Indeed from various circumstances I had little doubt that the man
was none other than de Garcia himself, which, although I had not
thought of it before, was not strange, seeing that then as now the
Indies were the refuge of half the desperadoes and villains who
could no longer live in Spain. Thither then I made up my mind to
follow him, consoling myself a little by the thought that at least
I should see new and wonderful countries, though how new and
wonderful they were I did not guess.
Now it remained for me to dispose of the wealth which had come to
me suddenly. While I was wondering how I could place it in safety
till my return, I heard by chance that the 'Adventuress' of
Yarmouth, the same ship in which I had come to Spain a year before,
was again in the port of Cadiz, and I bethought me that the best
thing I could do with the gold and other articles of value would be
to ship them to England, there to be held in trust for me. So
having despatched a message to my friend the captain of the
'Adventuress,' that I had freight of value for him, I made my
preparations to depart from Seville with such speed as I might, and
to this end I sold my benefactor's house, with many of the effects,
at a price much below their worth. The most of the books and
plate, together with some other articles, I kept, and packing them
in cases, I caused them to be transported down the river to Cadiz,
to the care of those same agents to whom I had received letters
from the Yarmouth merchants.
This being done I followed thither myself, taking the bulk of my
fortune with me in gold, which I hid artfully in numerous packages.
And so it came to pass that after a stay of a year in Seville, I
turned my back on it for ever. My sojourn there had been
fortunate, for I came to it poor and left it a rich man, to say
nothing of what I had gained in experience, which was much. Yet I
was glad to be gone, for here Juan de Garcia had escaped me, here I
had lost my best friend and seen Isabella de Siguenza die.
I came to Cadiz in safety and without loss of any of my goods or
gold, and taking boat proceeded on board the 'Adventuress,' where I
found her captain, whose name was Bell, in good health and very
glad to see me. What pleased me more, however, was that he had
three letters for me, one from my father, one from my sister Mary,
and one from my betrothed, Lily Bozard, the only letter I ever
received from her. The contents of these writings were not
altogether pleasing however, for I learned from them that my father
was in broken health and almost bedridden, and indeed, though I did
not know it for many years after, he died in Ditchingham Church
upon the very day that I received his letter. It was short and
sad, and in it he said that he sorrowed much that he had allowed me
to go upon my mission, since he should see me no more and could
only commend me to the care of the Almighty, and pray Him for my
safe return. As for Lily's letter, which, hearing that the
'Adventuress' was to sail for Cadiz, she had found means to
despatch secretly, though it was not short it was sad also, and
told me that so soon as my back was turned on home, my brother
Geoffrey had asked her in marriage from her father, and that they
pushed the matter strongly, so that her life was made a misery to
her, for my brother waylaid her everywhere, and her father did not
cease to revile her as an obstinate jade who would fling away her
fortune for the sake of a penniless wanderer.
'But,' it went on, 'be assured, sweetheart, that unless they marry
me by force, as they have threatened to do, I will not budge from
my promise. And, Thomas, should I be wedded thus against my will,
I shall not be a wife for long, for though I am strong I believe
that I shall die of shame and sorrow. It is hard that I should be
thus tormented, and for one reason only, that you are not rich.
Still I have good hope that things may better themselves, for I see
that my brother Wilfred is much inclined towards your sister Mary,
and though he also urges this marriage on me to-day, she is a
friend to both of us and may be in the way to make terms with him
before she accepts his suit.' Then the writing ended with many
tender words and prayers for my safe return.
As for the letter from my sister Mary it was to the same purpose.
As yet, she said, she could do nothing for me with Lily Bozard, for
my brother Geoffrey was mad with love for her, my father was too
ill to meddle in the matter, and Squire Bozard was fiercely set
upon the marriage because of the lands that were at stake. Still,
she hinted, things might not always be so, as a time might come
when she could speak up for me and not in vain.
Now all this news gave me much cause for thought. More indeed, it
awoke in me a longing for home which was so strong that it grew
almost to a sickness. Her loving words and the perfume that hung
about the letter of my betrothed brought Lily back to me in such
sort that my heart ached with a desire to be with her. Moreover I
knew that I should be welcome now, for my fortune was far greater
than my brother's would ever be, and parents do not show the door
to suitors who bring more than twelve thousand golden pieces in
their baggage. Also I wished to see my father again before he
passed beyond my reach. But still between me and my desire lay the
shadow of de Garcia and my oath. I had brooded on vengeance for so
long that I felt even in the midst of this strong temptation that I
should have no pleasure in my life if I forsook my quest. To be
happy I must first kill de Garcia. Moreover I had come to believe
that did I so forsake it the curse which I had invoked would surely
fall upon me.
Meanwhile I did this. Going to a notary I caused him to prepare a
deed which I translated into English. By this deed I vested all my
fortune except two hundred pesos that I kept for my own use, in
three persons to hold the same on my behalf till I came to claim
it. Those three persons were my old master, Doctor Grimstone of
Bungay, whom I knew for the honestest of men, my sister Mary
Wingfield, and my betrothed, Lily Bozard. I directed them by this
deed, which for greater validity I signed upon the ship and caused
to be witnessed by Captain Bell and two other Englishmen, to deal
with the property according to their discretion, investing not less
than half of it in the purchase of lands and putting the rest out
to interest, which interest with the rent of the lands was to be
paid to the said Lily Bozard for her own use for so long as she
Also with the deed I executed a will by which I devised the most of
my property to Lily Bozard should she be unmarried at the date of
my death, and the residue to my sister Mary. In the event of the
marriage or death of Lily, then the whole was to pass to Mary and
These two documents being signed and sealed, I delivered them,
together with all my treasure and other goods, into the keeping of
Captain Bell, charging him solemnly to hand them and my possessions
to Dr. Grimstone of Bungay, by whom he would be liberally rewarded.
This he promised to do, though not until he had urged me almost
with tears to accompany them myself.
With the gold and the deeds I sent several letters; to my father,
my sister, my brother, Dr. Grimstone, Squire Bozard, and lastly to
Lily herself. In these letters I gave an account of my life and
fortunes since I had come to Spain, for I gathered that others
which I had sent had never reached England, and told them of my
resolution to follow de Garcia to the ends of the earth.
'Others,' I wrote to Lily, 'may think me a madman thus to postpone,
or perchance to lose, a happiness which I desire above anything on
earth, but you who understand my heart will not blame me, however
much you may grieve for my decision. You will know that when once
I have set my mind upon an object, nothing except death itself can
turn me from it, and that in this matter I am bound by an oath
which my conscience will not suffer me to break. I could never be
happy even at your side if I abandoned my search now. First must
come the toil and then the rest, first the sorrow and then the joy.
Do not fear for me, I feel that I shall live to return again, and
if I do not return, at least I am able to provide for you in such
fashion that you need never be married against your will. While de
Garcia lives I must follow him.'
To my brother Geoffrey I wrote very shortly, telling him what I
thought of his conduct in persecuting an undefended maiden and
striving to do wrong to an absent brother. I have heard that my
letter pleased him very ill.
And here I may state that those letters and everything else that I
sent came safely to Yarmouth. There the gold and goods were taken
to Lowestoft and put aboard a wherry, and when he had discharged
his ship, Captain Bell sailed up the Waveney with them till he
brought them to Bungay Staithe and thence to the house of Dr.
Grimstone in Nethergate Street. Here were gathered my sister and
brother, for my father was then two months buried--and also Squire
Bozard and his son and daughter, for Captain Bell had advised them
of his coming by messenger, and when all the tale was told there
was wonder and to spare. Still greater did it grow when the chests
were opened and the weight of bullion compared with that set out in
my letters, for there had never been so much gold at once in Bungay
within the memory of man.
And now Lily wept, first for joy because of my good fortune, and
then for sorrow because I had not come with my treasure, and when
he had seen all and heard the deeds read by virtue of which Lily
was a rich woman whether I lived or died, the Squire her father
swore aloud and said that he had always thought well of me, and
kissed his daughter, wishing her joy of her luck. In short all
were pleased except my brother, who left the house without a word
and straightway took to evil courses. For now the cup was dashed
from his lips, seeing that having come into my father's lands, he
had brought it about that Lily was to be married to him by might if
no other means would serve. For even now a man can force his
daughter into marriage while she is under age, and Squire Bozard
was not one to shrink from such a deed, holding as he did that a
woman's fancies were of no account. But on this day, so great is
the power of gold, there was no more talk of her marrying any man
except myself, indeed her father would have held her back from such
a thing had she shown a mind to it, seeing that then Lily would
have lost the wealth which I had settled on her. But all talked
loudly of my madness because I would not abandon the chase of my
enemy but chose to follow him to the far Indies, though Squire
Bozard took comfort from the thought that whether I lived or died
the money was still his daughter's. Only Lily spoke up for me,
saying 'Thomas has sworn an oath and he does well to keep it, for
his honour is at stake. Now I go to wait until he comes to me in
this world or the next.'
But all this is out of place, for many a year passed away before I
heard of these doings.
THE LOSS OF THE CARAK
On the day after I had given my fortune and letters into the charge
of Captain Bell, I watched the 'Adventuress' drop slowly round the
mole of Cadiz, and so sad was I at heart, that I am not ashamed to
confess I wept. I would gladly have the wealth she carried if she
had but carried me. But my purpose was indomitable, and it must be
some other ship that would bear me home to the shores of England.
As it chanced, a large Spanish carak named 'Las Cinque Llagas,' or
'The Five Wounds,' was about to sail for Hispaniola, and having
obtained a licence to trade, I took passage in her under my assumed
name of d'Aila, passing myself off as a merchant. To further this
deception I purchased goods the value of one hundred and five
pesos, and of such nature as I was informed were most readily
saleable in the Indies, which merchandise I shipped with me. The
vessel was full of Spanish adventurers, mostly ruffians of varied
career and strange history, but none the less good companions
enough when not in drink. By this time I could speak Castilian so
perfectly, and was so Spanish in appearance, that it was not
difficult for me to pass myself off as one of their nation and this
I did, inventing a feigned tale of my parentage, and of the reasons
that led me to tempt the seas. For the rest, now as ever I kept my
own counsel, and notwithstanding my reserve, for I would not mingle
in their orgies, I soon became well liked by my comrades, chiefly
because of my skill in ministering to their sicknesses.
Of our voyage there is little to tell except of its sad end. At
the Canary Isles we stayed a month, and then sailed away for
Hispaniola, meeting with fine weather but light winds. When, as
our captain reckoned, we were within a week's sail of the port of
San Domingo for which we were bound, the weather changed, and
presently gathered to a furious tempest from the north that grew
more terrible every hour. For three days and nights our cumbrous
vessel groaned and laboured beneath the stress of the gale, that
drove us on rapidly we knew not whither, till at length it became
clear that, unless the weather moderated, we must founder. Our
ship leaked at every seam, one of our masts was carried away, and
another broken in two, at a height of twenty feet from the deck.
But all these misfortunes were small compared to what was to come,
for on the fourth morning a great wave swept off our rudder, and we
drifted helpless before the waves. An hour later a green sea came
aboard of us, washing away the captain, so that we filled and
settled down to founder.
Then began a most horrid scene. For several days both the crew and
passengers had been drinking heavily to allay their terror, and now
that they saw their end at hand, they rushed to and fro screaming,
praying, and blaspheming. Such of them as remained sober began to
get out the two boats, into which I and another man, a worthy
priest, strove to place the women and children, of whom we had
several on board. But this was no easy task, for the drunken
sailors pushed them aside and tried to spring into the boats, the
first of which overturned, so that all were lost. Just then the
carak gave a lurch before she sank, and, seeing that everything was
over, I called to the priest to follow me, and springing into the
sea I swam for the second boat, which, laden with some shrieking
women, had drifted loose in the confusion. As it chanced I reached
it safely, being a strong swimmer, and was able to rescue the
priest before he sank. Then the vessel reared herself up on her
stern and floated thus for a minute or more, which gave us time to
get out the oars and row some fathoms further away from her.
Scarcely had we done so, when, with one wild and fearful scream
from those on board of her, she rushed down into the depths below,
nearly taking us with her. For a while we sat silent, for our
horror overwhelmed us, but when the whirlpool which she made had
ceased to boil, we rowed back to where the carak had been. Now all
the sea was strewn with wreckage, but among it we found only one
child living that had clung to an oar. The rest, some two hundred
souls, had been sucked down with the ship and perished miserably,
or if there were any still living, we could not find them in that
weltering sea over which the darkness was falling.
Indeed, it was well for our own safety that we failed in so doing,
for the little boat had ten souls on board in all, which was as
many as she could carry--the priest and I being the only men among
them. I have said that the darkness was falling, and as it chanced
happily for us, so was the sea, or assuredly we must have been
swamped. All that we could do was to keep the boat's head straight
to the waves, and this we did through the long night. It was a
strange thing to see, or rather to hear, that good man the priest
my companion, confessing the women one by one as he laboured at his
oar, and when all were shriven sending up prayers to God for the
salvation of our souls, for of the safety of our bodies we
despaired. What I felt may well be imagined, but I forbear to
describe it, seeing that, bad as was my case, there were worse ones
before me of which I shall have to tell in their season.
At length the night wore away, and the dawn broke upon the desolate
sea. Presently the sun came up, for which at first we were
thankful, for we were chilled to the bone, but soon its heat grew
intolerable, since we had neither food nor water in the boat, and
already we were parched with thirst. But now the wind had fallen
to a steady breeze, and with the help of the oars and a blanket, we