Part 2 out of 7
things tossed by Fortune into his lap. But question he did,
pondering that parting taunt of hers to which, for emphasis, she
had given an odd redundancy - "You a Spaniard of Spain!" Could her
meaning have been plainer? Was not a Spaniard proverbially as quick
to love as to jealousy? Was not Spain, that scented land of warmth
and colour, of cruelty and blood, of throbbing lutes under lattices
ajar, of mitred sinners doing public penance, that land where lust
and piety went hand in hand, where passion and penitence lay down
together - was not Spain the land of love's most fruitful growth?
And was not a Spaniard the very hierophant of love?
His thoughts swung with sudden yearning to his wife Juana and their
children, held in brutal captivity by Philip, who sought to slake
upon them some of the vindictiveness from which their husband and
father had at last escaped. Not that Antonio Perez observed marital
fidelity more closely than any other Spaniard of his time, or of any
time. But Antonio Perez was growing old, older than he thought,
older than his years. He knew it. Madame de Chantenac had proved
it to him.
She had reproached him with never coming to see her at Chantenac,
neglecting to return the too assiduous visits that she paid him
here at Pau.
"You are very beautiful, madame, and the world is very foul," he
had excused himself. "Believe one who knows the world, to his
bitter cost. Tongues will wag."
"And your Spanish pride will not suffer that clods may talk of you?"
"I am thinking of you, madame."
"Of me?" she had answered. "Why, of me they talk already - talk
their fill. I must pretend blindness to the leering eyes that watch
me each time I come to Pau; feign unconsciousness of the impertinent
glances of the captain of the castle there as I ride in."
"Then why do you come?" he had asked point-blank. But before her
sudden change of countenance he had been quick to add: "Oh, madame,
I am full conscious of the charity that brings you, and I am deeply,
deeply grateful; but - "
"Charity?" she had interrupted sharply, on a laugh that was
"What else, madame?"
"Ask yourself," she had answered, reddening and averting her face
from his questioning eyes.
"Madame," he had faltered, "I dare not."
"Madame, how should I? I am an old man, broken by sickness,
disheartened by misfortune, daunted by tribulation - a mere husk
cast aside by Fortune, whilst you are lovely as one of the angels
about the Throne of Heaven."
She had looked into the haggard face, into the scars of suffering
that seared it, and she had answered gently: "Tomorrow you shall
come to me at Chantenac, my friend."
"I am a Spaniard, for whom to-morrow never comes."
"But it will this time. To-morrow I shall expect you."
He looked up at her sitting her great black horse beside which he
had been pacing.
"Better not, madame! Better not!" he had said.
And then he saw the eyes that had been tender grow charged with
scorn; then came her angry taunt:
"You a Spaniard of Spain! I do not believe it!"
Oh, there was no doubt that he had angered her. Women of her
temperament are quick to anger as to every emotion. But he had not
wished to anger her. God knows it was never the way of Antonio
Perez to anger lovely women - at least not in this fashion. And it
was an ill return for her gentleness and attention to himself.
Considering this as he sat there now, he resolved that he must make
amends - the only amends it was possible to make.
An hour later, in one of the regal rooms of the castle, where he
enjoyed the hospitality of King Henri IV of France and Navarre, he
announced to that most faithful equerry, Gil de Mesa, his intention
of riding to Chantenac to-morrow.
"Is it prudent?" quoth Mesa, frowning.
"Most imprudent," answered Don Antonio. "That is why I go."
And on the morrow he went, escorted by a single groom. Gil de Mesa
had begged at first to be allowed to accompany him. But for Gil he
had other work, of which the instructions he left were very full.
The distance was short - three miles along the Gave de Pau - and Don
Antonio covered it on a gently ambling mule, such as might have been
bred to bear some aged dignitary of Holy Church.
The lords of Chantenac were as noble, as proud, and as poor as most
great lords of Bearn. Their lineage was long, their rent-rolls
short. And the last marquis had suffered more from this dual
complaint than any of his forbears, and he had not at all improved
matters by a certain habit of gaming contracted in youth. The
chateau bore abundant signs of it. It was a burnt red pile standing
four-square on a little eminence, about the base of which the river
went winding turbulently; it was turreted at each of its four angles,
imposing in its way, but in a sad state of dilapidation and disrepair.
The interior, when Don Antonio reached it, was rather better; the
furnishings, though sparse, were massive and imposing; the tapestries
on the walls, if old, were rich and choice. But everywhere the
ill-assorted marriage of pretentiousness and neediness was apparent.
The floors of hall and living-room were strewn with fresh-cut rushes,
an obsolescent custom which served here alike to save the heavy cost
of carpets and to lend the place an ancient baronial dignity. Whilst
pretence was made of keeping state, the servitors were all old, and
insufficient in number to warrant the retention of the infirm
seneschal by whom Don Antonio was ceremoniously received. A single
groom, aged and without livery, took charge at once of Don Antonio's
mule, his servant's horse, and the servant himself.
The seneschal, hobbling before him, conducted our Spaniard across
the great hall, gloomy and half denuded, through the main living-room
of the chateau into a smaller, more intimate apartment, holding some
trace of luxury, which he announced as madame's own room. And there
he left him to await the coming of the chatelaine.
She, at least, showed none of the outward disrepair of her
surroundings. She came to him sheathed in a gown of shimmering silk
that was of the golden brown of autumn tints, caught to her waist
by a slender girdle of hammered gold. Eyes of deepest blue pondered
him questioningly, whilst red lips smiled their welcome. "So you
have come in spite of all?" she greeted him. "Be very welcome to
my poor house, Don Antonio."
And regally she proffered her hand to his homage.
He took it, observing the shapely, pointed fingers, the delicately
curving nails. Reluctantly, almost, he admitted to himself how
complete was her beauty, how absolute her charm. He sighed - a sigh
for that lost youth of his, perhaps - as he bowed from his fine,
lean height to press cold lips of formal duty on that hand.
"Your will, madame, was stronger than my prudence," said he.
"Prudence?" quoth she, and almost sneered. "Since when has Antonio
Perez stooped to prudence?"
"Since paying the bitter price of imprudence. You know my story?"
"A little. I know, for instance, that you murdered Escovedo - all
the world knows that. Is that the imprudence of which you speak?
I have heard it said that it was for love of a woman that you did
"You have heard that, too?" he said. He had paled a little. "You
have heard a deal, Marquise. I wonder would it amuse you to hear
more, to hear from my own lips this story of mine which all Europe
garbles? Would it?"
There was a faint note of anxiety in his voice, a look faintly
anxious in his eyes.
She scanned him a moment gravely, almost inscrutably. "What purpose
can it serve?" she asked; and her tone was forbidding - almost a
tone of fear.
"It will explain," he insisted.
"How it comes that I am not this moment prostrate at your feet; how
it happens that I am not on my knees to worship your heavenly beauty;
how I have contrived to remain insensible before a loveliness that
in happier times would have made me mad."
"Vive Dieu!" she murmured, half ironical. "Perhaps that needs
"How it became necessary," he pursued, never heeding the interruption,
"that yesterday you should proclaim your disbelief that I could be,
as you said, a Spaniard of Spain. How it happens that Antonio Perez
has become incapable of any emotion but hate. Will you hear the
story - all of it?"
He was leaning towards her, his white face held close to her own, a
smouldering fire in the dark, sunken eyes that now devoured her.
She shivered, and her own cheeks turned very pale. Her lips were
faintly twisted as if in an effort to smile.
"My friend - if you insist," she consented.
"It is the purpose for which I came," he announced.
For a long moment each looked into the other's eyes with a singular
intentness that nothing here would seem to warrant.
At length she spoke.
"Come," she said, "you shall tell me."
And she waved him to a chair set in the embrasure of the mullioned
window that looked out over a tract of meadowland sweeping gently
down to the river.
Don Antonio sank into the chair, placing his hat and whip upon the
floor beside him. The Marquise faced him, occupying the padded
window-seat, her back to the light, her countenance in shadow.
And here, in his own words, follows the story that he told her as
she herself set it down soon after. Whilst more elaborate and
intimate in parts, it yet so closely agrees throughout with his own
famous "Relacion," that I do not hesitate to accept the assurance
she has left us that every word he uttered was burnt as if by an
acid upon her memory.
THE STORY OF ANTONIO PEREZ
As a love-story this is, I think, the saddest that ever was invented
by a romancer intent upon wringing tears from sympathetic hearts.
How sad it is you will realize when I tell you that daily I thank
God on my knees - for I still believe in God, despite what was
alleged against me by the inquisitors of Aragon - that she who
inspired this love of which I am to tell you is now in the peace of
death. She died in exile at Pastrana a year ago. Anne de Mendoza
was what you call in France a great parti. She came of one of the
most illustrious families in Spain, and she was a great heiress.
So much all the world knew. What the world forgot was that she was
a woman, with a woman's heart and mind, a woman's natural instincts
to select her mate. There are fools who envy the noble and the
wealthy. They are little to be envied, those poor pawns in the game
of statecraft, moved hither and thither at the will of players who
are themselves no better. The human nature of them is a negligible
appendage to the names and rent-rolls that predetermine their place
upon the board of worldly ambition, a board befouled by blood, by
slobberings from the evil mouth of greed, and by infamy of every
So, because Anne was a daughter of the House of Mendoza, because
her endowments were great, they plucked her from her convent at the
age of thirteen years, knowing little more of life than the merest
babe, and they flung her into the arms of Ruy Gomez, Prince of Eboli,
who was old enough to have been her father. But Eboli was a great
man in Spain, perhaps the greatest; he was, first Minister to
Philip II, and between his House and that of Mendoza an alliance
was desired. To establish it that tender child was sacrificed
without ruth. She discovered that life held nothing of all that
her maiden dreamings had foreseen; that it was a thing of horror
and greed and lovelessness and worse. For there was much worse
Eboli brought his child-princess to Court. He wore her lightly as
a ribbon or a glove, the insignificant appendage to the wealth and
powerful alliance he had acquired with her. And at Court she came
under the eye of that pious satyr Philip. The Catholic King is very
devout - perfervidly devout. He prays, he fasts, he approaches the
sacraments, he does penance, all in proper season as prescribed by
Mother Church; he abominates sin and lack of faith - particularly
in others; he has drenched Flanders in blood that he might wash it
clean of the heresy of thinking differently from himself in
spiritual matters, and he would have done the same by England but
that God - Who cannot, after all, be quite of Philip's way of
thinking - willed otherwise. All this he has done for the greater
honour and glory of his Maker, but he will not tolerate his Maker's
interference with his own minor pleasures of the flesh. He is, as
you would say, a Spaniard of Spain.
This satyr's protruding eyes fell upon the lovely Princess of Eboli
- for lovely she was, a very pearl among women. I spare you
details. Eboli was most loyal and submissive where his King was
concerned, most complacent and accommodating. That was but logical,
and need not shock you at all. To advance his worldly ambitions
had he taken Anne to wife; why should he scruple, then, to yield
her again that thus he might advance those ambitions further?
If poor Anne argued at all, she must have argued thus. For the
rest, she was told that to be loved by the King was an overwhelming
honour, a matter for nightly prayers of thankfulness. Philip was
something very exalted, hardly human in fact; almost, if not quite,
divine. Who and what was Anne that she should dispute with those
who knew the world, and who placed these facts before her? Never
in all her little life had she belonged to herself. Always had she
been the property of somebody else, to be dealt with as her owner
might consider best. If about the Court she saw some men more
nearly of her own age - though there were not many, for Philip's
Court was ever a gloomy, sparsely peopled place - she took it for
granted that such men were not for her. This until I taught her
otherwise, which, however, was not yet a while. Had I been at Court
in those days, I think I should have found the means, at whatever
cost, of preventing that infamy; for I know that I loved her from
the day I saw her. But I was of no more than her own age, and I
had not yet been drawn into that whirlpool.
So she went to the arms of that rachitic prince, and she bore him
a son - for, as all the world knows, the Duke of Prastana owns
Philip for his father. And Eboli increased in power and prosperity
and the favour of his master, and also, no doubt, in the contempt
of posterity. There are times when the thought of posterity and
its vengeances is of great solace.
It would be some six years later when first I came to Court, brought
thither by my father, to enter the service of the Prince of Eboli
as one of his secretaries. As I have told you, I loved the Princess
from the moment I beheld her. From the gossip of the Court I pieced
together her story, and pitied her, and, pitying her, I loved her
the more. Her beauty dazzled me, her charm enmeshed me, and she had
grown by now in worldly wisdom and mental attainments. Yet I set a
mask upon my passion, and walked very circumspectly, for all that by
nature I was as reckless and profligate as all the world could ever
call me. She was the wife of the puissant Secretary of State, the
mistress of the King. Who was I to dispute their property to those
And another consideration stayed me. She seemed to love the King.
Young and lacking in wisdom, this amazed me. In age he compared
favourably with her husband he was but thirteen years older than
herself - but in nothing else. He was a weedy, unhealthy-looking
man, weakly of frame, rachitic, undersized, with spindle-shanks,
and a countenance that was almost grotesque, with its protruding
jaw, gaping mouth, great, doglike eyes, and yellow tuft of beard.
A great king, perhaps, this Philip, having so been born; but a
ridiculous man and an unspeakable lover. And yet this incomparable
woman seemed to love him.
Let me pass on. For ten years I nursed that love of mine in secret.
I was helped, perhaps, by the fact that in the mean time I had
married - oh, just as Eboli himself had married, an arrangement
dictated by worldly considerations - and no better, truer mate did
ever a man find than I in Juana Coello. We had children and we
were happy, and for a season - for years, indeed - I began to think
that my unspoken passion for the Princess of Eboli was dead and done
with. I saw her rarely now, and my activities increased with
increasing duties. At twenty-six I was one of the Ministers of the
Crown, and one of the chief supporters of that party of which Eboli
was the leader in Spanish politics. I sat in Philip's Council, and
I came under the spell of that taciturn, suspicious man, who,
utterly unlovable as he was, had yet an uncanny power of inspiring
devotion. From the spell of it I never quite escaped until after
long years of persecution. Yet the discovery that one by nature so
entirely antipathetic to me should have obtained such sway over my
mind helped me to understand Anne's attachment to him.
When Eboli died, in 1573, I had so advanced in ability and Royal
favour that I took his place as Secretary of State, thus becoming
all but the supreme ruler of Spain. I do not believe that there
was ever in Spain a Minister so highly favoured by the reigning
Prince, so powerful as I became. Not Eboli himself in his halcyon
days had been so deeply esteemed of Philip, or had wielded such
power as I now made my own. All Europe knows it - for it was to me
all Europe addressed itself for affairs that concerned the Catholic
And with my power came wealth - abundant, prodigious wealth. I was
housed like a Prince of the blood, and no Prince of the blood ever
kept greater state than I, was ever more courted, fawned upon, or
t flattered. And remember I was young, little more than thirty,
with all the strength and zest to enjoy my intoxicating eminence.
I was to my party what Eboli had been, though the nominal leader of
it remained Quiroga, Archbishop of Toledo. On the other side was
the Duke of Alva with his following.
You must know that it was King Philip's way to encourage two rival
parties in the State, between which he shared his confidence and
sway. Thus he stimulated emulation and enlightened his own views
in the opposing opinions that were placed before him. But the
power of my party was absolute in those days, and Alva himself was
as the dust beneath our feet.
Such eminences, they say, are perilous. Heads that are very highly
placed may at any moment be placed still higher - upon a pike. I
am all but a living witness to the truth of that, and yet I wonder
would it so have fallen out with me had I mistrusted that slumbering
passion of mine for Anne. I should have known that where such fires
have once been kindled in a man they never quite die out as long as
life endures. Time and preoccupations may overlay them as with a
film of ashes, but more or less deeply down they smoulder on, and
the first breath will fan them into flame again.
It was at the King's request I went to see her in her fine Madrid
house opposite Santa Maria Mayor some months after her husband's
death. There were certain matters of heritage to be cleared up,
and, having regard to her high rank, it was Philip's wish that I
- who was by now Eboli's official successor - should wait on her
There were documents to be conned and signed, and the matter took
some days, for Eboli's possessions were not only considerable, but
scattered, and his widow displayed an acquired knowledge of affairs
and a natural wisdom that inspired her to probe deeply. To my
undoing, she probed too deeply in one matter. It concerned some
land - a little property - at Velez. She had been attached to the
place, it seemed, and she missed all mention of it from the papers
that I brought her. She asked the reason.
"It is disposed of," I told her.
"Disposed of!" quoth she. "But by whom?"
"By the Prince, your husband, a little while before he died."
She looked up at me - she was seated at the wide, carved
writing-table, I standing by her side - as if expecting me to say
more. As I left my utterance there, she frowned perplexedly.
"But what mystery is this?" she asked me. "To whom has it gone?"
"To one Sancho Gordo."
"To Sancho Gordo?" The frown deepened. "The washerwoman's son?
You will not tell me that he bought it?"
"I do not tell you so, madame. It was a gift from the Prince, your
"A gift!" She laughed. "To Sancho Gordo! So the washerwoman's
child is Eboli's son!"
And again she laughed on a note of deep contempt.
"Madame!" I cried, appalled and full of pity, "I assure you that
you assume too much. The Prince - "
"Let be," she interrupted me. "Do you dream I care what rivals I
may have had, however lowly they may have been? The Prince, my
husband, is dead, and that is very well. He is much better dead,
Don Antonio. The pity of it is that he ever lived, or else that I
was born a woman."
She was staring straight before her, her hands fallen to her lap,
her face set as if carved and lifeless, and her voice came hard as
the sound of one stone beating upon another.
"Do you dream what it can mean to have been so nurtured on
indignities that there is no anger left, no pride to wound by the
discovery of yet another nothing but cold, cold hate? That, Don
Antonio, is my case. You do not know what my life has been. That
man - "
"He is dead, madame," I reminded her, out of pity.
"And damned, I hope," she answered me in that same cold, emotionless
voice. "He deserves no less for all the wrongs he did to me, the
least of which was the great wrong of marrying me. For advancement
he acquired me; for his advancement he bartered and used me and made
of me a thing of shame."
I was so overwhelmed with grief and love and pity that a groan
escaped me almost before I was aware of it. She broke off short,
and stared at me in haughtiness.
"You presume to pity me, I think," she reproved me. "It is my own
fault. I was wrong to talk. Women should suffer silently, that
they may preserve at least a mask of dignity. Otherwise they incur
pity - and pity is very near contempt."
And then I lost my head.
"Not mine, not mine!" I cried, throwing out my arms; and though
that was all I said, there was such a ring in my choking voice that
she rose stiffly from her seat and stood tense and tall confronting
me, almost eye to eye, reproof in every line of her.
"Princess, forgive me!" I cried. "It breaks my heart in pieces to
hear you utter things that have been in my mind these many years,
poisoning the devotion that I owed to the late Prince, poisoning
the very loyalty I owe my King. You say I pity you. If that were
so, none has the better right."
"Who gave it you?" she asked me, breathless.
"Heaven itself, I think," I answered recklessly. "What you have
suffered, I have suffered for you. When I came to Court the infamy
was a thing accomplished - all of it. But I gathered it, and
gathering it, thanked Heaven I had been spared the pain and misery
of witnessing it, which must have been more than ever I could have
endured. Yet when I saw you, when I watched you - your wistful
beauty, your incomparable grace - there was a time when the thought
to murder stirred darkly in my mind that I might at least avenge you."
She fell away before me, white to the very lips, her eyes dilating
as they regarded me.
"In God's name, why?" she asked me in a strangled voice.
"Because I loved you," I replied, "always, always, since the day I
saw you. Unfortunately, that day was years too late, even had I
dared to hope - "
"Antonio!" Something in her voice drew my averted eyes. Her lips
had parted, her eyes kindled into life, a flush was stirring in
"And I never knew! I never knew!" she faltered piteously.
"Dear Heaven, why did you withhold a knowledge that would have
upheld me and enheartened me through all that I have suffered?
Once, long, long agog I hoped - "
"I hoped, Antonio - long, long ago."
We were in each other's arms, she weeping on my shoulder as if her
heart would burst, I almost mad with mingling joy and pain - and
as God lives there was more matter here for pain than joy.
We sat long together after that, and talked it out. There was no
help for it. It was too late on every count. On her side there
was the King, most jealous of all men, whose chattel she was become;
on mine, there was my wife and children, and so deep and true was
my love for Anne that it awakened in me thoughts of the loyalty I
owed Juana, thoughts that had never troubled me hitherto in my
pleasure-loving life - and this not only as concerned Anne herself,
but as concerned all women. There was something so ennobling and
sanctifying about our love that it changed at once the whole of my
life, the whole tenor of my ways. I abandoned profligacy, and
became so staid and orderly in my conduct that I was scarcely
recognizable for the Antonio Perez whom the world had known hitherto.
We parted there that day with a resolve to put all this behind us;
to efface from our minds all memory of what had passed between us!
Poor fools were we to imagine we could resist the vortex of
circumstance which had caught us. For three months we kept our
engagement scrupulously; and then, at last, resistance mutually
exhausted, we yielded each to the other, both to Fate.
But because we cherished our love we moved with caution. I was
circumspect in my comings and goings, and such were the precautions
we observed, that for four years the world had little suspicion, and
certainly no knowledge, that I had inherited from the Prince of
Eboli more than his office as Secretary of State. This secrecy was
necessary as long as Philip lived, for we were both fully aware of
what manner of vengeance we should have to reckon with did knowledge
of our relations reach the jealous King. And I think that but for
Don John of Austria's affairs, and the intervention in them of the
Escovedo whom you say - whom the world says I murdered, all might
have been well to this day.
Escovedo had been, like myself, one of Eboli's secretaries in his
day, and it was this that won him after Eboli's death a place at
the Royal Council board. It was but an inferior place, yet the
King remarked him for a man shrewd and able, who might one day have
That day was not very long in coming, though the opportunity it
afforded Escovedo was scarcely such as, in his greedy, insatiable
ambition, he had hoped for. Yet the opportunity, such as it was,
was afforded him by me, and had he used it properly it should have
carried him far, certainly much farther than his talent and
It came about through Don John of Austria's dreams of sovereignty.
You will have heard - as who has not? - so much of Don John, the
natural son of Charles V, that I need tell you little concerning
him. In body and soul he was a very different man, indeed, from
his half-brother Philip of Spain. As joyous as Philip was gloomy,
as open and frank as Philip was cloudy and suspicious, and as
beautiful as Philip was grotesque, Don John was the Bayard of our
day, the very mirror of all knightly graces. To the victory of
Lepanto, which had made him illustrious as a soldier, he had added,
in '73 - the year of Eboli's death the conquest of Tunis, thereby
completing the triumph of Christianity over the Muslim in the
Mediterranean. Success may have turned his head a little. He
was young, you know, and an emperor's son. He dreamt of an empire
for himself, of sovereignty, and of making Tunis the capital of
the kingdom he would found.
We learnt of this. Indeed, Don John made little secret of his
intentions. But they went not at all with Philip's views. It was
far from his notions that Don John should go founding kingdoms of
his own. His valour and talents were required to be employed for
the greater honour and glory of the Crown of Spain, and nothing
Philip consulted me, who was by then the depositary of all his
secrets, the familiar of his inmost desires. There was evidence
that Don John's ambitions were being fomented by his secretary,
who dreamt, no doubt, of his own aggrandizement in the
aggrandizement of his master. Philip proposed the man's removal.
"That would be something," I agreed. "But not enough. He must be
replaced by a man of our own, a man loyal to Your Majesty, who will
not only seek to guide Don John in the course that he should follow,
but will keep close watch upon his projects, and warn you should
they threaten to neglect your interests the interests of Spain for
"And such a man? Where shall we find him?"
I considered a moment, and bethought me of Escovedo. He was able;
he had charm and an ingratiating manner; I believed him loyal, and
imagined that I could quicken that loyalty by showing him that
advancement would wait upon its observation; he could well be
spared from the Council, where, as I have said, he occupied a quite
inferior post; lastly, we were friends, and I was glad of the
opportunity to serve him, and place him on the road to better things.
All this I said to Philip, and so the matter was concluded. But
Escovedo failed me. His abilities and ingratiating manner endeared
him quickly to Don John, whilst himself he succumbed entirely, not
only to Don John of Austria's great personal charm, but also to Don
John's ambitious projects. The road to advancement upon which I
had set him seemed to him long and toilsome by contrast with the
shorter cut that was offered by his new master's dreams. He fell
as the earlier secretary had fallen, and more grievously, for he
was the more ambitious of the two, and from merely seconding Don
John's projects, it was not long before he spurred them on, not
long before he was dreaming dreams of his own for Don John to
>From Tunis, which had by now been recovered by the Turks, and any
hopes concerned with which King Philip had discouraged, the eyes of
Don John were set, at Escovedo's bidding, I believe, upon the crown
He had just been invited by Philip to make ready to take in hand
the affairs of Flanders, sadly disorganized under the incompetent
rule of Alva. It occurred to him that if he were to issue
victoriously from that enterprise - and so far victory had waited
upon his every venture - if he were to succeed in restoring peace
and Spanish order in rebellious Flanders, he would then be able to
move against England with the Spanish troops under his command,
overthrow Elizabeth, deliver Mary Stuart from the captivity in which
she languished, and by marriage with her set the crown of England
on his brow. To this great project he sought the support of Rome,
and Rome accorded it very readily being naturally hostile to the
heretic daughter of Anne Boleyn.
It was Escovedo himself who went as Don John's secret ambassador to
the Vatican in this affair Escovedo, who had been placed with Don
John to act as a curb on that young man's ambitions. Nor did he
move with the prudence he should have observed.
Knowledge of what was brewing reached us from the Papal Nuncio in
Madrid, who came to see me one day in the matter.
"I have a dispatch from Rome," he announced, "in which His Holiness
instructs me to enjoin upon the King that the expedition against
England be now executed, and that he consider bestowing its crown
upon Don John of Austria for the greater honour and glory of Holy
I was thunderstruck. The expedition against England, I knew, was
no new project. Three years before a secret envoy from the Queen
of Scots, an Italian named Ridolfi, had come to propose to Philip
that, in concert with the Pope, he should reestablish the Catholic
faith in England and place Mary Stuart upon the throne. It was a
scheme attractive to Philip, since it agreed at once with his policy
and his religion. But it had been abandoned under the dissuasions
of Alva, who accounted that it would be too costly even if
successful. Here it was again, emanating now directly from the
Holy See, but in a slightly altered form.
"Why Don John of Austria?" I asked him.
"A great soldier of the faith. And the Queen of Scots must have a
"I should have thought that she had had husbands enough by now,"
"His Holiness does not appear to share that view," he answered
"I wonder will the King," said I.
"The Catholic King is ever an obedient child of Mother Church," the
oily Nuncio reminded me, to reprove my doubt.
But I knew better - that the King's own policy was the measure of
his obedience. This the Nuncio should learn for himself; for if
I knew anything of Philip's mind, I knew precisely how he would
welcome this proposal.
"Will you see the King now?" I suggested maliciously, anxious to
witness the humbling of his priestly arrogance.
"Not yet. It is upon that I came to see you. I am instructed
first to consult with one Escoda as to the manner in which this
matter shall be presented to His Majesty. Who is Escoda?"
"I never heard of him," said I. "Perhaps he comes from Rome."
"No, no. Strange!" he muttered, frowning, and plucked a parchment
from his sleeve. "It is here." He peered slowly at the writing,
and slowly spelled out the name: "Juan de Escoda."
In a flash it came to me.
"Escovedo you mean," I cried,
"Yes, yes - Escovedo, to be sure," he agreed, having consulted the
writing once more. "Where is he?"
"On his way to Madrid with Don John," I informed him. "He is Don
"I will do nothing, then, until he arrives," he said, and took his
Oh, monstrous indiscretion! That dispatch from Rome so cunningly
and secretly contrived in cipher had yet contained no warning that
Escovedo's share in this should be concealed. There are none so
imprudent as the sly. I sought the King at once, and told him all
that I had learnt. He was aghast. Indeed, I never saw him more
near to anger. For Philip of Spain was not the man to show wrath
or any other emotion. He had a fish-like, cold, impenetrable
inscrutability. True, his yellow skin grew yellower, his gaping
mouth gaped wider, his goggle eyes goggled more than usual. Left
to himself, I think he would have disgraced Don John and banished
Escovedo there and then, as he did, indeed, suggest. And I have
since had cause enough to wish to God that I had left him to
"Who will replace Don John in Flanders?" I asked him quietly. He
stared at me. "He is useful to you there. Use him, Sire, to
your own ends."
"But they will press this English business."
"Acquiesce? Are you mad?"
"Seem to acquiesce. Temporize. Answer them, 'One thing at a time.'
Say, 'When the Flanders business is happily concluded, we will think
of England.' Give them hope that success in Flanders will dispose
you to support the other project. Thus you offer Don John an
incentive to succeed, yet commit yourself to nothing."
"And this dog Escovedo?"
"Is a dog who betrays himself by his bark. We will listen for it."
And thus it was determined; thus was Don John suckled on the windy
pap of hope when presently he came to Court with Escovedo at his
heels. Distended by that empty fare he went off to the Low
Countries, leaving Escovedo in Madrid to represent him, with secret
instructions to advance his plans.
Now Escovedo's talents were far inferior to my conception of them.
He was just a greedy schemer, without the wit to dissemble his
appetite or the patience necessary to secure attainment.
Affairs in Flanders went none too well, yet that did not set a curb
upon him. He pressed his master's business upon the King with an
ardour amounting to disrespect, and disrespect was a thing the awful
majesty of Philip could never brook. Escovedo complained of delays,
of indecision, and finally - in the summer of '76 - he wrote the
King a letter of fierce upbraidings, criticizing his policy in terms
that were contemptuous, and which entirely exasperated Philip.
It was in vain I strove to warn the fellow of whither he was
drifting; in vain I admonished and sought to curb his headlong
recklessness. I have said that I had a friendship for him, and
because of that I took more pains, perhaps, than I should have taken
in another's case.
"Unless you put some judgment into that head of yours, my friend,
you will leave it in this business," I told him one day.
He flung into a passion at the admonition, heaped abuse upon me,
swore that it was I who thwarted him, I who opposed the fulfilment
of Don John's desires and fostered the dilatory policy of the King.
I left him after that to pursue his course, having no wish to
quarrel with this headstrong upstart; yet, liking him as I did, I
spared no endeavour to shield him from the consequences he provoked.
But that letter of his to Philip made the task a difficult one.
Philip showed it to me.
"If that man," he said, "had uttered to my face what he has dared
to write, I do not think I should have been able to contain myself
without visible change of countenance. It is a sanguinary letter."
I set myself to calm him as best I could.
"The man is indiscreet, which has its advantage, for we always know
whither an indiscreet man is heading. His zeal for his master
blinds him and makes him rash. It is better, perhaps, than if he
were secretive and crafty."
With such arguments I appeased his wrath against the secretary. But
I knew that his hatred of Escovedo, his thirst for Escovedo's blood,
dated from that moment in which Escovedo had forgotten the reverence
due to majesty. I was glad when at last he took himself off to
Flanders to rejoin Don John. But that was very far from setting a
term to his pestering. The Flanders affair was going so badly that
the hopes of an English throne to follow were dwindling fast.
Something else must be devised against the worst, and now Don John
and Escovedo began to consider the acquisition of power in Spain
itself. Their ambition aimed at giving Don John the standing of an
Infante. Both of them wrote to me to advance this fresh project of
theirs, to work for their recall, so that they could ally themselves
with my party - the Archbishop's party - and ensure its continuing
supreme. Escovedo wrote me a letter that was little better than an
attempt to bribe me. The King was ageing, and the Prince was too
young to relieve him of the heavy duties of State. Don John should
shoulder these, and in so doing Escovedo and myself should be
hoisted into greater power.
I carried all those letters to the King, and at his suggestion I
even pretended to lend an ear to these proposals that we might draw
from Escovedo a fuller betrayal of his real ultimate aims. It was
dangerous, and I enjoined the King to move carefully.
"Be discreet," I warned him, "for if my artifice were discovered,
I should not be of any further use to you at all. In my conscience
I am satisfied that in acting as I do I am performing no more than
my duty. I require no theology other than my own to understand
"My theology," he answered me, "takes much the same view. You would
have failed in your duty to God and me had you failed to enlighten
me on the score of this deception. These things," he added in a
dull voice, "appal me."
So I wrote to Don John, urging him as one who counselled him for
his good, who had no interest but his own at heart, to remain in
Flanders until the work there should be satisfactorily completed.
He did so, since he was left no choice in the matter, but the
intrigues continued. Later we saw how far he was from having
forsaken his dreams of England, when I discovered that he had
engaged the Pope to assist him with six thousand men and one
hundred and fifty thousand ducats when the time for that adventure
should be ripe.
And then, quite suddenly, entirely unheralded, Escovedo reappeared
in Madrid, having come to press Philip in person for reinforcements
that should enable Don John to finish the campaign. He brought
news that there had been a fresh rupture of the patched-up peace,
that Don John had taken the field once more, and had forcibly made
himself master of Namur. This was contrary to all the orders we
had sent, a direct overriding of Philip's wishes. The King desired
peace in the Low Countries because he was in no case just then to
renew the war, and Escovedo's impudently couched demands completed
"My will," he said, "is as naught before the ambitions of these two.
You sent my clear instructions to Escovedo, who was placed with Don
John that he might render him pliant to my wishes. Instead, he
stiffens him in rebellion. There must be an end to this man."
"Sire," I cried, "it may be they think to advance your interests."
"Heaven help me!" he cried. "Did ever villain wear so transparent
a mask as this dog Escovedo? To advance my interests - that will
be his tale, no doubt. He will advance them where I do not wish
them advanced; he will advance them to my ruin; he will stake all
on a success in Flanders that shall be the preliminary to a descent
upon England in the interests of Don John. I say there must be an
end to this man before he works more mischief."
Again I set myself to calm him, as I had so often done before, and
again I was the shield between Escovedo and the royal lightnings,
of whose menace to blot him out the fool had no suspicion. For
months things hung there, until, in January of '78, when war had
been forced in earnest upon Spain by Elizabeth's support of the
Low Countries, Don John won the great victory of Gemblours. This
somewhat raised the King's depression, somewhat dissipated his
overgrowing mistrust of his half-brother, and gave him patience to
read the letters in which Don John urged him to send money - to
throw wood on the fire whilst it was alight, or else resign himself
to the loss of Flanders for all time. As it meant also resigning
himself to the loss of all hope of England for all time, Escovedo's
activities were just then increased a hundredfold.
"Send me money and Escovedo," was the burden of the almost daily
letters from Don John to me, and at my elbow was Escovedo,
perpetually pressing me to bend the King to his master's will.
Another matter on which he pressed me then was that I should obtain
for himself the governorship of the Castle of Mogro, which commands
the port of Santander, an ambition this which intrigued me deeply,
for I confess I could not fathom what it had to do with all the rest.
And then something else happened. From the Spanish Ambassador at
the Louvre we learnt one day of a secret federation entered into
between Don John and the Guises, known as the Defence of the Two
Crowns. Its object was as obscure as its title. But it afforded
the last drop to the cup of Philip's mistrust. This time it was
directly against Don John that he inveighed to me. And to defend
Don John, in the interests of common justice, I was forced to place
the blame where it belonged.
"Nay, Sire," I assured him, "these ambitions are not Don John's.
With all his fevered dreams of greatness, Don John has ever been,
will ever be, loyal to his King."
"If you know anything of temptation," he answered me, "you should
know that there is a breaking-point to every man's resistance of
it. How long will Don John remain loyal while Escovedo feeds his
disloyalty, adds daily to the weight of temptation the burden of
a fresh ambition? I tell you, man, I feel safe no longer." He
rose up before me, a blotch on his sallow face, his fingers tugging
nervously at the tuft of straw-coloured beard. "I tell you some
blow is about to fall unless we avert it. This man this fellow
Escovedo - must be dispatched before he can kill us."
I shrugged and affected carelessness to soothe him.
"A contemptible dreamer," I said. "Pity him, Sire. He has his uses.
To remove him would be to remove a channel through which we can
always obtain knowledge precisely of what is doing."
Again I prevailed, and there the matter hung a while. But the King
was right, his fears were well inspired. Escovedo, always impatient,
was becoming desperate under persistent frustration. I reasoned
with him - was he not still my friend? - I held him off, urged
prudence and patience upon him, and generally sought to temporize.
I was as intent upon saving him from leaving his skin in this
business as I was, on the other hand, intent upon doing my duty
without pause or scruple to my King. But the fool forced my hand.
A Court is a foul place always, even so attenuated a Court as that
which Philip of Spain encouraged. Rumour thrives in it, scandal
blossoms luxuriantly in its fetid atmosphere. And rumour and
scandal had been busy with the Princess of Eboli and me, though I
did not dream it.
We had been indiscreet, no doubt. We had been seen together in
public too often. We had gone to the play together more than once;
she had been present with me at a bull-fight on one occasion, and
it was matter of common gossip, as I was to learn, that I was a too
frequent visitor at her house.
Another visitor there was Escovedo when in Madrid. Have I not said
that in his early days he had been one of Eboli's secretaries? On
that account the house of Eboli remained open to him at all times.
The Princess liked him, was kindly disposed towards him, and
encouraged his visits. We met there more than once. One day we
left together, and that day the fool set spark to a train that led
straight to the mine on which, all unconsciously, he stood.
"A word of advice in season, Don Antonio," he said as we stepped
forth together. "Do not go so often to visit the Princess."
I sought to pull my arm from his, but he dung to it and pinned it
to his side.
"Nay, now - nay, now!" he soothed me. "Not so hot, my friend.
What the devil have I said to provoke resentment? I advise you as
"In future advise that other friend of yours, the devil," I answered
angrily, and pulled my arm away at last. "Don Juan, you have
presumed, I think. I did not seek your advice. It is yourself that
stands in need of advice this moment more than any man in Spain."
"Lord of the World," he exclaimed in amiable protest, "listen to
him! I speak because I owe friendship to the Princess. Men whisper
of your comings and goings, I tell you. And the King, you know
well, should he hear of this I am in danger of losing my only friend
at Court, and so - "
"Another word of this," I broke in fiercely, "now or at any other
time, and I'll skewer you like a rabbit!"
I had stopped. My face was thrust within a hand's-breadth of his
own; I had tossed back my cloak, and my fingers clutched the hilt
of my sword. He became grave. His fine eyes - he had great,
sombre, liquid eyes, such as you'll scarcely ever see outside of
Spain - considered me thoughtfully a moment. Then he laughed
lightly and fell back a pace.
"Pish!" said he. "Saint James! I am no rabbit for your skewering.
If it comes to skewers, I am a useful man of my hands, Antonio.
Come, man" - and again he took my arm - "if I presume, forgive it
out of the assurance that I am moved solely by interest and concern
for you. We have been friends too long that I should be denied."
I had grown cool again, and I realized that perhaps my show of anger
had been imprudent. So I relented now, and we went our ways
together without further show of ill-humour on my part, or further
advice on his. But the matter did not end there. Indeed, it but
began. Going early in the afternoon of the morrow to visit Anne, I
found her in tears - tears, as I was to discover, of anger.
Escovedo had been to visit her before me, and he had dared to
reproach her on the same subject.
"You are talked about, you and Perez," he had informed her, "and
the thing may have evil consequences. It is because I have eaten
our bread that I tell you this for your own good."
She had risen up in a great passion.
"You will leave my house, and never set foot in it again," she had
told him. "You should learn that grooms and lackeys have no concern
in the conduct of great ladies. It is because you have eaten my
bread that I tell you this for your own good."
It drove him out incontinently, but it left her in the condition in
which I was later to discover her. I set myself to soothe her. I
swore that Escovedo should be punished. But she would not be
soothed. She blamed herself for an unpardonable rashness. She
should not have taken that tone with Escovedo. He could avenge
himself by telling Philip, and if he told Philip, and Philip believed
him - as Philip would, being jealous and mistrustful beyond all men
- my ruin must follow. She had thought only of herself in
dismissing him in that high-handed manner. Coming since to think
of me it was that she had fallen into this despair. She clung to
me in tears.
"Forgive me, Antonio. The fault is all mine - the fault of all.
Always have I known that this danger must overhang you as a penalty
for loving me. Always I knew it, and, knowing it, I should have
been stronger. I should have sent you from me at the first. But I
was so starved of love from childhood till I met you. I hungered
so for love - for your love, Antonio - that I had not the strength.
I was weak and selfish, and because I was ready and glad to pay the
price myself, whatever it should be and whenever asked, I did not
take thought enough for you."
"Take no thought now," I implored her, holding her close.
"I must. I can't help it. I have raised this peril for you. He
will go to Philip."
"Not he; he dare not. I am his only hope. I am the ladder by which
he hopes to scale the heaven of his high ambition. If he destroys
me, there is the kennel for himself. He knows it."
"Do you say that to comfort me, or is it really true?"
"God's truth, sweetheart," I swore, and drew her closer.
She was comforted long before I left her. But as I stepped out
into the street again a man accosted me. Evidently he had been on
the watch, awaiting me. He fell into step beside me almost before
I realized his presence. It was Escovedo.
"So," he said, very sinister, "you'll not be warned."
"Nor will you," I answered, no whit less sinister myself.
It was broad daylight. A pale March sunshine was beating down upon
the cobbled streets, and passers-by were plentiful. There was no
fingering of hilts or talk of skewering on either side. Nor must
I show any of the anger that was boiling in me. My face was too
well known in Madrid streets, and a Secretary of State does not
parade emotions to the rabble. So I walked stiff and dignified
amain, that dog in step with me the while.
"She will have told you what I have said to her," he murmured.
"And what she said to you. It was less than your deserts."
"Groom and lackey, eh?" said he. "And less than I deserve - a man
of my estate. Oh, ho! Groom and lackey! Those are epithets to be
washed out in blood and tears."
"You rant," I said.
"Or else to be paid for - handsomely." His tone was sly - so sly
that I answered nothing, for to answer a sly man is to assist him,
and my business was to let him betray the cause of this slyness.
Followed a spell of silence. Then, "Do you know," said he, "that
several of her relatives are thinking seriously of killing you?"
"Many men have thought seriously of that - so seriously that they
never attempted it. Antonio Perez is not easily murdered, Don Juan,
as you may discover."
It was a boast that I may claim to have since justified.
"Shall I tell you their names?" quoth he.
"If you want to ruin them."
"Ha!" It was a short bark of a laugh. "You talk glibly of ruining
- but then you talk to a groom and lackey." The epithets rankled
in his mind; they were poison to his blood, it seemed. It takes a
woman to find words that burn and blister a man. "Yet groom and
lackey that I am, I hold you both in the hollow of my hand. If I
close that hand, it will be very bad for you, very bad for her. If,
for instance, I were to tell King Philip that I have seen her in
your arms -"
"I have - I swear to God I have, with these two eyes - at least
with one of them, applied to the keyhole half an hour ago. Her
servants passed me in; a ducat or two well bestowed - you
We had reached the door of my house. I paused and turned to him.
"You will come in?" I invited.
"As the wolf said to the lamb, eh? Well, why not?" And we went in.
"You are well housed," he commented, his greedy, envious eyes
considering all the tokens of my wealth. "It were a pity to lose
so much, I think. The King is at the Escurial, I am told."
He was. He had gone thither into retreat, that he might cleanse
his pious, murky soul against the coming of Eastertide.
"You would not, I am sure, compel me to undertake so tedious a
journey," said he.
"Will you put off this slyness and be plain?" I bade him. "You
have some bargain in your mind. Propound it."
He did, and left me aghast.
"You have temporized long enough, Perez," he began. "You have been
hunting with the dogs and running with the stag. There must be an
end to all that. Stand by me now, and I will make you greater than
you are, greater than you could ever dream to be. Oppose me, betray
me - for I am going to be very frank - and the King shall hear
things from me that will mean your ruin and hers. You understand?"
Then came his demands. First of all the command of the fortress of
Mogro for himself. I must obtain him that at once. Secondly, I
must see to it that Philip pledged himself to support Don John's
expedition against England and Elizabeth and to seat Don John upon
the throne with Mary Stuart for his wife. These things must come
about, and quickly, or I perished. Nor was that all. Indeed, no
more than a beginning. He opened out the vista of his dreams, that
having blackmailed me on the one hand, he might now bribe me on the
other. Once England was theirs, he aimed at no less than a descent
upon Spain itself. That was why he wanted Mogro to facilitate a
landing at Santander. Thus, as the Christians had originally come
down from the mountains of the Asturias to drive the Moors from the
Peninsula, so should the forces of Don John descend again to
reconquer it for himself.
It was a madman's fancy utterly - fruit of a brain that ambition
had completely addled; and I do not believe that Don John had any
part in it or even knowledge of it. Escovedo saw himself, perhaps,
upon the throne of one or the other of the two kingdoms as Don
John's vice-regent - for himself and for me, if I stood by him,
there was such power in store as no man ever dreamed of. If I
refused, he would destroy me.
"And if I go straight to the Escurial and lay this project before
the King?" I asked him.
"You will force me to tell him that it is a lie invented to deliver
you from a man who can destroy you by the knowledge he possesses,
knowledge which I shall at once impart to Philip. Think what that
will mean to you. Think," he added very wickedly, "what it will
mean to her."
As I am a Christian, I believe that had it been but the consideration
of myself I would have flung him from my house upon the instant and
bade him do his worst. But he was well advised to remind me of her.
Whatever Philip's punishment of me, it would be as nothing to his
punishment of that long-suffering woman who had betrayed him. Oh,
I assure you it is a very evil, ill judged thing to have a king for
rival, particularly a fish-souled tyrant of King Philip's kind.
I was all limp with dread. I passed a hand across my brow, and
found it chill and moist.
"I am in your hands, Escovedo," I confessed miserably.
"Say, rather, that we are partners. Forget all else." He was eager,
joyous, believing all accomplished, such was his faith in my
influence with Philip. "And now, Mogro for me, and England for Don
John. About it with dispatch."
"The King is in retreat. We must wait some days."
"Till Easter, then." And he held out his hand. I took it limply,
thus clenching the bargain of infamy between us. What else was
there for me. What, otherwise, was to become of Anne?
Oh, I may have been self-seeking and made the most of my position,
as was afterwards urged against me. I may have been extortionate
and venal, and I may have taken regal bribes to expedite affairs.
But always was I loyal and devoted to the King. Never once had I
been bribed to aught that ran counter to his interests; never until
now, when at a stroke I had sold my honour and pledged myself to
this betrayal of my trust.
Not in all Spain was there a more miserable man than I. All night
I sat in the room where I was wont to work, and to my wife's
entreaties that I should take some rest I answered that the affairs
of Spain compelled attention. And when morning found me haggard
and distraught came a courier from Philip with a letter.
"I have letters from Don John," he wrote, "more insistent than ever
in their tone. He demands the instant dispatch of money and
Escovedo. I have been thinking, and this letter confirms my every
fear. I have cause to apprehend some stroke that may disturb the
public peace and ruin Don John himself if he is allowed to retain
Escovedo any longer in his service. I am writing to Don John that
I will see to it that Escovedo is promptly dispatched as he requests.
Do you see him dispatched, then, in precise accordance with his
deserts, and this at once, before the villain kills us."
My skin bristled as I read. Here was fatality itself at work.
Philip was at his old fears - and, Heaven knows, he was not without
justification of his intuitions, as I had learnt by now - that
Escovedo meditated the most desperate measures. He was urging me
again, as he had urged me before, and more than once, to dispatch
this traitor whose restless existence so perpetually perturbed him.
I was not deceived as to the meaning he set upon that word
"dispatch." I knew quite well the nature of the dispatch he bade
Conceive now my temptation. Escovedo dead, I should be safe, and
Anne would be safe, and this without any such betrayal as was being
forced upon me. And that death the King himself commanded a secret,
royal execution, such as his confessor Frey Diego de Chaves has
since defended as an expedient measure within the royal prerogative.
He had commanded it before quite unequivocally, but always I had
stood between Escovedo and the sword. Was I to continue in that
attitude? Could it humanly be expected of me in all the
circumstances again to seek to deflect the royal wrath from that
too daring head? I was, after all, only a man, subject to the
temptations of the flesh, and there was a woman whom I loved better
than my own salvation to whose peace and happiness that fellow
Escovedo was become a menace.
If he lived, and for as long as he lived, she and I were to be as
slaves of his will, and I was to drag my honour and my loyalty
through the foul kennels of his disordered ambitions. And the King
my master was bidding me clearly see to it that he died immediately.
I sat down and wrote at once, and the burden of my letter was: "Be
more explicit, Sire. What manner of dispatch is it your will that
Escovedo should be given?"
On the morrow, which was Thursday of Holy Week, that note of mine
was returned to me, and on the margin of it, in Philip's own hand,
Escovedo's death-warrant. "I mean that it would be well to hasten
the death of this rascal before some act of his should render it
too late; for he never rests, nor will anything turn him from his
usual ways. Do it, then, and do it quickly, before he kills us."
There was no more to be said. My instructions were clear and
definite. Obedience alone remained. I went about it.
Just as all my life I have been blessed with the staunchest friends,
so have I, too, been blessed with the most faithful servants. And
of these none was more faithful than my steward, Diego Martinez,
unless, indeed, it be my equerry, Gil de Mesa, who to this day
follows my evil fortunes. But Mesa at that time was as yet untried,
whilst in Diego I knew that I had a man devoted to me heart and
soul, a man who would allow himself to be torn limb from limb on
the rack on my behalf.
I placed the affair in Diego's hands. I told him that I was acting
under orders from the King, and that the thing at issue was the
private execution of a dangerous traitor, who could not be brought
to trial lest there he should impeach of complicity one whose birth
and blood must be shielded from all scandal. I bade him get what
men he required, and see the thing done with the least possible
delay. And thereupon I instantly withdrew from Madrid and went to
Diego engaged five men to assist him in the task; these were a young
officer named Enriquez, a lackey named Rubio, the two Aragonese -
Mesa and Insausti - and another whose name was Bosque. He clearly
meant to take no chances, but I incline to think that he overdid
precaution, and employed more hands than were necessary for the job.
However, the six of them lurked in waiting on three successive
nights for Escovedo near his house in the little square of Santiago.
At last, on the night of Easter Monday, March 31st, they caught him
and dispatched him. He died almost before he realized himself
beset, from a sword-thrust with which Insausti transfixed him. But
there were at least half a dozen wounds in the body when it was
found. Diego, I have said, was a man who made quite certain.
No sooner was it done than they dispersed, whilst the lackey Rubio,
instantly quitting Madrid, brought me news of the deed to Alcala,
and the assurance that no arrests had been made. But there was a
great ado in Madrid upon the morrow, as you may imagine, for it is
no everyday occurrence to find a royal secretary murdered in the
The alcaldes set out upon a rigorous search, and they began by
arresting and questioning all who attempted to leave the city. On
the next day they harassed with their perquisitions all those who
let lodgings. They were still at this work in the evening when I
returned to Madrid, brought back - as it would seem - from my
country rest by the news of this murder of my friend and colleague.
I bore myself as I should have done had I no knowledge of how the
thing had been contrived. That was a necessity as imperative as
it was odious, and no part of it more odious than the visit of
condolence I was forced to pay to the Escovedo family, which I
found plunged in grief.
>From the very outset suspicion pointed its finger at me, although
there were no visible traces to connect me with the deed. Rumour,
however, was astir, and as I had powerful friends, so, too, I had
the powerful enemies which envy must always be breeding for men in
high places such as mine. Escovedo's wife mistrusted me, though
at first she seems equally to have suspected in this deed the hand
of the Duke of Alva, who was hostile to Don John and all his
creatures. Very soon, as a result of this, came the Court alcalde
to visit and question me. His stated object was in the hope that
I might give him information which would lead to the discovery of
the assassin; but his real object, rendered apparent by the
searching, insistent nature of his questions, was to lead me to
incriminate myself. I presented a bold front. I pretended to see
in this, perhaps, the work of the Flemish States. I deplored - that
I might remind him of it - my absence from Madrid at the time.
He was followed by another high official, who came in simulated
friendship to warn me that certain rumours linking me with the deed
were in circulation, in reality to trap me into some admission, to
watch my countenance for some betraying sign.
I endured it stoutly, but inwardly I was shaken, as I wrote to
Philip, giving him full details of what had been said and what
answers I had returned, what bitter draughts I had been forced to
He wrote in reply: "I find that you answered very well. Continue
to be prudent. They will tell you a thousand things, not for the
sake of telling them, but in the hope of drawing something out of
you. The bitter draughts you mention are inevitable. But use all
the dissimulation and address of which you are capable."
We corresponded daily after that, and I told him of every step I
took; how I kept my men about me, for fear that if they attempted
to leave Madrid they would be arrested, and how, finally, I
contrived their departure one by one, under conditions that placed
them beyond all suspicion. Juan de Mesa set out for Aragon on a
mission concerned with the administration of some property of the
Princess of Eboli's. Rubio, Insausti, and Enriquez were each given
an ensign's commission, bearing the King's own signature, and
ordered to join the armies in various parts of Italy; the first was
sent to Milan, the second to Sicily, and the last to Naples. Bosque
went back to Aragon. Thus all were placed beyond the reach of the
active justice of Castile, all save myself - and the King, who wrote
to me expressing his satisfaction that there had been no arrests.
But rumour continued to give tongue, and the burden of its tale was
that the murder had been my work, in complicity with the Princess
of Eboli. How they came to drag her name into the affair I do not
know. It may have been pure malice trading upon its knowledge of
the relations between us. She may have lent colour to the charge
by her own precipitancy in denying it. She announced indignantly
that she was being accused, almost before this had come to pass,
and as indignantly protested against the accusation, and threatened
those who dared to voice it.
The end of it all was that, a month later, the Escovedo family drew
up a memorial for the consideration of the King, in which they laid
the murder to my charge, and Philip consented to receive Don Pedro
de Escovedo - the dead man's son - and promised him that he would
consider the memorial, and that he would deliver up to justice
whomsoever he thought right. He was embarrassed by these demands
of the Escovedos, my own danger, his duty as king, and his interests
as an accomplice, or, rather, as the originator of the deed.
The Escovedos were powerfully seconded by Vasquez, the Secretary of
the Council, a member of Alva's party, a secret enemy of my own,
consumed by jealousy of my power, and no longer fearing to disclose
himself and assail me since he believed himself possessed of the
means of ruining me. He spoke darkly to the King of a woman
concerned in this business, without yet daring to mention Anne by
name, and urged him for the satisfaction of the State, where evil
rumours were abroad, to order an inquiry that should reveal the
truth of the affair.
It was Philip himself who informed me of what had passed, sneering
at the wildness of rumours that missed the truth so wildly, and when
I evinced distress at my position, he sought to reassure me; he even
wrote to me after I had left him: "As long as I live you have
nothing to fear. Others may change, but I never change, as you
should know who know me."
That was a letter that epitomized many others written me in those
days to Madrid from the Escurial, whither he had returned. And those
letters comforted me not only by their expressed assurances, but by
the greater assurance implicit in them of the King's good faith. I
had by now a great mass of his notes dealing with the Escovedo
business, in almost every one of which he betrayed his own share as
the chief murderer, showing that I was no more than his dutiful
instrument in that execution. With those letters in my power what
need I ever fear? Not Philip himself would dare to betray me.
But I went now in a new dread - the dread of being myself murdered.
There were threats of it in the air. The Escovedo family and their
partisans, who included all my enemies, and even some members of the
Eboli family, who considered that I had sullied the honour of their
name by my relations with Anne, talked openly of vengeance, so that
I was driven to surround myself by armed attendants whenever now I
I appealed again to Philip to protect me. I even begged him to
permit me to retire from my Ministerial office, that thus the
clamant envy that inspired my persecution might be deprived of its
incentive. Finally, I begged him to order me to stand my trial,
that thus, since I was confident that no evidence could be produced
against me, I should force an acquittal from the courts and lay
the matter to rest for all time.
"Go and see the President of Castile," he bade me. "Tell him the
causes that led to the death of Escovedo, and then let him talk to
Don Pedro de Escovedo and to Vasquez, so as to induce them to
I did as I was bidden, and when the president, who was the Bishop
of Pati, had heard me, he sent for my two chief enemies.
"I have, Don Pedro," he said, "your memorial to the King in which
you accuse Don Antonio Perez of the murder of your father. And I
am to assure you in the King's name that justice will be done upon
the murderer, whoever he may be, without regard to rank. But I am
first to engage you to consider well what evidence you have to
justify your charge against a person of such consideration. For
should your proofs be insufficient I warn you that matters are
likely to take a bad turn for yourself. Finally, before you answer
me, let me add, upon my word as a priest, that Antonio Perez is as
innocent as I am."
It was the truth - the absolute truth, so far as it was known to
Philip and to the Bishop - for, indeed, I was no more than the
instrument of my master's will.
Don Pedro looked foolish, almost awed. He was as a man who suddenly
becomes aware that he has missed stepping over the edge of a chasm
in which destruction awaited him. He may have bethought him at last
that all his rantings had no better authority than suspicions which
no evidence could support.
"Sir," he faltered, "since you tell me this, I pledge you my word
on behalf of myself and my family to make no more mention of this
death against Don Antonio."
The Bishop swung then upon Vasquez, and his brow became furrowed
with contemptuous anger.
"As for you, sir, you have heard - which was more than your due, for
it is not your business by virtue of your office, nor have you any
obligations towards the deceased, such as excuse Don Pedro's
rashness, to pursue the murderers of Escovedo. Your solicitude in
this matter brings you under a suspicion the more odious since you
are a priest. I warn you, sir, to abstain, for this affair is
different far from anything that you imagine."
But envy is a fierce goad, a consuming, irresistible passion,
corroding wisdom and deaf to all prudent counsels. Vasquez could
not abstain. Ridden by his devil of spite and jealousy, he would
not pause until he had destroyed either himself or me.
Since Escovedo's immediate family now washed their hands of the
affair, Vasquez sought out more distant relatives of the murdered
man, and stirred them up until they went in their turn to pester
the courts, not only with accusations against myself, but with
accusations that now openly linked with mine the name of the
Princess of Eboli.
We were driven to the brink of despair, and in this Anne wrote to
Philip. It was a madness. She made too great haste to excuse
herself. She demanded protection from Vasquez and the evil rumours
he was putting abroad, implored the King to make an example of men
who could push so far their daring and irreverence, and to punish
that Moorish dog Vasquez - I dare say there was Moorish blood in
the fellow's veins - as he deserved.
I think our ruin dated from that letter. Philip sent for me to the
Escurial. He wished to know more precisely what the accusations
were. I told him, denying them. Then he desired of the Princess
proof of what she alleged against Vasquez, and she had no difficulty
in satisfying him. He seemed to believe our assurance that all was
lies. Yet he did not move to punish Vasquez. But then I knew that
sluggishness was his great characteristic. "Time and I are one," he
would say when I pressed on matters.
After that it was open war in the Council between me and Vasquez.
The climax came when I was at the Escurial. I had sent a servant
to Vasquez for certain State papers to be submitted to the King.
He brought them, and folded in them a fiercely denunciatory letter
full of insults and injuries, not the least of which was the
imputation that my blood was not clean, my caste not good.
In a passion I sought Philip, beside myself almost, trembling under
"See, Sire, what this Moorish thief has dared to write me. It
transcends all bearing. Either you take satisfaction for me of
these insults or you permit me to take it for myself."
He appeared to share my indignation, promised to give me leave to
proceed against the man, but bade me first wait a while until
certain business in the competent hands of Vasquez should be
transacted. But weeks grew into months, and nothing was done. We
were in April of '79, a year after the murder, and I was grown so
uneasy, so sensitive to dangers about me, that I dared no longer
visit Anne. And then Philip's confessor, Frey Diego de Chaves, came
to me one day with a request on the King's part that I should make
my peace with Vasquez.
"If he will retract," was my condition. And Chaves went to see my
enemy. What passed between them, what Vasquez may have told him,
what he may have added to those rumours of my relations with Anne,
I do not know. But I know that from that date there was a change
in the King's attitude towards me, a change in the tone of the
letters that he sent me, and, this continuing, I wrote to him at
last releasing him from his promise to afford me satisfaction
against Vasquez, assuring him that since, himself, he could forgive
the injuries against us both, I could easily forgive those I had
received myself, and finally begging his permission to resign my
office and retire.
Anne had contributed to this. She had sent for me, and in tears
had besought me to make my peace with Vasquez since the King desired
it, and this was no time in which to attempt resistance to his
wishes. I remained with her some hours, comforting her, for she was
in the very depths of despair, persuaded that we were both ruined,
and inconsolable in the thought that the blame of this was all her
It may be that I was watched, perhaps more closely than I imagined.
It may be that spies were close about us, set by the jealous Philip,
who desired confirmation or refutation of the things he had been
told, the rumours that were gnawing at his vitals.
I left her, little dreaming that I was never to see her again in this
life. That night I was arrested at my house by the Court alcalde
upon an order from the King. The paltry reason advanced was my
refusal to make my peace with Vasquez, and this when already the King
was in possession of my letter acknowledging my readiness to do so;
for the King was in Madrid, unknown to me. He came, it seems, that
he might be present at another arrest effected that same night. From
the porch of the Church of Santa Maria Mayor, he watched his alguazils
enter the house of the Princess of Eboli, bring her forth, bestow her
in a waiting carriage that was to bear her away to the fortress of
Pinto, to an imprisonment which was later exchanged for exile to
Pastrana lasting as long as life itself.
To sin against a Prince is worse, it seems, than to sin against God
Himself. For God forgives, but princes, wounded in their vanity and
pride, know nothing of forgiveness.
I was kept for four months a prisoner by the alcalde, no charge
being preferred against me. Then, because my health was suffering
grievously from confinement and the anxiety of suspense, I was moved
to my own house, and detained there for another eight months under
close guard. My friends besought the King in vain either to restore
me to liberty or to bring me to trial. He told them the affair was
of a nature very different from anything they deemed, and so evaded
In the summer of 1580, Philip went to Lisbon to take formal
possession of the crown of Portugal, which he had inherited. I sent
my wife to him to intercede for me. But he refused to see her, and
so I was left to continue the victim of his vindictive lethargy.
After a year of this, upon my giving a formal promise to renounce all
hostility towards Vasquez, and never seek to do him harm in any way,
I was accorded some degree of liberty. I was allowed to go out and
to receive visitors, but not to visit any one myself.
Followed a further pause. Vasquez was now a man of power, for my
party had fallen with me, and his own had supplanted it in the royal
councils. It was by his work that at last, in '84, I was brought
to trial upon a charge of corruption and misappropriation. I knew
that my enemies had, meanwhile, become possessed of Enriquez, and
that he was ready to give evidence, that he was making no secret of
his share in the death of Escovedo, and that the King was being
pressed by the Escovedos to bring me to trial upon the charge of
murder. Instead, the other charge alone was preferred.
It was urged against me that I had kept a greater state than any
grandee of Spain, that when I went abroad I did so with a retinue
befitting a prince, that I had sold my favour and accepted bribes
from foreign princes to guard their interests with the King of Spain.
They sentenced me to two years' imprisonment in a fortress, to be
followed by ten years of exile, and I was to make, within nine days,
restitution of some twenty million maravedis* - the alleged extent
of my misappropriations - besides some jewels and furniture which
I had received from the Princess of Eboli, and which I was now
ordered to deliver up to the heirs of the late Prince.
*Ten thousand pounds, but with at least five times the
present purchasing power of that sum.
Perquisitions had been made in my house, and my papers ransacked.
Well I knew what they had sought. For the thought of the letters
that had passed between Philip and myself at the time of Escovedo's
death must now be troubling his peace of mind. I had taken due
precautions when first I had seen the gathering clouds foreshadowing
this change of weather. I had bestowed those papers safely in two
iron-bound chests which had been concealed away against the time
when I might need them to save my neck. And because now he failed
to find what he sought - the evidence of his own share in the deed
and his present base duplicity - Philip dared not slip the leash
from those dogs who would be at my throat for the murder of Escovedo.
That was why he bade them proceed against me only on the lesser
charge of corruption.
I was taken to the fortress of Turruegano, and there they came to
demand of me the surrender of my papers which the alcalde had failed
to discover at my house. I imagined the uneasiness of Philip in
dispatching those emissaries. I almost laughed as I refused. Those
papers were my buckler against worse befalling me than had befallen
already. Even now, if too hard pressed, I might find the opportunity
of breaking my bonds by means of them. I sometimes wonder why I
did not apply myself to that. Yet there is small cause for wonder,
really. From boyhood, almost, King Philip had been my master.
Loyalty to him was a habit that went to the very roots of my being.
I had served him without conscience and without scruple, and the
notion of betraying him, save as a very last and very desperate
resource, was inconceivable. I do not think he ever knew the depth
and breadth of that loyalty of mine.
My refusal led those sons of dogs to attempt to frighten my wife
with threats of unmentionable horrors unless she delivered up the
papers I had secreted. She and our children were threatened with
perpetual imprisonment on bread and water if she persisted in
refusing to surrender them. But she held out against all threats,
and remained firm even under the oily persecution to the same end
of Philip's confessor, Frey Diego. Finally, I was notified that,
in view of her stubbornness and my own, she and our children were
cast into prison, and that there they would remain until I saw fit
to become submissive to the royal will.
It is a subtle form of mental torture that will bid a man
contemplate the suffering for his sake to which those who are dear
to him are being subjected.
I raged and stormed before the officer who brought me this infamous
piece of news. I gave vent to my impotent anger in blasphemous
expressions that were afterwards to be used against me. The officer
was subtly sympathetic.
"I understand your grief, Don Antonio," he said. "Believe me, I
feel for you - so much that I urge you to set an end to the
captivity of those dear ones who are innocent, who are suffering
for your sake."
"And so make an end of myself?" I asked him fiercely.
"Reflection may show that even that is your duty in the
I looked into his smug face, and I was within an ace of striking
him. Then I controlled myself, and my will was snapped.
"Very well," I said. "The papers shall be surrendered. Let my
steward, Diego Martinez, come to me here, and he shall receive my
instructions to deliver the chests containing them to my wife, that
she in turn may deliver them to the King."
He withdrew, well pleased. No doubt he would take great credit to
himself for this. Within three days, such haste did they make, my
faithful steward stood before me in my prison at Turruegano.
You conceive the despair that had overwhelmed me after giving my
consent, the consciousness that it was my life I was surrendering
with those papers, - that without them I should be utterly
defenceless. But in the three days that were sped I had been
thinking, and not quite in vain.
Martinez left me with precise instructions, as a result of which
those two iron-bound chests, locked and sealed, were delivered,
together with the keys, to the royal confessor. Martinez was asked
what they contained.
"I do not know," he answered. "My orders are merely to deliver
I can conceive the King's relief and joy in his conviction that
thus had he drawn my teeth, that betide now what might, I could
never defend or justify myself. The immediate sequel took me by
surprise. We were at the end of '85, and my health was suffering
from my confinement and its privations. And now my captivity was
mitigated. My wife Juana even succeeded in obtaining permission
that I should be taken home to Madrid, and there for fourteen months
I enjoyed a half liberty, and received the visits of my old friends,
among whom were numbered most of the members of the Court.
I imagined at first that since my teeth were drawn the King despised
me, and intended nothing further. But I was soon to be disillusioned
on that score. It began with the arrest of Martinez on a charge of
complicity in the murder of Escovedo. And then one day I was again
arrested, without warning, and carried off for a while to the fortress
of Pinto. Thence I was brought back in close captivity to Madrid,
and there I learnt at last what had been stirring.
In the previous summer King Philip had gone into Aragon to preside
over the Cortes, and Vasquez, who had gone with him, had seized the
opportunity to examine the ensign Enriquez, who had, meanwhile,
denounced himself of complicity in the murder of Escovedo. Enriquez
made a full confession - turned accuser under a promise of full
pardon for himself and charged Mesa, Rubio, and my steward Martinez
with complicity, denouncing Martinez as the ringleader of the
business. The other two, Insausti and Bosque, were already dead.
Immediately Vasquez attempted to seize the survivors. But Mesa had
gone to earth in Aragon, and Rubio was with him. Martinez alone
remained, and him they seized and questioned. He remained as cool
and master of himself as he was true and loyal to me. Their threats
made no impression on him. He maintained that the tale was all a
lie, begotten of spite, that I had been Escovedo's best friend, that
I had been greatly afflicted by his death, and that no man could have
done more than I to discover his real murderers. They confronted
him with Enriquez, and the confrontation no whit disturbed him. He
handled the traitor contemptuously as a perjured, suborned witness,
a false servant, a man who, as he proceeded to show, was a scoundrel
steeped in crime, whose word was utterly worthless, and who, no
doubt, had been bought to bring these charges against his sometime
The situation, thanks to Martinez's stoutness, had reached a
deadlock. Between the assertions of one man, who was revealed to
the judges for a worthless scoundrel, and the denials of the other,
against whom nothing was known, it was impossible for the court of
inquiry to reach any conclusion. At least another witness must be
obtained. And Vasquez laboured with all his might and arts and
wiles to draw Rubio out of Aragon into the clutches of the justice
of Castile. But he laboured in vain, for I had secretly found the
means to instruct my trusty Mesa to retain the fellow where he was.
In this inconclusive state of things the months dragged on and my
captivity continued. I wrote to Philip, imploring his mercy,
complaining of these unjust delays on the part of Vasquez, which
threatened to go on forever, and begging His Majesty to command the
conclusion of the affair. That was in August of '8g. You see how
time had sped. All that came of my appeal was at first an increased
rigour of imprisonment, and then a visit from Vasquez to examine and
question me upon the testimony of Enriquez. As you can imagine, the
attempt to lure me into self-betrayal was completely fruitless. My
enemy withdrew, baffled, to go question my wife, but without any
Nevertheless, Vasquez proclaimed the charge established against
myself and Martinez, and allowed us ten days in which to prepare our
answer. Immediately upon that Don Pedro de Escovedo lodged a formal
indictment against us, and I was put into irons.
To rebut the evidence of one single, tainted witness I produced six
witnesses of high repute, including the Secretary of the Council of
Aragon. They testified for me that I was at Alcala at the time of
Escovedo's death, that I had always been Escovedo's friend, that I
was a good Christian incapable of such a deed, and that Enriquez
as an evil man whose word was worthless, a false witness inspired
Thus, in spite of the ill-will of my judges and the hatred of my
enemies, it was impossible legally to condemn me upon the evidence.
There were documents enough in existence to have proved my part in
the affair; but not one of them dared the King produce, since they
would also show me to have been no more than his instrument. And
so, desiring my death as it was now clear he did, he must sit
impotently brooding there with what patience he could command, like
a gigantic, evil spider into whose web I obstinately refused to
My hopes began to revive. When at last the court announced that it
postponed judgment whilst fresh evidence was sought, there was an
outcry of indignation on all sides. This was a tyrannical abuse of
power, men said; and I joined my voice to theirs to demand that
judgment be pronounced and my liberty restored to me, pointing out
that I had already languished years in captivity without any charge
against me - beyond that of corruption, which had been purged by
now - having been established.
Then at last the King stirred in his diabolical underground manner.
He sent his confessor to me in prison. The friar was mild and benign.
"My poor friend," he said, "why do you allow yourself to suffer in
this fashion, when a word from you can set a term to it? Confess
the deed without fear, since at the same time you can advance a
peremptory reason of State to justify it."
It was too obvious a trap. Did I make confession, indeed, upon such
grounds, they would demand of me proof of what I asserted; and
meanwhile the documents to prove it had been extorted from me and
had passed into the King's possession. In the result I should be
ruined completely as one who, to the crime of murder, added a wicked,
insidious falsehood touching the honour of his King.
But I said naught of this. I met guile with guile. "Alas! I have
been tempted," I answered him. "But I thank Heaven I have known even
in my extremity how to resist the temptation of such disloyalty. I
cannot forget, Brother Diego, that amongst the letters from the King
was one that said, 'Be not troubled by anything your enemies may do
against you. I shall not abandon you, and be sure their animosity
cannot prevail. But you must understand that it must not be
discovered that this death took place by my order."'
"But if the King were to release you from that command?" he asked.
"When His Majesty in his goodness and generosity sends me a note
in his own hand to say, 'You may confess that it was by my express
order that you contrived the death of Escovedo,' then I shall
thankfully account myself absolved from the silence his service
imposes on me."
He looked at me narrowly. He may have suspected that I saw through
the transparent device to ruin me, and that in a sense I mocked him
with my answer.
He withdrew, and for some days nothing further happened. Then the
rigours of my captivity were still further increased. I was allowed
to communicate with no one, and even the alguazil who guarded me was
forbidden, under pain of death, to speak to me.
And in January I was visited by Vasquez, who brought me a letter
from the King, not, indeed, addressed to me and in the terms I had
suggested, but to Vasquez himself, and it ran:
You may tell Antonio Perez from me, and, if necessary, show him this
letter, that he is aware of my knowledge of having ordered him to
put Escovedo to death and of the motives which he told me existed
for this measure; and that as it imports for the satisfaction of my
conscience that it be ascertained whether or not those motives were
sufficient, I order him to state them in the fullest detail, and to
advance proof of what he then alleged to me, which is not unknown
to yourself, since I have clearly imparted it to you. When I shall
have seen his answers, and the reasons he advances, I shall give
order that such measures be taken as may befit.
I, THE KING
You see what a twist he had given to the facts. It was I who had
urged the death of Escovedo; it was I who had advanced reasons which
he had considered sufficient, trusting to my word; and it was
because of this he had consented to give the order. Let me confess
so much, let me prove it, and prove, too, that the motives I had
advanced were sound ones, or I must be destroyed. That was all
clear. And that false king held fast the two trunks of papers that
would have given the lie to this atrocious note of his, that would
have proved that again and again I had shielded Escovedo from the
death his king designed for him.
I looked into the face of my enemy, and there was a twisted smile
on my lips.
"What fresh trap is this?" I asked him. "King Philip never wrote
"You should know his hand. Look closer," he bade me harshly.
"I know his hand - none better. But I claim, too, to know something
of his heart. And I know that it is not the heart of a perjured
liar such as penned those lines."
That was as near as a man dared to go in expressing his true opinion
of a prince.
"For the rest," I said, "I do not understand it. I know nothing of
the death of Escovedo. I have nothing to add to what already I have
said in open court unless it be to protest against you, who are a
passionate, hostile judge."
Six times in the month that followed did Vasquez come to me,
accompanied now by a notary, to press me to confess. At last, seeing
that no persuasions could bend my obstinacy, they resorted to other
"You will drive us to use the torture upon you so that we may loosen
your tongue!" snarled Vasquez fiercely, enraged by my obduracy.
I laughed at the threat. I was a noble of Spain, by birth immune
from torture. They dared not violate the law. But they did dare.
There was no law, human or divine, the King was not prepared to
violate so that he might slake his vengeance upon the man who had
dared to love where he had loved.
They delivered me naked into the hands of the executioner, and I
underwent the question at the rope. They warned me that if I lost
my life or the use of any of my limbs, it would be solely by my own
fault. I advanced my nobility and the state of my health as
all-sufficient reasons why the torture should not be applied to me,
reminding them that for eleven years already I had suffered
persecution and detention, so that my vigour was all gone.
For the last time they summoned me to answer as the King desired.
And then, since I still refused, the executioner was recalled, he
crossed my arms upon my breast, bound them securely, thrust a long
rod beneath the cord, and, seizing one end of this in either hand,
gave the first turn.
I screamed. I could not help it, enfeebled as I was. But my spirit
being stouter than my flesh, I still refused to answer. Not indeed,
until they had given the rope eight turns, not until it had sliced
through my muscles and crushed the bone of one of my arms, so that
to this day it remains of little use to me, did they conquer me. I
had reached the limit of endurance.
"In Christ's name, release me!" I gasped. "I will say anything you
Released at last, half swooning, smothered in blood, agonized by
pain, I confessed that it was myself had procured the death of
Escovedo for reasons of State and acting upon the orders of the King.
The notary made haste to write down my words, and, when I had done,
it was demanded of me that I should advance proof of the State
reasons which I had alleged.
Oh, I had never been under any delusion on that score, as I have
shown you. The demand did not take me by surprise at all. I was
waiting for it, knowing that my answer to it would pronounce my
doom. But I delivered it none the less.
"My papers have been taken from me, and without them I can prove
nothing. With them I could prove my words abundantly."
They left me then. On the morrow, as I afterwards learnt, they read
my confession to my devoted Martinez, and the poor fellow, who
hitherto had remained staunch and silent under every test, seeing
that there was no further purpose to be served by silence, gave
them the confirmation they desired of Enriquez's accusation.
Meanwhile, I was very ill, in a raging fever as you may well conceive,
and in answer to my prayer my own doctor was permitted to visit me
in prison. He announced that he found my case extremely grave, and
that I must perish unless I were relieved. As a consequence, and
considering my weakness and the uselessness just then of both my arms,
one of which was broken, first a page of my own, then other servants,
and lastly my wife were allowed to come and tend me.
That was at the end of February. By the middle of April my wounds
had healed, I had recovered the use of my limbs, though one remains
half maimed for life, and my condition had undergone a very
considerable improvement. But of this I allowed no sign to show,
no suspicion even. I continued to lie there day after day in a
state of complete collapse, so that whilst I was quickly gathering
strength it was believed by my gaolers that I was steadily sinking,
and that I should soon be dead.
My only hope, you see, lay now in evasion, and it was for this that
I was thus craftily preparing. Once out of Castile I could deal
with Philip, and he should not find me as impotent, as toothless as
he believed. But I go too fast.
One night at last, on April 20th, by when all measures had been
concerted, and Gil de Mesa awaited me outside with horses - the
whole having been contrived by my dear wife - I made the attempt.
My apparent condition had naturally led to carelessness in guarding
me. Who would guard a helpless, dying man? Soon after dark I rose,
donned over my own clothes a petticoat and a hooded cloak belonging
to my wife, and thus mufed walked out of my cell, past the guards,
and so out of the prison unchallenged. I joined Gil de Mesa,
discarded my feminine disguise, mounted and set out with him upon
that ninety-mile journey into Aragon.
We reached Saragossa in safety, and there my first act was to
surrender myself to the Grand Justiciary of Aragon to stand my trial
for the murder of Escovedo with which I was charged.
It must have sent a shudder through the wicked Philip when he
received news of that. A very stricken man he must have been, for
he must have suspected something of the truth, that if I dared,
after all the evidence amassed now against me, including my own
confession under torture, openly to seek a judgment, it was because
I must possess some unsuspected means of establishing all the truth
- the truth that must make his own name stink in the nostrils of
the world. And so it was. Have you supposed that Antonio Perez,
who had spent his life in studying the underground methods of
burrowing statecraft, had allowed himself to be taken quite so
easily in their snare? Have you imagined that when I sent for Diego
Martinez to come to me at Turruegano and instructed him touching
the surrender of those two chests of documents, that I did not also
instruct him carefully touching the abstraction in the first
instance of a few serviceable papers and the renewal of the seals
that should conceal the fact that he had tampered with the chests?
If you have thought that, you have done me less than justice. There
had been so much correspondence between Philip and myself, so many
notes had passed touching the death of Escovedo, and there was that
habit of Philip's of writing his replies in marginal notes to my
own letters and so returning them, that it was unthinkable he should
have kept them all in his memory, and the abstraction of three or
four could not conceivably be detected by him.
Ever since then those few letters, of a most deeply incriminating
character, selected with great acumen by my steward, had secretly
remained in the possession of my wife. Yet I had not dared produce
them in Castile, knowing that I should instantly have been deprived
of them, and with them of my last hope. They remained concealed
against precisely such a time as this, when, beyond the immediate
reach of Philip's justice, I should startle the world and clear my
own character by their production.
You know the ancient privileges enjoyed by Aragon, privileges of
which the Aragonese are so jealous that a King of Castile may not
assume the title of King of Aragon until, bareheaded, he shall have
received from the Grand Justiciary of Aragon the following
admonition: "We, who are of equal worth and greater power than you,
constitute you our king on the condition that you respect our
privileges, and not otherwise." And to that the king must solemnly
bind himself by oath, whose violation would raise in revolt against
him the very cobbles of the streets. No king of Spain had ever yet
been found to dare violate the constitution and the fueros of
Aragon, the independence of their cortes, or parliament, composed
of the four orders of the State. The Grand Justiciary's Court was
superior to any royally constituted tribunal in the kingdom; to that
court it was the privilege of any man to appeal for justice in any
cause; and there justice was measured out with a stern impartiality
that had not its like in any other State of Europe.