Souls of Purgatory
Souls of Purgatory
Adapted from the translation of Emily Mary Waller and Louise Paul found in The Novels, Tales and Letters of Prosper Mérimée. New York: Frank S. Holby, 1905. For educational use only.
Cicero has said somewhere, I think it is in his treatise, “On the Nature of the Gods,” that there were many Jupiters–a Jupiter in Crete, another at Olympus, another somewhere else; so that in all Greece there was not a city of any importance whatever that did not possess a Jupiter of her own. From all these a single Jupiter has arisen, and to him have been attributed all the adventures of his namesakes. It is this fact which accounts for the prodigious number of exploits imputed to this god.
The same confusion has obtained concerning Don Juan, a personage whose celebrity approaches closely to that of Jupiter. Seville alone claimed several Don Juans, and many another city had hers. In the beginning, each had his distinct legend, but in one course of time all became merged into one.
Upon close examination, however, it is not difficult to assign to each his own share in the mythical story, or, at least, to distinguish two of these heroes, to wit: Don Juan Tenorio, who, as every one knows, was carried away by a marble statue; and Don Juan de Maraña, whose end was quite different.
The stories told of the lives of both men are very nearly the same; it is the conclusion alone that distinguishes them. There is an ending to suit every taste, like the productions of Ducis, which conclude happily or otherwise, according to the sensitiveness of the reader.
As to the truth of this story, or rather of these two stories, there is no question, and the local patriotism of the Sevillians would be deeply offended were we to doubt the existence of these scapegraces, who have cast suspicion upon the genealogy of their most aristocratic families. The home of Don Juan Tenorio is still pointed out to strangers, and no friend of art has ever been to Seville without visiting the Church de la Caridad. There he will have seen the tomb of the Caballero de Maraña, with this inscription, inspired by his humility, or if one prefers, by his pride: Aqui yace el peor hombre que fué en el mundo. After seeing this, how could it be possible to doubt?
It is true that your guide, after conducting you to these two monuments, will go on to tell you how Don Juan (which one, is not known) made extraordinary overtures to Giralda, the bronze statue which surmounts the Moorish tower of the Cathedral; and how Giralda accepted them; and how, mellow with wine, Don Juan was strolling along the left bank of the Guadalquivir and asked a light of a man who was walking on the right bank smoking a cigar; and how the smoker’s arm (for it was no other than the devil himself) became longer and longer until it reached across the river, and presented his cigar to Don Juan, who lighted his own without so much as moving a muscle, and so hardened was he, that he failed to profit by the warning, and . . .
I have endeavoured to give to each of these Don Juans the share which belongs to him in their common career of wickedness and crime. For want of a better way, I have made a studious effort to relate of my hero, Don Juan de Maraña, only such adventures as do not, by right of prescription, belong to Don Juan Tenorio, so familiar to us in the works of Molière and Mozart.
Count Don Carlos de Maraña was one of the richest and most highly respected noblemen of Seville. He was of illustrious birth, and in the war against the Moors he gave proof that he had lost none of the courage of his ancestors. After the Alpuxarres had been reduced to submission, he returned to Seville with a scar upon his brow and a multitude of children captured from the infidels. These he took care to have baptized, after which he sold them at a profit into Christian homes.
His wounds proved no obstacle to his winning the love of a young girl of good family, who gave him the preference over many other suitors. Of this marriage several daughters were born, some of whom married in the course of time, and the others took the vocation of religion. Don Carlos de Maraña was beginning to despair of ever having an heir, when the birth of a son overwhelmed him with joy and revived his hope that the old estate would not revert to a collateral branch of the family.
Don Juan, this son so fondly desired, and the hero of this true story, was indulged by his parents as the only son and heir to a famous name and an immense fortune should be. While still a child he was almost absolute master of his own actions and in his father’s palace no one would have had the hardiness to contradict him. To be sure, his mother wished him to be pious, as she herself was, and his father desired his son to be brave like himself. The former, by means of petting and sweetmeats, succeeded in having the child learn the litany, the rosary, in fact, all the prayers of the Church, both required and voluntary. She lulled him to sleep at night by reading religious legends. His father, on the other had, taught his son the romances of the Cid and of Bernard del Carpio; he told him of the revolt of the Moors, and encouraged him to practice daily throwing the javelin, shooting the cross-bow or even the arquebus, at a figure dressed as a Moor which he had had made and placed at the end of the garden.
In the oratory of the Countess de Maraña was a picture painted in the heavy, severe style of Moralès, which portrayed the torments of purgatory. Every sort of punishment which the painter had been able to image was depicted with such realism that the torturer of the Inquisition would have found in it nothing to criticise. The souls in purgatory were represented as confined in a monstrous cavern, at the top of which was an opening. Beside this opening stood an angel, grasping the hand of a soul who was leaving this abode of sorrows, while kneeling at one side of the angel was an aged man with a chaplet in his hands, which were clasped together in an attitude of fervent prayer. This man was the donor of the picture, which he had had painted for a church in Huesca. During the revolution, the Moors had set fire to the town; the church was burned, but the picture was miraculously preserved. The Count de Maraña had brought it home with him and had used it to embellish his wife’s oratory. When little Juan entered his mother’s apartment he usually stood a long time in silent contemplation before this picture, which terrified and at the same time fascinated him. There was one man especially from whom he could not turn away, a man at whose entrails a serpent seemed to gnaw, as he hung suspended by hooks caught in his side over a glowing brasier. With beseeching eyes lifted to the opening of the cave, the victim seemed to beg the donor for prayers to rescue him from such an agony of suffering. The Countess never failed to explain to her son that the unfortunate man was enduring this punishment because he had not learned his catechism, or because he had mocked a priest, or had been inattentive in church. The soul, flying away toward Paradise, had belonged to a relative of the Maraña family. He had, no doubt, a few petty offences to expiate, but Count de Maraña had prayed for him, he had paid a great deal of money to the priests to ransom him from fire and torment, so that he had had the satisfaction of sending his relative’s soul to Paradise before he had been in purgatory long enough to become tired of it.
“Nevertheless, Juanito,” added the Countess, “perhaps I shall suffer like that some day, and I shall have to remain in purgatory millions of years unless you remember to have masses said to get me out! How dreadful it would be to leave in torment the mother who has cherished you!” At this the child would weep, and if he had a few coins in his pockets he would hasten to give them to the collector who took care of the money-box for the souls in purgatory.
When he visited his father’s room he saw armour scarred with the indentations of arquebus-balls, a helmet which the Count de Maraña had worn at the siege of Alméria, and which bore the impress of a Mussulman’s axe. Moorish lances and sabres and standards, captured from the infidels, decorated the apartment.
“This cimeter,” said the Count, “I took from the Cadi de Vejer, who struck me with it three times before I took his life. This banner was carried by the rebels from the mountain of Elvire. They had just sacked a Christian village; I hurried thither with twenty knights to meet them. Four times I tried to penetrate their battalion in order to capture that standard; four times I was driven back. The fifth time I made the sign of the cross. I cried, ‘Saint James!’ and plunged into the ranks of the pagans. And do you see this golden cup which I have here with my armour? A Moorish alfaqui had stolen it from a church in which he had been guilty of a thousand sacrileges. His horses had eaten their barley on the altar, and his soldiers had scattered the bones of the saints. The alfaqui was drinking sherbet from this cup, and I surprised him in his tent just as he was carrying the sacred vessel to his lips. Before he could swallow the drink or had time to say, ‘Allah!’ with this good sword I cut off the shaven head of the dog, and the blade sank through to the teeth. In recognition of this act of righteous vengeance the King permitted me to bear a golden cup with my armour. I tell you these, Juanito, that you may relate it to your children, so that they may know why your coat of arms is not exactly like your grandfather’s, which you see there painted beneath his portrait.”
Divided between war and religion, the child passed his time in making little crosses carved from laths, or else, armed with a wooden sword, he waged war in the garden against the pumpkins, the form of which, in his opinion, bore a strong resemblance to the heads of Moors draped in their turbans.
By the time he was eighteen, Don Juan could translate Latin only tolerably well, he could assist the priest at mass very intelligently, and he handled the rapier and the sword better than the Cid himself had done. His father, thinking that a gentleman of the house of Maraña should acquire other accomplishments than these, decided to send him to Salamanca. The preparations for the journey were soon made. His mother gave him numerous rosaries, scapulars, and medals which had been blessed by the Pope. She also taught him many prayers, which would be of special efficacy in a multitude of life’s vicissitudes. His father presented him with a sword, whose hilt of damascened silver was ornamented with the family coat of arms. He said to him:
“Hitherto you have associated only with children; you are now going to live among men. Remember that the most precious possession of a gentleman is his honour; and your honour is the honour of the house of Maraña. Perish the last scion of our family rather than let a blemish stain our honour! Take this sword; if you are attacked it will defend you. Never be the first to draw it, but remember that no ancestor of yours ever returned his sword to the scabbard until he had conquered and was avenged.”
Thus fortified with arms both spiritual and temporal, the descendant of the house of Maraña mounted his horse and left the home of his fathers.
The University of Salamanca was at that time at the zenith of its glory. Never had its students been more numerous, never its professors more erudite; but never also had the citizens been made to suffer so much from the insolence of the unruly youth who lived, or rather who reigned in their city. Serenades, charivaris, every sort of nocturnal revelry–these were everyday occurrences, the monotony of which was relieved from time to time by an abduction of women or young girls, by a robbery or an assault and battery.
When he first arrived in Salamanca, Don Juan spent a few days presenting letters of introduction to his father’s friends, calling to see his professors, visiting the churches, and examining the sacred relics which they contained. In obedience to his father’s wish, he deposited with one of the professors a considerable sum of money to be distributed among the needy students. This act of liberality had a tremendous success and won him immediately a host of friends.
Don Juan was ambitious to acquire learning. He determined to hear every word that fell from the lips of his professors, as he would listen to the inspired Gospel; and he desired to sit as near the desk as possible so that not a syllable might escape him. Entering the class-room for the first time he observed, as close to the professor as he could wish, a vacant seat, which he took. A dirty, unkempt student, clad in rags, like so many in the universities, raised his eyes from his book for a moment and stared at Don Juan with an expression of stupefied amazement.
“Are you going to take that seat?” said he, and his voice expressed something akin to terror. “Are you aware that Don Garcia Navarro usually sits there?”
Don Juan replied that he had always heard that the seats were free to the first occupant, and finding this one vacant he supposed he might take it unless Señor Don Garcia had asked his neighbour to reserve it for him.
“You are a stranger here, I can see that,” said the student, “and you must have arrived very recently, since you do not know Don Garcia. I will tell you, then, that he is one of the most–”
Here the student lowered his voice as if he were afraid of being heard by the other students.
“Don Garcia is a terrible man. Woe to any one who offends him! His patience is short, but his sword is long, and you may be sure if any one sits in a place that Don Garcia has twice occupied, that is sufficient ground for a quarrel, for he is extremely touchy and irritable. When he quarrels he strikes, and when he strikes he kills. Now then, I have warned you and you can do as you please about it.”
Don Juan thought it most extraordinary that this Don Garcia should pretend to reserve the best seats for himself without taking the trouble to merit them by being punctual. At the same time he noticed that several students were staring at him, and he realised that it would be embarrassing to vacate the seat now that he had occupied it. On the other hand, he by no means wished to have a quarrel on his hands so soon after his arrival, and especially with a man so dangerous as this Don Garcia appeared to be. He was in this perplexing attitude, uncertain what to do, and still remaining instinctively where he was, when a student entered the room and came straight toward him.
“Here comes Don Garcia,” said his neighbour.
This Garcia was a strapping, broad-shouldered young fellow, with swarthy complexion, a spirited eye, and a scornful expression of the mouth. He wore a shabby doublet, which once must have been black, and a ragged cloak. Outside of these garments hung a long gold chain. It is well known that from time out of mind the students of Salamanca, and indeed, of all the Spanish universities, have considered it a point of honour to appear in rags and tatters, intending thus to demonstrate probably that genuine worth is able to dispense with the adornments which wealth can give.
Don Garcia approached the place where Don Juan was seated and greeted him with the utmost courtesy.
“Fellow-student,” said he, “you have recently come among us, and yet your name is perfectly familiar to me. Our fathers have been good friends, and, if it is agreeable to you, their sons will be good friends also.”
While speaking in this way, he extended his hand with the greatest cordiality. Don Juan, who was expecting an altogether different reception, met Don Garcia’s politeness with a cordiality equal to his own, and replied that he should feel highly honoured by the friendship of such a gentleman as himself.
“You are not yet familiar with Salamanca,” continued Don Garcia, “and if you will accept me as your guide, I shall be delighted to show you everything there is to see in this place, from the cedar even unto the hyssop.” Then, turning to the student who was seated beside Don Juan: “Come, Périco, get you gone. Do you think a booby like you ought to sit so near the Señor Don Juan de Maraña?”
And with this he pushed him roughly away, and took the seat which the student abandoned without delay.
At the close of the lecture Don Garcia gave his address to his new acquaintance and made him promise to come to see him. Then with a cordial and familiar parting salutation, he left the room, drawing about him gracefully, as he went, his cloak, which was full of holes as a pock-marked face.
Don Juan, carrying his books under his arm, had lingered in one of the corridors of the building to examine the old inscriptions that covered the walls, when he noticed that the student who had just spoken to him was approaching, as if he also wished to look at the inscriptions. After bowing slightly, to show that he recognised him, Don Juan was about to leave, but the student touched him on the sleeve as if to stop him.
“Señor Don Juan,” said he, “if you are not in a hurry, would you be good enough to grant me a moment’s interview?”
“Willingly,” replied Don Juan, and leaning back against a pillar, said: “I am listening.”
Périco looked anxiously on all sides, as if afraid of being seen, and came very close to Don Juan so that he might whisper, a useless precaution, it seemed, for no one but themselves was in the vast Gothic corridor. After a moment’s hesitation:
“Could you tell me, Señor Don Juan,” asked the student in a low and almost trembling voice, “could you tell me if your father really knew Don Garcia Navarro’s father?”
Don Juan gave a start of surprise. “You heard Don Garcia say so but a moment ago.”
“Yes,” replied the student, speaking in a still lower tone, “but have you heard your father say that he was acquainted with Señor Navarro?”
“Yes, of course I have, and he was with him in the war against the Moors.”
“Very well; but have you ever heard that that gentleman had a son?”
“Indeed, I have never paid much attention to what my father may have said about him. But what is the object of these questions? Is not Don Garcia Señor Navarro’s son? Is he a bastard?”
“I swear before Heaven that I said nothing of the kind,” cried the terrified student, peering behind the column against which Don Juan was leaning. “I only meant to ask whether you had heard an extraordinary story that many people tell about this Don Garcia?”
“I have never heard a word of it,” said Don Juan.
“It is said–mark that I only repeat what I have heard–it is said that Don Diego Navarro had a son who, when he was six or seven years old, fell ill of so strange and serious a malady that the physicians did not know what remedies to administer. Then the father, who had no other child, sent rich gifts to many churches, and carried the sick boy to touch the sacred relics, but all in vain. At last one day, in despair, I have been assured–one day while he was looking at a picture of Saint Michel he exclaimed: ‘Since you are unable to cure my son, I’ll see whether the person under your feet has not more power than you.”
“What abominable blasphemy!” cried Don Juan, scandalised to the last degree.
“After a little while the child recovered–and that child was–is Don Garcia!”
“So ever since then Don Garcia has been the devil incarnate,” said Don Garcia himself, shouting with laughter, appearing at this moment from behind a pillar, where he must have overheard the conversation.
“Indeed, Périco,” said he coldly and scornfully to the terror-stricken student, “if you were not such a sneaking coward, I should make you repent your audacity in speaking of me. Señor Don Juan,” he continued, speaking to Maraña, “when you are better acquainted with us, you will not waste your time listening to this gossip. And, see here, to prove that I am not such a devil of a fellow, do me the honour to accompany me at once to Saint Peter’s Church; after we have concluded our devotions there I shall invite you to join me and several of my comrades at a poor dinner.”
At these words he took Don Juan’s arm. The latter, mortified that he had been surprised listening to Périco’s strange story, accepted with alacrity the invitation of his new friend to prove that the scandal he had just heard had made no impression upon him.
After entering the church of Saint Peter, Don Juan and Don Garcia knelt before an altar, around which were gathered an immense crowd of the faithful. Don Juan repeated his prayers in a low tone; and, although he remained a suitable length of time in this pious occupation, he found when he raised his head that his comrade seemed to be still lost in religious ecstasy; his lips were moving softly; he was evidently not half through with his devotions. Somewhat ashamed of having finished so soon, Don Juan began to recite in a whisper all the litanies that he could recall. The litanies despatched, Don Garcia had not budged. Don Juan went mechanically through several minor prayers; then, seeing that his companion had not yet stirred, he thought it would be permissible for him to look round about him a little to pass the time while waiting for the termination of this unending orison. Three women were kneeling upon Turkish rugs immediately attracted his attention. One, judging from her age, her spectacles, and the venerable amplitude of her head-dress, could be no other than the duenna. The other two were young and pretty, and did not bow their eyes so low over their beads that they might not be seen to be large and brilliant. Don Juan found it delightful to look at one especially; more delightful, indeed, than it ought to have been in such a holy place. Forgetting his comrade’s prayers, he nudged him on the arm, and asked in a whisper who was the young lady who carried a chaplet of amber beads.
Don Garcia did not seem at all shocked at the interruption, and replied:
“She is Doña Fausta, her elder sister, daughters of an Auditor of the Court of Castile. I am in love with the elder; see if you can’t fall in love with the younger sister. See,” he added, “they are just rising and are going to leave the church; let us hurry and see them get into their carriage; perhaps the wind will blow their skirts so that we may catch a glimpse of one or two pretty ankles.”
Don Juan was so intoxicated by the beauty of Doña Teresa that he did not notice the coarseness of this language, and following Don Garcia to the church door he watched the two young noblewomen enter their coach and drive away from the church square, whence they turned into one of the most fashionable streets. After disappearing around the corner Don Garcia, jamming his hat on his head sidewise, cried gaily:
“There go two charming girls! Damn me, if the elder isn’t mine before the end of the week! And how about you, have you made any progress with the younger?”
“What! Progress?” answered Don Juan innocently. “Why, this is the first time I ever saw her!”
“A good reason, to be sure!” exclaimed Don Garcia. “How much longer do you suppose I have known Doña Fausta? To-day, however, I sent her a note which she took very kindly.”
“A note? But I did not see you write one!”
“I always carry them with me ready written; so long as no name is attached they will serve for any one. Only be careful not to use compromising allusions to the colour of one’s hair or eyes. So long as you keep to sighs and tears and fears, all of them, brunettes or blondes, young girls or married women, will take them in good part!”
With chatter of this kind Don Garcia and Don Juan reached the house where dinner awaited them. It was a popular resort of the students and the food was more plentiful than elegant and varied. There was no end of highly seasoned stews and salt meats; all kinds of food to excite thirst. There was, besides, an abundance of wines from La Manche and Andalusia. Several students, friends of Don Garcia, were waiting for him to come. They sat down at the table immediately, and for some time no other sounds were heard but the crunching of food and the jingle of the glasses striking against the decanters. After a while the wine having put the diners in a good humour, conversation began became loud and boisterous. The talk was of nothing but duels, love affairs, and student escapades. One told how he had gotten the better of his landlady by moving out the night before the day when his rent was due. Another had ordered from a wine merchant several bottles of valdepenas in the name of one of the most austere professors in the School of Theology; he had been cunning enough to confiscate the bottles, leaving the professor to settle the account if he wished. One had assaulted the watchman; another, by means of a ladder, had made a visit to his mistress, notwithstanding the watchfulness of a jealous lover. Don Juan at first listened in dismay to the recital of all this licentiousness, but by degrees the effect of the wine which he was drinking and the hilarity of the diners disarmed his prudery. He laughed at the stories that were told, and he came to the point even of envying the reputation enjoyed by several for their feats of trickery and swindling. He began to lose sight of the wise principles which he had brought to the university, and to approve of the rule of conduct followed by the students; a simple rule and one easy to obey. It consisted of assuming the right of committing any act of depredation against the philistines; that is to say, all that part of the human species which has not matriculated in the university. The student in the midst of thephilistines is in hostile territory, and he considers himself justified in treating them exactly as the Hebrews treated the Canaanites. The only difficulty is that the Corregidor has, unfortunately, very little respect for the sacred customs of the university, and asks nothing better than an opportunity to maltreat its votaries. It follows, therefore, that they must stand together as brothers; that they must aid one another, and above all that they must keep inviolate the secrets of their fellow-students.
This edifying conversation continued as long as the bottles held out. At last, when they were empty, there was a lamentable confusion of judgment on the part of all the guests and a strong desire to sleep.
The sun still shining high in the heavens, every one went home to enjoy a siesta, but Don Juan accepted the invitation of Don Garcia to rest at his house. No sooner had he through himself on a leather couch than fatigue and the fumes of the wine overcame him and he fell into a deep sleep. For some time his dreams were so fantastic and so hazy that his only sensation was one of vague discomfort, with no idea of any object or fancy that might cause it. Gradually, however, he began to see more clearly in his dream, if it may be expressed thus, and his ideas became coherent. He thought he was in a boat on a great river, broader and wider than he had ever seen the Guadalquivir in winter. This boat was without either sails, oars, or rudder, and the shore on each side was deserted. The boat was tossed here and there by the waves, so that he was ill, and thought himself at the mouth of the Guadalquivir, just at the time when the good-for-nothings of Sevillle, who are taking a trip to Cadiz, feel the first intimation of sea-sickness. Soon he found himself where the river was much calmer, so that he could easily see the two banks and his voice could even be heard at that distance. Then there appeared at the same instant on each shore, two radiant figures, each moving toward him as if to bring him succour. He turned at first to the right bank and saw an old man of solemn and austere countenance, barefooted and without clothes other than a mantle of thorns. He seemed to stretch out his hand to Don Juan. On the left, where he then looked, he saw a woman, tall and of most noble and engaging appearance, holding in her hand a crown of flowers, which she offered to him. At the same time he observed that his boat, though oarless, was guided at his pleasure by the force of his will. He was moving toward the bank where the woman stood, intending to land there, when a cry from the left bank caused him to turn around and sail his boat in that direction. The expression of the old man was even sterner than it was at first. Wherever his body was visible it was seen to be covered with wounds and bruises, livid and angry. In one hand he held a crown of thorns, in the other a whip filled with iron spikes. Don Juan was overcome with terror at this spectacle, and quickly he turned his boat once more toward the right bank of the river. The vision which had charmed him before was still there. Her hair was wafted in the breeze, a supernatural lustre animated her eyes, and instead of the crown she now held in her hand a sword. Don Juan hesitated for a moment before landing his boat, and then, looking more attentively, he saw that the blade of the sword was crimson with blood and that the nymph’s hand also was red. Terrified, he awoke with a start. He opened his eyes and could not repress a cry when he saw two feet from his bed a glittering sword. But no lovely nymph was it that held the sword. Don Garcia was on the point of arousing his friend, and noticing near the bed a sword of curious workmanship, was examining it with the air of a connoisseur. On the blade was this inscription: “Maintain loyalty.” And the hilt, as we have already said, bore the arms, the name, and the device of the house of Maraña.
This is a handsome sword of yours, comrade,” said Don Garcia. “You must be rested by this time. It is now night, let us walk for a little while, and after the good people of the town have gone to their homes, we will go, if it pleases you, and serenade our divinities.”
Don Juan and Don Garcia strolled for some time along the Tormes, staring at the women who came out to get the air or to ogle their lovers. Little by little the promenaders became rarer, then they disappeared altogether.
“Now is the time,” said Don Garcia, “now is the time when the entire city belongs to the students. The philistines would not dare to interrupt us in our innocent recreations. As for the watchman, if, by some accident, we were to have a skirmish with him, I need not tell you that he is a rascal who need not be spared. But if the scoundrels are too many for us and we should have to take to our heels, you need have no anxiety. I know all the by-ways. You need only give yourself the trouble to follow me, and you may be sure that all will go well.”
As he spoke he threw his cloak over his left shoulder in such a away as to conceal the greater part of his face but to leave his right arm free. Don Juan did the same, and both proceeded toward the street in which Doña Fausta and her sister lived. In passing the steps of a church Don Garcia whistled. A page appeared with a guitar, which Don Garcia took and then dismissed the boy.
“I see,” said Don Juan, as they turned into the Calle de Valladolid, “I see that you intend to have me act as a protector to your serenade. You may be certain that I shall conduct myself so as to deserve your approval. I should be disowned by Seville, by my country, if I did not know how to guard a street against intruders.”
“I have no intention of giving your sentinel’s duty to perform,” replied Don Garcia. “I have my own love affair to attend to here, and you have yours also. Let each pursue his own game. Hush! this is the house. You at that window and I at this one, and take care!”
Don Garcia, after tuning his guitar, began in a rather pleasing voice to sing a ballad, which, as usual, was full of tears and sighs and all the rest. I do not know whether or not he was the composer of the song. At the third or fourth stanza the blinds of two windows were softly raised and a low cough was heard. This signified that some one was listening. Musicians, they say, never play when they are begged or when people listen to them. Don Garcia rested his guitar against a pillar, and in a low voice he entered into conversation with one of the women who had heard him sing.
Don Juan, glancing upward, saw at the window immediately above him a woman who seemed to be observing him intently. He had no doubt that it was Doña Fausta’s sister, whom his own inclination and his friend’s choice had granted him as the lady of his thoughts. But he was till timid and inexperienced and he did not know how to begin. Suddenly a handkerchief fluttered out of the window and a low, soft voice cried:
“Ah! Jesús! my handkerchief has fallen out!”
Don Juan hastened to pick it up, placed it on the point of his sword and lifted it to the height of the window. This was an opening. The voice began by thanking him, and then asked if the Señor who had been so very courteous had not been that morning to Saint Peter’s Church. Don Juan replied that he had been there and that he had in consequence lost his peace of mind.
“How is that?”
“Because I saw you there.”
The ice was broken. Don Juan was from Seville and knew by heart all the Moorish romances in which the passionate tongue is so rich. He could not fail to be eloquent. The conversation continued for nearly an hour. Finally Teresa exclaimed that she heard her father coming and must leave the window. The two gallants lingered in the street until they saw appear from behind the curtain two white hands, which threw from the window a spray of jessamine to each of them. When Don Juan fell asleep that night his head was clouded with delicious images. Don Garcia spent the greater part of the night in a tavern.
The next night the sighs and the serenades were repeated, and continued for several successive nights. After refusing a becoming length of time, both ladies consented to give and to accept a lock of hair, an operation which was conducted by means of a cord dropped from the window, which brought back the token given in exchange. Don Garcia, who was not a man to stop at trifles, suggested a ladder or even skeleton keys, but they considered him bold, and his proposition, if not rejected, was at least indefinitely postponed.
For almost a month Don Juan and Don Garcia had billed and cooed to no purpose under their lady-loves’ windows. One very dark night they were on duty as usual, and the conversation had continued for some time to the satisfaction of all concerned, when at the far end of the street appeared, in long cloaks, seven or eight men, half of whom carried musical instruments.
“Merciful Heaven!” exclaimed Teresa, “here is Don Cristoval coming to serenade us. Withdraw at once, for the love of God, or some misfortune will happen.”
“We do not yield so good a place to any man,” cried Don Garcia; and raising his voice: “Señor,” he said to the foremost man, “this place is taken, and besides, these ladies do not care to hear your music; so, if it pleases you, go elsewhere to seek your fate.”
“This is one of those impertinent students pretending to hinder us from passing!” cried Don Cristoval. “I’ll teach him what it costs to make love to my sweethearts!”
At these words he unsheathed his sword. Instantly the swords of two of his companions flashed from the scabbards. Don Garcia, with admirable celerity, flinging his mantle around his arm, drew his sword and cried; “Follow me, students!” But there was not a student in the neighbourhood. The musicians, fearing, doubtless, that their instruments would be broken in the scuffle, took to their heels, calling for the guards as they ran, while the two women at the window invoked all the aid of all the saints of Paradise.
Don Juan, who happened to be under the window nearest Don Cristoval, at first had to defend himself against him. His adversary was skilful, and moreover, in his left hand he had an iron shield which he could use as a parry, while Don Juan had nothing but his word and his mantle. Hard pressed by Don Cristoval, he recalled opportunely a thrust taught him by Señor Uberti, his fencing-master. He let himself drop to the ground, supporting himself by his left hand while with his right hand he slipped his sword under Don Cristoval’s shield and thrust it into his body outside the ribs with such force that the blade was broken after penetrating a hand’s length. Don Cristoval uttered one cry and fell, bathed in his own blood. During this encounter, which consumed less time than it takes to tell it, Don Garcia was defending himself successfully against his two adversaries, who no sooner saw their chief lying on the pavement, than they fled as fast as their legs would carry them.
“We must get out of the way at once,” said Don Garcia. “This is no time to dally. Good-bye, my beauties!”
He lost no time in escaping, dragging after him Don Juan, who was completely bewildered by the deed he had committed. When they had gone about twenty steps Don Garcia stopped to ask his companion what he had done with his sword.
“My sword?” said Don Juan, noticing only at that instant that it was no longer in his hand, “I don’t know–I must have dropped it.”
“Malediction!” cried Don Garcia. “And your name is engraved on the scabbard!”
At this moment men with torches were seen to come from some of the houses in the neighbourhood, and to crowd around the dying man. A company of armed men were walking rapidly from the other direction, evidently a patrol attracted by the outcries of the musicians and by the tumult of the fight.
Pulling his hat over his eyes and throwing his cloak over the lower part of his face to avoid recognition and regardless of the danger, Don Garcia rushed in among the men, hoping to find the sword, which would have undoubtedly identified the murderer. Don Juan saw him strike right and left, putting out the lights and overturning all who happened to be in his path. He reappeared soon, running as fast as he could, and holding a sword in each hand, the entire patrol pursuing him.
“Ah! Don Garcia,” exclaimed Don Juan, taking the sword held out to him, “how can I ever thank you!”
“Let us fly, fly!” cried Don Garcia. “Follow me, and if one of those rascals presses you too closely stick him as you did the other one just now.”
Both then started to run with all the speed imparted by their physical vigour, augmented by fear of the corregidor, an officer who was much more formidable to the students than to thieves.
Don Garcia, who knew Salamanca as well as he knew his Deus det, was remarkably skilful in rushing around the street corners and in dashing through the narrow alleys, while his companion, inexperienced in such exercise, followed him only with the greatest difficulty. Breath was beginning to fail them when, at the end of a street, they met a number of students out for a walk, singing and playing on the guitar as they strolled along. No sooner did the latter realise that two of their fellow-students were pursued than they seized rocks, cudgels, and every sort of available weapon. The constables, breathless from their chase, did not consider themselves in proper condition to force a skirmish. Prudently they went their own way, while the two culprits entered a church near by for a few moments’ rest and protection.
At the threshold Don Juan stopped to return his sword to the scabbard, considering it neither seemly nor Christian to enter the house of God with a weapon in hand. But the sheath resisted, the blade could scarcely be pushed into it, and he then discovered that the sword which he held in his hand was not his. Don Garcia, in his haste, had snatched the first sword which he had found on the ground, and it had belonged to the dead man, or to one of his associates. The situation was serious. Don Juan told his companion whom he had come to regard as his counsellor. Don Garcia frowned, bit his lips, and twisted the edge of his hat as he walked up and down, while Don Juan, wholly stunned by the vexatious discovery he had just made, was overcome with anxiety no less than remorse. After spending a quarter of an hour in reflection, during which Don Garcia had the good grace not to say once: “Why did you let your sword fall?” he took Don Juan by the arm and said:
“Come along. I have it.”
Just at this instant a priest was leaving the vestry-room on his way toward the street. Don Garcia stopped him.
“Have I not the honour of speaking to the learned Doctor Gomez?” he said with a profound bow.
“I am not yet a doctor,” replied the priest, evidently flattered by the mistake. “I am Manuel Tordoya, at your service.”
“Father,” Don Garcia continued, “you are precisely the person to whom I wished to speak; it is about a case of conscience, and if rumour has not deceived me, you are the author of the famous treatise, De casibus conscientae, which has made just a stir in Madrid?”
The priest, yielding to the sin of vanity, stammered that he was not the author of the book mentioned (which, truth to tell, had never been written), but that he was deeply interested in such matters. Don Garcia, who had his own reasons for not caring to listen to the priest, went on thus:
“This, Father, in a word, is the matter about which I desired to consult you. This very day, less than an hour ago, a friend of mine was accosted on the street by a man, who said to him: ‘Caballero, I am about to fight a duel a few steps from here, and my opponent’s sword is longer than my own. Will you have the kindness to lend me yours, so that the weapons may be equally matched?’ My friend exchanged swords with him. He waited for a while at the street corner until the duel should be over; then no longer hearing the clashing of swords, he drew near, and what did he see? A man lying dead, run through by the very sword he had just lent. Since then he has not known a moment’s peace; he reproaches himself for his act of kindness, and fears he has been guilty of a mortal sin. I have endeavoured to reassure him. I believe the sin is pardonable, for the reason that if he had refused to lend his sword he would have been responsible for a duel between two men with unmatched weapons. What do you think about it, Father? Are you not of my opinion?”
The priest, who was a student of casuistry, pricked up his ears at this story, and for some time he rubbed his forehead like a man who tries to recall a quotation. Don Juan had no idea what Don Garcia was driving at, but he kept silent for fear of committing an awkward blunder.
“Father,” continued Don Garcia, “the question must be very difficult to decide since so learned a man as you hesitates to settle it. With your permission we will return to-morrow to learn your opinion. In the meantime may I beg that you will have the goodness to say a few masses for the soul of the dead man?”
With these words, he placed two or three ducats in the priest’s hand, which put the finishing touch on his favourable inclination toward these young men, who were so devout, so conscientious, and above all, so generous. He assured them that the following day, in the same place, he would deliver his opinion in writing. Don Garcia was lavish in thanking him; then he added unconcernedly, as if it were a matter of small importance: “Provided the law does not hold us responsible for the man’s death! We shall rely on you to reconcile us with God.”
“As to the law,” said the priest, “you have nothing to fear from that source. Having merely lent his sword, your friend can not be held legally as an accomplice.”
“Yes, Father, but the murderer escaped. They will examine the wound, perhaps they will find the blood-stained sword. How can I tell? Lawyers are dreadful people, they say.”
“But,” said the priest, “you were an eyewitness, were you not, that the sword was borrowed?”
“Certainly,” replied Don Garcia, “I would swear to it before every court in the kingdom. Moreover,” he continued, in his most insinuating tone, “You, Father, would be there to testify to the truth. Long before the affair became known, we applied to you to seek spiritual counsel. You could even bear witness to the exchange. Here is the proof of it.” He then took the sword from Don Juan.
“Just look at this sword,” said he, “see how it looks in this scabbard!”
The priest nodded his head as if convinced of the truth of the story he had just heard. In silence, he weighed the ducats which he held in his hand, and he found them an unanswerable argument in favour of the two young men.
“Yet, after all, Father,” said Don Garcia piously, “what matters the law to us? It is rather with heaven that we wish to be reconciled.”
“Good-bye, my children, until to-morrow,” said the priest, withdrawing.
“Until to-morrow,” replied Don Garcia; “we kiss your hands and rely upon you.”
After the priest had gone Don Garcia jumped for joy.
“Hurrah for simony!” he cried. “We are all right now, I hope. If the law becomes uneasy about you, this good Father, in consideration of the ducats he has already received, and those he hopes still to extract from us, is ready to certify that we are as ignorant of the death of the caballero, whom you have just despatched, as a new-born babe. Go home now, be on the lookout constantly, and open your door only for good reasons. I am going about town to hear what I can.”
When Don Juan reached his room he threw himself on the bed, dressed just as he was. He passed a sleepless night, thinking of nothing but the murder he had just committed, and especially of its consequences. Every time he heard footsteps in the street he thought it was the officers coming to arrest him. However, overcome with fatigue, and with brain still dull from the effects of the students’ dinner, he fell asleep just as the sun was rising.
He had slept several hours, when he was awakened by his servant, who told him that a lady, closely veiled, wished to see him. Even while he was speaking a woman entered the room. She was enveloped from head to foot in a long black cloak which left visibly only one eye. This eye she turned toward the servant, then toward Don Juan, in mute petition that she might speak to him alone. The servant at once left the room. The lady sat down, with her whole attention fixed on Don Juan. After a moment’s hesitation, she began as follows:
“Señor Caballero, my conduct is, no doubt, surprising, and you must have a very poor opinion of me, but if my object in coming here were known, I am sure I would not be blamed. Last night you fought with a señor of this city . . .”
“I, Madam!” cried Don Juan, turning pale; “I did not leave this room–”
“It is useless to attempt to deceive me, and I shall have to set you an example in candour.” With this she threw off her cloak, and Don Juan recognised Doña Teresa.
“Señor Don Juan,” she continued, with a blush, “I must acknowledge that your courage has excited my deepest interest in you. Notwithstanding my own agitation, I noticed that you had broken your sword, and that you had dropped it very near our door. While they were busily occupied with the wounded man, I hurried out and picked up the hilt of the sword. When I examined it and read your name I realised the danger to which you would be exposed if it were to fall into the hands of your enemies. Here it is. I am very happy to be able to return it to you.”
Instinctively Don Juan threw himself at her feet, saying that he owed her his life, but that it was a useless gift, since she would make him die of love. Doña Teresa was in great haste and must depart at once. Nevertheless, she listened with such pleasure to the appeals of Don Juan, that she could not make up her mind to leave. Nearly an hour passed thus, with vows of eternal love, kisses showered upon her hand, entreaties on the one side and refusal on the other. Don Garcia, entering the room suddenly, interrupted the tte-ˆ-tte. He was not the sort of man to be easily shocked. His first care was to reassure Teresa. He praised her courage and her presence of mind, and ended by begging her to intercede with his sister in order to obtain for him a more favourable reception. Doña Teresa promised to do what she could. She wrapped herself hermetically in her cloak and departed with the assurance that she and her sister would be found that evening on a certain part of the promenade.
“All is well,” said Don Garcia, as soon as the two young men were alone. “No one suspects you. The magistrate at first honoured me with his suspicions. He was confident, he said, that I was the man who killed Don Cristoval. What do you suppose made him change his mind? He was informed that I had been with you the whole night; and you, my dear, have such a reputation for sanctity, that you have enough to spare for others too. However that may be, we are not suspected. The stratagem of that brave little Teresa assures our safety for the future, so let us think no more of the affair, and consider only the question of amusing ourselves.”
“Ah! Garcia,” exclaimed Don Juan sadly, “it is a dreadful thing to kill a fellow-man!”
“There is something still more dreadful,” responded Don Garcia, “and that is that one of our fellow-men should kill us, and a third thing, which is even more dreadful than the other two, is to spend a day without any dinner. This is the reason I invite you to dine to-day with several jolly fellows, who will be delighted to see you.”
With these words he left the room.
Love was already making powerful attacks upon our hero’s remorse, and vanity completed its extinction. The students with whom he dined at Garcia’s room had learned through that worthy the actual murderer of Don Cristoval. This Cristoval was a cavalier, famous for his courage and his duplicity, and feared by the students; hence his death only excited their good-humour, and his successful opponent was overwhelmed with compliments. In their toasts he was the honour, the choicest flower, the right arm of the university. His health was drunk with enthusiasm, and a student of Murcie composed a sonnet in his praise, in which he was compared to the Cid, and to Bernard del Carpio. When he rose from the table, Don Juan’s heart was still a little heavy in his bosom, but if he had had the power to bring Don Cristoval to life again, it is extremely doubtful whether he would have done it, for fear of losing the importance and the renown which the death of this man had won for him throughout all the university.
When evening came both parties were prompt at the rendezvous, which took place on the bank of the Tormes. Doña Teresa held Don Juan’s hand (it was not yet customary for a woman to take a man’s arm), and Doña Fausta Don Garcia’s. After several turns up and down the promenade, the two couples separated, well satisfied, and with mutual promises to meet as often as possible.
After parting from the two sisters they came upon several gipsy girls dancing and playing the tambourine, the centre of a group of students. They joined the crowd. Don Garcia was taken with the dancers, and he decided to invite them to supper. The proposition was immediately made and accepted without hesitation. In his character of fidus Achates, Don Juan made one of the party. Piqued because a girl said that he acted like a monk, he set about doing all that he could to prove this title a misnomer; he swore, he danced, he gambled and drank as much as any two second-year students could have done.
His companions had considerable difficulty in taking him home after midnight, for he was in such a state of tipsiness and madness that he wanted to set fire to Salamanca, and then to drink all the water of the Tormes, to prevent the fire from being extinguished.
Thus, one after another, Don Juan lost all the admirable qualities with which he was endowed by nature and by training. After living in Salamanca three months, under the tutelage of Don Garcia, he had succeeded in seducing poor Teresa, and his comrade had been equally successful with her sister, eight or ten days earlier. Don Juan at first loved his mistress with all the ardour that a boy of his age is capable of feeling toward the first woman who accepts his advances; but Don Garcia had little difficulty in demonstrating that constancy was a chimerical virtue; moreover, that if he conducted himself differently from his comrades in their university orgies, Teresa’s reputation would suffer. For, said he, only a violent passion and one that is requited is contented with one woman. Not only this, but the evil associations into which Don Juan had fallen, left him not a moment of quiet. He seldom appeared in the class-room, or, when he was present, exhausted as he was by midnight revels and by debauchery, he dozed through the lectures of the most brilliant professors. On the other hand, he was always the first to reach and the last to leave the promenade; and the nights that Teresa was unable to devote to him were spent regularly at the tavern, or at worse places.
One morning he had received a note from his lady expressing her regret not to be able to keep an appointment for that night. An aged relative had just arrived, and Teresa’s bed-chamber had been given her. She herself, meanwhile, would share her mother’s room. Don Juan felt little disappointment, for he had other ways to spend his evening. Just as he was starting out, absorbed in his plans, a veiled woman brought him a note; it was from Teresa. She had succeeded in having another room for herself, and everything was arranged with her sister for a rendezvous. Don Juan showed the note to Don Garcia; for some time they hesitated; finally, from force of habit, mechanically they climbed up to their mistresses’ balcony, and visited them.
Doña Teresa had on her neck a mole, which was somewhat conspicuous. Don Juan had considered it a great privilege the first time he had received permission to look at it. For some time he continued to regard it as the most fascinating thing in the world. He compared it sometimes to a violet. Sometimes to an anemone, and again to an alfalfa blossom. But before long, this mole, which was really very pretty, ceased, by satiety, to appear so to him. “It is a big, black spot, that is all,” he said to himself, with a sigh. “What a pity that it should be there. By Jove, but it looks like the birthmark of a pig!” One day he even asked Teresa if she had never consulted a physician as to some means of removing it. Blushing to the roots of her hair, the poor girl replied that no man except himself had ever seen the mole, and besides, her nurse had always told her that it was a sign of good luck.
On the evening in question Don Juan, who had come to Teresa in a bad humour, again saw the mole, which looked larger than ever before. “The devil,” he said to himself, looking at it, “it is the image of a big rat. Indeed, it is a deformity. It is a sign of condemnation as was the mark of Cain. The devil must have influenced me to make such a woman my mistress.” He was as disagreeable as possible. He quarrelled without cause with poor Teresa, made her weep, and just before dawn left her without a kiss. Don Garcia, who accompanied him, walked some distance in silence; then, stopping short:
“Now, own up, Don Juan,” said he, “that this night has been a great bore. So far as I am concerned, I have had enough of it, and I have a great mind to send the dear creature to the devil, once for all!”
“You are wholly wrong,” said Don Juan; “Fausta is charming, fair as a swan, and she is always in good-humour, and then, how she loves you! I tell you, you are a lucky fellow.”
“Fair, to be sure. I grant you that she is fair. Why, she has no colour at all, and beside her sister, she looks like an owl near a dove. It is you who are lucky.”
“Ah, so, so,” responded Don Juan; “the little thing is nice enough, but she is such a child. It is impossible to talk sensibly with her. Her head is crammed with chivalric romances, and she has the most extraordinary ideas about love. You can not imagine how unreasonable she is.”
“The trouble, Don Juan, is that you are too young and do not know how to treat your mistresses. A woman, you see, is like a horse; if you allow her to form bad habits, or if you do not let her understand that you will not put up with her whims, you will never make anything of her.”
“Tell me, Don Garcia, do you treat your mistresses as you do your horses? Do you often use the whip to cure them of their caprices?”
“Not often; but I am too kind-hearted. Look here, Don Juan, if you’ll let me have your Teresa, I’ll promise that at the end of two weeks she will be as yielding as a glove. I offer you Fausta in exchange. Do you want anything to boot?”
“The trade would suit me admirably,” said Don Juan, smiling, “if the ladies themselves would agree to it. But Doña Fausta would never consent to give you up. She would lose too much in the exchange.”
“You are too modest. But take courage. I made her so angry last night that the first comer would now seem like an angel of light to a soul that is damned. Do you know, Don Juan,” continued Don Garcia, “that I am speaking seriously?”
Don Juan laughed more than ever at the earnest manner in which his friend gave out these extravagant ideas.
This edifying conversation was interrupted by the arrival of several students, who turned their thoughts in another channel. But in the evening, when the two friends were seated before a bottle of Montilla and a little basket of Valencian acorns, Don Garcia began again to find fault with his mistress. He had just received a letter from Fausta, full of expressions of affection and gentle reproaches, through all of which penetrated her merry wit, and her habit of seeing the ridiculous side of things.
“See here,” said Don Garcia, giving the letter to Don Juan, with a deep yawn. “Read this sweet morsel. She wants to see me again to-night! But I’ll be damned if I go.”
Don Juan read the letter, which seemed to him enchanting.
“Indeed,” said he, “if I had a mistress like yours, it would be my whole aim to make her happy.”
“Take her then, my dear,” cried Don Garcia, “take her and cure yourself of the fancy. I resign in your favour. Better still,” he added, as if illumined by a sudden inspiration, “let us play for our mistresses. Here are the cards, we will play ombre. Doña Fausta is my stake; and now you put Doña Teresa on the table.”
Don Juan, laughing to the point of tears at his comrade’s folly, took the cards and shuffled them, and although he gave almost no attention to the game, he won. Don Garcia felt, apparently, no regret at the loss of the game. He asked for writing materials and made out a bill of exchange, drawn on Doña Fausta, whom he ordered to place herself at the disposition of the bearer, exactly as he would have written to his steward to pay ten ducats to one of his creditors.
Don Juan, laughing still, offered to play another game with Don Garcia, but the latter declined.
“If you have any pluck,” said he, “take my cloak and go to the little door that you know. You will find only Fausta there, since Teresa does not expect you. Follow her in, without speaking. Once in her room, she may be surprised for a moment, she may even shed one or two tears; but you need not mind that. You may be sure that she will not dare to make an outcry. Then show her my letter, tell her that I am a horrible villain, a monster of iniquity, anything you will. Say to her that she has at hand an easy means of retaliation, and you may be certain that this retaliation she will accept with alacrity.”
At every word of Garcia, the devil took further possession of Don Juan’s heart, persuading him that what he had until that moment regarded as an aimless joke might be realised in accordance with his own wish. He ceased laughing, and the flush of sensuality mounted on his brow.
“If I were perfectly sure,” said he, “that Fausta would consent to the exchange . . .”
“If she will consent!” cried the libertine. “What a greenhorn you are, to suppose that a woman would hesitate between a six months’ lover and a new one! Depend upon it, you will both thank me to-morrow. I’ll wager you, and all I ask in return is to have your permission to make up to Teresita.”
Then, seeing Don Juan still half undecided, he went on: “Make up your mind, for I do not intend to see Fausta to-night; and if you do not care to go, I shall give this note to big Fabrique, and the prize will be his.”
“Very well! Come what may!” exclaimed Don Juan, seizing the note; and to strengthen his courage he swallowed at one draught a full glass of Montilla.
The appointed time approached. Don Juan, who had still a few remaining scruples, drank one glass after another of wine to stifle them. At last the clock struck. Don Garcia threw his mantle over Don Juan’s shoulders, and went with him to his mistress’s door; then giving the signal, he wished Don Juan good-night, and left him without the slightest pang of remorse for the wicked act he had committed.
The door opened immediately. Doña Fausta had been waiting some time.
“Is it you, Don Garcia?” she asked in a whisper.
“Yes,” responded Don Juan, still lower, his face hidden in the folds of the large cloak. He entered and the door closed. He began to ascend a dark stairway with his guide.
“Take the corner of my mantilla,” she said, “and follow me as quickly as you can.”
A few moments later he found himself in Fausta’s room. It was dimly lighted by a single lamp. Without removing his hat and not yet daring to make himself known, Don Juan remained standing near the door. For some time Doña Fausta looked at him silently, then suddenly came toward him with outstretched arms. Don Juan threw off his cloak, and advanced to meet her.
“What! You! Señor Don Juan?” she cried. “Is Don Garcia ill?”
“Ill? No,” said Don Juan. “But he can not come. He sent me to tell you.”
“Oh! how sorry I am! But, tell me, it is not another woman, is it, that keeps him from coming?”
“You know what a womanizer he is then–?”
“How glad my sister will be to see you! Poor child, she thought you would not come. Allow me to pass, and I will go and tell her.”
“It is useless.”
“There is something peculiar in your manner, Don Juan. You have some bad news to tell me . . . Has any misfortune happened to Don Garcia?”
To be spared the embarrassment of a reply, he handed the poor girl Don Garcia’s infamous letter. She read it hastily without taking in its meaning. Then she read it again, and could not believe her eyes. Don Juan was observing her closely: she wiped away the sweat from her brow; she rubbed her eyes; her lips trembled; a deadly pallor overspread her face, and she was obliged to hold the paper with both hands, else it would have dropped to the floor. At last, with a desperate effort, rising, she cried out:
“Every word is false! It is a horrible forgery! Don Garcia never wrote that!”
Don Juan replied:
“You know his handwriting. He did not appreciate the value of the treasure that was his–and I have accepted it because I adore you.”
The glance she gave him expressed the utmost scorn; then she fixed her attention on the letter like a lawyer who suspects some falsification in a deed. She gazed with eyes staring fixedly at the paper. Now and again a tear escaped from the motionless eyelids and fell upon her cheek.
Suddenly smiling in a senseless way, she cried:
“It is a joke, is it not? It is a joke! Don Garcia is out there and he is coming now!”
“It is not a joke, Doña Fausta. No fact is truer than that I love you. I shall be most miserable if you do not believe me.”
“Wretch!” exclaimed Doña Fausta. “But, if what you say is true, you are even a greater scoundrel than Don Garcia.”
“All is fair in love, beautiful Faustita. Don Garcia has abandoned you; let me console you. I see painted here on this panel Bacchus and Ariadne; let me be your Bacchus.”
Without a word in reply, she seized a knife that lay on the table and lifting it high above her head, advanced toward Don Juan. But he had understood her action, and grasping her wrist, easily disarmed her; then believing himself warranted in punishing her for the way she had opened hostilities, he kissed her several times and tried to force her toward a low couch. Doña Fausta was a slight, delicate woman, but anger gave her strength to resist Don Juan, now by clinging to the furniture, now by defending herself with her hands, feet, and teeth. Don Juan at first received her blows with some amusement, but before long anger was as strong within his soul as love, and he held her forcibly in his grasp, untroubled by any fear of bruising her tender skin. He was now enraged and determined, at any cost, to triumph over his opponent, ready to choke her, if need be, to bring her to submission. Fausta then had recourse to her last expedient. Until then, a feeling of modesty had restrained her from calling for help, but realising that she was about to be overpowered, she made the house ring with her shrieks.
Don Juan then understood that it was no longer a question of mastering his victim, but rather must he think of safety in escape. He made an effort to repulse Fausta, and reach the door, but she clung to his clothes and he could not throw her off. At the same time was heard the ominous sound of opening doors, steps, and men’s voices coming nearer; there was not a minute to lose. He made a final effort to free himself from Doña Fausta’s grasp, but she seized his doublet with such violence that he was whirled around and nothing was gained except that their positions were reversed. Fausta was now next to the door, which opened within. She continued her shrieks. Just then the door opened. A man holding an arquebus appeared on the threshold. He uttered an exclamation of surprise, and immediately a shot was heard. The lamp was extinguished and Don Juan felt Doña Fausta’s hands loosen their hold, and something warm and liquid running over his own hands. She fell, or rather, she glided to the floor; the ball had shattered her spine; instead of killing her betrayer, it had killed her. Discovering that he was free, Don Juan dashed through the smoke of the arquebus to the stairway. He received a blow from the butt of the weapon, and one of the servants inflicted a sword-thrust, but neither injured him seriously. Drawing his sword, he sought to cut a way for himself and to put out the torch which the lackey held, but the latter, intimidated by Don Juan’s boldness, promptly retired to the rear. Don Alfonso de Ojeda, however, was a brave impulsive man, and without a moment’s hesitation threw himself upon Don Juan. The latter parried several thrusts. Doubtless, his first intention was merely to defend himself, but to one accustomed to fencing, a thrust following a parry becomes a mechanical, and almost involuntary, movement. In a few moments Doña Fausta’s father gave a deep sigh and fell, mortally wounded. Finding a free passage, Don Juan darted like an arrow over the stairs, out to the door, and in the twinkling of an eye was in the street, safe from pursuit of the servants, who crowded around their dying master. At the report of the arquebus Doña Teresa, who had hurriedly appeared and had been a witness of this terrible tragedy, fell in a swoon beside her father. As yet, she knew but half of her affliction.
Don Garcia was finishing his last bottle of Montilla, when Don Juan, pale, bespattered with blood, haggard, with doublet torn, and neckband awry, rushed frantically into the room, and grasping for breath, fell into a chair, unable to speak. The other perceived instantly that something serious had taken place.
Waiting until Don Juan had, with an effort, recovered his breath, he asked for details; it took but a few words to put him in possession of the facts. Don Garcia did not easily lose his self-control, and heard, without a tremor, the broken recital of his friend. When he had finished, Don Garcia filled a glass and offering it to him:
“Drink it,” said he, “you need it. This is bad business,” he added, after drinking himself. “To kill a father is a serious matter. . . . There are, however, many precedents, beginning with the Cid. The worst of it is you have no five hundred cousins, clothed in white, to protect you from the constables of Salamanca, and from the relatives of the deceased. But we must concern ourselves, first of all, with something more urgent. . . .”
He strode several times around the room as if to collect his thoughts.
“To remain in Salamanca,” he continued, “after such a scandal would be madness. Don Alfonso de Ojeda was no obscure squire, and besides, the servants must have recognised you. Supposing for a moment that you were not recognised, you have acquired such an enviable reputation at the University that any anonymous crime would certainly be credited to you. So take my word for it, you must go, and the sooner the better. You have already learned three times as much as is needful for a gentleman of good position. So, forsake Minerva and cultivate Mars. You will be more successful in that vocation, for you have a strong propensity for fighting. There is war in Flanders. Let us go there and kill heretics; that’s the most convenient way to purchase absolution for our sins in this world. Amen! I will end this like a sermon.”
The suggestion of Flanders acted like a charm on Don Juan. To leave Spain, he thought, would mean to escape from himself. In the midst of the hardships and dangers of war, he would have no time for remorse!
“To Flanders, to Flanders!” he cried. “Let us go and get killed in Flanders!”
“It is a long way from Salamanca to Brussels,” gravely replied Don Garcia, “and in your dangerous position you can not start too soon. If the corregidor should catch you, you may be certain that you would find it difficult to go on any campaign except on one of His Majesty’s galleys.”
After a little time spent in consultation with his friend, Don Juan promptly removed his student’s costume. He put on an embroidered leather vest, such as the soldiers wore at that time, and a wide-brimmed slouch hat; nor did he forget to fill his belt with as many doubloons as Don Garcia could crowd into it. All these preparations consumed but a few minutes. He began his journey on foot, escaping from the city without recognition, and walking all night and the following morning, until the sun’s heat compelled him to rest. In the first city at which he stopped he purchased a horse, and joining a company of travellers, arrived at Saragossa without interference. There he lingered for a few days under the name of Don Juan Carrasco. Don Garcia, who left Salamanca the day following his friend’s departure, joined him in Saragossa. They did not remain longer than necessary to perform hurried devotions at Notre Dame, but they took time enough to ogle the Aragonian beauties. Providing themselves with two trusty servants, they went on to Barcelona, where they embarked for Civita Vecchia. Weariness of body, sea-sickness, the novelty of the situation, and the buoyancy of spirits natural to Don Juan, all contributed to make him speedily forget the terrible experiences through which he had recently passed. For several months the pleasures which the two friends enjoyed in Italy, made them lose sight of the principal object of their journey; but beginning to run short of funds, they joined a number of fellow-countrymen, who like themselves were brave and out of cash, and set out for Germany.
On arrival in Brussels every one joined the company whose captain he liked best. The two comrades decided to make their first campaign under Captain Don Manuel Gomare, first because he was an Andalusian, and then, because he was said to require of his soldiers only that they be courageous, and keep their arms in good order. He was also a lenient disciplinarian.
Attracted by their fine appearances, Gomare treated them well and just as they would have wished; that is, he sent them out whenever a dangerous enterprise arose. Fortune smiled on them, and on the field where many of their comrades met death, they were not even wounded. Not only that, but they attracted the attention of their superior officers. Each obtained his ensign the same day. From this time, sure of the esteem and friendship of their commanders, they acknowledged their real names and resumed their former course of life, that is to say, they spent their days at the gaming-table or in drinking, and the nights were devoted to serenading the prettiest girls of the town where they happened to be in winter quarters. They had received their parents’ forgiveness, a matter of trifling consequence, and letters of credit on the Antwerp banks. Of these they made good use. Young, rich, brave, and daring, their conquests were numerous and rapid. I shall not stop to recount them; let it suffice the reader to know that they considered it lawful to use any means whatever to win the favour of a pretty woman. Promises and protestations were only part of the game in the opinion of these base sensualists, and if brothers or husbands remonstrated, for answer they had their good swords and hearts that were pitiless.
The war was resumed in the spring.
In a skirmish which resulted disastrously for the Spanish, Captain Gomare was fatally wounded. Don Juan, seeing him fall, hastened to him and called several soldiers to carry him from the field; but the brave captain, summoning his remnant of strength, said:
“Let me die here; for I feel that this is the end. As well die on this spot as a half-mile farther on. Look to your soldiers; they will have all they can do, for I see the Dutch advancing in force. My sons,” he added, addressing the soldiers crowding around him, “gather around your standards and do not be uneasy on my account.”
At this instant, Don Garcia reached his side and asked if he had not some last request which might be fulfilled after his death.
“What the devil do you suppose I should want at such a time?”
He seemed to reflect for a few moments.
“I have never thought much about death,” he went on, “and I had no idea it was so near. . . . I should not be sorry to see a priest. . . . But all the monks are with the baggage-trains. . . . Yet, it is hard to die unshriven.”
“Here is my prayer-book,” said Don Garcia, offering him a flask of wine. “Take courage!”
The eyes of the old solider grew dimmer and dimmer. He did not hear Don Garcia’s just, but the veterans standing over him were shocked.
“Don Juan,” said the dying man, “come close to me, my boy. See here. I am going to make you my heir. Take this purse, it contains everything I possess; it had better be yours than in the hand of one of those heretics. My only request is that you have some masses said for the repose of my soul.”
Don Juan, pressing the hand of the dying man, gave him his promise. At the same time Don Garcia in a low voice observed that there was a great difference of opinions of a man at death’s door and those he professes when seated at a table laden with wine-bottles. Several balls whizzed by their ears. With a hurried farewell to Captain Gomare the soldiers abandoned him to take their places in the ranks, and thenceforth their only thought was to make an orderly retreat. This was accomplished under great disadvantages, with an enemy of superior force at their heels, the road furrowed by the rains, and with soldiers exhausted from a long and tedious march. The Dutch, however, were unable to overtake them and at night abandoned the pursuit without capturing a flag, or taking a single prisoner who had not dropped, wounded, out of the ranks.
When the two friends, with a number of officers, were resting that night in a tent they discussed the engagement in which they had just taken part. The orders of the commanding officer were criticised by some; others thought the result had shown him to be in the right. Then they came to speak of the dead and the wounded. “I shall grieve for Captain Gomare for many a day,” said Don Juan. “He was a brave officer, a good companion, and a veritable father to his men.”
“Yes,” said Don Garcia, “but I confess that I was never so surprised as when I saw him in such distress because there was no black gown beside him. That’s a proof of one thing, and that is, it is a great deal easier to be brave in words than in deeds. Such a man as that scoffs at danger afar off, but grows pale when it comes near. By the way, Don Juan, since you are his heir, suppose you tell us how much there is in the purse he left you?”
Don Juan then opened the purse for the first time and found that it contained about sixty pieces of gold.
“Since we are in funds,” continued Don Garcia, accustomed to regard his friend’s purse as his own, “why should we not have a game of faro instead of sitting her whining about our dead friends?”
The proposition met general approval. Several drums were brought and covered with a cloak. These served as a gaming-table. Don Juan played first, by the advice of Don Garcia; but before dealing the cards he took from his purse ten gold pieces, which he wrapped in his handkerchief, and put in his pocket.
“What the deuce are you doing?” cried Don Garcia. “The idea of a soldier hoarding up money, and on the eve of a battle, too!”
“You know me very well, Don Garcia, that all this money does not belong to me. Don Manuel left me a legacy, sub pœnæ nomine, as we used to say in Salamanca.”
“The devil take the prig,” cried Don Garcia. “Damn me, I believe he means to give those ten crowns to the first priest we meet.”
“And why not? I have promised.”
“Shut up; by the beard of Mahomet, I am ashamed of you; I no longer know you.”
The game opened. At first the chances were equal, but before long they turned decidedly against Don Juan. In vain Don Garcia took the cards to turn the run of luck. After playing an hour all their own money and Captain Gomare’s fifty crowns had passed into the banker’s hands. Don Juan wanted to stop, and go to sleep, but Don Garcia was in a rage; he intended to play another game, and win back all he had lost.
“Come Señor Prudence,” said he, “let us see the colour of that money that you have hidden away so securely. I know it will bring us luck.”
“But think, Don Garcia, I promised!”
“Come, come, child that you are! This is not time to think of masses. If the Captain himself were here, he would sooner loot a church than let a card pass without winning a stake.”
“Here are five crowns,” said Don Juan. “Do not stake them all at once.”
“No flinching!” exclaimed Don Garcia, and he placed the five crowns on a king. He won, and took the stakes, but the next time he lost.
“Let me have the last five!” he cried, pale with anger. Don Juan made a few weak remonstrances, which were easily overcome; he yielded, and gave up four crowns, which immediately followed the others. Rising from the table in a rage, Don Garcia flung the cards in the banker’s face.
He turned to Don Juan: “You are always lucky,” he said, “and I have been told that the last crown has power to conjure fate.”
Don Juan was, to say the least, quite as furious as himself. No longer had he any scruples about masses, or his promise. He put the last remaining crown on an ace, and it promptly went the way of the others.
“To the devil with Captain Gomare’s soul!” he cried. “I believe his money is bewitched!”
The banker inquired whether they wished to continue the game; but they had lost all their money, and besides, it is not easy to find credit when one is in constant danger of losing his head. So they were obliged to leave the game and to seek consolation among the topers. The soul of the poor Captain was quite forgotten.
Several days later the Spanish, having received reinforcements, resumed the offensive and retraced their line of march, passing over the battle-fields where they had fought. The dead were still unburied. Don Garcia and Don Juan spurred forward their horses to escape the presence of these dead bodies, which shocked alike the eye and the nostrils. Suddenly a soldier who preceded them uttered a loud exclamation at the sight of a corpse lying in a ditch. They drew near and saw that it was Captain Gomare. He was, however, almost unrecognisable. His features, distorted and stiffened in the agony of convulsions, gave evidence that his last moments were accompanied by terrible suffering. Although familiar with such spectacles, Don Juan could not repress a shudder. Those dim and bloodshot eyes seemed turned upon him in mute reproach. He recalled the dying request of the poor Captain, and how he had neglected to fulfil it. However, the artificial hardness of heart that he had succeeded in acquiring soon delivered him from these feelings of remorse; he immediately ordered a grave to be prepared for the burial of the Captain. By chance a Capuchin monk happened to be near and recited hastily a few prayers. The body was then sprinkled with holy water and covered with rocks and earth. The soldiers continued their march more silent than usual; but Don Juan observed an aged arquebusier searching his pockets for a long time before he finally dug out a coin, which he gave to the Capuchin, saying:
“This is to pay for some masses for Captain Gomare.”
On the same day Don Juan gave signal proof of remarkable bravery, exposing himself with so little consideration to the enemy’s fire that one would have supposed that he sought death.
“We are very brave when our money’s all gone,” was the comment of his comrades.
Not long after the death of Captain Gomare, a young recruit was admitted into the regiment in which Don Juan and Don Garcia served. He seemed to be resolute and fearless, but of a cunning and mysterious disposition. He was never known to join his fellow-soldiers either in drinking of playing cards; he spent hours at a time on a bench in the guard-room engaged in watching the flight of the flies or even in playing with the trigger of his arquebus. The soldiers, who bantered him on account of his reserve, had nicknamed him Modesto. It was by this name that he was known in the regiment, even the officers calling him by no other.
The campaign ended with the siege of Bergop-Zoom, which was, as every one knows, one of the most bloody of the war, the besieged defending themselves with the utmost desperation. One night the two friends were together on duty in the trenches, which, by this time, were so near the walls of the town that the position was one of great danger. The besieged made frequent sorties, and their firing was brisk and well aimed.
The early part of the night passed in unabated vigilance; then besieged and besiegers seemed to yield to fatigue. Firing ceased on both sides, and over all the field profound silence reigned; or, if broken at all, it was an occasional shot, fired only to prove that while fighting had ceased, strict watch was being kept. It was about four o’clock in the morning, just the time when a man who has been on duty all night feels thoroughly chilled, and at the same time is overcome by a sensation of mental dejection, occasioned by physical weariness and the need of sleep. There is no soldier who will deny, if he be honest, that in such bodily and mental condition he hasn’t been guilty of weakness which has made him blush after sunrise.
“Zounds!” exclaimed Don Garcia, as he stamped his feet to put some warmth into them, and folded his cloak tightly over his body; “I feel as if the very marrow in my bones were frozen. I believe a Dutch child could knock me down with a beer-jug. I tell you I am no longer myself. A while ago I trembled at the sound of an arquebus. If I were piously inclined I should be compelled to accept these unusual feelings as a warning from above.”
All present, and Don Juan especially, were amazed to hear him speak of heaven, for it was a subject to which he gave scant heed; or if he ever mentioned it, it was in derision. Seeing that several of the men smiled at his words, he was stirred by a sentiment of vanity, and exclaimed:
“Let no one, at any rate, take it into his head to suppose that I am afraid either of the Dutch, of God, or the devil, for if he does so, we will settle our accounts at the next watch!”
“Never mind the Dutch, but as for God, and the other, we may be permitted to fear them,” said an old gray-bearded captain, who wore a chaplet suspended beside his sword.
“What harm can they do me?” demanded the other. “Lightning does not carry as straight as a Protestant bullet.”
“And what about your soul?” asked the old captain, crossing himself at this infamous blasphemy.
“Oh! my soul–I must be sure, in the first place, that I have one. Who has ever told me that I had a soul? The priests. Now, the invention of the soul yields them such rich revenues that it is not to be doubted that they are its authors, just as the pastry-cooks have invented tarts so as to sell them.”
“Don Garcia, you will come to a bad end,” said the old captain. “Such idle talk is out of place in the trenches.”
“In the trenches, as elsewhere, I say what I think. But I will be silent, for here is my friend, Don Juan, with his hat about to fall off, from his hair standing on end. He believes not only in the soul; he believes also in souls in purgatory.”
“I am not a very clever fellow,” replied Don Juan, laughing, “and sometimes I envy your sublime indifference to the things of the other world, for I confess, even if you sneer at me, there are moments when the things that are told of the damned give me disquieting thoughts.”
“The best proof of the impotency of the devil is that you are now standing in this trench. Upon my word, gentlemen,” added Don Garcia, slapping Don Juan on the shoulder, “if there were a devil he would have carried off this fellow long ago. Young as he is, I tell you, he ought to be excommunicated. He has sent more women to the bed and more men to their graves than two Franciscan friars and two ruffians of Valencia together could have done.”
He was still speaking when a shot burst from the direction of the Spanish camp. Don Garcia placed his hand on his breast, and cried;
“I am wounded!”
He staggered and fell almost instantly. At the same time a man was seen running away, but in the darkness he was soon lost from his pursuers. Don Garcia’s wound proved to be mortal. The shot had been fired at close range, and the weapon had been charged with several balls. But the stoicism of the hardened sinner did not for an instant desert him. He dismissed those who suggested that he should see a priest. To Don Juan he said:
“One thing only torments me, and that is the Capuchins will persuade you that my death is a judgment from God. You must admit that nothing is more natural than that an arquebus-shot should kill a soldier. Suppose they do say that the shot was fired from our side. Doubtless some spiteful, jealous person has had me assassinated. If you catch him, hang him high and with despatch. Listen, Don Juan, I have two mistresses in Antwerp, three in Brussels, and others elsewhere that I can not recall–my memory begins to fail–I bequeath them to you,–for lack of anything better. Take my sword, too–and be sure not to forget the thrust I have taught you. Good-bye. Instead of having masses said after my burial, see that my comrades join in a glorious orgy.”
These were almost his last words. To God, to eternity, he gave no more thought than when he was throbbing with life and vigour. He died with a smile upon his lips, vanity helping him to sustain to the end the shocking rôle he had played so long. Modesto was seen no more in camp. The entire regiment felt sure that he was Don Garcia’s assassin, but they were lost in vain conjectures as to the motive which had led him to the murder.
Don Juan grieved for Don Garcia more than if he had been his brother. He said to himself–foolish fellow–he owed to Don Garcia all that he was. He it was who had initiated him into the mysteries of life, who had torn from his eyes the dense scales which had blinded them. “What was I before I met him?” he asked himself, his self-conceit answering that he was now a being far superior to other men. In fact, all the evil which that atheist had really taught him he accounted as good, and for this he was as grateful to his teacher as a virtuous pupil should be who merits his master’s approval.
The melancholy impressions left with him by this sudden death were sufficiently lasting to cause him for several months to change his mode of life. But he returned gradually to his former habits, which had now too firm a hold on him to be uprooted by an incident. He began once more to gamble, to drink, to make love to women, and to fight their husbands. Each day brought new adventures. To-day, climbing a breach; tomorrow, scaling a balcony; in the morning, a duel with a jealous husband; at night, drinking with harlots.
While steeped in such excesses he learned of his father’s death; his mother survived her husband by only a few days, so that he received the same day news of the death of both parents. Following the advice of his lawyers and the promptings of his own inclination; he determined to return to Spain, to enter upon the possession of the vast estate and enormous wealth which he had inherited. He had already obtained pardon for the death of Don Alfonso de Ojeda, Doña Fausta’s father, and he regarded that incident as entirely closed. He desired, moreover, a wider field of action for the exercise of his talents. He thought of the attractions of Seville, and of all the beautiful women there, who doubtless waited for his arrival only, to surrender to his fascinations.
Removing his armour then, he departed for Spain. Stopping a few days at Madrid, he attracted notice in a bull-fight by the richness of his apparel, and by his skill in goading the animal. While there he made a number of conquests, but he could not linger long. On his return to Seville, all, both great and small, were dazzled by his magnificence.
Every day he contrived some novel entertainment, to which were invited the most beautiful women in Andalusia; every day his superb palace was the scene of new forms of pleasure, of new and unrestrained revelries. He became king among a group of profligates, who, while unruly and turbulent toward one another, obeyed him with the docility which is often seen among people of dissolute life. In a word there was no form of debauchery into which he had not fallen; and as a rich libertine has unlimited influence, so his pernicious example was followed by all the Andalusian youth, who lauded him to the skies, and took him as their model. If Providence had allowed his evil career to continue much longer, it would have required a rain of fire to wipe out the licentiousness and crimes of Seville. A serious illness attacked Don Juan. The days that he lay in bed were not the occasion for meditation or retrospection, but on the contrary he begged his physician to restore him to health only that he might rush into new excesses.
During his convalescence he amused himself by compiling a list of all the women he had seduced and all the husbands he had deceived. The list was systematically arranged in two columns. In one column were the names of the women, with a summary of their characteristics; in the opposite line the names and professions of their husbands. He had great difficulty in recalling the names of all these unfortunates, and we may well believe that the catalogue was far from complete.
He showed the list one day to a friend who had called to see him. While in Italy he had received the favour of a woman who boasted of having been a mistress of a Pope, so that it was eminently proper that the list should begin with her name, that of the Pope figuring in the column of husbands. Then came a reigning prince, then several dukes, barons, and so on down to the artisans.
“Look at it,” said he to his friend, “look at it; not one has escaped me, from the Pope to the cobbler; there is no profession that has not made its contribution.”
Don Torribio–that was his friend’s name–looked over the list, and returned it, saying with a chuckle: “It is incomplete!”
“What! Incomplete? Who is then missing from my list of husbands?”
“God,” replied Don Torribio.
“God? That is a fact; there is no nun here. By Jove, I thank you for mentioning it. Very well! I swear on my word as a gentleman that before the end of the month He shall be on my list, preceding his reverence the Pope, and that I shall invite you to supper here with a nun. In which of the convents of Seville are there any good-looking nuns?”
A few days later Don Juan had entered on his campaign. He began to frequent the churches to which convents were attached. He knelt very near the railings that separate the spouses of the Lord from the rest of the faithful. From this point he stared boldly at those timid virgins, just as a wolf which has made his way into a sheepfold searches out the plumpest lamb to devour first. It was not long before he had marked in the Church of Our Lady del Rosario a young nun of ravishing beauty, which was enhanced by an expression of sadness overshadowing her countenance. She was never seen to raise her eyes or to look to the right or to the left; she seemed to be utterly lost in the celebration of the Divine Mystery upon the altar. Her lips moved softly, and it was evident that her prayers were far more fervent than were the prayers of her companions. The sight of this nun stirred old memories. It seemed to Don Juan that he had seen this woman elsewhere, but it was impossible for him to recall the circumstances. Where so many pictures stood out more or less distinctly in his memory, it was inevitable that some should be merely confused outlines. For two successive days he returned to the church, always taking a position near the railing, but never once could he induce Sister Agatha to raise her eyes. He had learned that this was her name.
The hindrances in the way of triumphing over one so well protected both by her position and her modesty served but to whet Don Juan’s evil passions. The most important, and also the most difficult, point was to influence her to notice him. His vanity persuaded him that if he could but attract Sister Agatha’s attention the victory was more than half won. He planned the following expedient, therefore, to compel that lovely young person to raise her eyes. Taking his position as near her as possible, and profiting by the moment of the elevation of the Host, when the entire congregation knelt with bowed heads, he thrust his hand between the bars of the railing and poured at Sister Agatha’s feet the contents of a vial of attar of roses. The penetrating odour which suddenly arose caused the young nun to look up; and as Don Juan was kneeling directly in front of her, she could not fail to see him. Intense astonishment was expressed on her countenance; then, giving a faint cry, she fell in a swoon upon the floor. Her companions pressed around her and she was carried away to her cell. Don Juan left the church well satisfied with himself, saying as he went:
“That nun is simply charming, but the oftener I see her the more I think that she must already belong in my catalogue!”
The next day, when mass began, he was to be found at his post near the railing. Sister Agatha, however, was not in her accustomed place in the front row; she was almost concealed from view behind her companions. Don Juan observed, however, that several ties she looked up stealthily. He drew from this an omen favourable to himself. “The little one fears me,” he thought. “I shall soon have her tamed.”
At the conclusion of the mass, he noticed that she entered the confessional; but on the way she passed by the railing and, as if by accident dropped her beads. Don Juan had too much experience to be taken in by this supposed inadvertence. His first thought was that he must, at all hazards, obtain the beads, but they were on the other side of the grill, and he knew that he must wait until every one had left the church. While waiting for that moment he leaned against a pillar in an attitude of meditation with one had over his eyes, but the fingers were slightly apart, so that he could follow all the movements of Sister Agatha. Whoever had seen him in that attitude would have taken him for a devout Christian absorbed in pious reverie.
The nun left the confessional and started toward the door that led into the convent; but she soon perceived or pretended to perceive that her beads were missing. After searching for them on all sides she spied them beside the railing. As she leaned down to pick them up Don Juan observed something white slip under the bars. It was a tiny folded paper. The nun withdrew immediately.
Surprised that his stratagem had succeeded sooner than he had expected, the libertine experienced a feeling of regret that he had not encountered more obstacles. Such is similar to the disappointment of the hunter when he pursues a stag, expecting a long, hard chase; suddenly, before he has gotten a fair start, the animal falls, and the hunter is deprived of the pleasure and the credit which he had promised himself. Don Juan, nevertheless, picked up the note without delay and left the church that he might read it without interruption. It ran as follows:
“Is it really you, Don Juan? And you have not forgotten about me after all? I have been very unhappy, but I was beginning to become reconciled to my fate. Now, I shall be a hundred times more unhappy than I was before. I ought to hate you–you have shed my father’s blood–but I can neither hate you nor forget you. Take pity on me and do not come again to this church; you make it too hard for me. Good-bye, good-bye, I am dead to the world.
“Ah! And so it is little Teresa!” said Don Juan. “I was sure I had seen her somewhere.”
Then he read the letter again. ” ‘I ought to hate you.’ That is to say, I adore you. ‘You have shed my father’s blood.’ Chimène said the same thing to Rodrigue. ‘Do not come again to this church,’ which means, I shall look for you to-morrow. Very good! She is mine!”
Thereupon he went to dinner.
The next day found him punctual at church with a letter in his pocket ready to deliver, but to his great surprise, Sister Agatha did not appear. Never before had mass seemed so long. He was furious. After cursing Teresa’s scruples a hundred times he went for a stroll on the banks of the Guadalquivir to think of some plan by which he might send her a letter. He determined on this scheme.
The Convent of Our Lady del Rosario was famous in Seville for the delicious confections made by the sisters. Don Juan went to the convent parlour, asked for the attendant and requested to see the list of confections which she had for sale.
“Have you no Maraña citrons?” he asked as naturally as possible.
“Maraña citrons, señor? This is the first time I have ever heard of them.”
“They are in great demand, however, and I am surprised that a house with a reputation like yours does not make quantities of them.”
Maraña,” repeated Don Juan, emphasising each syllable. “I can not believe that among your nuns some one does not know the recipe. I beg you to ask if they do not know these preserves. I will come back to-morrow.”
A few minutes later the whole convent was talking about Maraña citrons. Their most skilful confection-makers had never heard of them. Sister Agatha alone knew how to make them. “You must add to the citrons extract of roses, extract of violets, and so on, and then–” She was ordered to make the preserves herself. When he returned the next day, Don Juan found ready for him a jar of Maraña citrons; in fact, it was an execrable mixture; but hidden underneath the lid of the jar, he found a note from Teresa. Again, she besought him to renounce and forget her. To be just, the poor girl tried to deceive herself. Religion, filial duty, and love were all contending for her heart; but it was easy to see that love held the first place. The next day, Don Juan sent a page to the convent with a case of citrons which he wished to have preserved, and which he intrusted specially to the nun who had made the confections purchased the day before. Cleverly concealed in the bottom of the case was an answer to Teresa’s letter. He wrote:
“I have been miserably unhappy. It was some fatality that guided my arm. Since that fatal night you have never been absent from my thoughts. I dared not hope that you would not hate me. And now, I have found you again. Speak to me no more of the vows you have made. Before you ever took those vows you belonged to me. You have no right to dispose of the heart that you gave me . . . I have come to reclaim the one whom I love better than life . . . I must have you again, or I shall die. To-morrow I shall ask to see you in the parlour. I have not attempted to call to see you before, fearing that your agitation might betray us. Summon all your courage. Tell me if the attendant can be bribed.”
Two drops of water, placed skilfully on the paper, were supposed to be tears, wrung from him as he wrote.
A few hours later the gardener at the convent brought him a reply, and offered his services. The attendant was not to be bribed. Sister Agatha consented to come down to the parlour, but only on condition that it would be to say and to receive an eternal farewell.
The unhappy Teresa appeared in the parlour more dead than alive and was obliged to support herself at the grille by both hands, to keep from falling. Calm and impassive himself, Teresa’s exquisite suffering, of which he was the author, was a savoury morsel to Don Juan.
In order to mislead the attendant, he spoke casually of friends whom Teresa had known in Salamanca and who had charged him with messages and greetings. Then, taking advantage of a moment when the attendant moved to the other side of the room, he whispered quickly to the nun:
“I am resolved, at any risk, to take you away from this place. If necessary, I shall burn down the convent. I shall listen to no refusal. You belong to me. In a few days you will be mine. I may perish in the attempt, but others will perish along with me.”
The attendant turned. Doña Teresa was strangling, and unable to utter a word. Don Juan, however, was talking unconcernedly of preserves, of needlework–things that occupied the sisters’ time; he promised to send the attendant several rosaries which had been blessed by the Pope, and to present the convent with a brocade robe to adorn its patron saint on her fte-day. After a half-hour of talk like this, he departed, his formal and dignified adieu leaving Teresa in a condition of agitation and despair impossible to describe. She flew to her cell, where she shut herself in, and her pen, more obedient than her tongue, wrote him a long letter, in which she poured out her soul in reproach, entreaty, and lamentation. She could not withhold the confession of her love, but this sin she excused, thinking that it was expiated in her refusal to yield to the prayers of her lover. The gardener, who took charge of this criminal correspondence, soon brought a reply. Don Juan still threatened to resort to extreme measures. He had at his command a hundred trusty followers. The sacrilege of his act did not terrify him. He would count it happiness to die if he could but hold his dear love once more in his embrace. What could she do, a helpless child, who had always yielded to the man she adored? She passed the night in tears, and in the day she could not pray, for Don Juan’s image was constantly before her. Even when she joined the nuns in their exercise of worship, it was but a mechanical act, for her thoughts were wholly engrossed in her fatal passion.
After a while she no longer had the strength to resist, and intimated to Don Juan that she would agree to anything. She argued to herself, that, since she was already lost, her fate could be no worse for having tasted a brief moment of happiness. Don Juan, overjoyed, made his preparations to take her from the convent. He selected a night when there was no moon. The gardener provided Teresa with a rope-ladder for use in climbing the convent walls. A bundle of conventional garments was to be concealed in the garden, for it would never do to be seen in the street in a nun’s habit. Don Juan would be waiting for her on the outer side of the convent wall. Not far away, a litter, harnessed to a pair of strong mules, would be in readiness to drive them quickly to a house in the country. There, safe from all pursuit, her life would be peaceful and happy under the protection of her lover. Such was the plan that Don Juan had outlined. He had appropriate clothing made for Teresa; he tested the ladder, and sent her instructions how to attach it; indeed, he overlooked nothing that would insure the success of his enterprise. The gardener could be depended on, for he had too much to gain to be suspected of disloyalty. Not only so, but it was arranged that he was to be assassinated the night after the abduction. In short, it seemed impossible for anything to defeat a plot so skilfully laid.
In order to avert suspicion, Don Juan left for the Ch‰teau de Maraña two days before that planned for the elopement. Although he had spent the greater part of his childhood and youth in this castle, he had never entered it since his return to Seville. He arrived just at nightfall and at once ordered a bountiful supper, after which he retired for the night. In his room two tall wax candles were burning and upon the table lay a book of licentious tales. After reading several pages, and becoming drowsy, he extinguished one of the candles. Before putting out the second one, he happened to glance inadvertently about the room, when suddenly, in the alcove, he spied the picture upon which he had so often gazed in his childhood: the picture representing the torments of purgatory. Instinctively his eyes rested on the man whose vitals a serpent was devouring, and, although this representation inspired in him far more terror than it had formerly done, he could not turn away. At the same time, he recalled the face of Captain Gomare, with the frightful convulsions wrought upon it by death. The recollection made him shudder, and he felt his hair stand on end. Summoning all his courage, however, he blew out the candle, hoping that the darkness would obliterate the hideous images which persisted in tormenting him. Although veiled from his sight by the night, his eyes still sought the picture, and so well did he know every detail that it stood out in his memory as clearly as if it were broad day. In his imagination, the figures sometimes shone so brightly in the fire of purgatory, which the artist had painted, that the fire itself appeared real. At last, in his excitement he summoned his servants, intending to order them to remove the picture that had occasioned such frightful fancies. When they appeared, however, he was ashamed of his weakness, for he knew he would be an object of ridicule were it known to his menials that he was panic-stricken by a picture, and so he merely told them that he wished the candles lighted again, and to be left alone. He began again to read; but while his eyes rested on the pages of the book, his thoughts were with the picture on the wall. In this way he passed a sleepless night, a prey to indescribable restlessness. At break of dawn he left the room for a morning’s hunt. The exercise and the bracing air of early morning had a pacifying effect upon his mood, so that by the time he returned to the castle the sensations aroused by the picture had altogether vanished. At supper that night he drank deeply of wine, and his mind was slightly confused when he went to bed. At his command a different room had been prepared for him, but we may be sure that he had not ordered the picture to be removed thither. The remembrance of it remained with him, however, and was strong enough to keep him awake the greater part of the night.
Yet these terrors caused him no regret for his impious life. His mind rather was entirely absorbed in the abduction about to be accomplished; and after leaving all the necessary directions to his servants, he set out alone at mid-day for Seville so that he would arrive there after dark. In fact, night had fully settled down when he passed the Tower del Lloro, where one of his menials was waiting. He gave the servant his horse to return and was informed that the litter and mules were in readiness. By his directions they were to be waiting in a street near enough the convent to reach conveniently with Teresa, yet not too near to excite the suspicions of the watchman, if they should chance to meet him. Every preparation had been made; his instructions had been executed to the letter. He found he still had an hour to wait before giving Teresa the signal. His man threw over his shoulders a voluminous brown cloak, and he entered Seville alone, by the porte de Triana, concealing his face to avoid recognition. He was weary from the journey and the heat of the day, and sat down to rest upon a bench in a deserted street. He passed the time whistling and humming all the tunes which came into his mind. He consulted his watch from time to time, discovering to his vexation that the hands did not advance to the measure of his impatience. Suddenly his ear caught the strains of solemn and mournful music. He recognised at once the chants consecrated to the burial service. Soon a procession turned the corner and advanced toward the place where he was sitting. A double line of mourners, all carrying lighted tapers, preceded a bier, which was draped in black velvet, and borne by several persons dressed in antiquated fashion, with white bears and with swords hanging by their sides. The procession closed with two lines of mourners, in black robes, and like the others, all carrying lighted tapers. They approached slowly and silently. No sound of footsteps was heard and it seemed as if the figures glided rather than walked on the pavement. The gowns and the cloaks fell in long, stiff folds, as motionless as the drapery of marble statues.
At this spectacle, Don Juan at once experienced that feeling of disgust which the thought of death always inspires in an epicurean. He rose, intending to leave the scene, but the immense number of mourners and the stateliness and pomp of the cortège excited his curiosity. The procession was directed toward a neighbouring church, whose doors had just opened ostentatiously, as if about to receive an important personage.
Don Juan, touching the sleeve of one of the mourners, politely inquired who was the person about to be buried. The mourner lifted his eyes; his face was pale and emaciated like that of a man just recovering from a long and painful illness. In a sepulchral voice he replied:
“It is Count Don Juan de Maraña.”
At this strange response Don Juan’s hair rose on his head; but the next instant he had recovered his composure and broke into a smile:
“Of course I misunderstood,” said he, “or else the old man was merely mistaken.”
He entered the church with the procession. The funeral dirges began, to the noble tones of the organ accompaniment, and priests in mourning vestments intoned the De Profundis. Despite his efforts to retain his composure, Don Juan felt that his very blood was curdling in his veins. Again approaching a mourner, he asked:
“Whose funeral is this?”
“It is Count Don Juan de Maraña’s,” replied the mourner in a hollow and terrifying tone.
Don Juan leaned against a pillar to keep from falling. He felt his strength failing him, and all his courage forsook him. The service continued, however; and the solemn peals of the organ and the chanting of the terrible Dies Irae echoed through the vaults of the church. It seemed as if he were listening to the chorus of angels at the last judgment. Finally, with an effort, he seized the hand of a passing priest. The hand was cold as marble.
“Father, in the name of Heaven,” he cried, “for whose soul are you now praying? And who are you?”
“We pray for Count Don Juan de Maraña,” answered the priest, steadily regarding him with an expression of grief upon his countenance. “We are praying for his soul, which is in mortal sin. We are the souls who have been saved from purgatory by the prayers and masses of his mother. We are paying to the son the debt we owe the mother; but this is the last mass we shall be permitted to say for the soul of Count Don Juan de Maraña.”
At this moment the church clock struck; it was the hour fixed for the abduction of Teresa.
“The hour has come!” exclaimed a voice from an obscure corner of the church. “The hour has come! Is he to belong to us?”
Turning his head, Don Juan saw a terrible apparition. Don Garcia, ghastly, and dripping with blood, moved up the aisle with Captain Gomare, whose features were still distorted from his horrible convulsions. Both went directly to the bier: Don Garcia, tearing off the lid of the coffin, and throwing it violently to the ground, repeated:
“Is he ours?”
Just then a huge serpent rose from behind Don Garcia, and seemed on the point of darting into the coffin. With a shriek: “Jésus!” Don Juan fell unconscious to the pavement.
The night was far advanced when the watchman in passing observed a man lying motionless at the church door. The constables came up, supposing it was the body of some one who had been murdered. They recognised at once the Count de Maraña, and tried to revive him by dashing cold water in his face, but seeing that he did not regain consciousness, they carried him to his home. Some said he was drunk, others that he had received a cudgelling from some injured husband. Not a man, or at least not an honest man, in Seville liked him, and every one blessed the club that knocked him out so effectively; another wondered how many bottles of wine that unconscious carcass could hold. The constables handed Don Juan over to his servants, who ran at once in search of a surgeon. They bled him freely and soon he began to show signs of consciousness, at first uttering only meaningless words, inarticulate cries, sobs, and moans. Little by little, he seemed to observe attentively all the objects about him. He asked where he was; then, what had become of Captain Gomare, Don Garcia, and the funeral procession. His attendants thought him mad. After swallowing a cordial, he asked for a crucifix, which he kissed again and again, shedding a flood of tears. He then commanded that a confessor be brought.
There was general surprise, so widely known was his impiety. Several priests refused to come, confident that this was only one of his malicious jokes. Finally, a Dominican monk consented to go to him. They were left alone, and Don Juan, throwing himself at the feet of the monk, told him of the vision he had seen. Then he confessed. As he went over the category of his crimes he broke off to ask if it were possible for so great a singer as himself to obtain Divine forgiveness. The priest replied that the mercy of God was infinite. After exhorting him to persevere in his repentance, he gave him the consolation which the Church never effuses even the worst of criminals. The monk then left him with the promise of return that night. Don Juan spent the entire day in prayer. When the Dominican returned in the evening the penitent told him that he had fully resolved to retire from the world, upon which he had brought such dishonour, and to endeavour to expiate in penitential works the heinous crimes in which he was steeped. The monk, touched by his tears, gave him such comfort as he could, and, to see whether he would have the courage to carry out his determination, painted in terrifying language the austerities of the cloister. But at every penance that he described, Don Juan only cried that it was nothing, and that he deserved treatment far more severe.
The next day he gave half his fortune to his relatives who were poor; another part he consecrated to the endowment of a hospital and a chapel. He distributed large sums among the poor, and to the priests in purgatory, especially for the souls of Captain Gomare and those unfortunate men whom he had killed in duel.
Finally, he invited all his friends, and in their presence called himself to account for the evil example he had been to them: with deep pathos he depicted the remorse that he now suffered for the sins of his past life, and the hopes that he dared to entertain for the future. Several of those libertines were affected by what he said, and repented; others, more callous, left him with heartless jests.
Before entering the monastery which he had chosen for retreat, Don Juan wrote to Doña Teresa. He confessed his dishonourable intentions; he told her the story of his past life, and his conversion; he begged her to forgive him, and promised to profit by her example, and in repentance to seek his soul’s salvation. This letter he intrusted to the care of the Dominican, after reading him the contents.
Poor Teresa! She had waited for hours in the convent garden, watching for the signal; hours of indescribable suspense. Then, seeing that dawn was about to break, she returned to her cell, a prey to the keenest anguish. Don Juan’s failure to come she attributed to a thousand causes, all equally far from the truth. Several days passed thus, with no word, no message that might soften her despair. At last, the monk, after conferring with the Superior, obtained permission to see her and give her the letter of her repentant lover. As she read, her brow was covered with great beads of sweat, now her face became crimson, now pale as death. She had the courage, however, to read to the end. The Dominican then endeavoured to describe Don Juan’s repentance, and rejoined that she had escaped the terrible fate which, but for the evident intervention of Providence, was in store for them both. But to these words of counsel Teresa only moaned: “He never loved me!” The unhappy girl was attacked by a violent fever; every remedy known to science and religion was applied to conquer her malady, but in vain. Some of them she refused altogether; to others she seemed indifferent. And so, after a few days she died, still repeating: “He never loved me!”
While still wearing the habit of a novice Don Juan proved the sincerity of his conversion. No fast, no penance, was imposed upon him, but he considered it too mild; and the abbot of the monastery was obliged often to restrain him in his self-imposed macerations. He pointed out to him that such a course would only shorten his life; and that in reality it required more courage to suffer during a long period the penances judiciously imposed by his superiors, than to hasten his end by self-inflicted punishments.
At the expiration of his novitiate, Don Juan, assuming the name of Brother Ambroise, took his final vows, and because of his piety and asceticism he edified the whole community. Under his fustian gown her wore a coarse haircloth shirt; a narrow box, shorter than his body, was his bed. He restricted his diet to stewed vegetables; only on fte-days, and then by the express order of the abbot, did he consent to eat bread. Outstretched upon a cross, he spent the greater part of the night in meditation and prayer.
In fact, he was the example for his community of religious men, as formerly he had been the model for all the libertines of his social sphere. An epidemic, which broke out in Seville, gave him an opportunity to put into practice those new virtues which were the fruit of his conversion. The victims of the plague were received into the hospital which he had endowed; he nursed the poor, spending all his time by their bedside, in exhortation, consolation, and encouragement. So great was the danger of contagion that it was impossible to find, for love or money, men willing to bury the dead. Don Juan fulfilled this ministry also, entering the abandoned houses, he gave decent burial to the bodies which he found there, and many had been left for days unburied. Everywhere blessings were showered on him. Never once during the terrible scourge did he contract the disease, many credulous persons asserting that God had performed a new miracle in his favour.
Don Juan, or rather Brother Ambroise, had now dwelt in the cloister for a number of years, his life being one uninterrupted succession of pious practices and penances. The memory of his past life was still present in his thoughts, but his remorse was beginning to be less acute, owing to the consciousness of Divine forgiveness imparted by his changed life.
One day, after dinner, the hour when the sun shone with fiercest heat, all the brothers were enjoying a short rest, as was their custom. Brother Ambroise alone worked in the garden, bareheaded, under the burning sun; it was one of his self-imposed penances. Bending over his spade he saw the shadow of a man, who paused beside him. Supposing it was one of the monks, who had walked out into the garden, he continued his task, saluting him with an Ave Maria. There was no response. Surprised that the shadow did not move, he looked up from his work, and saw standing before him a tall young man. He wore a cloak which reached the ground, and a hat, shaded by a black and white plume, almost concealed his face. This man looked at him in silence, with an expression of malicious pleasure and scorn. They stood thus for several moments, gazing steadily at each other. Finally, the stranger, stepping forward, and removing his hat so as to disclose his features, said:
“Do you recognise me?”
Don Juan regarded him still more closely, but without recognition.
“Do you remember the siege of Bergop-Zoom?” asked the stranger. “Have you forgotten a soldier named Modesto–?”
Don Juan trembled. The stranger continued coldly:
“A soldier named Modesto, who shot and killed your worthy friend, Don Garcia, instead of yourself, at whom he aimed? Modesto! I am he. I have still another name, Don Juan: my name is Don Pedro de Ojeda. I am the son of Don Alfonso de Ojeda, whom you killed . . . I am the brother of Doña Fausta de Ojeda, whom you killed . . . I am the brother of Doña Teresa de Ojeda, whom you killed.”
“My brother,” said Don Juan, falling on his knees, “I am a miserable mass of crimes. It is to expiate them that I am wearing this garb, and that I have renounced the world. If there is any means by which I may win your forgiveness, tell me what it is. The severest penance will have no terrors for me if thereby you will cease to curse me.”
Don Pedro smiled bitterly.
“Let us abandon hypocrisy, Señor Maraña. I do not forgive. As for my curses, you have brought them on yourself. But I am too impatient to wait for their realisation. I have with me something far more effective than curses.”
Thereupon he threw aside his cloak and showed two long swords which he carried at his side. He drew them from the scabbards and stuck them both in the ground.
“Take your choice, Don Juan,” he said. “I have been told that you are a great fighter and I pride myself on being no mean fencer. Let us see what you can do.”
Don Juan made the sign of the cross, saying:
“Brother, you forget the vows that I have taken. I am no longer Don Juan whom you once knew, I am brother Ambroise.”
“Very well! Brother Ambroise, you are my enemy, and no matter what name you call yourself, I hate you, and I intend to be avenged.”
Don Juan again fell upon his knees.
“If you wish to take my life, brother, it is yours. Chastise me in any way you see fit.”
“Cowardly hypocrite! Do you think to dupe me? If I had wanted to kill you like a mad dog, would I have taken the trouble to bring these weapons? Come, make your choice quickly, and defend your life.”
“I tell you again, brother, I can not fight, but I can die.”
“Miserable caitiff!” cried Don Pedro, in a rage. “I was told that you had courage, and I find you only a vile coward!”
“Courage, my brother? God grant me courage not to give way to utter hopelessness; for without His support the remembrance of my crimes would lead me to desperation. Good-bye, I will leave you, for I see that my presence maddens you. May the day come when you will believe in the sincerity of my repentance!”
He started to leave the garden, when Don Pedro grasped his arm.
“Either you or I,” he cried, “shall never leave this spot alive. Take one of these swords, for I’ll be damned if I believe a single word of your jeremiads!”
Don Juan looked at him beseechingly, and again tried to leave the place, but Don Pedro seized him roughly by the collar:
“You believe, then, infamous murderer that you are, that you can escape me! No! I shall tear into shreds your hypocritical robe that conceals the cloven foot, and then, it may be, you will find courage enough to fight with me.”
With this, he pushed him violently against the wall.
“Señor Pedro de Ojeda,” cried Don Juan, “kill me if you will, I shall not fight!”
And folding his arms, with eyes calm but determined, he looked steadily at Don Pedro.
“Yes, I shall kill you, miserable bastard! But first I shall treat you as the coward that you are!”
And he slapped him in the face, the first insulting blow that Don Juan had ever received. His face became livid. The pride and fury of his youth once more took possession of his soul. Without a word, he leaped toward one of the swords, and seized it. Don Pedro took the other, and stood on guard. They attacked each other furiously, making a lunge simultaneously. Don Pedro’s sword buried itself in Don Juan’s gown and glanced along his body without inflicting a wound; Don Juan’s sword, on the contrary, sank to the hilt into his adversary’s breast. Don Pedro died instantly.
Seeing his enemy stretched at his feet, Don Juan stood for some time as if dazed, looking down upon him. Gradually he came to his senses, and to a realisation of the enormity of his crime. Throwing himself upon the body, he tried to restore it to life, but he was too familiar with the sight of wounds to doubt for a moment that this one was fatal. There at his feet lay the blood-stained sword, offering him a means of self-punishment; but quickly casting behind him this last temptation of the devil, terror-stricken, he rushed into the abbot’s cell and threw himself at his feet. There, with tears streaming in floods down his cheeks, Don Juan told his terrible story. The abbot, would not, at first, believe him, thinking that Don Juan’s reason had become impaired on account of his severe penances, but his gown and hands, stained with blood, no longer permitted him to doubt the awful truth. A man of rare presence of mind, he realised instantly that if this affair should come to be known, the scandal would reflect upon the monastery. No one had seen the duel, and he took care to conceal it from the brothers. He ordered Don Juan to follow him, and with his assistance, he carried the body into a cellar-room, and locking the door he took the key. Then, shutting Don Juan within his cell, the abbot went out to notify the corregidor.
One may, perhaps, be surprised that Don Pedro, who had already made one attempt to murder Don Juan, should have rejected the idea of a second assassination, preferring to overthrow his enemy in a duel; but this was only his diabolical plan of vengeance. He had heard of Don Juan’s asceticism and his deep piety, and he had no doubt if he killed him in cold blood that he would send Don Juan’s soul direct to heaven. He hoped, therefore, that by provoking him and compelling him to fight, he would kill him in the act of a mortal sin and would thus destroy both his body and his soul. We have seen how this wicked design turned against its author.
It was not difficult to hush up the affair. The magistrate acted in concert with the abbot to avert suspicion. The other monks believed that the man had fallen in a duel with an unknown caballero, and when wounded, he had been carried into the monastery, where he had died almost immediately. As for Don Juan, I shall attempt to describe neither his remorse nor his repentance. Every kind of penance imposed by the abbot he suffered joyfully. During the remainder of his life, he kept, hanging at the foot of his bed, the sword with which he had killed Don Pedro, and never did he look at it without praying for his soul, and for the souls of his family. In order to subdue the last remnant of worldly pride lingering in his heart the abbot had commanded him to present himself every day before the convent cook, so that he might receive a slap. After receiving this humiliation Brother Ambroise never failed to turn the other cheek also, and to thank the cook for humbling him in this way. He lived ten years longer in the cloister and never once was his repentance interrupted by a return to the passions of his youth. He died, revered as a saint, even by those who had known him as an evil youth. On his death-bed, he begged as a favour, to be buried at the threshold of the church, so that all who entered should trample him underfoot. He wished also that his tomb should bear this inscription: Here lies the worst man that ever lived. It was not thought fitting, however, to carry out all the requests dictated by his excessive humility. He was buried near the high altar of the church he had built. It is true that the inscription which he had composed was carved on the stone that covers his remains; but there was added to this the story of his conversion, and a eulogy to his virtues. His hospital, and especially the church where he is buried, are visited by every stranger who comes to Seville. Several of the masterpieces of Murillo adorn the chapel. The Prodigal’s Return, andThe Pool of Bethesda which are now admired in the art gallery of Señor Soult, formerly decorated the walls of the Hospital de la Caridad.