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glass; the heavy shutter was thrown open; and, under the faint crescent of the moon I saw a small part of the beach, very white, the long streak of light lying mistily on the bay, and two black shapes, cloaked, moving and stopping all of a piece like pillars, their immensely long shadows running away from their feet, with the points of the hats touching the wall of the Casa Riego. Another, a shorter, thicker shape, appeared, walking with dignity. It was Castro. The other two had a movement of recoil, then took off their hats.
“Buenas noches, caballeros,” his voice said, with grim politeness. “You are out late.”
“So is your worship. Vaya, Señor, con Dios. We are taking the air.”
They walked away, while Castro remained looking after them. But I, from my elevation, noticed that they had suddenly crouched behind some scrubby bushes growing on the edge of the sand. Then Castro, too, passed out of my sight in the opposite direction, muttering angrily.
I forgot them all. Everything on earth was still, and I seemed to be looking through a casement out of an enchanted castle standing in the dreamland of romance. I breathed out the name of Seraphina into che moonlight in an increasing transport.
“Seraphina! Seraphina! Seraphina!”
“Seraphina!” I cried aloud, and stopped, astounded at myself. And the moonlight of romance seemed to whisper spitefully from below:
“Death to the traitor! Vengeance for our brothers dead on the English gallows!”
“Come away, Manuel.” “No. I am an artist. It is necessary for my soul.” “Be quiet!”
Their hissing ascended along the wall from under the window. The two Lugareños had stolen in unnoticed by me. There was a stifled metallic ringing, as of a guitar carried under a cloak.
“Vengeance on the heretic Inglez !”
“Come away! They may suddenly open the gate and fall upon us with sticks.”
“My gentle spirit is roused to the accomplishment of great things. I feel in me a valiance, an inspiration. I am no vulgar seller of aguardiente, like Domingo. I was born to be the capataz of the Lugareños.”
“We shall be set upon and beaten, oh, thou Manuel. Come away!”
There were no footsteps, only a noiseless Alitting of two shadows, and a distant voice crying:
“Woe, woe, woe to the traitor!”
I had not needed Castro's warning to understand the meaning of this. O'Brien was setting his power to work, only this Manuel's restless vanity had taught me exactly how the thing was to be done. The friar had been exciting the minds of this rabble against me; awakening their suspicions, their hatred, their fears. 1 I remained at the casement, lost in rather sombre reflections. I was now a prisoner within the walls of the Casa. After all, it mattered little. I did not want to go away unless I could carry off Seraphina with me. What a dream! What an impossible dream! Alone, without friends, with no place to go to, without means of going; without, by Heaven, the right of even as much as speaking of it to her. Carlos—Carlos dreameda dream of his dying hours. England was so far, the enemy so near; and—Providence itself seemed to have forgotten me.
A sound of panting made me turn my head. Father Antonio was mopping his brow in the doorway. Though
a heavy man, he was noiseless of foot. A wheezing would be heard along the dark galleries some time before his black bulk approached you with a gliding motion. He had the outward placidity of corpulent people, a natural artlessness of demeanour which was amusing and attractive, and there was something shrewd in his simplicity. Indeed, he must have displayed much tact and shrewdness to have defeated all O'Brien's efforts to oust him from his position of confessor to the household. What had helped him to hold his ground was that, as he said to me once, “I, too, my son, am a legacy of that truly pious and noble lady, the wife of Don Riego. I was made her spiritual director soon after her marriage, and I may say that she showed more discretion in the choice of her confessor than in that of her man of affairs. But what would you have? The best of us, except for Divine grace, is liable to err; and, poor woman, let us hope that, in her blessed state, she is spared the knowledge of the iniquities going on here below in the Casa.”
He used to talk to me in that strain, coming in almost every evening on his way from the sick room. He, too, had his own perplexities, which made him wipe his forehead repeatedly; afterwards he used to spread his red bandanna handkerchief over his knees.
He sympathized with Carlos, his beloved penitent, with Seraphina, his dear daughter, whom he had baptized and instructed in the mysteries of “our holy religion,” and he allowed himself often to drop the remark that his “illustrious spiritual son,” Don Balthasar, after a stormy life of which men knew only too much, had attained to a state of truly childlike and God-fearing innocence a sign, no doubt, of Heaven's forgiveness for those excesses. He ended, always, by sighing heartily, to sit with his gaze on the floor.
That night he came in silently, and after shutting the door with care, took his habitual seat, a broad wooden armchair.
“How did your reverence leave Don Carlos?” I asked.
“Very low,” he said. “The disease is making terrible ravages, and my ministrations- I ought to be used to the sight of human misery, but- ” He raised his hands; a genuine emotion overpowered him; then, uncovering his face to stare at me, “He is lost, Don Juan,” he exclaimed.
“Indeed, I fear we are about to lose him, your reverence,” I said, surprised at this display. It seemed inconceivable that he should have been in doubt up to this very moment.
He rolled his eyes painfully. I was forgetting the infinite might of God. Still, nothing short of a miracle - But what had we done to deserve miracles?
“Where is the ancient piety of our forefathers which made Spain so great?” he apostrophized the empty air, a little wildly, as if in distraction. “No, Don Juan; even I, a true servant of our faith, am conscious of not having had enough grace for my humble ministrations to poor sailors and soldiers—men naturally inclined to sin, but simple. And now—there are two great nobles, the fortune of a great house....”
I looked at him and wondered, for he was, in a manner, wringing his hands, as if in immense distress.
“We are all thinking of that poor child-mas que, Don Juan, imagine all that wealth devoted to the iniquitous purposes of that man. Her happiness sacrificed.”
"I cannot imagine this—I will not," I interrupted, so violently that he hushed me with both hands uplifted.
“To these wild enterprises against your own country," he went on vehemently, disregarding my exasperated and contemptuous laugh. “And she herself, the niña. I have baptized her; I have instructed her; and a more noble disposition, more naturally inclined to the virtues and proprieties of her sex— But, Don Juan, she has pride, which doubtless is a gift of God, too, but it is made a snare of by Satan, the roaring lion, the thief of souls. And what if her feminine rashness—women are rash, my son,” he interjected with unction—"and her pride were to lead her into-I am horrified at the thought-into an act of mortal sin for which there is no repentance?”
“Enough!” I shouted at him.
“No repentance,” he repeated, rising to his feet excitedly, and I stood before him, my arms down my sides, with my fists clenched.
ign Why did the stupid priest come to talk like this to me, as if I had not enough of my own unbearable thoughts?
He sat down and began to flourish his handkerchief. There was depicted on his broad face depicted simply and even touchingly—the inward conflict of his benevolence and of his doubts.
“I observe your emotion, my son,” he said. I must have been as pale as death. And, after a pause, he meditated aloud, “And, after all, you English are a reverent nation. You, a scion of the nobility, have been brought up in deplorable rebellion against the authority of God on this earth; but you are not a scoffer-not a scoffer. I, a humble priest - But, after all, the Holy Father himself, in his inspired wisdom- I have prayed to be enlightened. . . ”
He spread the square of his damp handkerchief on his knees, and bowed his head. I had regained command over myself, but I did not understand in the