ROSAURA: A TALE OF MADRID,

MAGA. May 1847.

In the year 1833 there dwelt in Madrid a certain student, who went by the name of El Rubio, or the Red. Not by his acquaintances and intimates alone was he thus designated, but by all the various classes of idlers with whom the Spanish capital abounds; by the listless loiterers at the coffeehouse doors, by the lounging gossips of the Puerta del Sol, and by the cloaked saunterers who, when the siesta is over, pace the alleys of the Retiro, puffing their beloved havanas, retailing the latest news, discussing the chances of a change of ministry, or the most recent and interesting scandalous anecdote current in that gallant metropolis. It would be wrong to infer, from his somewhat ambiguous appellation, that the student’s skin had the copper hue of a Pawnee or an Osage, or his hair the ruddy tint usually deemed detrimental and unbecoming. The name implied no sneer—it was given and taken as a compliment; and Federico was at least as proud of it as of the abundant golden curls to which he owed it, and that flowed in waving luxuriance down his graceful neck, and even to his well-formed shoulders.

In southern climes, where the ardent sun embrowns the children of the soil, fair locks and eyes of azure are prized in proportion to their rarity. No wonder, then, that Federico found favour in the sight of the dark-browed and inflammable Madrileñas. Many were the tender glances darted at him from beneath veil and mantilla, as he took his evening stroll upon the Prado; oftentimes, when he passed along the street, white and slender fingers, protruded through half-closed jalousies, dropped upon his handsome head a shower of fragrant jasmin blossoms. Amongst the dames and damsels who thus signified their favour and partiality, not a few—so it is certified by the veracious authority whence we derive this history—dwelt in stately mansions, and went abroad in brave equipage, drawn by prancing steeds and comely mules, all glittering with trappings of silk and gold. These, it may be thought, condescended over-much thus to notice an humble student. But the love-breathing daughters of Castile reck little of rank and station; and Federico, by all personal endowments, well deserved the distinction he obtained. Poor hidalgo though he was, no count or duke, or blue-blooded grandee, from Cadiz to Corunna, bore himself better, or had more the mien of a well-born and thoroughbred caballero. None more gallantly wore the broad-leafed sombrero, none more gracefully draped the ample cloak; and all Spain might have been searched in vain to match the bright and joyous glance of the student’s dark-blue eye. Excepting on the coast, and in certain districts where Mohammedan forefathers have bequeathed their oriental physiognomy and tall slender frame to their Christian descendants, Spaniards are rarely of very lofty stature. Federico was from the flat and arid province of La Mancha, where, as in compensation for the unproductiveness of the parched soil, handsome men and beauteous women abound. Of the middle height, his figure was symmetrical, elastic, and muscular, formed for feats of agility and strength; his step was light, but firm; his countenance manly,—the expression of his regular and agreeable features denoted a passionate nature and lofty character. Like most of his countrymen, he was quickly roused, but easy to appease. Generosity and forbearance were prominent amongst his good qualities; and he had nobly displayed them in more than one encounter with antagonists whose feebleness placed them at his mercy and rendered them unworthy of his wrath. For in the use of arms, as in all manly exercises, Federico was an adept; and there were few men in Spain who would not have found in him a formidable and dangerous adversary.

Strange to tell of so young a man, and of a Spaniard, in one respect our student appeared passionless. He met the advances of his female admirers with the utmost coldness—seemed, indeed, to avoid the society of the fair sex, threw love-letters into the fire, unread and unanswered, neglected invitations, went to no rendezvous. Favours which other men would gladly have purchased with years of life, he disdainfully rejected. The wrinkled duennas, who under various pretexts brought him tender messages and tempting assignations, met, instead of the golden guerdon with which such Mercuries are usually rewarded, harsh rebuffs and cutting sarcasm at the hands of the stoic of two-and-twenty. And with so much scorn did this Manchegan Joseph repel on one occasion the amorous attentions of a lady of birth and station, that her indiscreet love was changed into bitter hate, and Federico narrowly escaped a dagger-stab and a premature death. From that day he was more inaccessible than ever, not only to women, but to men. Gradually he withdrew from intercourse with his former associates, and was seldom seen in the streets or public places, but sat at home, buried amongst books, and diligently studying, with the intention, he was heard to declare, of going to Ciudad Real, and passing his examination as advocate in the royal courts. And thus, little by little, it happened with Federico as it does with most persons who neglect and forget the world. The world forgot him. His old intimates—joyous, light-hearted lads, revelling in the enjoyments and dissipation of the capital—voted him a spoil-sport and a pedant, and thought of him no more: friends, in the true sense of the word, he had none; and so, after a very short time, the list of visitors to the gloomy old apartment in which the eccentric youth mused and studied was reduced to one man, and that a very odd one, but whom Federico loved, because he in some sort owed him his life.

This second hero of our tale was one of those strange characters to be met with in Spain only. Don Geronimo Regato was a little wizened old creature, blind of an eye, and with a very ugly face, whose life had been a series of extraordinary adventures and bustling incidents. He had served his country in the most opposite capacities. In 1808, he fought the French in the streets of Madrid; two years later, he headed a guerilla band in the wild passes of the Sierra Morena; another two years, and he took the oath to the constitution of Cadiz, and was seen at Wellington’s headquarters as colonel of the Spanish line, and delegate from the Cortes. In 1814, he changed his colours, and was noted, after the return of Ferdinand VII., as a stanch Royalist. But variety was his motto; and the revolution of 1820 saw him in the ranks of the Liberals, to whom he continued faithful until their cause was ruined and hopeless. That was the signal, with this Talleyrand on a small scale, for another vuelta casaca: once more he turned his coat; and as an earnest of penitence for past offences, opened to the Royalist troops the gates of a small Estremaduran fortress. Notwithstanding this act of tardy allegiance, he was thrown into prison at Madrid, and owed it entirely to the intercession and good offices of an old school-fellow, the influential Father Cyrillo, that his neck was not brought into unpleasant contact with the iron hoop of the garrote. Either warned by this narrow escape, or because the comparatively tranquil state of Spain afforded no scope for his restless activity, since 1823 this political Proteus had lived in retirement, apparently eschewing plots and intrigues; although he was frequently seen in the very highest circles of the capital, where his great experience, his conversational powers and social qualities sufficiently accounted for the welcome he at all times met.

Returning late one night from a tertulia at the house of Ferdinand’s prime minister, Don Geronimo heard the clash of steel and sound of a scuffle, and, hurrying to the spot, saw a young man defending himself against the attack of two bravos. Forthwith Regato set himself to shout out words of command, as if he had a whole regiment at his back, and the ruffians, thinking the patrol was upon them, instantly took to flight. Federico was the person assailed; and although he boldly asserted, and doubtless fully believed, that, left to himself, he would speedily have defeated his cowardly opponents, he was still not altogether sorry to be relieved from such odds by the old gentleman’s timely arrival and ingenious stratagem. This was the origin of his acquaintance with Regato. From that night forward they visited each other, and soon Geronimo took particular pleasure in the society of the handsome youth, whose earnestness and vigour of mind, he was heard cynically to remark, were refreshing to contemplate in a century when the actions of most men made them resemble beasts and apes, rather than beings formed in the image of their Creator. The young student, for his part, found much to interest him in his new friend, the only person who now varied the monotony of his solitude. He listened eagerly to Regato’s discourse, as he alternately poured out his stores of knowledge and experience, and broke into a vein of keen and bitter sarcasm on the men, parties, and circumstances of distracted and unhappy Spain. Federico enthusiastically loved his country, and his proud eyes often filled with tears when the old man placed its former greatness in striking contrast with its present degradation. In spite of all the veerings and weathercock variations of his political life, Regato was at heart a Liberal. He set forth in glowing colours the evils and tyranny of Ferdinand’s government, expatiated on the barbarous executions of Riego, Torrijos, and other martyrs to freedom’s cause, and exposed the corruption and villany of the men who retained their country in the bonds of slavery and fanaticism; until Federico’s cheeks glowed, and his heart beat quick with patriotic indignation, and he felt that he too, when the battle-hour should strike, would joyfully draw his sword and lose his life for the liberation of the land he loved so well. At times the student would take down his guitar, and sing, with closed doors and windows—for Ferdinand’s spies were a quick-eared legion—the spirit-stirring Hymn of the Constitution, or the wild Tragala—that Spanish Marseillaise, to whose exciting notes rivers of blood have flowed. And then old Regato beat time with his hand, and his solitary eye gleamed like a ball of fire, whilst he mingled his hoarse and suppressed bass with Federico’s mellow tenor.

Notwithstanding their vast difference of age and character, and although the one was but commencing, whilst the other had nearly run, the up-hill race of life, the more these two men saw of each other the stronger grew their sympathy and friendship. Don Geronimo’s visits to the student became more and more frequent; and often, forgetful or careless of the time, they would sit talking till far into the night. It seemed a relief to Regato to disburden his heart and mind of their innermost secrets; and he rejoiced to have found a man to whose honour, truth, and secresy he felt he could safely intrust them. Federico repaid his confidence with one equally unlimited. He not only told his friend the history of his short life from infancy upwards, but he made him his father confessor, informed him of the progress of his studies, confided to him his doubts and hopes, his religious creed and political aspirations, and even his connection with some of the secret orders and societies, of which, at that period, notwithstanding the vigilance of the police, a multitude existed in Spain.

“And can it be, my young friend,” said Geronimo one evening, when a brief pause succeeded to some of the fiery Federico’s vehement political diatribes—“can it be,” he said, fixing his penetrating eye upon the flushed and impassioned countenance of the student, “that you have reached your present age and never loved woman?”

“Pshaw!” replied the student, “you have asked the question before, and I have answered it.”

“But ’tis incomprehensible and out of nature,” cried the old Don. “Why have you a heart in your bosom, blood in your veins, strong limbs, and bright eyes?”

“Was all that given me that I might love woman?” retorted Federico, with a merry laugh.

“Certainly: what is life worth, without love to sweeten it? Nothing, worse than nothing. It is that gentle sympathy of hearts, that strange fever of the soul, those sweet hopes and joyous transports, and tremors scarce less pleasing, that render life endurable, and reconcile man to the vileness of mortality. The nearest approach to paradise on earth is found in bright eyes that beam for us alone—in gentle lips that murmur to our ears words of pure tenderness and unselfish affection.”

“By the Virgin!” cried Federico, “I am neither of wood nor stone. Yes, there are creatures of heavenly beauty whom I could love. But I am like the Moorish Prince of Granada, who was too proud to eat common food, and fed on gold. The metal was over-hard for his royal stomach, and so he starved.”

“Which means that what you could have, you don’t like, and what you would like, you can’t get.”

“Possible,” replied Federico, smiling. “I strike high.”

“And why not? To dare is often to succeed. For the bold and the prudent no aim is too lofty. But tell me more.”

“Nonsense!” cried the student. “I did but jest. It occurred to me that this very day I saw a lady whose fair face I shall not easily forget. She was richly dressed, and sat in an open carriage, drawn by magnificent horses.”

“What colour was the carriage?”

“Brown, lined with purple velvet. The arms on the panels were supported by coroneted griffins; and on the luxurious cushions my goddess reclined, in a robe of rose-coloured satin. A black lace mantilla floated over her alabaster shoulders, further veiled by a cloud of glossy ebon hair; and her eyes, friend Geronimo, her beauteous eyes—they were soft and heavenly as a spring day in the almond groves of Valencia.”

“You are poetical,” said Regato. “A good sign. Federico, you are in love; but, by our Lady, you are audacious in your choice.”

“Do you know her?” eagerly exclaimed Federico.

“Did she appear to notice you?” inquired Geronimo, leaving the question unanswered.

“Paralysed by her exceeding beauty,” replied the student, “I stood dumb and motionless in the carriage-way, and was nearly run over. I sprang aside, but just in time. She observed me and smiled: I almost think she blushed. One thing I am sure of—she could not help seeing that her wondrous beauty had turned my head.”

“And that is all?” said Regato, slyly.

“What more could there be?” cried the young lawyer, indignantly. “Would you have such an angel throw flowers at me, or appoint a rendezvous? When the carriage turned out of the street towards the Prado, she looked back. Holy Mother of Sorrows! even at that distance, the sunshine of those eyes scorched my very heart!—But this is folly, sheer folly! Next week I go to Ciudad Real, and amongst dusty deeds and dry folios I shall soon forget the eyes and their owner.”

Señor Regato assumed a thoughtful countenance, look a large pinch of snuff, and lit a fresh cigar. After three or four puffs, emitted through his nostrils with the delectation of a veteran smoker, he broke silence.

“You will not go to Ciudad Real.”

“And why not?” cried Federico.

“Because, if I am not greatly mistaken, you will remain here.”

“Strange if I do!” laughed the student.

“Less so, perhaps, than you imagine. Would you go if the rose-coloured lady bid you stay? What if she sent a tender billet to the young woman-hater, and said, ‘Come and love me, if you have the heart and courage of a man.’ I think I see you then, though ten thousand devils barred the way. Ciudad Real and the royal courts would soon be forgotten.”

“Perhaps,” replied Federico. “But you tantalise me with impossibilities.”

Don Geronimo put on his hat, took his young friend’s hand, and said, with great gravity, “Nothing is impossible. And as regards love, nought in this world can withstand it—no bolt, or lock, or bar, or rank, or power. Bear that in mind, and be of good courage, if you again fall in with her of the rose-coloured robe. I should not wonder if you saw her this very night. Be happy whilst you may, whilst youth and beauty last. They quickly pass, and never return; and in love be adventurous and bold, like a true Spaniard and gallant gentleman. Daring wins the day.”

He departed. Federico remained alone. With a smile at his friend’s advice, the young man sat down to study. But he soon started up, and gazed like one in a dream at the massive volumes encumbering his table. He knew not how it happened, but the well-known letters of the alphabet seemed changed into inexplicable hieroglyphics. The simplest passages were wholly unintelligible; the paragraphs were all rose-coloured; black locks and brilliant eyes twined and sparkled through the quaint arabesques and angular capitals that commenced each chapter of the code, confusing and dazzling his brain. At last he angrily slammed the parchment-bound volume, muttered a curse on his own folly, then laughed aloud at the recollection of that comical old fellow, Geronimo Regato, and went to bed. There he found little rest. When he closed his eyes, the slender form of the incognita glided before them. Her white hand, extended from beneath her mantilla, beckoned him to follow; nay, he felt the pressure of the tiny fingers, her warm breath upon his cheek, her velvet lips gently laid to his. And when he started from his sleep, it was to fancy the rustle of a dress, and a sweet low voice that timidly uttered his name. So passed the night, and only towards daybreak did he sink into a sounder and more refreshing slumber. But when he arose, he found, to his consternation, that she who had haunted his dreams was equally present to his waking imagination. The fascinating image of the beautiful stranger had established itself in his heart, and Federico felt that all efforts to dislodge it would be as fruitless as painful.

“If I believed in sorcery,” he soliloquised, “I should think that old rogue Geronimo had cast a charm over me. He predicted that she would visit me this night, and truly she has done so, and here remains. Whether it be for the best, I greatly doubt.”

Musing on the fair apparition that thus pertinaciously intruded upon him, the student dressed himself. It was late, and to atone for lost time, he resolved to remain at home, and study hard the whole day. But somehow or other, exactly at the same hour as on the previous one, he found himself in the Calle Alcala; and scarcely was he there, when the brown carriage and the splendid horses came rattling by. And there, upon the purple cushions, sat, more beautiful than ever, the divinity who for the last twenty-four hours had monopolised so large a share of his thoughts. He gazed at her with rapture, and involuntarily bowed his head, as to a being not of the earth. She smiled: her look had something inquiring and mysterious; then, as if by accident, she placed her hand upon the edge of the carriage, and let a flower fall. Almost before it reached the ground, Federico caught and concealed it in his bosom, as though it had been some precious jewel which all would seek to tear from him. It was an almond blossom, a symbol of love and hope. Like a criminal, he hurried away, lest his prize should be reclaimed, when he suddenly found himself face to face with Geronimo, who gravely took off his hat and greeted his friend.

“How goes it?” said the old Don, his widowed eye twinkling significantly as he spoke. “How have you slept? Did the lady visit you or not?”

“You saw her!” cried Federico, imploringly. “For heaven’s sake, her name?”

“Bah!” replied Geronimo; “I saw nothing. But if it be she who sits in yonder carriage, beware, young man! ’Tis dangerous jesting with giants, who can crush us like straws beneath their finger. Your life is in danger,” he continued in a whisper; “forget this folly. There are plenty of handsome faces in the world. Throw away the silly flower that peeps from your vest, and be off to Ciudad Real, where scores of pretty girls await you.”

He turned to depart; Federico detained him.

“Let me go,” said Geronimo: “I am in haste. I will call upon you presently, and you shall hear more.”

But, notwithstanding his promise, and although Federico remained all day at home, impatiently expecting him, Geronimo came not. Never had the student been so out of temper. He bitterly reproached himself as a dreamer, a fool, an idiot: and yet there he remained, his thoughts fixed upon one object, his eyes riveted on the almond blossom, which he had placed in water, and whose graceful cup, now fully open, emitted a delicate perfume. And as he gazed, fancy played her wildest pranks with the enamoured youth. Small fairy-like creatures glided and danced between the dusty stamina of the flower. At times, its leaves seemed partly to close, and from out the contracted aperture, the lady of his thoughts smiled sweetly upon him. Then the welcome vision vanished, and was succeeded by stern frowning faces of men, armed from head to heel, who levelled daggers at his heart.

“By St Jago!” the bewildered student at last exclaimed, “this is too much. When will it end? What ails me? Have I so long withstood the fascinations of the black-eyed traitresses, to be thus at last entrapped and unmanned? Geronimo was right; at daybreak I start for Ciudad Real. I will think no more of that perilous syren.” He plucked the almond blossom from its vase. “And this flower,” he pensively murmured, “has touched her hand, perhaps her lips! Oh! were it possible that she loves me!” As he spoke, he pressed the flower so impetuously to his mouth that its tender leaves were crushed and tarnished. He laughed scornfully. “Thus is it,” he exclaimed, “with woman’s love; as fair and as fragile as this poor blossom. Begone, then! Wither, and become dust, thou perishable emblem of frailty!” Approaching the open window, he was about to throw away the flower, when something flew into the room, struck his breast, and rolled upon the ground. Federico started back, and his eye fell upon the clock that regulated his studies. The hands were on the stroke of midnight, and for a moment, in his then excited state, a feeling of superstitious fear stole over him. The next instant he was again at the window, straining his eyes through the gloom. He could see nothing. The night was dark: a few large stars twinkled in the sable canopy, the jasmin bushes in his balcony rustled in the breeze, and brushed their cool leaves against his heated temples. “Who is there?” he cried. His question was unanswered. Closing the jalousies, he took a light and sought about the room till he perceived something white under a table. It was a paper wrapped round a small roll of wood, and secured by a silken thread. Trembling with eagerness, he detached the scroll. Upon it were traced a few lines in a woman’s delicate handwriting. “If you are willing,” so ran the missive, “to encounter some risk for an interview with her who writes this, you will repair, to-morrow evening at nine o’clock, to the western door of the church of St James. One will meet you there in whom you may confide, if he asks you what flower you love best.”

“And though death were in the path,” exclaimed Federico with vehement passion—“though a thousand swords opposed me, and King Ferdinand himself—” He paused at that name, with the habitual caution of a Manchegan. “I will go,” he resumed, in a calmer but equally decided tone. “I will go; and though certain to be stabbed at her feet, I still would go.”

Lazily, to the impetuous student’s thinking, did the long hours loiter till that of his rendezvous arrived. Tormented by a thousand doubts and anxieties, not the least of these sprang from the probability that the assignation came not whence he hoped, and was, perhaps, the work of some mischievous jester, to send him on a fool’s errand to the distant church of St James. Above all things, he wished to see his friend Geronimo; but although he passed the day in invoking his presence and heaping curses on his head, that personage did not appear. Evening came; the sun went down behind the gardens of Buen Retiro; at last it was quite dark. Federico wrapped himself in his cloak, pressed his hat over his brows, concealed in the breast of his coat one of those knives whose strong keen-pointed blade is so terrible a weapon in a Spaniard’s hand, and, crossing the Plaza Mayor, glided swiftly through streets and lanes, until, exactly as the clock of St James’s church struck nine, he stood beneath the massive arches of the western portico. All was still as the grave. The dark enclosure of a convent arose at a short distance, and from a small high window a solitary ray of light fell upon the painted figure of the Virgin that stood in its grated niche on the church wall.

His back against the stone parapet, in the darkest corner of the portico, Federico posted himself, silent and motionless. He had not long waited, when he heard the sound of footsteps upon the rough pavement. They came nearer: a shadow crossed the front of the arched gateway and was merged in the gloom, as its owner, muttering indistinctly to himself, entered the portico. It was a man, closely muffled in a dark cloak. To judge from his high and pointed hat, he belonged to the lower class of the people; a wild black beard, a moment visible in the light from the convent window, was all of his physiognomy discernible by the student. He might be anything—a Gallego, a muleteer, or a robber.

After a moment, Federico made a slight noise, and advanced a step from his corner. “Who is there?” cried the stranger.—“Who is there?” he repeated. “Answer, in God’s name. What do you here at this hour of the night?”

“Who questions me?” boldly demanded the young man; and at the same time he approached the speaker.

For a moment the two men gazed suspiciously at each other; then the stranger again spoke. “Night and solitude enjoin prudence, señor,” said he; “and so, keep your distance. What brings you to this gloomy church-door? At this hour such gay cavaliers are oftener found in the Prado or the Delicias, plucking flowers for their mistresses.”

“I love flowers,” replied Federico, “but I also love solitude.”

“And what flower, my gallant young gentleman, do you best love?”

“Enough! enough!” joyfully exclaimed the student. “’Tis you I seek: I am ready to follow.”

Without reply, the stranger produced a long black cloth.

“What is that?” said Federico, who vigilantly observed his movements.

“To blindfold you.”

“Why?”

“Señor, that you may not see whither I conduct you.”

“Not so!” cried the student, suspiciously. “I will follow, but with open eyes.”

The Gallego threw the skirt of his large cloak over his left shoulder, touched his pointed hat by way of salutation, and said courteously, “Buenas noches, señor. May you sleep well, and live a thousand years.”

“Stop!” cried Federico; “you are mad. Whither away?”

“Home.”

“Without me?”

“Without you, señor. The truth is, you are wanted blind, or not at all.”

The result of the colloquy that ensued was, that the Gallego twisted his cloth thrice round the student’s eyes, ears, and nose, and led him carefully down a street and round sundry corners and turnings, till at last he deposited him in a carriage, which instantly set off at a rapid pace. After a tolerably long drive, by no means a pleasant one for our adventurer, whose guide held his hands firmly in his—probably to prevent his removing the bandage—the coach stopped, the two men got out, and Federico was again conducted for some distance on foot. He knew that he was still in Madrid, for he walked over pavement, and, in spite of the thick cloth that impeded his hearing, he could distinguish the distant sound of carriages and hum of life. Presently a door creaked, and he apparently entered a garden, for there was a smell of flowers and a rustling of leaves; then he ascended a staircase, and was conducted through cool lofty apartments, and through doors which seemed to open and shut of themselves. Suddenly his companion let go his hand. Federico stood for a minute in silent expectation, then, groping around him with extended arms, he said in a low voice, “Am I at my journey’s end? Answer!” But nobody replied.

By one decided pull, the student removed the bandage from his eyes, and gazed around him in wonder and bewilderment. He was alone in a spacious and magnificent apartment, whose walls were tapestried with striped blue and white satin, and whose carved ceiling was richly gilt and decorated. The tall Venetian mirrors, the costly furniture, the beautifully fine Indian matting, everything in the room, in short, convinced him that he was in the favoured abode of wealth, and rank, and luxury. A lamp, suspended by silver chains, shed a soft light over the apartment. Federico’s position was a doubtful, probably a dangerous one; but love emboldened him, and he felt the truth of a saying of Geronimo’s, that courage grows with peril. Happen what might, there he was, and he knew no fear. The only perceptible exit from the room was by the large folding-doors through which he had entered. He tried them—they were fastened. His mother-wit suggested to him that his retreat had perhaps been thus cut off that he might seek another outlet. He did so, and presently perceived hinges under the tapestry. A silver handle protruded from the wall; he grasped it, a door opened, and a cry of astonishment and delight burst from the student. Beaming with loveliness, a blush upon her cheek, a soft smile upon her rosy lips, the lady of his thoughts stood before him.

For a moment the pair gazed at each other in silence, their looks telling more eloquently than any words the love that filled their hearts. But soon Federico started from his brief trance, threw himself at the feet of the incognita, and, seizing her hand, pressed it ardently to his lips, murmuring the while, in low and passionate accents, such broken and rapturous sentences as only lovers speak and love alone can comprehend. The lady stood over him, her graceful form slightly bowed, her large lustrous eyes alternately fixed upon the kneeling youth and roving anxiously round the apartment.

“Don Federico,” she said, in tones whose sweetness thrilled his blood, “may the Holy Virgin forgive my unmaidenly boldness. I have yielded to an impulse stronger than my reason—to the desire of seeing you, of hearing——”

“That I love you,” interrupted Federico—“that I adore you from the first hour I beheld you,—that I will die at your feet if you refuse me hope!”

She bent forward, and laid her small rosy hand upon his throbbing forehead. The touch was electric, the fiery glow of passion flashed in her glance. “Light of my eyes!” she whispered, “it were vain to deny that my heart is thine. But our love is a flower on the precipice’s brink.”

“I fear not the fall,” Federico impetuously exclaimed.

“Dare you risk everything?”

“For your love, everything!” was the enthusiastic reply.

“Listen, then, to the difficulties that beset us, and say if they are surmountable.”

The maiden paused, started, grew pale.

“Hark!” she exclaimed—“what is that? He comes! Be still! be silent!” With wild and terrified haste she seized Federico’s hand, dragged him across the room, and opened a door. The student felt a burning kiss upon his lips, and, before he knew where he was, the door was shut, and he was in total darkness. All that had happened since he entered the house had occurred so rapidly, was so mysterious and startling, that he was utterly bewildered. For a moment he thought himself betrayed, groped round his prison, which was a narrow closet, found the door, and, grasping his stiletto, was about to force his way through all opposition, when he suddenly heard heavy steps on the other side of the tapestried screen. Motionless, he listened.

“Bring lights!” said a deep commanding voice; “the lamp burns dim as in a bridal chamber.”

“It anticipates its office,” replied another male voice, with a laugh. “Is not your wedding-day fixed?”

“Not yet; in the course of next week, perhaps,” answered the first speaker, striding up and down the apartment.

“You are in small haste,” returned his companion, “to enjoy what all envy you. Never did I behold beauty more divine and captivating.”

“Beautiful she certainly is,” was the reply; “but what is woman’s beauty! The vision of a day; snow, sullied and dispelled in a night.”

“You are in exceeding good humour,” said the friend of this morose and moralising bridegroom.

A pause ensued, during which Federico’s heart beat so strongly that he thought its throbbings must surely be audible through the slight barrier separating him from the speakers. A servant brought lights, and a slender bright ray shot through a small opening in the tapestry, previously unobserved by the student. Applying his eye to the crevice, he obtained a view of the apartment, and of the persons whose conversation he had overheard. One of these wore a uniform glittering with embroidery; the other was dressed in black, with several stars and orders on his breast. Both were in the middle period of life: the one in uniform was the youngest and most agreeable looking; the dark features of the other were of a sombre and unpleasing cast.

The servant left the room, and the man in black suspended his walk and paused opposite his friend.

“You had something to communicate?” he said, in a suppressed voice.

“Are we secure from listeners?” asked the officer, in French.

“Entirely; and doubly so if we speak French. Rosaura herself, did she overhear us, would be none the wiser.”

“Count,” said the soldier, “I sincerely wish you joy of this marriage.”

“A thousand thanks! But with equal sincerity I tell you that I am heartily weary of such congratulations. In marrying, one gives and takes. I give Rosaura my name and rank, titles and dignities, honours and privileges.”

“And you take your lovely ward and a rich estate. A fair exchange, Excellency. I can only say that the world wonders at the delay of so suitable a union, and even inclines to the belief that a certain disinclination——”

“The world is greatly mistaken,” interrupted the Count. “I ardently love Rosaura, and I have his Majesty’s consent to the marriage. But what a fool men take me for, if they suppose——” he stopped short, and tossed his head with a scornful smile.

“Well?” said the officer.

“Solve the riddle yourself.”

“I understand! Your position is uneasy, the future dark, the decisive moment at hand. With one’s feet on a volcano, one is little disposed to enjoy a honeymoon.”

“But when the mine explodes, and one is tossed into the air, it is pleasant to fall in the soft lap of love, there to forget one’s wounds.”

“Bravo! But what if the lap refuse to receive the luckless engineer?”

Amigo!” replied the Count—“I thought you knew me better. Under all circumstances, Rosaura remains mine. For myself have I trained and nurtured this fair and delicate plant, and to me, as the gardener, it belongs.”

“She loves you, then?”

“Loves me? What a question! Of course she does. She has grown up with the idea that she is to be my wife. Her heart is pure and unblemished as a diamond: it shall be my care to keep it so.”

“You fear rivals?”

“Fear!” repeated the Count, a smile flitting over his dark countenance. “But we trifle precious time. What have you to tell me?”

“Something important to our cause,” replied the officer, drawing nearer to his companion. “But first, how goes it yonder?”

He pointed with his finger in the direction of the closet. Federico instinctively started back, but again applied his eye to the loophole on hearing the Count’s answer. “I have just come thence,” he said, “and must soon return. The hand of death is upon him—in vain would he parry the blow. Still the struggle is a hard one; he persists in discrediting his danger, and will abandon none of his habits. But the remorseless tyrant is there, soon to claim him for his own.”

“Then we must take our measures without delay,” said the officer.

“They are already taken,” was his companion’s quiet answer.

“Your colleagues are agreed?”

“Fully agreed.”

“And now?”

“Read that,” said the Count, taking a large folded paper from a portfolio, and spreading it before his friend, who devoured its contents with every demonstration of extreme surprise.

“His handwriting! his signature!” he cried. “A revocation, annihilating the shameless intrigues and machinations of years! Now, Heaven be praised, our country and religion—the faith, honour, and dignity of Spain are rescued! How was it obtained? How possible? My noble friend, you are indeed a great statesman!”

“Take this priceless document,” calmly replied the Count; “convey it to your master. Only in his hands is it entirely safe. The future welfare of Spain, the salvation of us all, is suspended to its seal. That I obtained it,” he continued, his voice sinking to a whisper, “is the work of Providence. During the last two days he has had spasms and fainting fits that have weakened his mind and energies. The secret is well kept, and without the palace gates nought is known of these dangerous symptoms. In such moments of agony and depression, the weary soul recalls the past, and trembles for the future. Then, in vivid colours, I placed before him the confusion and unhappiness, and infernal mischief, to which his deplorable decision must give rise; I urged the injustice he had committed, the sin that would lie at his door; and showed how, almost before his eyes had closed, the work he had achieved at peril to his soul would sink and crumble in an ocean of blood and tears. Alcudia supported me; the others chimed in; this document was ready, and——he signed.”

“And now we have got it,” cried the officer, triumphantly, “we will hold it fast with hands and teeth. How long, think you, may he still live?”

“Castillo says not more than two days, and that he will hardly regain the full use of his intellects.” The eyes of the conspirators met; for a moment they gazed at each other, and then broke into a smile.

“Well,” said the officer, “I came commissioned to assure you special favour and high reward, but, by my honour as a soldier, no gain or recompense can worthily requite such service as yours.”

“For me little can be done,” replied the Count. “My desires tend to a peaceful existence in the arms of my young wife, far removed from cares of state. Such is the reward I promise myself. Let your acts be speedy and decided, for it might well happen that——” his brow contracted into deeper folds, and his voice assumed a discordant harshness—“I have decimated the ranks of the scoundrels, but enough yet remain to give much trouble. Take sure measures, and muster your resources. You will need them all.”

“Fear not,” replied the confident soldier. “We, too, have been active, and have good and steady friends. At a word, the Realista volunteers and the trusty Agraviados fly to their arms. Romagosa, Caraval, Erro, Gonzalez, and the venerable Cyrillo, still live. The Guards are for us; so are the civil authorities and captains-general of eleven provinces. Let the moment come, and you will see that, with this document in our hand, all is done. Confidence for confidence,” he continued. “Read this list of names. It contains those of our most approved friends, and will reassure you as to the chances of the future.”

He handed a paper to the Count, who, barely looking at it, said thoughtfully—

“Leave it with me till to-morrow. At the critical moment it will be of immense weight with many waverers. ’Tis late; in a few minutes I must go out. Place me at the feet of your gracious master, and tell him he will have no more faithful subject than his humble slave.”

“Will you see him?” said the officer, gently. His companion shook his head.

“’Twere not wise,” he replied. “The time is not yet come. When it arrives, I shall be the first to bend knee before him. Be watchful, prudent, and prompt. Yet one word. You have confided somewhat in that fellow Regato. Trust him not too far. I deem him a traitor. Let him be proved such, and he shall not escape the rope he has long deserved. And now, farewell!”

The two men parted, and, as the Count returned from the door, Federico heard a rustling of silks that materially increased the rapidity of his heart’s pulsations.

“My fair bride!” gallantly exclaimed his Excellency, “I am enchanted to see you. How lovely you look, Rosaura! and how deeply I regret that important affairs leave me but a few moments to devote to you.”

“It would seem,” said the lady, with cold severity, “that your Excellency has converted my poor apartment into an audience-chamber.”

“A thousand pardons, dear Rosaura,” was the reply. “A particular friend craved a short interview.”

“It is late,” said the lady, pointedly. “I wish your Excellency a good-night.”

“What!” cried the Count, impatiently. “You dismiss me thus?”

“I am indisposed to-night.”

“You are a cruel tyrant, Rosaura.”

“I, Excellency? They say worse things of you.”

“Who, and what?”

“No matter. May your Excellency live a thousand years.”

“With you, Rosaura,” replied the Count, assuming an air of tenderness which, as Federico thought, sat supremely ill upon him, and endeavouring to take her hand. She drew it quickly back.

Veremos, Excelencia. We shall see.”

“The devil take the Excellency!” cried the Count, losing all self-command, and stamping angrily with his foot. Rosaura curtsied low.

“You forget my rights over you, Rosaura. I came to tell you that in a few days, as I hope, my dearest wishes will be accomplished.”

“We shall see, Excellency,” repeated the provoking beauty.

The Count stepped up to her, and said, with his sullen smile, “You rejoice not at it, Rosaura?”

“No,” was her laconic reply.

“You love me not?”

“Love you, Excellency? a great statesman like you! Certainly not, Excellency.”

“I grieve to hear it, my beautiful bride; but, fortunately, love often comes with marriage. You shall learn to love me, Rosaura. Our existence shall be a happy and envied one. You detest state affairs: I will leave them and devote myself solely to you. Far from the capital, we will lead a pastoral life, amidst myrtles and meadows, flocks and shepherds, in all the sweet tranquillity of a terrestrial paradise.”

Whether sketched in jest or in earnest, this picture of rustic felicity had evidently few charms for Rosaura, at least in the companionship proposed. Suddenly she stepped up to the Count, took his hand, looked full into his dark serious countenance, and laughed aloud and most musically.

“What do I hear, Excellency,” she exclaimed; “you in myrtle groves and smiling meadows—you leading a shepherd’s tranquil life! Oh, ye Saints! he a shepherd in the Alpuxarras. Ah! the flocks would fly and scatter themselves when they beheld the gloomy lines upon your brow. Where are sheep to be found who would be tended by that ensanguined hand? Where could you find repose? Is there a place free from the echoes of the curses that martyred Liberals have heaped upon you? Where is the domestic hearth around which would not range themselves the spectres of the wretches who, at your command, have been blotted from the book of life. Count, I shudder at the thought! Holy Mother of God! is that the happy future you would compel me to share? No, no, never!—though the garrote were to encircle my neck, as it did that of the unhappy lady at Granada, who refused to betray her husband, and whom you sent to the scaffold in his stead! Has she never appeared to your Excellency, cold and pale, and with sightless eyes? For Quito’s treasures would I not behold her—her and the whole ghastly train; hundreds, ay hundreds of them, in the long, black-bordered shrouds, and the bare-footed friars with their fearful misericordia! Mercy, mercy, Excellency! with me would come the evil spirits, and a thousand——but, good-night, good-night, Excellency.”

With a graceful movement of hand and head she glided from the room. The Count attempted not to detain her. He stood motionless, his hand thrust into his breast, and followed her with his eyes in mute astonishment.

“The silly child!” he at last murmured. “But how lovely she is! I, whom all fear—even HE,” he emphatically added—“I almost quail before her mad petulance. Well, well!” he continued after a pause, “the priest first, and discipline afterwards. A man who has bowed and broken so many stubborn spirits, will hardly be vanquished by the humours of a wilful girl. Good-night, my lovely bride. ‘We shall see,’ you said; and assuredly we will see.”

He took his hat, and was about to leave the room, when, by an inadvertent movement, Federico let fall his poniard. The Count was quick of hearing, and the noise, slight as it was, drew his attention. He turned sharply towards the spot where the student was concealed.

“What was that?” he cried. “Something fell in the closet. Have we listeners here?”

For an instant he hesitated; then, taking one of the massive silver candlesticks, he stepped briskly to the closet, and was almost knocked down by the door, which Federico pushed violently open. The waxlights fell to the ground; like a winged shadow, the student sprang past the astonished Count, reached the door before the latter recovered from his alarm, and would doubtless have got clear off, had he not, in hurry and ignorance, turned the wrong handle. The Count grasped his coat-skirt, and pulled him back.

“Scoundrel!” he cried. “What do you here?”

For sole reply, Federico seized his assailant by the throat, and a struggle began, which, although speedily decided in favour of the active student, was destined to have most important results. The Count was vigorous, and defended himself well. He had little opportunity of calling out, closely grappled as he was, but he dealt his antagonist more than one heavy blow. At last Federico dashed him to the ground, and disappeared from the room, leaving behind him one of his coat-skirts, torn off in the contest. In falling, the Count’s head struck against a table, and he lay for a few seconds stunned by the shock. Recovering himself, he sprang to his feet, foaming with rage, his dark visage black with shame and anger. “Seize him!” he cried, hurrying down the corridor. Twenty servants flew to obey the order. But it was too late. The student passed like a fire-flash before the porter, and made good his escape from the house. “Follow him!” shouted the Count—“a hundred ounces for his capture!” And, stimulated by this princely reward, the eager domestics ran, like hounds after a deer, on the track of the student, who soon heard the shouts of his enemies, and the shrill whistle of the serenos, around and on all sides of him.

Although panting from his brief but violent struggle with the Count, Federico traversed with extreme swiftness several streets and squares, until want of breath at last compelled him to a moment’s pause. He looked around, and observed the locality. Before him lay the massive buildings of the royal palace, favoured by whose shadow he continued his flight, now up-hill. But the numbers of his pursuers gave them a great advantage; and, to his dismay, he found himself so closely and accurately followed, that capture appeared inevitable.

“Had I but my knife,” he exclaimed aloud, pausing in despair, “I would keep them off or die! Fool that I have been! Sentries on all sides! They have taken alarm! What can I do?”

“Go to Ciudad Real, if not too late,” said a man, wrapped in a cloak, and wearing a small three-cornered hat, who suddenly stepped from behind a massive stone column, close to where the student stood.

Federico at once recognised the speaker.

“For God’s sake, Geronimo!” he cried, “assist me in this strait. If they catch me, I am lost. And hark! yonder they come! I hear the baying of the menial pack. On all sides the way is barred!”

Geronimo seized Federico’s hand, and hurried him behind the pillar. “There is only one chance,” he said; “muffle yourself in my cloak, take my hat, assume a stoop, and walk slowly, like an old man.”

“What is your plan?” cried the student.

“Ask no questions. Do as I bid you. Do you see yonder door?”

“Of the palace?”

“Go in there.”

“Into the palace?”

“Of course. Look neither right nor left; cross the first court to the great portal. There await me. Quick, quick—they come!” And he pushed him away.

Not without doubt and disquietude did Federico obey the orders of the old man, who displayed, in this conjuncture, a promptitude and decision rare at his age. But the student had no alternative. Wrapped in Regato’s cloak, and feigning a feeble gait, he passed slowly and unquestioned before the soldiers of the royal guard. This impunity in a palace where the strictest watch and ward were usually kept, was an enigma to Federico; and he was still more puzzled, when, whilst waiting at the portal, several persons, shrouded like himself in dark cloaks, passed before him, greeting him as they went with a muttered “buenas noches” and disappeared in the corridors of the palace. At last came Geronimo. He had provided himself in the interval with another cloak. His appearance was an immense relief to the student.

“Are they gone?” said Federico. “May I venture out?”

“Thank the saints that you are here!” replied Geronimo. “And now, tell me what has happened.”

Federico told his adventures; and old Regato listened to the narrative with marks of the strongest interest. When he heard what the Count had said of him and of his probable fate, he laughed heartily. “Bah!” said he; “threatened men live long. I have had hotter broth cooked for me, and cooled it with my breath. I hope to die in my bed like a good Christian; and as for my chance of a rope, I would not change with his Excellency. The infernal schemer! I’ll pay him off now. Madre de todas gracias! had we but the list of the conspirators, what a blow might be struck!”

“The list!” repeated Federico. “Stay, let me remember!” and, plunging his hand into his pocket, he pulled out a torn paper. “When I threw the man down, this remained sticking between my waistcoat and neckcloth, where he had grappled me. I noticed it when I got outside, and thrust it into my pocket.”

Without listening to this explanation, Geronimo seized the paper, and, by the light of a lamp under the portal, examined it with eager curiosity. At sight of its contents, a savage joy sparkled in his eye.

“Ah, maldito!” he exclaimed with a laugh of triumph; “we have you now. Federico, the rose-coloured lady is ten times more surely yours than if you had remained in the closet and his Excellency had not discovered you. Follow, and be silent. Whatever happens, not a word till I bid you; then speak boldly, and tell what you know.”

Through winding corridors, up and down stairs, along galleries where sentries stood like statues, Geronimo led the way, until he reached a room whose door was opened by a gigantic lackey in the gaudy royal livery. Federico, who followed close upon his heels, suddenly found himself in the presence of a number of men, for the most part elderly and of grave respectable aspect, who stood in small knots about the apartment, or sat at tables on which were wine and refreshments, conversing in a low tone. Amongst these a hum of interest arose on Regato’s entrance; and under cover of the attention he attracted, his companion passed unnoticed.

It at once flashed upon Federico, that he had penetrated into that notorious camarilla or secret council of King Ferdinand VII., so much spoken of, so often cursed and scoffed at, so greatly feared and justly hated. This was the cringing and pernicious conclave of whose vile proceedings so many tales were told; these were the men, of all ranks and classes, who poured into the jealous despot’s ear the venom of calumny and falsehood; these the spies and traitors who, by secret and insidious denunciations, brought sudden arrest and unmerited punishment upon their innocent fellow-citizens, and who kept the King advised of all that passed in Madrid, from the amorous intrigues of a grocer’s wife, to the political ones concerted in the cabinet of the Infante Don Carlos.

The student’s first uneasiness at finding himself upon such new and perilous ground, vanished when he saw that he was wholly unheeded. He remembered to have heard that persons once admitted to the camarilla, and honoured by the King’s confidence, were at liberty to return when they thought fit, at short or long intervals; and thus it might well happen that some of the members were unknown to each other. And on that night, those illicit counsellors of majesty were evidently pre-occupied with some pressing and important matter. They crowded round Regato, took his arm, seized him by the button, whispered so eagerly, and questioned him so fast, that the little man lost all patience.

“Hands off, gentlemen!” he cried. “Which of you will buy me a new coat when you have torn mine? ’Tis true that this morning our gracious lord the King was very ill: but I hear that he is now better; and by the grace of our blessed Lady, he will rejoice his humble and loving slaves, and dispel their deep anxiety, by the sunshine of his presence.”

The words had scarce left Geronimo’s lips, when the opening of a side-door proved the signal for a respectful silence in the apartment. The whole assembly bowed profoundly, and preserved that posture, although no cause was yet apparent for such extraordinary greeting. At last one showed itself, in the person of a man who tottered slowly and feebly into the room, supported on the arms of two attendants, his livid and bloated countenance distorted by a smile as painful to behold as if compelled by thumbscrews. The face of the new comer, who nodded in reply to the humble salutation of all present, might once have been handsome, but it could never have been intellectual or prepossessing, and now it was hideously cadaverous and ghastly. The features were those characterising a well-known family, world-renowned for the high places it has filled, rather than for the virtues or abilities of its members. The eyes were sunk deep in their sockets, the straight, scanty black hair shaded a brow blue and transparent from disease; the tall person and once well-formed limbs were swollen and unwieldy. The sick man’s dress would have suited some plain burgher taking his ease in his summer-house: it consisted of a light nankeen jacket, a white neckcloth knotted loosely round the throat, linen trousers, and large shoes. He seemed scarcely able to set foot to ground, and the agony each step occasioned him betrayed itself in spasmodic twitchings of the nerves and muscles. Still there was a violent effort of the will to conceal the pangs that racked the enfeebled frame; a fruitless attempt to hide, by the assumption of smiling ease and gracious condescension, the approach of that equalising hour when human greatness and human misery sink to one level.

The sick man propped himself against a table, beside which stood an easy-chair, and with an affable wave of his hand, addressed the company.

“Good evening, señores!” he said: “we have felt ourselves somewhat unwell, and our careful physician Castillo, as also our trusty Grijalva, was solicitous on our account. But we would not put off this meeting. We love to meet our good friends, and are not to be kept from them by slight bodily inconvenience. Men fancy us more ailing than we are. You can refute such reports. What say you, Mexas—and you, Salcedo? Is our aspect so very sickly? We know that many build hopes upon our death; but they are mistaken, and by Our Lady, they shall be disappointed.”

“God preserve our gracious lord a thousand years!” exclaimed several voices.

“An example should be made,” said the man appealed to as Salcedo, “of the traitors who dare spread lying reports concerning the royal health.”

“’Tis too true,” observed another, “that such rumours are used to the most criminal ends.”

“We will sit down,” said the sick monarch. And with the assistance of his attendants, he deposited his exhausted person in the elbow-chair. “Drink, my friends, and tell me the news. Give me a cigar, good Castillo. Señor Regato, how goes it? what is new in our fair city of Madrid?”

“Little is heard,” replied Geronimo, “save lamentations for the indisposition of our beloved master.”

“The good people!” exclaimed Ferdinand. “We will have care of their happiness.”

“And yet,” said a little old man with a countenance of repulsive ugliness, “there be reprobates who laugh whilst all true and faithful subjects weep. There is my neighbour, the merchant Alvaro. Yesterday he married his daughter to a young nobleman, Don Francisco Palavar, who claims relationship with the Marquis of Santa Cruz. The wedding-guests were numerous; they sang and danced, and rejoiced beyond measure. Señor Alvaro, said I, are you not ashamed to be so joyous at such a time? ‘Friend,’ was his answer, ‘let the times wag—they are certainly bad enough, but must soon change. All things have an end. We rejoice in hopes of a better future.’”

“The wretch!” exclaimed another of the camarilla. “I know him well; he was always a negro.”

“A knave grown grey in the sins of the Exaltados,” cried a third.

“He must be looked to,” said the sick King. “Salcedo, what have you to tell?”

“I have gathered intelligence,” replied Salcedo, “from an equerry of a certain illustrious personage.” He paused and looked meaningly at the King, whose brow contracted, and whose lips muttered a well-known name. “The equerry,” Salcedo said, “tattled of great bustle and many visits at his master’s palace. For days past its courtyard had been filled with carriages, bringing generals, ministers, dignitaries of the church, and many officers, chiefly of the Royal Guard.” On hearing this, a feverish and uneasy flush reddened Ferdinand’s pale countenance, and his dim eyes glared angrily.

“I know them,” he said, “the old conspirators, the Catalan volunteers, the Agraviados. Why have I not heard this sooner? But I will take order with them. Ha, Tadeo!—you there? Why has this been kept from me?”

Uttering these last words, the King looked directly at the spot where Federico stood. So, at least, it seemed to the student, who, much confused, and apprehensive of discovery, averted his eyes from the royal gaze. But his embarrassment was exchanged for consternation, when he beheld, in the person addressed by Ferdinand as Tadeo his recent antagonist, the affianced of Rosaura. The Count, who stood at his elbow, gave him but one look, but that one comprised everything—astonishment, anger, hatred, confidence of power, and a fixed determination of revenge. A chill came over the poor student, and he debated in his mind whether to rush from the room, or to fall at the King’s feet and reveal all he knew. His first surprise over, and seeing that Don Tadeo took no further notice of him, he thought it wisest to follow Geronimo’s directions and remain quiet.

“My gracious liege,” said Tadeo to the King, with his usual gloomy decision of manner, “it was unnecessary to importune your majesty by such reports, seeing that they are merely lying devices of the evil-disposed. And even were it true that many visits are paid to that palace, its master has right and reason to receive them, without——”

By an impatient gesture, the King interrupted the speaker.

“It needs but to name the visitors,” said Regato, with a quick sharp glance at Tadeo. “Eguia is one of them; San Juan, O’Donnel, Moreno, Caraval, are others.”

“Has it not been remarked,” said Mexas, with a sarcastic smile, “that in the apartments of a certain illustrious lady, meetings are also held, to which repair the Dukes of San Lorenzo and Fernando, Martinez de la Rosa, Cambronero, and many others? What can be said against that?”

A dead silence followed this bold remark: all knew well who the illustrious lady was who thus assembled round her the leaders of the Liberals. Suddenly the ominous pause was broken by the voice of Federico, to whom Regato had made a sign, significant although barely perceptible.

“Don Tadeo,” cried the audacious student, his mellow manly tones ringing through the apartment, “is a traitor to his King. This very night he delivered an all-important document to an agent of the Infante Don Carlos.”

The words were an electric shock to the camarilla. The King started, and showed symptoms of extraordinary agitation. “What is that? Who says that?” he cried, rising from his chair with the vigour of sudden excitement. “Who knows of the document? where is it? Seize him—he shall explain—confess!”

“Seize the scoundrel,” cried Tadeo, “who has dared intrude himself hither.”

“My guards! my guards!” cried the King, his eyes rolling wildly, his features frightfully convulsed. “Where is the paper? Tadeo, I will have it back! Ha! what is this! mercy! blessed Virgin, mer——!” The word was unfinished; and Ferdinand, doubly tortured by bodily pain and mental anguish, fell back into the arms of his physician.

“The King is dead!” exclaimed Tadeo. “Help here!”

The camarilla crowded round Ferdinand, who lay without sense or motion. “What is it, Señor Castillo?” said Tadeo. The physician let fall his patient’s wrist.

“A sudden paroxysm, your Excellency,” he replied in a low voice. “It was to be apprehended—all is over!”

The Count turned away, and his eye fell upon Federico, who, seeing resistance useless, stood passive in the custody of several of the camarilla. With a vindictive frown, Tadeo pulled open the student’s cloak, and pointed to his skirtless coat.

“You cannot deny it,” he said. “The proof of your guilt is in my possession. Who is the fellow?”

Geronimo Regato stepped forward and stared in the student’s face.

“What!” cried he, “is not that Don Federico, the young advocate, well-known in the coffee-houses as a virulent Exaltado, a determined scoffer, a propagator of atrocious doctrines?”

“I thought as much,” said the Count. “None but such an unprincipled scoundrel would dare to act the spy in the very palace. Call the guard, and away with him to prison. Let this man be securely ironed,” he added, to the soldiers who now entered; “and let none have speech of him.”

The order was promptly obeyed. A very brief space elapsed before Federico found himself in a narrow dungeon, stretched on damp straw, with manacles on hands and feet. In total darkness, and seated despondingly upon his comfortless couch, the events of the evening appeared to him like some frightful nightmare. But in vain did he rub his eyes and try to awake from his imaginary sleep; the terrible reality forced itself upon him. He thought of Rosaura, the original cause of his misfortunes, and almost doubted whether she were indeed a woman, or some demon in angel’s form, sent to lure him to destruction. Of Geronimo, too, he thought with feelings of inexpressible bitterness. He, the friend in whom he had placed such implicit reliance, to betray him thus; for his own advantage, doubtless, and to draw his own head out of the noose! There were none, then, to whom he could now look for succour. The King was dead; his successor, the apostolical ruler, the partisan and defender of the Inquisition, whose name, for years past, had been the rallying-cry of the disaffected, owed his crown to the powerful Tadeo whom the student had offended and ill-treated, whose love he had dared to cross, whose revenge he must now encounter. Federico felt that his fate was sealed. Already he heard, in imagination, the clank of ponderous fetters in the dismal halls of the Inquisition; already he saw the terrible machines—the screws and weights, the ladder and iron couch, and felt the burning sulphur, as it was dropped hissing upon his naked flesh by the masked and pitiless executioner. He thought of Arguelles, the Divine, whom he had seen an animated corpse, his limbs crushed and distorted by similar tortures; and in spite of his natural courage, a shudder came over him as he heard the bars of his dungeon-door withdrawn, and the heavy bolts shot back into their sockets. The next instant he closed his eyes, dazzled by a glare of light.

When he reopened them, the Count or Tadeo—whichever was his most fitting appellation—stood before him. With the courage of pride and despair, Federico boldly met his searching gaze. For some moments they looked at each other in silence, broken at last by Tadeo.

“I come to question you,” he said: “answer truly, and your captivity may be very brief. Deceive me, and your life shall be yet shorter. Your crimes shall meet their just reward.”

“I am guilty of no crime,” retorted Federico. “I am the victim of circumstances.”

“And what are they?” eagerly inquired the Count.

Federico was silent.

“Do you know me, señor?” said the Count.

“No,” was the reply.

“Beware, then, lest you learn to know me too well. What did you, concealed in yonder closet? Where is the paper you robbed me of? Who admitted you into the house? Do you belong to a secret society? Were you sent as a spy? A dagger was found in the closet: did you come to assassinate me?”

He paused after each question, but Federico answered none of them, save the last, to which he replied by a stern negative. “You had best confess,” resumed Tadeo. “If you are no political offender, if no criminal project led you where I found you, I pledge my word, señor—and I pledge it only to what I can and will perform—you shall at once be released.”

“I can say but this,” replied the prisoner—“it was not my object to overhear you. An accident conducted me where you discovered me, and I heartily regret that a casual noise betrayed my presence.”

“Is that all you will say?”

“All.”

“You know not with whom you deal,” cried the Count. Then, lowering his voice, and with a smile that he strove to render amiable, “It was, perhaps, a love-affair,” he said. “Young man, which of Doña Rosaura’s handmaidens did you seek? Who introduced you into that apartment? Tell me this—satisfy me on a point that concerns myself personally—and not only will I forget all, but remain your debtor.”

Whilst thus he spoke, the Count’s features expressed very different sentiments from those announced by his smooth and placable speech. In their convulsive workings, and in the savage fire of his eyes, jealousy and hatred were plainly to be read; he looked like a tiger about to spring upon its prey.

“Señor,” said Federico, contemptuously, “you waste time. If a lady did introduce me into your house, rest assured I am not base enough to reveal her name. From me you get no further answer. Do with me as you will. In this unhappy land, might is above right.”

“Wretch!” exclaimed the Count, fiercely advancing upon his undaunted captive, “you have betrayed yourself. I will destroy you, knave, like an insect. A lady conceal you! What audacious slander is this?” He struggled with his rage, and, mastering himself, resumed: “It has been proved that you are the spy of a dangerous and treasonable association. Where is the paper you stole?”

“I have no paper,” replied Federico, “and will answer no more questions. I am in your power; do your worst.”

The Count stepped to the dungeon door. Two men entered. Whilst one of them searched Federico, closely examining each pocket and fold of his dress, but without discovering the much-coveted document, the other listened respectfully to the Count, who gave him instructions in a low voice. His last words, which reached the ear of the student, were not calculated to reassure him as to the future. “Be it so,” said Don Tadeo. “The necessary warrant shall at once be made out, and then—despatch.” And with a vindictive glance at his prisoner, he left the prison.

It was some consolation to the unfortunate Federico, when again in dismal solitude, and with the prospect of a cruel death before his eyes, to reflect on the firmness he had shown, and on the agony of jealous doubt he had inflicted on his rival. In his defenceless and desperate circumstances, such revenge was doubly sweet; and for a while he dwelt on it with pleasure. Then his thoughts took other direction, and an active and excited imagination transported him from that gloomy cell to the chamber of the beautiful cause of his misfortunes. She knelt before a crucifix, and wept and prayed for him. He heard her breathe his name, and invoke the saints to his assistance; and in a transport of love and gratitude he extended his arms to clasp her to his heart. They were rudely checked by the chain that linked them to the wall. And now pale spectres flitted through the gloom, and grinned at him with their skeleton mouths, and murmured in his ear that he must die, and never again see her whose kiss was yet hot upon his lips. And the last ominous words and deadly look of his foe recurred to him, chasing all hope. Who would miss him, the humble and friendless student? who inquire where or how he had met his fate? Far greater than he, the wealthy, the titled, the powerful, had met the fate he anticipated, at hangman’s hands, in the dark and silent recesses of Spanish dungeons. To the long list of illustrious victims, he, an insignificant one, would be added unnoticed. And the remembrance of those who had preceded him, ennobling an ignominious death, gave Federico courage. “Yes!” he exclaimed aloud, “I will die as so many great and good men have died before me! Would that I had done service to my poor oppressed country, something to deserve the tyrant’s hate! But for thee, Rosaura, will I gladly perish, and to thee only shall my last sigh be given.”

His words yet echoed in the dungeon, when he heard steps at the door, and its fastenings again withdrawn. This time he doubted not it was his death-warrant and the executioner. Nerving himself to endure the worst, he gazed sternly and steadily at his visitors.

“That is he,” said the turnkey, to a tall, sullen-looking man.

“Take off his chains,” was the answer; “and you, señor, follow me.”

“Quick with your work,” cried Federico. “Call your aids. I am prepared.”

“Silence and follow!” harshly replied the stranger. “Lucky for you if you are prepared for all.”

Without the dungeon stood a third man, muffled in a short mantle. Federico shuddered. “Another of the hangman brood!” he murmured. “Lead on, I fear thee not!” The man followed without a word. After traversing several corridors, they ascended a lofty staircase. Behind each door Federico fancied a torture chamber or a garrote, but none of them revealed what he expected. At last his conductor paused.

“Are you ready,” he said, “to appear before your Supreme Judge?”

“I am ready,” Federico solemnly replied.

“Then enter here.”

A door opened, the student set foot across the threshold, and hardly restrained a cry of surprise. Instead of the garrote, instead of racks and torturers, he beheld a gorgeous saloon, brilliantly lighted up with a profusion of wax tapers. Five or six men of distinguished mien and elegant appearance, with stars and orders upon their breasts, were grouped round a large carved chair, and looked curiously and expectantly at Federico. But he scarcely observed them. Even on a lady of great beauty and majestic aspect, who sat in the chair, wrapped in a costly mantle of embroidered velvet, his attention was fixed but for an instant, for behind her stood another lady, somewhat pale and anxious-looking, but who yet bore so strong a resemblance to the cause of his sufferings, to her of the rose-coloured robe, to Rosaura herself, that all the blood in his veins rushed to his heart. Her name hovered on his lips, and, forgetting everything but love and newly-revived hope, he was about to spring forward and throw himself at her feet, when the lady in the chair addressed him:

“Remain there, señor,” she said, with a smile and gracious movement of her head, as if she divined the impulse to which the impetuous student so nearly yielded. “You have had strange adventures, I am told, within the last few hours. They will terminate happily for you, if you tell the whole truth, and relate without reserve all that has occurred. Where have you passed this night? What took you to the house in which you were found hidden? What heard you there?”

“Señora,” replied Federico, respectfully but firmly, “I have already preferred death to the revelation of a secret that is not mine. My resolution is unchanged. I can answer no questions.”

The lady cast a friendly and approving glance at the steadfast youth.

“Now, by Our Lady!” she said, turning to the gentlemen around her, “this is a chivalrous fidelity, right pleasant to behold in these unchivalrous days. I doubt not, young sir, that the lady of your affections will know how to repay it. But here are great interests at stake, and your excuse may not avail. You must relate all, truly and without reserve. And to remove your scruples, know that the secret you have so bravely kept is no longer one for any here present. Proceed!”

A look from Rosaura confirmed this assurance, and without further hesitation Federico told his adventures, and repeated the dialogue he had heard from the closet. At times the listeners seemed surprised; at times they smiled, or looked significantly at each other, and spoke together in brief whispers. Twice had the student to tell his tale, and his words were taken down by one of the gentlemen present. That done, the lady rose quickly from her chair, laid a hand upon his shoulder, and, fixing her keen bright eyes searchingly upon his face, pointed to the deposition.

“Can you swear to that?” she cried. “Is it all true? Before God and his saints, did all pass as you have said? No word too much or too little? Saw you the document with your own eyes? Santa Madre! Is it possible? Surely it cannot be; and yet—my friends, what say you? What think you, Duke of San Fernando, and you, Marquis of Santa Cruz? What says his Grace of San Lorenzo, and our discreet friend, Martinez de la Rosa? No, I need not fear, whilst thus surrounded by the best and wisest in the land. Cambronero, advise us. How may we defeat the machinations of our crafty foes?”

The gentleman who had written down the deposition, raised his head, and Federico recognised the features of one renowned throughout Spain as a wise counsellor and learned lawyer. With surprise and respect the student gazed at the distinguished and illustrious persons he had just heard named.

“Much depends,” said Cambronero, “on his Majesty’s health. If unhappily he departs this life without regaining consciousness, we must recover the surreptitiously obtained document at point of sword. No other course will then be open to us. But if, by God’s gracious mercy, the King’s senses return, not a moment must be lost in obtaining from his hand a revocation of the act. He must be told everything; he must be shown how his confidence has been abused, and what base advantage has been taken of a momentary weakness. He must hear the witnesses whom Heaven has raised up for your Majesty.”

“Ha!” cried the lady, with an impatient and energetic gesture, “you are right, Cambronero; we must act! All that can be done, Christina will do. They shall not triumph by weakness of hers! Don Fernando still lives, can yet retract. He shall hear how they have laboured to bring shame upon his name; shall learn the perfidy of those who have environed him with their snares! I go to tell him.”

The Queen left the room. “To me it seems, señores,” said Cambronero, a quiet smile playing on his shrewd features, “that things have happened for the best, and that the result of all this is not doubtful, provided only the king be not already dead. The Apostolicals have been active. Their creatures have worked their way into the cabinet and the camarilla. The guards, the captains-general, and many officers of state are long since gained over. In all cases, on King Ferdinand’s death, a war is inevitable. The succession to the throne is a Gordian knot, to be cut only by the sword. The Infante will never yield his claim, or admit as valid the abrogation of the ancient Salic law. And doubtless the crown would be his, were not the people and the spirit of the times opposed to him. He is retrograde; the Spain of to-day is and must be progressive. The nation is uneasy; it hates despotic government; it ferments from north to south, from Portugal to the Mediterranean; but that fermentation would lack a rallying point without the decree which commands all to cling to Christina and her children, and repel the Infante. The partisans of Carlos have striven to obtain by craft what they could not hope to conquer by the strong hand, and they have succeeded in making a dying monarch revoke in a moment of delirium or imbecility that all-important act. The revocation is in the hands of the Infante; the Salic law is once more the law of the land, and Christina’s children are in their turn disinherited. And if it be impossible to restore the King to consciousness, I fear——”

“What?” cried the Marquis of Santa Cruz.

“That we are on the eve of a great revolution.”

“Hush!” said the Duke of San Lorenzo, looking anxiously around him. “These are dangerous words, my friend.” And his eye fell upon the handsome countenance of Martinez de la Rosa, who smiled thoughtfully.

“Call it reform, Cambronero,” he said; “wise progress of the times, moderate, cautious, adapted to the circumstances; not rash, reckless, sweeping revolution.”

The lawyer cast a keen glance at the former minister of the Cortes.

“Reform!” he cried. “Ay, certainly; but what reform? Does Señor de la Rosa mean such reform as he helped to bring about? I bid him beware: these are no times for trifling. Here we stand, but a few paces from the deathbed of a powerful prince. He fettered this revolution or reform; but, señores, it was only for a while and in appearance. Like the mole, it has laboured and advanced, surely and unseen. Happy for our king if he expire before the vanity of his efforts, and the inutility of the bloodshed and misery they have occasioned, are demonstrated; before he learns that a principle never dies, though all the artillery of the world be brought to bear upon it. History judges the dead; nations judge the living. Let us so act that we may stand with honour before both tribunals.”

“The subject leads us too far,” said the poet and minister, rising from his chair and glancing at Federico, who, struck and delighted by Cambronero’s words, gazed at him with expanded brow and flashing eyes. “Let us beware of kindling fanaticism: coolness and prudence are becoming to men, and, God knows, we need both.”

He took Cambronero’s arm, and led him to the other end of the spacious apartment. The noblemen followed, and the conversation was resumed in a lower tone. So enthralling had been the interest with which Federico had listened to the words of these influential Liberals, that for an instant he had neglected Rosaura, who stood nearly concealed behind the swelling cushions and high gilt back of the throne-like chair. Her beautiful face wore an anxious, inquiring expression, which seemed to reproach him with forgetting her; but as he drew near, she smiled, and rays of love and hope broke from beneath her long dark lashes. And under the magic influence of those beaming eyes, Federico’s doubts and fears vanished like frost before the mid-day sun, and were replaced by a transport of blissful emotion.

“Rosaura!” he exclaimed, “what unspeakable joy is this! Strange, indeed, have been the events of the night! The wonders of Arabian tales are realised. A moment ago I awaited death in a dungeon; and behold, I am in a king’s chamber, and at your feet, Rosaura. Explain these things, adored mistress of my heart! How do we thus meet? How came you hither?”

“With our friend, Geronimo Regato,” replied the lady.

“The traitor!” indignantly exclaimed Federico. “No thanks to him if I escape with life.”

“Judge not so hastily,” cried Rosaura: “you know not all you owe Regato. From him I first heard your name. He was my confidant; he knew my aversion to the detested man, who considered me already his own. My father, of an old family, although not of the highest nobility, was President of the Burgos Tribunal, and by commercial transactions, in the time of the Constitution, he acquired great wealth. My hated suitor is also sprung from the people. My father was his friend, and at one time had to thank his influence for escape from persecution. Out of gratitude he promised him my hand, and, dying a year ago, left him my guardian. In that capacity he administered my estates, and had me in his power. But, thanks to the Virgin, I am at last free from his odious control.”

She gazed tenderly at Federico, and held out her hand, which he covered with kisses. But she hastily withdrew it, on becoming aware that their proceedings were observed by the group of politicians.

“Is this the time and place?” she said, with a smile of sweet confusion and arch reproach. “And yet, Federico, best beloved, why should I feign indifference, or conceal that my heart is wholly yours?”

“Angel!” cried the enraptured student, trembling with ecstasy.

“Hush!” whispered Rosaura. “Cambronero looks and laughs at us. Hear me, Federico. The decisive moment approaches; but I fear it not—I love and hope. It was Geronimo, disguised as a Gallego, who brought you to my abode; Geronimo hates him whom we hate; he knew me as a child, was my father’s friend, and loves us both. He spoke to me of you long before I saw you; he told me the hour of your walks in the Prado. At the first glance I recognised you.”

“And where is that singular man?” Federico inquired.

“I know not, but doubtless at no great distance. This night, a few hours ago, I lay sleepless on my pillow, anxious for your fate, when a carriage stopped at the door. It was surrounded with guards and torch-bearers, and I was told that my presence was instantly required at the palace. My alarm at so untimely a summons was dissipated by the arrival of Geronimo. ‘Fear nothing,’ he said: ‘the hour of happiness is at hand. He whom you hate is vanquished. Federico is his conqueror.’”

“I his conqueror!” cried the student. And then, recalling all that had occurred, “Strange destiny!” he continued. “Yes, I now see that the secret intrigues of a dangerous and powerful man have been revealed by my means. But who is he? I in vain conjecture.”

“You do not know him?” cried Rosaura, greatly astonished—“not know——?” She suddenly paused, for at that moment the door burst open, and the Queen entered the room, in extreme haste and violent agitation.

“His Majesty is recovered,” she exclaimed, her voice shrill and quivering with contending emotions; “his swoon is over, God’s grace be thanked. I have spoken, my noble friends, and not in vain. The King will himself hear the witnesses. These young people must come with me. Call Geronimo Regato. Remain here, Cambronero, and all of you: I must see you again, I need your counsel—desert me not!”

“When your Majesty next honours us with your presence,” said Cambronero, bowing low, and raising his voice, “it will be as Queen-Regent of Spain.”

Regato entered the room, and Federico rubbed his eyes in fresh astonishment. It was the same man in the dark mantle who had followed him from his dungeon to the Queen’s audience chamber, and whom he had taken for an executioner. Gradually the mysteries of the night unravelled themselves. He understood that if Regato had accused him, it had been to avert suspicion from himself, and that he might work more effectually for both, by revealing to the Queen or to Cambronero what he had learned from Federico, and by placing before them the list of the conspirators. Musing upon this, and each moment more convinced of Geronimo’s wisdom and good faith, he followed the Queen, who, with rapid step, led him and Rosaura through a suite of splendid apartments. Stopping before a door, she turned to the student.

“Speak fearlessly,” she said: “suppress no word of truth, and reckon on my favour and protection.”

Federico bowed. The door turned noiselessly on its hinges, and the Queen paused a moment as in anger and surprise, whilst a dark glow flushed her excited and passionate countenance. From the door a view was commanded of the whole apartment, which was dimly lighted, and occupied by several persons, standing in a half-circle, round a bed placed near a marble chimney-piece. Upon this bed, propped by cushions into a half-sitting posture, lay Ferdinand VII., his suffering features and livid complexion looking ghastly and spectral in the faint light, and contrasted with the snow-white linen of his pillow. A black-robed priest knelt at his feet, and mumbled the prayer for the dying; Castillo the physician held his arm, and reckoned the slow throbs of the feeble pulse. At the bedside sat a lady, her hands folded on the velvet counterpane, her large dark eyes glancing uneasily, almost fiercely, around the room—her countenance by no means that of a sorrowing and resigned mourner.

“The document!” groaned the sick man, with painful effort; “the document, where is it? To your hands I intrusted it; from you I claim it back. Produce it instantly.”

“My gracious sovereign,” replied the person addressed—and at the sound of that sinister voice, Federico felt Rosaura’s hand tremble in his—“my gracious sovereign, that paper, that weighty and important document, signed after wise and long deliberation, cannot thus lightly be revoked by a momentary impulse.”

“Where is it?” interrupted the King, angrily.

“In the safest keeping.”

“In the hands of the Infante,” cried the Queen, entering the room, and approaching the bed.

“Traitor!” exclaimed Ferdinand, making a violent but fruitless effort to raise himself. “Is it thus you repay my confidence?”

“Hear me, gracious sir,” cried Tadeo; but his tongue faltered, and he turned deadly pale, for just then he perceived Rosaura, Federico, and Regato standing at the door.

“Hear these,” said the Queen, placing her arm affectionately round her suffering husband, and bowing her head over him, whilst tears, real or feigned, of sympathy or passion, fell fast from her eyes. “They have betrayed you, Sire; they have abused your confidence; they have conspired against me, against you, against your innocent children. Approach, Don Federico; speak freely and fearlessly. You are under the safeguard of your King, who demands of you the entire truth.”

“Enough!” said Ferdinand; “I have read the young man’s deposition. Look at it, sir,” he added, to Tadeo, pointing to the paper, “and deny it if you can.”

Tadeo obeyed; as he read, his hand visibly shook, and at last he dropped the paper, and sank upon his knees.

“I cannot deny it,” he said, in a troubled voice, “but let your majesty hear my justification. I implore permission to explain my conduct.”

The little lady who sat beside the King’s bed sprang to her feet, her countenance flaming with wrath, and rushed upon the kneeling man. Unbridled rage flashed from her eyes, and distorted each feature of her face.

“Traitor!” she cried, “where is the document? what have you done with it? You stole it, to deliver to men as vile and base as yourself! Traitor, produce it!”

“Madam!” exclaimed the astonished object of this furious apostrophe.

His remonstrance was cut short, for, quick as lightning, the ungovernable Infanta raised her hand, and let it fall upon his face with such vigour and good-will that the minister, unprepared for so unwomanly an assault, staggered backwards, and narrowly avoided a fall.

“Carlotta!” cried the Queen, seizing her sister’s arm, and restraining her from further violence.

“The villain! the traitor!” shrieked the Infanta, in tones that resounded through the palace.

“Away with him from my sight!” cried Ferdinand, his voice growing fainter as he spoke. “The Queen, whom I appoint Regent during my illness, will decide upon his fate. I myself strip him of all offices and honours. Away with him, and for ever! You are no longer my minister, Tadeo Calomarde. Oh, God! what a bitter deception! He too! He too! By all the saints, he shall rue it. His treachery is my death-stroke!”

The King sank back like a corpse upon his cushions, but presently recovered himself, and with all speed, before the assembled ministers, the extorted decree was annulled, the Pragmatic Sanction again declared in full force, and the Queen nominated Regent. Whilst this took place, Federico, unheeded in the bustle of such important business, remained like one entranced. It was Calomarde, then, the man whose ruthless hand had been so pitilessly stretched forth over the suffering land—it was the all-powerful minister, the curse of Spain, the butcher of the noble Torrijos and his unhappy companions, whom he, the insignificant student, had cast down from his high state! The giant had succumbed before the pigmy; the virtual ruler of the kingdom had fallen by the agency of one whom, a day previously, he might with impunity have annihilated. Events so extraordinary and of such rapid occurrence were hard to comprehend; and Federico had scarcely convinced himself of their reality, when he received, a few hours afterwards, a summons to the Queen’s presence.

The morning sun shone into the royal apartment, revealing the traces of a sleepless night and recent agitation upon the handsome features of the newly-made Regent. She received the student with a smile, and placed Rosaura’s hand in his.

“Fear nothing from Calomarde,” she said. “He has fled his well-merited punishment. Those sent for his arrest sought him in vain. You are under my protection, Rosaura—and you also, Don Federico. You have established a lasting claim upon my gratitude, and my friendship shall never fail you.”

It does not appear how long these fair promises were borne in mind by a queen whose word, since that time, has been far oftener pledged than redeemed. Perhaps she thought she had acquitted herself of all obligations when, three months later, she honoured with her presence the nuptials of Federico and Rosaura, and with her own hand twined a costly wreath of brilliants through the sable ringlets of the beautiful bride. And perhaps the young couple neither needed nor desired further marks of her favour, for they withdrew from Madrid to reside in happy retirement upon Rosaura’s estates. Geronimo Regato went with them; and for a while was their welcome guest. But his old habits were too confirmed to be eradicated, even by the influence of those he loved best. The atmosphere of a court, the excitement of political intrigue, were essential to his existence, and he soon returned to the capital. There, under a very different name from that by which he has here been designated, he played an important part in the stirring epoch that succeeded the death of Ferdinand the Well-beloved.