Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

with a pair of eyes, whose blackness The waltzing pair, whom I had aland brilliancy contrasting with the ready observed, now came whirling crimson of her cheeks, gave her the towards us, and fairly swept me out physiognomy which we involuntarily of the discussion. “Ah!" whispered picture for a dealer in magic; a sum- Altuna, "you must contrive to get moner of spells and spirits; a poetic yourself introduced there. The don, bond-slave of darkness. The room dance as he may, is one of our firstwas crowded with groups scarcely rate patriots. The dama is a philoless peculiar, and all pursuing their sopher, of course superior to the various objects under cover of a prejudices of the sex, sufficiently to perpetual strife of tongues, music, think that politics are a female vocaand dancing

tion; and superior to superstition, Altuna had flown away from me, sufficiently to think that priests in his usual style of levity, the mo- would be worth getting rid of, if it ment we had entered the room. I

were only for the sake of getting rid saw him navigating his way far among of matrimony." the tables, ottomans, harps and har, “ She is then in the chain ?" I pistes, until he was lost sight of amid asked. a cloud of heron and ostrich plumes, “Yes, and to her infinite indignawhich waved with a double confu- tion," was the answer. “ She has sion of pleasure as this gayest of the been married those ten years to a gay plunged among them. At length Duke ; this is her first grievance. he returned towards the spot where For instead of years, she had calcuI stood, occupied chiefly, I must lated only upon hours. Her next acknowledge, with contemplating the disappointment was an Italian title; graces of the young theorbo player, though she has a length and depth who had now heard what she of honours that would exhaust the probably deemed enough of the lungs of a court chamberlain. Her conversation beside her, and was present calamity is that of being amusing herself, and delighting a excluded by her sex from taking group whose numbers continually her seat in the Cortes, and set increased, with her exquisite voice tling the national affairs on the moand finger. In this exercise, all the del of her boudoir. In that case, attractions of a fine hand and arm Don Sylva would be first secretary are naturally developed, and the to the cabinet.” young performer might have admi- The lady and the don had now nistered in these points to the ima- gone far enough out of hearing for gination of a Raphael. The capitan my enquiring into his memoir. caught my eye, and burst into laugh- “ Nothing easier," was the reply. ter.

“ He is my colonel, and was So,” said he, “I see La Leonina footman! Nature gave him a shewy has captured you.

No wonder. exterior, as you may see, and, on There is not a prettier fandango the whole, he would have made a dancer in Madrid.'

pretty housemaid. But his genius " What! a fandango dancer ?!' I was warlike; he longed for an epauexclaimed with unfeigned surprise. let. He was too handsome to be

That delicate creature a fandango refused. He became a standarddancer ! That being, whose fine blue bearer in the Guards. His career eyes are scarcely more celestial than then was open. He had nothing her form; that being who seems all to do for glory, red ribands, and sensibility, timidity, and elegance !” promotion, but to practise the gui“ It is true, nevertheless," was the far, waltz, as he does, with great

" But she is as wily as a skill and equal diligence, import bis serpent, and, unless you are deter- rouge from the first French dealers mined to leave your life or your last in the article, and declare himself the piastre in Spain, you will consult humblest of slaves to the haughtiest your comforts exceedingly by leaving of señoras, the Duquesa de VigLa Leonina to toy with her the- nolera, with whom you see him orbo for those caballeros and da- sweeping away through yonder mob mas, and come with me to the table at this moment." where I hear them already exploding “ But the chess players ? " said I. their batteries of champagne.'

Aye,” replied my cicerone,

[ocr errors]

answer.

you may thank me for letting you 'waggon at the tail of the Alcantara so much into native character. The cavalry regiment. Her mother sold chevalier, who wears so lofty an air, her to the purveyor of the corps for is a barber.” He saw my look of a flask of Xeres wine. The purincredulity. "Was, I should say. veyor disposed of his bargain to a He is now on the point of sustain. travelling gipsy, who, in the suming the diplomatic honours of the mer, by the help of a double length country at the Court of France. I of beard, a ragged gown, and a ought to have told you, however, plausible tongue, acted the pilgrim that he shaved nothing less than to the shrine of St Jaques of Toledo, princes of the blood. His razor St Peter's at Rome, or any spot that never crossed plebeian chins. For best pleased the public ear at the twenty years he performed this im- time. In the winter he laid aside portant office, and, to his credit be his saintly costume-raised contriit spoken, performed it well. At butions on the saintly no morethe end of the twenty years, fortune took his share in the hymours of smiled still more fondly. He was this odd world-lived on the sinners, promoted to the office of tonsor to and delighted Spain with a monkey, his most Catholic Majesty. In Spain, a dancing dog, and a tabor. Under the man nearest the royal mouth is such auspices the young daughter nearest the royal heart he has the of the cavalry acquired all varieties command of the only road of com- of knowledge, and, possessing remunication. From the King's mus- markable beauty-now, it must be taches the transition was easy into owned, a little in the wane-remark, the King's secrets. Joaquim the able sagacity, which she never failed barber was transformed into Don to turn to the best advantage, and a Joaquim the privy counsellor. The thorough aequaintance with the velvet of preferment was now laid heights

and depths of human society, under his feet. He trode it with the which will make her memoirs the discretion of a royal barber, until the most amusing and the most dreaded time for other qualities came. Re- things in the world, sits down a volution flourished the red cap over Millionaire." the brown; statesmen were required “ But what brings her here?” was to give Spain the knowledge, that, the natural question. with all her cigars and sunshine, she « She is a diplomate of the first was the most

unhappy nation under magnitude,” was the reply. " Half the moon. The don was conceived the places about court have been to have imbibed statesmanship from sold by her for the last twenty years. his office, and, as he was the most Even the don himself had to thank ready of renegades, the rabble pro- her good opinion for his honours. nounced him the most sublime of She is as avaricious as Mammon, and patriots. So runs the world away." must be paid ; but she transacts her

“But the lady," said I-" of course. affairs with remarkable promptitude, not his wife. But that haughty air, and I impute to her exquisite puncsince queens do not shave, must tuality the loss of a diamond watch have been drawn from other sources and the cleverest valet I ever had. than her cultivating the mustaches I saw him to.day, just a week after of her Majesty. She is evidently he had brushed my uniform, gazetone of your court ornaments." ted as a cornet in the royal hussars.

“ Yes,” said Altuna. “She is well I missed my repeater at the same enough acquainted with courts. I moment, and I have not the slightest have seen her queening it herself on doubt that the one made its way into half the stages of Spain; and, from the pocket of La Teresina yonder, the Queen of Sheba at a Valencian at the same time with my rascal's fair, to Statira and Semiramis in the assuming the hussar. Wretched royal opera, she has carried the system !” he murmured, with a voice crown, and sceptre those forty of struggling indignation.“ Wretchyears."

ed nation-wretched King! Can " She seems to have thriven, like you wonder, Señor Inglese,"--and her friend Don Joaquim, by her he turned his eyes on me, almost court life," said I.

blazing with bitter wrath as he spoke, " Oh, vastly!” was the answer. can any man with a spark of hu“ She began the world in a baggage man feeling about him, wonder, that the seeds of wrath should be sown · Luckily, the fall was more gradual thick and broad in a land like this ? than I had expected at the first heave, authat where all the national ave- and I came upon my feet. The floor nues to honour are sbut, upon the above closed with a slight shock, and man of honour, and open only to I was left in utter darkness. What the man of intrigue-that where a the purpose of all this might be, I was mistress or a monk is the fount of entirely at a loss to comprehend. all distinction, brave men should But, that it augured no good to me, disdain, and honest men should whatever it might to the banditti, of despair?"

whom I began to think I had suffia He poured out a bumper of Bur- cient reason to believe the wbole gundy_I followed his example, and mansion a regular haunt, I was fully we drank to the regeneration of convinced. I am not much in the Spain.

habit of indulging in strange conjecThe night was now waning. My tures; but while I was probing my wound began to remind me of the way through this subterranean, to hazard of excess, and I proposed to very little effect, so far as progress return home. Altuna proposed an- was concerned, the thought occasionother bumper at parting. It was ac- ally came rather painfully into my cepted. I found its taste strangely mind, that the capitan had more to fiery; but no man deliberates to do with those matters than became much purpose with the glass at his his professed passion for my merits, lips; it was swallowed, and we left or the cloth he wore in the royal this curious, and certainly most pic- guard. His evident eagerness to turesque collection of Spanish living bring me into contact with the excuriosities. Even after I had left traordinary assemblage of the night; the huge saion, the vividness and his eccentric language; his singular variety of its displays, the rich turn for exploring dark passages, and dresses, the strange contrasts of his equally singular escape from the countenance and manner, and the fall into this pit, where I expected to occasional beauty, thrown into find his bones broken, all perplexed strong effect by the jewels, the exceedingly whatever powers of rouge, and the powerful blaze of the council I had remaining. For some candelabra, resembled one of the pic- time, I continued alternately feeling tures of Paul Veronese, if we could every corner of this profound and conceive the figures suddenly ani- puzzling location, yet without dismated. While under the double ef- covering any thing beyond the fact, fect of the weakness occasioned by that a grating, half way up the side, my loss of blood, and the influence closed what had once been a kind of of my patriotic bumper, I was fol- aperture for the admission of such lowing my guide through the eternal light and air as could pierce a dozen windings of those passages which feet under ground. Now, however, perforated the building in all quar- assurance had been made double ters, and which seemed to be in ten- sure; the aperture was closed up fold darkness, on our emerging from with stone solid as the native rock, the rich illumination of the assem- and I was to bave the combined fates bly, I suddenly felt the floor shake of famine and suffocation. I make under me. Altuna was a few yards no pretence to more philosophy than before me, quietly lighting his cigar other men; but I must acknowledge, atone of those detestable little lamps, that I felt prodigiously disposed to which in Spain seem made to tell be angry, first, with my own infinite you of the existence of light only by credulity in believing a syllable its expiring. To my surprise, I saw which had been said during the him reel, plunge headlong, and go night by the Señor Altuna, next, down, as he had received a bullet with the graceful scoundrelism which through his brains. I sprang forward had entrapped me into this detestto support him, thinking that he had able place, and lastly, with the whole received a stab of a stiletto. But I had system of manners, principles, and scarcely set my foot upon the spot politics in the Peninsula of light and where he had disappeared, wben the liberalism. whole flooring shelved under me, and Time wore away, and the comfort I was slid down at least a dozen feet. less thought began to dawn upon me, that I was destined to close my I intermitted my labours. At length, career in this horrible hole. Nothing after the third or fourth routine of could be more ungenial to all my this exercise, which seemed as unperceptions. My dreams of heroism productive as the first, I flung myhad closed half-a-dozen years before, self on the ground, and tried to wben, after the last rocket was sent inagine with what complacency I up in honour of the peace, and Na. could resign myself to the prospect poleon was fairly under weigh for of dying like a poisoned rat in a burthe rocks of St Helena, I returned row. This lasted for a few minutes; my sabre into the sheath, hung my but my magnanimity then gave way, shako up in my paternal halls, and and I felt practically, how much took leave of the Dragoons, to sit easier it is to talk of martyrdom than down upon my paternal acres, and to undergo its preliminaries. Perbe a Cincinnatus for life. Of Par- haps I might have had the hardihood liament I had seen enough, to know to'mount the scaffold, the proper that there is no spot of earth where occasion being shewn; but my exa legislator may sooner get a head- perience fully told me, that solitary ach, and to less purpose.

confinement was not made for my Diplomatic dinners, fancy balls, calibre, and I determined, that if I and fêtes champêtres, all had taken were ever to get to the sight of the their turn, and all been pronounced open sky again, the age

of

persecuvanity, if not vexation of spirit. But tion should not find me among its at this moment, they revived upon me candidates. with a remarkable pungency of recol- At this moment a slight gleam of lection. I would have sat out the radiance, fine as a hair, passed along dullest debate ever engendered by the side of the cell. With the quickthe corn laws, or the claims of that ness of an eye now sharpened to the new fourth estate of England which discovery of every object round me, pauperism and public orators have I saw a fissure in the wall, which nearly erected into the first, to have seemed a door that had been lately found my foot on the pavements of built up. I instantly sprung on my Madrid, or to have been sounding feet, and clung to the spot. Fancy my perilous passage homeward is an eager thing; but no through the narrowest defile of its knows its zeal until he has tried it, rugged and gloomy lanes. At length in the hope of an escape from being even those thoughts passed away. buried alive. This door, I was perAll that was slight and trivial in my fectly convinced, must lead to the contemplations was changed into the open air. Nothing but a few loose successive shades of strong irrita- stones, therefore, made the differtion, alarm, fierce anger, and abso- ence between my leaving my mortal lute despair. For a long time I had remains within the jaws of a Spanish balanced between the probabilities, dungeon, and my carrying them that Altuna had been tempted hy back to the calm halls and broad dethe wine, the time, and his own mesnes of my forefathers. I worked passion for frolic, to play a rough with furious energy: for the first jest on me; or that, by some unac- half hour I seemed to work at countable mistake, a place obviously a wall of adamant. But what will intended for a criminal, had been not labour do, when the labourer turned into the prison of an English is thoroughly in earnest ? I begentleman, unconnected with either gan to make progress.

Never had the party of the populace, or the party I experienced a more rapturous of the monks. I had notomitted, in the sensation, than when the first fragmeantime, the common expedients ment of stone dropped out of this into avoid dying unknown. I had tolerable wall at my feet. I uttered shouted with the full strength of my a frantic exclamation of joy. I felt lungs; I had beaten the walls of my like one rescued from a sinking ship, dungeon with the fragment of the or hearing a verdict of acquittal in little bench which constituted its sole a case of life and death, or in any one furniture. I had howled and ha- of the agonizing delights formed of rangued, and struggled, and torn, the mere intensity of emotion. The while hope remained; and not till wall now began to give way in hope and strength died together, had larger masses. At length, with an

man

effort which exhausted my whole slumber. I was now under an inremaining strength, I rushed against fluence scarcely less abstracted from it, and drove it in. I had overba- the common things of life, and scarcelanced myself in the effort, and ly less surcharged with the impulses followed the wall. It carried me of desertion, terror, and despair. A through the breach triumphantly to glance that reverted to the world, the other side. But never were only served to increase the depth hopes so suddenly extinguished. and power of my present sensations. The space into which I was thrown An hour before, I had been free as was to the full as dark as the former air, enjoying life, with every appurone. It was even worse, for it evi. tenance and prospect of long enjoydently lay deeper in the earth by ment, in the midst of brilliancy and a number of steps, down which I beauty, dancing and feasting, amuhad rolled, and by the sickly smell sing myself with looking over one of air, which no ventilation of the of the curious pictures of animated gales above had ever shaken. Yet life, and listening with the ear of a this was not all that was to appal me critic to characters, whose bearers in this horrible place. As I crept I was scrutinizing with the eye of a round the dungeon-for I was now connoisseur. Where was the picscarcely able to stand-I stumbled ture now? A door, a few steps to against something which sprung to- the right or left, and either treachery gether with a loud rattling of chains or accident had separated me for and springs. I recoiled for the mo- ever from the whole scene of human ment; but on my approaching it more life. But this morning I was opucautiously, I was convinced, from lent, free, fortunate, an object of its resemblance to the machinery envy to the multitude, who gazed at of torture, which had been brought my horses, my domestics, and the from the cells of the “ Grand Inqui- other common appendages to a man sition,” that this instrument was of of condition. Now the meanest begthe same class, and that I was in one gar that crept through the streets of the caverns of the Brotherhood. above my head would not exchange My blood ran cold. Was I now in with me. The contrast worked so the very spot where this most hide- strongly on my mind, that more than ous tyranny exerted its most hideous once I conceived that I was actually eruelty ? In thís den, hidden from in a dream, and put forth my hands the light of heaven, and where no to examine myself that I was awake. ery could reach the human ear, had But there the conviction came with unhappy beings breathed out exist- unanswerable clearness. I felt the ence in the wildest torments of hu- straps, the wheels, the chains, the man nature! The thought, conspi- horrid screws that twisted not iron ring with the strange excitement of but flesh ; the springs that tore asunthe earlier part of the night, the an- der, not brute matter, but living musxieties which had followed, and the cle; the devilish enginery, every fierce fever of terror and indigna- turn of which was answered by hution which was now firing every ar- man groans; the whole hideous comtery of my frame, probably shook bination of implements to torture the soberness of my understanding the mind. The vision grew upon me, for the time; and as I fixed my eyes, In darkness as intense as if light had even in the utter darkness, on the never been created, I seemed to see machine, I began to think that the the victim stretched on that bed of whole process of agony was before torment. The features gradually me. What can set limits to the force dawned upon me. I saw the sunken and keenness, the bitter, realizing eye fixed on heaven-the writhing power of the imagination, when once brow covered with drops, such as set in movement ? Let those who are wrung from the heart and brain have ever felt the nightmare, deny, by intolerable suffering—the lips pale if they can, the singular faculty of as death, and writhing, yet trying to wretchedness, the power of accumu. 'send forth a prayer for a speedy lating woe on woe, the fearful and escape into the grave. The counintense misery which the mind can tenance was lofty and intellectual ; embody for itself out of airy shapes, the cheek was hollow as with long and the perturbations of an unsound study, but the eye shot the fires of

« AnteriorContinuar »