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The Devil on Two Sticks - CHAPTER XXI


UPON the retreat of Asmodeus, the Student, feeling fatigued at having passed all the night upon his legs, and by the extraordinary bustle in which he had been occupied, undressed himself and went to bed. Agitated as his mind may be supposed to have been, it is no wonder that he lay for some time restless; but at last, paying with compound interest to Morpheus the tribute which all mortals owe to his sombre majesty, he fell into a deathlike sleep, in which he passed the whole of that day and the following night.

Twenty-four hours had he been thus lost to the world, when Don Luis de Lujana, a young cavalier whom he numbered among his friends, entered his chamber, singing out lustily, Hollo! Signor Don Cleophas, get up with you! At this salutation, Zambullo awoke. Are you aware, said Don Luis to him, that you have been in bed since yesterday morning? Impossible! exclaimed Leandro. Not the less true for that, replied his friend; twice have you slept the clock's dull round. All the inmates of the house assure me of this fact.

The Student, astonished at the trance from which he emerged, feared at first that his adventures with Asmodeus were but an illusion. He could not, however, persist in this belief; and when he  recalled to himself certain circumstances of his intercourse with the Demon, he soon ceased to doubt of its reality. But, to make assurance doubly sure, he rose, dressed himself quickly, and went out with Don Luis, whom he took, without saying why, in the direction of the Gate of the Sun. Arrived there, and perceiving the mansion of Don Pedro almost reduced to ashes, Don Cleophas feigned surprise. What do I behold? he cried. What dreadful ravages has fire made here! To whom did this unlucky house belong, and when was it thus consumed?

Don Luis de Lujana, having replied to these two questions, thus continued: This fire is less spoken of in the town on account of the great damage it has done, than for a circumstance which attended it, and of which I will tell you. The Signor Don Pedro de Escolano has an only daughter, who is lovely as the day: they say that she was in a room all filled with fire and smoke, in which it seemed certain she must perish; but that nevertheless her life was saved by a youthful cavalier, whose name I have not heard; —it forms the subject of conversation throughout Madrid. The young man's daring is lauded to the skies; and it is believed that, as a reward for his success, however humble my gentleman may be, he may well hope to gain a life interest in the daughter of the Don.

Leandro Perez listened to Don Luis without appearing to take the slightest interest in what he heard; then getting rid of his friend, under some specious pretext, he gained the Prado, where, seating himself beneath a tree, he was soon plunged in a profound reverie. The Devil first came flitting through his mind. Ah! my dear  Asmodeus, he exclaimed, I cannot too much regret you. You, in a moment, would have borne me round the world; and, with you, should I have journeyed without any of the usual devilries of travelling: gentle spirit, you are a loss indeed! But, he added a moment afterwards, my loss, perhaps, is not quite irreparable: why should I despair of seeing the Demon again? It may fall out, as he himself suggested, that the magician will shortly restore him to freedom and to me. As the Devil left his mind the lady entered it; upon which he resolved at once to seek Don Pedro in his temporary abode, moved principally by curiosity to see the lovely Seraphina.

As soon as he appeared before Don Pedro, that signor rushed towards him with open arms, and embracing him, exclaimed: Welcome! generous cavalier, I began to feel angry at your absence. What! said I, Don Cleophas, after the pressing invitation which I gave him to my house, still to shun my sight! He ill indeed repays the impatience of my soul to testify for him the friendship and esteem which fill it.

Zambullo bowed respectfully at this kindly objurgation; and, in order to excuse his seeming coldness, replied to the old man, that he had feared to incommode him in the confusion which the event of the preceding day must have occasioned. I cannot listen to such an excuse, resumed Don Pedro; you can never be unwelcome in a house which but for your noble conduct would have been a house of mourning indeed. But, he added, follow me, if you please; you have other thanks than mine to receive. And taking the Student's hand, he led him to the apartment of Seraphina.

My child, said Don Pedro, as he entered the room, where this lady was reposing from the noon-day heat, I present to you the gentleman who so courageously saved your life. Show to him now, if you can, how deeply sensible you are of the obligation he conferred, since the danger from which he rescued you deprived you of the power to do so on the spot. On this, the Signora Seraphina, opening a mouth of roses to express the gratitude of her heart to Leandro Perez, paid him in compliments so warm and graceful, as would charm my readers as much as they did their blushing object, could I repeat each honied word; but as they have not been faithfully reported, I think it better to omit them altogether, than chance to spoil them by my own imperfect knowledge in such matters.

I will only say, that Don Cleophas thought he beheld and listened to some bright divinity, and that he was at once the victim of his eyes and ears. To say that he loved her, is a thing of course; but, far from regarding the beauteous form before him as a possession to which he might aspire, his heart foreboded, despite all that the Demon had assured him, that they would never pay at such a price the service they imagined him to have rendered. As her charms increased in their effect upon his mind, doubts, teasing doubts, came threatening to destroy the infant hope, first-cherished child of Love.

What completed his mystification on the subject, was, that Don Pedro during the lengthened conversation which ensued, not once e'en touched upon the tender theme; but contented himself with loading him with civilities, without hinting in the slightest degree that he had any desire for the honour of his relationship. Seraphina too, as polite as her father, while she did not fail in expressions of the deepest gratitude, dropped no one word whose magic charm would serve Zambullo to conjure visions of wedding joys; so that our student left the Signor Escolano and his daughter with love as his companion, but leaving hope behind him.

Asmodeus, my friend, he muttered as he walked along, as though the Devil still were by his side, when you assured me that Don Pedro was disposed to adopt me as his son-in-law, and that Seraphina burned with passion lighted in her heart by you for me, it must have pleased you to make merry at my cost, or else you know as little of the present time as of that which is to come.

He now regretted that he had ever seen the dangerous beauty; and looking on the love which filled his breast as an unhappy passion which he ought to stifle in its infancy, he resolved to set about it in earnest. He even reproached himself for having desired to gain his point, supposing he had found the father all disposed to give his daughter to him; and represented to himself that it would have been disgraceful to have owed his happiness to a deception like that he had projected.

He was yet occupied with these reflections, when Don Pedro, having sent to seek him on the following day, said to him: Signor Leandro Perez, it is time I proved to you by deeds, that in obliging me you have not to do with one of those who repay a benefit in courtly phrases. You saved my daughter: and I wish that she, herself, should recompense the peril you encountered for her sake. I have consulted Seraphina thereupon, and find her ready to obey my will; nay, I can say with pride, I recognized her for my child indeed when I proposed that she should give her hand to him who saved her life. She showed her joy by transports which at once convinced my soul her generosity responds to mine. It is settled therefore that you shall marry with my daughter.

After having spoken thus, the good Signor de Escolano, who reasonably expected that Don Cleophas would have gone down on his knees to thank him for so great a boon, was sufficiently surprised to find him speechless, and displaying an evident embarrassment. Speak, Zambullo! he at length exclaimed! What am I to infer from the confusion which my proposition to you has occasioned? What possible objection can you have? What! a private gentleman—although respectable—to refuse an alliance which a noble would have courted! Has then the honour of my house some blemish of which I am ignorant?

Signor, replied Leandro, I know too well the space that Heaven has set between us. Why then, returned Don Pedro, seem you to care so little for a marriage which does you so much honour? Confess! Don Cleophas, you love some maiden, and have pledged your faith; and it is your honour now which bars your road to fortune. Had I, replied the Student, a mistress to whom my vows had bound my future fate, it is not fortune that should bid me break them; but it is no such tie that now compels me to reject your proffered bounty. Honour, it is true, compels me to renounce the glorious destiny that you would tempt me with; but, far from seeking to abuse your kindness, I am about to undeceive you to my own undoing. I am not the deliverer of Seraphina.

What do I hear! exclaimed Don Pedro, in utter astonishment. It was not you who rescued Seraphina from the flames which threatened her with instant death! It was not Don Cleophas who had the courage to risk his life to save her! No, signor, replied Zambullo; mortal man would have vainly essayed to shield her from her fate; learn that it was a devil to whom you owe your daughter's life.

These words only increased the astonishment of Don Pedro, who, not conceiving that he was to understand them literally, entreated the Student to explain himself. Upon which, Leandro, regardless of the loss of the Demon's friendship, related all that had passed between Asmodeus and himself. Having finished, the old man resumed, and said to Don Cleophas: The confidence you have reposed in me confirms me in my design of giving you my daughter. You were her chief deliverer. Had you not thus intreated the Devil whom you speak of to snatch her from the death which menaced her, it is clear that he would have suffered her to perish. It is you then who preserved the life of Seraphina, which cannot be better devoted than to the happiness of your own. You deserve her; and I again offer you her hand with the half of my estate.

Leandro Perez at these words, which removed all his conscientious scruples, threw himself at the feet of Don Pedro to thank him for his generosity. In a few weeks, the marriage was celebrated with a magnificence suitable to the espousal of the heir of the Signor de Escolano, and to the great satisfaction of the relations of our Student, who was thus amply repaid for the few hours' freedom he had procured for the Devil on Two Sticks.