CONTINUATION OF THE STORY OF THE LOVES OF THE COUNT DE BELFLOR AND LEONORA DE CESPEDES
DON LUIS, continued Asmodeus, on returning to his apartment, dressed himself hastily, and, while it was still early, repaired to the Count; who, not suspecting a discovery, was much surprised by this visit. On the old man's entrance, however, Belflor ran to meet him, and, embracing him cordially, exclaimed, Ah! Signor Don Luis; I am delighted to see you. To what do I owe this happiness? Am I so fortunate as to have an opportunity of serving you? Signor, replied Don Luis sternly, I would speak with you alone.
Belflor desired his attendants to withdraw; and as soon as they were seated, Signor, said Cespedes, I come to ask of you an explanation of circumstances in which my honour and happiness are deeply interested. I saw you this morning leaving the apartment of my daughter. She has disguised nothing from me; she informed me that—She has told you that I love her, interrupted the Count, to avoid hearing what he knew could not be very agreeable; but she can but have feebly described all that I feel for her. I am enchanted with her; she is an adorable creature: beauty, wit, virtue,—nothing is wanting to perfect her charms. I am told you have a son, too, who is finishing his studies at Alcala; does he resemble his sister? If he have her beauty, and have at all inherited the noble bearing of his father, he must be a perfect cavalier. I die with anxiety to see him; and I assure you that I shall be proud to advance his fortunes.
I am obliged to you for so kind an offer, gravely replied Don Luis; but to return to the subject of—He must enter the service at once, again interrupted the Count; I charge myself with the care of his interests: he shall not grow old among the crowd of subalterns; on that you may depend. Answer me, Count! replied the old man vehemently, and cease these interruptions. Do you intend, or not, to fulfil the promise—? Yes, certainly, interrupted Belflor for the third time; I engage faithfully to support your son with all the interest I possess: rely on me; I am a man of my word. This is too much, Count, cried Cespedes, rising: after having seduced my daughter, you dare thus to insult me! But I also am a noble; and the injury you have done me shall not remain unpunished. In finishing these words he left the Count, his heart swelling with anger, and his mind tormented with a thousand projects of revenge.
On arriving at home, still greatly agitated, he immediately went to Leonora's apartment, where he found her with Marcella. It was not without reason, said he, addressing them, that I was suspicious of the Count: he is a traitor; but I will avenge myself. For you, you shall at once hide your shame within a convent: both of you, prepare to leave this house tomorrow; and thank heaven that my wrath contents itself with so moderate a punishment. He then left them, to shut himself in his cabinet, that he might maturely reflect on the conduct it would be proper to observe in so delicate a conjuncture.
How poignant was the grief of Leonora, when thus informed of Belflor's perfidy! She remained for some time motionless; a death-like paleness overspread her lovely features; life itself seemed about to abandon her, and she fell senseless into the arms of her governante. The alarmed duenna at first thought that the victim of her intrigues was really dead; but, on perceiving that she still breathed, used every effort to restore her to consciousness, and at last succeeded. Existence, however, had no longer charms for Leonora; and when, somewhat recovered, she unclosed her eyelids, and perceived the officious governante busy about her person, Cruel Marcella! she exclaimed, sighing deeply; wherefore have you drawn me from the happy state in which I was? Then, I felt not the horror of my destiny. Why did you not let me perish? You, who know so well that life henceforth must be but one long misery, why have you sought to preserve it?
The duenna endeavoured to console her, but her words only added to Leonora's sufferings. It is in vain you would comfort me, she cried, I will not hear you: strive not to combat my despair. Rather seek to add to its profundity; you, who have plunged me into the frightful gulph in which all my hopes are swallowed:—you it was who assured me of the Count's sincerity; but for you, I had never yielded to my passion for him; I should have insensibly triumphed over it, or at least, he would never have had cause to boast of my weakness. But no! I will not, she continued, attribute to you my misfortunes; it is myself alone I should accuse. I ought not to have followed your advice, in accepting the faith of a man, without the sanction of my father. However flattering to me were the attentions of Count de Belflor, I should have despised them, rather than have endeavoured to secure them at the price of my honour: I should have mistrusted him, you! Marcella, and myself. For my folly in listening to his perfidious oaths, for the affliction I have caused to the unhappy Don Luis, and for the dishonour I have brought upon my family, I detest myself; and, far from fearing the state of seclusion with which I am menaced, I would willingly conceal my guilt and shame in the most frightful dungeon in the world.
While her grief thus vented itself in exclamations, and tears streamed from her eyes, she frantically tore her clothes, and revenged the injustice of her lover on the beautiful locks which fell around her neck. The duenna, also, to appear in keeping with her mistress's grief, was not sparing of grimaces; she managed to squeeze out some convenient tears, and directed a thousand imprecations against mankind in general, and against Belflor in particular. Is it possible, she cried, that the Count, who had all the semblance of amiability and rectitude, should be so great a villain as to have deceived us both? I cannot get over my surprise, or rather, I cannot even yet persuade myself that he is so.
Indeed, said Leonora, when I picture him myself at my feet, what maiden could but have confided to so much tenderness,—to his oaths, which he so daringly called on Heaven to witness,—to his boundless transports, which seemed so sincere? His eyes to me discovered a love far more intense than his lips could express; and the very sight of me appeared to charm him:—no, he did not deceive me; I cannot believe it. My father has not spoken to him with sufficient caution; they have quarrelled, and the Count has replied to his reproaches less as the lover than the lord.
Still, may I not deceive myself? I will, however, end this horrible suspense. I will write to Belflor,—tell him I expect him here this night: I am resolved he comes to reassure my troubled heart, or to confirm, himself, his treachery.
Marcella loudly applauded this resolution; she even conceived a hope that the Count, all ambitious as he was, might yet be affected by the tears of his Leonora, which could not fail at this interview, and that he might determine on espousing her in truth.
Meanwhile, Belflor, relieved of the presence of Don Luis, was revolving in his mind the probable consequences of the reception he had given to the good old man. He felt certain that all the Cespedes, enraged at the injury he had done their family, would unite to avenge it: this, however, gave him but little trouble; the possible loss of Leonora occasioned him far greater anxiety. She would, he imagined, at once be placed in a convent, or at least, that she would be carefully guarded from his sight; and that she was consequently lost to him for ever. This thought afflicted him; and he was occupied in devising some means to prevent so great a misfortune, when his valet entered the apartment, and presented a letter which Marcella had placed in his hands. It was from Leonora, and ran as follows:—
" My still dearest Belflor,
" I shall to-morrow quit the world, to bury myself in a convent. Dishonoured, odious to my family and to myself, such is the deplorable condition to which I am reduced by listening to you. Still I will expect you to-night. In my despair, I seek new tortures: come, and avow to me that your heart disowned the protestations which your lips have made to me; or come to confirm them by your sympathy, which alone can soften the harshness of my destiny. As there may, however, be some danger in this meeting, after what has passed between you and my father, be sure you are accompanied by a friend. Although you have rendered life worthless to me, I cannot cease to interest myself in thine.
While the Count perused this letter, which he read over several times, his imagination depicted the situation of Leonora, in colours more sombre even than the reality, and he was deeply affected. He bitterly reflected on his past conduct: reason, probity, honour, all whose laws he had violated in the phrenzy of his passion, now regained their empire in his breast. The blindness which selfishness inflicts upon its victims was dissipated; and as the fevered convalescent blushes for the follies which, in the access of his disorder, he has committed, so was Belflor ashamed of the meanness and artifice of which he had been guilty to satisfy his lust.
What have I done? he cried; wretch that I am, what demon has possessed me? I promised Leonora to espouse her, and called on Heaven to witness for the lie; I falsely told her that the King had designed me for another; lying, treachery, perjury,—I have hesitated at nothing to corrupt innocence itself. What madness! Oh! had I used, to control it, the efforts I have made to gratify my passion! To seduce one of whose beauty and virtue I was unworthy, to abandon her to the wrath of her relations, whom I have equally dishonoured, and to plunge her in misery as a return for the happiness she bestowed on me,—what ingratitude! Ought I not then to repair the injury I have inflicted? Yes! I ought, and I will; my hand shall at the altar fulfil the pledge I gave for it. Who shall oppose me in so righteous a determination? Should her tenderness for me at all prejuduce her virtue? No, I know too well what that cost me to vanquish. She yielded less to my love than to her confidence in my integrity, and to my vows of fidelity. But, on the other hand, if I resolve on this marriage, I make a great sacrifice,—I, who may pretend to the heiresses of the richest and most noble houses in the kingdom, shall I content myself with the daughter of a respectable gentleman, of small fortune? What will they think of me at court? They will say that I have made a splendid alliance indeed!
Belflor, thus divided between love and ambition, knew not how to resolve; but although undetermined whether he should marry Leonora or not, he had no difficulty in making up his mind to see her that evening, and at once directed his valet so to inform Marcella.
Don Luis was all this time in his cabinet, engaged in reflections on the mode he should adopt to vindicate his honour; and he was not a little embarrassed in his choice. To have recourse to the laws, was to publish his disgrace; besides which, he suspected with great reason that justice was likely to be one side, and the judges on the other. Again, he dared not to seek reparation of the King himself; as he believed that prince had views with regard to Belflor which must render such an application useless. There remained, then, but his own sword and those of his friends, and on these he concluded to rely.
In the heat of his resentment, he at first meditated a challenge to the Count; but on consideration of his great age and weakness, he feared to trust his arm; so resolved to confide the matter to his son, whose thrust he thought was likely to be surer than his own. He therefore sent one of his domestics to Alcala, with a letter commanding his son's immediate presence in Madrid, to revenge, as he stated it, an insult offered to the family of the Cespedes.
This son, Don Pedro, is a cavalier of eighteen years of age, perfectly handsome, and so brave, that he passes at Alcala for the most valiant student of that university; but you know him, added the Devil, and I need not enlarge on the subject. I can answer, said Don Cleophas, for his having all the valour and all the merit that can adorn a gentleman.
But this young man, resumed Asmodeus, was not then at Alcala, as his father imagined. Love had brought him also to Madrid, where the object of his passion resided; and where he had met her for the first time, on the Prado, on the occasion of his last visit to his family. Who she was, he knew not; and his fair conquest had exacted of him a pledge that he would take no steps to inform himself on this head,—and although he was as good as his word, it cost him some trouble to keep it. I need hardly add, that she was of higher rank than her lover; and that, wisely mistrusting the discretion and constancy of a student—no offence to your highness—she thought proper to test him as to these necessary qualifications for a suitor, before she disclosed to him her station or name.
His thoughts were, of course, more occupied by his lovely incognita than with the philosophy of Aristotle; and the vicinity of Alcala to Madrid occasioned the youthful Pedro to play truant to his studies as frequent as yourself; but, I must say, with a better excuse than your Donna Thomasa afforded. To conceal from his father, Don Luis, his amorous excursions, he usually lodged at a tavern at the other end of the town, where he passed under a borrowed name; and only went abroad at a certain hour in the morning, that he might repair to a house to where the lady, for the love of whom he neglected his Ovid, did him the honour to wait, in company with a trusty female attendant. During the rest of the day he shut himself up in his hotel; but as soon as night was come, he wandered fearlessly throughout the city.
He happened one evening, as he was traversing a bye-street, to hear the sound of instruments and voices, which attracted his attention, and he stopped to listen. It was a serenade, and tolerably performed; but the cavalier, who was drunk, and naturally brutish, no sooner perceived our student than he hurried towards him, and, without preface,—Friend, said he, with an insolent air, make yourself scarce; or your curiosity may find you more than you expect. I would have withdrawn, replied Don Pedro, proudly, had you requested me to do so with civility; but I shall now stay, to teach you better manners. We shall see, then, said the serenading gallant, drawing his sword, which of us two will give place to the other.
Don Pedro also drew his sword, their weapons were crossed in a moment, and a furious combat ensued; but although the Student's adversary was not wanting in skill, he could not parry a mortal thrust of Don Pedro, and fell dead upon the pavement. The musicians, who had already quitted their instruments, or stopped their singing, and had drawn their swords to protect their patron, now came in a body to avenge his death, and attacked Don Pedro all together. He, however, gave them satisfactory proofs of what he could do upon occasion; for, besides parrying, with surprising dexterity, all the thrusts which they designed for him, he dealt furiously among them, and found work for them all to protect themselves.
Still, they were so numerous, and apparently so determined on the Student's death, that, skilful as he was with his weapon, they would have most probably accomplished their object, had not the Count de Belflor, who was accidentally passing through the street, come to his assistance. The Count was of too noble a nature to see so many armed men striving against one and to hesitate upon the part he should take. His sword was therefore instantly directed against the musicians and with so much vigour that they were soon put to flight, some wounded, and the others for fear the should be.
The field thus cleared, the Student, with what breath remained to him, began to express his sense of the valuable service he had so seasonably received; but Belflor at once stopped him: Not a word, my dear Sir, said he; are you not wounded? No, replied Don Pedro. Then let us leave this place at once, said the Count: I see you have killed your man; and it will be dangerous to stay in his company, lest the officers of justice surprise you. They immediately decamped as quickly as possible, and did not stop until they had gained a street at some distance from the field of battle.
Don Pedro, filled with a natural gratitude, then begged the Count not to conceal from him the name of a person to whom he owed so great an obligation. Belflor made no difficulty in complying with this request; but when in turn he asked that of the Student, the latter, unwilling to discover himself to any person in Madrid, replied, that he was Don Juan de Maros, and that he should eternally bear in his remembrance the debt of gratitude which he owed to the Count.
Well, said Belflor to him, I will this night give you an opportunity of repaying it in full. I have an appointment, which is not without risk; and I was about, when I fell in with you, to seek the protection of a friend. However, I know your valour, Don Juan: will you accompany me? To doubt it, were to insult me, replied the Student: I cannot better employ the life you have preserved, than in exposing it in your defence. Go! I am ready to follow you. Accordingly, Belflor conducted Don Pedro to the house of Don Luis, and they both entered, by the balcony, the apartment of Leonora.
Here Don Cleophas interrupted the Devil: Signor Asmodeus, said he, impossible! What! not know his own father's house? No, no, no; that will never do. It was not possible he should know it, replied the Demon; for it was a new one: Don Luis had lately changed his habitation, and had only taken this house a week before; which was just what Don Pedro did not know, and was what I was just going to tell you when you stopped me. You are too sharp; and have that shocking habit of displaying your intelligence by interrupting people in their stories: get rid of that fault, I pray you.
Well, continued the Devil, Don Pedro did not think he was in his father's house; nor did he even perceive that it was Marcella who let him into it; since she received him without a light, in an antechamber, where Belflor requested his companion to remain while he was in the next room with his mistress. To this the Student made no demur; so quietly sat himself down in a chair, with his drawn sword in his hand for fear of surprise, while his thoughts ran on the favours which he suspected love was heaping on the Count, and his wishes that he might be as happy with his incognita,—for although he had no great cause of complaint as to her kindness, still it was not exactly paid after the kind of that of Leonora for the Count.
While he was making, upon this subject, all those pleasing reflections which occur so readily to an impassioned lover, he heard some one endeavouring quietly to open a door, which was not that of The Delights, but one which discovered a light through the keyhole. He rose quickly, and advanced towards it; and, as the door opened, presented the point of his sword to his father; for he it was who entered Leonora's apartments, for the purpose of seeing that the Count was not there. The good old man did not exactly suppose, after what had passed, that his daughter and Marcella would dare to receive him again, which had prevented his assigning to them other chambers; but he had thought it probable that, as they were to go to a nunnery on the following day, they might desire to converse with him, for the last time, ere they left his roof.
Whoever thou art, said the Student, enter not this room, or it may cost thee thy life. At these words Don Luis stared at Don Pedro, who also regarding the old man with attention, they soon recognized each other. Ah! my son, cried the old man, with what impatience have I expected you: why did you not inform me of your arrival? Did you fear to disturb my rest? Alas! that is for ever banished, in the cruel situation in which I am placed. Ah, my father! said Don Pedro, utterly amazed, is it you whom I behold? Are not my eyes deceived by some fantastic vision? Whence this astonishment? replied Don Luis; are you not within your father's house? Have I not, a week ago, informed you where to find me?
Just Heaven! cried the Student, what do I hear? —and this then is my sister's apartment.
As he finished these words, the Count, whom the noise had alarmed, and who expected that his escort was attacked, came out, sword in hand, from Leonora's chamber. No sooner did the old man perceive him than, with fury in his eyes, he pointed to Belflor, and exclaimed to his son,—There is the villain who has robbed me of my happiness, and who has stained our honour with a mortal taint. Revenge! Let us hasten to punish the traitor! As he thus vented his rage, he opened his dressing-gown, and drew from beneath it his sword with which he was about to fall on the Count, when Don Pedro restrained him. Stay, my father, said he; moderate, I entreat you, the fury of your wrath: what are you about to do? My son, replied the old man, you withhold my arm. You doubtless think it is too weak to revenge our wrongs. Be it so! Do you then exact full satisfaction for the injury he has done us: it was for this purpose that I summoned you to Madrid. Should you perish, I will take your place; for either shall the Count fall beneath our arms, or he shall take from both of us our lives, after having blasted our reputation.
My father, said Don Pedro, I cannot yield to your impatience that which it requires of me. Far from attempting the life of the Count, I am now here to defend it. For that my word is pledged,—to that my honour is assured. Let us depart, Count, continued he, addressing himself to Belflor. Ah! wretch, interrupted Don Luis, while he surveyed his son with anger and astonishment,—thus to oppose thyself to a vengeance, which it should be the business of thy life to accomplish! My son, my own son, is leagued, then, with the villain who has corrupted my daughter!
But think not to escape my resentment: I will place a sword in the hand of every servant in my house, to punish his treachery and thy despicable meanness.
Signor, replied Don Pedro, be more just towards your son. Call him not despicable or mean—he merits not those odious appellations. The Count this night saved my life. He proposed to me, in ignorance of my real name, to accompany him here; and I freely consented to share the perils he might run, without knowing that my gratitude imprudently engaged my arm against the honour of my family. My word is passed, then, here to defend his life; that done, I stand acquitted of my obligation towards him: but I am not the less insensible of the wrong that he has done to you and to us all; and to-morrow you shall find that I will as readily shed his blood, as you behold me now determined to preserve it from your hands.
The Count had witnessed in silence all that passed, so much was he surprised at this extraordinary adventure; he now, however, thus addressed the Student: It is possible, that the injury I have inflicted might be but imperfectly avenged by your sword; I will, therefore, present to you a means much more certain of repairing it. I will confess to you, that, until this day, I did not intend to marry Leonora; but I this morning received from her a letter which touched my heart, and her tears have finished what her letter began. The happiness of being united to your sister, is now my dearest hope. But if the King has destined you for another, said Don Luis, how can you dispense—? The King has not troubled himself upon the subject, interrupted Belflor, blushing: pardon, I beseech you, that fiction, to a man whose reason was deranged by love; it is a crime that the violence of my passion incited me to commit, and which I expiate in avowing to you my shame.
Signor, replied the old man, after this frankness, which belongs only to noble minds, I cannot doubt your sincerity. I see, with joy, that you are anxious to repair the injury you have done us; my anger yields to this assurance of your contrition; I will forget it for ever in your arms. He advanced towards the Count, who rushed to meet him, and they embraced each other cordially. Then, turning towards Don Pedro, And you, false Don Juan, said Belflor,—you, who have already gained my esteem by your valour, come, let me vow to you a brother's love. Don Pedro received the Count's embraces with a submissive and respectful air, saying, Signor, in offering to me so valuable a friendship, you secure mine for yourself: rely on me, as one devoted to your service to the last moment of his life.
While these cavaliers were thus discoursing, Leonora was at the door of her chamber, intently listening to every syllable they uttered. She had been, at the first, tempted to discover herself, and to throw herself in the midst of their swords; but fear, and Marcella, had withheld her. But when the adroit duenna saw that matters were arranging very amicably, she guessed that the presence of her mistress, and her own, would spoil nothing. Accordingly, she appeared, her handkerchief in one hand and her ward in the other; and, with tears in their eyes, they prostrated themselves before Don Luis. Neither of them, indeed, felt perfectly assured; for they recollected the surprise of the previous night, and feared the old man's reproaches for this renewal of their disobedience. However, raising Leonora,—My child, said he, dry your tears; I will not upbraid you now: since your lover is disposed to keep the faith he has sworn to you, it is fitting that I should forget the past.
Yes, Signor Don Luis, interrupted Belflor, I will indeed keep my faith with Leonora; and as some amends for the insult I had intended, as the fullest satisfaction I can give to you, and as a pledge of that friendship I have vowed to Don Pedro, I offer him in marriage my sister Eugenia. Signor! cried Don Luis, how can I express my satisfaction at the honour you confer upon my son? Was ever father happier than myself? You overpay me, in joy, for the grief you have caused me.
Though the old man was charmed with the Count's proposals, I cannot say as much for his son. Being sincerely taken with love for his incognita, he was so overcome with surprise and chagrin at Belflor's offer, that he had not a word to say for himself; when the latter, who did not observe his embarrassment, took leave, stating that he should at once order the necessary preparations for this double union, and that he was impatient to be bound to them eternally, by ties so endearing.
After his departure, Don Luis left Leonora with the duenna, taking with him his son, who, when they had reached his father's apartment, said, with all the frankness of a student: Signor, do not insist, I pray you, on my marriage with the Count's sister; it is enough for the honour of our family, that he should espouse Leonora. What! my son, replied the old man, can you have any objection to an union with Eugenia de Belflor? Yes, my father, said Don Pedro; I must confess to you, that union would prove to me the most cruel of punishments; and I will not disguise from you the reason. I love, or, rather, I adore another: for the last six months she has listened to my vows; and now, on her alone depends the happiness of my life.
How miserable is the condition of a father! exclaimed Don Luis: how rarely does he find his children disposed to do as he desires them. But who is this lady that has made such deep impression on your heart? That, I do not yet know, replied Don Pedro. She has promised to inform me of her name when I shall have satisfied her of my constancy and discretion; but I doubt not she does honour to one of the noblest houses of Spain.
And you think then, said the old man, changing his tone, that I shall be so obliging as to sanction this romantic love!—that I shall permit you to renounce an alliance, as glorious as fortune could offer to you, that you may remain faithful to an illustrious lady of whose very name you are ignorant? Do not expect so much of my kindness. No, rather strive to vanquish feelings that are inspired by an object which is most probably unworthy of them; and seek, in so doing, to merit the honour which the Count proposes for you. You speak to me in vain, my father, replied the Student; I feel that I can never forget her whom I have sworn to love—unknown though she be,—and that nothing can tear me from her. Were the Infanta proposed to me—Hold! cried the old man angrily; it is too much to boast thus insolently of a constancy which excites my displeasure: leave me, and let me not see you again until you are prepared to obey my will.
Don Pedro did not dare to reply to these words, for fear of hearing others more unpleasant still; so he retired to his chamber, where he passed the remainder of the night in reflections in which sorrow was not all unmixed with joy. He thought with grief that he was about to estrange himself from his family, by refusing the hand of Belflor's sister; but then he was consoled, when he reflected that his incognita would worthily esteem the greatness of the sacrifice. He even flattered himself that, after so convincing a proof of his fidelity, she would no longer conceal from him her station, which he imagined also must be equal at least to that of Eugenia.
In this hope, as soon as day appeared, he went out, and directed his steps towards the Prado, that he might pass away the time until the hour of his meeting with his mistress. With what impatience did he count the minutes as they lingered,—with what joy did he hail the happy moment when it arrived!
He found his fair unknown with Donna Juanna, the lady at whose house they met; but, alas! he found her in tears, and apparently in the deepest affliction. What a sight for a lover! His own grief was forgotten: he approached her with tenderness; and throwing himself on his knees before her, Madam, he exclaimed, what must I think of the condition in which I see you? What dreadful misfortune do these tears, which pierce my heart, forbode? You dream not, she replied, of the fatal news I bring you. Cruel fortune is about to separate us for ever;—yes, we shall meet no more.
She accompanied these words with so many and such heart-rending sighs, that I know not if Don Pedro was more affected at what she told him, than at the affliction with which she appeared oppressed in telling it. Just Heaven! he cried, in a transport of fury, which he could not control, is it thy will that they prevent an union whose innocence is worthy of thy protection? But, Madam, he continued, you are perhaps falsely alarmed! Is it certain that they would snatch you from the most faithful of lovers? Can it be possible that I should be so unhappy? Our misfortune is but too certain, answered the Unknown; my brother, upon whom my hand depends, has bestowed it this very day; he has this moment announced to me his decision. And who is the happy man? exclaimed Don Pedro. Tell me! In my despair I will seek him, and—I do not know his name, interrupted the Unknown. I cared not to ask, nor did my brother inform me; he told me indeed that it was his wish that I should first see the cavalier.Illustration: "But, Madam," said Don Pedro, "will you then yield without resistance to your brother's will?"
But, Madam, said Don Pedro, will you then yield without resistance to your brother's will? Will you be dragged to the altar, without complaint? Will you go, a willing sacrifice, and abandon me so easily? Alas! I have not hesitated to expose myself to the anger of a father for love of you; nor could his menaces for a moment shake my fidelity. No! nor threats, nor persuasion, could move me to espouse another, although the lady he proposed for me was one to whom I had hardly dared aspire. And who is this lady? asked the Unknown. She is the sister of the Count de Belflor, replied the scholar. Ah, Don Pedro! cried the Unknown, with extreme surprise, surely you are mistaken; it cannot be she whom they propose to you. What! Eugenia, the sister of Belflor? Are you sure of what you say? Yes, Madam, replied the Student; the Count himself offered me her hand. How! cried she, is it possible that you are the cavalier for whom my brother designs me? What do I hear? cried the Student in his turn, is it possible that my incognita is the Count de Belflor's sister? Yes, Don Pedro, replied Eugenia. But I can hardly believe it myself, at this moment; so difficult do I find it to persuade myself of the happiness you assure to me.
Don Pedro now fell again at her feet, and seizing her hand, he kissed it with all the transport that lovers only can feel who pass suddenly from the depths of despair to the highest pinnacle of hope and joy. While he abandoned himself to the feelings of his heart, Eugenia for the first time forgot her reserve, and freely returned his caress—she felt that her love was sanctioned, and gave her lips where her heart had long been engaged. Alas! said she, when her love could form itself into words, what tortures had my brother spared me, had he but here named the husband of his choice! What aversion had I already conceived for my future lord! Ah, my dear Don Pedro, how I have hated you! Lovely Eugenia, replied he, what charms has that hatred for me now! I will endeavour to merit it by adoring you for ever.
After the happy pair had exhausted love's vocabulary, and the tumult of their hearts was somewhat calmed, Eugenia was anxious to know by what means the Student had gained her brother's friendship. Don Pedro did not conceal from her the amours of the Count and his sister, and related all that had passed the night before. It was for Eugenia an additional pleasure to learn that Belflor was to marry the sister of her own lover. Donna Juanna was too much interested in the welfare of her friend not to partake of her joy for this happy event, and warmly congratulated her, as also Don Pedro thereon. At last the lovers separated, after having agreed that they should not appear to know each other when they met before the Count and Don Luis.
Don Pedro returned to his father, who, finding his son disposed to obey him, was the more pleased, inasmuch as he attributed this ready compliance to the firm manner in which he had spoken to him overnight. They presently received a note from Belflor, in which he informed them that he had obtained the King's consent to his marriage, as also for that of his sister with Don Pedro, on whom his majesty had been pleased to confer a considerable appointment. He added, so diligently had his orders for the nuptials been executed, that every thing was arranged for their taking place on the following day; and he came soon after they had received his letter, to confirm what he had written, and to present to them his sister Eugenia.
Don Luis received the lady with every mark of affection, and Leonora kissed her so much that her brother was almost jealous—although, whatever he might feel, he managed to constrain his love and delight, so as not to give the Count the least suspicion of their intelligence.
As Belflor remarked his sister with great attention, he thought he could discover, notwithstanding her reserve, which he attributed to modesty, that Don Pedro was by no means displeasing to her. To be certain, however, he took an opportunity of speaking to her aside, and drew from her an avowal of her entire satisfaction. He then informed her of the name and rank of her intended, which he would not before communicate, lest the inequality of their stations should prejudice her against him;—all which she feigned, marvellously well, to hear as for the first time.
At last, after many compliments, which were remarkable for their sincerity, it was resolved that the weddings should take place at the house of Don Luis the next day, as Belflor had arranged. They were accordingly celebrated this evening, the rejoicing still continues. and now you know why they are so merry in that house. Every one is delighted—except the lady Marcella: she, while all else are laughing, is at this moment in tears. They are real tears too, this time; for the Count de Belflor, after the ceremony, informed Don Luis of the facts which preceded it; and the old gentleman has sent the duenna to the Monasterio de las Arrepentidas, where the thousand pistoles she received for seducing Leonora will enable her to repent having done so for the rest of her days.